An interview with Xu Bing

0
104

1. It is now more than ten years since you reestablished your studio in Beijing. Are you glad to be back? What has changed in Chinese art since you first left for American roughly thirty years ago?

I have been back in Beijing for more than 10 years, and time flies. Am I glad to go back? I think life is mixed with different feelings. I went back mainly to be the vice president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, so it was a new challenge for me. As an artist, I also needed a lot of energy to deal with the frictions from the Chinese system and traditional art. In China, if you want to do something that you find truly interesting and worth doing, such as education, you need to waste a lot of time doing meaningless things in order to achieve a small portion of what you want to accomplish. So those years I was extremely busy. However, while I was busy, I don’t think every minute was well spent.

What’s different from 30 years ago? In recent years, China is rising and art is an ideologically sensitive part; Chinese contemporary art naturally attracts international interest. Works with a strong sense of Chinese reality (whether superficial or internal) have received increasing attention. The artist actively seeks artistic inspiration from the rich social realities around and begins the process of art practice that is autonomous, ignoring the Western modern art framework.

我已经回去有10多年了,时间很快。回去是否愉快?我觉得生活在哪都有愉快和不愉快。总体上回去是担任中央美院的副院长,所以对我来说也是一个新的挑战。作为艺术家,我还得分出很多精力来处理中国的体制与旧的艺术之间的摩擦。我的基本的体会就是在中国你要是想做你真正有兴趣和认为值得做的事情,比如为中国教育贡献力量,但是由于你的职位和所在的体制,你需要做很多无意义的、不值得做的事情,才有可能实现你自己希望做的那一小部分的事情。所以那些年真的是非常忙,虽然这么忙,但是又觉得这个时间并不是那么有价值。和30年以前有什么不一样?近年来,由于中国的崛起,而艺术又是意识形态敏感的部分,自然引起国际对中国当代艺术的兴趣。带有较强中国现实意识(不管是表面还是内在)的作品越来越多地受到关注。艺术家积极地从身边丰富的社会现实中寻找艺术的灵感,开始了自主的、不理会西方现代艺术框架的艺术实践过程。

2. You were a participant in the mass relocation of artists and intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution. Did the experience of being sent to the countryside change the way you thought about art? About politics?

For me, that experience is actually an important stage in life. Because this experience has provided an always-present and valuable reference to my thinking, which allows me to really understand the essence of Chinese people. The part of the countryside I stayed in was remote; old traditions still remained. I saw for the first time that auspicious words “Thousands of Gold” and “Fortune and Treasures” were written in a single word, not in a book on folk art, but in the cabinet of the village official’s house. I was deeply touched at that time: this was not something that you can obtain from books. When it comes to weddings or funerals, another aspect of the peasants–their brilliant mind–will manifest itself. For funerals, the peasants will use rice paper to make various things, which is completely a local version of a “Second Life.” The elders found some paper written with illegible patterns and traced those strange characters on the white cloth to make prayer flags. Once they knew that I wrote calligraphy, they asked me to do the same thing. Later, when I studied the text, I learned that this is called guihuafu (ghost’s calligraphy), which is a type of text that can communicate with the underworld. I encountered these things classified as “folklore,” and there was a ghost spirit attached to me, which affected my future creation.

My artistic creation in the village has evolved from drawing blackboard newspapers to making a mimeographed publication called “Brilliant Mountain Flowers.” My role as an artist was to make engravings on wax paper. All my interest lies in the fonts and styles of each word. In fact, the use of Chinese fonts has a strong political meaning, especially during the Cultural Revolution, although I was unaware of it at that time. It was all a formal classification—Songti, Laosong, Imitation Song, Hei Song, Bian Song, and Xie Song (different fonts). My goal was to use what I have to reach the artistic level of PLA Literature and Art (an official magazine popular during the Cultural Revolution). In a person’s life, one can only be extremely focused for a certain amount of time. I used up that amount in advance: I used it in making mimeographed publications during the Cultural Revolution. Later, I made a lot of text-related works, and some people were surprised: “Xu Bing’s calligraphy skills are so good!” Actually I have a lot of experience with the structure of Chinese characters from the Cultural Revolution period.

