The Form of Language


The Metaphysics of Language

 

Words are visible forms, not objects that can be described with other words. Of course, words have metaphorical meanings that constitute language, describe objects, and establish communication. Early abstract discussions of words are inflexibly material, and ordinary people only care about words because they are concrete. However, this has nothing to do with me. My words convey form, and stop at form.

 

Form is the earliest imagination of a word. All human wisdom stems from form and becomes solidified over the course of its evolution. For pictographic words, the evolution is obvious. This is also true for alphabetic words, but the difference is simply the extent to which the forms and symbols have been translated. At times, I have been unconsciously dragged into philology, but I just wanted to return to the original ideas that inspired the birth of words, and similar ideas are needed for creation of art.

 

The visual space of a text is the site of its original meaning, even if that original meaning is increasingly distant from us. Almost as confirmation of the necessity of this distance, we have entered an era of simulated words and information.

 

This is simply the most visible (or visual) era, which can be viewed through the digital formats of words. These words are no longer unreal or considered. They support themselves; they are obedient words that can be quantified by political power and economic interests. They are anti-words.

 

The harsh reality is that anti-words have become even more powerful and full of positive energy. Eggs cannot collide with stones and remain intact, but I can say that my words are anti-words.

 

I begin working from characters because I am familiar with them. Chinese characters have evolved over time, but they are still descended from the most ancient pictographic words. My work reflects the spatial plasticity and temporal tolerance of Chinese characters, especially in an historical era that is painstakingly attempting to destroy words. However, this fact also shows that original words are irreplaceable.

 

The space and time of words produce organic relationships and deep structures. They can be elevated to language and the amazing texts of poetry and literature. However, the basic material of Chinese characters is visual. The poet Wang Wei once wrote,

                                       

In the vast desert, the smoke ascends straight to the sky, / Above the long river, the setting sun appears so round.”

 

With the gravity of time, space expands, and words become temporal memory. However, when we read the passage backwards:

 

The round sun sets into the long river, and smoke ascends in the vast desert.”

 

The landscape still exists, but time has been fixed in a philosophical context.

 

This example shows that the height (or breadth, or depth) of words can only be measured using space. Therefore, words are metaphysical in a visual sense.

 

My words sculpture, Straight, Round, draws on the words of this poem. In a reversed space, I wanted to express the ideas behind the poem: extension, revolution, intersection, and combination.

 

These are my anti-words, and the metaphysics of words determine form.

 

 

The Three Dimensional Forms of The I-Ching

 

I have studied The I-Ching since the early 1980s,and I have played games with The I-Ching in painting and sculpture. The I-Ching has been my constant companion. After more than 30 years, I still don’t really understand it, but it has opened old loves and new knowledge for me.

 

If there were no I-Ching, there would be no Language-Form.

 

More than 30 years ago, I annotated my copy of The I-Ching based on an understanding of the visual realm and creative methods inspired by feeling. I know that the argument of The I-Ching is very simple, but it is also very rich.

 

The I-Ching is the holy book of nature, and the holy book of I-Ching is not religious.

 

The Chinese have been recording and circulating The I-Ching for at least 3,000 years, and so contain very old ideas, perhaps too old. However, the philosophical logic of The I-Ching, means that it is always new. Yesterday is new, today is new, and tomorrow is new. If you think about The I-Ching, it will renew in your thoughts. The basic concept behind the text is that it continually renews your thinking.

 

For 3,000 years, many smart people have written scholarly works about The I-Ching, providing millions of explanations and interpretations, but The I-Ching described with words is simply fortune-telling, primitive divination, or the revival of dead stories. Here, speaking is better than reading, seeing is better than speaking, and doing is better than speaking; this is the essence of The I-Ching.

 

I want to engage with the basic logic behind Language-Form through The I-Ching, using the following methods:

1. The top of the form stretches towards the floor, returning to the earth. The bottom of the form extends towards the sky, opening to the outside. Simply put, I’ve turned it upside down.

