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关键词学校•中瑞国际物流器械有限公司(山东.青岛)

时间:2009年12月27日-12月31日

 

“关键词学校”没有预先的目标设定,通过徐坦的引导和每一个参与者的参与,每一个“关键词”都可以成为引发不同个体积极进入某种意识活动的媒介,这种由“关键词”所引发的思考和感受相交织的公共意识流动构成了这所“关键词学校”的主要内容。可以说,“关键词学校”总是在创造“关键词学校之后”的内容,在这里,“学校”将成为隐喻,引导我们潜入生活和社会进程的深深海洋。

此次关键词学校将于2009年12月27日至31日在山东青岛中瑞国际物流器械有限公司进行,有别于关键词学校自2008年以来的“旅行”,此次关键词学习将离开艺术家熟悉的环境,徐坦认为:“现在这个环境将是更有未知因素的……在这种环境里有时会有一些遮蔽,这也是极有意思的事情,这一直是我感兴趣的,因为我们一直谈到全球化背景下的中国语言的环境,这个环境中,我们有 机会看到类似实验场里的东西:遮蔽性,有时你看不到真正的问题,这是一个挑战。”

徐坦•寻找关键词 纽约Location One/Xu Tan • Searching for Keywords – New York Location One

XU TAN
Searching for Keywords

November 28, 2007–February 9, 2008
opening reception November 28 6–8pm
Location One • 26 Greene Street • New York, NY 10013
“Searching for Keywords”, an interactive multimedia installation created by Chinese artist Xu Tan will be presented in Location One’s main gallery from November 28th 2007 though Februrary 2nd, 2008.
 
Xu Tan’s work deals with the hidden motivations and intentions of individuals through a high-tech analysis of their vocabulary. “Searching with Keywords” is the New York leg of an ongoing project which the artist launched in 2005. It began with a series of interviews of different groups of people who are active in Chinese society: a first set of interviews were carried in the Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park, a sort of Silicon Valley near Shanghai, a second set covers different cities and people from all walks of life, from writers, to real estate developers, to Buddhist monks, to businessmen; and a third was conducted among the artistic community in China. The video interviews were then carefully analyzed, and Xu Tan has identified 100 keywords based on meaning (social values), frequency (repetition), sensitivity (political), and popularity (trendyness). These Keywords reveal much about the values and motivations of contemporary Chinese society, they give a pulse of the current social climate, and present an insight into the collective social consciousness of China.
The project will be unfolding simultaneously in Beijing, China, in Sittard, Holland, and in New York, through a website created specifically for this happening. Gallery audiences in New York will be invited to interact with the keywords, which are presented by means of four video projections and four computer stations equipped with laptops, video cameras, and Internet connections. The goal is to have gallery visitors pronounce the keywords as illustrated in drawings and video clips, to ask questions of the artist thorough an on-line forum and message board, and to leave comments. Their reactions and input will be immediately transmitted through the website to the other venues where the installation is present.
While the artist is present in the gallery he will also conduct interviews of different people and the analysis of these interviews will in turn generate other keywords that will help reveal the opinions and attitudes of a western audience towards the current status of China and its role in the global environment.

关键词工作室 Het Domin/ Sittard Holland/Keywords Workshop at Het Domin/ Sittard Holland

Xu Tan
Keywords Workshop

Project Introduction
The “Keywords Workshop” by the Chinese artist Xu Tan is based on his long term research project “Searching for Keywords” and the workshop will function as an interactive studying process and communication tool to enrich the dictionary of “Keywords” within the global context.The ‘Searching for Keywords’ project consists of a series of interviews of active people in the Chinese society or people in the active Chinese area. By searching and studying the content of the conversation, Xu Tan aimed at finding out the connection between the individual speakers, words and the mental tendencies of Chinese society.

So far, the project has been realized as a series of studies, including ‘Searching for Keywords: Shanghai Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park’  ‘Searching for Keywords: Shenzhen Overseas China Town’ and “Searching for Keywords: Today, Art”, etc. It has come out 100 keywords, which the artist would like to use it as the basic interactive study materials for the people who are interested to understand the current social life and the collective social consciousness in China, meantime the artist will collect the responses from the “students” / participants during the workshop process, for the next step of development.

Workshop
During the workshop, Xu Tan will play videos and display websites at T-Zone, invite local people to participate in the show, learn Chinese keywords, exchange views through the learning process and do further research based on the reaction from the local audiences.

Time:
11th ~ 17th January, 2008
Tuesday – Sunday: 11.00 – 17.00

Presentation:
Friday January 18th 17.00 Museum Het Domein

Location:
T-Zone
Museum Het Domein
Kappitelstraat 6, 6131 ER Sittard Holland

More on

http://www.XuTan-Keywords.com

www.madeinmirrors.org

This project is realized with support of the Made in Mirrors Foundation.
Made in Mirrors is an intercultural reflective experiment through which small-scale exchange projects, artistic presentations and discussion are realized by Museum Het Domein (Sittard, Netherlands), Vitamin Creative Space (Guangzhou, China) and Museu de Arte Moderna Aloísio Magalhães (Recife, Brazil).

关键词学校•广州/Keywords School • Guangzhou

徐坦:关键词学校

关键词学校开学典礼

时间:2008年9月5日下午4点

地点:维他命艺术空间(广州)

欢迎参观关键词学校!

学期:2008年9月7日—2008年11月30日

1,经过这么些年,你又重新回到了“学校”;或者,你一直在学校,第一次怀揣另一种心情来到“学校”。

2,这个学校初始于艺术家徐坦,基于他这两年来的研究和调查活动,徐坦发展了“搜寻关键词”的交流方式鼓励来自不同领域的人们进行对话和讨论,从而展开了一种思考和感受交织的公共活动,而这本身就构成了一所“学校”的基本活动;

3,这是一所没有预先的目标设定,但有“学习方法”的“学校”;这里开始了一种新公共空间,艺术家,你,还有你的同学,都是过程中的一部分,通过“关键词”所进行交流和讨论,你在创造艺术。

课程简介:

“关键词”课程为期三个月,每月将以不同关键词的排列组合编为八组课程。请从以下课时安排中选择你所感兴趣的进行报名:下午的3:30-5:30

9月

07日 身体, 时尚, 市场, 玩, 违章

08日 中国, 西方, 火, 装修, 做,

17日 环境, 活, 机会, 集体, 圈子

20日 发展, 房产, 股, 关系, 条件

21日 财产, 操作, 成功, 城市, 利,

24日 流行, 名, 权力, 人气, 社会

27日 下岗, 先进, 女, 现实, 享受, 消费,

28日 信仰, 休闲, 代, 行为, 娱乐, 政府,


11月

08日 财产, 操作, 成功, 城市, 利

09日 发展, 房产, 股, 关系, 条件

15日 环境, 活, 机会, 集体, 圈子

16日 流行, 名, 权力, 人气, 社会

22日 身体, 时尚, 市场, 玩, 违章

23日 下岗, 先进, 女, 现实, 享受, 消费

29日 信仰, 休闲, 代, 行为, 娱乐, 政府

30日 中国, 西方, 火, 装修, 做


学生类型:

课程所招学生分为参与者旁听者

参与者将和艺术家徐坦就关键词出发进行面对面的交流互动,并充许整个过程被录音、录像,作为艺术家的研究素材。

你想成为参与者 or 旁听者

您的姓名与联系方式

每次课程参与者为5-8人,有意参加者请提前预约。

请将您感兴趣的课时、学生类型及联系方式发送至:

慧慧keywordschool@gmail.com

上课地点:维他命艺术空间广州赤岗西路横一街29号301电话:020-84296760

更多信息:http://vitamincreativespace.blogbus.com/

Xu Tan: Keywords School

Opening Ceremony for Keywords School

Time: 5 September 2008, 4pm in the afternoon

Venue: Vitamin Creative Space Art Space

You are cordially invited to visit the Keywords School

Semester: 7 September 2008 – 30 November 2008

1, After so many years, you again back to school;

2, It’s a school initialed by the artist Xu Tan, based on his long term research, he develops an unique method “Searching for Keywords” as a communication tool to generate group discussion and different kind formats of dialogues within the school format- a school means a new public space.

3, There are 125 Chinese keywords have been collected by the artist, which will be used as the basic interactive study material for communication, they reflect collective social consciousness and multi-social landscape within Chinese context.

4, It’s a school without predetermined goal, It’s a new public art space, the artist, you and all the classmates are all part of the process, through the discussion and dialogues, you are creating art.

The “Keywords” course will last for 3 months. Each month will feature different arrangements and groupings of keywords structured as 8 groups of classes.

Please select your desired courses from the class schedules below to register:

September

7th body, fashion, market, play, illegal

8th China, the West, hot/popular, interior design, do/make

17th environment, life, chance, collectivity, circle

20th  development, real estate, stock, relationship, condition

21st property, operate, success, city/urban(planning), profit

24th popular, fame, power, popularity, society

27th unemployed, advanced, woman, realistic/realism, enjoy, consume

28th belief, leisure, generation, performance(artf), entertainment, government

November

8th property, operate, success, city/urban(planning), profit

9th development, real estate, stock, relationship, condition

15th environment, life, chance, collectivity, circle

16th popular, fame, power, popularity, society

22nd body, fashion, market, play, illegal

23rd unemployed, advanced, woman, realistic/realism, enjoy, consume

29th belief, leisure, generation, performance(artf), entertainment, government

30th China, the West, hot/popular, interior design, do/make

Categories of Students:

The course is calling for students either as participants or observers:

Participants will have face-to-face interactive discussions with artist Xu Tan, taking keywords as a starting point. They will then serve as research material for the artist via voice and video recordings of these interactions.

You wish to register as a                 participant /observer

Please provide your name and contact details

Each course will have between 5 – 8 participants. Interested participants should make reservations prior to the classes.

Please email details of the course you are interested in, your preferred student category and contact details to:

Hui Hui: keywordschool@gmail.com

Venue:Vitamin Creative Space/Room301, 29Hao, Heng Yi Jie, Chi Gang Xi Lu, Guangzhou, China

Tel: 0086-20-84296760

more on:http://vitamincreativespace.blogbus.com/

关键词学校•斯德哥尔摩/Keywords School• Stockholm

2008年10月初,在“关键词学校•斯德哥尔摩”之前,我们进行了大约3年的“搜寻关键词”的活动,期间主要是在中国的上海、北京、广州、深圳等地进行了大量采访,也在纽约和荷兰Sittard等地进行过采访。“关键词学校”第一次在中国以外的地方进行了活动。我们在位于斯德哥尔摩的Bonniers艺术中心,进行了10天的课程……

在斯德哥尔摩“关键词学校”期间,我们预先设置了授课活动的日程,为每天的课程安排了不同的关键词。10天的课程里,大约 150人来参加活动,课程交流以瑞典语、中文、英语进行。对于每天的关键词,艺术家都作详尽的解释,并且和到访者进行深入讨论,其后,作为课程活动的要 求,要求每个到访者,或者说“学员”,都用提供6-10个关键词,以便开展进一步讨论。在这6-10个词之中,有3-5个是关于每个人对于自我生存、生存环境及世界看法的,另外的是来访者对中国的看法。由于大部分“学员”是瑞典人,他们提供了瑞典语的关键词,并且用英语作了翻译和解释。

此次关键词学校是Bonniers艺术中心中国当代艺术展“白夜生长”的一部分,得到的斯德哥尔摩各社会人士的广泛参与

更多信息:http://vitamincreativespace.blogbus.com/c2109426/

Before the Stockholm Keywords School, it took about three years to undertake the keywords’ searching activity. During this time, we made numerous interviews in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, etc., also in New York and Holland. In October of 2008, The Keywords School held activities outside China for the first time. In Stockholm, we conducted 10 days of lectures, in which the keyword material was collected in the process of the Stockholm Keywords School activities.

In the Stockholm Keywords School, we had preset lecture dates, and different keywords for daily lectures. About 150 people took part in the activity in the 10 days of the lectures, with communications achieved in Swedish, Chinese and English. The artist explained in detail the daily keyword, and discussed it profoundly with the visitors.Afterward, according to the rules of the activity, there were requirements for every visitor or “student” to provide 6-10 keywords from their mother language, in order to achieve further discussions. Among these 6-10 words, 3-5 of them concerned everyone’s aspects of self-living, living environment and the whole world, other words came from what the visitors thought of China. Due to the fact that most “students” were Swedish, they provided keywords in Swedish, and then translated and interpreted them in English.

The keywords school ·Stockholm is part of the “Sprout from the White Nights”, the Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition in Bonniers Konsthall

More on:http://vitamincreativespace.blogbus.com/c2109426/

关键词学校•威尼斯/Keywords School • Venice Recruitment

时间:2009年6月4日-2009年6月21日
地点:Pavilion structure in the Giardini della Biennale, Venezia; Close to Palazzo delle Esposizioni
即日起至2009年5月31日,我们将正式启动“关键词学校•威尼斯”的报名程序,诚邀您的参与
详细信息及报名方法请见附件:关键词学校•威尼斯招生简章

PDF下载:12420979991

“关键词学校”是艺术家徐坦的一个长期的持续性项目。到目前为止,项目已经进行了两年,而且还在不断的进行当中。“关键词学校”这个艺术项目与观众的交流是通过“学校”的方式产生的。学校的内容是”关键词”,这些关键词是艺术家徐坦在过去的两年里,通过与在不同领域、不同背景的人群进行访谈,并从访谈中研究出的“关键词”(更多关于关键词项目的具体信息请访问www.xutan-keywords.com)。在”关键词学校”,艺术家徐坦可以在学校的情景里,通过这些关键词,与参与者进行交流;通过这些关键词,艺术家和参与者共同打开了一个思想的公共空间。
此次,“关键词学校”获邀参加第53届威尼斯双年展,所以我们有了“关键词学校•威尼斯”的诞生。在威尼斯的关键词学校将持续14天,每天接受10名学生参与课程,每次课程时间为两个半小时。在“关键词学校•威尼斯”里,参与者将与艺术家徐坦一起,围绕着艺术家徐坦之前研究寻找出来的关键词进行对话。根据不同的“每日关键词”,参与者可以根据自己感兴趣的关键词或话题,报名参加”关键词学校•威尼斯”的课程。

关于徐坦:
徐坦,1957年生于武汉,现生活于广州。在九十年代,他是实验艺术工作小组“大尾象”成员,时至今日,徐坦还是保持着他“漫游者”的生活方式。他敏感于社会生活和文化的变化,不停地追问当代艺术的边界何在。他的工作方式更像是一个思想者而非仅仅是视觉层面的艺术家,他的一些作品在产生的当时尚无法定义,而在今天更显其存在的意义。其作品曾参加威尼斯双年展、柏林双年展等国际大展。

即日起至2009年5月31日,我们将正式启动“关键词学校•威尼斯”的报名程序,诚邀您的参与

课程提示
1.此次课程将于第53届威尼斯双年展现场举行,每次课程限参与者10名,需与5月31日前报名确认;
2.在课程的开端,根据徐坦编辑和整理的“每日关键词”,邀请参与者开展讨论,提出自己的看法;
3.艺术家以漫谈的方式和参与者交流,彼此可以就包括“关键词”或以外的任何话题进行对话和讨论;
4.活动现场将会被全程记录,其录像,录音等原始材料将会用于艺术家持续的关键词研究及项目。

报名方式
1.请根据此文件右侧的日程表及每日关键词选择您感兴趣申请参与的课程与日期
2.请将您确定参与的课程日期及您的真实姓名,性别,联系方式发送至:info@xutan-keywords.com
3.我们将根据报名的实际情况和现场安排(我们将根据先到先得的原则确认每天的名单)和您确认最终参与的课程日期,并提供相关讯息

每日关键词课程表

2009/06/04

build; tradition;societ/社会; social (socialist)/社会(社会主义); law/lag; nature,natural; unemployment/下岗/失业; survive, surviva/生存,幸存; power/权力,力量

2009/06/05

money; position/position, ställning; materials(materialism)/材料(唯物主义);living (living cost); (daily) life; emotion/感情,情感; care; generation/代; value

2009/06/06

stress/stress; America, USA/美国; American; Centre/中心; west, western/西方;contact/kontakt; communication; standard; future

2009/06/07

religious, religions; believe/tro;industry; culture/文化; popular/流行; time/tid; metaphor/metaphor; humanist/humanistisk; control/kontroll

2009/06/09

buy; sell; land/地; brand; home/bostad; family;harmony(harmonious society)/和谐 (和谐社会); private/私人的; work/arbete

2009/06/10

develop/发展; environment/miljö; car/bil; move, movement; restlessness/otälig; revolution; body/身体; city (city life, city structure)/城市; safe, safety/säker, säkerhet

2009/06/11

contemporary; collectivity/集体; chance;hope;individual; circles/圈子; group/群体;people/人民; obsessed/besatt

2009/06/13

public;relation (public relation)/关系(公共关系); competition/konkurrens, tävlan; history/历史; ambitiousness/ambitionsnivån; not too much/lagom;adapt/anpassa; conident/trygga, säker; politics, political/politiskt; political correct/politiskt korrekt

2009/06/14

Europe/欧洲; property/财产, 产; democracy/民主; bank; happiness/glädje; child/ barn; free, freedom/自由; good behavior/gott uppförande; plate model/plattan model

2009/06/16

business/生意; system/体制; house/bostäd; apartment; opportunity/tillfälle,möjlighet; experience;red/röd; peaceful/lugn; Chinese girl/Kinesiska licka

2009/06/17

communist; confucius,confucian; shit/skit, fan; cheap/billig; old/(old house); elder; friends; market/市场; new

2009/06/18

fool; dream/dröm; humbleness/ödmjuchet; play/玩; consume (consumption)/消费; relax/slappna, slakna;company/公司;alone; CCTV/央视

2009/06/20

modern/människa; Olympic games/奥运; idea/Idé, begrepp; curious/nyfiken, vetgirig; change/变; classic;enjoy/享受; resistance/motständ

2009/06/21

reality/realitet; inluence;government/政府; boundary/boundary; concept; creativity/创意; censorship/审查; rational; propaganda/宣传

Participating Project in Making Worlds, the 53rd Venice Biennale

Xu Tan

Keywords School • Venice    Recruitment Notice

Date:2009/06/04-2009/06/21

Place:Pavilion structure in the Giardini della Biennale, Venezia; Close to Palazzo delle Esposizioni

The “Keywords School” is a project based on the continuous investigation and research of “keywords” by the Chinese artist Xu Tan. Underway since 2006, the project’s central premise of communication between audience and artist/art project now takes the form of “school”. The content of this school is “keywords”, terms gathered from Xu Tan’s persistent searching and researching through interviews and discussions among people from different fields and backgrounds (for more on keywords, and keywords project information, please visit www.xutan-keywords.com). In “Keywords School”, Xu Tan communicates with all participants through the“keywords” in this “school” context; Through these keywords, the artist and participant cooperate to create a new idealistic public space. The “Keywords School•Venice” was born when the project was invited to take part in the 53rd Venice Biennale. For each of the 14 days of “Keywords School•Venice”, we will accept 10 “students” as participants in the 2 and a half hours of each course. The participants will discuss and dialogue with Xu Tan around the “keywords” from Xu Tan’s several years of searching and researching. According to their interest in the different “daily keywords”, the participants can choose and apply to the courses in “Keywords School•Venice”.

About the artist

Xu Tan was born in Wuhan, Hubei Province in 1957 and currently lives in Guangzhou. Since the early 1990s he has been part of “Big Tail Elephant Group”, an experimental art team in Guangzhou. Xu Tan has insisted on his lifestyle as “outcast”, maintaining sensitivity to the changes in social life and culture, and questioning the boundary of contemporary art. Over the years this has led his working style to appear more like that of a social theorist than a purely visual artist. His work has been shown around the world, including at the 50th Biennale di Venezia, the Berlin Biennial, the Gongdong Triennial etc.

Keywords School•Venice is supported by Uli Sigg Collection

From now to the 31st of May, application for the “Keywords School•Venice” is open to the public; we invite you to join this project.

About the course

1. All the courses will be held on-site at the 53rd Venice Biennale; 10 participants for each course on each “Keywords School” day; applications must be sent to the keywords team before the deadline, 31st May

2. At the beginning of each course, participants are invited to express their opinions on the “daily keywords” edited and provided by Xu Tan, and to expand the discussion on them.

3. Through free style communication between the artist and participants, participants can raise questions on any topics (including the keyword) to the artist, to inspire dialogs and discussions.

4. The process of face-to-face interactive discussions will, via voice and video recordings, then serve as research material for the artist and the keywords project.

How to Apply

1. Please choose the course with date you are interested in from the “daily keywords calendar” on the right side.

2. Please send the course and date you request to attend with your true name, gender, and contact details to:

info@xutan-keywords.com

3. Please wait for our conirmation by email; we will arrange your attendance according to your application and the

whole application situation ((First-come, first-served is the application policy), and we will offer you further information when your application is conirmed. Keywords School•Venice is supported by Uli Sigg Collection

Calendar of daily keywords of Keywords School • Venice

2009/06/04

build; tradition;societ/社会; social (socialist)/社会(社会主义); law/lag; nature,natural; unemployment/下岗/失业; survive, surviva/生存,幸存;  power/权力,力量

2009/06/05

money;  position/position, ställning;  materials(materialism)/材料(唯物主义);living (living cost);  (daily) life; emotion/感情,情感;  care; generation/代;  value

2009/06/06

stress/stress; America, USA/美国; American; Centre/中心; west, western/西方;contact/kontakt; communication; standard;  future

2009/06/07

religious, religions; believe/tro;industry; culture/文化; popular/流行; time/tid; metaphor/metaphor; humanist/humanistisk; control/kontroll

2009/06/09

buy; sell; land/地; brand; home/bostad; family;harmony(harmonious society)/和谐 (和谐社会); private/私人的; work/arbete

2009/06/10

develop/发展; environment/miljö; car/bil; move, movement; restlessness/otälig; revolution; body/身体; city (city life, city structure)/城市; safe, safety/säker, säkerhet

2009/06/11

contemporary; collectivity/集体; chance;hope;individual; circles/圈子; group/群体;people/人民; obsessed/besatt

2009/06/13

public;relation (public relation)/关系(公共关系); competition/konkurrens, tävlan; history/历史; ambitiousness/ambitionsnivån;  not too much/lagom;adapt/anpassa; conident/trygga, säker; politics, political/politiskt; political correct/politiskt korrekt

2009/06/14

Europe/欧洲; property/财产, 产; democracy/民主; bank; happiness/glädje; child/ barn; free, freedom/自由; good behavior/gott uppförande; plate model/plattan model

2009/06/16

business/生意; system/体制; house/bostäd; apartment; opportunity/tillfälle,möjlighet; experience;red/röd; peaceful/lugn; Chinese girl/Kinesiska licka

2009/06/17

communist; confucius,confucian;  shit/skit, fan; cheap/billig; old/(old house); elder; friends;  market/市场; new

2009/06/18

fool; dream/dröm; humbleness/ödmjuchet; play/玩; consume (consumption)/消费; relax/slappna, slakna;company/公司;alone; CCTV/央视

2009/06/20

modern/människa; Olympic games/奥运;  idea/Idé, begrepp;  curious/nyfiken, vetgirig;  change/变; classic;enjoy/享受; resistance/motständ

2009/06/21

reality/realitet;  inluence;government/政府;  boundary/boundary; concept; creativity/创意; censorship/审查; rational;  propaganda/宣传

采访对象:纽约/Interviewed: K,NY

*Video:紐約01

*Video:紐約02

*Video:紐約03

采访对象:张江-农民/Interviewed: ZhangJiang-NongMin

*Video:張江01

徐坦

*Video:徐坦01

*Video:徐坦02

*Video:徐坦03

young 年轻[nian qing]

1.普遍的年轻人都时刻准备着去投身于各种一天12个小时工作的那种状况,准职业化的或者是传销的,对自己的生活没有想象,对艺术确实很陌生,但是还有一点儿好的,他可以接受你给他的东西。

The average young people getting prepared for the dedication into these 12-hour work day situations, either quasi-occupational or those of pyramid selling. He has no imagination about his own life, he is a stranger to art, yet one thing is good – he can accept whatever you give him.

(摘自徐坦对谢南星的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Xie Nanxing)

Interviewed: Cao Lei

Time: Evening, January 31, 2007

Location: The blue building, SOHO New Town, Beijing

 

社会 society social 23

关系 relationship involved with 16

珠三角 Pearl River Delta 12

成长 长大 grew up 12

love 11

年青 young 10

合作 collaboration 9

影响 (作用) influence 9

普通人,观众,村民average (people, audience, villager) 7

环境 surrounding 11

自己 self 30

自我 myself 1

乌托邦 utopia 5

艺术圈 art circle 4

交流 communication 6

现实 现状 reality (realism) 12

现实主义 reality realism 2

国家 country 5+

fast 3

 

招安 sold souls 1

独立 independence 6

 

 

个人()   individual personal 12

中国 China Chinese 10

西方 the West 4

情感qinggan)    emotion 10

感情(ganqing) feeling 3

年代 时代 age 14

时尚 hippest fashion 7

流行 popular 5

周星驰 Stephen chow 1

都市 urban 1

政府 government 1

城市规划 urban planning 1

刺激 stimulate, excitement, stimulating 3

 

 

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: Your works cut deeply into life in a direct fashion. Do you consider this intervention to be important? Is it an overriding characteristic of Chinese contemporary art or the art of the new generation?

 

A: We’ve heard a lot of discussions about the social aspect of contemporary art, but sometimes being social doesn’t necessarily mean making a piece of work to express his concerns about the society, or to emphasize the social pressure of the work’s concept, because it hasn’t really advanced social life. Maybe the artist has indeed cut into reality, but I’m looking forward to seeing the influence and dialogue to be more direct.

 

Q: I find your point very interesting, so you have a very positive attitude towards contemporary art.

 

A: I don’t mind artist being personal. Sometimes artists would try to isolate themselves from the society, and most of them have introverted personality, but I think there is room for other type of people or direction. Like Ou Ning and I, we do urban planning- and architecture-related projects, and we are even deeply involved with the residents in front of our camera, I think these are all interesting. So I think contemporary art should be more open and embracing. At the absence of an appropriate term to describe our works, we temporarily put up with ‘contemporary art’. But it might well be something else, [something freer] with a freer title.

 

Q: Let’s get back to the topic of engaging with other people, how do you see your relation when collaborating with someone else?

 

A: Gradually I come to realize that reality or realism is still powerful in China at present, and documenting is another focus and a way to approach the reality. It seems to me that European artists have already gone through the high speed economic development period. Chinese contemporary art was probably influenced by European conceptual art in the very beginning, but I think we are gradually developing our own expression and context, which fit better in this country and its social life. In the early days we saw a lot of tricks played with forms – typical western working method. But I think the changes in every country are different, artists of different countries respond and react differently to their social and artistic reality. I fully understand and appreciate the works of that German artist.

 

Q: How does the current social reality of China affect your art and Chinese contemporary art in general? What does it offer you? Does it obstruct you? How?

 

A: My generation doesn’t seem to like to go abroad, instead we prefer to spend time in our own cities or countries to observe. This is a time of drastic changes, and there are a myriad of information to stimulate your creation, that’s why I’m willing to stay in this city. The city has been accumulating and changing as I grew up, and I’m used to the speed and excitement of it. For me, it’s like a well deeply rooted in the residence. When we were making San Yuan Li and Dazhalan Project, we were more or less getting ourselves into sensitive topics such as demolition and forced eviction. Ideologically we were standing against government. We think these topics are about the development of the society. We have a difficult environment for this kind of artistic expression. In the early days of contemporary art we still find a kind of risking – the confrontation with government ideology, but today is a different story. How to put this……in old terms we said artists have sold their souls to the government. I think these days are witnessing the decrease of venturing spirit of that kind. Today’s venture is no longer the behaviouristic or conceptual ones, it’s rather about a way to probe deep into the core of the problems: the deeper and more difficult. This is a working method and direction chosen by the artists, and it’s the environment we are facing now.

 

Q: You are quite sensitive to the changes of contemporary art, and your experience and attention to them are rather unusual. Do you have other judgments towards contemporary art besides the change-focused one?

 

A: Let’s take my documentary Father for example. My father has been a sculptor for many years, after I have grown up, I started to looking for connection between me and his sculptures. I made a documentary on him, I documented how he made sculptures of Deng Xiaoping, and he traveled a lot of counties and towns and accepted larger and larger orders. Father is now making sculptures of Confucius, and there’s a large market for it currently. Although not a contemporary artist, he has a close tie with reality, and you can learn about the near future direction of the country from sculpture: Deng Xiaoping this year, Confucius the next, and the one after……all these are explicitly visible on the older generation of artists, you see the destiny of China and its development in their art, and how artists of that age compromise with daily life. They were more closely connected with reality than the younger contemporary artists. The real face of our society is better reflected by my father as an artist. I submitted the documentary on my father to Taipei Biennale.

