Frequency Live Art 1—Symposium
发表:2011-01-30 19:12阅读:834

Frequency Live Art 1—Symposium

*Transcribed by Wu Chengdian from live recording,

 translated into English by Sophia Kidd.


Present: Chen Mo, Chen Xiaori, He Liping, Liu Chengying, Li Kun, Mike Turner (Australia), Ma Zhan Dong, Sophia Kidd (USA), Yan Cheng, Wu Chengdian, Zhou Bin, Zheng Xiaoxi

Time:     November 26th, 2010 at 7 pm

Place: Little House Café & Pub, Chengdu


Wu Chengdian: This is Frequency Time Group’s first event, multi-media live art, using time as our principal medium of development. As the artwork is created and implemented live, with artists & audience on-site, what is revealed is the piece’s temporal nature. This will be Frequency’s guiding idea. And through doing this, we enter into a new spatial awareness. Artist, artwork, audience, and space….become a single unit of interaction. Whether it’s performance art, video, installation, poetry, sound, each medium will become part of an entire space. This is how I see it, with the idea of a multi-dimensional space, each audience member has an enriched point of entry. Each mode of expression is diversified. Chengdu, in comparison with other places, has lacked this diversity and multi-dimensionality. Painting and performance are strong, but other areas are weak. I want to more elements to play with. This year’s event was Frequency’s first, and I look forward to future development, twice yearly, ongoing. Each time bringing different artists into the fold, artists either native to or presently living and producing in Chengdu, both Chinese and International, though native Chengdu artists will make up the majority of Frequency. And in order to create a lively, communicative venue, we will conduct symposia after each event. Hopefully we will gather often and chat. Not just when there is an exhibition, but every month or so, I hope we can gather, discuss how our work and thought is progressing. This way we may not feel so alone in our pursuit, and we can grow together. This is a good thing. During my time living and working in Beijing I felt a communication deficit. There, each artist did their own thing, and didn’t discuss their work. Of course, it’s more stressful there, not as loose as in Chengdu, artists are more at ease here. It’s like a war there, everyone so uptight. Today we can talk about the artworks performed at Frequency’s Symbolic Violence and also discuss future artwork..

Ma Zhandong: Did we record the Q & A from the other night?

Wu Chengdian: Only fragments, caught it on video. Some of the sound came out well, some didn’t. We’re getting it in order.

Ma Zhandong: I think communications between the artist and the audience were really important.

Wu Chengdian: Right right right. During this performance, the Q & A was key. A lot of exhibitions just have the artworks performed/ watched, and that’s it. But the artist really wants to know what the audience is thinking, or feeling. What’s their reaction afterwards? Although some viewers may not be familiar with this sort of artwork, their feeling is important. You don’t need training to watch an artwork. Using ordinary daily life as a reference point in understanding artwork is totally doable. Yan Cheng, please say something here. I feel like your attitude that night in the audience was great. I mean that’s what we want, spontaneous, immediate interaction. Much better than some rigid framework, some serious tone, no fun at all.

Yan Cheng: What a bummer, I missed Liu Chengying’s piece the other night, showed up a little late.

Liu Chengying: Yeah, I was first.

Yan Cheng: Traffic jam, couldn’t get there on time. I got the feeling that night that every artist had thought deeply about their artwork. Like Sophia, Ma Zhandong, He Lipings’ pieces, and Wu Chengian’s video, after I watched them, I got this sense of reason, which inspired me to do a feeling piece. Also I thought the atmosphere was great, free, so interesting. In a more single-use space it wouldn’t have been the same. This site was excellent. Then, as Wu Chengdian was saying, having a Q & A after each artwork worked well, giving the audience a chance to say what they got from the work. And this group of artists was especially creative and deliberate. Next time make the whole performance a little longer, too.

Wu Chengdian: Longer?

Yan Cheng: Definitely Sophia’s. If there was more interaction, well, that’s just the feeling I have. Alright, let’s just leave it at that. What do other people want to say?

