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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.

投机(份子)[tou ji (fen zi)] speculate (wildcatter)

This movie requires Flash Player 9

1. 现在政府也在做当代艺术了,有很多投机份子这个事情,画廊疯狂地加入

Now the government is into contemporary
art
too, a lot of speculators are into this, and there’s the gallery
frenzy, a dozen of new galleries would turn up here every day.

(摘自徐坦对孙原,彭禹的访谈 Excerpt from
Interview with Sun Yuan, Peng Yu)

1. 现在政府也在做当代艺术了,有很多投机份子这个事情,画廊疯狂地加入

Now the government is into contemporary
art
too, a lot of speculators are into this, and there’s the gallery
frenzy, a dozen of new galleries would turn up here every day.

(摘自徐坦对孙原,彭禹的访谈 Excerpt from
Interview with Sun Yuan, Peng Yu)

条件[tiao jian] condition

This movie requires Flash Player 9

 

1.因为一旦条件变了,即使你有信仰也会很危险。真正的条件摧毁这种过去时代带来的信仰。

Once the condition has changed, it would be dangerous even with
the belief. The real condition will destroy the belief from the past.

2.从我们的交谈中,从你那里我充分体会到物质生活条件改变决定了我们的精神生活。哪怕你原来你有一个很坚如磐石的,特殊材料构成的人的信仰也会被这个条件所改变。

From our conversation, I perfectly
understand that the change of material determine our spirit.
Even if you are a toughest person made of special material, You will be
changed by the condition.

(摘自徐坦对艾伟的访谈 Excerpt from Interview with Ai Wei)

采访对象:艾东明

采访时间:2007年1月31日下午

采访地点:于北京草场地艾家

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

Q:先请艾老师说下你对中国当代艺术现状的看法或印象。

A:我不能装作很了解这个事,虽然我一直在北京,经常参与一些策展,我们有艺术文件仓库,有很多艺术的朋友,但是我还不是很了解这个东西,但这两年好像很热闹,而前几年好像都没什么人去搭理它,所以我觉得好像它是一会儿发高烧,一会儿发冷的状态,我觉得可能像是这样,因为现代艺术这一块实际上时间也是很短的,中国实际上虽然有它的现代生活,但这个现代生活在很大程度上是已经由政治的经济的特征定下来的,是一个已经是什么样的体制下的国家了,那么这种个人表达自由政治背景生活条件,以及文化艺术社会中的作用可能,我觉得基本上都是已经限定下来的了,那么通常所称的当代艺术,实际上它能浮出水面,也只是近五、六年的事情,而之前很多人了很多事情实际上都是处在一种半地下的状态的,就是说只是一个很小的,没有被公众话语所关注,对社会的影响实际上也只是在非常小的范围内的,一旦浮出来之后,它主要是在国外的很多展览报导甚至拍卖,好像搞得很热闹,但是这些并没有涉及到这些作品生存环境和所表达的社会形态含义,这些问题探讨并不是很多的,所以它还是一个非常奇怪的结构,但是我们也不能说任何结构是否就是合理的,比如说有的是树,有的是藤,有的是自然界生猛的动物,有的是寄生的动物,而它们都有其自身的合理性,所以尽管中国当代艺术它不是主动有意识地去和这个社会建立某种关系,但是实际上它也反映了过去这几十年的一些问题

Q:你觉得它反映的是一些什么问题呢?

A:反映了中国近几十年中的哲学美学伦理学的彻底解体,新的甚至探讨的可能都还没有建立,因为这个社会仍然是处在大面积的或者主体地否认事实,或者说不承认一些基本的事实,在很多问题上几乎是没有争论的可能,它离民主社会还是很远,虽然它有极大的自由,但这种自由只是建立在旧体制瓦解上的自由,是没有能力控制下的自由,并不是一种很主动的自由,这些都给艺术一些特征

Q:那你怎样看待现在公众对当代艺术的接受方面?

A: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。

Q:那你觉得你参与策划展览之类的活动能否对这种乱七八糟的状况有所作用呢?