 

Q: Why do you think that there’s insufficient love in Chinese contemporary art?

 

A: First there are social factors, which I just mentioned. We are living in a society without love, or one in which love is not advocated. This value is not proposed by the whole society. The education we had from the early years was only fake respect and fake love, so I don’t think art should take the blame – because the whole society is simply going into a wrong direction, the moral system is collapsing, I’m a little desperate in this regard. It’s not only in the art circle, but all walks of life. So sometimes I feel the reason of art‘s existence is to rub smooth the social cracks. As an artist, I will try my best in this direction, instead of producing more phony things.

 

Q: This is exactly the belief that is in short in this society, with consumerism culture and fashion prevailing. Do you think they have any influence on the value of our society?

 

A: Sure they do, both show biz and fashion industry have casted an influence on the younger generation and the society as a whole. In America and Europe, although show biz and entertainment occupy a certain portion of the whole culture, they also manage to preserve the traditional elements. For instance, New York has the hippest events, but there are also poetry reading sessions or traditional rock concerts every night. But China is simply moving too fast, rock is out-of-fashion now, people are more into electronic music, things get eliminated very fast, old stuff are despised. So I think this is rooted in the nature of Chinese people. We have gone through a lot of political campaigns so we are afraid of falling behind. As a result, we over-do a lot of things. It’s radical, really……and the communication with our time? It seems that artists have lost faith in the society, sometimes they even have no desire in creating art works. At the discovery of art’s helplessness and powerless against the society, they figure that it doesn’t really matter either you make this work or not, and they lack the desire of existence, a kind of boredom.

 

Q: What do you think should be an artist’s conscious to his/her social role? Do you really believe that art can function in the society? To which degree? Is this just a hope?

 

A: I believe as an artist, you can definitely have only limited and weak influence on the society, and it functions only within a small circle unless you really take advantage of all kinds of resources, be adventurous and work like an activist and not just an artist. I see myself mainly as a bridge, even I stop being an artist one day, maybe I can do something more intellectually stimulating? So it’s really about getting this role as a bridge more stable and focused.

 

Q: Last question: would you please offer us your statement as an artist? What are some of the key concepts of your artistic creation?

 

A: How should I put this……like the project I’m doing now, it’s a film called Who’s Utopia?. This is both an interrogative sentence and a simply statement. Utopia should be built by us in collaboration, or shall we say some of us do need a utopia. I think I’m the kind of person who still has this ‘utopia complex‘, I’m not into the dystopia thing. Although I can’t really see the future clearly, but there has always been a force pushing me forward towards Utopia. What’s more, it’s not impossible that, one day, I would ditch this identity as an artist in favor of that of an activist.

woman, female 女[nv]

1.现在就我自己来看,我所有发源的点还是从我自身来的,如果碰巧你非要拿这个来指责我,唯一的原因就是因为我的确是个女性,现在我能关注到、能涉及到的、我兴趣的也就是这些东西,现在你能在我全部作品里面看到的比较清楚的脉络就都是从我个人来的。

From my point of view, I myself am the Singularity of everything. And if you insist on accusing me for it, the only explanation would be that I am indeed a woman, and those are the only things that I am concerned about, involved and interested in. All traces that you can see in my works come from myself.

(摘自徐坦对胡晓媛的访谈 Excerpt from Interview with Hu Xiaoyuan)

Interviewed: Hu Xiaoyu

Time: Afternoon, February 1, 2007

Location: Dushixin Hai’an Yayuan, Futong Xi Da Jie, Beijing

 

 

 

woman female 41

女性 female 32

女性主义 feminism 4

man 24

男性 male 18

男性艺术家 male artists 8

社会 society 38

生活(活着) life living lifestyle 33

个人 personal individual 21

感觉 (觉得) feeling 21

兴趣 interest 10

不一样(不同) different difference 9

责任 responsibility 9

关系 relationship 7

生命 life 5

感情(ganqing) emotion 3

情感(qinggan) emotion emotional 4

方式 way approaches 19

自己 self own personal 13

现实 reality 3

介入 intervention involvement 7

 

时政 political 1

自由 freedom 1

 

无聊 bored 3

空虚 empty (spiritually) 2

addicted 2

打交道 deal with 3

有意思 interesting 8

没意思 out the meaning 5

刺激 stimulation stimulated 2

 

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: Talk about your life, society, and sociality.

 

A: Art and life do not necessarily have so many conflicts, and you don’t have to think of it as being logical and sensible. [A ] I feel that a lot of things should be allowed to evolve naturally so that they will straighten out in the best way. I think maybe the society is choosing marginal things, things in the outer limit of social norm. I started out rejecting the society. Granted, I myself am supposed to be rejected but the strange thing is, my role as an artist has probably prompted the society to pull me back from the margin. If I were in a profession in which people are required to frequently deal with the society, I might as well get filtered out. After you gain from the society, despite your unwillingness, [it's time] you are bound to take some responsibilities, which means compromise: I begin to move closer to the society, which, in turn, offers me more. But I’m not sure about the future. First I rejected the society, maybe I’m still rejecting it a little bit now, but it’s not rejecting me, this is really subtle relationship. What I don’t know is, if one day I start to embrace the society, would it reject me then? It’s hard to tell, everything is random. I’m especially afraid of having too much contact with the society. I never work with assistant, if I have an assistant does all the work, what’s the point of living? I have to be hands-on in order to figure out the meaning of my life during that period of time. I don’t have social skills and I fear dealing with people. I had depression a while ago. If I can choose my destiny at will, I think maybe nunnery is the best for me, but I can’t. Also, like I haven’t chosen to live the life I’m having now, but I ended up like this anyway, so I was forced to accept something I rejected, after a while, I got addicted to it. This is just weird and contradictory. But I believe everything will straighten themselves out in the end, so now I just try to go with the flow and be less sensitive, letting myself being pushed by other things. I try to be passive, just sitting at home waiting, and when something comes, I work with it as long as I like it. In the very beginning, making art was a way and reason of existence for me, I felt it’s more interesting than other things. Now that I have gained some recognition, you’ll need stimulation. Because your interest wears off during the process, so you need to be stimulated in order to extend it. It’s like a trajectory which will be extended by external intervention.

 

Q: [Market.]Does market have any influence on your artistic creation?

 

A: Not interested. If someone comes to me and offers to buy my stuff, I will have to consider whether I should sell or not, and that’s it. I haven’t studied the market systematically, and I don’t really care. I’m doing [okay] with my living state for now, and that’s enough.

 

Q: The object of your works.

 

A: I think they are directly connected to my personal emotion and feeling. A large portion of them share a lot of similar things, after all they are all done by myself. But the emotional sources of each work are complicated, it’s not a simple thread. Usually, when there’s a certain point in life that touches me deeply, I would create a work based on that experience. So it’s not something could be easily explained in words, what can be say for sure is that my art works are all related to my personal life. Sometimes I’m also quite puzzled, like a while ago a male friend questioned me, he thought a lot of “female artists” – of course I never call myself that – have a narrow range of concerns: emotion, pedigree, etc. We had some serious quarrel. Speaking of myself, most of my works derive from my own life experience. If you have to accuse me of that, the only reason I can think of is that I am female, so that I’m only concerned with, work on, and interested in those stuff, all the recognizable references in my works have their roots in my personal life. I didn’t think about these in the very beginning. I don’t know what’s going on with others, but I take a look at myself and I know what’s with me. A lot of male artists say that they don’t understand my works. Without having studied the history of Chinese feminism in details, I nevertheless think that women go through a lot of development and changes in a given period of time. For instance, me and my brother are all that’s in my mum‘s mind, children and husband are all that’s in my grandma’s mind, but I feel I don’t want kids now: I don’t even understand what life is about, how can I take the responsibility of have a child? I’ve been thinking what’s the meaning of life, this is perhaps a primary driving force of my art. There has to be meaning (in my works), so I keep searching for it every day. This is a male-centric society, female artists usually have normal and objective view on male ones; the opposite is rarely true, male artists always say they don’t understand our works, there is really no surprise here. Women always choose their ways of expression passively, as the range of their life experiences is limited, so the above judgment is unequally-based. Men‘s involvement in social, political and economic issues are much deeper than women, so of course they are confident in expressing their viewpoint. Women, for sure, are not confident and afraid to talk about those topics, they can only talk about themselves and their emotion. That’s why works by female artists tend to be more personal and intimate, thus difficult for men to understand. Many of my favourite Chinese female artists are very traditional, they have inherited a lot of fundamentally ‘Chinese‘ nature. The problem is not technique but what you are trying to communicate, whether you have a complete system of your own, and whether you manage to touch upon my heart. In most cases, these feelings exist only between women and are hard to describe with words. But I can feel them, they are too personal, detailed, and trivial, they are to be felt, not thought. The society is changing, there are currently many male artists (or non-artist men) paying attention to female approaches, they begin to think about those approaches they failed to understand before. I believe things will be a lot more [different] changes fifty years from now, maybe the demographic proportion would then be in favour of women, who would have more involvement in social life. When that day comes, we can expect the adjustment of social proportion or the right of ownership.

 

Q: The function of the artist?

 

A: I don’t have the sense of responsibility, don’t know how it feels to be functioning. But I’m sure a lot of people hope to function in the society, it’s about ambition. But what kind of function? That’s hard to tell. Artists have different way of expression, or shall we say different way of existencedifferent not only from the average people, but also from each other. Those whom I would consider good, who has touched me, are usually artists that base their works upon slices of personal life. From this aspect, I think all people are the same, the difference is that they have gone through different kind of life, thus coming out with different result.

white ell 白鳝[bai shan]

Interviewed: Guo Danxia

Time: Afternoon, Jan. 27, 2007

Location: The artist’s residence, Xi’an.

 

 

 

理解 comprehend know 7

(画画 paint drawing 199

知道 know 22

文化 culture 12

文化层次 culture level 4

healing cure 11

understand 8

清楚 clear 8

感觉 feel 15

白血病 leukemia leukemic 6

白鳝 white eel 4

自己 self own 20

别人 other people others 18

感觉 feel 24

 

迷信 Superstition 2

 

中国 China Chinese 7

西方 the West Western 5

身体 health Body physically physical condition 8

Qi (energy) 6

spiritual 3

灵气 reiki 2

气功 Qigong 3

生殖器 genitalia 4

神秘 mysterious 3

科技 science 2

经济效益 1economic profit 1

女神 goddess 2

境界 level spiritual level 2

谋杀 murder 2

智(慧)     intelligence intelligent 4

开发 develop development 4

 

 

 

Q: How did you start painting?

 

A: May 21, 1989 – before that I had often been sick due to bad health. I had heard that even illiterates could write prescriptions, which amazed me, so I wondered if I could paint. That was how I started painting, ever since that day. What I painted was stuff related to healing: how do you cure leukemia? How do you cure toothache? How do you cure moodiness? I painted them out, and those works are still there. When painting leukemia, I felt I painted all the leukemic cells – that’s how it felt. I went to school in the 1950s; we were among the first group of students to wear the red scarf, and what we paint now are really interesting stuff. After that I could paint whatever comes to mind, and I’ve never put down my brush in the past 18 years. Now I paint whatever I want; I follow no rules; and sometimes I would even realize it after I finish the painting. I stopped going to work when I was forty, as I was always sick. I couldn’t help it, and then I opened a painting and calligraphy parlor to relax myself. Originally I was trained in chemical experiments chemical analysis; later I painted on paper and fabric scrolls. In 1991, there was an international imagery expo; they wanted to me participate, but I didn’t go. I later brought a few paintings over; and they were stunned, but I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t even know what I was painting myself; but sometimes you could figure it out, after you’ve finished painting it.

 

Q: Do you think there is any meaning to be discussed in your paintings?

 

A: There are some that I cannot explain, and some I do can explain. I used to think all the time about bodily spasm, about how to cure illness. Eventually I painted fetuses and the way the human body develops… Those paintings are composed with digits. So, since over ten years ago, I started to believe that the human body is made up of digits. And it was only recently that people started to say that chromosomes are made up of digits.

 

Q: Is your art influenced by tradition, or by something else?

 

A: I practiced Qigong before, which is a very good Chinese tradition. It helps develop your intelligence. Practicing Qigong is practicing the brain; but not everybody can succeed. I think I’m talented at this, because I’m totally honest – I’m not interested in ripping people off or making money; I just want to get into shape, and my body is in good shape now. To paint under such circumstances, I feel I could realize a lot. No matter what [people] others say, I feel I could paint the most important thing in my life. If I wanted to paint a brain, eventually I would finish painting a brain. I feel I’m too intelligent – learning by nurture is also a way to develop one’s intelligence. I never see this as superstition. It is a science.

 

Q: What kind of concept do you think contemporary art is?

 

A: I see contemporary art as very progressive, unlike painting from the past. I feel that they are all full of life, even though I don’t know much about traditional pedagogy in the field of art. But Western paintings of the nudebefore I painted, I felt that they were uncivilized. But after I painted myself, I understood that they were beautiful. More precisely, they reveal both the good and the bad.

 

Q: What do you think is the relation between art and society?

 

A: I feel we should study art with a tolerance towards all, whether it is traditional culture or anything else. As long as it exists in this society, it has value. I see this as the promise. I’m different from you guys: you people paint after you understood, and yet I understand only after I painted; that’s why I’m not interested in communicating with others. I paint whatever I want, especially things I don’t know about, which I paint best. I often watch science channels on television – those things that exist already in the West but not in China, I paint them. A guy from Taiwan once said that my paintings are frozen art, belonging to the highest level in art. I think there are very nice art in painting, but its value lies not in art, but something much better and deeper than art. For example, I paint whatever is in Xi’an, and I study whatever I paint; once a painting is done, there are still lots to be studied in the painting. When I painted Empress Wu Zetian’s tomb, the Shao Tomb, I painted a clown sitting on her navel, because “Shao Tomb” used to be “Xiao Tomb” (“Tomb of Laughter”), where a homophone was used to cover up the reality. Was this site chosen by her, or was it simply meant for her burial in the first place? I think there is a lot to study in this.

 

Q: What role do you think an artist should play?

 

A: I think an artist should cover all different aspects in his art. If you only paint the surface, without expressing the spirit, it’s not a good painting. I believe myself to be someone with multiple personalities, not simply a painter. Like I can diagnose myself; I can cure other people‘s illness through painting. I can also strengthen myself physically. I’m sixty-seven now, and in great shape. Many artists remain in good physical condition once they reach a certain spiritual level, and can live very long. They are also practicing the Qi (energy) to dredge their mind; that’s why painters have high spiritual levels.

 

Q: What function do you think artists have in a society?

 

A: Artists can express their own thoughts through painting, which propels the society forward. Stuff like contemporary art in particular, which I go see sometimes – I ask people, “What is Utopia“? They say it’s beautiful things. I feel my paintings represent eastern culture; they not only belong to me personally, but also to everyone else.

 

Q: Then do you care whether your art is understood by others?

 

A: I don’t. Everyone comes from a different cultural level. Some people of lower cultural levels can understand my painting, whereas those from higher cultural levels cannot. A director of an academy in Singapore once said that what I painted was genitalia, but I don’t even know how to paint genitalia. I hope to spread Chinese culture out to everywhere. I am someone with modern education; what I paint is contemporary painting. I’m not playing with feudalistic superstition.

 

A: Please describe the process of your creation.

 

Q: Like my painting a portrait of someone. I can paint someone just by writing his name once. With just a few strokes, I can paint with great resemblance, even people who I have never seen before. After I finish painting, I can even talk about that person. I can feel all these with my brush. These are what I receive from my subject. It’s not out of the blue. The world is too grand. Painting should include many things, including the universe. I want to paint everything that I know about, and after painting them I get to know something deeper about them, although not all. I’m curious to know about various things, especially things aesthetic. For example, the goddess in Hongshan culture – I’d like to know what that goddess looks like. We have is a long cultural history in Xi’an, and after the archeological site was discovered in Lintong, I did this whole series of paintings, to see whether it was really mysterious. Some painters really hate people asking questions, but not me. Whatever you want me to paint, I can do it; the less I know about something, the better I can paint it. For example, the pyramid in Egypt – only after painting it did I know that it was where the pharaohs were buried. I never knew that before painting it.

the West 西方[xi fang]

1.我们早期会看到很多形式上的取巧——很西方工作方法,但是我觉得每个国家变化不一样的。

In the early days we saw a lot of tricks played with forms – typical western working method. But I think the changes in every country are different.

(摘自徐坦对曹斐的访谈  Excerpt from Interview with Cao Fei)

2.但是我觉得有一点还是没有改变,现在的中国艺术家有这样的一个概念——就是跨领域跨学科的一种工作意识,而在西方这种东西是越来越普遍了。

But in my opinion, one thing remained unchanged: very few Chinese artists have this consciousness of interdisciplinary working method, which has been popular in the West.

(摘自徐坦对张培力的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Zhang Peili)

Interviewed: Cao Lei

Time: Evening, January 31, 2007

Location: The blue building, SOHO New Town, Beijing

 

社会 society social 23

关系 relationship involved with 16

珠三角 Pearl River Delta 12

成长 长大 grew up 12

love 11

年青 young 10

合作 collaboration 9

影响 (作用) influence 9

普通人,观众,村民average (people, audience, villager) 7

环境 surrounding 11

自己 self 30

自我 myself 1

乌托邦 utopia 5

艺术圈 art circle 4

交流 communication 6

现实 现状 reality (realism) 12

现实主义 reality realism 2

国家 country 5+

fast 3

 

招安 sold souls 1

独立 independence 6

 

 

个人()   individual personal 12

中国 China Chinese 10

西方 the West 4

情感qinggan)    emotion 10

感情(ganqing) feeling 3

年代 时代 age 14

时尚 hippest fashion 7

流行 popular 5

周星驰 Stephen chow 1

都市 urban 1

政府 government 1

城市规划 urban planning 1

刺激 stimulate, excitement, stimulating 3

 

 

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: Your works cut deeply into life in a direct fashion. Do you consider this intervention to be important? Is it an overriding characteristic of Chinese contemporary art or the art of the new generation?

 

A: We’ve heard a lot of discussions about the social aspect of contemporary art, but sometimes being social doesn’t necessarily mean making a piece of work to express his concerns about the society, or to emphasize the social pressure of the work’s concept, because it hasn’t really advanced social life. Maybe the artist has indeed cut into reality, but I’m looking forward to seeing the influence and dialogue to be more direct.

 

Q: I find your point very interesting, so you have a very positive attitude towards contemporary art.

 

A: I don’t mind artist being personal. Sometimes artists would try to isolate themselves from the society, and most of them have introverted personality, but I think there is room for other type of people or direction. Like Ou Ning and I, we do urban planning- and architecture-related projects, and we are even deeply involved with the residents in front of our camera, I think these are all interesting. So I think contemporary art should be more open and embracing. At the absence of an appropriate term to describe our works, we temporarily put up with ‘contemporary art’. But it might well be something else, [something freer] with a freer title.

 

Q: Let’s get back to the topic of engaging with other people, how do you see your relation when collaborating with someone else?

 

A: Gradually I come to realize that reality or realism is still powerful in China at present, and documenting is another focus and a way to approach the reality. It seems to me that European artists have already gone through the high speed economic development period. Chinese contemporary art was probably influenced by European conceptual art in the very beginning, but I think we are gradually developing our own expression and context, which fit better in this country and its social life. In the early days we saw a lot of tricks played with forms – typical western working method. But I think the changes in every country are different, artists of different countries respond and react differently to their social and artistic reality. I fully understand and appreciate the works of that German artist.

 

Q: How does the current social reality of China affect your art and Chinese contemporary art in general? What does it offer you? Does it obstruct you? How?

 

A: My generation doesn’t seem to like to go abroad, instead we prefer to spend time in our own cities or countries to observe. This is a time of drastic changes, and there are a myriad of information to stimulate your creation, that’s why I’m willing to stay in this city. The city has been accumulating and changing as I grew up, and I’m used to the speed and excitement of it. For me, it’s like a well deeply rooted in the residence. When we were making San Yuan Li and Dazhalan Project, we were more or less getting ourselves into sensitive topics such as demolition and forced eviction. Ideologically we were standing against government. We think these topics are about the development of the society. We have a difficult environment for this kind of artistic expression. In the early days of contemporary art we still find a kind of risking – the confrontation with government ideology, but today is a different story. How to put this……in old terms we said artists have sold their souls to the government. I think these days are witnessing the decrease of venturing spirit of that kind. Today’s venture is no longer the behaviouristic or conceptual ones, it’s rather about a way to probe deep into the core of the problems: the deeper and more difficult. This is a working method and direction chosen by the artists, and it’s the environment we are facing now.

 

Q: You are quite sensitive to the changes of contemporary art, and your experience and attention to them are rather unusual. Do you have other judgments towards contemporary art besides the change-focused one?

 

A: Let’s take my documentary Father for example. My father has been a sculptor for many years, after I have grown up, I started to looking for connection between me and his sculptures. I made a documentary on him, I documented how he made sculptures of Deng Xiaoping, and he traveled a lot of counties and towns and accepted larger and larger orders. Father is now making sculptures of Confucius, and there’s a large market for it currently. Although not a contemporary artist, he has a close tie with reality, and you can learn about the near future direction of the country from sculpture: Deng Xiaoping this year, Confucius the next, and the one after……all these are explicitly visible on the older generation of artists, you see the destiny of China and its development in their art, and how artists of that age compromise with daily life. They were more closely connected with reality than the younger contemporary artists. The real face of our society is better reflected by my father as an artist. I submitted the documentary on my father to Taipei Biennale.

 

Q: Why do you think that there’s insufficient love in Chinese contemporary art?

 

A: First there are social factors, which I just mentioned. We are living in a society without love, or one in which love is not advocated. This value is not proposed by the whole society. The education we had from the early years was only fake respect and fake love, so I don’t think art should take the blame – because the whole society is simply going into a wrong direction, the moral system is collapsing, I’m a little desperate in this regard. It’s not only in the art circle, but all walks of life. So sometimes I feel the reason of art‘s existence is to rub smooth the social cracks. As an artist, I will try my best in this direction, instead of producing more phony things.

 

Q: This is exactly the belief that is in short in this society, with consumerism culture and fashion prevailing. Do you think they have any influence on the value of our society?

 

A: Sure they do, both show biz and fashion industry have casted an influence on the younger generation and the society as a whole. In America and Europe, although show biz and entertainment occupy a certain portion of the whole culture, they also manage to preserve the traditional elements. For instance, New York has the hippest events, but there are also poetry reading sessions or traditional rock concerts every night. But China is simply moving too fast, rock is out-of-fashion now, people are more into electronic music, things get eliminated very fast, old stuff are despised. So I think this is rooted in the nature of Chinese people. We have gone through a lot of political campaigns so we are afraid of falling behind. As a result, we over-do a lot of things. It’s radical, really……and the communication with our time? It seems that artists have lost faith in the society, sometimes they even have no desire in creating art works. At the discovery of art’s helplessness and powerless against the society, they figure that it doesn’t really matter either you make this work or not, and they lack the desire of existence, a kind of boredom.

 

Q: What do you think should be an artist’s conscious to his/her social role? Do you really believe that art can function in the society? To which degree? Is this just a hope?

 

A: I believe as an artist, you can definitely have only limited and weak influence on the society, and it functions only within a small circle unless you really take advantage of all kinds of resources, be adventurous and work like an activist and not just an artist. I see myself mainly as a bridge, even I stop being an artist one day, maybe I can do something more intellectually stimulating? So it’s really about getting this role as a bridge more stable and focused.

 

Q: Last question: would you please offer us your statement as an artist? What are some of the key concepts of your artistic creation?

 

A: How should I put this……like the project I’m doing now, it’s a film called Who’s Utopia?. This is both an interrogative sentence and a simply statement. Utopia should be built by us in collaboration, or shall we say some of us do need a utopia. I think I’m the kind of person who still has this ‘utopia complex‘, I’m not into the dystopia thing. Although I can’t really see the future clearly, but there has always been a force pushing me forward towards Utopia. What’s more, it’s not impossible that, one day, I would ditch this identity as an artist in favor of that of an activist.

ways, approaches 方式[fang shi]

我觉得没有什么真正的接受,它只是成为时尚的另外一个门类,杂志、报纸谈到这些问题的时候,你可以看到,它就只能三句五句的谈,但没有一句能够谈到点子上,也不能够深入下去,我觉得这个事儿挺可怜的,就有点像弱智了,中国当代艺术真是扮演了一个弱智角色,当然它有很好的艺术家,有从开始到现在还在很有意思的事情的艺术家,但是这些艺术家,他们探讨的方式都没有得到主流社会认识,甚至连了解也谈不上,现在基本上就是乱七八糟的吧。

I don’t think there is real reception. It only becomes part of fashion. When magazines and newspapers talk about art, you see, they always miss the points, and are never capable of understanding it in any depth. I think it’s pathetic, somewhat like retarded. Chinese contemporary art is really acting [an under-developed] a retarded role. Of course there are pretty good artists, there are artists doing interesting stuff all along, but what they do and the way they do it never got acknowledged or understood by the mainstream society. Basically it’s all messed up.

(摘自徐坦对艾东明的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Ai Dongming)

Interviewed: Ai Dongming

Time: Afternoon, January 31, 2007

Location: Ai’s place at Caochangdi, Beijing

 

 

do” engage in 25

可能 maybe possibility impossible perhaps may 21

社会 society social 19

问题 problem question 17

兴趣 fascinated interested uninterested interest 12

个人 individual 12

方式 ways approaches 10

市场 market 9

价值 value 7

 

政治的 political  1

国家 country  state  4

自由 freedom  free 7

个人表达 individual expression

地下 underground

民主 democratic  2

 

circle 3

money 5

时代 (information/Internet) age 5

play 3

资金 capital 1

poor poverty 4

弱智 retarded 2

face 3

 

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: What’s your understanding or impression about the current situation of contemporary art in China?

 

A: I wouldn’t pretend to know much. In spite of the fact that I’ve been living in Beijing all along and always partaking in curating, that we have the Chinese Art Archives & Warehouse, and make friends in the art circle, still I’m not sure I really understand it. Recent two years it seemed hot and bustling, but not very long before nobody apparently cared to take a look at it, so it feels to me more like a state of sudden ups and downs. Maybe put it this way: because contemporary art as a matter of fact has a quite short history [in China], and the modern life in China [this country] – although it did exist – was characterized to a great extent by political and economic patterns. In a highly institutionalized [environment] country as such, the freedom of individual expression, political background and living conditions, as well as the functions and possibilities of art and culture in the society, were basically limited, therefore the surfacing of the so called contemporary art in China didn’t occur until five or six years ago. Before that there were people doing a lot of things, but only in a semi-underground way – that is, it happened in a small circle, out of the sight of the public discourse, and its social impact was in fact also only limited to a small sphere. Once it surfaces, its major scene is in overseas exhibitions, foreign media or even in overseas auctions. It does look exciting somehow, but has nothing to do with the environment where the art originated, its social patterns and its meanings. Few people have tried to discuss and probe into these questions, so it’s still a strange structure. But we can’t say any structure is reasonable or not. Be it a tree, a vine, a ferocious beast, or a parasite, it each has its own reasons. Although Chinese contemporary art did not self-consciously try to build a connection with this society, it still somehow reflects a few problems of the past decades.

 

Q: What problems do you think it reflects?

 

A: The fundamental collapses of Chinese philosophy, aesthetics, ethics in the past decades, and the possibility of discussion is yet to be established for the new. Because this large scale or large part of the society is still denying, or disagreeing some basic facts, and debating of many problems in these areas is almost [out of the question] impossible. Democratic society is still a long way to go. There is much freedom in there, but it’s the freedom based on the collapse of the old, a freedom out of control, but proactive [one] freedom. The art is characterized by all these problems.

 

Q: What do you think of the public reception of contemporary art?

 

A: I don’t think there is real reception. It only becomes part of fashion. When magazines and newspapers talk about art, you see, they always miss the points, and are never capable of understanding it in any depth. I think it’s pathetic, somewhat like retarded. Chinese contemporary art is really acting [an under-developed] a retarded role. Of course there are pretty good artists, there are artists doing interesting stuff all along, but what they do and the way they do it never got acknowledged or understood by the mainstream society. Basically it’s all messed up.

 

Q: Do you think your curating activities could be of any help to this mess?

