Last Night I Prayed for a Noise


(b. 1977, China)

Last Night I Prayed for a Noise, 2021

Mirror finish stainless steel and metal

Planet Word, on loan from the collection of Ann and Tom Friedman

Xu Zhen is a conceptual artist whose sculptures and installations confront social taboos in contemporary China through the lens of Western expectations. He frequently combines cultural objects or styles across historical periods to examine the effects of globalization, often to an unsettling effect.

Last Night I Prayed for a Noise, from the Metal Language series, is a circular mirror covered in text taken from online political cartoons. The word bubbles are composed of jewelry chains, a sly pun suggesting we are “chained” to the Internet. Take a look at some of the phrases included. Do they make sense out of context? Are you tempted to imagine the story behind them? Zhen’s work playfully points to the ways language can connect people from other cultures, while also posing opportunities for misunderstandings. Would these random phrases taken from pop culture be even harder to understand in other languages?

For more information about Xu Zhen, please visit