“The Harvester of Space – to Huang Rui”


1

Huang Rui, we haven’t contacted each other for a while. I heard that your studio has recently moved away from the 798-art district. How have you been?


Early last September we met in Beijing and you invited me to write an article for this exhibition. I was very pleased. Since 1988, when I first went to China (Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing) and started to be in touch with Chinese modern art, every once in a while I wrote a few articles about Chinese modern art and its artists. But until today I had no opportunity to write a “Huang Rui Treatise“. As an art critic, I have been focused on Japanese modern art, its history and its artists. My work also involved modern art from East Asia (including China, Taiwan and Korean Peninsula), its history and artists. To me, you are not just a distinguished artist. Because you participated in the development of Chinese modern art starting from 1979, you are a very comprehensive and thorough artist.

I trust that you will agree with me: today, modern Chinese art is controlled by the market. Seen from the perspective of business and money, China (and India too) is the last huge new market left on the globe. Countless greedy eyes are watching.

It is probably superfluous to say anything about those (including artists) who regard business and money as their sole target. But for me, being outside of but very close to China, all of this is an unbearable farce. I even think it is not only ridiculous, but also very dangerous. I am serious: when one looks at the history of modern Chinese art, it has only been around for less than thirty years, but now even this little bit of history seems to be forgotten. As a resident of a tiny neighboring island, I always thought that China was a “Land of History”. But now modern Chinese art is busy forgetting its history. In such circumstances the emergence of an artist like you is of the greatest significance. One even can say that within the history of the development of Chinese modern art, your existence represents the “hub”. The reason for you standing on the “hub” position, I think, is that within the “short” thirty-year course of Chinese modern art, the path of your activities has been overlapping with this course to a very high degree.

 

2


China once had a long art history, but it was deliberately interrupted. However, that was not a simple interruption, but accompanied by a policy of seclusion to cut off any external information. During this time, art underwent fundamental changes in the outside world. Once the gates opened again, you must have been shocked by the “contrast” in front of your eyes. It was no accident that the tightly locked gates opened gradually, and the ones who facilitated this lucky chance within the art world were you artists from “The Stars Painters Society”! And so inside your heart you are very clear about the crazy and stupid attempts to ignore or go beyond this “contrast”. The farcical and dangerous state of Chinese modern art being manipulated by the art market is rooted in forgetting this “contrast” and its underlying madness and stupidity. Those who ignore history will eventually be punished by it. Right, Huang Rui?

For Western art, the so-called “contrast” means groping for a new way out when facing a dead end. For Chinese art, it’s a lesson, meaning that “modernization (= Westernization)” will eventually lead Chinese modern art to its termination. It was the same case for Chinese art as in virtually all non-Western areas: The modernization (Westernization) once chosen by Chinese artists was encountered again after a long period of obstruction without information. But then you discovered that Western art in the West–in its cradle- had no more new horizons to turn to; in other words, it was already finished.

And on the Japanese Islands where I’m located, we have seen clearly and have experienced the predicament and termination of the modernization in Western arts (or Westernization). But you were in China, and when the gates of the country opened again, the development of Western art was almost over. That was the “contrast”.

Your art works from the era of “The Stars Painters Society” were inspired by forms of “Westernization (modernization)” from before the country was closed off (because you knew nothing about the new trends and changes of the West). You strove to put new meanings into these forms, and you created very remarkable oil paintings. Those new meanings and fresh ideas in your works expressed an inner confusion in your intensive pursuit of freedom. I like them very much. You said it yourself in this way:


The so-called abstract objects are not bound by time and space. I don’t want to reflect anything or explain anything, but express my own primary condition of chaos.“


(Art News, Xi’an, 5th Issue, 1981)


However, it was not long before you discovered this “contrast”. And when you came to Japan and proceeded with your work, you became more and more deeply conscious of this “contrast”.

 

3


Huang Rui, another kind of “contrast” is certainly also involved. When the doors of the country were closed and Socialist Realism was made a basic national policy, Chinese art had in fact already departed from its own tradition. This was not simply because Chinese art was old-fashioned and outdated. Along with the rapid changes of time, traditional art gradually appeared to fall behind indeed, but things are not so simple. When the country’s gates were opened, the Chinese felt confused and dizzy as the Western arts rolled in with their solid thoughts and outstanding works. They even thought that the term “art” meant Western art only. Before the country was closed off, and even from before Westernization (modernization) all the way until now, such things as sense of space, color, physique and form, which affected the deep structure of body and spirit, were forgotten. People have been deeply influenced by the surge of thoughts flooding in. Seen from this angle, the closing of the doors really had serious consequences; because when the gates of the country opened again, many Chinese thought mistakenly that “art” just meant Western art (Western modern art). Just like language, art is also rooted in local conditions and social customs and changes in nature. They all give birth to qualities such as sense of space, form and color. Of course, there are mutual influences on a global scope, but if at any place in the world you could only see the same art works, it would leave you bored, if not sick and terrified.

Surely, it is already impossible to go back to Chinese traditional art from before the seclusion, or even earlier. Times have changed indeed; yet facing the open gate, you have witnessed the “level” and the “quality” of the world’s modern art. You have not been able to ignore them in your own artworks. But the artworks that you wanted to realize could no more represent an “extension line” of European and American art, because that would have made you nothing more than their followers. Right?