这段经历其实对我来说是一个非常重要的阶段。因为这段经历为我的思维的参照提供了一种一直存在的、有价值的参照数据,让我真正了解到中国人是怎么回事,这个种族是怎么回事。我下乡的地方偏僻,古风遗存。我第一次看到把“黄金万两”、“招财进宝”写成一个字的形式,不是在民俗著作中,而是在书记家的柜子上,当时被触动的程度,可不是能从书本上得到的。遇上红白喜事,老乡们的另一面—“观念”的部分,就会表现出来。办丧事,他们会用纸扎糊出各种各样的东西来,完全是乡土版的“第二人生”。老人翻出一些纸样,按照上面的怪字,描在白布上,做成幡。后来他们知道我会书法,又有墨汁,就让我来做。后来研究文字才知道,这叫“鬼画符”,是一种能与阴间沟通的文字。我在收粮沟接触到这些被归为“民俗学”的东西,有一股鬼气,附着在我身上,影响着日后的创作。

我在村里的艺术创作从出黑板报发展成了一本叫《烂漫山花》的油印刊物。我的角色是美工,兼刻蜡纸,我的全部兴趣就在于“字体”——实际上,中国的字体使用,是有很强的政治含意的,“文革”期间更是如此。可我当时并没有这种认识,完全是作形式分类—宋体、老宋、仿宋、黑宋、扁宋、斜宋的收笔处是否有挑起,挑起的角度,笔画疏密安排,横竖粗细比例。我当时的目标是用蜡纸刻印技术,达到《解放军文艺》的水平。一个人一生中,只能有一段真正全神贯注的时期。我的这一时期被提前用掉了,用在这不问内容只管倾心制作的油印刊物上了。后来我做了不少与文字有关的作品,有些人惊讶:“徐冰的书法功底这么好!”其实不然,只不过我对汉字的肩架结构有很多经验,那是在“文革”中练出来的。

3. You have spent much of your life affiliated with the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. How has this association affected the way you make art?

For a long time, our understanding of the art foundation is paranoid. We pay attention to the foundation of painting, but not the foundation of thinking; we hardly consider the conditions an artist needs to face in the future, and spend a lot of time on basic training for sketches, which is an outdated mode only suitable for artists in ancient times. Imagine a student who starts to prepare beginning with the examination for secondary school, then undergraduate, and finally graduate studies, from geometric plaster to the dual human figure… The amount of time we spent training an artist on sketching is surprisingly long. For such a large amount of time of training, there is no change in the subject, only the degree of difficulty. The whole process only solves a technical matter–learning to draw a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional plane to look three-dimensional. At that time, many teachers from the Central Academy of Fine Arts returned from studying in France. French academies of the 19th century still played a relatively large role in our art education then.

This type of training and education system is very conservative, rigid and limited. Art education should help students to acquire not only the art foundation but also the ability to see the world and to complete a work from a blank piece of paper–to build and cultivate creative thinking to make the ideas come true. The main thing is for students to also learn from the quality of their teachers. For example, when I prepared a sketch exhibition, I invited participating artists to recall the situations when they created their work. In the end, many of the memories are not about techniques, not how the sketch should be drawn, but a certain sentence that their teacher said. These words have left a very deep impression on the students, and have a profound impact on how they live their lives, how they view the world, and how they see art.

And then I looked back at my teachers. What did I learn from them? Chinese artists of earlier generations have a capability that was cultivated in a relatively conservative education system, and it would stimulate us to keenly reflect on conservative and ignorant education methods, to reflect on art and art in essence from a different perspective. I later discovered that our teachers were very good at advancing art to its extreme, even in very restricted conditions.

I found a huge impact on my own art creation. For example, I would first create a limit or a condition for myself before starting the new project. Only within this limit could I push my creativity and originality to an extreme. With great excitement. It’s like swimming: if you slide your arms in the air, you can’t go forward because it doesn’t have any resistance. In my work Dragonfly Eyes, I first created a limit for myself, which is that each frame of the movie must be obtained from the public surveillance and I was not allowed to shoot any frame myself. In Book from the Ground, all “words” must be a collected icon that is already in use.

