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Beijing/LA Artist Zhao Zhao is Treating Instant Noodles as Art

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If you’ve recently caught yourself thinking, “gee, there really isn’t enough conceptual art about convenient foods in my life right now,” we’ve got you covered: Beijing- and Los Angeles-based artist Zhao Zhao has just released his latest work, a conceptual project that treats fangbianmian — 方便面, or your standard, just-add-water Top Ramen-style instant noodles — as found art, and as fodder for tongue-in-cheek, high-end street fashion design.

Zhao Zhao, who is originally from Xinjiang, works primarily between painting, sculpture, and installation, zoning in on individual free will in the context of a controlling state apparatus as a central theme. For his new project, entitled 305, he put together an instant noodle-themed trap song produced by veteran beatmaker Soulspeak — an artist who shares dual roots in LA and Beijing, being a regular collaborator with Beijing rapper J Fever — and a “mystery rapper” repeating the line: “Instant noodles are just art / art is just instant noodles.”

What appears on the surface to be a somewhat puzzling (if pretty amusing) gag has a deeper meaning for Zhao, who writes that the project’s title, 305, was his cell number at a detention center in Beijing. (Zhao started his career as an assistant to politically outspoken artist Ai Weiwei, and has had multiple brushes with Beijing authorities in recent years.)

The 305 project so far consists of the trap tune above, as well as a “maybe they’re joking, but probably not?” Nike Air Force 1 collab done along with hype streetwear magazine Yohood. Zhao says that the project overall is designed to provide a running commentary on the cheap, everyday fuel that feeds China’s ongoing process of urbanization and ascension on the global stage, writing:

I reckon that instant noodles are profoundly stimulating and rebellious. Ever since modernisation [took] place in China, instant noodles have been the most crucial supply for urbanisation and transformations of popular culture. Where does the energy that fuels the construction of modern Chinese cities come from? The answer lies in the calories of instant noodles and other similar cheap foods. The number of skyscrapers we can see speaks [to] the amount of instant noodles consumed and the people that consume them. China has the highest level of instant noodles consumption. In this country, almost everyone — from children to the elderly, is very familiar with instant noodles. They are inexpensive and can quickly make people feel full. Instant noodles are in our blood. Hence they are the trendiest artwork in contemporary China… It is Art, whether or not they still represent the power that comes from the lowest level of the social hierarchy. Whichever the case, Art is instant noodles is Art is instant noodles is Art.

If this sounds like something you want to rep, head over to 305’s WeChat store, where you can pick up those metallic AF1’s pictured up top for about 700USD, or a packet of just the noodles for 15USD if you’re on a budget.

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Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a Shanghai-based writer and musician, and RADII's Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, Artsy, LEAP, Tiny Mix Tapes, and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.

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