Ma Zhangdong: People jumping into artworks so much, I think that had to do with holding the event in a bar. If we change to a different kind of venue, I can’t say it’d be the same. Like if it were in an art space, gallery, or something would we get this degree of interaction?

Wu Chengdian: Definitely has to do with our choice of exhibition style. I keep saying this is not an ‘exhibition’ but an ‘event’. An event depends on its space for feeling. We might do it different next time, and still welcome Q & A, but maybe not after each piece.

Ma Zhandong: If we want to hold onto this level of dialogue, skills have to improve.

Wu Chengdian: Right. I think we need to keep doing this for awhile.

Ma Zhandong: It should be like this. What’s great is that it’s outside tradition.

Sophia Kidd: Excuse me, what are you saying?

Ma Zhandong: I think audience participation is the most interesting part, with the highest value. So next time, this is the most important element to construct, and the right place relaxes people. A lot of people jumping in, this is it for me. If we switch places, we’ll lose this. The way I see it, (audience) feelings are most important. If we want to keep going, how are place and performers going to change, and how will this effect us?

Wu Chengdian: I don’t feel like keeping this up is a problem, even in a more “serious” art space. Because our actions are site and time specific, with audience and performer in the same space. Maintaining a dialog is not going to be a problem. But I agree, let’s keep it up.

Mike Turner: We could do it at Re-C Art Space. They have multiple rooms, six or seven of them. We could do simultaneous performances, with audience members passing through spaces. You could even do one and a half, two hour pieces.

Wu Chengdian: Ah, with live art, I think it’s better to perform in a sequence, not simultaneously. Video, no problem, we could loop it.

Sophia Kidd: Oh, that’s neat. If you had a number of acts going off at the same time, people would only catch certain ones, they’d never see them all.. Like real life, we can’t see it all at once.

Yan Cheng: Yeah you could do that. Start a longer piece, an hour later start another, half an hour later, the third. Do the shortest last, and then the audience sees all the pieces. Ha ha!

Wu Chengdian: Well the whole reason for doing live art, is so that people get to see it. This is basic. Otherwise, I’m going to do it in my house, or film it out in the countryside or something. And then we also want a dialogue with the audience. This is important, so if you do pieces simultaneously, the audience won’t get to see everything. Of course, like He Liping’s Style is Key, no one got to see his whole piece, but he designed it that way. That’s a different thing.

Sophia Kidd: Well, what Mike suggested would be done abroad. The audience experiences the whole work in an indeterminate way. If you can see it, you see it, if not, whatever. You know, Mike’s from Europe, it’s a pretty live scene there.

Liu Chengying: I don’t think it’s necessary to do what Mike or Yan Cheng said. There’s no need to do the work simultaneously, I mean the audience would miss some performance. Also, if the site is big, like a museum or exhibition hall, then the fame and notoriety of certain artist names would influence audience choices. It would be unfair. Right? I don’t think we can do it this way. I mean we can talk about it, but I’ve been around the world, all around China, to so many exhibitions, and I’ve never seen it done this way.

Mike Turner: At London exhibits, in large warehouses, we’ve done this before, had a guide taking people around, each room has an installation or live performance in it.

Wu Chengdian: As long as each artist had their own space. At this point, we’re using smaller spaces. Like, we only have 6 artists each time, or maybe we could do the show over six days, one artist per day. Or each day, one medium, like today’s performance, tomorrow’s installation. A big show, like he’s saying, like a biennale, you need money. Sophia, say something here, as one of Frequency’s curators.

Sophia Kidd: Ah, well.. As I’m doing this article right now, I’m using this symposium for material. I kinda want to know what this show has done so far, like what’s its influence on Chengdu live art? What did the audience learn? Was there an effect? In the artist community? Does Frequency stimulate live art production? Will artists leave Chengdu less, and choose Chengdu as their site of performance? Are Chengdu live artists proud of their identity?