 

A:There are many exhibitions in China now, but hardly helping with anything and making any sense. They are just peddlers, the peddlers you see on streets where everybody hucksters the same thing and provoke and compete against one another. It’s designed completely for the market, and has nothing to do with art. All those exhibitions, and their curators – take a close look and you see few that are half decent, all with their evil and varied intentions. This in particular is what makes me look down upon Chinese academia and the intelligentsia. [The total shamelessness. The out-and-out and open shamelessness,] They don’t care for face, literally and openly declare that they don’t care for face, which is so rare even here and now. A Chinese old saying goes, poverty stifles ambition, which makes a very good point here. But it’s more than just being poor, those people are actually degenerate. Poverty is just an excuse.

 

Q: Since you mentioned market, please comment on the art market.

 

A:Anything can sell, and the exquisite thing as art is no exception. Art sells in that it decorates the [rich] homes of people with lots of money, so it becomes commodity, which is quite normal. The question is the percentage. I mean, in the whole cultural environment, is commodity the only role to play or not? Is it so fragile that once it becomes commodity, it can’t be anything else? I think that’s a major problem in Chinese contemporary art. The way I see it, it’s kind of funny, because it’s like that even the reason why you do art in the first place got changed, the reason and principles of your life got changed, and eventually transformed into some other value. Too much attention and discussions have been driven to the market – of course, if you are not an artist but a speculator, there’s nothing wrong with talking about market too much, but if you are someone still creating works, or if you got into art because you felt like to express yourself, or fascinated with certain ways of expression, instead of just money, capital or status, then there is something deeply wrong. Now it seems to me that everybody is talking about market, which is bothering me. From stock market to the pricing of brand names, there’s nothing to blame market itself about. You sell something for five cents of money, five thousand Yuan of money, or fifty thousand, and it’s fine. But behind this market, behind the pricing of a certain product, are other values diluted by this market price? This is a question.

 

Q: What interests you then?

 

A:Honestly, I’m not interested in anything in particular. I’m not particularly uninterested in commercial stuff or some other things. Really there are not too many things that interest me; perhaps I am passive. But generally speaking, art is a profession that I have some interest in. What interests me there is the people who are less utilitarian and more characteristic, and living some sorts of self-conscious lives. But what about now? You see no difference between [this art] people in this art circle and their neighbor who peddle. It becomes boring. But after all, I don’t really care, and concern. For example, this country lives or dies, I don’t really care either. It’s just that you asked me, like you ask me anything such as weather, windy or sandstorm comes, it’s something out of your control. It’s just what this country is.

 

Q: Say something about your blog.

 

A: Blog is fun. I will upload the pictures I took for you right away. I don’t know anything about my viewers, even though they are just a click away from me – this is what I feel so straightforward, so real and at the same time delusional, so I keep doing it.

 

Q: You mean it’s a way to communicate your own information.

 

A:I think the information age is the best time for human being so far. Before this, mankind was in the dark or on a chosen path, and now for the first time it provides technical possibilities for the so called freedom and individual will. You [can] may choose to play alone or with those whom you like to play with, which is hard to imagine before. I think everybody should be welcoming this new situation allowing free expression and individual approaches – sounds cliché but still very important. Things like new possibilities of communication, including the possibilities of reshaping, absorbing and utilizing the power of the society, are great things.

 

Q: Speaking of art, do you think there is a distinction between geographical center and margin?

 

A:I think not, especially not in this information age and Internet age. In fact this is for the first time that mankind has an opportunity and possibility to topple the traditional value system of central power. This possibility springs up suddenly after a long history of human struggle, and it’s such a great thing.

vulgar taste, vulgar 低级趣味[di ji qu wei]

比如,大众审美,就跟电视电影一样,太无聊了,没办法说,但是大家喜欢,它才能存在,就是一种很低级趣味的东西,但大家都喜欢低级趣味,不论怎么样你都无法逃脱这种低级趣味的东西。

For example, popular aesthetics, just like TV and movies, is just boring beyond words. But everybody likes it. That’s why it can exist. It’s something with an extremely vulgar taste, but people like vulgarity. You can’t run away from it no matter what.

(摘自徐坦对刘仁华的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Liu Renhua)

Interviewed: Liu Renhua

Time: Afternoon, Jan. 14, 2007

Location: Eudora Station Cafe, Beijing

 

 

生活 life live 15

低级趣味 vulgar taste vulgar 5

自己 self own 22

态度 attitude 6

社会 society social 7

别人 others other people other 5

接受 accept take 6

大众 public 14

大众审美 popular aesthetics 3

审美 aesthetics 7

时尚 fashion 15

消耗 drain (exhaust)               5

关系,联系, 关联 relationship relation related connections 6

不同,不一样 different 10

 

制度 system 1

 

take 7

circle 6

sell 5

发展 development develops 6

无聊 boring bored 5

商业 commercialization business commercial 4

国外 foreign countries 4

中国 China 3

形象 images 5

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: First of all, would you please generally talk about the current state of contemporary art in China?

 

A: I think there is a healthy trend of development, but there are also many problems. For example, commercialization has gone a bit too far. Consequently, people often don’t even think about what to do or how to do it, because of the influence of the market. Perhaps this commercialization leads to many problems in the quality of the work. But it’s also good – in time, people will reflect on this issue, reflect on how to do things. I don’t have much of an opinion on this. I haven’t really thought about it that much. Take the view on the system for example. There is nothing we can do about the system, because a lot of things are pre-existent; we don’t have a well-built mechanism of art as foreign countries. The existing system in China certainly has an impact on the development of art. Without certain organizations, such as foundations, artists here still depend on commercial activities. Artists in foreign countries can apply for the funds to maintain their creation. They don’t have to depend on selling their works. But the artists in China have to rely on his own works to meet his needs in creation, that is, he must sell his work in order to pay for the production fees of his next work of art. That is the problem.

 

Q: What kind of image do you want your work to present to people?

 

A: It varies from year to year. Maybe it’s more focused now, unlike the last few years, where you see different images, different outlook, like videos, etc… using many kinds of material, with all different concepts. But now I want to be more focused – what kind of work do I want to do in this one year? Installation, perhaps. Which means, your concerns are more focused, and you even consider letting go of some of the works; whereas previously you do whatever comes to your mind. Now you might not do something even if the idea comes up, because it might affect the overall image of your work. Sometimes, the strategic aspects will also be reckoned with. For example, a work of art will put aside when it’s completed. One year later, it takes effect. But sometimes, you start with a good feeling and then find the work losing its effect a year later. Put all your work aside, good or bad, wait for a year or two and check if they are still effective. If so, then it means they are related to your previous development.

 

A: Visual impact is certainly essential, but not that kind of strong outward impact deliberately made. I’m interested in a basic sensation that people see everyday but fail to perceive. It’s an impact through a different medium – perhaps volume, perhaps something else.

 

Q: What, in your opinion, is the relationship between your art and social reality?

 

A: I don’t know what kind of relationship it is. I’m only searching for a point of excitement. I get an idea only when I see or feel something that excites me; I don’t get ideas out of the blue. Maybe some people come up with an idea first and then realize it. But my work comes from something I see and think about. It’s never a rational process of making works of art.

 

Q: Then, are there any obstacles in the communication between your art and the public?

 

A: Yes, of course. But it’s not too bad, and I know what the reasons are. When you have a conversation with someone, you cannot communicate with each other due to totally different values. You still know what the other person is thinking, which is totally different from your own thinking, and vice versa. From the public‘s point of view, sometimes they see the work and feel good, feeling that they can take it, because contemporary art still contains something that is most explicit. No matter how art develops, how conceptual it becomes, the explicit visuality, like beauty, always exist. That will never change.

 

As with communicating with the public, television is what the public likes. I don’t think there is much worth viewing on TV; it’s all just bullshitting and awful. Of course I can watch it too, but I think it’s just vulgar taste. Perhaps the more vulgar is, the more attractive to most people.

 

Q: And this is the difference between popular and elite culture?

 

A: Nothing is elite. I don’t like such mentality of regarding himself as infallible.

 

Q: What sort of influence does Beijing have on your art.

 

A: Maybe the climate, and something else. Beijing is not a very pleasant city. It can be summed up in one word – dark, which is pretty bad due to the climate like sand storms, etc. Usually I don’t have to go out during the day, and you have nowhere to go at night, unlike some cities in the south, where you can walk around comfortably at night. You can’t do this in Beijing, all you can do is stay home during the day, and go to entertainment spots, like pubs and teahouses at night. Basically there is nowhere you can go to enjoy something natural. But I’ve gotten used to this; maybe it’s related to aesthetics. I’ve completely accepted this grayish, somber landscape. I don’t think it ugly – it’s even rather pretty sometimes. Beijing is faster in pace, and creates more stress compared to other cities. It has more fun here. There’s all sorts of people here; any kind of people can survive here. There exist good idea and bad idea. You can do anything you like. They can all co-exist. Perhaps this is the tradition or customs here.

 

Q: A lot of artists think too many exhibitions in Beijing, many of which are too superficial.

 

A: Right. I usually don’t go to exhibitions, except those by very close friends. I don’t go to any other exhibitions.

 

Q: What’s your view on the art organizations like museums of art?

 

A: Basically I don’t have any connections with them. That’s PR activities, not what we do.

 

Q: So you don’t think art should engage into society, into life?

 

A: It’s not that. Some artists do it that way, and it’s fine, just not my style.

 

Q: Then what do you think is the role of the artists in society?

 

A: Never thought about that. I don’t know what sort of role it is; I don’t know. I’m not different from other people, we’re the same. We are all doing our own work, with different ideas and subject-matters. Sometimes you feel you’re exhausting yourself, but everyone is the same. From close by, you see yourself doing something different from others; from afar, it’s all the same. You do certain things to maintain your level of energy, and then you keep draining it. You can’t live your life energetically every single day. It’s insignificant and boring most of the time.

 

Q: Many other artists also feel negative.

 

A: It’s not negative. Being bored is not negative; perhaps it’s a state of being. Many things in this society are in this state, this current state. Maybe it has to do with your own judgment – on society, on life. But it’s not the state of nihility and negativity that make you not want to live anymore.

 

For example, popular aesthetics, just like TV and movies, is just boring beyond words. But everybody likes it. That’s why it can exist. It’s something with an extremely vulgar taste, but people like vulgarity. You can’t run away from it no matter what.

 

Q: What do you think is the relation between fashion and art?

 

A: Fashion is more popular, more real-life, and more guiding. Mostly it’s about this guidance – guiding your life – about what is good. It’s a sort of guidepost, leading the public to develop towards the direction it sets. Ultimately there is something good leading the popular aesthetics, whereas art has no such attribute. It doesn’t have to have an impact on everyone. It works by itself. It has an impact on a minority of people. It doesn’t rely on the public.

value 价值[jia zhi]

1 尤其是在这个信息时代网络时代就更不存在了,这是人类第一次有机会和有可能把这个传统价值,即所谓的传统的原始中心和权利彻底瓦解

Especially not in this information age and Internet age. In fact this is for the first time that mankind has an opportunity and possibility to topple the traditional value system of central power.

(摘自徐坦对艾未未的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Ai Weiwei)

 

2. 当代艺术以前没有什么位置,不过这两年是因为价格的原因……最终大家都关心一个问题,就是价值是多少?

Contemporary art had no social status in the past, and it’s only because of the market prices in the past couple of years… People all care about one thing ultimately – how much is it worth?

(摘自徐坦对卢昊的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Lu Hao)

Interviewed: Ai Dongming

Time: Afternoon, January 31, 2007

Location: Ai’s place at Caochangdi, Beijing

 

 

do” engage in 25

可能 maybe possibility impossible perhaps may 21

社会 society social 19

问题 problem question 17

兴趣 fascinated interested uninterested interest 12

个人 individual 12

方式 ways approaches 10

市场 market 9

价值 value 7

 

政治的 political  1

国家 country  state  4

自由 freedom  free 7

个人表达 individual expression

地下 underground

民主 democratic  2

 

circle 3

money 5

时代 (information/Internet) age 5

play 3

资金 capital 1

poor poverty 4

弱智 retarded 2

face 3

 

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: What’s your understanding or impression about the current situation of contemporary art in China?

 

A: I wouldn’t pretend to know much. In spite of the fact that I’ve been living in Beijing all along and always partaking in curating, that we have the Chinese Art Archives & Warehouse, and make friends in the art circle, still I’m not sure I really understand it. Recent two years it seemed hot and bustling, but not very long before nobody apparently cared to take a look at it, so it feels to me more like a state of sudden ups and downs. Maybe put it this way: because contemporary art as a matter of fact has a quite short history [in China], and the modern life in China [this country] – although it did exist – was characterized to a great extent by political and economic patterns. In a highly institutionalized [environment] country as such, the freedom of individual expression, political background and living conditions, as well as the functions and possibilities of art and culture in the society, were basically limited, therefore the surfacing of the so called contemporary art in China didn’t occur until five or six years ago. Before that there were people doing a lot of things, but only in a semi-underground way – that is, it happened in a small circle, out of the sight of the public discourse, and its social impact was in fact also only limited to a small sphere. Once it surfaces, its major scene is in overseas exhibitions, foreign media or even in overseas auctions. It does look exciting somehow, but has nothing to do with the environment where the art originated, its social patterns and its meanings. Few people have tried to discuss and probe into these questions, so it’s still a strange structure. But we can’t say any structure is reasonable or not. Be it a tree, a vine, a ferocious beast, or a parasite, it each has its own reasons. Although Chinese contemporary art did not self-consciously try to build a connection with this society, it still somehow reflects a few problems of the past decades.

 

Q: What problems do you think it reflects?

 

A: The fundamental collapses of Chinese philosophy, aesthetics, ethics in the past decades, and the possibility of discussion is yet to be established for the new. Because this large scale or large part of the society is still denying, or disagreeing some basic facts, and debating of many problems in these areas is almost [out of the question] impossible. Democratic society is still a long way to go. There is much freedom in there, but it’s the freedom based on the collapse of the old, a freedom out of control, but proactive [one] freedom. The art is characterized by all these problems.

 

Q: What do you think of the public reception of contemporary art?

 

A: I don’t think there is real reception. It only becomes part of fashion. When magazines and newspapers talk about art, you see, they always miss the points, and are never capable of understanding it in any depth. I think it’s pathetic, somewhat like retarded. Chinese contemporary art is really acting [an under-developed] a retarded role. Of course there are pretty good artists, there are artists doing interesting stuff all along, but what they do and the way they do it never got acknowledged or understood by the mainstream society. Basically it’s all messed up.

 

Q: Do you think your curating activities could be of any help to this mess?

 

A:There are many exhibitions in China now, but hardly helping with anything and making any sense. They are just peddlers, the peddlers you see on streets where everybody hucksters the same thing and provoke and compete against one another. It’s designed completely for the market, and has nothing to do with art. All those exhibitions, and their curators – take a close look and you see few that are half decent, all with their evil and varied intentions. This in particular is what makes me look down upon Chinese academia and the intelligentsia. [The total shamelessness. The out-and-out and open shamelessness,] They don’t care for face, literally and openly declare that they don’t care for face, which is so rare even here and now. A Chinese old saying goes, poverty stifles ambition, which makes a very good point here. But it’s more than just being poor, those people are actually degenerate. Poverty is just an excuse.

 

Q: Since you mentioned market, please comment on the art market.

 

A:Anything can sell, and the exquisite thing as art is no exception. Art sells in that it decorates the [rich] homes of people with lots of money, so it becomes commodity, which is quite normal. The question is the percentage. I mean, in the whole cultural environment, is commodity the only role to play or not? Is it so fragile that once it becomes commodity, it can’t be anything else? I think that’s a major problem in Chinese contemporary art. The way I see it, it’s kind of funny, because it’s like that even the reason why you do art in the first place got changed, the reason and principles of your life got changed, and eventually transformed into some other value. Too much attention and discussions have been driven to the market – of course, if you are not an artist but a speculator, there’s nothing wrong with talking about market too much, but if you are someone still creating works, or if you got into art because you felt like to express yourself, or fascinated with certain ways of expression, instead of just money, capital or status, then there is something deeply wrong. Now it seems to me that everybody is talking about market, which is bothering me. From stock market to the pricing of brand names, there’s nothing to blame market itself about. You sell something for five cents of money, five thousand Yuan of money, or fifty thousand, and it’s fine. But behind this market, behind the pricing of a certain product, are other values diluted by this market price? This is a question.

 

Q: What interests you then?

 

A:Honestly, I’m not interested in anything in particular. I’m not particularly uninterested in commercial stuff or some other things. Really there are not too many things that interest me; perhaps I am passive. But generally speaking, art is a profession that I have some interest in. What interests me there is the people who are less utilitarian and more characteristic, and living some sorts of self-conscious lives. But what about now? You see no difference between [this art] people in this art circle and their neighbor who peddle. It becomes boring. But after all, I don’t really care, and concern. For example, this country lives or dies, I don’t really care either. It’s just that you asked me, like you ask me anything such as weather, windy or sandstorm comes, it’s something out of your control. It’s just what this country is.

 

Q: Say something about your blog.

 

A: Blog is fun. I will upload the pictures I took for you right away. I don’t know anything about my viewers, even though they are just a click away from me – this is what I feel so straightforward, so real and at the same time delusional, so I keep doing it.

 

Q: You mean it’s a way to communicate your own information.

 

A:I think the information age is the best time for human being so far. Before this, mankind was in the dark or on a chosen path, and now for the first time it provides technical possibilities for the so called freedom and individual will. You [can] may choose to play alone or with those whom you like to play with, which is hard to imagine before. I think everybody should be welcoming this new situation allowing free expression and individual approaches – sounds cliché but still very important. Things like new possibilities of communication, including the possibilities of reshaping, absorbing and utilizing the power of the society, are great things.

 

Q: Speaking of art, do you think there is a distinction between geographical center and margin?

 

A:I think not, especially not in this information age and Internet age. In fact this is for the first time that mankind has an opportunity and possibility to topple the traditional value system of central power. This possibility springs up suddenly after a long history of human struggle, and it’s such a great thing.

utopia 乌托邦[wu tuo bang]

怎么说呢?比方说我现在做的项目,是一个影片,叫《谁的乌托邦?》,这是一个问句也是一种陈述句。乌托邦是要我们共同建造的——或者说某一部分人确实还是需要乌托邦的,我觉得我自己就还是有一种乌托邦情结,我不是反乌托邦份子,虽然对这个前景不是非常地明确,但是总有一种力量在推进我,我就是按这个方向去走的。还有——就是说有一天,如果……仅仅是艺术的话,我是可以抛弃艺术家身份,而去做一些更有直接行动性的事情的,这是有可能的。

How should I put this……like the project I’m doing now, it’s a film called Who’s Utopia?. This is both an interrogative sentence and a simply statement. Utopia should be built by us in collaboration, or shall we say some of us do need a utopia. I think I’m the kind of person who still has this ‘utopia complex‘, I’m not into the dystopia thing. Although I can’t really see the future clearly, but there has always been a force pushing me forward towards Utopia. What’s more, it’s not impossible that, one day, I would ditch this identity as an artist in favor of that of an activist.

(摘自徐坦对曹蕾的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Cao Lei)

Interviewed: Cao Lei

Time: Evening, January 31, 2007

Location: The blue building, SOHO New Town, Beijing

 

社会 society social 23

关系 relationship involved with 16

珠三角 Pearl River Delta 12

成长 长大 grew up 12

love 11

年青 young 10

合作 collaboration 9

影响 (作用) influence 9

普通人,观众,村民average (people, audience, villager) 7

环境 surrounding 11

自己 self 30

自我 myself 1

乌托邦 utopia 5

艺术圈 art circle 4

交流 communication 6

现实 现状 reality (realism) 12

现实主义 reality realism 2

国家 country 5+

fast 3

 

招安 sold souls 1

独立 independence 6

 

 

个人()   individual personal 12

中国 China Chinese 10

西方 the West 4

情感qinggan)    emotion 10

感情(ganqing) feeling 3

年代 时代 age 14

时尚 hippest fashion 7

流行 popular 5

周星驰 Stephen chow 1

都市 urban 1

政府 government 1

城市规划 urban planning 1

刺激 stimulate, excitement, stimulating 3

 

 

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: Your works cut deeply into life in a direct fashion. Do you consider this intervention to be important? Is it an overriding characteristic of Chinese contemporary art or the art of the new generation?

 

A: We’ve heard a lot of discussions about the social aspect of contemporary art, but sometimes being social doesn’t necessarily mean making a piece of work to express his concerns about the society, or to emphasize the social pressure of the work’s concept, because it hasn’t really advanced social life. Maybe the artist has indeed cut into reality, but I’m looking forward to seeing the influence and dialogue to be more direct.

 

Q: I find your point very interesting, so you have a very positive attitude towards contemporary art.

 

A: I don’t mind artist being personal. Sometimes artists would try to isolate themselves from the society, and most of them have introverted personality, but I think there is room for other type of people or direction. Like Ou Ning and I, we do urban planning- and architecture-related projects, and we are even deeply involved with the residents in front of our camera, I think these are all interesting. So I think contemporary art should be more open and embracing. At the absence of an appropriate term to describe our works, we temporarily put up with ‘contemporary art’. But it might well be something else, [something freer] with a freer title.

 

Q: Let’s get back to the topic of engaging with other people, how do you see your relation when collaborating with someone else?

 

A: Gradually I come to realize that reality or realism is still powerful in China at present, and documenting is another focus and a way to approach the reality. It seems to me that European artists have already gone through the high speed economic development period. Chinese contemporary art was probably influenced by European conceptual art in the very beginning, but I think we are gradually developing our own expression and context, which fit better in this country and its social life. In the early days we saw a lot of tricks played with forms – typical western working method. But I think the changes in every country are different, artists of different countries respond and react differently to their social and artistic reality. I fully understand and appreciate the works of that German artist.

 

Q: How does the current social reality of China affect your art and Chinese contemporary art in general? What does it offer you? Does it obstruct you? How?

 

A: My generation doesn’t seem to like to go abroad, instead we prefer to spend time in our own cities or countries to observe. This is a time of drastic changes, and there are a myriad of information to stimulate your creation, that’s why I’m willing to stay in this city. The city has been accumulating and changing as I grew up, and I’m used to the speed and excitement of it. For me, it’s like a well deeply rooted in the residence. When we were making San Yuan Li and Dazhalan Project, we were more or less getting ourselves into sensitive topics such as demolition and forced eviction. Ideologically we were standing against government. We think these topics are about the development of the society. We have a difficult environment for this kind of artistic expression. In the early days of contemporary art we still find a kind of risking – the confrontation with government ideology, but today is a different story. How to put this……in old terms we said artists have sold their souls to the government. I think these days are witnessing the decrease of venturing spirit of that kind. Today’s venture is no longer the behaviouristic or conceptual ones, it’s rather about a way to probe deep into the core of the problems: the deeper and more difficult. This is a working method and direction chosen by the artists, and it’s the environment we are facing now.

 

Q: You are quite sensitive to the changes of contemporary art, and your experience and attention to them are rather unusual. Do you have other judgments towards contemporary art besides the change-focused one?

 

A: Let’s take my documentary Father for example. My father has been a sculptor for many years, after I have grown up, I started to looking for connection between me and his sculptures. I made a documentary on him, I documented how he made sculptures of Deng Xiaoping, and he traveled a lot of counties and towns and accepted larger and larger orders. Father is now making sculptures of Confucius, and there’s a large market for it currently. Although not a contemporary artist, he has a close tie with reality, and you can learn about the near future direction of the country from sculpture: Deng Xiaoping this year, Confucius the next, and the one after……all these are explicitly visible on the older generation of artists, you see the destiny of China and its development in their art, and how artists of that age compromise with daily life. They were more closely connected with reality than the younger contemporary artists. The real face of our society is better reflected by my father as an artist. I submitted the documentary on my father to Taipei Biennale.

 

Q: Why do you think that there’s insufficient love in Chinese contemporary art?

 

A: First there are social factors, which I just mentioned. We are living in a society without love, or one in which love is not advocated. This value is not proposed by the whole society. The education we had from the early years was only fake respect and fake love, so I don’t think art should take the blame – because the whole society is simply going into a wrong direction, the moral system is collapsing, I’m a little desperate in this regard. It’s not only in the art circle, but all walks of life. So sometimes I feel the reason of art‘s existence is to rub smooth the social cracks. As an artist, I will try my best in this direction, instead of producing more phony things.

 

Q: This is exactly the belief that is in short in this society, with consumerism culture and fashion prevailing. Do you think they have any influence on the value of our society?

 

A: Sure they do, both show biz and fashion industry have casted an influence on the younger generation and the society as a whole. In America and Europe, although show biz and entertainment occupy a certain portion of the whole culture, they also manage to preserve the traditional elements. For instance, New York has the hippest events, but there are also poetry reading sessions or traditional rock concerts every night. But China is simply moving too fast, rock is out-of-fashion now, people are more into electronic music, things get eliminated very fast, old stuff are despised. So I think this is rooted in the nature of Chinese people. We have gone through a lot of political campaigns so we are afraid of falling behind. As a result, we over-do a lot of things. It’s radical, really……and the communication with our time? It seems that artists have lost faith in the society, sometimes they even have no desire in creating art works. At the discovery of art’s helplessness and powerless against the society, they figure that it doesn’t really matter either you make this work or not, and they lack the desire of existence, a kind of boredom.

 

Q: What do you think should be an artist’s conscious to his/her social role? Do you really believe that art can function in the society? To which degree? Is this just a hope?

 

A: I believe as an artist, you can definitely have only limited and weak influence on the society, and it functions only within a small circle unless you really take advantage of all kinds of resources, be adventurous and work like an activist and not just an artist. I see myself mainly as a bridge, even I stop being an artist one day, maybe I can do something more intellectually stimulating? So it’s really about getting this role as a bridge more stable and focused.

 

Q: Last question: would you please offer us your statement as an artist? What are some of the key concepts of your artistic creation?

 

A: How should I put this……like the project I’m doing now, it’s a film called Who’s Utopia?. This is both an interrogative sentence and a simply statement. Utopia should be built by us in collaboration, or shall we say some of us do need a utopia. I think I’m the kind of person who still has this ‘utopia complex‘, I’m not into the dystopia thing. Although I can’t really see the future clearly, but there has always been a force pushing me forward towards Utopia. What’s more, it’s not impossible that, one day, I would ditch this identity as an artist in favor of that of an activist.

useful 有用[you yong]

我觉得理想的艺术家,和他的艺术观人生观都有关系个人来说,我认为艺术应该是无用的,这是一个基本理念,我自己是这样认为的,最高级的艺术应该是没有用的艺术,但在这个前提下我们可以讨论别的事情,我们可以学以致用,艺术的功用性都是一样的,不管是社会政治性市场,把这些东西作为艺术的基本认识的话,我觉得是不正常心态艺术就是为艺术,不是为别的目的

I think an ideal artist bears some relationship with his view on art and life. Personally, I believe that art should be useless. This is a basic belief; at least I think so. The highest –level art should be useless art. But with that said, we can go on to discuss other things. We can put what we’ve learned into use. The practical functions of art are all the same, whether social, political, market – it’s an abnormal mindset to take these as the basis of your understanding of art. Art is for art’s sake; nothing else.

(摘自徐坦对冯顺华的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Feng Shunhua)

Interviewed: Feng Shunhua

Time: Afternoon, January 30, 2007

Location: Digital Media Studio, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing

 

 

made to order, custom orders 11

观众 audience 6 ,

大众 public 9

社会 social, society, sociality 21

媒体 media 10

媒介 medium 11

个人 personally, personal 11

美术馆 art museum, museum 6

古典 Classical 6

古典艺术 classical art 3

兴趣 interested, attention, interesting 22

创造性 1

 

自由 freedom 2

政治性politically 1

 

hot 4

市场 market 29

关系 relationship 22

收藏家 collectors 5

sell 7

do”, engage in 56

下(载)  download, downloading, downloaded 5

有用 useful 6

money 16

中国 China 19

刺激 stimulation 11

 

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: In your point of view, how to define an artist?

 

A: I think an ideal artist bears some relationship with his view on art and life. Personally, I believe that art should be useless. This is a basic belief; at least I think so. The highest –level art should be useless art. But with that said, we can go on to discuss other things. We can put what we’ve learned into use. The practical functions of art are all the same, whether social, political, market – it’s an abnormal mindset to take these as the basis of your understanding of art. Art is for art’s sake; nothing else.

 

Q: What’s your take on contemporary art?

 

A: Contemporary art is gradually turning into something of a microscope – taking every detail to magnify, and dissemble into all types of possibilities. It has become very extreme, or shortsighted in certain degree. That’s the situation. How interested am I in contemporary art? If I go to an art museum, it must be one about ancient art. Personally, I’m not that interested in the current contemporary art. I’d be more interested in technology or other developments. I’m pretty pessimistic about the development of art in the present age. I don’t think it’s a big deal.

