The Tourist by Gary Zhexi Zhang – Now Streaming Online

Gary Zhexi Zhang, The Tourist, 2023. Courtesy the artist.

The Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) presents:

The Tourist by Gary Zhexi Zhang

The Tourist, a new digital commission by Gary Zhexi Zhang, is now streaming. Watch online

Gary Zhexi Zhang’s new film, The Tourist, 2023, tells the story of Zanzibar, China, and Ali Sultan Issa, a man at the centre of an uneasy marriage between Afrofuturism and Sinofuturism. It explores a shifting geopolitical atmosphere, from the cosmopolitan optimism of the Bandung Spirit declaration, signed at the first large-scale Afro-Asian conference in 1955, to the uncertain alignments of today.

Issa and his comrades sparked a diplomatic romance with communist China in the 1960s and sought to build post-revolutionary Zanzibar in the image of the People’s Republic of China. Zanzibar presented itself as China’s revolutionary pupil, and a spark from which pan-African socialism would flourish. Issa was not only a leading Zanzibari socialist, but would also become its capitalist pioneer. In his “second revolution,” he opened the island’s first resort hotel, spearheading the foreign investment which would later define its fortunes as a tropical tourist paradise.

This newly commissioned film grew out of a dialogue with AGYU curator Clara Halpern through the program …this is not made of language but energy, a series of conversations about born-digital art in 2020 in which Zhang participated. AGYU also co-published the anthology Catastrophe Time! with Strange Attractor Press, with fiction, essays, and interviews about finance and time edited by Zhang.

Gary Zhexi Zhang, The Tourist, 2023. Courtesy the artist.

Gary Zhexi Zhang is an artist and writer whose work draws connections between cosmology, technology, and economics. He was born in Suzhou and works in London. The opera he co-created with Waste Paper Opera, Dead Cat Bounce, premiered at Somerset House in 2022. His last solo exhibition, Cycle 25, documented events that blur the boundaries between speculative belief and the material world, like natural disasters, scam nations, and cosmic economies. Recent group shows include Katabasis, Totalab, Shanghai; Liquid Ground, UCCA Dune, Beidaihe & Para Site, Hong Kong; and The Principle of Hope, Inside Out Art Museum, Beijing. He is lecturer in Critical Studies at Goldsmiths MFA and taught previously at Parsons School of Design. In 2023, he will be an R&D fellow at Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai. His writing on art, technology, and economy have appeared in Frieze, ArtReview, Verge Journal of Global Asias, Journal of Cultural Economy, MIT Journal of Design and Science, among others.

This project emerges from the AGYU’s new digital art program stream. This year’s commissions include The Tourist by Zhang, and Dele Adeyemo’s From Longhouse to Highrise: The Course of Empire, curated by Felicia Mings, curator, AGYU, to be launched later this year.

Production and presentation of Zhang and Adeyemo’s artworks is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategy Fund. Our public screening of The Tourist and conversation with filmmaker Zach Jama in September was generously supported by Media Partners InterAccess and Images Festival.

For further information and press inquiries, please contact Clara Halpern:

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