Requires Photography

Seeds of Hamburg

Zhang Huan (Chinese, born in 1965)


50 x 40 inches

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Photograph, chromogenic print

Not On View


Asia, Contemporary Art, Photography



From a series of twelve photographs, four in the MFA collection (2006.2065, 2006.2066, 2006.2067, 2006.2068).
Zhang Huan was born in 1965 in the Chinese province of He Nan and studied painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. At school he grew frustrated with what he perceived as the limitation of traditional art and in 1992 took up performance with emphasis on the body. Zhang’s first public performance, a 1993 protest against a ban on installation and performance art, resulted in his being arrested, fined, and forced to write a self-criticism. Zhang’s performances, always ritualistic and metaphorical, often involve submitting his naked body to extreme conditions. The Seeds of Hamburg photographs document a 2002 performance at the Kunstverein in Hamburg, Germany. After coating himself in honey and rolling in birdseed until his entire body was covered, the artist entered a large wood and chicken wire cage containing only a leafless maple tree and stacked wooden crates. Accompanied by the music of Wang Guo-tong, a contemporary Chinese musician who blends Asian and classical Western traditions, twenty-eight doves were released into the cage. As he slowly moved around the cage - crouching, lying, standing and eventually climbing onto and sitting upon the throne-like configuration of crates - the artist allowed the birds to settle upon his body to nibble and peck the seeds away. When, after 40 minutes, one of the birds pulled a red ribbon from his mouth, he cradled it in his hands, left the cage and released the bird. Captured in these large-scale photographs, the doves, ribbon and seeds are symbol of hope, rebirth, and freedom.

Credit Line

Gift of Dale and Doug Anderson


© Zhang Huan