 

Q: Why?

 

A: Personality, I guess. I’ve seen exciting stuff, but they’re just so-so. I still prefer quieter things, which are ever-lasting like classical art. That’s more exciting to me.

 

Q: Then what do you think are the characteristics of contemporary art?

 

A: I don’t think I’m able to sum it up. If I had to, I’d say it’s pretty extreme, whether in its form of presentation or its desired goals – both appear to be very extreme. Of course, there are works in contemporary art that are stunning, or exciting, or works with long lasting meaning. No doubt about that; it’s just that they are really small in number. The masterpieces in classical art are the result of so many years’ accumulation; whereas most works of contemporary art seem particularly shortsighted. I participate frequently in contemporary art exhibitions; I have seen enough. So, if I go to a show, if I had the choice, I’d definitely go to a classical art exhibition. I don’t want to get anything. I just enjoy looking at classical art.

 

Q: Is the market an issue in creating art?

 

A: It’s a good thing for me. I kind of like it. Previously I never really thought about this market thing, and sometimes I even went against it. Now I think that was not the way to do it, because with the market so hot now, I feel it’s more interesting to take advantage of the market and do something. It’s better to make use of it rather than avoid or neglect it. In the past, when artists talk about creating, they invariably mention freedom – which has always been self-deceiving. An artist must have an imaginary market – I don’t necessarily mean money, but he must have an imaginary audience. Many artists have their own imaginary customers, and think about money. It’s not only in China, but also abroad; only nobody wants to admit it. I just make it clear; there is no need to hide it, to tuck it in. Market is market; made to order is made to order. In the past, made to order means we do exactly like the one that does well, the one that sells well; we follow it exactly, no matter what others say, because this is the market. Even though we don’t spell out that the content of the painting was agreed upon between so-and-so customer and so-and-so collector, in fact it was all agreed upon and must be followed with exactness. So we did not dare to change. Now, it’s perhaps better to discuss with the collector, because, who knows, you might get to change a few things. Actually all ancient paintings were made to order, whether private or otherwise. Not to mention western paintings– churches, courts – all made to order. Being made to order itself doesn’t necessarily constrain creativity, so I think it might as well give it a try and see how things are done according to the way of factories.

 

Q: What influence does the market have on your creativity?

 

A: It’s easy to make money, but custom orders for the market is only one of my projects. I have other projects too, such as media art projects, which have nothing to do with market concerns. So I have several directions, and market is only one of them.

 

Q: What kind of cultural symbol is useful to your art?

 

A: It’s like a filter. We all take in similar information – we go to the same websites for news – what kind of information attracts your attention? We go to museums, we read, we watch films – what’s being filtered out? What’s being kept? As for electronic games, that’s another filter. Whatever passed the filter and stayed are especially interesting. Electronic games are games first of all. I have been particularly interested in games ever since I was a child. These things are part of human nature; and not only humans, but all creatures, all animals love to play – provided that you play after filling your stomach. To be able to do something enjoyable once the hunger is satisfied is really a high state of ideal life, which I think is very natural. Playing game play is a very important thing for a child’s growing up. I have preserved this natural tendency, and ever since electronic games came out, I have felt it to be very natural. It’s a large toy, so there must be many different ways of playing, and many ideas came out; and then I thought wouldn’t it be fun if I could do something with it? So, starting from 1992 up till this day, my art pieces have basically centered on electronic games. This is such a filter; whatever is expressed through the medium of electronic games must have been sifted. Maybe some things like philosophy masterpieces and relatively sensitive and subtle emotional things are not suitable for such expression. But actions, images, sounds and rhythms – these coarse, more sensory things are more suitable for this medium, and that’s the rough-and ready filter I have been using over the years.

 

Q: So you make virtual things real – not only art, even contemporary culture is also heading towards this direction. Is this what drives you into such a role?

 

A: We are actually all sensory animals. All our pleasures, according to the idealists, are nothing but sensory stimulation; while according to the materialists, these things all exist. According to the idealists, everything is abstract. We all rely on our senses to feel this world. Of course, these senses can be real or false. Like now I see you here, but maybe you’re not here. I think our future world will develop more in the direction of the virtual. To put it simply, it’s similar to drugs. Like putting a [zinc tablet] CMOS chip in your body, and you might feel it to be a drug. Like you eat a piece of bread, but I tell you that it’s a fish, because I have injected you with this program; then how can you not believe it? There is no doubt that these things will be realized. Let me give you an extreme example: can you download a baby? You’d say, no. Because you wouldn’t think of just a baby, you would pat it on its head, talk to it and see it go to sleep at night – then how can you be sure about all this? Through language, touch and hearing? If we give you all of these, then you have it. We say “download a piano,” and nobody would believe us. But now, what’s the big deal with downloading a piano? We can even download an eighteenth-century piano from a famous concert hall, which is totally possible. You can download a piano even at work. Because it’s the sound of the piano that you want, not the wood which makes the piano, because you’re not a collector. As an audience, what you consume is the sound of the piano, and this sound is now digitized, so of course it can be downloaded. So, why can’t a baby be downloaded? You would think that this is creepy, and it’s impossible. This is about feeling. If you live in these feelings everyday, and receive stimulation from these feelings, this process will slowly guide the baby towards growth, going to school and returning from school, day in, day out, and you’ve lived like this for ten years… From this point of view, I think the whole world is quite sad.

 

Q: Does that mean many art organizations in the traditional sense of the word are declining in certain aspects?

 

A: Hard to say. But I have a personal wish: I wish that art museum can live on forever. Very likely, everything will be digitized in the future, but I hope art museum will still be there. I’m not talking about five or ten years from now… I’m talking about far, far into the future… about words, language, and so forth…

 

Q: Actually, either contemporary art or traditional art invariably involves commonly existing issues in the mundane society, are you interested in any of these issues?

 

A: Not interested at all. I really don’t have any interest at all regarding the so-called ethnic or national art. Art cannot cover these things, and it’s not the purpose of art, nor is it something art can achieve. Art can’t change anything. Instead of trying to change randomly with no success, one should rather just do one’s own thing, and solve one’s own problem. In terms of a piece of art work, just take care of that piece of work. That’s more interesting. You can have all kinds of excuses. Sociality? Eventually, this artist must be responsible for this single piece of work. We can talk about communication only under this premise. If you cannot even solve your own problems, how can you communicate with others?

urban planning 城市规划[cheng shi gui hua]

Interviewed: Cao Lei

Time: Evening, January 31, 2007

Location: The blue building, SOHO New Town, Beijing

 

社会 society social 23

关系 relationship involved with 16

珠三角 Pearl River Delta 12

成长 长大 grew up 12

love 11

年青 young 10

合作 collaboration 9

影响 (作用) influence 9

普通人,观众,村民average (people, audience, villager) 7

环境 surrounding 11

自己 self 30

自我 myself 1

乌托邦 utopia 5

艺术圈 art circle 4

交流 communication 6

现实 现状 reality (realism) 12

现实主义 reality realism 2

国家 country 5+

fast 3

 

招安 sold souls 1

独立 independence 6

 

 

个人()   individual personal 12

中国 China Chinese 10

西方 the West 4

情感qinggan)    emotion 10

感情(ganqing) feeling 3

年代 时代 age 14

时尚 hippest fashion 7

流行 popular 5

周星驰 Stephen chow 1

都市 urban 1

政府 government 1

城市规划 urban planning 1

刺激 stimulate, excitement, stimulating 3

 

 

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: Your works cut deeply into life in a direct fashion. Do you consider this intervention to be important? Is it an overriding characteristic of Chinese contemporary art or the art of the new generation?

 

A: We’ve heard a lot of discussions about the social aspect of contemporary art, but sometimes being social doesn’t necessarily mean making a piece of work to express his concerns about the society, or to emphasize the social pressure of the work’s concept, because it hasn’t really advanced social life. Maybe the artist has indeed cut into reality, but I’m looking forward to seeing the influence and dialogue to be more direct.

 

Q: I find your point very interesting, so you have a very positive attitude towards contemporary art.

 

A: I don’t mind artist being personal. Sometimes artists would try to isolate themselves from the society, and most of them have introverted personality, but I think there is room for other type of people or direction. Like Ou Ning and I, we do urban planning- and architecture-related projects, and we are even deeply involved with the residents in front of our camera, I think these are all interesting. So I think contemporary art should be more open and embracing. At the absence of an appropriate term to describe our works, we temporarily put up with ‘contemporary art’. But it might well be something else, [something freer] with a freer title.

 

Q: Let’s get back to the topic of engaging with other people, how do you see your relation when collaborating with someone else?

 

A: Gradually I come to realize that reality or realism is still powerful in China at present, and documenting is another focus and a way to approach the reality. It seems to me that European artists have already gone through the high speed economic development period. Chinese contemporary art was probably influenced by European conceptual art in the very beginning, but I think we are gradually developing our own expression and context, which fit better in this country and its social life. In the early days we saw a lot of tricks played with forms – typical western working method. But I think the changes in every country are different, artists of different countries respond and react differently to their social and artistic reality. I fully understand and appreciate the works of that German artist.

 

Q: How does the current social reality of China affect your art and Chinese contemporary art in general? What does it offer you? Does it obstruct you? How?

 

A: My generation doesn’t seem to like to go abroad, instead we prefer to spend time in our own cities or countries to observe. This is a time of drastic changes, and there are a myriad of information to stimulate your creation, that’s why I’m willing to stay in this city. The city has been accumulating and changing as I grew up, and I’m used to the speed and excitement of it. For me, it’s like a well deeply rooted in the residence. When we were making San Yuan Li and Dazhalan Project, we were more or less getting ourselves into sensitive topics such as demolition and forced eviction. Ideologically we were standing against government. We think these topics are about the development of the society. We have a difficult environment for this kind of artistic expression. In the early days of contemporary art we still find a kind of risking – the confrontation with government ideology, but today is a different story. How to put this……in old terms we said artists have sold their souls to the government. I think these days are witnessing the decrease of venturing spirit of that kind. Today’s venture is no longer the behaviouristic or conceptual ones, it’s rather about a way to probe deep into the core of the problems: the deeper and more difficult. This is a working method and direction chosen by the artists, and it’s the environment we are facing now.

 

Q: You are quite sensitive to the changes of contemporary art, and your experience and attention to them are rather unusual. Do you have other judgments towards contemporary art besides the change-focused one?

 

A: Let’s take my documentary Father for example. My father has been a sculptor for many years, after I have grown up, I started to looking for connection between me and his sculptures. I made a documentary on him, I documented how he made sculptures of Deng Xiaoping, and he traveled a lot of counties and towns and accepted larger and larger orders. Father is now making sculptures of Confucius, and there’s a large market for it currently. Although not a contemporary artist, he has a close tie with reality, and you can learn about the near future direction of the country from sculpture: Deng Xiaoping this year, Confucius the next, and the one after……all these are explicitly visible on the older generation of artists, you see the destiny of China and its development in their art, and how artists of that age compromise with daily life. They were more closely connected with reality than the younger contemporary artists. The real face of our society is better reflected by my father as an artist. I submitted the documentary on my father to Taipei Biennale.

 

Q: Why do you think that there’s insufficient love in Chinese contemporary art?

 

A: First there are social factors, which I just mentioned. We are living in a society without love, or one in which love is not advocated. This value is not proposed by the whole society. The education we had from the early years was only fake respect and fake love, so I don’t think art should take the blame – because the whole society is simply going into a wrong direction, the moral system is collapsing, I’m a little desperate in this regard. It’s not only in the art circle, but all walks of life. So sometimes I feel the reason of art‘s existence is to rub smooth the social cracks. As an artist, I will try my best in this direction, instead of producing more phony things.

 

Q: This is exactly the belief that is in short in this society, with consumerism culture and fashion prevailing. Do you think they have any influence on the value of our society?

 

A: Sure they do, both show biz and fashion industry have casted an influence on the younger generation and the society as a whole. In America and Europe, although show biz and entertainment occupy a certain portion of the whole culture, they also manage to preserve the traditional elements. For instance, New York has the hippest events, but there are also poetry reading sessions or traditional rock concerts every night. But China is simply moving too fast, rock is out-of-fashion now, people are more into electronic music, things get eliminated very fast, old stuff are despised. So I think this is rooted in the nature of Chinese people. We have gone through a lot of political campaigns so we are afraid of falling behind. As a result, we over-do a lot of things. It’s radical, really……and the communication with our time? It seems that artists have lost faith in the society, sometimes they even have no desire in creating art works. At the discovery of art’s helplessness and powerless against the society, they figure that it doesn’t really matter either you make this work or not, and they lack the desire of existence, a kind of boredom.

 

Q: What do you think should be an artist’s conscious to his/her social role? Do you really believe that art can function in the society? To which degree? Is this just a hope?

 

A: I believe as an artist, you can definitely have only limited and weak influence on the society, and it functions only within a small circle unless you really take advantage of all kinds of resources, be adventurous and work like an activist and not just an artist. I see myself mainly as a bridge, even I stop being an artist one day, maybe I can do something more intellectually stimulating? So it’s really about getting this role as a bridge more stable and focused.

 

Q: Last question: would you please offer us your statement as an artist? What are some of the key concepts of your artistic creation?

 

A: How should I put this……like the project I’m doing now, it’s a film called Who’s Utopia?. This is both an interrogative sentence and a simply statement. Utopia should be built by us in collaboration, or shall we say some of us do need a utopia. I think I’m the kind of person who still has this ‘utopia complex‘, I’m not into the dystopia thing. Although I can’t really see the future clearly, but there has always been a force pushing me forward towards Utopia. What’s more, it’s not impossible that, one day, I would ditch this identity as an artist in favor of that of an activist.

ruban 都市[du shi]

Interviewed: Cao Lei

Time: Evening, January 31, 2007

Location: The blue building, SOHO New Town, Beijing

 

社会 society social 23

关系 relationship involved with 16

珠三角 Pearl River Delta 12

成长 长大 grew up 12

love 11

年青 young 10

合作 collaboration 9

影响 (作用) influence 9

普通人,观众,村民average (people, audience, villager) 7

环境 surrounding 11

自己 self 30

自我 myself 1

乌托邦 utopia 5

艺术圈 art circle 4

交流 communication 6

现实 现状 reality (realism) 12

现实主义 reality realism 2

国家 country 5+

fast 3

 

招安 sold souls 1

独立 independence 6

 

 

个人()   individual personal 12

中国 China Chinese 10

西方 the West 4

情感qinggan)    emotion 10

感情(ganqing) feeling 3

年代 时代 age 14

时尚 hippest fashion 7

流行 popular 5

周星驰 Stephen chow 1

都市 urban 1

政府 government 1

城市规划 urban planning 1

刺激 stimulate, excitement, stimulating 3

 

 

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: Your works cut deeply into life in a direct fashion. Do you consider this intervention to be important? Is it an overriding characteristic of Chinese contemporary art or the art of the new generation?

 

A: We’ve heard a lot of discussions about the social aspect of contemporary art, but sometimes being social doesn’t necessarily mean making a piece of work to express his concerns about the society, or to emphasize the social pressure of the work’s concept, because it hasn’t really advanced social life. Maybe the artist has indeed cut into reality, but I’m looking forward to seeing the influence and dialogue to be more direct.

 

Q: I find your point very interesting, so you have a very positive attitude towards contemporary art.

 

A: I don’t mind artist being personal. Sometimes artists would try to isolate themselves from the society, and most of them have introverted personality, but I think there is room for other type of people or direction. Like Ou Ning and I, we do urban planning- and architecture-related projects, and we are even deeply involved with the residents in front of our camera, I think these are all interesting. So I think contemporary art should be more open and embracing. At the absence of an appropriate term to describe our works, we temporarily put up with ‘contemporary art’. But it might well be something else, [something freer] with a freer title.

 

Q: Let’s get back to the topic of engaging with other people, how do you see your relation when collaborating with someone else?

 

A: Gradually I come to realize that reality or realism is still powerful in China at present, and documenting is another focus and a way to approach the reality. It seems to me that European artists have already gone through the high speed economic development period. Chinese contemporary art was probably influenced by European conceptual art in the very beginning, but I think we are gradually developing our own expression and context, which fit better in this country and its social life. In the early days we saw a lot of tricks played with forms – typical western working method. But I think the changes in every country are different, artists of different countries respond and react differently to their social and artistic reality. I fully understand and appreciate the works of that German artist.

 

Q: How does the current social reality of China affect your art and Chinese contemporary art in general? What does it offer you? Does it obstruct you? How?

 

A: My generation doesn’t seem to like to go abroad, instead we prefer to spend time in our own cities or countries to observe. This is a time of drastic changes, and there are a myriad of information to stimulate your creation, that’s why I’m willing to stay in this city. The city has been accumulating and changing as I grew up, and I’m used to the speed and excitement of it. For me, it’s like a well deeply rooted in the residence. When we were making San Yuan Li and Dazhalan Project, we were more or less getting ourselves into sensitive topics such as demolition and forced eviction. Ideologically we were standing against government. We think these topics are about the development of the society. We have a difficult environment for this kind of artistic expression. In the early days of contemporary art we still find a kind of risking – the confrontation with government ideology, but today is a different story. How to put this……in old terms we said artists have sold their souls to the government. I think these days are witnessing the decrease of venturing spirit of that kind. Today’s venture is no longer the behaviouristic or conceptual ones, it’s rather about a way to probe deep into the core of the problems: the deeper and more difficult. This is a working method and direction chosen by the artists, and it’s the environment we are facing now.

 

Q: You are quite sensitive to the changes of contemporary art, and your experience and attention to them are rather unusual. Do you have other judgments towards contemporary art besides the change-focused one?

 

A: Let’s take my documentary Father for example. My father has been a sculptor for many years, after I have grown up, I started to looking for connection between me and his sculptures. I made a documentary on him, I documented how he made sculptures of Deng Xiaoping, and he traveled a lot of counties and towns and accepted larger and larger orders. Father is now making sculptures of Confucius, and there’s a large market for it currently. Although not a contemporary artist, he has a close tie with reality, and you can learn about the near future direction of the country from sculpture: Deng Xiaoping this year, Confucius the next, and the one after……all these are explicitly visible on the older generation of artists, you see the destiny of China and its development in their art, and how artists of that age compromise with daily life. They were more closely connected with reality than the younger contemporary artists. The real face of our society is better reflected by my father as an artist. I submitted the documentary on my father to Taipei Biennale.

 

Q: Why do you think that there’s insufficient love in Chinese contemporary art?

 

A: First there are social factors, which I just mentioned. We are living in a society without love, or one in which love is not advocated. This value is not proposed by the whole society. The education we had from the early years was only fake respect and fake love, so I don’t think art should take the blame – because the whole society is simply going into a wrong direction, the moral system is collapsing, I’m a little desperate in this regard. It’s not only in the art circle, but all walks of life. So sometimes I feel the reason of art‘s existence is to rub smooth the social cracks. As an artist, I will try my best in this direction, instead of producing more phony things.

 

Q: This is exactly the belief that is in short in this society, with consumerism culture and fashion prevailing. Do you think they have any influence on the value of our society?

 

A: Sure they do, both show biz and fashion industry have casted an influence on the younger generation and the society as a whole. In America and Europe, although show biz and entertainment occupy a certain portion of the whole culture, they also manage to preserve the traditional elements. For instance, New York has the hippest events, but there are also poetry reading sessions or traditional rock concerts every night. But China is simply moving too fast, rock is out-of-fashion now, people are more into electronic music, things get eliminated very fast, old stuff are despised. So I think this is rooted in the nature of Chinese people. We have gone through a lot of political campaigns so we are afraid of falling behind. As a result, we over-do a lot of things. It’s radical, really……and the communication with our time? It seems that artists have lost faith in the society, sometimes they even have no desire in creating art works. At the discovery of art’s helplessness and powerless against the society, they figure that it doesn’t really matter either you make this work or not, and they lack the desire of existence, a kind of boredom.

 

Q: What do you think should be an artist’s conscious to his/her social role? Do you really believe that art can function in the society? To which degree? Is this just a hope?

 

A: I believe as an artist, you can definitely have only limited and weak influence on the society, and it functions only within a small circle unless you really take advantage of all kinds of resources, be adventurous and work like an activist and not just an artist. I see myself mainly as a bridge, even I stop being an artist one day, maybe I can do something more intellectually stimulating? So it’s really about getting this role as a bridge more stable and focused.

 

Q: Last question: would you please offer us your statement as an artist? What are some of the key concepts of your artistic creation?

 

A: How should I put this……like the project I’m doing now, it’s a film called Who’s Utopia?. This is both an interrogative sentence and a simply statement. Utopia should be built by us in collaboration, or shall we say some of us do need a utopia. I think I’m the kind of person who still has this ‘utopia complex‘, I’m not into the dystopia thing. Although I can’t really see the future clearly, but there has always been a force pushing me forward towards Utopia. What’s more, it’s not impossible that, one day, I would ditch this identity as an artist in favor of that of an activist.

understand 懂[dong]

我和你们不一样,你们是了以后才,但我是好了以后才,所以我也不愿意去和别人交流。

I’m different from you guys: you people paint after you understood, and yet I understand only after I painted; that’s why I’m not interested in communicating with others.

(摘自徐坦对郭丹霞的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Guo Danxia)

Interviewed: Guo Danxia

Time: Afternoon, Jan. 27, 2007

Location: The artist’s residence, Xi’an.

 

 

 

理解 comprehend know 7

(画画 paint drawing 199

知道 know 22

文化 culture 12

文化层次 culture level 4

healing cure 11

understand 8

清楚 clear 8

感觉 feel 15

白血病 leukemia leukemic 6

白鳝 white eel 4

自己 self own 20

别人 other people others 18

感觉 feel 24

 

迷信 Superstition 2

 

中国 China Chinese 7

西方 the West Western 5

身体 health Body physically physical condition 8

Qi (energy) 6

spiritual 3

灵气 reiki 2

气功 Qigong 3

生殖器 genitalia 4

神秘 mysterious 3

科技 science 2

经济效益 1economic profit 1

女神 goddess 2

境界 level spiritual level 2

谋杀 murder 2

智(慧)     intelligence intelligent 4

开发 develop development 4

 

 

 

Q: How did you start painting?

 

A: May 21, 1989 – before that I had often been sick due to bad health. I had heard that even illiterates could write prescriptions, which amazed me, so I wondered if I could paint. That was how I started painting, ever since that day. What I painted was stuff related to healing: how do you cure leukemia? How do you cure toothache? How do you cure moodiness? I painted them out, and those works are still there. When painting leukemia, I felt I painted all the leukemic cells – that’s how it felt. I went to school in the 1950s; we were among the first group of students to wear the red scarf, and what we paint now are really interesting stuff. After that I could paint whatever comes to mind, and I’ve never put down my brush in the past 18 years. Now I paint whatever I want; I follow no rules; and sometimes I would even realize it after I finish the painting. I stopped going to work when I was forty, as I was always sick. I couldn’t help it, and then I opened a painting and calligraphy parlor to relax myself. Originally I was trained in chemical experiments chemical analysis; later I painted on paper and fabric scrolls. In 1991, there was an international imagery expo; they wanted to me participate, but I didn’t go. I later brought a few paintings over; and they were stunned, but I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t even know what I was painting myself; but sometimes you could figure it out, after you’ve finished painting it.

 

Q: Do you think there is any meaning to be discussed in your paintings?

 

A: There are some that I cannot explain, and some I do can explain. I used to think all the time about bodily spasm, about how to cure illness. Eventually I painted fetuses and the way the human body develops… Those paintings are composed with digits. So, since over ten years ago, I started to believe that the human body is made up of digits. And it was only recently that people started to say that chromosomes are made up of digits.

 

Q: Is your art influenced by tradition, or by something else?

 

A: I practiced Qigong before, which is a very good Chinese tradition. It helps develop your intelligence. Practicing Qigong is practicing the brain; but not everybody can succeed. I think I’m talented at this, because I’m totally honest – I’m not interested in ripping people off or making money; I just want to get into shape, and my body is in good shape now. To paint under such circumstances, I feel I could realize a lot. No matter what [people] others say, I feel I could paint the most important thing in my life. If I wanted to paint a brain, eventually I would finish painting a brain. I feel I’m too intelligent – learning by nurture is also a way to develop one’s intelligence. I never see this as superstition. It is a science.

 

Q: What kind of concept do you think contemporary art is?

 

A: I see contemporary art as very progressive, unlike painting from the past. I feel that they are all full of life, even though I don’t know much about traditional pedagogy in the field of art. But Western paintings of the nudebefore I painted, I felt that they were uncivilized. But after I painted myself, I understood that they were beautiful. More precisely, they reveal both the good and the bad.

 

Q: What do you think is the relation between art and society?

 

A: I feel we should study art with a tolerance towards all, whether it is traditional culture or anything else. As long as it exists in this society, it has value. I see this as the promise. I’m different from you guys: you people paint after you understood, and yet I understand only after I painted; that’s why I’m not interested in communicating with others. I paint whatever I want, especially things I don’t know about, which I paint best. I often watch science channels on television – those things that exist already in the West but not in China, I paint them. A guy from Taiwan once said that my paintings are frozen art, belonging to the highest level in art. I think there are very nice art in painting, but its value lies not in art, but something much better and deeper than art. For example, I paint whatever is in Xi’an, and I study whatever I paint; once a painting is done, there are still lots to be studied in the painting. When I painted Empress Wu Zetian’s tomb, the Shao Tomb, I painted a clown sitting on her navel, because “Shao Tomb” used to be “Xiao Tomb” (“Tomb of Laughter”), where a homophone was used to cover up the reality. Was this site chosen by her, or was it simply meant for her burial in the first place? I think there is a lot to study in this.

 

Q: What role do you think an artist should play?

 

A: I think an artist should cover all different aspects in his art. If you only paint the surface, without expressing the spirit, it’s not a good painting. I believe myself to be someone with multiple personalities, not simply a painter. Like I can diagnose myself; I can cure other people‘s illness through painting. I can also strengthen myself physically. I’m sixty-seven now, and in great shape. Many artists remain in good physical condition once they reach a certain spiritual level, and can live very long. They are also practicing the Qi (energy) to dredge their mind; that’s why painters have high spiritual levels.

 

Q: What function do you think artists have in a society?

 

A: Artists can express their own thoughts through painting, which propels the society forward. Stuff like contemporary art in particular, which I go see sometimes – I ask people, “What is Utopia“? They say it’s beautiful things. I feel my paintings represent eastern culture; they not only belong to me personally, but also to everyone else.

 

Q: Then do you care whether your art is understood by others?

 

A: I don’t. Everyone comes from a different cultural level. Some people of lower cultural levels can understand my painting, whereas those from higher cultural levels cannot. A director of an academy in Singapore once said that what I painted was genitalia, but I don’t even know how to paint genitalia. I hope to spread Chinese culture out to everywhere. I am someone with modern education; what I paint is contemporary painting. I’m not playing with feudalistic superstition.

 

A: Please describe the process of your creation.

 

Q: Like my painting a portrait of someone. I can paint someone just by writing his name once. With just a few strokes, I can paint with great resemblance, even people who I have never seen before. After I finish painting, I can even talk about that person. I can feel all these with my brush. These are what I receive from my subject. It’s not out of the blue. The world is too grand. Painting should include many things, including the universe. I want to paint everything that I know about, and after painting them I get to know something deeper about them, although not all. I’m curious to know about various things, especially things aesthetic. For example, the goddess in Hongshan culture – I’d like to know what that goddess looks like. We have is a long cultural history in Xi’an, and after the archeological site was discovered in Lintong, I did this whole series of paintings, to see whether it was really mysterious. Some painters really hate people asking questions, but not me. Whatever you want me to paint, I can do it; the less I know about something, the better I can paint it. For example, the pyramid in Egypt – only after painting it did I know that it was where the pharaohs were buried. I never knew that before painting it.

under-privileged groups 弱势群体[ruo shi qun ti]

1.    艺术家基本上都是弱势群体

All artists basically all belong to under-privileged groups.

(摘自徐坦对卢昊的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Lu Hao)

Interviewed: Lu Sichen

Time: Afternoon, Jan. 30, 2007

Location: Fansi(Fancy) Restaurant, 4th Ring Road, Beijing

 

 

社会 social 18

市场 market 11

机构 institutions organizations 11

边缘 periphery 7

居住 housing living 5

北京 Beijing 63

邻居 neighbors 5

符号 symbol 10

中国符号 China symbol 6

胡同 Hutong alleys 10

 

国家 country 5

弱势群体 under-privileged groups 7

日本 Japan 6

 

热门 hot 3

老百姓 citizens residents 5

环境 context 13

拍卖 auction 8

价格 price, worth 5

价值 value 8

关系 relationship 21

人际关系 interpersonal relationship 2

拆迁 demolishing and rebuilding 3

西方 the West 4

建筑 building 9

位置 status 4

装修 decoration project interior decoration 3

circle 1

 

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: Could you please first comment on the current state of contemporary art in China?

