Peng Zhang

72M2 Land
Installation, 2023

Soil is an essential material of rural life. Farmers dedicate their lives to the land, and the soil holds their time and labour, their efforts and processes. The land is a communal base for the village, kids play on the land, villagers farm together build houses and farms, and farmers tend to their animals and crops. 

In the past, villagers constructed their houses in the traditional way: ramming earth into wooden frames with fibres and grain powder. I was one of the farmers who worked on these walls, and after the building was finished, people engraved decorative stories on them, a record of rural life. I have retained these rural skills and folk-art techniques from this time. 

The Chinese phrase “Zha Gen” means “to take root”. The roots of the plant travel deep into the soil, creating networks, becoming strong and stable. Since moving to the Netherlands in 2016, I have been struggling with my personal “Zha Gen” journey in the new “soil” of a foreign land. I see this laborious process of ‘engraving’ as my own journey of “Zha Gen”. 

In 72M2 land, a scene is “growing”: Soil, Time, Labour, Process.