Huang Rui, after the “The Stars Painters Society” movement, you accidentally came to Osaka, Japan, in 1984; you lived there until the later half of the90’s. It was also around that time that we got to know each other. I think you must have quietly grasped the “level” and “quality” of the world’s modern art while being outside of China, and therefore very consciously started the exploration of artworks which are not just “extension lines” of European and American modern art.

 

4


From 1992 until 1994 you lived mostly in Beijing and then came to Osaka again in 1994. Later, around 2002, you moved your base back to Beijing. You discovered the “798”factory site and founded your own studio. It was you who carried out a series of creative events and activities that popularized and explored “798”and let it become a central stage of modern arts.

During one media interview, when asked how you viewed the student movement in 1989, you answered in this way:


My beautiful dreams were suddenly broken; I had no choice but to recognize the social aspect of my existence.”


(Tokyo Gallery “Demand for Artistic Freedom – The Twenty Year Anniversary of The Stars” exhibition catalog. Tokyo, 2000)


Being an artist is a social form of existence!


At least in modern China, it is not enough for an artist to pursue the “succinctness” and the “quality” of pure beauty, like they may have done in Europe or America. The artist’s job is not so simple. You cannot drift away from your environment and society and work in a space of your own. Otherwise the meaning of an artist’s existence would be in doubt, because his or her works would disconnect from reality. It is even more so in modern Chinese society with its layers upon layers of contradictions. Without a doubt, an artist has no choice but to involve himself actively in the current situation of a society.

Starting from this period, in comparison with before, your artworks exposed social and political factors even more. And afterwards your position was always consistent. Just as you said – I, and the partners of “The Stars Painters Society”, are responsible for the arts!


Huang Rui, you’re right. When I see the impetuous commercialism in Chinese modern art, like a kite with a broken line fluttering in the wind, I think it is terrible.

 

5


However, Huang Rui, many people have already discussed the satire and the critique in the social and political themes of your works. Here, I want to write about another aspect. In Chinese society, with its complex layers of contradictions, every artist has to be a social presence, you have no other choice. However, this doesn’t mean that the artworks from an artist with a social presence must contain social or political implications.

In June 1989, when you were in Japan, separated by the ocean from the students’ movement at Tian’anmen, you were again confirmed to be a “social existence”. I think you also once again lost something like “Western art”. It was precisely you, after coming to Japan, who didn’t think about arts a priori in an extension line of Western art; on this, I won’t say more. However, you must have also used methods similar to Western art to define art, haven’t you? Wasn’t it your “beautiful dream” to realize “art” as defined by yourself in the format of pure “art”?

But as a Chinese with a broken dream you should have experienced that one cannot produce original art based on a framework created by the West. You have to create a different kind of “art”. It is extremely foolish to say that “art” is very similar at all times and in all lands. It is a fact that Western art and its thinking have dominated “modern art”. Even though the history of Chinese art started long before the rise of the West, the long river of Chinese art has rapidly dwindled, and its breadth has gradually narrowed in the torrent of “global modernization”. Imperceptibly, it has become thin as a silk ribbon. At first, people might only have wanted to use some art materials, tools, techniques and forms, but unconsciously they indulged in them to excess. The Chinese were eroded by the “poison” of Westernization (modernization) before they even noticed, and at the same time they became estranged from Chinese traditional art. Of course, the unified path of “Westernization (modernization)” will get you nowhere. However, it is also impossible to return to Chinese traditional art, because Chinese traditional art belongs in the past. This means that it doesn’t exist anymore on an immediate level.

Through the above analysis, Huang Rui, you will surely understand that this is the same situation faced by all the “modern” arts in the non-Western areas. “Modern values” were created in the West. But because you have already set foot on this road, because you had no other choice, the “Westernization” in non-Western areas is unavoidable. Although it is unavoidable, yet one cannot be completely westernized. What must not be “westernized”, after all, is one’s mind and spirit. And then there is “art”. The premise is that “art” is still produced by the mind and spirit of people.

Your dreams were broken, and so you started again to pursue a kind of art that had not existed so far, that could only be realized by you. You have been consistent from the very beginning of your career. But I think at that time you could truly start to make new things. You lost the “beautiful dreams”, which meant Chinese traditional art and Western art, yet simultaneously opened the gate to an unknown world, an unknown “art”. There were only two things left for you; one was history and tradition from a macroscopic view, which formed your temperamental background as a Chinese; the other one was the desire to realize art as a cosa mentale, not as holiday entertainment or subsidiary culture. You had nothing more than these two spiritual orientations, but they were exactly right for you to show your strengths.

 

6


And so you started all kinds of experiments. This was bound to lead you away from your original art forms. There were two-dimensional artworks beyond the scope of painting, three-dimensional works exceeding the scope of sculpture, and also all kinds of performance art. You were so original because you tried to produce “art” as human spiritual activity with a broader and richer scope. To say that you “moved away” from conventional art forms is in fact not correct, because it implies a standpoint within conventional forms. You just followed your own thoughts and feelings, but the current framework could not accept your creative activity.

When I think of your representative works until now, I want to give a few examples:WaterBamboo》(1994)、《Water and Fire Wall》(1995)、《Subway Incident》(1999)、《New Spirit of Chinese History》(2003)、《chai-na /Chinaseries2004~)、《No Book》(2005)、《Chairman Mao 10,000 RMB》(2006-- etc..