 

A: This is quite a big question. I think contemporary art in China is now in a relatively good phase; it’s hot, and many institutions and collectors are very concerned contemporary art. Seen from this point, it’s a hot thing. But on the other hand, judging from the past two years, there have been very few really good works; so some people even think that we’ve reached the bottom point in contemporary Chinese art. This is rather difficult, because, for many artists, they really need to sell their works; while the social temptation is just too strong. Before, people would still care about how to produce good works and they would care about the academic side of things. Now, people talk about nothing but auctions, auction sale prices, and the market.

 

Q: Please describe what your art is mainly concerned with.

 

A: I think my work is mostly about the relationship between neighbors in residential quarters in old Beijing, the changes in the city, and learning about interpersonal relationship through the observation of these changes. There are so many artists in Beijing, but not many local professional artists. As a professional artist in Beijing, I‘m not saying I want to be an international artist. Living in Beijing, with all the surroundings, the neighbors in the Hutong alleys, the friends and relatives all around me, the street hawkers – all of these are sources of inspiration for my work. I have emotions towards all of them, so I see things under this context when working on my art.

 

Q: You care about relationship with the surroundings. Then, how is the interaction between your work and the audience?

 

A: I don’t even know. Even though I’ve worked so many years in Beijing, I feel that Beijing natives who have seen my work are quite few; the ones who really come to see my work are the persons in art circle. For example, when I do indoor or outdoor installation, the Beijing natives see them as decoration project. So I always feel like I’m doing decoration project whenever I start an installation piece. I have finished many related works in Beijing, but I think their impact has been limited.

 

Q: How do you think the West is regarding all these developments in contemporary Chinese art?

 

A: I’ve talked to some people about this. They feel that the present phenomenon is horrible. The price for art is very high, higher than what the market can take. It’s like a stock market.

 

Q: You’ve emphasized the close relationship with your surroundings. As an artist, what role do you play in the society?

 

A: Under-privileged group. All artists basically all belong to under-privileged groups. Maybe due to the recent market hype, or the higher prices at auctions, people have started to pay attention to artists, but nobody had any such concepts before. Contemporary art had no social status in the past, and it’s only because of the market prices in the past couple of years… People all care about one thing ultimately – how much [is it] does it worth? This is the level of artistic appreciation in China today.

 

Q: So, from your point of view, this society actually still has a very limited acceptance of contemporary art.

 

A: My feeling is that contemporary Chinese art, including the entire painting profession, has always occupied a decorative position in the Chinese society. A well-to-do family needs something to decorate their house, but the wealthy owners don’t know about the value of the art works, and they don’t need to know. They have the money; they can buy the paintings. So they hold the same right of speech as the artists. Other than that, they care about nothing. I think many people have gained various kinds of benefits from all this. Songzhuang is a typical example. It was previously a very poor village. Then some artists moved there, and the village leader gradually found out them. Then this thing became an event. Yet this leader was promoting art for his career gains. Now many private collectors and collecting organizations abroad have all gone there. And now that village has expanded its influence, and then this local leader became, overnight, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. When contemporary art links with certain things on the international level, it gets exciting. But do these people really care that much about culture? I think not.

I made a painting recently. I always find a topic interesting: “China symbol.” Many have debated on whether Chinese artists should deploy the “China symbol.” Its antithesis is the globalization symbol – I have no idea what that might be like; I only know of the concept. My feeling is that there is nothing wrong with the China Symbol. The Americans are flaunting their Symbol everyday, and nobody has any problem with that. Then why would you have problem with the Chinese using their own Symbol? I think I’m the kind of person who will take the China Symbol to the end. As a Chinese artist, what is your goal? To promote your own culture or to extinguish your own culture? That is the question. So I decide to do contemporary art using the most traditional Chinese methods. I painted a long scroll, about 50 meters in length, of the scenery along the Chang’an Boulevard in Beijing, recording each building alongside. The Chang’an Boulevard is about 15 kilometers in length, and I painted it at the scale of 1:300, so it turned out to be 50 meters. And at the same time, with the traditional way of ancient Chinese painting, I carved many seals, displaying the names of the Hutong alleys that have disappeared in Beijing. That is my latest work.

 

Q: And how did you turn it into an installation piece?

 

A: You can’t turn it into an installation. One of my installation pieces is one made in 2002 – a large sand table, about 100 meters; it’s roughly a model of the Second Ring Road in Beijing. I got this idea while looking at lots of apartment sales centers. They have all these models of high-rises, really beautifully made. So I made this sand table as a symbol for traps – a pit, a huge pit, where many people’s life-long savings are thrown in. I thought this trickery in the form of a sand table was really fun, so I made a sand table of the entire city of Beijing, because at that time Beijing was bidding for the 2008 Olympic Games.

In fact, I think that the government is using the “renovate and improve the citizens[living] housing conditionslogan to justify their massive scale of demolishing and rebuilding. I wrote a project plan once, in which I would evacuate all the residents from a certain Hutong alley and courtyard. I rent a building for them to stay in. Then I renovate their housing, without changing the exterior structures. And I would employ top interior designers to plan a new interior decoration. Then I invite all the residents back to their homes. So I think it is indeed possible to improve their living condition without changing their living habits. The method used by the government now is really assigned migration. In other words, the citizens are an under-privileged group. When they cannot face up to the government and the developers, they would have to move, far away. The government settles them by paying tens of thousands yuan as moving expenses, and thus throws them to the periphery of the city. I think a more ideal way of doing this is to do it as if it were a work of art – we find investors to invest some money, and then we change the living conditions of these courtyard residents completely. I used to have such a project proposal; it was something I really wanted to do at that time. If this work had been realized and had succeeded, then we’d be raising a question to the city planning committee. I thought that would be fun.

underground 地下[di xia]

1.连我妈妈、爸爸,又在另外一个叫“鼠牛虎兔龙蛇”的网络游戏里,就是隔两天开一次的地下赌博,可以在电脑上下注的,大家都游戏的世界里。

Even my parents are game addicts, they are obsessed with an online game called “Mouse, Ox,Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon and Snake”, which is about underground gambling, taking place every two days. You can bet via computer. So they all live inside the virtual world game.

(摘自徐坦对郑国谷的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Zheng Guogu)

Interviewed: Ai Dongming

Time: Afternoon, January 31, 2007

Location: Ai’s place at Caochangdi, Beijing

 

 

do” engage in 25

可能 maybe possibility impossible perhaps may 21

社会 society social 19

问题 problem question 17

兴趣 fascinated interested uninterested interest 12

个人 individual 12

方式 ways approaches 10

市场 market 9

价值 value 7

 

政治的 political  1

国家 country  state  4

自由 freedom  free 7

个人表达 individual expression

地下 underground

民主 democratic  2

 

circle 3

money 5

时代 (information/Internet) age 5

play 3

资金 capital 1

poor poverty 4

弱智 retarded 2

face 3

 

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: What’s your understanding or impression about the current situation of contemporary art in China?

 

A: I wouldn’t pretend to know much. In spite of the fact that I’ve been living in Beijing all along and always partaking in curating, that we have the Chinese Art Archives & Warehouse, and make friends in the art circle, still I’m not sure I really understand it. Recent two years it seemed hot and bustling, but not very long before nobody apparently cared to take a look at it, so it feels to me more like a state of sudden ups and downs. Maybe put it this way: because contemporary art as a matter of fact has a quite short history [in China], and the modern life in China [this country] – although it did exist – was characterized to a great extent by political and economic patterns. In a highly institutionalized [environment] country as such, the freedom of individual expression, political background and living conditions, as well as the functions and possibilities of art and culture in the society, were basically limited, therefore the surfacing of the so called contemporary art in China didn’t occur until five or six years ago. Before that there were people doing a lot of things, but only in a semi-underground way – that is, it happened in a small circle, out of the sight of the public discourse, and its social impact was in fact also only limited to a small sphere. Once it surfaces, its major scene is in overseas exhibitions, foreign media or even in overseas auctions. It does look exciting somehow, but has nothing to do with the environment where the art originated, its social patterns and its meanings. Few people have tried to discuss and probe into these questions, so it’s still a strange structure. But we can’t say any structure is reasonable or not. Be it a tree, a vine, a ferocious beast, or a parasite, it each has its own reasons. Although Chinese contemporary art did not self-consciously try to build a connection with this society, it still somehow reflects a few problems of the past decades.

 

Q: What problems do you think it reflects?

 

A: The fundamental collapses of Chinese philosophy, aesthetics, ethics in the past decades, and the possibility of discussion is yet to be established for the new. Because this large scale or large part of the society is still denying, or disagreeing some basic facts, and debating of many problems in these areas is almost [out of the question] impossible. Democratic society is still a long way to go. There is much freedom in there, but it’s the freedom based on the collapse of the old, a freedom out of control, but proactive [one] freedom. The art is characterized by all these problems.

 

Q: What do you think of the public reception of contemporary art?

 

A: I don’t think there is real reception. It only becomes part of fashion. When magazines and newspapers talk about art, you see, they always miss the points, and are never capable of understanding it in any depth. I think it’s pathetic, somewhat like retarded. Chinese contemporary art is really acting [an under-developed] a retarded role. Of course there are pretty good artists, there are artists doing interesting stuff all along, but what they do and the way they do it never got acknowledged or understood by the mainstream society. Basically it’s all messed up.

 

Q: Do you think your curating activities could be of any help to this mess?

 

A:There are many exhibitions in China now, but hardly helping with anything and making any sense. They are just peddlers, the peddlers you see on streets where everybody hucksters the same thing and provoke and compete against one another. It’s designed completely for the market, and has nothing to do with art. All those exhibitions, and their curators – take a close look and you see few that are half decent, all with their evil and varied intentions. This in particular is what makes me look down upon Chinese academia and the intelligentsia. [The total shamelessness. The out-and-out and open shamelessness,] They don’t care for face, literally and openly declare that they don’t care for face, which is so rare even here and now. A Chinese old saying goes, poverty stifles ambition, which makes a very good point here. But it’s more than just being poor, those people are actually degenerate. Poverty is just an excuse.

 

Q: Since you mentioned market, please comment on the art market.

 

A:Anything can sell, and the exquisite thing as art is no exception. Art sells in that it decorates the [rich] homes of people with lots of money, so it becomes commodity, which is quite normal. The question is the percentage. I mean, in the whole cultural environment, is commodity the only role to play or not? Is it so fragile that once it becomes commodity, it can’t be anything else? I think that’s a major problem in Chinese contemporary art. The way I see it, it’s kind of funny, because it’s like that even the reason why you do art in the first place got changed, the reason and principles of your life got changed, and eventually transformed into some other value. Too much attention and discussions have been driven to the market – of course, if you are not an artist but a speculator, there’s nothing wrong with talking about market too much, but if you are someone still creating works, or if you got into art because you felt like to express yourself, or fascinated with certain ways of expression, instead of just money, capital or status, then there is something deeply wrong. Now it seems to me that everybody is talking about market, which is bothering me. From stock market to the pricing of brand names, there’s nothing to blame market itself about. You sell something for five cents of money, five thousand Yuan of money, or fifty thousand, and it’s fine. But behind this market, behind the pricing of a certain product, are other values diluted by this market price? This is a question.

 

Q: What interests you then?

 

A:Honestly, I’m not interested in anything in particular. I’m not particularly uninterested in commercial stuff or some other things. Really there are not too many things that interest me; perhaps I am passive. But generally speaking, art is a profession that I have some interest in. What interests me there is the people who are less utilitarian and more characteristic, and living some sorts of self-conscious lives. But what about now? You see no difference between [this art] people in this art circle and their neighbor who peddle. It becomes boring. But after all, I don’t really care, and concern. For example, this country lives or dies, I don’t really care either. It’s just that you asked me, like you ask me anything such as weather, windy or sandstorm comes, it’s something out of your control. It’s just what this country is.

 

Q: Say something about your blog.

 

A: Blog is fun. I will upload the pictures I took for you right away. I don’t know anything about my viewers, even though they are just a click away from me – this is what I feel so straightforward, so real and at the same time delusional, so I keep doing it.

 

Q: You mean it’s a way to communicate your own information.

 

A:I think the information age is the best time for human being so far. Before this, mankind was in the dark or on a chosen path, and now for the first time it provides technical possibilities for the so called freedom and individual will. You [can] may choose to play alone or with those whom you like to play with, which is hard to imagine before. I think everybody should be welcoming this new situation allowing free expression and individual approaches – sounds cliché but still very important. Things like new possibilities of communication, including the possibilities of reshaping, absorbing and utilizing the power of the society, are great things.

 

Q: Speaking of art, do you think there is a distinction between geographical center and margin?

 

A:I think not, especially not in this information age and Internet age. In fact this is for the first time that mankind has an opportunity and possibility to topple the traditional value system of central power. This possibility springs up suddenly after a long history of human struggle, and it’s such a great thing.

traditional 传统[chuan tong]

所以说从宏观上来谈,我觉得可能现在总的来讲就是一个发展过程,因为我觉得这个过程就是由一个整体怎么过渡到去认识不同的艺术家和不同的艺术,我觉得远远还没有过渡到这一步,因为我觉得一个国家的当代艺术以国家形式出现可能有利有弊吧,有可能是会得到更多的人或更多的关注,不利的一点就是它只能以一个整体出现,那么对我来讲,我认为这是个问题,因为我觉得这也是传统艺术当代艺术的一个区别,你想想十几年前,欧洲对中国的艺术都有一个整体印象,如果我们继续坚持这个整体的话,可能它只是替换了某一种材料和某一种形象,比如说在一段时间是龙、是凤凰、是竹子,是陶瓷、丝绸,最可能用一些其它的材料把这些材料替代了,那么这就是作为一个整体你要冒的风险,我对集体是很恐惧的,因为我曾经当过兵,跟60多个人在一起住过好几年,我觉得它给我带来的遗产有两个,一个就是痛恨一致,我认为所有的东西,无论是内在的还是形式上的一致,对我来讲好像心里上都有一种天生的免疫,我基本上觉得这个肯定就是有问题的,第二个就是对集体保持一种怀疑

On a macro level, I think we are now in the middle of a process of development. And this is a process of undergoing a transition from seeing the total picture to getting to know individual artists and individual arts, a stage from which I feel we are still very far away. There are pros and cons when a country‘s contemporary art scene appears as a group. The good part is that it attracts more audience and more attention, and the negative part is that it can only appear as a totality. And that, to me, is a problem, which also points to the difference between traditional art and contemporary art. Think about it – over a decade ago, the image that Europe had about Chinese art was an overall impression. If we were to continue our insistence on this totality, it could end up replacing materials or images of one kind with those of another kind– for example, dragon, phoenix, bamboo, porcelain, silk were used in a certain period, which were, eventually, replaced by some other materials. This is the risk you have to take when you present yourself as a totality. I myself am frightened by collectives, because I used to serve in the military, and I lived together with over 60 persons for many years. I’m left with two aftereffects from that experience. The first one is my hatred for homogeneity. I think I’m naturally immune to all things homogenous, either internally or externally. Basically I think a positive view on homogeneity is itself questionable. The second one is my suspicion for collectives.

(摘自徐坦对汪关征的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Wang Guanzheng)

Interviewed: Sun Jin, Peng Yao

Time: Noon, January 29, 2007

Location: Sun & Peng Studio, 798, Beijing

社会 society social socially 24

反应 reaction (feedback response respond) 8

(不)接受 accept acceptance (take in rejected) 7

普通(人,观众) ordinary (people / audience) general public 9

公众 general public 2

观众 audience(s) 22

关系 relation relationship has something to do with 11

机制 system mechanism 8

机构 organization 5

美术馆 museum 8

独立 independence 2

政府 government 5

政治 political 3

自由 free 3

和谐社会 harmonious society 9

do make 40

do engage in tackle 1

中国 China Chinese 31

西方 the West western 19

发展 development drifting 5

成功 success successful 10

商业() commercialization commercial commercially 4

游戏 game 4

舒服 comfortable 3

学术 academic academics academically 11

农民 farmer 5

强奸 rape raped 2

通奸 adultery 2

生效 effectiveness effective 2

市场 market marketing 5

投机份子 opportunitists 1

Source of Keywords:

Q: You just mentioned the public perception of your works and the natural influence thereof, I have the feeling that most of your early works are not as socially-conscious as the newer ones.

A: (Sun) Actually all the materials come from the society, it’s just that some of them come from the relatively private aspect of social life, and some are better-known materials, such as news subjects, social topics. Actually all topics are social topics, it’s just that the attention they draw are of different levels. Also, I don’t think I would go with the idea that currently all subjects derive from the society, I think a lot of them can still find roots in ourselves, but when they are confronted with the society, you’ll need an appropriate translation and conversion system, and then you’ll end up choosing relatively typical materials. It seems to me that you just can’t take the problem separately.

(Peng) In the early days when we were young, our relation with the society are not so complicated, or, shall we say, we were not yet an integrated part of the society, therefore the works we did and the materials we used are not so socially-conscious. But I reckon that anything could be used as material, and you are going to engage in the society more and more as you grow up, eventually you’ll choose those materials in the society that interest you. So I don’t think that subject is the key issue here.

Q: A lot of your works in the exhibitions are focused on the relationship with the society. Do you perceive any differences in China and the West in terms of audience’s acceptance and feedback?

A: (Sun) Yes, but I think the differences were more typical a few years ago, before and around 2000. The opening-up of China was still in its early phase back then, and most people did not accept what is called contemporary art, they were too impatient when watching. Now there seems to be a unified consensus, western and Chinese audience are aware of this (Chinese) contemporary art thing, they know there is a bunch of people doing weird stuff, and their first reaction towards them are “Ah! Another performance art! “Thus art is reduced to a term, when someone puzzles over something; he would call it performance art. He has this category in his mind, and can group it, and then it’s easy for him to take in.

(Peng) At that time the West was more interested in the political confrontational aspect, it has something to do with the whole Chinese ideology. The country was not open enough back then, and biennale still didn’t emerge in Shanghai……all the western audiences would interpret your work from the political perspective. There were two kinds of Chinese audience, and this is particularly interesting, the first kind is artistically-informed people, or people somewhat related to art and culture; and the other kind is people who has no relationship whatsoever with culture. As it turned out, the culture-savvy part happened to find our works incomprehensible, they even made a lot of protests or accusation against them. On the other hand, those who have no relationship with art or culture, including policemen……one of my exhibitions was banned, and I chatted with many ordinary people like policemen and persons in Residents’ Committee, you know, ordinary people, they all went to see the exhibition and found it super interesting.

And now governments are organizing biennales, contemporary art has become a card in their hands, something that everyone can and should take advantage of. So it’s like a slogan, a presentation used to impress the international community, and here’s when the game with the official starts.

A: (Peng) In the ’90s, before 2000, when something happens, you can calm down to observe your surroundings, to perceive the changes of everybody in detail. But now, especially in recent years, the whole atmosphere in the art scene is volatile. It has become difficult for me to try to understand the changes outside, and the situation is complicated now……take our studio in 798 for example, this place is so touristy now, it’s hard to position yourself. But we do work here as of today. Now the government is into contemporary art too, a lot of opportunitists are into this, and there’s the gallery frenzy, a dozen of new galleries would turn up here every day. You also witness the price of Chinese contemporary art skyrocketing on the international market, I have the feeling that many artists have lost themselves, they have become less pure; in the old days, underground is underground, the artists make art, and that’s it. Nowadays everyone collaborates with everyone, and you participate in their game more frequently, the game is getting more and more complex, Stage Two!

Q: So do you think that general public has become better connoisseurs of contemporary art?

A: (Peng) I think maybe they do find it easier to accept, but what art offers them, on the contrary, has decreased. Back then they would try to understand why these people do what they’re doing, now they get themselves a concept, like I tell you this word, ‘performance art‘, they go ‘Ah, so this is performance art!’, and there it is. Something is missing for the general public, the minute they are given a safe explanation, they are deprived of the thinking process.

(Sun) There are actually two sides of the coin. For the artist, I think they are also trying to figure out what kind of audience they have. In the ’90s there was this cynic group, you may want to call them early [Chinese] contemporary artist, they were the enfant terrible, going to the extreme when rejected by the public. By now, however, many artists have come to realize that in order to play the enfant terrible card you need to first have the endorsement by the audience. So both sides were moving towards each other, when the two reach a point of coordination, by which I mean they can work together seamlessly and feel free at the same time, that’s what you may call the harmonious society. Back then reform and opening were everything, people would do anything for breakthrough. Things have changed, now the overall structure is fixed, it’s a matter of coordination. This is in synch with the general situation of the country, the concept of harmonious society has posed a big question to art as well. Of course every era has its own issues, but the issues we are facing now in a harmonious society is of not much difference with those in the western countries. This is because harmonious society is commonplace in the West, and artists there feel free and suffocated at the same time. This is gonna happen in China at some point in the future, we’ll see.

(Peng) For instance, I’m initially exciting upon learning that certain large foreign organization is coming to Beijing to open a museum, because it means there will finally be a decent museum showcasing contemporary art in Beijing and in China. But soon I come to realize the potential crisis; I don’t know whether this thing would do any good to Beijing and to Chinese contemporary art as a whole, will it help pushing the scene towards the good or bad, healthy or unhealthy direction? There are two sides to these things. What the foreign museums try to do is to port the whole prestigious western museum system to Beijing, but if you take a look at exhibitions in the West, you’ll see how the corrupted museum system stifles the whole art scene. This explains all the buzz about the whole lot of Chinese artists participating in the Venice Biennale that year; they witnessed the potential of Chinese contemporary art in the West. But is there really any potential? Granted, you can’t say there’s zero potential, but the point is westerners realized that they could find new possibilities in China, and these possibilities are potential, energy, frightening stuff. While in the West, the whole system has provided a, in Sun Yuan’s word, harmonious society for everybody, people have to play by the rules and to strive for breakthrough in between. After some time, everybody ends up playing tricks, for me this is really not the ideal way of life. So I think the western museum system‘s coming into China will be a double-edged sword for the artists. Wouldn’t you kill a lot of possibilities if you bring in something lifeless? It helps us to operate under the rules and procedure, that’s for sure, and of course an oft-heard criticism on Chinese artists or the whole Chinese art market by western museums is the lack of rules and procedure, but this is precisely the characteristic and charisma of China. I prefer a lifestyle with lots of accidents, if Chinese contemporary art is drifting towards a completely expected, accident-free direction, I think it’s time for the artists to think about what they can do to stimulate the scene.

Q: Economic changes will have an influence on art and the relation between artists and the audience, but there are a lot of artists seem to ignore the audience, aren’t there?

A: (Sun) This is about knowledge being in synch with the government, in other words, a harmonious society is the end result of a peaceful evolution process. Commercialization and the participation of economics contribute to the realization of a harmonious society. There are rules, economic rules, that you would want to follow and to refer to as a kind of artist who cares not only about yourself, but also about the audience. One can’t deny the fact that all people regard economical success as the measurement of success in general, even artists themselves, so do the audiences. It’s a point of reference. So economics actually works as the coordinator and thus triggers the peaceful evolution. I’ll say that artists and audiences are not the sole driving force of the harmonious society, there must be some other interfering factors. So how to maintain consistency? How to reach the same coordinated point? Economics is being used as a reference point in many cases.

(Peng) Market and academic studies call for different approaches. Marketing guys take care of the market, scholars take care of academic studies, so it won’t do any good to have people like us to talk about issues without our range.

(Sun) Sometimes people say ‘academic is itself’, I’m not sure I agree with them on that: do you think about the question of success when doing academic works? If the question crosses your mind, then there shall be a point of coordination somewhere. When all the factors are mixed together in the optimized proportion, it will appear to be something successful and will generate some momentum for your academic studies. Here, the word successful means not only commercial success, but success in every dimension. Without this all-dimentional success as the point of reference, academic studies will be of no direction or value – it has no coordinated platform. Actually academics all work on a platform, there is the standard for measuring success, which is effectiveness, [commercial-wise and academic-wise] effective commercially or academically. There’s a certain value in it.

Q: Do you care about the negative part in the audiences’ feedback?

A: (Sun) The audiencesfeedback are exactly the thing I care about.

(Peng) But it’s not important how they respond to our works, as long as there is response at all. We don’t really care whether they are positive or negative, we care about the fact that they do have reaction.

(Sun) Or shall we say the best case is that we have mixed response; rape mixed with adultery, if you will. Being raped and yet reaching orgasm, committing adultery but with a bit of passiveness, that’s a good mixture. I’m not into pure compulsory stuff, but reaction is a must.

Q: I think one of the major differences between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou is the different level of consciousness towards power. It’s the strongest in Beijing, weaker in Shanghai, and the weakest in Guangzhou. Do you have anything to say about this?

A: (Sun) I don’t particularly feel that way, this power thing you mentioned. I don’t know if there’s power or not, but the way I see it, power is of no relevance as long as you feel comfortable and happy. Because you are in the lower tiers of others’ power mechanism, you are not the top guy, you feel good being here, and you stay here, I think that’s enough. It’s not necessarily the same thing as the farmer‘s corporation, in which power is above everything, even daily meals are related to power, if you can’t get hold of this power, you are not able to survive……by power I mean a kind of dominate/subordinate relation, not necessarily political power.

Interviewed: Sun Jin, Peng Yao

Time: Noon, January 29, 2007

Location: Sun & Peng Studio, 798, Beijing

社会 society social socially 24

反应 reaction (feedback response respond) 8

(不)接受 accept acceptance (take in rejected) 7

普通(人,观众) ordinary (people / audience) general public 9

公众 general public 2

观众 audience(s) 22

关系 relation relationship has something to do with 11

机制 system mechanism 8

机构 organization 5

美术馆 museum 8

独立 independence 2

政府 government 5

政治 political 3

自由 free 3

和谐社会 harmonious society 9

do make 40

do engage in tackle 1

中国 China Chinese 31

西方 the West western 19

发展 development drifting 5

成功 success successful 10

商业() commercialization commercial commercially 4

游戏 game 4

舒服 comfortable 3

学术 academic academics academically 11

农民 farmer 5

强奸 rape raped 2

通奸 adultery 2

生效 effectiveness effective 2

市场 market marketing 5

投机份子 opportunitists 1

Source of Keywords:

Q: You just mentioned the public perception of your works and the natural influence thereof, I have the feeling that most of your early works are not as socially-conscious as the newer ones.

A: (Sun) Actually all the materials come from the society, it’s just that some of them come from the relatively private aspect of social life, and some are better-known materials, such as news subjects, social topics. Actually all topics are social topics, it’s just that the attention they draw are of different levels. Also, I don’t think I would go with the idea that currently all subjects derive from the society, I think a lot of them can still find roots in ourselves, but when they are confronted with the society, you’ll need an appropriate translation and conversion system, and then you’ll end up choosing relatively typical materials. It seems to me that you just can’t take the problem separately.

(Peng) In the early days when we were young, our relation with the society are not so complicated, or, shall we say, we were not yet an integrated part of the society, therefore the works we did and the materials we used are not so socially-conscious. But I reckon that anything could be used as material, and you are going to engage in the society more and more as you grow up, eventually you’ll choose those materials in the society that interest you. So I don’t think that subject is the key issue here.

Q: A lot of your works in the exhibitions are focused on the relationship with the society. Do you perceive any differences in China and the West in terms of audience’s acceptance and feedback?

A: (Sun) Yes, but I think the differences were more typical a few years ago, before and around 2000. The opening-up of China was still in its early phase back then, and most people did not accept what is called contemporary art, they were too impatient when watching. Now there seems to be a unified consensus, western and Chinese audience are aware of this (Chinese) contemporary art thing, they know there is a bunch of people doing weird stuff, and their first reaction towards them are “Ah! Another performance art! “Thus art is reduced to a term, when someone puzzles over something; he would call it performance art. He has this category in his mind, and can group it, and then it’s easy for him to take in.

(Peng) At that time the West was more interested in the political confrontational aspect, it has something to do with the whole Chinese ideology. The country was not open enough back then, and biennale still didn’t emerge in Shanghai……all the western audiences would interpret your work from the political perspective. There were two kinds of Chinese audience, and this is particularly interesting, the first kind is artistically-informed people, or people somewhat related to art and culture; and the other kind is people who has no relationship whatsoever with culture. As it turned out, the culture-savvy part happened to find our works incomprehensible, they even made a lot of protests or accusation against them. On the other hand, those who have no relationship with art or culture, including policemen……one of my exhibitions was banned, and I chatted with many ordinary people like policemen and persons in Residents’ Committee, you know, ordinary people, they all went to see the exhibition and found it super interesting.