一直以来,我们对艺术基础的认识是偏执的,重视绘画基础,而不重视思维能力的基础,不考虑作为需要面对未来的艺术家所应具备的条件,大量的时间用在适合古代画家的素描训练上。设想,一个人从准备考附中开始,经过附中、本科、研究生的学习,从几何石膏到双人体,我们培养一个艺术家,花在素描上的时间是惊人的。而在这样大量的时间内,没有课题的变化,只有难易程度的变化。全部过程只解决了一个技术的事情—学会了把三维的对象画到二维的平面上,看起来还是三维的。当年中央美术学院的老师很多都是从法国留学回来的,法国的学院或者19世纪的绘画在我们的艺术教育中发挥着比较大的作用。

这种训练、这种教育体系是非常保守的、很僵化、很有局限的。艺术教育让学生获得的不仅仅是艺术基础,还有一个人看事物的能力,从一张白纸到完成工作的能力,建立和培养有创意的思维线索和实现的能力。最主要的,还是从老师身上所获得老师的品质。就像我做素描大展,我请这些参展的人回忆,创作作品时的情境,最后很多的回忆其实都不是关于技术的,不是关于素描应该怎么画,而是老师的不经意说的某一句话,这些话都给学生留下非常深刻的印象,对他们的一生如何做人,如何看待世界,如何面对艺术产生非常深刻的影响。

而我后来回过头来看这些先生,我从他们这儿学到了什么东西?我后来发现其实是中国艺术家有一种能力,这种能力是在一个相对比较保守的教育体制培养出来的,它会激发你对保守、愚昧的教育方法的强烈的反思。从另外一个入口切去反思艺术,就从本质上反思艺术。我后来发现我们这些老师都很善于在一个非常有限的艺术的创造的空间中,把艺术推进到极致的能力。

所以在我后来的艺术创作中有很很深刻的反应,比如说我的很多作品都是先给自己制造一个限定性,只有在这样的限定性范围内,我的创造力和突破力会被极大的激发出来。这就像游泳一样的,你在空气中滑动双臂,你就不可能往前走,因为它没有任何的阻力。比如说《蜻蜓之眼》,我就是先给自己制造了一个限定,电影的每一句话必须是从监控画面中获取来的,而不允许自己拍摄任何一帧。比如说《地书》必须是收集来的图标。

4. You continue to maintain a studio in Brooklyn. What is the purpose of doing so? How often do you go back and forth between Beijing and Bushwick, and how does it affect your art-making?

I maintain a studio in Williamsburg. I used to work and live in New York, so there are a lot of creative materials there. After returning to China, I was very busy. Even though I didn’t have much time to deal with the New York studio, I kept it. I found that most institutions in the West are still contacting and communicating with my New York studio. Later, I often come back to my studio in Williamsburg, as if to take a breath from my busy life. I like the atmosphere in Williamsburg. When I first arrived, it was a large warehouse area, but later young artists and hippies started to gather, changing the cultural landscape rapidly. I like it a lot.

Besides, this is an old Italian area. I have a lot of Italian friends who I know through my previous landlord. There are good traditional Italian foods and coffee here. Williamsburg is like a small town on the outskirt of Manhattan. Every time I go back here, I feel very quiet and relaxed. I normally come back two or three times a year to do some projects, but each time I am only staying for a short period of time, from a week to ten days.