You can tell very quickly from these works that they were created in different forms. For example, performance works likeWater and Fire WallandNo Bookdid not just stay at the level of performance art. From a physical point of view, the former only left photographs and images, and even though the latter work was preserved, “to preserve or not to preserve” is not important any more. Both were created in a certain “time” and in a certain “space”; this is the key. The performance art of regular artists is produced at a certain time and then disappears right afterwards; it is only preserved in the memory of the audience.

But your performance art has created a very definite and stable “space”. And so, after the end of a performance, we in the audience were still left with a clearly discernible “space”. So where does this “space” lie? It is in our hearts, in our spiritual world. And it also includes the “space” of your “work as a whole”. This “space” occupies a definite position deep in our hearts. Your performance works are preserved as “spaces” in our inner world. In other words, although they are performance art, they also mean something in “space”.

 

7


What you interpret in your “works” is not only “time”. One can say that they extend to scent, taste (such as Beijing’s “Erguotou” spirits and beer) and sound (the noise and clamor from all kinds of objects). Actually you have used these elements as materials for various artworks. However, your “artworks” are indeed full of scent, taste and sound. Even when I am standing in front of your two-dimensional works I seem to feel the scent, taste and sound. What you applied was only the method of spatial construction, which interpreted scent, taste and sound in any of your work. Normally, if you see a work about Erguotou, you would not feel the special scent and taste of the spirit. But I felt the scent and taste of Erguotou. Because the “space” you created is very special. What else can I say?

And when I stood in front of the two-dimensional workchai-na / China, what I sensed at first was that meaning of “space”. Any work with a flat surface always expresses “space”, but the “space” I felt, there was a grander and broader “space’.

The characters “chai-na” mean “demolish it”, their pronunciation in Mandarin Chinese is “chai-na”. Destroyed houses and other scenes interact with the words Chai-Na and China. The first thing that strikes you in this work is the “sound”. Maybe it is more precise to say it is a “double sound”. The duality of sound is directly connected to the double representation and implication (everything is demolished and destroyed in today’s Chinese society) of the artwork. But it is not only that.

In thechai-naChinaseries, I pay special attention to the “spatial character” of a panel that is divided into six pictures. Three pictures are views of ruins (with the words “chai-na” and “CHINA” written over the picture), and the other three illustrate the words “chai-na” and “CHINA”. First, through the words and characters on the pictures of ruin scenes, you see that a section of real space is cut off; you see an alienation of real space. Second, the three pictures with words do not simply illustrate the words. The words are depicted on a surface, which is like an abstract painting (no, one can more definitely say they are on the surface of abstract paintings). In other words, you use the paintings as “background” to illustrate the words, and this alienates the paintings. Besides, these words are words (being written), and they are also depicted. This complicated structure gives the space of these three “words = paintings” works a special quality. Third, the arrangement of these six different pictures produces a distinctive quality in the series as a whole. If you want to explain it in one sentence, it would be an overlapping of “painted space”, “real space”, and “space of ideas”.

In front of this artwork of yours, I simultaneously experienced “painting”, “(ruinous) reality” and “China (as a system)”. However, I did not experience the common paintings, the real ruins themselves and the Chinese status quo. In your works, these three are all contained in brackets. They have been processed indirectly. But after this indirect treatment, these three items come into my mind as one event and one process. Normally, painting methods are just techniques, reality belongs to reality, and ideas stay with ideas. They all unfold in their separate spaces. For example, when you remember the statement “to portray the real image of the masses gathering at Tian’anmen square through painting”, no one questioned it; but if one thinks it over carefully, of course it’s a fiction, because art has been always been called fiction.

Nowadays “art serving as fiction” is not valid any more, it has lost its constructive meaning and is almost gone. Artists are searching for and exploring other “art forms” (yishu xingtai), although the sound of this Chinese word still recalls “ideological patterns”.

Huang Rui, through your work I experienced that concepts like “painting”, “reality” and “ideas”, which were separate before, became things with the same extensions and appeared in the same space. I never had this kind of experience before. You realized this kind of “work”. And this is indisputably a “work of art”. That’s because the experience I had here definitely is a feeling about “space”, and it comes from this “space”.

 

8


A moment ago I mentioned “time”. Actually, I have a strange feeling about time in
chai-naChina. In my experience, the time evoked by the ruins, which are phenomena of reality, occupies one end; moving at the other end of the line is a time that is only limited by the concept of “words = ideas”. However, these two kinds of time are not separated, they are not flowing away from each other. They flow in the same picture. But the picture is not painted as a tool to mix these two different times; it also contains a time of its own. So there are three kinds of time blended in the space of one picture. But this is not a simple blend, because the three kinds of time maintain their own character. They are flowing together, but they don’t dissolve. What I am saying here is contradictory in theory, but I experienced it in your work. If you say it is contradictory, then there is a contradiction in the artwork. A contradiction in theory sometimes indicates a fact or reality that can be felt and experienced. In art, it is possible for three different kinds of time to be flowing in one space.

Certainly, the space of the picture plays the main role here. In this space there are multiple kinds of time. My line of sight moves across the six pieces, back and forth between three symbolic times, so I am moving between many different kinds of time.

