Huang Yongping – Bat Project

Very interesting story of how art and politics can cross paths

In 1986, Huang Yongping formed the Xiamen Dada group, aiming to bring Dadaist principles to Chinese art. Following his participation in the 1989 exhibition Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre Pompidou and the political upheavals in China of the same year, Huang moved to Paris, where he now lives and works.
In his work, Huang often deals with current events, history and reality by means of deconstruction and irony. In his installation ‘A History of Chinese Painting’ and ‘A Concise History of Modern Painting’ Washed in a Washing Machine for Two Minutes (1987 / 1993), the artist blended a Chinese and a Western art text into a messy pile of pulp. Other works raise the issue of illegal immigrants and post-colonial migration. Péril de moutons (1997) alluded to the mad cow disease epidemic and The Camels’ Back Project (1999) questioned the tense multicultural mix in Jerusalem.
Bat Project I–III (2001–2003) comprises replicas of the United States EP-3 spy plane, which is colloquially referred to as the ‘bat’. This type of aircraft collided with a Chinese fighter plane on 1 April 2001, before making an emergency landing on Hainan Island. The Chinese requested the spy plane to be disassembled and crated before being transported back to the United States in a freight carrier. What caught Huang’s interest in the incident was the disassembly of such a massive and sophisticated object. The artist felt that when one plane is dismantled and flown away inside another, it becomes a work of art in itself. According to Huang, it is also a rare instance of powerful technology ironically deployed against itself.
The first phase of this project (Shenzhen, 2001) comprised a replica of a portion of the plane from tail to fuselage, and was first produced for an exhibition jointly organised by China and France. In Bat Project II (Guangzhou, 2002), he recreated the middle and front portions, as well as the left wing. The final part, Bat Project III (Beijing, 2003), was a realisation of the remaining right wing.
The reconstitution of the EP-3 spy plane in each phase of the Bat Project was halted near completion, prior to the exhibition opening. As the artist explained, ‘whether or not it is due to pressure from government officials or from private patrons, and whether or not it is the practice of self-censorship or state censorship, the removal of the artwork from the three exhibitions has followed the same logic.’ Nevertheless, Huang’s construction of the EP-3 has unexpectedly evolved into a re-enactment of the original spy plane incident, as the disassembled plane is forcibly dismantled once again.

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project I, 2001
Bat Project I, 2001
Shenzuan, China.

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project II, 2002
Bat Project II, 2002
Guangzhou, China.

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project III, 2003
Bat Project III, 2003
Beijing, China.

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project I, 2001

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project I, 2001
Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project I, 2001
Bat Project I and II, 2003
Arsinale, Venice Biannual, Italy.

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project II, 2002


Author: James Presley

I am an artist and I love it. What do I have to do to live from what I love? I'm not dying or cutting me bloody ear off, that's for sure.

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