Tracey Emin's My Bed, exhibited in the Turner Prize show at The Tate, 1999
Yuan Chai and J J Xi are Chinese born, British educated performance artists who are known for their interventionist performance of jumping on Tracy Emin's bed while it was on exhibition at The Tate.
During their performance they took off their shirts and jumped around on the bed. They had various "ism" written on their body including: "Internationalism", "Freedom" "Anarchism", "Idealism", "Optimism", and "Anti-Stuckism"
Chai & Xi said that they thought Emin's piece was strong, but institutionalized, and that they wanted to "improve" it -"We are simply trying to react to the work and the self-promotion implicit in it."
Visitors to the exhibit at that moment said, "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."
News Media often dismissed Yuan Chai and J J Xi as "art students", but they were practicing artist and 43 and 37 years old respectively at the time.
They continue to make performances together under the name Mad for Real. Other performances have included putting up fake signs to mislead visitor trying to get to the Venice Biennale, and attempting to reclaim Duchamp's urinal for it's original function, which they reportedly failed to do but possibly caused the museum to enclose the piece in a vitrine.
Performances by Cai and Xi use the body as an agent between historical, geographical and institutional frameworks. The unspoken barriers of cultural protocol, class, taste and national loyalty are all dissolved in their work but the appeal of much of their 1999–2005 projects still lies, ironically, in its Britishness. It is the specific cultural references, the focus on larger symbolic aspects of British culture and their absurdity, which makes it accessable to a broader public – a public which is not ensconced in the narrow elitism of the art world. The My Bed intervention, which launched them into the public eye six years ago, was a classic moment of British popular culture, which has become insinuated into institutions of British life such as University Challenge and Have I Got News for You. The bed incident is regurgitated by the press when the Turner Prize comes round year after year. Ironically, this work is democratic. By being critical, it opens a conversation with both the establishment itself and with ‘foreigners’, young people and those outside of the mainstream. -Katie Hill