At the same time, when my line of vision moved back and forth in the space of the surface, I also noticed that the contrast between multiple times caused the “space” to change. In this way, space acquired time.

The picture did not describe events and let people develop associations about what comes first and what comes later. Nor did it divide events from different times on one plane or portray them continuously to express time (in the manner of comics or scrolls). These practices would have no way to transcend the traditional painting concept on a flat surface, neither by their vision, nor by ideas (the concept only allows for horizontal expansion). The kind of time I am talking about does not flow back and forth or left and right. If time, for example, is “flowing” and “changing”, then this kind of “flow” and “change” can never be represented on a flat surface, no matter what the method, because a two-dimensional plane is by definition stationary, it’s without time. Huang Rui, your experiment has made a painting, which can only exist on a two-dimensional canvas, to extend beyond a surface and produce its special qualities in space, in an attempt to obtain a new “space”. And you have also called out for time to join in.

 

9   


Some people think that a work of art can be understood at one glance. That’s not bad either. But, Huang Rui, I am a person who likes to stand in front of a favorite painting to gaze at it, to taste and evaluate it for a long time. The reason I do this lays not so much in observing the work very seriously and carefully as in delivering the entire space realized by one painting to every corner of my body. The images perceived by the retina will neither just stay there nor be kept in the brain, but saturate into the
basement( I do not know where exactly, to be honest) of my body. To let what I see saturate all the way down like this, I go on staring, motionless. Staring at yourchai-naChina, I clearly felt anexpansionof three kinds of time inside my body, blending and overlapping. This “expansion” was definitely generated “inside me”; however, it wouldn’t have happened without your work. In this sense it is nothing but the product of your work. I felt “expansion” inside my body; and looking at your work again in turn, I knew it was a thing one could call “space”. It is not the simple painting space, but something that cannot be expressed with a word other than “space”. It is a “space” which is more complicated, with more connotations for you to sense. You have done this in your work, you have delivered this kind of feeling. Of course, needless to say, that this is something coming from your body, coming from China through your body.

I used my own body to perceive such “space”, and not stay on the levels of vision, form, semblance and meaning. Your works have not only covered all these levels, but also realized a greater expansion, a broader space.chai-naChinais a painting, a graphic work, but actually it is also another kind of work. Just like your performance art, it is performance, but also another kind of “work”.

I am very dissatisfied about those viewpoints that only decode social or political satire and critique from your works. I think that if one understands them only on this level of message, one cannot decipher your works. Even though your works have such messages, you have realized a different space; as an artist, almost all your activities have been spent on realizing a different space. It is quite a simple thing to deliver a message, but to realize another space is not easy and cannot be achieved by everybody.


Art, in this sense, is to transcend the expression of some message and realize some kind of space. It is an activity, which starts from “realization” and ends with “realization”. And one could say that the expression of a message is secondary. If there is only expression of a message, if it doesn’t go forth in the “realization of space”, it cannot be called “art” either.


10


Huang Rui, you once said that you are a nomad, remember?

Going back and forth between China and Japan, you are indeed one of the nomads. But your drifting is a search for freedom, for freedom of art. Moreover, during your traveling life, you have explored and realized a unique kind of art, a new kind of art. And you’ve also become a landmark (or a standard) in modern Chinese art. Surely, you would say that on the journey of searching for art and its realization, you are still on the way.

 

If you think about it, modern Chinese art in general is still caught inside a drifting whirlpool. As a non-Western area, it has inherited the unavoidable fate of “modernization = Westernization”, and it takes on the mission of exploring ways to create new kinds of art. It is now inside this trial-and-error whirlpool.


In fact, in my new book “Unborn Japanese Art History”, published last year, I have analyzed the origins, the history and the current situation of the artistic drifts around the Japanese Islands. Next time, maybe when meeting you again in China, I would like to discuss with you this topic of “drifting”; of course that will be a chat over Erguotou -- “in vino veritas!”.


Take care!

 

CHIBA Shigeo

Art critic & Professor at Chubu University, Japan.

Translated from Chinese by Chen Ing-tse, Martin Winter and Jacqueline Winter


获得“空间”——致黄锐

                 千叶成夫(日本中部大学教授,评论家)

 

 

黄锐,久疏问候。获悉你的工作室于近日搬离了798 艺术区,一向可好?

 

   去年9月初,我们在北京重逢之际,你邀请我为这个展览会写一篇文章,我十分高兴。自从1988年我第一次去中国(上海、杭州、北京开始接触中国现代艺术以来,偶尔也写过一些关于中国现代艺术和艺术家的文字,但是,至今还没有机会写一篇像样的“黄锐论”。作为一名艺术评论家,我所论及的范围主要是针对日本的现代艺术、历史、艺术家,当然也涉及到东亚地区(包括中国、台湾、朝鲜半岛)的现代艺术、历史和艺术家。对于我来说,你不仅仅作为一名优秀的艺术家,你自1979年起步走过了中国现代艺术发展历程,更是一名完整而彻底的艺术家。

