Xiaowen Zhu is a Berlin-based artist and writer. She considers herself a visual poet, social critic, and aesthetic researcher. Her work is concerned with how things and beings migrate across time (historical and contemporary) and space (borders and boundaries) with a particular interest in personal witness and testimony.
Xiaowen has received numerous awards, including TASML Artist Residency Award, Marylyn Ginsburg Klaus Fellowship, Jury Award of DOK Munich, and the Jury Award of Mexico International Documentary Film Festival, among others. She was an artist-in-residence at ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany, and V2_Institute for the Unstable Media, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She was a visiting artist-filmmaker at Rhode Island School of Design, New York University, University of Southern California, University of California, Los Angeles, Lund University, University of Westminster, Tongji University, Tsinghua University, and Fudan University.
Xiaowen’s work has been widely shown internationally, including at the Fowler Museum (Los Angeles, USA), the USC Pacific Asia Museum (Los Angeles, USA), Lund Museum (Lund, Sweden), Berlin Art Week, ZKM | Center for Art and Media (Karlsruhe, Germany), Whitechapel Gallery (London, UK), Whitstable Biennale (Whitstable, UK), Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum (Beijing China), Chronus Art Center (Shanghai, China) and Art Basel Hong Kong.
Brief Encounters on the Milky Way documents the encounters of an astronaut character walking on Essex Road in East London. Essex Road is a mixed community that witnesses rapid urban regenerations. This astronaut character, elaborately dressed and bizarrely choreographed, evokes a sense of foreignness and otherness. On the one hand, he/she undoubtedly disturbs several random passengers on the street, in an almost hilarious way; yet, on the other hand, various people find the ‘astronaut’ amusing and approachable, especially children and young adults. Switching between walking down the street and standing behind a large window front, the ‘astronaut’ appears to be a test of tolerance and openness towards something unusual, unfamiliar, and unexpected.