Ruskin School of Art MFA Portfolio
Ran Zhou

1. The Classroom

Video installation, 2018-2019

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The Classroom, installation view #1, Audain Arts Center, Vancouver, Canada, 2019.

The Classroom, installation view #2, The Polygon Gallery, North Vancouver, Canada, 2019.

           This multi-channel video installation re-presents many surveillance videos of a classroom in a classroom-like setting. It is inspired by a real artificial intelligence system, which automatically tracks each student’s actions at any moment, and provides real-time data on students' outward expressions to calculate emotions. This work aims to discuss the crisis awareness in which our privacy, human nature, souls are diminished by the technology, and what roles we are playing within the system. As technology develops faster than culture, human mind and actions are becoming algorithms - predictable, calculable, and usable, as the tool of the power and system.

More information about The Classroom please click here.

2. The Doll series

installations + sculpture + video, plastic, acrylic, strings, etc. 2018-2020


Red Dolls, installation view #1, Audain Arts Center, Vancouver, Canada, 2018.


Free Fall, installation view #1, Audain Arts Center, Vancouver, Canada, 2019.

         This multi-media series is composed of 3,000+ plastic dolls ordered from a Chinese factory. It attempts to discuss the double-abstraction of the standardized students in the gradually solidified education system in China: students from such assembly line is considered both abstracted labors and products in circulation. The theoretical core of it is the notion of “grapheme” within the Marxist framework and the abstraction issues from a misrecognition of the relationship of labor to capital. The discourse of labor and value is connected and achieved in this work through my thousands of hours’ labor of painting all the dolls red.

Detailed theories and photos of The Doll series please click here.

Free Fall (detail), 2019.

3. Ant-bed

Sculptures, 1m x 4m, 2019


Ant-bed, mixed-media installation, 2019

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(Detail) Ant-bed, mixed-media installation, 2019

         Through the intertwined organic-looked sculptures, this work attempts to present a symbiotic relationship between individuals and the capitalist mode of production. The title "Ant-bed" uses ants as a metaphor of humans - the same working principle behind the social system, the same small and 'united' individual beings. An ant-bed, in its original way, is built and maintained by legions of worker ants into a simple form of ant colonies. In some species, they actively sculpt the materials into specific shapes. Here the figures shape their ant-bed into forms of furniture, the everyday product, as a response to the overdeveloped consumerism.

Details of Ant-bed please click here.

4. Doll+: The Body Transmigration within its Ideal Fantasy

Video, 14min15s, 1080p HD 23.98, Stereo, 2020

selected clips from Doll+: Body Transmigration in its Ideal Fantasy, 2020

        This 14mins15s video project discusses the stereotype of body aesthetic from a posthumanism perspective. It centers on a nonsexual virtual character derived from an assembly-line doll image that I used in THE DOLL series and situates it in a virtual world of absurdity. The world contains many trans-cultural elements and references: video games, documentaries, fashion culture, western art history and eastern philosophy, etc. It stimulates a doll’s perspective of self-identification and self-struggle with its standardized body aesthetic. Blurring the boundaries between human and object, the body is a cyborg; it is a product of consciousness; Also every one of us.

Storyline and research background of Doll+ please click here.

5. The Death of a River

Mixed-media installation, 2m x 2m x 1.1m, 2019


The Death of a River

mixed-media installation, 2m x 2m x 1m, 2019

         This work is a successful failure – as a corpse, a dead moment, and an isolated space that raises discussions about the overdeveloped technology and its gradual replacement of nature.

Originally, this sculpture is a fake landscape handmade with papier-mâché, mesh, and wood. It uses water pump as industrial power to motivaate the water circulation. It aimed to present a self-autonomous circulation accomplished by technology. However, due to the air pressure problems, the water stops half-way and destructs its original ‘natural’ law. At the moment, this work achieves its own self-autonomy that abstracted from any other destined function or value.

Details of The Death of a River please click here.

6. A Winter Solstice Prayer series

Installation + sculpture, printed maps, papier mache, mesh, fresh pants, wood, buckets, etc. 2019-2020

5. My Home is Your Home, is Where the Ri

A map says to you, “Read me carefully, follow me closely, doubt me not.”

It says, “I am the earth in the palm of your hand. Without me, you are alone and lost.”

And indeed you are. Were all the maps in this world destroyed and vanished under the direction of some hand, each man would be blind again, each city be made a stranger to the next, each landmark become a meaningless signpost pointing to nothing.