    相信你也同意我的观点:如今,市场左右了中国现代艺术。从商业和金钱的角度来看,中国(还有印度)是当今地球上剩下的最后的巨大市场了,无数人在觊觎以待。

对于以商业和金钱为单一目的的人(也包括艺术家),或许说什么都是多余的。然而对于身处中国之外、却与中国如此接近的我来说,这一切看起来极为滑稽不堪。我甚至认为,不仅仅是滑稽,更是非常危险的。此言并非危言耸听,纵观中国现代艺术的历史还不足30年,可现在似乎连这一点历史也被忘却了。作为近邻的小小岛国的住民,我一直认为中国是个“历史的国度”,但是,现在的中国现代艺术正在忘却历史。在这样的状况中,出现你这样的艺术家,其意义重于以往任何时候。甚至可以说在中国现代艺术发展史中,你是一个“轴心”似的存在。你之所以存在于“轴心”地位,我认为,是由于在“短暂”的中国现代艺术30年的历程中,你活动的轨迹与其扎扎实实重叠在一起。

 

 

 

中国曾经有过悠久的艺术历史,可它被人为地中断了。但是,那并不是单纯的中断,而是伴随着断绝任何外部信息的锁国状态。这期间,在“外部”世界艺术本身却发生着颠覆性的变化。当大门再次打开的时候,你一定对眼前出现的“反差”感到过震惊吧。紧锁的大门渐渐打开并非偶然,而促成这一机缘的,正是身处艺术界的你们——“星星画会”的艺术家!于是,你们心里对于在无视、超越这种“反差”的行为中出现的疯狂和愚蠢举动,一清二楚。而最近为艺术市场所左右的现代中国艺术的滑稽与危险,正是源于对于这种“反差”的忘却与不自觉的疯狂和愚蠢。置历史于不顾者,终究难以逃脱历史的惩罚。是吧,黄锐?

   所谓“反差”,对于西方艺术来说,意味着面对穷途末路而另辟蹊径的摸索。对于中国艺术来说,则是教训,意味着“现代化(=西方化)”终将把中国艺术引入末路和终结。和几乎所有的非西方地区的艺术一样,中国艺术也曾选择过的现代化(西方化)道路,在经过漫长的音讯不通的时期以后,再次相逢时发现,西方艺术在西方——其发源地已经无路可走了,或者说,已经结束了。

   而我所在的日本列岛,对于西方艺术的现代化(=西方化)过程所经历的窘境和终结命运,一直都在明晰地关注着和亲身体验着。可是,在中国,当国门打开的时候,西方艺术发展进程几乎已经终结。所谓“反差”,不过如此而已。

   你在“星星画会”时期的作品,是借助于“锁国”前的“西方化(现代化)”的形式(因为那时候你们对“锁国”后西方的新动向、新变化一无所知嘛)、并力图赋予其某种新意,是非常出色的的油画作品。与“新意”相比,正如下面你自己的话所表述的那样,作品中表达了强烈追求自由的内心混沌,我非常喜欢。

“所谓抽象事物,是不受时空限制的。我什么也不想反映,什么也不想说明。只是想表达自己的原生态的混沌”。

 ([艺术通讯]、西安、1981年第5期。)

 

但是,不久你就觉察到这种“反差”,之后来到日本,在继续创作的同时,你不断加深了对于这种“反差”的自觉。

 

 

 

    当然,黄锐,这里还存在着另一种“反差”。那就是关上国门后,把社会主义现实主义作为基本国策期间,中国艺术实际上已经和自身的从过去绵延相连的艺术之间,发生了一种断裂。这并不单纯是中国传统艺术已经陈旧过时。确实随着时代的急剧变化,过去的艺术逐渐显得落伍,但是,事情并不如此简单。随着国门开放,在滚滚而来的西方艺术、拥有坚固的思想基础和优秀作品阵营的西方艺术面前,中国人迷惑眩晕,甚至认为所谓艺术就是西方艺术。从锁国以前、甚至上溯到西方化(现代化)之前到现在为止,真正潜流在中国人的身体和感性底层的东西,即空间感、色彩感、形体感、造型感等等,被悄然遗忘,深受新涌进的各种思潮影响。在这个意义上讲,“锁国”实在是后果严重。因为国门一开,很多中国人竟然产生了艺术即西方艺术(西方现代艺术)的错觉。和语言一样,艺术也是植根于当地的风土人情、自然变化之中的。正是这些孕育了艺术特有的空间感、造型感和色彩感。当然,全球范围的相互影响当然也是有的,但如果在世界的任何一个地方,看到的艺术作品都是相同的,那么就会让人感到无聊,甚至恶心、恐怖。

    当然,回归到锁国以前的、甚至更早的中国传统艺术里去,已经是不可能了。时代确实改变了,而面对着打开的大门,你们目睹了世界现代艺术的“水平”和“品质”。你们无法做到无视这种“水平”和“品质”进行自我艺术作品的创作。同时,你们想要实现的艺术作品,已经不允许仅只是欧美艺术的“延长线”上的作品了,因为那样只能成为欧美艺术的追随者。对吧。

   黄锐,你在“星星画会”活动过后,于1984年偶然来到日本大阪,到90年代后半期,你曾一直住在那里的吧。我和你的相识,也是那个时候。我想,你应该是在中国以外的地方悄然掌握了世界现代艺术的“水平”和“品质”的。于是,极为自觉地开始探索不单单是欧美现代艺术“延长线”的作品创作。。


 

 

    你从1992年到94年基本上住在北京,1994年开始再次来到大阪。然后大概是2002年吧,你重新将自己的活动基地移回北京,直到现在。你发现了“798”这个地方,在那里创设了自己的工作室。正是你,在那里进行的一系列创作活动和积极的工作,将“798”推广发掘成一个现代美术与艺术的中心所在地。

在一次媒体采访中,当被问到你是如何看待1989年学潮的时候,你是这样回答的:

“我的美好梦想被凭空打碎,不得不认识到自我存在的社会性。”

(东京画廊“要艺术自由·星星20年”画展图录。东京、2000年。)


    艺术家是社会性的存在!