我在Williamsburg一直保留了一个工作室,以前我一直在纽约工作生活,所以这里有大量的资料和创作材料。回到中国以后特别忙,所以就没有顾上处理纽约工作室的事,但这个工作室一直保留了下来。我发现西方的一些机构还是习惯于和我纽约工作室对接、联络、沟通。我后来还是经常回到Williamsburg,感觉是回到这里就像休息一样,我很喜欢这里的一种感觉。我刚来的时候,它是一个大的仓库区,但是后来成了一个年轻艺术家和年轻文化人的聚集地,变化非常快。这种这种气氛我很喜欢。

另外,这块是一个老意大利人的地区。我有很多老意大利的朋友,也是通过我的老房东认识的,所以这块儿有很好的传统意大利美食和咖啡。它就像曼哈顿边上的一个小town,我每次回到这都有一种很安静休息的感觉,我大概每年有差不多两三次回到这块儿,也是因为有一些项目。其实每次来也都时间比较短,一个星期、十天半个月这样子。

5. Much of your work–The Book from the Sky and Square Word Calligraphy–has to do with language. Why are words–both Chinese characters and English words–so important to your art?

I have an abnormal relationship with written words. My mother worked in Pekin University’s library when I was a child. She was busy with work, so she often kept me in the library when she had meetings. I have known all kinds of books for a long time, but they are strange to me, because I can’t understand them at that time. Once I had learned enough to be able to read and understand, China had entered the period when people were not allowed to read what they wanted; the only available reading was Mao’s “little red book.” When the Cultural Revolution ended, I returned from the countryside to the city. I took advantage of my parent’s work-related access to the library, and read all kinds of books from the stacks’ enormous holdings. The more I read, the more muddled my thinking became, until I felt as if something had become lost to me. I was like a starving person who all at once has too much to eat, and winds up so uncomfortable that he is filled with disgust.

Characters are the most basic element of human culture. To change the written word is to strike at the very foundation of a culture: to reconstruct language is to cut to the heart of one’s being, which all the rulers of the past dynasties are familiar with.To establish political power and be a sage for hundreds of generations, the first thing is to reform and unify the characters. Such reform touches the souls, so it is a real cultural revolution. Different characters also reflect the most profound responses and the very origins of different races and civilizations. In addition, the particularity of Chinese characters can also be related to our unique Chinese culture and personality. The characters help us understand why China becomes what we see today.

My characters are not a useful dictionary, but more like a computer virus, because it plays a role in the human brain–the conversion of the readable and indecipherable, in the inversion of concepts, disturbing the inherent thinking mode and knowledge concepts, creating obstacles to our communication and expression, challenging our mindsets. In the process of trying to find a new reference or approach, we must think out of the box, stay alert to the words and find a new conceptual framework to restore the foundation of our cognitive knowledge. This is the function of my words.

我个人与文字有一种特殊关系。我母亲在北大图书馆学系工作。她工作忙,经常是他们开会,就把我关在书库里。我很早就熟悉各种书的样子,但它们对我又是陌生的,因为那时我还读不懂。而到了能读的时候,又没什么书可读,只有一本“小红书”。“文革”结束后,回到城里,逮着书就读,跟着别人啃西方理论译著,弄得思想反而不清楚了,觉得丢失了什么。就像是一个饥饿的人,一下子吃得太多,反倒不舒服了。

文字是人类文化概念最基本的元素,触碰文字即触碰文化之根本,对文字的改造是对人思维最本质的那一部分的改造,历代统治者都深谙此道。建立政权,做百代圣人,先要做的事就是改造和统一文字。这种改造是触及灵魂的,真正的“文化革命”。不同的文字也最深刻的反映了不同的种族、文明,不同的文明源起,对不同种族的人最核心的思想方法的反应。另外,中国文字的特殊性也可以联系到我们文化的特殊性和我们种族的性格,文字帮助我们认识到中国今天为什么是这个样子。

我的“文字”不是好用的字库,更像电脑病毒,却在人脑中起作用—在可读与不可读的转换中,在概念的倒错中,固有的思维模式和知识概念被打乱,制造着连接与表达的障碍,思维的惰性受到挑战。在寻找新的依据和渠道的过程中,思想被打开更多的空间,警觉文字,找回认知原点。这是我的那些“文字”的作用。

6. An ongoing series is the phoenix series, made of discarded materials. When and why did you conceive of this series? Why are you continuing to make the phoenix sculptures? Can you describe the way you make them to fit a site-specific process?

