Born in 1976 in Changsha, China, Zhou Tao received a BFA in oil painting at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (2001) and an MFA in mixed-media studies (2006). Zhou finds visual and narrative materials for his arresting video works in the places and communities he encounters. He has documented Guangzhou, where he lives and works, as well as New York, Paris, Bangkok, and Barcelona, cities where he has participated in residencies. Moving beyond simply recording, Zhou’s lens seems to gaze at these scenes, often capturing living organisms, natural scenery, and inorganic matter, generating a sense of poetic intimacy through the prolonged act of looking. When exhibited, the videos are often presented together with his drawings and photographs.
In his work, Zhou connects seemingly disparate milieus, turning his attention to oft-ignored sites that exist on the threshold between the natural and the artificial. The visual narratives merge different spatial constructs such as landscapes, the metropolis, constructions sites, parks, public squares, and wastelands. In After Reality (2013), images hurtle from the semi-wild and semi-urbanized zones of Guangzhou’s rural-urban fringe to the highly manicured cityscapes of Paris, while in Blue and Red (2014), the narrative travels between documenting the heavy-metal waste contaminating industrial zones in Shaoguan, China, to a military coup during a smoke-filled riot in Bangkok. Zhou’s seamless montage of scenes from various locations serves as a metaphor for modernity’s spatial multiplicity, an experience and a process that occurs spontaneously and simultaneously in different regions. In his new video installation Land of the Throat (2016), commissioned for the Guggenheim Museum, Zhou interweaves a construction and urban planning phenomenon in southern China with research on Mars. It also marks the first time the artist has built a viewing environment for his video work.
Zhou’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2009); Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou, China (2012); Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (2012); Kadist Art Foundation, Paris (2013); and Museu d’art contemporani, Barcelona (2015). He has also participated in numerous group shows and biennials including Octomania (On drawing the number eight), Para Site, Hong Kong (2006); Guangzhou Station, Guangdong Museum of Art (2008); On/Off, China’s Young Artists in Concept and Practice, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2012); Auckland Triennial (2013); Landscape: The Virtual, The Actual, The Possible?, Guangdong Times Museum (2014), and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2014–15); Shanghai Biennial (2014); Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane (2015–16); and Tales of Our Time, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2016–17). Zhou lives and works in Guangzhou.