And now governments are organizing biennales, contemporary art has become a card in their hands, something that everyone can and should take advantage of. So it’s like a slogan, a presentation used to impress the international community, and here’s when the game with the official starts.

A: (Peng) In the ’90s, before 2000, when something happens, you can calm down to observe your surroundings, to perceive the changes of everybody in detail. But now, especially in recent years, the whole atmosphere in the art scene is volatile. It has become difficult for me to try to understand the changes outside, and the situation is complicated now……take our studio in 798 for example, this place is so touristy now, it’s hard to position yourself. But we do work here as of today. Now the government is into contemporary art too, a lot of opportunitists are into this, and there’s the gallery frenzy, a dozen of new galleries would turn up here every day. You also witness the price of Chinese contemporary art skyrocketing on the international market, I have the feeling that many artists have lost themselves, they have become less pure; in the old days, underground is underground, the artists make art, and that’s it. Nowadays everyone collaborates with everyone, and you participate in their game more frequently, the game is getting more and more complex, Stage Two!

Q: So do you think that general public has become better connoisseurs of contemporary art?

A: (Peng) I think maybe they do find it easier to accept, but what art offers them, on the contrary, has decreased. Back then they would try to understand why these people do what they’re doing, now they get themselves a concept, like I tell you this word, ‘performance art‘, they go ‘Ah, so this is performance art!’, and there it is. Something is missing for the general public, the minute they are given a safe explanation, they are deprived of the thinking process.

(Sun) There are actually two sides of the coin. For the artist, I think they are also trying to figure out what kind of audience they have. In the ’90s there was this cynic group, you may want to call them early [Chinese] contemporary artist, they were the enfant terrible, going to the extreme when rejected by the public. By now, however, many artists have come to realize that in order to play the enfant terrible card you need to first have the endorsement by the audience. So both sides were moving towards each other, when the two reach a point of coordination, by which I mean they can work together seamlessly and feel free at the same time, that’s what you may call the harmonious society. Back then reform and opening were everything, people would do anything for breakthrough. Things have changed, now the overall structure is fixed, it’s a matter of coordination. This is in synch with the general situation of the country, the concept of harmonious society has posed a big question to art as well. Of course every era has its own issues, but the issues we are facing now in a harmonious society is of not much difference with those in the western countries. This is because harmonious society is commonplace in the West, and artists there feel free and suffocated at the same time. This is gonna happen in China at some point in the future, we’ll see.

(Peng) For instance, I’m initially exciting upon learning that certain large foreign organization is coming to Beijing to open a museum, because it means there will finally be a decent museum showcasing contemporary art in Beijing and in China. But soon I come to realize the potential crisis; I don’t know whether this thing would do any good to Beijing and to Chinese contemporary art as a whole, will it help pushing the scene towards the good or bad, healthy or unhealthy direction? There are two sides to these things. What the foreign museums try to do is to port the whole prestigious western museum system to Beijing, but if you take a look at exhibitions in the West, you’ll see how the corrupted museum system stifles the whole art scene. This explains all the buzz about the whole lot of Chinese artists participating in the Venice Biennale that year; they witnessed the potential of Chinese contemporary art in the West. But is there really any potential? Granted, you can’t say there’s zero potential, but the point is westerners realized that they could find new possibilities in China, and these possibilities are potential, energy, frightening stuff. While in the West, the whole system has provided a, in Sun Yuan’s word, harmonious society for everybody, people have to play by the rules and to strive for breakthrough in between. After some time, everybody ends up playing tricks, for me this is really not the ideal way of life. So I think the western museum system‘s coming into China will be a double-edged sword for the artists. Wouldn’t you kill a lot of possibilities if you bring in something lifeless? It helps us to operate under the rules and procedure, that’s for sure, and of course an oft-heard criticism on Chinese artists or the whole Chinese art market by western museums is the lack of rules and procedure, but this is precisely the characteristic and charisma of China. I prefer a lifestyle with lots of accidents, if Chinese contemporary art is drifting towards a completely expected, accident-free direction, I think it’s time for the artists to think about what they can do to stimulate the scene.

Q: Economic changes will have an influence on art and the relation between artists and the audience, but there are a lot of artists seem to ignore the audience, aren’t there?

A: (Sun) This is about knowledge being in synch with the government, in other words, a harmonious society is the end result of a peaceful evolution process. Commercialization and the participation of economics contribute to the realization of a harmonious society. There are rules, economic rules, that you would want to follow and to refer to as a kind of artist who cares not only about yourself, but also about the audience. One can’t deny the fact that all people regard economical success as the measurement of success in general, even artists themselves, so do the audiences. It’s a point of reference. So economics actually works as the coordinator and thus triggers the peaceful evolution. I’ll say that artists and audiences are not the sole driving force of the harmonious society, there must be some other interfering factors. So how to maintain consistency? How to reach the same coordinated point? Economics is being used as a reference point in many cases.

(Peng) Market and academic studies call for different approaches. Marketing guys take care of the market, scholars take care of academic studies, so it won’t do any good to have people like us to talk about issues without our range.

(Sun) Sometimes people say ‘academic is itself’, I’m not sure I agree with them on that: do you think about the question of success when doing academic works? If the question crosses your mind, then there shall be a point of coordination somewhere. When all the factors are mixed together in the optimized proportion, it will appear to be something successful and will generate some momentum for your academic studies. Here, the word successful means not only commercial success, but success in every dimension. Without this all-dimentional success as the point of reference, academic studies will be of no direction or value – it has no coordinated platform. Actually academics all work on a platform, there is the standard for measuring success, which is effectiveness, [commercial-wise and academic-wise] effective commercially or academically. There’s a certain value in it.

Q: Do you care about the negative part in the audiences’ feedback?

A: (Sun) The audiencesfeedback are exactly the thing I care about.

(Peng) But it’s not important how they respond to our works, as long as there is response at all. We don’t really care whether they are positive or negative, we care about the fact that they do have reaction.

(Sun) Or shall we say the best case is that we have mixed response; rape mixed with adultery, if you will. Being raped and yet reaching orgasm, committing adultery but with a bit of passiveness, that’s a good mixture. I’m not into pure compulsory stuff, but reaction is a must.

Q: I think one of the major differences between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou is the different level of consciousness towards power. It’s the strongest in Beijing, weaker in Shanghai, and the weakest in Guangzhou. Do you have anything to say about this?

A: (Sun) I don’t particularly feel that way, this power thing you mentioned. I don’t know if there’s power or not, but the way I see it, power is of no relevance as long as you feel comfortable and happy. Because you are in the lower tiers of others’ power mechanism, you are not the top guy, you feel good being here, and you stay here, I think that’s enough. It’s not necessarily the same thing as the farmer‘s corporation, in which power is above everything, even daily meals are related to power, if you can’t get hold of this power, you are not able to survive……by power I mean a kind of dominate/subordinate relation, not necessarily political power.

totality, total picture, overall 整体[zheng ti]

所以说从宏观上来谈,我觉得可能现在总的来讲就是一个发展过程,因为我觉得这个过程就是由一个整体怎么过渡到去认识不同的艺术家和不同的艺术,我觉得远远还没有过渡到这一步,因为我觉得一个国家的当代艺术以国家形式出现可能有利有弊吧,有可能是会得到更多的人或更多的关注,不利的一点就是它只能以一个整体出现,那么对我来讲,我认为这是个问题,因为我觉得这也是传统艺术当代艺术的一个区别,你想想十几年前,欧洲对中国的艺术都有一个整体印象,如果我们继续坚持这个整体的话,可能它只是替换了某一种材料和某一种形象,比如说在一段时间是龙、是凤凰、是竹子,是陶瓷、丝绸,最可能用一些其它的材料把这些材料替代了,那么这就是作为一个整体你要冒的风险,我对集体是很恐惧的,因为我曾经当过兵,跟60多个人在一起住过好几年,我觉得它给我带来的遗产有两个,一个就是痛恨一致,我认为所有的东西,无论是内在的还是形式上的一致,对我来讲好像心里上都有一种天生的免疫,我基本上觉得这个肯定就是有问题的,第二个就是对集体保持一种怀疑

On a macro level, I think we are now in the middle of a process of development. And this is a process of undergoing a transition from seeing the total picture to getting to know individual artists and individual arts, a stage from which I feel we are still very far away. There are pros and cons when a country‘s contemporary art scene appears as a group. The good part is that it attracts more audience and more attention, and the negative part is that it can only appear as a totality. And that, to me, is a problem, which also points to the difference between traditional art and contemporary art. Think about it – over a decade ago, the image that Europe had about Chinese art was an overall impression. If we were to continue our insistence on this totality, it could end up replacing materials or images of one kind with those of another kind– for example, dragon, phoenix, bamboo, porcelain, silk were used in a certain period, which were, eventually, replaced by some other materials. This is the risk you have to take when you present yourself as a totality. I myself am frightened by collectives, because I used to serve in the military, and I lived together with over 60 persons for many years. I’m left with two aftereffects from that experience. The first one is my hatred for homogeneity. I think I’m naturally immune to all things homogenous, either internally or externally. Basically I think a positive view on homogeneity is itself questionable. The second one is my suspicion for collectives.

(摘自徐坦对汪关征的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Wang Guanzheng)

Interviewed: Sun Jin, Peng Yao

Time: Noon, January 29, 2007

Location: Sun & Peng Studio, 798, Beijing

 

 

社会 society social socially 24

反应 reaction (feedback response respond) 8

(不)接受 accept acceptance (take in rejected) 7

普通(人,观众) ordinary (people / audience) general public 9

公众 general public 2

观众 audience(s) 22

关系 relation relationship has something to do with 11

机制 system mechanism 8

机构 organization 5

美术馆 museum 8

 

独立 independence 2

政府 government 5

政治 political 3

自由 free 3

 

和谐社会 harmonious society 9

do make 40

do engage in tackle 1

中国 China Chinese 31

西方 the West western 19

发展 development drifting 5

成功 success successful 10

商业()  commercialization commercial commercially 4

游戏 game 4

舒服 comfortable 3

学术 academic academics academically 11

农民 farmer 5

强奸 rape raped 2

通奸 adultery 2

生效 effectiveness effective 2

市场 market marketing 5

投机份子 opportunitists 1

 

 

Source of Keywords:

 

 

Q: You just mentioned the public perception of your works and the natural influence thereof, I have the feeling that most of your early works are not as socially-conscious as the newer ones.

A: (Sun) Actually all the materials come from the society, it’s just that some of them come from the relatively private aspect of social life, and some are better-known materials, such as news subjects, social topics. Actually all topics are social topics, it’s just that the attention they draw are of different levels. Also, I don’t think I would go with the idea that currently all subjects derive from the society, I think a lot of them can still find roots in ourselves, but when they are confronted with the society, you’ll need an appropriate translation and conversion system, and then you’ll end up choosing relatively typical materials. It seems to me that you just can’t take the problem separately.

(Peng) In the early days when we were young, our relation with the society are not so complicated, or, shall we say, we were not yet an integrated part of the society, therefore the works we did and the materials we used are not so socially-conscious. But I reckon that anything could be used as material, and you are going to engage in the society more and more as you grow up, eventually you’ll choose those materials in the society that interest you. So I don’t think that subject is the key issue here.

Q: A lot of your works in the exhibitions are focused on the relationship with the society. Do you perceive any differences in China and the West in terms of audience’s acceptance and feedback?

A: (Sun) Yes, but I think the differences were more typical a few years ago, before and around 2000. The opening-up of China was still in its early phase back then, and most people did not accept what is called contemporary art, they were too impatient when watching. Now there seems to be a unified consensus, western and Chinese audience are aware of this (Chinese) contemporary art thing, they know there is a bunch of people doing weird stuff, and their first reaction towards them are “Ah! Another performance art! “Thus art is reduced to a term, when someone puzzles over something; he would call it performance art. He has this category in his mind, and can group it, and then it’s easy for him to take in.

(Peng) At that time the West was more interested in the political confrontational aspect, it has something to do with the whole Chinese ideology. The country was not open enough back then, and biennale still didn’t emerge in Shanghai……all the western audiences would interpret your work from the political perspective. There were two kinds of Chinese audience, and this is particularly interesting, the first kind is artistically-informed people, or people somewhat related to art and culture; and the other kind is people who has no relationship whatsoever with culture. As it turned out, the culture-savvy part happened to find our works incomprehensible, they even made a lot of protests or accusation against them. On the other hand, those who have no relationship with art or culture, including policemen……one of my exhibitions was banned, and I chatted with many ordinary people like policemen and persons in Residents’ Committee, you know, ordinary people, they all went to see the exhibition and found it super interesting.

And now governments are organizing biennales, contemporary art has become a card in their hands, something that everyone can and should take advantage of. So it’s like a slogan, a presentation used to impress the international community, and here’s when the game with the official starts.

A: (Peng) In the ’90s, before 2000, when something happens, you can calm down to observe your surroundings, to perceive the changes of everybody in detail. But now, especially in recent years, the whole atmosphere in the art scene is volatile. It has become difficult for me to try to understand the changes outside, and the situation is complicated now……take our studio in 798 for example, this place is so touristy now, it’s hard to position yourself. But we do work here as of today. Now the government is into contemporary art too, a lot of opportunitists are into this, and there’s the gallery frenzy, a dozen of new galleries would turn up here every day. You also witness the price of Chinese contemporary art skyrocketing on the international market, I have the feeling that many artists have lost themselves, they have become less pure; in the old days, underground is underground, the artists make art, and that’s it. Nowadays everyone collaborates with everyone, and you participate in their game more frequently, the game is getting more and more complex, Stage Two!

Q: So do you think that general public has become better connoisseurs of contemporary art?

A: (Peng) I think maybe they do find it easier to accept, but what art offers them, on the contrary, has decreased. Back then they would try to understand why these people do what they’re doing, now they get themselves a concept, like I tell you this word, ‘performance art‘, they go ‘Ah, so this is performance art!’, and there it is. Something is missing for the general public, the minute they are given a safe explanation, they are deprived of the thinking process.

(Sun) There are actually two sides of the coin. For the artist, I think they are also trying to figure out what kind of audience they have. In the ’90s there was this cynic group, you may want to call them early [Chinese] contemporary artist, they were the enfant terrible, going to the extreme when rejected by the public. By now, however, many artists have come to realize that in order to play the enfant terrible card you need to first have the endorsement by the audience. So both sides were moving towards each other, when the two reach a point of coordination, by which I mean they can work together seamlessly and feel free at the same time, that’s what you may call the harmonious society. Back then reform and opening were everything, people would do anything for breakthrough. Things have changed, now the overall structure is fixed, it’s a matter of coordination. This is in synch with the general situation of the country, the concept of harmonious society has posed a big question to art as well. Of course every era has its own issues, but the issues we are facing now in a harmonious society is of not much difference with those in the western countries. This is because harmonious society is commonplace in the West, and artists there feel free and suffocated at the same time. This is gonna happen in China at some point in the future, we’ll see.

(Peng) For instance, I’m initially exciting upon learning that certain large foreign organization is coming to Beijing to open a museum, because it means there will finally be a decent museum showcasing contemporary art in Beijing and in China. But soon I come to realize the potential crisis; I don’t know whether this thing would do any good to Beijing and to Chinese contemporary art as a whole, will it help pushing the scene towards the good or bad, healthy or unhealthy direction? There are two sides to these things. What the foreign museums try to do is to port the whole prestigious western museum system to Beijing, but if you take a look at exhibitions in the West, you’ll see how the corrupted museum system stifles the whole art scene. This explains all the buzz about the whole lot of Chinese artists participating in the Venice Biennale that year; they witnessed the potential of Chinese contemporary art in the West. But is there really any potential? Granted, you can’t say there’s zero potential, but the point is westerners realized that they could find new possibilities in China, and these possibilities are potential, energy, frightening stuff. While in the West, the whole system has provided a, in Sun Yuan’s word, harmonious society for everybody, people have to play by the rules and to strive for breakthrough in between. After some time, everybody ends up playing tricks, for me this is really not the ideal way of life. So I think the western museum system‘s coming into China will be a double-edged sword for the artists. Wouldn’t you kill a lot of possibilities if you bring in something lifeless? It helps us to operate under the rules and procedure, that’s for sure, and of course an oft-heard criticism on Chinese artists or the whole Chinese art market by western museums is the lack of rules and procedure, but this is precisely the characteristic and charisma of China. I prefer a lifestyle with lots of accidents, if Chinese contemporary art is drifting towards a completely expected, accident-free direction, I think it’s time for the artists to think about what they can do to stimulate the scene.

Q: Economic changes will have an influence on art and the relation between artists and the audience, but there are a lot of artists seem to ignore the audience, aren’t there?

A: (Sun) This is about knowledge being in synch with the government, in other words, a harmonious society is the end result of a peaceful evolution process. Commercialization and the participation of economics contribute to the realization of a harmonious society. There are rules, economic rules, that you would want to follow and to refer to as a kind of artist who cares not only about yourself, but also about the audience. One can’t deny the fact that all people regard economical success as the measurement of success in general, even artists themselves, so do the audiences. It’s a point of reference. So economics actually works as the coordinator and thus triggers the peaceful evolution. I’ll say that artists and audiences are not the sole driving force of the harmonious society, there must be some other interfering factors. So how to maintain consistency? How to reach the same coordinated point? Economics is being used as a reference point in many cases.

(Peng) Market and academic studies call for different approaches. Marketing guys take care of the market, scholars take care of academic studies, so it won’t do any good to have people like us to talk about issues without our range.

(Sun) Sometimes people say ‘academic is itself’, I’m not sure I agree with them on that: do you think about the question of success when doing academic works? If the question crosses your mind, then there shall be a point of coordination somewhere. When all the factors are mixed together in the optimized proportion, it will appear to be something successful and will generate some momentum for your academic studies. Here, the word successful means not only commercial success, but success in every dimension. Without this all-dimentional success as the point of reference, academic studies will be of no direction or value – it has no coordinated platform. Actually academics all work on a platform, there is the standard for measuring success, which is effectiveness, [commercial-wise and academic-wise] effective commercially or academically. There’s a certain value in it.

Q: Do you care about the negative part in the audiences’ feedback?

A: (Sun) The audiencesfeedback are exactly the thing I care about.

(Peng) But it’s not important how they respond to our works, as long as there is response at all. We don’t really care whether they are positive or negative, we care about the fact that they do have reaction.

(Sun) Or shall we say the best case is that we have mixed response; rape mixed with adultery, if you will. Being raped and yet reaching orgasm, committing adultery but with a bit of passiveness, that’s a good mixture. I’m not into pure compulsory stuff, but reaction is a must.

Q: I think one of the major differences between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou is the different level of consciousness towards power. It’s the strongest in Beijing, weaker in Shanghai, and the weakest in Guangzhou. Do you have anything to say about this?

A: (Sun) I don’t particularly feel that way, this power thing you mentioned. I don’t know if there’s power or not, but the way I see it, power is of no relevance as long as you feel comfortable and happy. Because you are in the lower tiers of others’ power mechanism, you are not the top guy, you feel good being here, and you stay here, I think that’s enough. It’s not necessarily the same thing as the farmer‘s corporation, in which power is above everything, even daily meals are related to power, if you can’t get hold of this power, you are not able to survive……by power I mean a kind of dominate/subordinate relation, not necessarily political power.

time period period of time 时间[shi jian]

Q:外界对在中国发生的艺术的概括,这种情况是不是真的与整个中国的状况有关?而且是不是现在很多艺术家很相似确实是有其内在的原因而不止是外界的原因呢?

A:其实我觉得这个问题……对我来讲……就像刚才你要让我谈对目前这个东西的判断和这个判断基于什么,比如说有的时候我们说一天就是很长的时间,那就要看具体的一个事情,比如说刷一次牙、吃一顿饭,可能一个小时,这个时间事件之间就是这么一个关系,但是当一个文化的东西被判断或者被准确的判断,我觉得这个时间非常漫长,其实就像我们97年那个展览……

Well, actually I think, to me at least, this question… Like just now you wanted me to talk about my judgment on this thing at the present moment and what the basis of my judgment is. For example, sometimes we say a day is a long period of time, but that depends on specific events, such as brushing one’s teeth once, having a meal, which might take an hour. That is the relationship between time and events. But when something cultural is judged, or judged precisely, I think the time involved here is very long. Actually it’s like our show in 1997…

(摘自徐坦对汪关征的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Wang Guanzheng)

Interviewed: Sun Jin, Peng Yao

Time: Noon, January 29, 2007

Location: Sun & Peng Studio, 798, Beijing

 

 

社会 society social socially 24

反应 reaction (feedback response respond) 8

(不)接受 accept acceptance (take in rejected) 7

普通(人,观众) ordinary (people / audience) general public 9

公众 general public 2

观众 audience(s) 22

关系 relation relationship has something to do with 11

机制 system mechanism 8

机构 organization 5

美术馆 museum 8

 

独立 independence 2

政府 government 5

政治 political 3

自由 free 3

 

和谐社会 harmonious society 9

do make 40

do engage in tackle 1

中国 China Chinese 31

西方 the West western 19

发展 development drifting 5

成功 success successful 10

商业()  commercialization commercial commercially 4

游戏 game 4

舒服 comfortable 3

学术 academic academics academically 11

农民 farmer 5

强奸 rape raped 2

通奸 adultery 2

生效 effectiveness effective 2

市场 market marketing 5

投机份子 opportunitists 1

 

 

Source of Keywords:

 

 

Q: You just mentioned the public perception of your works and the natural influence thereof, I have the feeling that most of your early works are not as socially-conscious as the newer ones.

A: (Sun) Actually all the materials come from the society, it’s just that some of them come from the relatively private aspect of social life, and some are better-known materials, such as news subjects, social topics. Actually all topics are social topics, it’s just that the attention they draw are of different levels. Also, I don’t think I would go with the idea that currently all subjects derive from the society, I think a lot of them can still find roots in ourselves, but when they are confronted with the society, you’ll need an appropriate translation and conversion system, and then you’ll end up choosing relatively typical materials. It seems to me that you just can’t take the problem separately.

(Peng) In the early days when we were young, our relation with the society are not so complicated, or, shall we say, we were not yet an integrated part of the society, therefore the works we did and the materials we used are not so socially-conscious. But I reckon that anything could be used as material, and you are going to engage in the society more and more as you grow up, eventually you’ll choose those materials in the society that interest you. So I don’t think that subject is the key issue here.

Q: A lot of your works in the exhibitions are focused on the relationship with the society. Do you perceive any differences in China and the West in terms of audience’s acceptance and feedback?

A: (Sun) Yes, but I think the differences were more typical a few years ago, before and around 2000. The opening-up of China was still in its early phase back then, and most people did not accept what is called contemporary art, they were too impatient when watching. Now there seems to be a unified consensus, western and Chinese audience are aware of this (Chinese) contemporary art thing, they know there is a bunch of people doing weird stuff, and their first reaction towards them are “Ah! Another performance art! “Thus art is reduced to a term, when someone puzzles over something; he would call it performance art. He has this category in his mind, and can group it, and then it’s easy for him to take in.

(Peng) At that time the West was more interested in the political confrontational aspect, it has something to do with the whole Chinese ideology. The country was not open enough back then, and biennale still didn’t emerge in Shanghai……all the western audiences would interpret your work from the political perspective. There were two kinds of Chinese audience, and this is particularly interesting, the first kind is artistically-informed people, or people somewhat related to art and culture; and the other kind is people who has no relationship whatsoever with culture. As it turned out, the culture-savvy part happened to find our works incomprehensible, they even made a lot of protests or accusation against them. On the other hand, those who have no relationship with art or culture, including policemen……one of my exhibitions was banned, and I chatted with many ordinary people like policemen and persons in Residents’ Committee, you know, ordinary people, they all went to see the exhibition and found it super interesting.

And now governments are organizing biennales, contemporary art has become a card in their hands, something that everyone can and should take advantage of. So it’s like a slogan, a presentation used to impress the international community, and here’s when the game with the official starts.

A: (Peng) In the ’90s, before 2000, when something happens, you can calm down to observe your surroundings, to perceive the changes of everybody in detail. But now, especially in recent years, the whole atmosphere in the art scene is volatile. It has become difficult for me to try to understand the changes outside, and the situation is complicated now……take our studio in 798 for example, this place is so touristy now, it’s hard to position yourself. But we do work here as of today. Now the government is into contemporary art too, a lot of opportunitists are into this, and there’s the gallery frenzy, a dozen of new galleries would turn up here every day. You also witness the price of Chinese contemporary art skyrocketing on the international market, I have the feeling that many artists have lost themselves, they have become less pure; in the old days, underground is underground, the artists make art, and that’s it. Nowadays everyone collaborates with everyone, and you participate in their game more frequently, the game is getting more and more complex, Stage Two!

Q: So do you think that general public has become better connoisseurs of contemporary art?

A: (Peng) I think maybe they do find it easier to accept, but what art offers them, on the contrary, has decreased. Back then they would try to understand why these people do what they’re doing, now they get themselves a concept, like I tell you this word, ‘performance art‘, they go ‘Ah, so this is performance art!’, and there it is. Something is missing for the general public, the minute they are given a safe explanation, they are deprived of the thinking process.

(Sun) There are actually two sides of the coin. For the artist, I think they are also trying to figure out what kind of audience they have. In the ’90s there was this cynic group, you may want to call them early [Chinese] contemporary artist, they were the enfant terrible, going to the extreme when rejected by the public. By now, however, many artists have come to realize that in order to play the enfant terrible card you need to first have the endorsement by the audience. So both sides were moving towards each other, when the two reach a point of coordination, by which I mean they can work together seamlessly and feel free at the same time, that’s what you may call the harmonious society. Back then reform and opening were everything, people would do anything for breakthrough. Things have changed, now the overall structure is fixed, it’s a matter of coordination. This is in synch with the general situation of the country, the concept of harmonious society has posed a big question to art as well. Of course every era has its own issues, but the issues we are facing now in a harmonious society is of not much difference with those in the western countries. This is because harmonious society is commonplace in the West, and artists there feel free and suffocated at the same time. This is gonna happen in China at some point in the future, we’ll see.

(Peng) For instance, I’m initially exciting upon learning that certain large foreign organization is coming to Beijing to open a museum, because it means there will finally be a decent museum showcasing contemporary art in Beijing and in China. But soon I come to realize the potential crisis; I don’t know whether this thing would do any good to Beijing and to Chinese contemporary art as a whole, will it help pushing the scene towards the good or bad, healthy or unhealthy direction? There are two sides to these things. What the foreign museums try to do is to port the whole prestigious western museum system to Beijing, but if you take a look at exhibitions in the West, you’ll see how the corrupted museum system stifles the whole art scene. This explains all the buzz about the whole lot of Chinese artists participating in the Venice Biennale that year; they witnessed the potential of Chinese contemporary art in the West. But is there really any potential? Granted, you can’t say there’s zero potential, but the point is westerners realized that they could find new possibilities in China, and these possibilities are potential, energy, frightening stuff. While in the West, the whole system has provided a, in Sun Yuan’s word, harmonious society for everybody, people have to play by the rules and to strive for breakthrough in between. After some time, everybody ends up playing tricks, for me this is really not the ideal way of life. So I think the western museum system‘s coming into China will be a double-edged sword for the artists. Wouldn’t you kill a lot of possibilities if you bring in something lifeless? It helps us to operate under the rules and procedure, that’s for sure, and of course an oft-heard criticism on Chinese artists or the whole Chinese art market by western museums is the lack of rules and procedure, but this is precisely the characteristic and charisma of China. I prefer a lifestyle with lots of accidents, if Chinese contemporary art is drifting towards a completely expected, accident-free direction, I think it’s time for the artists to think about what they can do to stimulate the scene.

Q: Economic changes will have an influence on art and the relation between artists and the audience, but there are a lot of artists seem to ignore the audience, aren’t there?

A: (Sun) This is about knowledge being in synch with the government, in other words, a harmonious society is the end result of a peaceful evolution process. Commercialization and the participation of economics contribute to the realization of a harmonious society. There are rules, economic rules, that you would want to follow and to refer to as a kind of artist who cares not only about yourself, but also about the audience. One can’t deny the fact that all people regard economical success as the measurement of success in general, even artists themselves, so do the audiences. It’s a point of reference. So economics actually works as the coordinator and thus triggers the peaceful evolution. I’ll say that artists and audiences are not the sole driving force of the harmonious society, there must be some other interfering factors. So how to maintain consistency? How to reach the same coordinated point? Economics is being used as a reference point in many cases.