In early 2008, I returned to the Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. I was invited to create a work for a building in CBD, Beijing. I generally don’t participate in public art projects, because I think they are difficult and a bit unfair —— when you create a gigantic landmark, you “force” all passers-by to see it. However, when I went to see the site, I was deeply shocked. The living environment of the workers was in sharp contrast with the magnificent buildings. I had just come back from the United States, and this sense of China had a strong impact on me. I came up with the idea that I would use the wasted construction materials and the tools used by the construction workers. At that time, the Phoenix was more concerned about the relationship between labor and capital. It is not only the residue of the urbanization of modern culture, but also a good wish for the workers. It’s both scarred and dignified.

After the 2008 economic crisis, Phoenix has not been placed in its originally planned position, because the capitalists disliked the irony and criticism in this work. They pointed out that the Phoenix seemed incomplete: it was too rough, maybe [it needed] to be wrapped with a layer of crystal. I realized the gap in our understanding of the work. After the capitalists retrieved the fundings, the Phoenix started “wandering” around the world to attend various exhibitions. Each exhibition adds new meanings and brings new dialogues with its special history, economy, and history. For example, in MASSMoCA, the Phoenix seemed to have returned to its previous existence. In St. John’s Cathedral in New York, it resonates with Christianity’s concern with human destiny and ordinary people because every piece of material [used in making the sculpture] has been touched by construction workers’ hands.

2008年初,我回到美院的第二个星期,我接受委托为北京CBD的某财富大厦创作一件作品。我一般不做公共艺术,觉得公共艺术挺难做的,你做一个大东西搁在一个重要的位置上,“强迫”所有路过的人都要看它,其实有点儿不太公平,是一种视觉上的霸权。然后我去了现场,觉得很震撼,工人们的工作环境和一个金碧辉煌的大楼相对比,形成强烈的反差。我当时刚从美国回来,中国这种现场感对我有一种特别强的触动。我产生了想法,建筑工地上废弃的建材残骸、工具,以及建筑工人日常生活使用的剩余材料等,就是劳动者的手触碰过的材料来做一件装置悬挂在这栋大楼的中间。当时的《凤凰》更多关心的是底层、劳动、资本的关系。它既是现代文城市化的残渣,又是承载着劳动者的美好愿望。既是伤痕累累的,又是带有尊严的。

经历了2008年经济危机之后,《凤凰》并没有被放置在它原本计划的位置,因为资本家感受到了这件作品对于资本的批判。他们提出现阶段的凤凰不像最终成品,还太粗糙,应该在外包裹一层水晶。而我认为这里就有艺术理念上的分歧。于是这件作品就开始了它在全世界“流浪”的故事。由于作品本身的含义,在世界各地展出时都会因展出地特殊的历史、经济、历史,而为《凤凰》赋予新的意义。比如,在MassMOCA,它们像是回到了自己的今世前生。在纽约大教堂,由于《凤凰》身上每一块材料都是被劳动者之手触碰过的,跟大教堂对于人类命运以及对普通人的关怀产生共鸣。

到2014年,威尼斯双年展总策展人奥奎的亲自向我发出邀请邀请,希望我为威尼斯双年展主题展创作一对新的《凤凰》。奥奎评价《凤凰》让人想起德国哲学家瓦尔特.本雅明对《新天使》的论述——“天使很愿意停下来,去唤醒死者,召集失败者。但从天堂吹来了一阵风暴,鼓起了天使的翅膀,以至它无法将翅膀合上。这风暴不停地把它推向他所背对的未来。他面对的废墟已堆到了天上。这风暴,就是我们所说的进步。”几年过去了,我对这次的《凤凰》感受更加深刻。这至少是因为我在中国呆了这些年,并且实实在在地参与其中。我对中国的感受与我刚回来踏入工地的感受又已经不同,这个地方的丰富层面和它内在的能量是惊人的,这对于艺术家的思维推进极有帮助。这个地方的复杂性和它内在的能量,可以让人的视野变得更大。

7. The Book of the Sky is beginning to look like a permanently major work of contemporary Chinese art. How has its meaning changed in the more than thirty years since it has been made? Does it have a political meaning, or only an artistic one?