2. By diminishing the meaning of the words, I create space for visual imagination. Simply put, I daydream.

3. I comingle gravity and movement. Simply put, I confuse right and wrong.

 

The eight trigrams of The I-Ching each contain three horizontal lines. Yin is two short lines, and yang is one long line. In each trigram, one line is for heaven, one is for earth, and one is for man, representing the unity of heaven, earth, and man. This is a natural relationship within the universe. These are the basic elements that humans first used to create things.

 

These three lines link the realm of the eye and vision to the realm of the mind and thought to the realm of the earth and civilization.

 

Yours and mine, male and female, earth and universe all have these three lines.

 

 

Woman and Woman

 

Woman, womanly, women, and Woman.

 

For me, woman is a sex, but also a material, a model, a space, and a creation.

 

In The I-Ching, women existed before God did.

 

Because woman is a material, the hands can touch it. Because woman is a model, the eyes can see it. Because woman is space, movements can expand and contract.

 

The continuous seduction of women comes from the above three states. The temptations of the heart, hands, and eyes are the cause and effect of movement. I happily welcome the temptations of women, and I answer them in a state of movement that conveys temptation.  After working for a long time, I have obtained rather a lot of space, a space that belongs to women and to art.

 

If not for women, would art still be a temptation and a motivation? Would two-dimensional and three-dimensional art still exist? There is not simply one answer.

 

As I have said, we exist simply as half a body, which slants toward the other half. The movement of this hemisphere is synchronized with the earth. Everyone is like this, but it is especially true of artists and other creators. Sex, sexiness, and sexual desire are essentially movements away from the self. Speaking more absolutely, artistic creation is an imitative activity, a game with women. But this is only half of it; the other half is the eternal space of the woman.

 

In 2006, I created my first clear Language-Formwork, which I called Woman. As I was making the piece, I jotted down a few thoughts:

 

Woman is a structural work that obeys new rules.

 

Woman comes directly from words, just as Chinese characters come from pictograms. This is a form of visual memory.

 

Woman is the synthesis of a deconstructed Chinese character and physical form.

 

Woman is a unique artwork constructed of welded steel plate that is simultaneously two-dimensional, sculptural, and installation.

 

Woman is just like a real woman. She can move, spin, make sounds, stand still, and listen to replies. She begins and end without revealing her feelings.

 

Woman develops in various ways, just like women inspire desire in various places. In words, women are very individual and unique subjects. By chance, this piece stems from a word, and directly expresses changes in space within the course of time.

 

Womanc an meet an audience any time using her body. Paired with music at a specific time, Woman performs with professional dancers, playing out another possibility for performance art. This is an experiment with the intersections of three-dimensional works and time.

 

Woman s a beginning, and she waits for art to take place within the artwork.

 

 

The Gate to All Mystery

 

One day in the winter of 1982-1983, Ah Cheng told me about this quote by Lao Zi:

 

The Dao that can be told is not the eternal Dao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.”

 

Two simple words move toward opposite extremes, like two straight lines rising from the horizon. I was stunned. The Dao as a name is an affirmation, but “not the eternal Dao” is a negation. The name as Dao is an affirmation, but “not the eternal name” is a negation. There is no boundary between affirmation and negation. There is a link between abstraction and figuration, so nothingness can be present. If it was you, what would you think?

 

The passage continues with:

 

The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things. Ever desire-less, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations. These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gate to all mystery.”

 

More than 30 years later, I am writing this passage for Language-Form. When I reconstructed the meaning of these words, I attempted to keep close to Lao Zi’s era. Even if I can’t approach Lao Zi’s grand ideas, I can approach his limited vision. Therefore, I take apart single words, and the meanings of these components can become like slides placed in a slide projector, reflecting an ancient civilization.

 

The nameless have a “beginning,” and the named have a “mother.” The character for “beginning” can be divided into the words for “woman” and “platform,” and the original pictogram was a cross between a fetus and pregnancy. Everything begins with pregnancy, and mothers are simply women who have already grown. This passage reflects the process from pregnancy to growth.