(Peng) Market and academic studies call for different approaches. Marketing guys take care of the market, scholars take care of academic studies, so it won’t do any good to have people like us to talk about issues without our range.

(Sun) Sometimes people say ‘academic is itself’, I’m not sure I agree with them on that: do you think about the question of success when doing academic works? If the question crosses your mind, then there shall be a point of coordination somewhere. When all the factors are mixed together in the optimized proportion, it will appear to be something successful and will generate some momentum for your academic studies. Here, the word successful means not only commercial success, but success in every dimension. Without this all-dimentional success as the point of reference, academic studies will be of no direction or value – it has no coordinated platform. Actually academics all work on a platform, there is the standard for measuring success, which is effectiveness, [commercial-wise and academic-wise] effective commercially or academically. There’s a certain value in it.

Q: Do you care about the negative part in the audiences’ feedback?

A: (Sun) The audiencesfeedback are exactly the thing I care about.

(Peng) But it’s not important how they respond to our works, as long as there is response at all. We don’t really care whether they are positive or negative, we care about the fact that they do have reaction.

(Sun) Or shall we say the best case is that we have mixed response; rape mixed with adultery, if you will. Being raped and yet reaching orgasm, committing adultery but with a bit of passiveness, that’s a good mixture. I’m not into pure compulsory stuff, but reaction is a must.

Q: I think one of the major differences between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou is the different level of consciousness towards power. It’s the strongest in Beijing, weaker in Shanghai, and the weakest in Guangzhou. Do you have anything to say about this?

A: (Sun) I don’t particularly feel that way, this power thing you mentioned. I don’t know if there’s power or not, but the way I see it, power is of no relevance as long as you feel comfortable and happy. Because you are in the lower tiers of others’ power mechanism, you are not the top guy, you feel good being here, and you stay here, I think that’s enough. It’s not necessarily the same thing as the farmer‘s corporation, in which power is above everything, even daily meals are related to power, if you can’t get hold of this power, you are not able to survive……by power I mean a kind of dominate/subordinate relation, not necessarily political power.

tendency inclination 倾向(性)[qing xiang(xing)]

其实我在1996年做那个作品《生产》的时候就在调查这个问题,我为什么去了很多现场,去了公共空间?他们为什么要在这个地方成天坐着倾听别人谈自己?实际上就是在分享一个日常话语,就是说某一种个人在这样的一种声音里面已经变得非常不重要了,或者他认为不安全,那么通过这种集体主义的这种场所集体的一种话语方式,潜在的就把某种个人的东西转换成一种倾向公共声音,这样的话,大家都分享一种公共话语安全

Why did I go to a lot of sites and public spaces? Why did they sit there all day and listen to the others talking about themselves? They are in fact sharing a daily discourse. In other words, certain individuals have become unimportant in such voices, or that they think it unsafe, so that through this collective site and collective discourse, certain individualistic things are transformed into a public voice with some [attitude] tendency. Thus, everyone shares this safety of public discourse.

(摘自徐坦对汪关征的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Wang Guanzheng)

Interviewed: Sun Jin, Peng Yao

Time: Noon, January 29, 2007

Location: Sun & Peng Studio, 798, Beijing

 

 

社会 society social socially 24

反应 reaction (feedback response respond) 8

(不)接受 accept acceptance (take in rejected) 7

普通(人,观众) ordinary (people / audience) general public 9

公众 general public 2

观众 audience(s) 22

关系 relation relationship has something to do with 11

机制 system mechanism 8

机构 organization 5

美术馆 museum 8

 

独立 independence 2

政府 government 5

政治 political 3

自由 free 3

 

和谐社会 harmonious society 9

do make 40

do engage in tackle 1

中国 China Chinese 31

西方 the West western 19

发展 development drifting 5

成功 success successful 10

商业()  commercialization commercial commercially 4

游戏 game 4

舒服 comfortable 3

学术 academic academics academically 11

农民 farmer 5

强奸 rape raped 2

通奸 adultery 2

生效 effectiveness effective 2

市场 market marketing 5

投机份子 opportunitists 1

 

 

Source of Keywords:

 

 

Q: You just mentioned the public perception of your works and the natural influence thereof, I have the feeling that most of your early works are not as socially-conscious as the newer ones.

A: (Sun) Actually all the materials come from the society, it’s just that some of them come from the relatively private aspect of social life, and some are better-known materials, such as news subjects, social topics. Actually all topics are social topics, it’s just that the attention they draw are of different levels. Also, I don’t think I would go with the idea that currently all subjects derive from the society, I think a lot of them can still find roots in ourselves, but when they are confronted with the society, you’ll need an appropriate translation and conversion system, and then you’ll end up choosing relatively typical materials. It seems to me that you just can’t take the problem separately.

(Peng) In the early days when we were young, our relation with the society are not so complicated, or, shall we say, we were not yet an integrated part of the society, therefore the works we did and the materials we used are not so socially-conscious. But I reckon that anything could be used as material, and you are going to engage in the society more and more as you grow up, eventually you’ll choose those materials in the society that interest you. So I don’t think that subject is the key issue here.

Q: A lot of your works in the exhibitions are focused on the relationship with the society. Do you perceive any differences in China and the West in terms of audience’s acceptance and feedback?

A: (Sun) Yes, but I think the differences were more typical a few years ago, before and around 2000. The opening-up of China was still in its early phase back then, and most people did not accept what is called contemporary art, they were too impatient when watching. Now there seems to be a unified consensus, western and Chinese audience are aware of this (Chinese) contemporary art thing, they know there is a bunch of people doing weird stuff, and their first reaction towards them are “Ah! Another performance art! “Thus art is reduced to a term, when someone puzzles over something; he would call it performance art. He has this category in his mind, and can group it, and then it’s easy for him to take in.

(Peng) At that time the West was more interested in the political confrontational aspect, it has something to do with the whole Chinese ideology. The country was not open enough back then, and biennale still didn’t emerge in Shanghai……all the western audiences would interpret your work from the political perspective. There were two kinds of Chinese audience, and this is particularly interesting, the first kind is artistically-informed people, or people somewhat related to art and culture; and the other kind is people who has no relationship whatsoever with culture. As it turned out, the culture-savvy part happened to find our works incomprehensible, they even made a lot of protests or accusation against them. On the other hand, those who have no relationship with art or culture, including policemen……one of my exhibitions was banned, and I chatted with many ordinary people like policemen and persons in Residents’ Committee, you know, ordinary people, they all went to see the exhibition and found it super interesting.

And now governments are organizing biennales, contemporary art has become a card in their hands, something that everyone can and should take advantage of. So it’s like a slogan, a presentation used to impress the international community, and here’s when the game with the official starts.

A: (Peng) In the ’90s, before 2000, when something happens, you can calm down to observe your surroundings, to perceive the changes of everybody in detail. But now, especially in recent years, the whole atmosphere in the art scene is volatile. It has become difficult for me to try to understand the changes outside, and the situation is complicated now……take our studio in 798 for example, this place is so touristy now, it’s hard to position yourself. But we do work here as of today. Now the government is into contemporary art too, a lot of opportunitists are into this, and there’s the gallery frenzy, a dozen of new galleries would turn up here every day. You also witness the price of Chinese contemporary art skyrocketing on the international market, I have the feeling that many artists have lost themselves, they have become less pure; in the old days, underground is underground, the artists make art, and that’s it. Nowadays everyone collaborates with everyone, and you participate in their game more frequently, the game is getting more and more complex, Stage Two!

Q: So do you think that general public has become better connoisseurs of contemporary art?

A: (Peng) I think maybe they do find it easier to accept, but what art offers them, on the contrary, has decreased. Back then they would try to understand why these people do what they’re doing, now they get themselves a concept, like I tell you this word, ‘performance art‘, they go ‘Ah, so this is performance art!’, and there it is. Something is missing for the general public, the minute they are given a safe explanation, they are deprived of the thinking process.

(Sun) There are actually two sides of the coin. For the artist, I think they are also trying to figure out what kind of audience they have. In the ’90s there was this cynic group, you may want to call them early [Chinese] contemporary artist, they were the enfant terrible, going to the extreme when rejected by the public. By now, however, many artists have come to realize that in order to play the enfant terrible card you need to first have the endorsement by the audience. So both sides were moving towards each other, when the two reach a point of coordination, by which I mean they can work together seamlessly and feel free at the same time, that’s what you may call the harmonious society. Back then reform and opening were everything, people would do anything for breakthrough. Things have changed, now the overall structure is fixed, it’s a matter of coordination. This is in synch with the general situation of the country, the concept of harmonious society has posed a big question to art as well. Of course every era has its own issues, but the issues we are facing now in a harmonious society is of not much difference with those in the western countries. This is because harmonious society is commonplace in the West, and artists there feel free and suffocated at the same time. This is gonna happen in China at some point in the future, we’ll see.

(Peng) For instance, I’m initially exciting upon learning that certain large foreign organization is coming to Beijing to open a museum, because it means there will finally be a decent museum showcasing contemporary art in Beijing and in China. But soon I come to realize the potential crisis; I don’t know whether this thing would do any good to Beijing and to Chinese contemporary art as a whole, will it help pushing the scene towards the good or bad, healthy or unhealthy direction? There are two sides to these things. What the foreign museums try to do is to port the whole prestigious western museum system to Beijing, but if you take a look at exhibitions in the West, you’ll see how the corrupted museum system stifles the whole art scene. This explains all the buzz about the whole lot of Chinese artists participating in the Venice Biennale that year; they witnessed the potential of Chinese contemporary art in the West. But is there really any potential? Granted, you can’t say there’s zero potential, but the point is westerners realized that they could find new possibilities in China, and these possibilities are potential, energy, frightening stuff. While in the West, the whole system has provided a, in Sun Yuan’s word, harmonious society for everybody, people have to play by the rules and to strive for breakthrough in between. After some time, everybody ends up playing tricks, for me this is really not the ideal way of life. So I think the western museum system‘s coming into China will be a double-edged sword for the artists. Wouldn’t you kill a lot of possibilities if you bring in something lifeless? It helps us to operate under the rules and procedure, that’s for sure, and of course an oft-heard criticism on Chinese artists or the whole Chinese art market by western museums is the lack of rules and procedure, but this is precisely the characteristic and charisma of China. I prefer a lifestyle with lots of accidents, if Chinese contemporary art is drifting towards a completely expected, accident-free direction, I think it’s time for the artists to think about what they can do to stimulate the scene.

Q: Economic changes will have an influence on art and the relation between artists and the audience, but there are a lot of artists seem to ignore the audience, aren’t there?

A: (Sun) This is about knowledge being in synch with the government, in other words, a harmonious society is the end result of a peaceful evolution process. Commercialization and the participation of economics contribute to the realization of a harmonious society. There are rules, economic rules, that you would want to follow and to refer to as a kind of artist who cares not only about yourself, but also about the audience. One can’t deny the fact that all people regard economical success as the measurement of success in general, even artists themselves, so do the audiences. It’s a point of reference. So economics actually works as the coordinator and thus triggers the peaceful evolution. I’ll say that artists and audiences are not the sole driving force of the harmonious society, there must be some other interfering factors. So how to maintain consistency? How to reach the same coordinated point? Economics is being used as a reference point in many cases.

(Peng) Market and academic studies call for different approaches. Marketing guys take care of the market, scholars take care of academic studies, so it won’t do any good to have people like us to talk about issues without our range.

(Sun) Sometimes people say ‘academic is itself’, I’m not sure I agree with them on that: do you think about the question of success when doing academic works? If the question crosses your mind, then there shall be a point of coordination somewhere. When all the factors are mixed together in the optimized proportion, it will appear to be something successful and will generate some momentum for your academic studies. Here, the word successful means not only commercial success, but success in every dimension. Without this all-dimentional success as the point of reference, academic studies will be of no direction or value – it has no coordinated platform. Actually academics all work on a platform, there is the standard for measuring success, which is effectiveness, [commercial-wise and academic-wise] effective commercially or academically. There’s a certain value in it.

Q: Do you care about the negative part in the audiences’ feedback?

A: (Sun) The audiencesfeedback are exactly the thing I care about.

(Peng) But it’s not important how they respond to our works, as long as there is response at all. We don’t really care whether they are positive or negative, we care about the fact that they do have reaction.

(Sun) Or shall we say the best case is that we have mixed response; rape mixed with adultery, if you will. Being raped and yet reaching orgasm, committing adultery but with a bit of passiveness, that’s a good mixture. I’m not into pure compulsory stuff, but reaction is a must.

Q: I think one of the major differences between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou is the different level of consciousness towards power. It’s the strongest in Beijing, weaker in Shanghai, and the weakest in Guangzhou. Do you have anything to say about this?

A: (Sun) I don’t particularly feel that way, this power thing you mentioned. I don’t know if there’s power or not, but the way I see it, power is of no relevance as long as you feel comfortable and happy. Because you are in the lower tiers of others’ power mechanism, you are not the top guy, you feel good being here, and you stay here, I think that’s enough. It’s not necessarily the same thing as the farmer‘s corporation, in which power is above everything, even daily meals are related to power, if you can’t get hold of this power, you are not able to survive……by power I mean a kind of dominate/subordinate relation, not necessarily political power.

temptation 诱惑[you huo]

生存方式也一样,我觉得生存首先是不概念生存,就是你按照……你不用受到某一种潜在的诱惑,或者受到某种潜在的理论的挑衅,你把你的生活放在某一种暗示上,这种暗示就表明你是某一种文化态度,我觉得这个在北京还是比较明显的,就有的时候会具体地分配到穿衣、抽哪种烟、戴哪种眼镜,都有一种文化身份在里边,我觉得文化身份也是致命的,有的时候你的态度止于文化身份上,当你只满足于你代表了某一种文化身份的时候,其实你也就停止你再往下思考的一个机会,就是你表明了你……我感觉这就是我的生存方式

I think, first of all, living is not a kind of conceptual living; you don’t have to be lured by some hidden temptation, or challenged by some hidden theory. You put your life on a certain hint, and this hint reveals your cultural attitude of some sort. I think this is quite obvious in Beijing, and this is realized concretely in dressing, cigarettes you smoke, eyeglasses you wear – they are all injected with some kind of cultural identity. And I think cultural identity is also lethal: sometimes your attitude is determined by your cultural identity; when you become satisfied with your representing certain cultural identity, you actually stop thinking any further… This is how I feel I am living.

(摘自徐坦对汪关征的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Wang Guanzheng)

Interviewed: Sun Jin, Peng Yao

Time: Noon, January 29, 2007

Location: Sun & Peng Studio, 798, Beijing

 

 

社会 society social socially 24

反应 reaction (feedback response respond) 8

(不)接受 accept acceptance (take in rejected) 7

普通(人,观众) ordinary (people / audience) general public 9

公众 general public 2

观众 audience(s) 22

关系 relation relationship has something to do with 11

机制 system mechanism 8

机构 organization 5

美术馆 museum 8

 

独立 independence 2

政府 government 5

政治 political 3

自由 free 3

 

和谐社会 harmonious society 9

do make 40

do engage in tackle 1

中国 China Chinese 31

西方 the West western 19

发展 development drifting 5

成功 success successful 10

商业()  commercialization commercial commercially 4

游戏 game 4

舒服 comfortable 3

学术 academic academics academically 11

农民 farmer 5

强奸 rape raped 2

通奸 adultery 2

生效 effectiveness effective 2

市场 market marketing 5

投机份子 opportunitists 1

 

 

Source of Keywords:

 

 

Q: You just mentioned the public perception of your works and the natural influence thereof, I have the feeling that most of your early works are not as socially-conscious as the newer ones.

A: (Sun) Actually all the materials come from the society, it’s just that some of them come from the relatively private aspect of social life, and some are better-known materials, such as news subjects, social topics. Actually all topics are social topics, it’s just that the attention they draw are of different levels. Also, I don’t think I would go with the idea that currently all subjects derive from the society, I think a lot of them can still find roots in ourselves, but when they are confronted with the society, you’ll need an appropriate translation and conversion system, and then you’ll end up choosing relatively typical materials. It seems to me that you just can’t take the problem separately.

(Peng) In the early days when we were young, our relation with the society are not so complicated, or, shall we say, we were not yet an integrated part of the society, therefore the works we did and the materials we used are not so socially-conscious. But I reckon that anything could be used as material, and you are going to engage in the society more and more as you grow up, eventually you’ll choose those materials in the society that interest you. So I don’t think that subject is the key issue here.

Q: A lot of your works in the exhibitions are focused on the relationship with the society. Do you perceive any differences in China and the West in terms of audience’s acceptance and feedback?

A: (Sun) Yes, but I think the differences were more typical a few years ago, before and around 2000. The opening-up of China was still in its early phase back then, and most people did not accept what is called contemporary art, they were too impatient when watching. Now there seems to be a unified consensus, western and Chinese audience are aware of this (Chinese) contemporary art thing, they know there is a bunch of people doing weird stuff, and their first reaction towards them are “Ah! Another performance art! “Thus art is reduced to a term, when someone puzzles over something; he would call it performance art. He has this category in his mind, and can group it, and then it’s easy for him to take in.

(Peng) At that time the West was more interested in the political confrontational aspect, it has something to do with the whole Chinese ideology. The country was not open enough back then, and biennale still didn’t emerge in Shanghai……all the western audiences would interpret your work from the political perspective. There were two kinds of Chinese audience, and this is particularly interesting, the first kind is artistically-informed people, or people somewhat related to art and culture; and the other kind is people who has no relationship whatsoever with culture. As it turned out, the culture-savvy part happened to find our works incomprehensible, they even made a lot of protests or accusation against them. On the other hand, those who have no relationship with art or culture, including policemen……one of my exhibitions was banned, and I chatted with many ordinary people like policemen and persons in Residents’ Committee, you know, ordinary people, they all went to see the exhibition and found it super interesting.

And now governments are organizing biennales, contemporary art has become a card in their hands, something that everyone can and should take advantage of. So it’s like a slogan, a presentation used to impress the international community, and here’s when the game with the official starts.

A: (Peng) In the ’90s, before 2000, when something happens, you can calm down to observe your surroundings, to perceive the changes of everybody in detail. But now, especially in recent years, the whole atmosphere in the art scene is volatile. It has become difficult for me to try to understand the changes outside, and the situation is complicated now……take our studio in 798 for example, this place is so touristy now, it’s hard to position yourself. But we do work here as of today. Now the government is into contemporary art too, a lot of opportunitists are into this, and there’s the gallery frenzy, a dozen of new galleries would turn up here every day. You also witness the price of Chinese contemporary art skyrocketing on the international market, I have the feeling that many artists have lost themselves, they have become less pure; in the old days, underground is underground, the artists make art, and that’s it. Nowadays everyone collaborates with everyone, and you participate in their game more frequently, the game is getting more and more complex, Stage Two!

Q: So do you think that general public has become better connoisseurs of contemporary art?

A: (Peng) I think maybe they do find it easier to accept, but what art offers them, on the contrary, has decreased. Back then they would try to understand why these people do what they’re doing, now they get themselves a concept, like I tell you this word, ‘performance art‘, they go ‘Ah, so this is performance art!’, and there it is. Something is missing for the general public, the minute they are given a safe explanation, they are deprived of the thinking process.

(Sun) There are actually two sides of the coin. For the artist, I think they are also trying to figure out what kind of audience they have. In the ’90s there was this cynic group, you may want to call them early [Chinese] contemporary artist, they were the enfant terrible, going to the extreme when rejected by the public. By now, however, many artists have come to realize that in order to play the enfant terrible card you need to first have the endorsement by the audience. So both sides were moving towards each other, when the two reach a point of coordination, by which I mean they can work together seamlessly and feel free at the same time, that’s what you may call the harmonious society. Back then reform and opening were everything, people would do anything for breakthrough. Things have changed, now the overall structure is fixed, it’s a matter of coordination. This is in synch with the general situation of the country, the concept of harmonious society has posed a big question to art as well. Of course every era has its own issues, but the issues we are facing now in a harmonious society is of not much difference with those in the western countries. This is because harmonious society is commonplace in the West, and artists there feel free and suffocated at the same time. This is gonna happen in China at some point in the future, we’ll see.

(Peng) For instance, I’m initially exciting upon learning that certain large foreign organization is coming to Beijing to open a museum, because it means there will finally be a decent museum showcasing contemporary art in Beijing and in China. But soon I come to realize the potential crisis; I don’t know whether this thing would do any good to Beijing and to Chinese contemporary art as a whole, will it help pushing the scene towards the good or bad, healthy or unhealthy direction? There are two sides to these things. What the foreign museums try to do is to port the whole prestigious western museum system to Beijing, but if you take a look at exhibitions in the West, you’ll see how the corrupted museum system stifles the whole art scene. This explains all the buzz about the whole lot of Chinese artists participating in the Venice Biennale that year; they witnessed the potential of Chinese contemporary art in the West. But is there really any potential? Granted, you can’t say there’s zero potential, but the point is westerners realized that they could find new possibilities in China, and these possibilities are potential, energy, frightening stuff. While in the West, the whole system has provided a, in Sun Yuan’s word, harmonious society for everybody, people have to play by the rules and to strive for breakthrough in between. After some time, everybody ends up playing tricks, for me this is really not the ideal way of life. So I think the western museum system‘s coming into China will be a double-edged sword for the artists. Wouldn’t you kill a lot of possibilities if you bring in something lifeless? It helps us to operate under the rules and procedure, that’s for sure, and of course an oft-heard criticism on Chinese artists or the whole Chinese art market by western museums is the lack of rules and procedure, but this is precisely the characteristic and charisma of China. I prefer a lifestyle with lots of accidents, if Chinese contemporary art is drifting towards a completely expected, accident-free direction, I think it’s time for the artists to think about what they can do to stimulate the scene.

Q: Economic changes will have an influence on art and the relation between artists and the audience, but there are a lot of artists seem to ignore the audience, aren’t there?

A: (Sun) This is about knowledge being in synch with the government, in other words, a harmonious society is the end result of a peaceful evolution process. Commercialization and the participation of economics contribute to the realization of a harmonious society. There are rules, economic rules, that you would want to follow and to refer to as a kind of artist who cares not only about yourself, but also about the audience. One can’t deny the fact that all people regard economical success as the measurement of success in general, even artists themselves, so do the audiences. It’s a point of reference. So economics actually works as the coordinator and thus triggers the peaceful evolution. I’ll say that artists and audiences are not the sole driving force of the harmonious society, there must be some other interfering factors. So how to maintain consistency? How to reach the same coordinated point? Economics is being used as a reference point in many cases.

(Peng) Market and academic studies call for different approaches. Marketing guys take care of the market, scholars take care of academic studies, so it won’t do any good to have people like us to talk about issues without our range.

(Sun) Sometimes people say ‘academic is itself’, I’m not sure I agree with them on that: do you think about the question of success when doing academic works? If the question crosses your mind, then there shall be a point of coordination somewhere. When all the factors are mixed together in the optimized proportion, it will appear to be something successful and will generate some momentum for your academic studies. Here, the word successful means not only commercial success, but success in every dimension. Without this all-dimentional success as the point of reference, academic studies will be of no direction or value – it has no coordinated platform. Actually academics all work on a platform, there is the standard for measuring success, which is effectiveness, [commercial-wise and academic-wise] effective commercially or academically. There’s a certain value in it.

Q: Do you care about the negative part in the audiences’ feedback?

A: (Sun) The audiencesfeedback are exactly the thing I care about.

(Peng) But it’s not important how they respond to our works, as long as there is response at all. We don’t really care whether they are positive or negative, we care about the fact that they do have reaction.

(Sun) Or shall we say the best case is that we have mixed response; rape mixed with adultery, if you will. Being raped and yet reaching orgasm, committing adultery but with a bit of passiveness, that’s a good mixture. I’m not into pure compulsory stuff, but reaction is a must.

Q: I think one of the major differences between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou is the different level of consciousness towards power. It’s the strongest in Beijing, weaker in Shanghai, and the weakest in Guangzhou. Do you have anything to say about this?

A: (Sun) I don’t particularly feel that way, this power thing you mentioned. I don’t know if there’s power or not, but the way I see it, power is of no relevance as long as you feel comfortable and happy. Because you are in the lower tiers of others’ power mechanism, you are not the top guy, you feel good being here, and you stay here, I think that’s enough. It’s not necessarily the same thing as the farmer‘s corporation, in which power is above everything, even daily meals are related to power, if you can’t get hold of this power, you are not able to survive……by power I mean a kind of dominate/subordinate relation, not necessarily political power.

take 拿[na]

Interviewed: Liu Renhua

Time: Afternoon, Jan. 14, 2007

Location: Eudora Station Cafe, Beijing

 

 

生活 life live 15

低级趣味 vulgar taste vulgar 5

自己 self own 22

态度 attitude 6

社会 society social 7

别人 others other people other 5

接受 accept take 6

大众 public 14

大众审美 popular aesthetics 3

审美 aesthetics 7

时尚 fashion 15

消耗 drain (exhaust)               5

关系,联系, 关联 relationship relation related connections 6

不同,不一样 different 10

 

制度 system 1

 

take 7

circle 6

sell 5

发展 development develops 6

无聊 boring bored 5

商业 commercialization business commercial 4

国外 foreign countries 4

中国 China 3

形象 images 5

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: First of all, would you please generally talk about the current state of contemporary art in China?

 

A: I think there is a healthy trend of development, but there are also many problems. For example, commercialization has gone a bit too far. Consequently, people often don’t even think about what to do or how to do it, because of the influence of the market. Perhaps this commercialization leads to many problems in the quality of the work. But it’s also good – in time, people will reflect on this issue, reflect on how to do things. I don’t have much of an opinion on this. I haven’t really thought about it that much. Take the view on the system for example. There is nothing we can do about the system, because a lot of things are pre-existent; we don’t have a well-built mechanism of art as foreign countries. The existing system in China certainly has an impact on the development of art. Without certain organizations, such as foundations, artists here still depend on commercial activities. Artists in foreign countries can apply for the funds to maintain their creation. They don’t have to depend on selling their works. But the artists in China have to rely on his own works to meet his needs in creation, that is, he must sell his work in order to pay for the production fees of his next work of art. That is the problem.

 

Q: What kind of image do you want your work to present to people?

 

A: It varies from year to year. Maybe it’s more focused now, unlike the last few years, where you see different images, different outlook, like videos, etc… using many kinds of material, with all different concepts. But now I want to be more focused – what kind of work do I want to do in this one year? Installation, perhaps. Which means, your concerns are more focused, and you even consider letting go of some of the works; whereas previously you do whatever comes to your mind. Now you might not do something even if the idea comes up, because it might affect the overall image of your work. Sometimes, the strategic aspects will also be reckoned with. For example, a work of art will put aside when it’s completed. One year later, it takes effect. But sometimes, you start with a good feeling and then find the work losing its effect a year later. Put all your work aside, good or bad, wait for a year or two and check if they are still effective. If so, then it means they are related to your previous development.

 

A: Visual impact is certainly essential, but not that kind of strong outward impact deliberately made. I’m interested in a basic sensation that people see everyday but fail to perceive. It’s an impact through a different medium – perhaps volume, perhaps something else.

 

Q: What, in your opinion, is the relationship between your art and social reality?

 

A: I don’t know what kind of relationship it is. I’m only searching for a point of excitement. I get an idea only when I see or feel something that excites me; I don’t get ideas out of the blue. Maybe some people come up with an idea first and then realize it. But my work comes from something I see and think about. It’s never a rational process of making works of art.

 

Q: Then, are there any obstacles in the communication between your art and the public?

 

A: Yes, of course. But it’s not too bad, and I know what the reasons are. When you have a conversation with someone, you cannot communicate with each other due to totally different values. You still know what the other person is thinking, which is totally different from your own thinking, and vice versa. From the public‘s point of view, sometimes they see the work and feel good, feeling that they can take it, because contemporary art still contains something that is most explicit. No matter how art develops, how conceptual it becomes, the explicit visuality, like beauty, always exist. That will never change.

 

As with communicating with the public, television is what the public likes. I don’t think there is much worth viewing on TV; it’s all just bullshitting and awful. Of course I can watch it too, but I think it’s just vulgar taste. Perhaps the more vulgar is, the more attractive to most people.

 

Q: And this is the difference between popular and elite culture?

 

A: Nothing is elite. I don’t like such mentality of regarding himself as infallible.

 

Q: What sort of influence does Beijing have on your art.