From its first exhibition in China to later shows around the world, Book from the Sky has attracted great attention and brought out various evaluations and interpretations. The reason might lie in the fact that it doesn’t say anything. Every country is a political society. Even though sometimes artists don’t directly talk about politics, their works of art or reflect the social environment to some extent. What they reflect is not directly determined by the artist’s personality, his attitude towards the social relationship between art, and his grasp of a proper size.

It is difficult to judge Book from the Sky only by asking whether it is political or not. I’ve been reflecting on the nature of art during the Covid-19 crisis: good art is like an unknown virus, coming from an unknown origin, whose gene is yet to be figured out and put in order. The mutation of its gene is endless; good art always changes with the progress of civilization, and a new sense of aggression will appear.

天书从第一次在中国展览到后来在世界各地的展览,都受到极高的关注,也会引起各种各样的评价与阐释。我想也许是因为它本身什么都没有说。不管世界哪一个国家,都是一个政治社会。整个世界进入政治社会背景的语境。艺术家虽然不直接谈论政治社会,但是艺术作品的背后或者艺术作品本身一定会反映出政治社会的背景,它反映的这些东西直不直接完全取决于艺术家的性格和他对艺术有社会关系的态度以及分寸的把握。

如果只用是否是政治或者艺术这两个问题来判断《天书》,其实是很难判断。这一段疫情我一直是在反省:有价值的艺术就像未知病毒,来路不明,还有待整理和重新排序。这排序的复杂性或永无止境,是由于有价值的艺术总是随着文明进程而变异,而出现新的攻击性。

8. The Book from the Ground correlates with the The Book from the Sky, but it is meant to be accessible to everyone–anyone who can read simple icons. Is this book a sequence meant to counter the esotericism of The Book from the Sky? Do people find it as easy to read as it is impossible to read The Book from the Sky?

Book from the Sky is a book that is ineligible to anyone, while Book from the Ground is easy to understand for everyone. The former expresses my doubts about the existing characters, while the latter reflect my ideal that we could have a universal language for all. The ability to read Book from the Ground has nothing to do with the readers’ education level, or their amount of knowledge, but their degree of involvement in contemporary life. As long as you live in today’s society, you can read the emoji language. In fact, both Book from the Sky and Book from the Ground will make intellectuals and scholars uncomfortable, because when they face these books, all their previous knowledge becomes useless, making them just as ignorant as the uneducated. From this point of view, in front of both books, people are equal.

The books were created almost 30 years apart. Imagine that we switch the year of creation for both works, we will see that both works are deeply rooted in the different contexts of the culture, politics and civilization of their own time. While my works appear in very different forms, the core ideas remain the same; the works become each other’s mutual annotation and inspiration.

《天书》是一本谁都看不懂的书,而《地书》是所有人都可以看懂的书。前者表达了我对现存文字的质疑,后者则表达了我一直在寻找的普天同文的理想。对《地书》的识读能力不主要取决於读者的教育程度和书本知识的多少,而是取决於介入当代生活的程度,只要具有当代生活经验,就可以读懂这套语言。其实这两件作品都会让知识分子不太舒服,因为当他们面对这些书的时候,所有的只是必须归零,旧的知识用不上,死机了。他们和没有受过教育的人一样,从这点上说,《天书》和《地书》对于所有人都是平等的。

这两本书的创作差不多相隔了30年,我们设想如果把这两件作品出现的年代互相对调,我们就会意识到艺术作品与它所处年代,世界的文化、政治、文明问题的不同语境间的关系。我作品外在形式非常不同,然而它的有内在思想方法,作品之间成为互相注释、相互激活的关系。

9. A number of your works–indeed, many of them–involve the efforts of more than a few people. Does running a large studio like this result in making art that is more difficult to create? How do you feel about signing over art-work tasks to others?

