Huang Yong Ping «Bat Project I-IV» 2001-04.

submitted on Tue, 2006-03-14 04:57. | | | | |

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project I, 2001
Bat Project I, 2001
Shenzuan, China.

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project II, 2002
Bat Project II, 2002
Guangzhou, China.

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project III, 2003
Bat Project III, 2003
Beijing, China.

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project I, 2001

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project I, 2001
Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project I, 2001
Bat Project I and II, 2003
Arsinale, Venice Biannual, Italy.

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project II, 2002
Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project IV, 2004
Bat Project IV, 2004.

The artist's concept drawing for Bat Project IV, incorporating the cockpit, bamboo scaffolding, plastic construction fence, and taxidermic bats
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA.

Bat Project 2 removed from Guangzhou Triennial.
Art in America, Jan, 2003 by Stephanie Cash, David Ebony.

On Nov. 16, just two days before the opening of China's First Guangzhou Triennial at the Guangdong Museum of Art, foreign ministry officials completed the removal of Huang Yong Ping's Bat Project 2, a massive outdoor installation that, in its partially completed state, had briefly dominated the museum's entrance court. The work was a full-scale model of the cockpit section and left wing of an American EP-3 spy plane, the type of craft that collided with a Chinese fighter jet in March 2001, killing the Chinese pilot, before making an emergency landing on Hainan Island with its surveillance equipment and crew intact.

A major international standoff, the first geopolitical test of nerve for the new Bush administration, then ensued as the 24 U.S. military personnel, having attempted to destroy their most secret devices and data, were held for 11 days while the impounded plane was scrutinized by PRC intelligence experts. The EP-3 was eventually dismantled and returned to U.S. custody.

Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 12:21 GMT

US Navy EP-3 Spyplane
A US Navy EP-3 spyplane.

The artwork was based on the US spyplane which crashed in China.

Chinese authorities have banned an artwork depicting a US Navy spyplane that collided with a Chinese jet from an exhibition in southern China.

Culture officials banned the work, a 50-foot long piece depicting part of the stricken EP-3 plane - from an exhibition of new Chinese artists at the Guangdong Province Art Museum.

Artist Huang Yong Ping, who created the artwork, has accused officials of bowing to US pressure. But the US Embassy in Beijing has denied any involvement. «At no time did the US Consulate or US Embassy ask the Chinese authorities to dismantle the EP-3 sculpture,» an Embassy spokesperson said. «It's just an artwork, a plane model. I didn't mean to hint at something or hurt anybody,» said Huang Yong Ping.

The spyplane was forced to make an emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hainan after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet early last year. The Chinese warplane crashed into the sea and its pilot was reported missing, presumed dead. The 24-man crew of the Navy aircraft spent 11 days under custody before being returned to the US. The plane was later dismantled and sent back to the US.

Huang was told on Friday that the artwork would not be shown. Museum staff then destroyed it, he said.

Huang Yong Ping working on Bat Project IV, Aircraft Junkyard, California, 2004, photos by Doryun Chong
Huang Yong Ping working on Bat Project IV, Aircraft Junkyard, California, 2004, photos by Doryun Chong
Huang Yong Ping working on Bat Project IV, Aircraft Junkyard, California, 2004, photos by Doryun Chong
Huang Yong Ping working on Bat Project IV, Aircraft Junkyard, California, 2004, photos by Doryun Chong

When we considered including Bat Project, named after the stylized bat insignia on the US spy plane, in the exhibition, it seemed only fitting to find a real piece of an EP-3. After countless hours googling, I was not quite becoming an expert, but industry names and acronyms that had been previously alien to me--EP-3, P-3, Lockheed Electra, and Orion--started rolling off my tongue. Talking about planes is one thing, but finding one is altogether another. After more sleuthing, we identified an airplane junkyard in the desert highland of California where we might find a decommissioned EP-3. During a visit with Huang at the Walker in January, we decided, rather impromptu, to head to California to check out the junkyard ourselves.

One sunny day in February, I picked up Huang at the Burbank Airport and aimed a rented Jeep in the direction of El Mirage. After an hour and a half drive over the Los Angeles Mountains, filled by attempted conversations in my stilted French (the artist speaks no English), we came onto a high plateau. Suddenly, a mammoth, rat-colored military plane appeared overhead, swooping across the cloudless sky, as if announcing that we’d entered a military flight zone. Despite my best effort to be prepared with precise directions and maps, there were a few turn-arounds along the way, but we eventually got there--a bleak but sublimely beautiful flatland littered with forlorn-looking fuselages, cockpits, and piles of airplane parts.

Friendly staff invited Huang and I to look around, but we must have made a strange sight--two Asians looking utterly out of place, poking our noses into this industrial wasteland. Accompanied by an exceedingly solicitous stray dog, we climbed onto many fuselages--from mid-sized passenger planes and enormous military cargo planes. One particularly awesome Goliath, we were told, had been used for the recent movie Con Air. As Huang thoughtfully took pictures, I followed him around taking pictures of him taking pictures. But after several hours of reconnaissance, we couldn’t find an EP-3. We reluctantly left, a little crestfallen and dusty from the desert winds.

But the story has a happy ending. In the following weeks I continued to pursue a lead in the junk airplane dealership (who would have thought?) and eventually located an old EP-3 cockpit. As I am writing these words, it is being cut into manageable sections and will soon be transported to the Walker, where it will be recomposed in an installation work measuring more than 43 feet long and 13 feet high--the first ever fully realized showing of Bat Project. Sometimes life is better than art. And sometimes, art gives us better life stories.

Curatorial Assistant Doryun Chong's WalkerArt Blog.

sources: hou hanru,, artinamerica,