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Photography (MA)

Joe Zijian Zhou

Joe Zijian Zhou (he/him/his) was born in Hubei, China and lives in London, UK.

His art practice is photographic, performative and sculptural. Through the performativity of body, image and text, he investigates the limitations of the queer body from the perspective of young Chinese and question the influences of the social convention by critically thinking of a national and public exercise in China - Radio Callisthenics (广播体操/Gwang Bo Tee Tsao).

In Zhou's research project, he examines and discusses memory, memory-image and family photography within personal anecdotes involving love, loss, domesticity, and queer and trans.

MA Photography, Royal College of Art, UK

GDip Fine Art, Royal College of Art, UK

BFA Photography, Xi'an Academy of Fine Art, CN; Columbus College of Art & Design, US

Show Location: Battersea campus: Dyson & Woo Buildings, First floor

In the sense of performativity, I seek to explore the ephemeral quality of performance as the performance ends and disappears, in the process that contains the improvisational consciousness and emotion. The representation of performance highly relies on the text description and image — whether photographic images or mental images in our brain. The debate arises and encircles the question of if performance becomes other than itself when the reproduction of it happens. The image and text thus construct a bridge connecting the spectator to the performance or the film.

I place my body, as a self-engaged artist, in the first section of the film work, to challenge the limitations of the gay body during the performing in the extreme and cold environment. The body enactments involved in the film reveal the navigation outside of heteronormative space and the formed invisible barrier between the queer space and the ‘mainstream of water’. For section two, I invite others within queer communities to perform in the film. The directing experience expands the view of the body forming during the communication due to the emotional resonance between me and others. In the third section, I introduce a group of undisciplined performers from the Chinese community in a peer-led workshop. This public health activity exists among the young generation in Mainland China. With critical thinking of the highly consistent experience, the film intends to unfold the socio-political structure and collective culture through the view of those who grew up in the ‘post’ Chinese society and to raise the question that how the individuals deal with the sense of collective belonging as they seek the unique identity.

Warning: This work contains mature or explicit content.

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Screening film


Film, performance


13 min 45 sec

Research Project

Photography lights the memory; memory generates narratives, subsequently evoking emotion. As Zijian Zhou looks through his personal belongings to recall his former lover, ruminations are being brought up. Recalling the histories behind photographs collected in an album or monopolized on an electronic device is not merely dedicated to the go-by relationship, but a sort of self-indulgence as well. Zhou sees this work as eight sections in his album like leafing through different and inseparable parts of the album, to lead readers to open unseen memories and to examine and discuss memory, memory-image and family photography within the personal anecdotes involving love, loss and domesticity of queer and trans.

The research dissertation has been rewarded a distinction and archived by RCA Library.


Research Project, text