    至少在现代中国,艺术家(假如像欧美的艺术家那样)只追求艺术作品的纯粹的美的“品质”和“洗练”是不够的。艺术家的工作并不是游离于自己所置身的环境、所生存的社会之外,在空中花园中创作那么简单。那样的话,艺术家的存在意义就值得怀疑了,其作品不可能有“现实性”。更何况是在如此矛盾重重的现代中国社会呢。毋庸置疑,艺术家除了积极地投入到社会现状的课题中去,别无选择。

   从这个时期开始,你的作品和以前相比,确实更凸现了社会性的乃至政治性的因素。并且,此后你的立场始终保持一贯性,从未动摇。正如你所说的——我、还有“星星画会”的伙伴儿们,对艺术负有职责!

   黄锐,你说得对。看到现今中国现代艺术中的浮躁的商业主义、仿佛断了线的风筝般地在空中随风飘摆,我认为实在是太糟糕了。


 

 

    但是,黄锐,对于你的作品中有关社会性及政治性的主题所喻含的讽刺与批判,已经有很多人做过论评。在这里我想在另一方面费些笔墨。在各种矛盾错综复杂的中国社会,艺术家必然是社会性的存在,这是别无选择的。但是,这与作为这种社会性存在的艺术家的作品,其主题必然是具有社会性或政治性的东西——并不是一回事儿。

1989年6月,你在日本与天安门学潮隔海相对,重新确认到自己“是个社会性的存在”的时候,我想,你再一次地丧失了“西方艺术”。恰恰是你,到日本以后,就已经不在西方艺术的延长线上先验地思考艺术了,关于这个我不再多说。但是,你一定也曾用和西洋艺术类似的方法为艺术定位过吧?将自己所定位的“艺术”以所谓纯粹“艺术”的方式付诸实现,不就是你的“美好梦想”吗?

但是,梦境破碎的你,作为中国人,应该体会到,以西方创造出来的“艺术”框架为前提,是不能产生自己的原创性艺术的。必须创造出与之相异的“艺术”来。那种认为 “艺术”无论古今中外都大同小异的说法是愚蠢至极的。在这个地球上,西方艺术及其思想统治了“近代艺术”,这是事实。中国艺术的历史,虽然早在西方之前就已经开始了,但是,在“地球近代化”的洪流中,中国艺术这条长河的流量急剧减少、河面逐渐缩窄,不知不觉中已经细如丝带。最初,或许人们只是想从西方借鉴一些艺术材料、用具、技术和形式而已,却不知不觉中走火入魔。中国人在尚未察觉之际已经被西方化(现代化)的“毒素”所侵蚀,同时也疏远了中国传统艺术。当然,“西方化(现代化)”一元化的道路是行不通的。因为这意味着自我同一性的逐渐丧失。但是,回归到中国传统艺术中也是不可能的。因为,中国传统艺术是已经过去的事物,在这种意义上讲,是当下不存在的东西了。

通过以上的分析,黄锐,你一定明白这是非西方地区的“近代”艺术所面对的共同境况吧。“近代的价值”是西方创造出来的,但是既然已经踏上这条路、既然不得不踏上这条路,非西方地区的“西方化”过程是不可避免的。虽说是不可避免,但是决不能全盘西方化。最不能被“西方化”的,是人的心灵、人的精神。然后,是“艺术”。前提是: “艺术”还仍然是人的心灵、人的精神的产物。

美梦破碎的你,自那时起,重新开始追求迄今为止不曾有过的艺术、只有你才能够实现的艺术。你自创作伊始就保持着自身的一贯性,然而我想,那个时候你才在真正的意义上开始创作出新的东西来。你丧失了“美好梦想”,即中国传统艺术和西方艺术,但是同时打开了通向未知世界、未知“艺术”的大门。留给你的只有两种东西,一种是形成你这个中国人气质背景的宏观意义上的历史和传统,另一种是将艺术作为一种精神事物(cosa mentale)而非休闲娱乐或附属文化来实现的欲望。仅此而已,但这两种精神指向正是你的强韧所在。

 

 

 

于是,你开始了各种各样的尝试。所以,这必然导致你从原有的艺术形式的脱离。超越绘画范畴的二维作品、超越雕刻范畴的三维作品,甚至各种行为艺术。你之所以如此不拘泥形式的理由,在于你试图将“艺术”作为人类的精神活动、从而具有更为宽泛、更富于涵盖性的事物来创作的。“与原有艺术形式的脱离”的说法,是站在“原有艺术形式”的角度的,其实是不正确的。你只不过是按照自身固有的思想和感性从事创作活动,而现有的框架无法接纳它而已。

回想你至今为止的具有代表性的作品,现例举其中几件如下——《Water +Bamboo》(1994)、《Water and Fire Wall》(1995)、《Subway Incident》(1999)、《New Spirit of Chinese History》(2003)、《拆-那/China》系列作品(2004~)、《No Book》(2005)、《Chairman Mao 10,000 RMB》(2006)——等等。