 

The Chinese character for “mystery” in “the gate to all mystery” can be broken into two characters, which produce the word for “young woman” when recombined. The gate to a young woman is her vagina.

 

Therefore, there is darkness within darkness, and mystery becomes even more mysterious. This is a profound realm that is not easy to enter.

 

By saying this, I may have become an “instigator of indecency.” (I can say this boldly, but I can only say it now, because a fairly evolved society does not punish indecency of thought. In the Maoist era, I could have received a bullet for this crime.)

 

However, the mystery and the gate only provide inspiration. Like me, many men fantasize before they go to bed or just after waking up, and these fantasies have a clear distance from reality, but these thoughts are also a consideration of beauty. Although beauty appears before your eyes, it often manifests as an uncertain longing. Beauty does not belong to one person, and beauty and your body move along invisible parallel lines. Beauty and mystery are often linked, and the most wonderful word is actually a combination of the two. Beauty is a profound yet absent object of our respect.

 

I want to return to that state of “ever desire-less,” so that I “can see the mystery.” When we break the character for “see” apart, we get the words for “heron” and “see.” The heron is a beautiful migratory bird that does not like people. Now, in this character, is the person seeing the heron, or is the heron seeing the person? Salvador Dalí said, “Seeing is invention.” Though this statement might be something of a leap, it does tie into these discussions.

 

When we break apart “mystery,” we obtain woman and young, and we envision a young woman who has become dizzy while dancing. To be desire-less is to see, and with a clear mind, we can see the dancing young woman. The impression of seeing the mystery is profound; it is a memory that lingers in the mind.

 

Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.” Here, the ancients interpreted the word “manifestations” as a locked heart. What is good and visible about a locked heart? I also broke apart this character into the words meaning two people, white, square, and word. You know the words written by the masses when you see them; they reflect knowledge, traditions, or rules. When you add desire, it is a sustained effort.

 

If we combine the two sentences, they imply clear open perception and incontrovertible theoretical logic. When they come together, they are “darkness,” mysterious and profound.

 

Since there is this clear creative methodology, why would you want darkness? The character for “darkness” looks like a small snake that has been trapped, alone, under a lid. It represents the double danger of antagonism and resistance. The depth of the darkness implies stepping into no-man’s land. This is a spiritual rule for maintaining independent creativity in a secular environment, finding the light with a pair of black eyes.

 

This is an arrow that has been shot, motivated by spirit and will. In ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’, Jia Baoyu is tied to this kind of arrow, propelled by evil and ignorance. Who can reach the gate to all mystery? Just take a look at the fates of generation after generation of Chinese masters!

 

For Lao Zi, darkness had a correct and necessary place. “Know its lightness, but maintain its darkness.” Darkness, negative elements, and reversals are suited for movement. This is all consistent with The I-Ching.

 

Creativity begins with reverse action, and this is an irrefutable truth of the course of civilization.

 

I do not intend to propagate Lao Zi’s aesthetics, but I do want to return to a primal truth. Even today, Lao Zi’s aesthetics have been imprisoned by the Chinese tradition. Regardless, Lao Zi is delighted by this imprisonment, and he feels wonderful about anti-imprisonment. What else can we learn from Lao Zi? Isn’t this the embodiment of the darkness within darkness and the gate to all mystery?

 

(The gate to all mystery is often locked. In order to imprison the source of anti-imprisonment, a paternalistic society first imprisons women. With this imprisonment, men are half people with anti-imprisonment tendencies. They have a holy book or true knowledge: “the gate to the only mystery.”)

 

In the winter of 1984, I rented a rice storehouse on the outskirts of Nara and used it as a studio. The door was made of wood, and then encased in a layer of steel. Like the traditional doors of many Japanese households, this door opens from the side and has a built-in lock. Japanese people call this type of door “genkan,” or “dark closure.”