-- Beryl Markham, 1983


Considering map as a form of power-knowledge, A Winter Solstice Prayer focuses on destructing map, while reconstructing its relationship with the imaginary landscape. It attempts to enlarge the humanize aspect of map to reexamine the cultural implication of national boundary and the migration issue happens worldwide. Using black and white as the base tone, this series combines mixed-media sculptures, paintings, and organic plants to tell different stories of immigrants, family gathering, and the trauma of illegal border crossing happening at present. Projecting my multi-cultural background onto a global vision, A Winter Solstice Prayer attempts to use a metaphorical language to balance the abstract and narrative, while exploring the tension between the heavy social reality and my Chinese poetic romance.

Selected works:

This work reconstructs a map to tell a story about immigrants and family gathering. The map centers on the Peace Arch Park, an international park at the Canada–United States border, which is special for not requiring any visa to enter. The story is about an Iranian Phd student with a one-time visa in America. For his families who got rejected, here is the only place they can meet up. After years of separation, his mom flew to Vancouver, while he went to Seattle. They were like rivers from far away, and finally converged at this special point of utopian.

More background story and photos please click here.

My Home is Your Home, is Where the River Flows from "A Winter Solstice Prayer"

Sculpture paintings,

35 x 48 inch; 30 x 40 inch


Enclosure was made in New York in March 2020, right before the US declared Public Health Emergency of COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, Wuhan, China, where the pandemic originated, was still locked down. This sculpture presents an inundated black map being surrounded by white mountains, expresses my feeling as a Chinese citizen living abroad: witnessing Chinese struggling and asking for help online, while life in the US was running as usual. Such binary reality and overloaded information overlapped. The locked cities were like an enclosed space covered by vacuum glass – we see what is inside but cannot hear its voice.

Detailed descriptions and photos please click here.


Enclosure from "A Winter Solstice Prayer" 

Sculpture painting,

 52 x 52 x 8 inch, 2020

7. The Big and the Only Tragedy is Death

This is a time-specific installation could only last for 2 weeks. It was made by 39 buckets of flowers sprayed white when they are fresh. It is a “live,” organic piece calling for attention to life and death itself. It was originated from news in October 2019 that, 39 people were found dead in a refrigerated trailer in southeastern England, which was a tragedy involving migrants and labourers being smuggled across Europe. The following suspicion, discussion, and argument started to turn the 39 people into abstracted arguments for different existing frameworks of nationalism, illegal migrations, racial problems…

Details please click here.

The Big and the Only Tragedy is Death Itself and That is it.

from "A Winter Solstice Prayer" 

Mixed-media installation (39 buckets, flowers, boxed), 3m x 0.7m x 1.2m

7. The Map series

Drawing +installation + video, printed maps, videos, ink, white paint, charcoal, etc. 2017-2019

        This series is based on my research of Beijing urban history from 1953 to 1979, at the time when thousands of precious historical architectures were rudely destroyed due to the Cultural Revolution and urban extension. The previous refusal to the "old" caused huge damages to the city and its unique history.

         "The Map" series started with Beijing Tourist Map that discusses the ironic paradox of cultural heritage and the erased past;

         Then it moves to The Diary of Destroying a Map, which uses performance to push the historical fact of deconstruction to personal actions and further rethinks the relation between public numbness and independent mind;

         They ended up with Mountains and Rivers, a mixed-media painting that integrates my personal thoughts on the universal law of gathering and separating, while further focuses on the relationship between city and landscape, as well as the role that human plays under the absolute regularity.

Selected works:

Beijing Tourist Map 

mixed-media installation, 138 x 200 cm, 2017

The Diary of Destroying a Map

multi-media installation / performance, 132 x 160 cm (map), 2018

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Mountains and Rivers 山河

mixed-media painting, 98 x 137 cm, 2018

More works from The Map series please click here.

8. Telescope

Three-channel video installation, 2017

The Telescope.jpeg

          Composed of three projections enclosed in an intimate darkroom, this video installation uses echoing, flashed texts to present a “disappeared” conversation between a mother and a kid. It portrays the process of how the mother figured out the fact that her child was sexually abused by strangers in the kindergarten, and it was not the only case. This work is based on the real tragedy happened in China in 2017 that some parents posted online that they found needle marks on their children who attended the Red Yellow Blue Kindergarten in China. They were forced to silence in the end.

                                                 Video documentation and background research please click here.

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