 

A: Maybe the climate, and something else. Beijing is not a very pleasant city. It can be summed up in one word – dark, which is pretty bad due to the climate like sand storms, etc. Usually I don’t have to go out during the day, and you have nowhere to go at night, unlike some cities in the south, where you can walk around comfortably at night. You can’t do this in Beijing, all you can do is stay home during the day, and go to entertainment spots, like pubs and teahouses at night. Basically there is nowhere you can go to enjoy something natural. But I’ve gotten used to this; maybe it’s related to aesthetics. I’ve completely accepted this grayish, somber landscape. I don’t think it ugly – it’s even rather pretty sometimes. Beijing is faster in pace, and creates more stress compared to other cities. It has more fun here. There’s all sorts of people here; any kind of people can survive here. There exist good idea and bad idea. You can do anything you like. They can all co-exist. Perhaps this is the tradition or customs here.

 

Q: A lot of artists think too many exhibitions in Beijing, many of which are too superficial.

 

A: Right. I usually don’t go to exhibitions, except those by very close friends. I don’t go to any other exhibitions.

 

Q: What’s your view on the art organizations like museums of art?

 

A: Basically I don’t have any connections with them. That’s PR activities, not what we do.

 

Q: So you don’t think art should engage into society, into life?

 

A: It’s not that. Some artists do it that way, and it’s fine, just not my style.

 

Q: Then what do you think is the role of the artists in society?

 

A: Never thought about that. I don’t know what sort of role it is; I don’t know. I’m not different from other people, we’re the same. We are all doing our own work, with different ideas and subject-matters. Sometimes you feel you’re exhausting yourself, but everyone is the same. From close by, you see yourself doing something different from others; from afar, it’s all the same. You do certain things to maintain your level of energy, and then you keep draining it. You can’t live your life energetically every single day. It’s insignificant and boring most of the time.

 

Q: Many other artists also feel negative.

 

A: It’s not negative. Being bored is not negative; perhaps it’s a state of being. Many things in this society are in this state, this current state. Maybe it has to do with your own judgment – on society, on life. But it’s not the state of nihility and negativity that make you not want to live anymore.

 

For example, popular aesthetics, just like TV and movies, is just boring beyond words. But everybody likes it. That’s why it can exist. It’s something with an extremely vulgar taste, but people like vulgarity. You can’t run away from it no matter what.

 

Q: What do you think is the relation between fashion and art?

 

A: Fashion is more popular, more real-life, and more guiding. Mostly it’s about this guidance – guiding your life – about what is good. It’s a sort of guidepost, leading the public to develop towards the direction it sets. Ultimately there is something good leading the popular aesthetics, whereas art has no such attribute. It doesn’t have to have an impact on everyone. It works by itself. It has an impact on a minority of people. It doesn’t rely on the public.

system 制度[zhi du]

Interviewed: Liu Renhua

Time: Afternoon, Jan. 14, 2007

Location: Eudora Station Cafe, Beijing

 

 

生活 life live 15

低级趣味 vulgar taste vulgar 5

自己 self own 22

态度 attitude 6

社会 society social 7

别人 others other people other 5

接受 accept take 6

大众 public 14

大众审美 popular aesthetics 3

审美 aesthetics 7

时尚 fashion 15

消耗 drain (exhaust)               5

关系,联系, 关联 relationship relation related connections 6

不同,不一样 different 10

 

制度 system 1

 

take 7

circle 6

sell 5

发展 development develops 6

无聊 boring bored 5

商业 commercialization business commercial 4

国外 foreign countries 4

中国 China 3

形象 images 5

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: First of all, would you please generally talk about the current state of contemporary art in China?

 

A: I think there is a healthy trend of development, but there are also many problems. For example, commercialization has gone a bit too far. Consequently, people often don’t even think about what to do or how to do it, because of the influence of the market. Perhaps this commercialization leads to many problems in the quality of the work. But it’s also good – in time, people will reflect on this issue, reflect on how to do things. I don’t have much of an opinion on this. I haven’t really thought about it that much. Take the view on the system for example. There is nothing we can do about the system, because a lot of things are pre-existent; we don’t have a well-built mechanism of art as foreign countries. The existing system in China certainly has an impact on the development of art. Without certain organizations, such as foundations, artists here still depend on commercial activities. Artists in foreign countries can apply for the funds to maintain their creation. They don’t have to depend on selling their works. But the artists in China have to rely on his own works to meet his needs in creation, that is, he must sell his work in order to pay for the production fees of his next work of art. That is the problem.

 

Q: What kind of image do you want your work to present to people?

 

A: It varies from year to year. Maybe it’s more focused now, unlike the last few years, where you see different images, different outlook, like videos, etc… using many kinds of material, with all different concepts. But now I want to be more focused – what kind of work do I want to do in this one year? Installation, perhaps. Which means, your concerns are more focused, and you even consider letting go of some of the works; whereas previously you do whatever comes to your mind. Now you might not do something even if the idea comes up, because it might affect the overall image of your work. Sometimes, the strategic aspects will also be reckoned with. For example, a work of art will put aside when it’s completed. One year later, it takes effect. But sometimes, you start with a good feeling and then find the work losing its effect a year later. Put all your work aside, good or bad, wait for a year or two and check if they are still effective. If so, then it means they are related to your previous development.

 

A: Visual impact is certainly essential, but not that kind of strong outward impact deliberately made. I’m interested in a basic sensation that people see everyday but fail to perceive. It’s an impact through a different medium – perhaps volume, perhaps something else.

 

Q: What, in your opinion, is the relationship between your art and social reality?

 

A: I don’t know what kind of relationship it is. I’m only searching for a point of excitement. I get an idea only when I see or feel something that excites me; I don’t get ideas out of the blue. Maybe some people come up with an idea first and then realize it. But my work comes from something I see and think about. It’s never a rational process of making works of art.

 

Q: Then, are there any obstacles in the communication between your art and the public?

 

A: Yes, of course. But it’s not too bad, and I know what the reasons are. When you have a conversation with someone, you cannot communicate with each other due to totally different values. You still know what the other person is thinking, which is totally different from your own thinking, and vice versa. From the public‘s point of view, sometimes they see the work and feel good, feeling that they can take it, because contemporary art still contains something that is most explicit. No matter how art develops, how conceptual it becomes, the explicit visuality, like beauty, always exist. That will never change.

 

As with communicating with the public, television is what the public likes. I don’t think there is much worth viewing on TV; it’s all just bullshitting and awful. Of course I can watch it too, but I think it’s just vulgar taste. Perhaps the more vulgar is, the more attractive to most people.

 

Q: And this is the difference between popular and elite culture?

 

A: Nothing is elite. I don’t like such mentality of regarding himself as infallible.

 

Q: What sort of influence does Beijing have on your art.

 

A: Maybe the climate, and something else. Beijing is not a very pleasant city. It can be summed up in one word – dark, which is pretty bad due to the climate like sand storms, etc. Usually I don’t have to go out during the day, and you have nowhere to go at night, unlike some cities in the south, where you can walk around comfortably at night. You can’t do this in Beijing, all you can do is stay home during the day, and go to entertainment spots, like pubs and teahouses at night. Basically there is nowhere you can go to enjoy something natural. But I’ve gotten used to this; maybe it’s related to aesthetics. I’ve completely accepted this grayish, somber landscape. I don’t think it ugly – it’s even rather pretty sometimes. Beijing is faster in pace, and creates more stress compared to other cities. It has more fun here. There’s all sorts of people here; any kind of people can survive here. There exist good idea and bad idea. You can do anything you like. They can all co-exist. Perhaps this is the tradition or customs here.

 

Q: A lot of artists think too many exhibitions in Beijing, many of which are too superficial.

 

A: Right. I usually don’t go to exhibitions, except those by very close friends. I don’t go to any other exhibitions.

 

Q: What’s your view on the art organizations like museums of art?

 

A: Basically I don’t have any connections with them. That’s PR activities, not what we do.

 

Q: So you don’t think art should engage into society, into life?

 

A: It’s not that. Some artists do it that way, and it’s fine, just not my style.

 

Q: Then what do you think is the role of the artists in society?

 

A: Never thought about that. I don’t know what sort of role it is; I don’t know. I’m not different from other people, we’re the same. We are all doing our own work, with different ideas and subject-matters. Sometimes you feel you’re exhausting yourself, but everyone is the same. From close by, you see yourself doing something different from others; from afar, it’s all the same. You do certain things to maintain your level of energy, and then you keep draining it. You can’t live your life energetically every single day. It’s insignificant and boring most of the time.

 

Q: Many other artists also feel negative.

 

A: It’s not negative. Being bored is not negative; perhaps it’s a state of being. Many things in this society are in this state, this current state. Maybe it has to do with your own judgment – on society, on life. But it’s not the state of nihility and negativity that make you not want to live anymore.

 

For example, popular aesthetics, just like TV and movies, is just boring beyond words. But everybody likes it. That’s why it can exist. It’s something with an extremely vulgar taste, but people like vulgarity. You can’t run away from it no matter what.

 

Q: What do you think is the relation between fashion and art?

 

A: Fashion is more popular, more real-life, and more guiding. Mostly it’s about this guidance – guiding your life – about what is good. It’s a sort of guidepost, leading the public to develop towards the direction it sets. Ultimately there is something good leading the popular aesthetics, whereas art has no such attribute. It doesn’t have to have an impact on everyone. It works by itself. It has an impact on a minority of people. It doesn’t rely on the public.

symbol 符号[fu hao]

最近画了一张。我觉得有个话题挺有意思的,叫“中国符号”,很多人谈论中国艺术家应不应该用“中国符号”这个问题,它相对的是全球化的符号——我也不知道全球化符号大概是什么东西,就只有一个概念。我的感觉是,中国符号没什么不好的,……美国人每天到处都在他们的符号,也没有问题,那为什么中国人用符号就有问题呢?我觉得就是有志于中国符号进行到底的那种人……作为一个中国艺术家,目的是什么?是张扬自己的文化还是消灭自己的文化?这是一个问题。所以我想用最传统中国方式去做当代艺术。我画了一幅长卷,这长卷大概有五十米长,是长安街的街景,把长安街每一个建筑都同时记录在里边,因为长安街大概是十五公里长,我是按1300的比例做,就正好五十米长。同时我按中国画以前方式——我了好多个图章,那些图章都是北京消失胡同名字。这就是我最近做的东西。

I made a painting recently. I always find a topic interesting: “China symbol.” Many have debated on whether Chinese artists should deploy the “China symbol.” Its antithesis is the globalization symbol – I have no idea what that might be like; I only know of the concept. My feeling is that there is nothing wrong with the China Symbol. The Americans are flaunting their Symbol everyday, and nobody has any problem with that. Then why would you have problem with the Chinese using their own Symbol? I think I’m the kind of person who will take the China Symbol to the end. As a Chinese artist, what is your goal? To promote your own culture or to extinguish your own culture? That is the question. So I decide to do contemporary art using the most traditional Chinese methods. I painted a long scroll, about 50 meters in length, of the scenery along the Chang’an Boulevard in Beijing, recording each building alongside. The Chang’an Boulevard is about 15 kilometers in length, and I painted it at the scale of 1:300, so it turned out to be 50 meters. And at the same time, with the traditional way of ancient Chinese painting, I carved many seals, displaying the names of the Hutong alleys that have disappeared in Beijing. That is my latest work.

(摘自徐坦对卢思沉的访谈   Excerpt from Interview with Lu Sichen)

Interviewed: Lu Sichen

Time: Afternoon, Jan. 30, 2007

Location: Fansi(Fancy) Restaurant, 4th Ring Road, Beijing

 

 

社会 social 18

市场 market 11

机构 institutions organizations 11

边缘 periphery 7

居住 housing living 5

北京 Beijing 63

邻居 neighbors 5

符号 symbol 10

中国符号 China symbol 6

胡同 Hutong alleys 10

 

国家 country 5

弱势群体 under-privileged groups 7

日本 Japan 6

 

热门 hot 3

老百姓 citizens residents 5

环境 context 13

拍卖 auction 8

价格 price, worth 5

价值 value 8

关系 relationship 21

人际关系 interpersonal relationship 2

拆迁 demolishing and rebuilding 3

西方 the West 4

建筑 building 9

位置 status 4

装修 decoration project interior decoration 3

circle 1

 

 

Source of keywords:

 

 

Q: Could you please first comment on the current state of contemporary art in China?

 

A: This is quite a big question. I think contemporary art in China is now in a relatively good phase; it’s hot, and many institutions and collectors are very concerned contemporary art. Seen from this point, it’s a hot thing. But on the other hand, judging from the past two years, there have been very few really good works; so some people even think that we’ve reached the bottom point in contemporary Chinese art. This is rather difficult, because, for many artists, they really need to sell their works; while the social temptation is just too strong. Before, people would still care about how to produce good works and they would care about the academic side of things. Now, people talk about nothing but auctions, auction sale prices, and the market.

 

Q: Please describe what your art is mainly concerned with.

 

A: I think my work is mostly about the relationship between neighbors in residential quarters in old Beijing, the changes in the city, and learning about interpersonal relationship through the observation of these changes. There are so many artists in Beijing, but not many local professional artists. As a professional artist in Beijing, I‘m not saying I want to be an international artist. Living in Beijing, with all the surroundings, the neighbors in the Hutong alleys, the friends and relatives all around me, the street hawkers – all of these are sources of inspiration for my work. I have emotions towards all of them, so I see things under this context when working on my art.

 

Q: You care about relationship with the surroundings. Then, how is the interaction between your work and the audience?

 

A: I don’t even know. Even though I’ve worked so many years in Beijing, I feel that Beijing natives who have seen my work are quite few; the ones who really come to see my work are the persons in art circle. For example, when I do indoor or outdoor installation, the Beijing natives see them as decoration project. So I always feel like I’m doing decoration project whenever I start an installation piece. I have finished many related works in Beijing, but I think their impact has been limited.

 

Q: How do you think the West is regarding all these developments in contemporary Chinese art?

 

A: I’ve talked to some people about this. They feel that the present phenomenon is horrible. The price for art is very high, higher than what the market can take. It’s like a stock market.

 

Q: You’ve emphasized the close relationship with your surroundings. As an artist, what role do you play in the society?

 

A: Under-privileged group. All artists basically all belong to under-privileged groups. Maybe due to the recent market hype, or the higher prices at auctions, people have started to pay attention to artists, but nobody had any such concepts before. Contemporary art had no social status in the past, and it’s only because of the market prices in the past couple of years… People all care about one thing ultimately – how much [is it] does it worth? This is the level of artistic appreciation in China today.

 

Q: So, from your point of view, this society actually still has a very limited acceptance of contemporary art.

 

A: My feeling is that contemporary Chinese art, including the entire painting profession, has always occupied a decorative position in the Chinese society. A well-to-do family needs something to decorate their house, but the wealthy owners don’t know about the value of the art works, and they don’t need to know. They have the money; they can buy the paintings. So they hold the same right of speech as the artists. Other than that, they care about nothing. I think many people have gained various kinds of benefits from all this. Songzhuang is a typical example. It was previously a very poor village. Then some artists moved there, and the village leader gradually found out them. Then this thing became an event. Yet this leader was promoting art for his career gains. Now many private collectors and collecting organizations abroad have all gone there. And now that village has expanded its influence, and then this local leader became, overnight, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. When contemporary art links with certain things on the international level, it gets exciting. But do these people really care that much about culture? I think not.

I made a painting recently. I always find a topic interesting: “China symbol.” Many have debated on whether Chinese artists should deploy the “China symbol.” Its antithesis is the globalization symbol – I have no idea what that might be like; I only know of the concept. My feeling is that there is nothing wrong with the China Symbol. The Americans are flaunting their Symbol everyday, and nobody has any problem with that. Then why would you have problem with the Chinese using their own Symbol? I think I’m the kind of person who will take the China Symbol to the end. As a Chinese artist, what is your goal? To promote your own culture or to extinguish your own culture? That is the question. So I decide to do contemporary art using the most traditional Chinese methods. I painted a long scroll, about 50 meters in length, of the scenery along the Chang’an Boulevard in Beijing, recording each building alongside. The Chang’an Boulevard is about 15 kilometers in length, and I painted it at the scale of 1:300, so it turned out to be 50 meters. And at the same time, with the traditional way of ancient Chinese painting, I carved many seals, displaying the names of the Hutong alleys that have disappeared in Beijing. That is my latest work.

 

Q: And how did you turn it into an installation piece?

 

A: You can’t turn it into an installation. One of my installation pieces is one made in 2002 – a large sand table, about 100 meters; it’s roughly a model of the Second Ring Road in Beijing. I got this idea while looking at lots of apartment sales centers. They have all these models of high-rises, really beautifully made. So I made this sand table as a symbol for traps – a pit, a huge pit, where many people’s life-long savings are thrown in. I thought this trickery in the form of a sand table was really fun, so I made a sand table of the entire city of Beijing, because at that time Beijing was bidding for the 2008 Olympic Games.

In fact, I think that the government is using the “renovate and improve the citizens[living] housing conditionslogan to justify their massive scale of demolishing and rebuilding. I wrote a project plan once, in which I would evacuate all the residents from a certain Hutong alley and courtyard. I rent a building for them to stay in. Then I renovate their housing, without changing the exterior structures. And I would employ top interior designers to plan a new interior decoration. Then I invite all the residents back to their homes. So I think it is indeed possible to improve their living condition without changing their living habits. The method used by the government now is really assigned migration. In other words, the citizens are an under-privileged group. When they cannot face up to the government and the developers, they would have to move, far away. The government settles them by paying tens of thousands yuan as moving expenses, and thus throws them to the periphery of the city. I think a more ideal way of doing this is to do it as if it were a work of art – we find investors to invest some money, and then we change the living conditions of these courtyard residents completely. I used to have such a project proposal; it was something I really wanted to do at that time. If this work had been realized and had succeeded, then we’d be raising a question to the city planning committee. I thought that would be fun.

 

survive, living 生存, 谋生[sheng cun, mou sheng]

Interviewed: Sun Jin, Peng Yao

Time: Noon, January 29, 2007

Location: Sun & Peng Studio, 798, Beijing

社会 society social socially 24

反应 reaction (feedback response respond) 8

(不)接受 accept acceptance (take in rejected) 7

普通(人,观众) ordinary (people / audience) general public 9

公众 general public 2

观众 audience(s) 22

关系 relation relationship has something to do with 11

机制 system mechanism 8

机构 organization 5

美术馆 museum 8

独立 independence 2

政府 government 5

政治 political 3

自由 free 3

和谐社会 harmonious society 9

do make 40

do engage in tackle 1

中国 China Chinese 31

西方 the West western 19

发展 development drifting 5

成功 success successful 10

商业() commercialization commercial commercially 4

游戏 game 4

舒服 comfortable 3

学术 academic academics academically 11

农民 farmer 5

强奸 rape raped 2

通奸 adultery 2

生效 effectiveness effective 2

市场 market marketing 5

投机份子 opportunitists 1

Source of Keywords:

Q: You just mentioned the public perception of your works and the natural influence thereof, I have the feeling that most of your early works are not as socially-conscious as the newer ones.

A: (Sun) Actually all the materials come from the society, it’s just that some of them come from the relatively private aspect of social life, and some are better-known materials, such as news subjects, social topics. Actually all topics are social topics, it’s just that the attention they draw are of different levels. Also, I don’t think I would go with the idea that currently all subjects derive from the society, I think a lot of them can still find roots in ourselves, but when they are confronted with the society, you’ll need an appropriate translation and conversion system, and then you’ll end up choosing relatively typical materials. It seems to me that you just can’t take the problem separately.

(Peng) In the early days when we were young, our relation with the society are not so complicated, or, shall we say, we were not yet an integrated part of the society, therefore the works we did and the materials we used are not so socially-conscious. But I reckon that anything could be used as material, and you are going to engage in the society more and more as you grow up, eventually you’ll choose those materials in the society that interest you. So I don’t think that subject is the key issue here.

Q: A lot of your works in the exhibitions are focused on the relationship with the society. Do you perceive any differences in China and the West in terms of audience’s acceptance and feedback?

A: (Sun) Yes, but I think the differences were more typical a few years ago, before and around 2000. The opening-up of China was still in its early phase back then, and most people did not accept what is called contemporary art, they were too impatient when watching. Now there seems to be a unified consensus, western and Chinese audience are aware of this (Chinese) contemporary art thing, they know there is a bunch of people doing weird stuff, and their first reaction towards them are “Ah! Another performance art! “Thus art is reduced to a term, when someone puzzles over something; he would call it performance art. He has this category in his mind, and can group it, and then it’s easy for him to take in.

(Peng) At that time the West was more interested in the political confrontational aspect, it has something to do with the whole Chinese ideology. The country was not open enough back then, and biennale still didn’t emerge in Shanghai……all the western audiences would interpret your work from the political perspective. There were two kinds of Chinese audience, and this is particularly interesting, the first kind is artistically-informed people, or people somewhat related to art and culture; and the other kind is people who has no relationship whatsoever with culture. As it turned out, the culture-savvy part happened to find our works incomprehensible, they even made a lot of protests or accusation against them. On the other hand, those who have no relationship with art or culture, including policemen……one of my exhibitions was banned, and I chatted with many ordinary people like policemen and persons in Residents’ Committee, you know, ordinary people, they all went to see the exhibition and found it super interesting.

And now governments are organizing biennales, contemporary art has become a card in their hands, something that everyone can and should take advantage of. So it’s like a slogan, a presentation used to impress the international community, and here’s when the game with the official starts.

A: (Peng) In the ’90s, before 2000, when something happens, you can calm down to observe your surroundings, to perceive the changes of everybody in detail. But now, especially in recent years, the whole atmosphere in the art scene is volatile. It has become difficult for me to try to understand the changes outside, and the situation is complicated now……take our studio in 798 for example, this place is so touristy now, it’s hard to position yourself. But we do work here as of today. Now the government is into contemporary art too, a lot of opportunitists are into this, and there’s the gallery frenzy, a dozen of new galleries would turn up here every day. You also witness the price of Chinese contemporary art skyrocketing on the international market, I have the feeling that many artists have lost themselves, they have become less pure; in the old days, underground is underground, the artists make art, and that’s it. Nowadays everyone collaborates with everyone, and you participate in their game more frequently, the game is getting more and more complex, Stage Two!

Q: So do you think that general public has become better connoisseurs of contemporary art?

A: (Peng) I think maybe they do find it easier to accept, but what art offers them, on the contrary, has decreased. Back then they would try to understand why these people do what they’re doing, now they get themselves a concept, like I tell you this word, ‘performance art‘, they go ‘Ah, so this is performance art!’, and there it is. Something is missing for the general public, the minute they are given a safe explanation, they are deprived of the thinking process.

(Sun) There are actually two sides of the coin. For the artist, I think they are also trying to figure out what kind of audience they have. In the ’90s there was this cynic group, you may want to call them early [Chinese] contemporary artist, they were the enfant terrible, going to the extreme when rejected by the public. By now, however, many artists have come to realize that in order to play the enfant terrible card you need to first have the endorsement by the audience. So both sides were moving towards each other, when the two reach a point of coordination, by which I mean they can work together seamlessly and feel free at the same time, that’s what you may call the harmonious society. Back then reform and opening were everything, people would do anything for breakthrough. Things have changed, now the overall structure is fixed, it’s a matter of coordination. This is in synch with the general situation of the country, the concept of harmonious society has posed a big question to art as well. Of course every era has its own issues, but the issues we are facing now in a harmonious society is of not much difference with those in the western countries. This is because harmonious society is commonplace in the West, and artists there feel free and suffocated at the same time. This is gonna happen in China at some point in the future, we’ll see.

(Peng) For instance, I’m initially exciting upon learning that certain large foreign organization is coming to Beijing to open a museum, because it means there will finally be a decent museum showcasing contemporary art in Beijing and in China. But soon I come to realize the potential crisis; I don’t know whether this thing would do any good to Beijing and to Chinese contemporary art as a whole, will it help pushing the scene towards the good or bad, healthy or unhealthy direction? There are two sides to these things. What the foreign museums try to do is to port the whole prestigious western museum system to Beijing, but if you take a look at exhibitions in the West, you’ll see how the corrupted museum system stifles the whole art scene. This explains all the buzz about the whole lot of Chinese artists participating in the Venice Biennale that year; they witnessed the potential of Chinese contemporary art in the West. But is there really any potential? Granted, you can’t say there’s zero potential, but the point is westerners realized that they could find new possibilities in China, and these possibilities are potential, energy, frightening stuff. While in the West, the whole system has provided a, in Sun Yuan’s word, harmonious society for everybody, people have to play by the rules and to strive for breakthrough in between. After some time, everybody ends up playing tricks, for me this is really not the ideal way of life. So I think the western museum system‘s coming into China will be a double-edged sword for the artists. Wouldn’t you kill a lot of possibilities if you bring in something lifeless? It helps us to operate under the rules and procedure, that’s for sure, and of course an oft-heard criticism on Chinese artists or the whole Chinese art market by western museums is the lack of rules and procedure, but this is precisely the characteristic and charisma of China. I prefer a lifestyle with lots of accidents, if Chinese contemporary art is drifting towards a completely expected, accident-free direction, I think it’s time for the artists to think about what they can do to stimulate the scene.

Q: Economic changes will have an influence on art and the relation between artists and the audience, but there are a lot of artists seem to ignore the audience, aren’t there?

A: (Sun) This is about knowledge being in synch with the government, in other words, a harmonious society is the end result of a peaceful evolution process. Commercialization and the participation of economics contribute to the realization of a harmonious society. There are rules, economic rules, that you would want to follow and to refer to as a kind of artist who cares not only about yourself, but also about the audience. One can’t deny the fact that all people regard economical success as the measurement of success in general, even artists themselves, so do the audiences. It’s a point of reference. So economics actually works as the coordinator and thus triggers the peaceful evolution. I’ll say that artists and audiences are not the sole driving force of the harmonious society, there must be some other interfering factors. So how to maintain consistency? How to reach the same coordinated point? Economics is being used as a reference point in many cases.

(Peng) Market and academic studies call for different approaches. Marketing guys take care of the market, scholars take care of academic studies, so it won’t do any good to have people like us to talk about issues without our range.

(Sun) Sometimes people say ‘academic is itself’, I’m not sure I agree with them on that: do you think about the question of success when doing academic works? If the question crosses your mind, then there shall be a point of coordination somewhere. When all the factors are mixed together in the optimized proportion, it will appear to be something successful and will generate some momentum for your academic studies. Here, the word successful means not only commercial success, but success in every dimension. Without this all-dimentional success as the point of reference, academic studies will be of no direction or value – it has no coordinated platform. Actually academics all work on a platform, there is the standard for measuring success, which is effectiveness, [commercial-wise and academic-wise] effective commercially or academically. There’s a certain value in it.

Q: Do you care about the negative part in the audiences’ feedback?

A: (Sun) The audiencesfeedback are exactly the thing I care about.

(Peng) But it’s not important how they respond to our works, as long as there is response at all. We don’t really care whether they are positive or negative, we care about the fact that they do have reaction.

(Sun) Or shall we say the best case is that we have mixed response; rape mixed with adultery, if you will. Being raped and yet reaching orgasm, committing adultery but with a bit of passiveness, that’s a good mixture. I’m not into pure compulsory stuff, but reaction is a must.

Q: I think one of the major differences between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou is the different level of consciousness towards power. It’s the strongest in Beijing, weaker in Shanghai, and the weakest in Guangzhou. Do you have anything to say about this?

A: (Sun) I don’t particularly feel that way, this power thing you mentioned. I don’t know if there’s power or not, but the way I see it, power is of no relevance as long as you feel comfortable and happy. Because you are in the lower tiers of others’ power mechanism, you are not the top guy, you feel good being here, and you stay here, I think that’s enough. It’s not necessarily the same thing as the farmer‘s corporation, in which power is above everything, even daily meals are related to power, if you can’t get hold of this power, you are not able to survive……by power I mean a kind of dominate/subordinate relation, not necessarily political power.nterviewed: Sun Jin, Peng Yao

Time: Noon, January 29, 2007

Location: Sun & Peng Studio, 798, Beijing

社会 society social socially 24

反应 reaction (feedback response respond) 8

(不)接受 accept acceptance (take in rejected) 7

普通(人,观众) ordinary (people / audience) general public 9

公众 general public 2

观众 audience(s) 22

关系 relation relationship has something to do with 11

机制 system mechanism 8

机构 organization 5

美术馆 museum 8

独立 independence 2

政府 government 5

政治 political 3

自由 free 3

和谐社会 harmonious society 9

do make 40

do engage in tackle 1

中国 China Chinese 31

西方 the West western 19

发展 development drifting 5

成功 success successful 10

商业() commercialization commercial commercially 4

游戏 game 4

舒服 comfortable 3

学术 academic academics academically 11

农民 farmer 5

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