 

At the time, I was busy creating my Space and Space-Structure series, and Lao Zi’s aesthetics supported me, motivating me to work even as I often went hungry. I nicknamed my studio the Dark Cottage.

 

Huang Rui

February 26, 2015


言之形

文字形而上

 

文字是被看見的造形,不是被言說的物質。當然文字喻意,組成語言,描寫事物,建立交流。原本抽象務虛的文字一根筋物質化——普通人唯此注重文字——卻與我無關。我的文字傳達造型,止於造型。

 

造型是文字的原初想像,人類的智慧從此迸發,在過程中定格。這種創造對象形文字來說一目了然,對字母文字來說亦是如此——不同的僅是造型符號的轉譯程度。我在此無意牽涉文字學,僅僅設想回歸文字誕生之初的幻象(屬於創造藝術的同類幻象)。

 

文字的視覺空間是它們原本的意義,儘管與我們越來越疏遠了。為了證實更有必要的疏遠,人類進入了虛擬的文字資訊時代。

 

這簡直是最可以看到的(視覺化)時代,而且是以文字的數碼格式化看到的。這些文字不再虛幻,不再思考,自我主張,它們是被政治權力與經濟利益數量化的唯命是聽的文字。它們是反文字。

 

嚴苛的現實是:反文字的力量變本加厲,愈加強大,富有並“正能量”。雞蛋不可碰石頭,我只有認定自己的文字是“反文字”。

 

我是從漢字開始工作的,因為我比較熟悉它們。漢字的沿革歷來有之,但它們仍舊是傳承下來的最古老的象形文字。這說明一個道理:漢字的空間可塑性——對時間的包容性,特別是在一些刻意摧殘文字的歷史時代。也說明原創的文字不可替代。

 

文字的空間性與時間性產生有機關係,組織深度結構,上升為語言,上升為詩歌、文學等最高品質的文字存在。但漢字的基本質地從視覺開始——以王維的詩句為例:

 

“大漠孤煙直,長河落日圓”。

 

空間物件在時間引力下擴張,文字更加屬於時間記憶。但,反過來讀的話:

 

“圓日落河長,直煙孤漠大”。

 

景物猶存,時間被定格在一種哲理的語境中。相比原詩的時間氛圍,更加空間化。

 

這一例說明文字的高度(或廣度、深度)可以僅用空間單位測量。文字因此擁有視覺意義上的形而上學。

 

我就此創作了文字雕塑《直,圓》,各取上述詩句中的最後一個字——“直,圓”。並以反向的空間描繪詩中的意境:伸展、迴旋、交錯、結合。

 

這就是我的“反文字”,文字的形而上決定造型。

 

 

 

易經的三維形態

 

我從80年代初期開始學易經,在繪畫和造型中遊戲易經,易經已是我永恆的伴侶。30多年後,我還是不太瞭解它,它向我開啟全部的舊愛和新知。

 

沒有易經,則沒有《言形》。

 

30多年來,我給易經做了不少注釋——通過視覺領域的認識方式,及有感即發的創作方式。因此我知道易經的道理非常簡單。同時非常富有。

 

易經就是自然的聖經。易經的聖經不設宗教。

 

易經被中國人記載和流傳,至少有3000年的歷史了,應該太老太老了吧。可是因為易經的哲學邏輯,它一直是常新的:昨天是新的,今天是新的,明天是新的;只要你思考它,它就在思考中更新了。所謂易,它的根本理念在常態中更新你的思考。

 

3000年來,許許多多的聰明人著書立說,給易經留下千萬種文字考證和演繹,但文字敘述裡的易經不過是算卦蔔筮而已,原始占相術而已,死去活來的故事而已。所以讀不如說,說不如看,看不如用——這才是易經之本。

 

我是通過使用易經進入《言形》創作的基本邏輯,方法是:

1, 造型的上部伸向地面,回歸大地;造型的下部指向天空,向外開放。以簡言之:上下顛倒。

2, 消減文字的意涉,擴大視覺幻想。以簡言之:白日做夢。

3,重力與運動交合。以簡言之:混淆黑白。

 

易經的八卦裡各有三道橫,陰是兩個斷橫,陽是一個長橫。這三個橫,一為天,二為人,三為地,成為天地人。這就是宇宙間的自然關係,這就是人類開始創造的基本元素。

 

這三道橫,聯繫著眼體的半球,視覺。腦體的半球,思考。然後是大地的半球,文明。

 

你的,我的;男人的,女人的;大地的,宇宙的;都有這三道橫。

 

 

 

女人與《女人》

 

女人,女性;女人們,《女人》。

 

對我來說,女人即是性,也是材質,也是造型,也是空間。也是創造。

 

在易經的說法裡,女人的存在早於上帝。

 

女人,因為是材質,手才有觸感。因為是造型,眼才有觀感。因為是空間,才有了擴張和收縮的運動。

 

來自女人不斷的引誘即出自以上三種形態,既是心、手、眼的誘惑,又是運動的起點與回歸。我欣然接受女人的誘惑,又在運動狀態中傳遞誘惑,回答女人。長久的工作以後,我獲得了不少空間。屬於女人的空間,屬於藝術的空間。

 

離開女人,會產生藝術的誘惑與衝動嗎?會產生二維空間的、三維空間的藝術品嗎?這不該是非此即彼的回答。

 

如同前述,自我存在僅是半體,而且向另外半體的空間傾斜。這種半球體的運動與地球同步,人人如此,藝術家、其他創造者尤為使然。談及性、性感、性欲,本質上就是脫離自我的反向運動。說得絕對一些:藝術創作即是與女人遊戲的模仿性活動——一半,另一本是女人的永恆空間。

 

2006年,我第一次意識明確地創作《言形》作品,即為《女人》。我在創作時寫下如下文字:

 

《女人》是遵照新的規則所進行的解構作品。

 

《女人》直接源於文字,正如漢字源於象形——視覺記憶一樣。

 

《女人》們是解構了的漢字與實際形體的綜合。

 

《女人》是一個經鋼板裁制焊成的兼平面、雕塑、裝置形態的特殊工藝製作的作品。

 

《女人》如同真正的女人一樣,是可以動、旋轉、發出聲音、靜態、傾聽回音、不露聲色地開始並結束一種誇張。

 

《女人》在各個領域發展,如同女人們已在各個領域發展並擴張自我意欲一樣。在文字裡,女人是非常自我與非常獨特的主題。偏巧這個作品以文字意境出發,直接地表現空間的變化在一種時間過程裡。

 

《女人》隨時與觀眾結合,利用她們的肢體。在特定的時間,配合音樂節奏,“女人”和專業的舞師共同演出,扮演出另一種可能——行為藝術的角色,這也是立體作品與時間現場交叉的實驗。

 

《女人》是一個開始,她等待藝術在作品裡發生。

 

 

 

眾妙之門

 

約是82年、83年之交的某天,阿城向我描述老子的詩句:

 

“道可道,非常道,名可名,非常名。”……

 

兩個簡單的字各自走向極端,好像兩條直線從地平線上升起,我完全震呆了。道為名,肯定;卻“非常道”,否定。名為道,肯定,卻“非常名”,否定。肯定與否定無界,抽象與有象相連,虛無即可存在。如果是你,感覺會怎樣?