Today, the methods and forms of art creation have become so varied and comprehensive, art becomes increasingly uncertain and difficult to define, which reflects the characteristics of the contemporary times. The boundaries between different fields are disrupted. My art projects must rely on various technical support to realize the diversity of my materials. I feel like an architect, who has to realize a project within a limited time, and work with a team together. But I don’t really like to work with many people or to worry about management. However, to achieve a project that is filled with great curiosity toward the unknown, I have to work hard with a team. In this process, people from different  fields activate each other’s wisdom, which is something I enjoy very much in my work.

今天艺术创作的表达手法和形式变得丰富而综合,越来越无从把握,这其实反映了时代的一个特征。任何领域之间的界限都在被打乱、我的创作由于材料上的多样性,必须借助不同领域的技术支持。这就有点像建筑师,一个项目的完成限时,而且必须有一个团队共同努力。但我并不喜欢与人接触,也不喜欢管理型工作,但对于一个想法,在未知的好奇之下,我必须非常努力组织团队成员,才能够共同实现目标。在这过程中,来自不同领域的人的智慧相互激活,是我在工作中非常享受的事情。

10. What kind of art is now being made in China? You have a classical outlook–does that point of view come up a lot now in young people’s work? Is it still possible to make a good, classically inspired artwork in today’s China?

In my point of view, wherever you live, you have to face problems. If you see a problem, you have art. These problems become the source of your artistic creation. Most young artists are eager to enter the mainstream art system. However, for young artists, it is not important to dive into the system, but to find a suitable position and relationship with the system. It is necessary to bring new ideas to the “classical” art system, which cannot be found in the system itself, but can only be obtained from other fields outside of the art world. Today’s art becomes stunning on the surface but narrower in its methodology. Too many contemporary artists are capable of producing the typical modern art.

There is no obvious break between art education and Chinese traditional or classical art, which is a strength. If students consciously and actively try to examine the problems of modern art with distinctive Chinese experience, they can find a sharper angle to approach problems than those in the western art world. China’s history renders rich layers of experiences: the ancient tradition, the socialist tradition, and the experience of the Cultural Revolution. We should not waste all this “nutrition.” These nutrients, together with foreign knowledge from the West, can produce a mixed kind of ingredient, the rare ingredient, which is useful for future cultural development..

我的观点是你生活在哪,就面对哪的问题,有问题就有艺术。你的处境和你的问题其实就是你的艺术创作的源泉。大部分年轻艺术家都急于进入这主流系统。今天的艺术家,重要的不是一头扎到这个系统中去,而是找到一个与这个系统合适的位置和关系。必须为这个“古典”的艺术系统带来一些新的东西,而新的东西在这个系统本身是找不到的,必然从其他领域或两者之间的地带才有可能获得。今天的艺术变得表面丰富多彩但在方法论上却越走越窄,太多的艺术家都会做这种标准的现代艺术。

中国的艺术教育与传统(古典)没有明显的断裂,这是长处。有意识地、主动地试用中国的经验审视现代艺术的问题,能有比西方艺术界更为特殊和犀利的角度。中国经验具有极丰富的层面:不仅是古代传统,还有社会主义的传统,“文革”的经验,所有的营养都不应该浪费。这些营养,再加上外来营养,经过混杂,才有可能产生第三种成分:那才是稀有的成分,是对未来文化建设有用的成分。

11. Please describe your recent film project, Dragonfly Eyes–how it was made, what it is about, its impact on the Chinese art world. Is your meaning generally social (across cultures), specifically political (particular to China), or both?

One night in 2013, I turned on CCTV because I was bored and saw some surveillance pictures on legal programs. The pictures [I saw] on that day have a special attraction for me. I realized that the charm of these pictures must be unique to surveillance images but something rare in ordinary images. All the feature films we have seen so far have been performed. However, every frame of the plot in the movie I wanted to make actually was happening in the real world. When I got this idea, I began to ask my friends who were making movies [about how to make the film] because I was a contemporary artist and had never made movies. Later, suddenly a large number of real-time surveillance images were connected to the cloud, and a large amount of surveillance video was broadcast live on the public network platform. At that time, we prepared 20 computers to download videos 24/7. It took us about two years to download the materials and write scripts at the same time. Finally, selected from 11000 hours of footage, we made an 81 min film, which  can be said to the films with the largest amount of footage.

