➔ Happy and Glorious, Mad For Real, 2004 Sep 24 - 2004 Nov 21

Happy and Glorious, Mad For Real, 2004 Sep 24 - 2004 Nov 21

Type: Exhibition





Programme ➔ Main Programme ➔ Thomas Street Programme (2003-)


2004 Sep 24 (is beginning date)
2004 Nov 21 (has end date)


Happy and Glorious was the first full scale exhibition by British based artists, Jian Jun Xi and Cai Yuan, also known as Mad for Real. Jointly curated by the Centre and Katie Hill, the show presented a fusion of new and existing works, touching upon issues such as human trafficking, immigration and citizenship in an upbeat and ironic way.

The artists were known for performance art, especially unofficial art interventions. Their art practice questioned the relationship of power to the individual often using warmth and humour to draw viewers in.

Central to the exhibition was the documentation of the artists’ new performance Happy and Glorious performed for the first time at the exhibition preview on the 23rd September. The performance was their take on the enactment of citizenship oath and the process of becoming ‘British’ citizens. The title was taken from a lyric from the UK national anthem, which evoked the artist memories of the upbeat patriotic language of Maoist China, revealing an unexpected affinity between Maoist and British imperialist rhetoric. Wearing just Union Jack flags, the artists were hung upside down whilst they recited the UK citizenship oath and sang the national anthem. Using the Union Jack as a symbolic device, the artists revealed how other cultures are obliged to remain performers in the context of cultural difference and national identity. Their performance intervened in the continuity of British tradition and also points to the cultural ambiguity which occurs during the process of 'foreigners' becoming British. The performance was replayed throughout the exhibition on a suspended television.

In the name of Art,another new work by the artists, featured a giant coffin in the gallery which contained an ironic display suggesting artistic and cultural disobedience. The display included a copy of a letter banning the artists from the Tate galleries after their performance pieces, Two Artists Jump on Tracey Emin's Bed (1999) and Two Artists Piss on Duchamp's Urinal (2000). The coffin represented the ‘death of art’ in institutions, cultural fetish of the art as fixed objects, and how the artists felt live art was rendered lifeless against the legal muscle of the establishment. Outside the coffin, their performance on video documented the external context of the real world and circulates the work beyond the momentary, fleeting experience.

The exhibition preview was held on the 23rd September. Another event associated with the exhibition was ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ (5th November).

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