 

繼續這段文字,然後是:

 

“無名天下之始,有名萬物之母。

故常以無欲觀其妙,常有欲觀其徼。

此兩者同出而並名,同謂之玄。

玄之又玄,眾妙之門。”

 

30多年後,我在此時寫下老子,是為了《言形》。我在重建這些詞句的含義時,試著貼近老子的時代。即使不能貼近老子的宏大思考,也可以貼近老子的有限視野。因此我拆分單個文字,文字的單字含義都會變成幻燈機中替換的幻燈片——疊映遠古的文明時代。

 

無名為“始”,有名為“母”。始分開左右為女、台,象形字在胎、孕之間。受孕才為始。母即已生育的女性。這段話的從無到有即是受孕到培育之間。

 

眾妙之門的“妙”拆開兩邊為女、少,少女之門意即處女的陰戶。

 

因此玄之又玄,神秘更加神秘,此乃深邃、不易侵入之域。

 

如此說來,我會變成一個流氓教唆犯(我有膽量這麼說,僅是現在,多多少少文明進化的時代已不會懲治一個思想流氓了。在毛的時代,這個罪行足以送我一顆子彈)。

 

但是“妙、門”僅僅提供想像。像我,像眾多男人在睡前或蘇醒時的想像一樣,幻想有不可置疑的現實距離。這也是對美的思考。美雖然在視野的前面,卻常常是不確定的渴望。美不是屬於個人的,她與你的身體橫著一條看不見的平行線。美與妙常在一起,中文裡最美妙的詞即是“美妙”。她屬於既深遂又虛無的可敬畏之物。

 

回到上句“常以無欲觀其妙”,觀拆開為雚見。雚是一種美麗的遷徙鳥,不喜人間煙火。那麼觀是人見到了雚呢,還是雚見到了人?薩爾瓦多.達利說:“觀看即發明”。其言雖然跨越,殊归同途。

 

妙拆開為女少——傾斜的少女——在舞蹈中失去重心。無欲才可觀——以清澈的胸襟又見少女的舞蹈。觀妙印象之深,成為繞梁三日的腦中記憶。

 

“常有欲觀其徼”——徼,古人釋為鎖心。鎖心有什麼好又見的呢?我還是拆開這個字,分別為雙人、白、方、文。一望即知,眾人書寫的文字——知識,傳統,或規則。加之有欲——持續不斷的努力。

 

上下句連接起來,意味清新開放的感性及確鑿無疑地理論邏輯性。合在一起為“玄”——神秘,深邃。

 

既然已經有了如此清晰的創造方法論,為什麼還要“玄”呢?玄的字形為個蓋子蓋住一條小蛇,有被囚禁、孤獨;對立與反抗的雙重危險。玄之深遠,即有步入無人之境的含義。這是在世俗環境堅持獨立創造的精神法則——用一雙黑色的眼睛尋找光明。

 

這是一支射出之箭,迸發著精神與意志的推力。《紅樓夢》把賈寶玉綁到這只箭上,使用的動力是“邪”、“癡”。誰人可至眾妙之門?看看身邊一代繼而一代中國大師的命運吧!

 

所以在老子那裡,黑暗即是正確的且必然的位置,“知其白,守其黑”。黑暗,負面因素,反向的位置適於運動。這也與易經的道理一致。

 

創造自反向運動始,應該是文明進程中顛撲不破的真理。

 

我並非在這裡宣講老子的美學,而是還原一種原始的真實。至今為止,老子的美學被國學傳統囚禁了。無論如何,老子也樂於被囚禁,從而獲得反囚禁的宏偉感受。我們還能從老子那裡學到什麼呢?那不就是玄之又玄,眾妙之門嗎?.

 

(眾妙之門常關不開。父權社會為了囚禁反囚禁的源頭,先把女人們囚禁起來了。隨之囚禁了男人們反囚禁傾向的半體,留下一本聖經或真經——謂之“唯妙之門”。)

 

1984年冬天,我在奈良市郊租到了一個稻米倉庫當做畫室,大門是木頭結構,外邊包了一層鐵皮,像許多日本家庭的傳統大門一樣,這個門也是側拉,暗鎖。日本人叫這樣的大門為“玄關”。

 

我那時正在創作《空間》、《空間結構》系列,老子的美學支援我常常餓肚子幹活的動力,我給畫室起的別名是“玄玄草舍”。

 

 

 

黃銳

2015/2/26