A:现在中国展览很多,但是一点帮助和意义都没有,它变成了一些摊贩,就是说像你经常看到的一些摆摊的,一条街卖一样的东西,互相叫板,互相竞争,我觉得这个是为市场设计的,跟艺术没什么关系,完全是为市场设计的,那么这些展览,你仔细看看这些策展人,有几个是像样的?都是心怀鬼胎,怀着各种各样的目的,我觉得这是中国的学术界和知识分子最让人看不起的一点,就是总体不要,整个儿就是彻底的公开张扬不要,这也是少有的一件事,但是啊,就像中国人说的志短,说得太准了,“”还好听点,实际上就是人都很“”了,没什么问题,但它只是一个借口

Q:你刚才讲到市场,那请谈下你对艺术市场的看法。

A:什么东西都能卖,艺术这么高雅的东西当然也能,因为能卖就主要是为了装饰有的家,那么艺术品就成了一个交易的货品的东西了,这个本来挺正常的,只是这个比例有多大?就是在整个大的文化环境当中,它是否变成了唯一问题,是否脆弱到只要它一出现,其他东西就都消失了?我觉得这个是中国的一个很大的问题,当然……我自己这样看,这个事闹成这样挺好笑的,因为好像你这个事的理由都变了,这个东西让你生活的原则和理由都发生变化了,最后就变成好像转换成另外某种价值了,太多人谈论关心这个问题了,如果你不是一个艺术家,只是一个投机商,这个就很正常了,如果你还是一个创作的人,或者说你本来是一个觉得有话才去从事这个行业,觉得对一种方式兴趣——而不是说简单的财、资金和地位可以替换你的那些最早的东西,就不正常和奇怪了。现在我感觉好像都在谈这一块,是挺烦的一件事,市场本身就是不正常的东西,从股票到名牌定的价格,市场本身是无可非议的,一个东西卖五分和卖五千块和卖五万块都是无可非议的,只是说在这个市场背后,这个产品本身的其他价值是否被这个市场价格给彻底冲淡了?这是一个问题

Q:那你自己感兴趣的其实是什么?

A:说老实话,我没有什么兴趣的事,比如我并不是说不喜欢商业这一块或者说对别的什么东西感兴趣,我确实没有太多兴趣的事,可能是我还是比较被动吧,当然总的来说,艺术是我比较兴趣的一个行当,本来我比较感兴趣是因为这里的人比较不功利,比较还有自己的特征,还活得你是你我是我的,但是现在呢?你可以发现,这个艺术的人跟隔壁卖菜的农民没什么差别,上市之前抖点水啊,称的时候再抖两下,我觉得都差不多,这是让人觉得挺无聊的一件事,其实我才不在意这件事,我也不搭理它,比如这个国家是死是活,我也不太在乎,只不过你问到这个问题,就像你问我今天的天气如何,什么沙尘暴啊或者刮风啊,但是这种事又不是你能控制的,这只是国家的一个现状

Q:讲一讲你的博客吧。

A:博客很有意思,待会儿就把给你拍的照片放上去,然后很多的人我也都不认识,反正他们一点击就看到了,我就觉得这个是很直接现实同时又是很幻觉的一个事情,所以我就一直在这个事。

Q:就是说它是一个你传播你自己信息的途径?

A:我觉得信息时代是人类遇到的最的一个时代,是第一次给所谓的自由个人意志技术上提供了可能,在这之前,人类一直是在黑暗当中或者是在独木桥上,或者是在一个必由之路上,那么这个信息时代第一次让人有可能自己或者和愿意一起的人,这在过去是没有的,所以我觉得我们应该是很有兴致和很有机会进去这么一种状态,就是说它有几点是非常重要的:自由地表达个人方式。这听上去虽然很俗套,但是这个是很重要的事情,包括交流可能,包括把社会的力量重新地施以影响吸收运用可能,这是很了不起的一件事情。

Q:你觉得在艺术上有没有地域的中心边缘之分?

A:我觉得不存在,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,这个可能性确实是人类挣扎了很多年以后突然蹦出来的,这是一个很了不起的东西。

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