   

从这些作品就可以看出,创作形式是多种多样的。比如像《Water and Fire Wall》和《No Book》那样的行为艺术,已经是不仅仅停留在行为艺术层面的作品了。从物理性的角度来看,前者只留下照片和影像,而后者作品本身虽然留存下来,但是“留存/不留存”已经不重要了。两者都是在某个“时间”、某个“空间”中创造出来的,这一点是关键所在。一般艺术家的行为艺术,是在一定的时间内进行,随之消失,只留存于观赏过的人们的记忆中。

而你的行为艺术,创出了一个非常明确而固定的 “空间”。因此,行为结束后(即当表演的时间经过后),仍然给我们这些观赏者留下一个清晰的“空间”。那么这个“空间”留存在那里呢?是在我们的心里,在我们的精神世界中间。不仅仅如此,还包括你的“作品整体”这一“空间”在内。这个“空间”,在我们的心底占有明确的位置。你的行为艺术,最后作为“空间”留存在我们的内心世界。换句话说,你的作品虽说是行为艺术,却具有了“空间”意义。

 

 


    你在“作品”中演绎的不仅仅是“时间”。可以说扩展到气味、滋味(北京的烧酒“二锅头”及啤酒等)、声响(各种各样的物体发出的声音,噪音,吵嚷等)。虽说作为各种作品的素材,你实际运用了这些要素。但是,你的“作品”,实在是充溢着气味、滋味和声响。即使是你的平面作品,站在前面也仿佛能够感觉到气味、滋味和声响。你运用的正是在任何作品中都演绎气味、滋味和声响的空间构建方法。看到描绘“二锅头”的作品是不会嗅到烧酒特有的气味和滋味的——一般都是这样的。但是,对于我来说,至少是我,在你的作品中感受到了二锅头的气味和滋味。因为你所创造的“空间”,是非常独特的。除此之外还能说什么呢。

   同样,站在平面作品《拆-那/China》面前,我最先感受到的,也是那种意义上的“空间”。虽说正因为是平面作品一定是表达“空间”的,但是我在那里感受到的“空间”,是更加恢弘的、更加广阔的“空间”。

     所谓“拆-那”,在汉语中是“拆除建筑物(demolish it)”的意思,其发音是“chai-na”。残垣断壁的废墟图景和“拆-那(chai-na)”及“CHINA”的文字交替地被描绘、重叠,这就是作品《拆-那/China》。在这个作品中,首先有那种“声响”。或许说是“双重的声响”更为确切吧。声响的这种双重性,与作品的表象及喻义(无论什么都拆除破坏掉的当今中国社会现状)的双重性是直接相关联的。但并不仅仅如此。

   在《拆-那/China》作品系列中,我特别关注的是一张被分割成6幅画面的横幅作品所具有的“空间特征”。其中3幅画面是废墟的图景(在表象上重叠着“拆-那”和“CHINA”的文字。)、而剩下的三幅描绘着“拆-那”和“CHINA”的文字。第一,通过在3幅描绘废墟图景的画面上重叠文字,表现出这既是对现实空间的截取,也是对现实空间的异化。第二,画有文字的3幅画面,并不是单纯地描绘着文字。文字,被描绘在抽象绘画般的画面(不,可以更为明确的说是在抽象画的画面)上。也就是说,那是以绘画为“底色”、意在使绘画发生异化般的描绘着文字的。并且,这些文字,是文字(被书写的)的同时,也是被描绘出来的。这样的复杂结构,使3幅“文字=绘画”作品空间具有独特性。第三,这6幅画面相互区别地排列在一起,更使作品整体产生出绝无仅有的特异性。如果用一句话来说明作品的这种特异性的话,就是“绘画空间”、“现实空间”与“观念空间”的重叠。

在你的这一作品前面,我同时体验了“绘画”、“(废墟的)现实”和“(作为制度的)中国”。但是,在这里我并不是体验了一般的绘画、现实的废墟本身、及中国的实际现状。这三种事物,在你的作品中都是用括弧括起来的。是被间接处理过的。可是,经过间接处理后这三种事物,是作为同一事件、同一过程进入到我的内心的。本来,绘画手法归手法、现实归现实、观念归观念,三者是在各自的空间分别展开的事体。例如,对于曾经有过的“通过绘画描绘聚集到天安门广场的人民大众的真实形象”的说法,没有人表示怀疑,但是仔细想想这当然是一种虚构,因此艺术也一直被称为是虚构的。现今这种“作为虚构的艺术”的作用,已经不再有效、失去建设性的意义,几乎接近终焉。艺术家们正在寻找、探求其他的“艺术形态”。

黄锐,通过你的作品,我获得了将“绘画”、“现实”和“观念”这完全不同的事体作为具有同种外延的事物、出现在同一空间的体验。这种体验,确实是不曾有过的体验。你实现了这样的“作品”。而且,这无可辩驳地是“艺术作品”。这是因为,我在这里获得的体验,千真万确地、是关于“空间”的、是来自于“空间”的感受。

 

 


