project image
Zhangruo Sun

first performed on October 17, 2019
MFA Gallery of Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, MN
performed once in 2019


Minneapolis, MN


Chinese names are given by using the Five Elements Philosophy of Daoism: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth. It is believed these elements form the world. The characters, as symbols in the names, influence the lives of the people given these elements as names. My name was given by adding the Metal and Earth elements to avoid mischance because it was believed I lacked these elements.

Themes of belief, identity, vulnerability, psychological burden, subconscious behavior, and superstitious energy intersect at the center of this performance. The pig organs placed in each angle of a pentagram drawn on the floor, corresponding to the Five Elements, which are Metal to lung, Wood to the liver, Water to the kidney, Fire to heart, and Earth to spleen. The organs are from pigs, the most common oblation. The body engages with the objects related to those elements, merging with the organs, hoping these elements can enter the body to create miracles. The body wobbles and twists, embodying the anxiety of people who look for help.

The tinfoil installation on the wall with incenses is an intangible godlike object reflecting the belief that the Five Elements are not a religion, not a law, but a subconscious rule in Chinese culture. A pig head and spiritual money are offered as a sacrifice to it, embodying the desire of people who need help from this holy thing. The burden of deep depression and anxiety on people’s mental activity is shown by the constant changing of the projection, geometric figures flash, and ambient, techno, glitch noise pulses. These light and sound elements drag the audience along with the performer, to experience the same frustration and anxiety. The overall performance represents an audiovisual experience of action, visuals, audio, and the smell of pig organs. When the pig head is worn, it alludes to the controlling nature of subconscious behavior and superstition. The performer becomes the pig, the oblation of this ritual, and the sacrificial object of the Five Elements.

Why do most Chinese people believe that the Five Element philosophy solves problems in reality? Is this a psychological effect or an existing functional theory? Who or what is helping them to avoid mischance? Or is it a collective consciousness under the strong Chinese cultural impact? Along with questions, a hypothetical ritual performance is created, embodying an extreme way to combine the Five Elements into bodies.