The problems reflected in Dragonfly Eyes are global. This new technology brings out issues and discussions on privacy, public security and other subject matter. We human beings are passive in face of these issues. I consulted with lawyers during the project, but at that time, few lawyers could state clearly where the legal boundary was. This technology is updating and spreading so fast that there has not been new laws or regulations to follow up.

Today, we have entered the post-surveillance era. In earlier times, the original purpose of surveillance technology naturally gives this technology a strong political concept, namely,  surveillance and control. Governments of all countries use [surveillance] to monitor and manage citizens’ behaviors. The post-surveillance camera era is characterized by the wide use of surveillance technology by large public and private companies. People use it as a means to interact with the world. Compared with the old concept of surveillance, whose problems with privacy are widely acknowledged, this field has expanded the content of other, huge categories. The fact that I was able to make a movie entirely out of surveillance footage points to the relationship between people and cameras today.

大约是在2013年某天,我偶然在CCTV法制节目里看到了一些监控画面。看到这些监控画面的时候我特别有感觉,因为我觉得这些画面很有魅力。我想,如果谁能够只用这些监控画面,做一个剧情电影,一定非常有意思。以往所有故事电影都是演出来的,如果用监控录像制作一部电影的想法能实现,这将是第一部全部由真实发生的移动影像构成的故事电影。后来公共摄像头大量传入云端,网上就可以看到大量的监控直播。我们当时准备了20个电脑24小时下载视频,大概下载了两年的时间,同时写剧本。最后,我们从11000小时的素材中截取出来的81分钟,可以说是剧情电影里素材量最多的电影之一。

《蜻蜓之眼》所涉及到的问题是全球性的。因为这种新技术引申出关于隐私、公共安全等问题,而人类面对这些问题是被动的。我在项目开始以后咨询了相关的律师,但当时很少有律师可以说清楚它的法律的边界在哪儿。为什么说不清楚?因为这个技术蔓延得非常快,而法律条文都是在这种现象之前制定的。

今天已经进入了“后监控摄像头时代”。因为在早期的监控时代,各国的监控设备都是由政府掌握的,“监视”和“控制”这个概念是带有很强的政治社会的色彩。而现在,监控设备大量的被民间公司和个人掌握。现在不少人是利用监控技术让自己和世界发生关系。我们所说的“前监控时代”的概念,大家都知道它的问题,它对人的隐私的侵犯,或者对人的掌控等,都是令大家不愉快的部分,现在仍然是这样。但在这之外,延伸出了范围更大的关于监控和人类关系的课题,其实这是电影想侧重的部分。在今天有人只用监控素材就剪辑出一部剧情长篇出来,那已经点明了今天人的生活和监控的关系。

12. Can you describe one or two of your most recent projects? What are they about? How are you making them? Do they have your particular mix of lyricism and social commentary?

The complexity of issues from various parts of the world continue to concern people who care about the fate of the world. As an artist, he (or she) must have something to say, which will be reflected in his art creation. I always have many ideas that I wish to express, but I frequently feel that my hands cannot catch up with my mind. I have several projects in progress at the same time. Some are very ambitious, some are very personal– so the work can only be achieved in my own studio. These works have not yet been completed yet, so it is difficult to describe to you. The process of making an artwork is similar to polishing the artist’s thoughts. When new works are released to the community, I hope to hear everyone’s feedback.

来自于世界各个地区的问题的复杂性一定让对于关注世界命运的人的思维无法闲下来,作为艺术家一定会有话要说,一定会反映在他的创作上。我总有很多想法要表达,但总有力不从心之感。我同时有几个项目在推进,有些非常有野心,有些非常个人性,只有在私人工作室才能实现。作品还没有做出来,所以很难描述清楚。艺术家在工作室实现作品的过程中其实也就是在把思想打磨得更加清晰的过程。等新的作品出来,交给社会,希望得到大家的反馈意见。

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

DEJA UNA RESPUESTA

Por favor, deja tu comentario!
Por favor, introduce tu nombre aquí