  刚才,我提到了“时间”。可是在《拆-那/China》中,关于“时间”我有一种奇怪的感触。在我的体验中,废墟这一现实表象所唤起的时间占据一端,而另一端则流动着只在“文字=观念”中完结的时间。但是,这两种时间并不是分离开来、互不相干、各自流去的。而是在同一幅画中流淌。而绘画并不是搅拌这两种异类时间的器具,其本身也具有内在的时间。因此,这三种时间在同一绘画空间内交融。并不是简单的交融,而是三种时间依然保持着各自不同的特性的交融。这种说法,在理论上是矛盾的,但却是我在你的作品中真实体验到的,如果说是矛盾,在作品中那也是矛盾着的。理论上的矛盾,有时也指明了感觉上的事实。三种性质不同的时间,在同一空间中流淌,在艺术上是可能的。

当然,这里的主角是绘画空间,而这一空间的时间是多重的。我的视线,在被分割为6块的画面上移动,也在具有象征意义的三个时间、其实是各种各样的时间之间往来。

我的视线在平面的空间上往复移动的同时,也注意到多重时间的反差导致“空间”发生变动的情形。空间,就这样获得了时间。

   既不是将事件描绘出来让人对事件的前后展开联想,也不是将具有不同时间的事件在同一平面上分割开来或者连续地(例如漫画或卷轴等)描绘来表现时间的。这些做法,在视觉上在观念上都无法超越传统绘画的平面概念(这是只能水平地向前后左右扩展的观念)。所谓时间,即不是流向左右也不是流向前后的东西。时间,打个比方,如果是“流动”的“变化”的的话,那么这种“流动”和“变化”无论通过怎样的方法也不是能够在平面上表现出来的。因为二维平面本来就是静止的、没有时间的。黄锐,你的尝试,使只能在二维平面上存在的绘画,产生出超越平面的外延,产生了空间特性,试图获得一个新的“空间”。并且,把时间也呼唤进来了。

 


 

    有人认为,艺术作品是一眼就明白是什么的东西。那倒也不错。可是,黄锐,我是一个喜欢站在一张自己喜爱的画面前长时间凝视品味的人。这样做的理由与其说是将作品认认真真、仔仔细细地观赏,倒不如说是为了将一幅绘画所实现的整个空间传达到自己身体的各个角落。视网膜所接受的映像,不会只停留在那里,也不会停留在大脑内,而是浸透在自己身体(我其实并不知道究竟是哪里)的底层中去。为了使看到的东西这样浸透下去,我一直看着不动。在一动不动地看着你的《拆-那/China》的时候,我的身体里面,清晰地感觉到你的三种时间重叠融合在一起的“扩展”。那一定是在“我的里面”生发出来的“扩展”,但是,如果没有你的作品它是不可能产生的。在这种意义上,那不过是你的作品的产物。在我的身体里面感觉到“扩展”,反过来再看你的作品,我知道那是可以称为“空间”的东西。不是单纯的绘画空间,但却是除了“空间”的称呼之外无以言表的。是比“空间”更复杂、让人感受到更为丰润内涵的“空间”。这样的感觉,在你的作品中你做到了。 当然,勿庸赘言,这也是从你的身体中来、通过你的身体来自中国的东西。

我用自己的身体接受了这样的“空间”,并不停留在视觉的水平、造型的水平、表象的水平、意义的水平。你的作品不仅涵盖着诸如此类的所有水平,并且实现着更大一轮的扩展、更恢宏的空间。《拆-那/China》是绘画作品、平面作品,其实还是另一种的作品。正如你的行为艺术,是行为,其实还是另一种“作品”一样。

    我对于那些只从你的作品中解读出社会性的或者政治性的讽刺与批判的观点,非常不满。我认为只理解到这样层面的信息不能解读你的作品的。即使你的创作中包含这样的信息,但你实现了另一个空间,你作为艺术家的几乎所有的活动,都花费在另一空间的实现上了。表达某种信息是很简单的事情,但是实现另一个空间却是不容易的,不是谁都能做得到的。所谓艺术,就是超越某种信息的表达,而实现某种空间。是始于“实现”而终于“实现”的活动。而信息的表达可以说是次要的。即使(只)有信息的表达,如果不是在“空间的实现”中进行的话,那也不能称为“艺术”。

 

 


10

    黄锐,你曾经说过自己是个漂流者,还记得吗?

往来于中国和日本之间,确实是漂流者中的一员啊。但是,你的漂流是追求自由、追求艺术的自由的漂流。而且,你自己在漂流的生活中,探求并实现了独具个性的艺术、全新的艺术。并且,因此你也成为了中国现代艺术的一个航(指)标。当然,你会说在对艺术的探求和实现的征途中,自己还仍然走在半路上。

仔细想想,中国现代艺术在整体上现在还处于漂流的漩涡之中。它承受着“近代化=西方化”这一非西方地区不可避免的现实命运,并肩负着探索如何从中产生新的艺术的使命。正处于这种尝试错误的漩涡里。其实,我在去年出版的新书《未生的日本艺术史》中,围绕着日本列岛的艺术漂流,分析了其根源、历史和现状。下一次,大概在中国与你再会的时候,我想就“漂流”的话题,和你探讨一下,当然是一边喝着二锅头一边叙谈的“酒后真言”啦。

就写到这里。请多保重。

 

 

 

千叶 成夫 CHIBA Shigeo

 艺术评论家,中部大学教授(Professor at Chubu University, Japan)

翻译:金海兰