Cai Yuan and Jian Jun Xi

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Jian Jun Xi & Cai Yuan outside the Fridericianum museum, Kassel, Germany.

Cai Yuan and Jian Jun Xi are two Chinese-born artists, based in Britain, who work together under the name Mad For Real. They have enacted (unofficial) events at the Venice Biennale and the Turner Prize, where, in 1999, they jumped onto Tracey Emin's My Bed installation. Originally finding fame as performance artists specialising in art intervention, they have since diversified, engaging in numerous works in both Asia and Europe.


At the time of the My Bed incident (below) in 1999, Cai was aged 43 and resident in Stoke Newington. He gained a BA from Chelsea College of Art and graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1991. Xi (born in China in 1962)[1] was 37, and from Camden Town. He is a Goldsmiths College, University of London graduate.[2]

Two Naked Men Jump into Tracey's Bed[edit]

Their best-known[by whom?] performance occurred at 12.58 p.m. on 25 October 1999, when they jumped on Tracey Emin's installation My Bed, a work incorporating memorabilia on and around an unmade bed, in the Turner Prize at Tate Britain. They called their performance Two Naked Men Jump into Tracey's Bed (although in fact they kept their trousers on). They had in mind including some "critical sex" as they considered "a sexual act was necessary to fully respond to Tracey's piece", although this part of their intention was not fulfilled. A visitor reported, "Everyone at the exhibition started clapping as they thought it was part of the show. At first, the security people didn't know what to do."[2] It was not clear to some whether the action was part of Emin's display or even a protest against the current visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

Another visitor commented, "After a few minutes of hopping about and shouting I think they ran out of things to do. If they had tried to wreck it, or stolen the vodka or her knickers, I might have felt differently. It made my weekend."[3] The men only had time to start a pillow fight and attempt a swig from one of the empty vodka bottles next to the bed, before they were apprehended. The police and security guards were booed when they took the pair away. Cai and Xi were arrested for their action, but no charges were pressed, since "neither the gallery nor the artist had any desire to bring the matter further".[3]

Cai considered that, although Emin's work was strong, it was nevertheless institutionalised and said, "We want to push the idea further. Our action will make the public think about what is good art or bad art. We didn't have time to do a proper performance. I thought I should touch the bed and smell the bed." He had various words written in Chinese and English on his body, such as "Internationalism", "Freedom" and "Idealism". Xi said that the work was not interesting enough and also that he wanted to push it further, increasing its significance and sensationalism. Words written on his body included "Anarchism", "Idealism" and "Optimism".[2]

One of the words prominent along the length of Cai's torso was "Anti-Stuckism". This was surprising as the Stuckists had themselves been critical of Emin's art. However, Cai and Xi's explanation is that they were not anti Emin's type of work (which they merely wanted to "improve"—"We are simply trying to react to the work and the self-promotion implicit in it"), but were opposed to the Stuckists, who are anti-performance art.[4] According to Fiachra Gibbons of The Guardian, the event "will go down in art history as the defining moment of the new and previously unheard of Anti-Stuckist Movement."[3]

The Tate's official pronouncement was "The work has now been restored and the exhibition will open to the public as usual at 10 a.m.", but they would not be drawn on the nature of the restoration.[3]

Other performances[edit]

Yuan Cai and Jian Jun Xi performing at the Bluecoat Arts Centre, Liverpool.

In 1997, they erected fake street signs in an attempt to mislead high-profile visitors to the Venice Biennale.

At Goldsmiths College in London they scattered £1,200 around a room to point to the commercialism and greed of the art market. The audience scrambled on the floor to pick up the money.[3]

In spring 2000, the artists returned to the Tate – specifically, to the Tate Modern – in an attempt to urinate into a 1964 artist-authorized replica of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, a urinal laid on its back and signed "R. Mutt". The Tate denied that the attempt succeeded.[5] The sculpture is now enclosed in a transparent box.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Buckman, David: "Dictionary of Artists in Britain since 1945", page 174. Art Dictionaries, 2006
  2. ^ a b c "Tate Protesters Wreck Artist's Unmade Bed" The Daily Telegraph, 25 October 1999 Retrieved 22 October 2006
  3. ^ a b c d e "Satirists Jump into Tracey's Bed", The Guardian, 5 October 1999 Retrieved 22 March 2006
  4. ^ "The Jumping Chinese Gentlemen at It again" Herr von Stuck's Hot Gossip Page Retrieved 22 March 2006
  5. ^ "The Turner Prize", University of Glasgow, retrieved 22 March 2006.

External links[edit]