Wu Chendian: Ha ha. Okay. Artists, answer. Sophia is saying that we hope to create a platform for live performance, to encourage Chengdu artists to stay in Chengdu, to create a milieu. Sophia wants artists to leave less, and when they go, take Chengdu with them.

Ma Zhandong: I don’t think so. You’ve only done Frequency once. Not every piece was great, you can’t just do it once, and expect it to have some huge impact. You gotta build up and persist before you can have an impact. In the final hour you’ve got to look at individual pieces, I feel. Heh be reasonable, you’d have to say it was a good start.

Sophia Kidd: Okay, but seriously, about the performance scene in Chengdu…

Ma Zhandong: It’s like this, famous artists aren’t famous for the city they produce in, maybe they don’t care about this. Of course, if Chengdu had a really great exhibition, it would influence more people. Just one show is not gonna have an impact. Of course, this is a great idea, to create a platform with which to entice artists. I think it can have an impact…I can only speak for myself.

Yan Cheng: I have two pieces of advice for Sophia, about being a curator. First, to be a curator, you have to totally understand every piece in the show, it’s a real demand on the curator to do this type of analysis. This is the first step, to get artists to work in Chengdu. And you’ve got to know the value of each piece, too. The second step is to disseminate the work. Can you represent the artist well? There could be this great artist here, who has never been well represented. If the word got out nation-wide, world-wide, that such and such an artist was producing good work in Chengdu, well then this degree of exposure would attract a larger artist base. These are the skills you need to employ, Sophia, in order for Frequency to have the impact you’re talking about. Understand the work, and disseminate it.

Sophia Kidd: Great answer!

Yan Cheng: Right, a curator with the skills to keep me here, ha ha, now this is a good curator.

Sophia Kidd: Right. Create the milieu. Thanks.

Zhou Bin: What I’m thinking is, why do you want everyone working in Chengdu? I don’t think this is important, I mean at least from where I’m at, I don’t think it’s important to either stay in or leave Chengdu. The important thing is the artwork. I mean one particular case may be good for Chengdu, Chengdu had the right resources for the piece, it was convenient, so then I’ll do it here. A piece of live art has a performance and an afterlife, where it gets disseminated. The work will pass to many other viewers who will understand it. Of course, it’s important to an artist where the work is done, but I don’t decide the place before the work. I decide on the work first. For example if you enter a minor piece in a major exhibition, that’s depressing. But if I never entered the exhibit, I’d still make the work. Also, an artist’s identity does include where he comes from. If you go to other cities, artists there will say, oh you’re from Chengdu. And if you go abroad, people will ask you where you’re from, and you say China, and they say which city, Beijing? Shanghai? And when you say Chengdu, they don’t know what you’re talking about. Chengdu artists have to deal with that, but I don’t think it’s important. If there are a lot of artists here, and we have more events like Frequency, I think it’ll change Chengdu’s image.

Liu Chengying: I want to say a couple things in answer to Sophia’s question. Ah, we asked this question a long time ago, about the Chengdu performance scene. We had a lot of artists doing live art here, and place was important to artists. But after we grew up a bit, did more work abroad, we kind of lost this concept, of place. So I don’t think it fits anymore to use this place label now.

He Liping: I think what’s important is not identity, but the artwork. That’s it. (laughs)

Ma Zhandong: Like I already said, place is not important, unless you’re thinking of using Chengdu just as a departure point?

Sophia Kidd: I just want to know if your work is any different from artwork in Beijing or Shanghai. Do you have anything else to offer?

Ma Zhandong: I’d say yes.

Sophia Kidd: Like, in the U.S., New York and Los Angeles are totally different cities, artistically.

Ma Zhandong: So, what do you want to do? It’s kind of complicated, huh? Well, if you want to make an impact with this show, you’ll have to maintain its integrity.

Zhou Bin: Sophia, I recall last time we talked about this, too. Now I understand, you’re looking for something in particular about Chengdu, Sichuan, China’s Southwest, right? There’s a critic in Chongqing, who’s covered this really well. His name is Wang Lin. He’s been at it a while, and says that Sichuan artists really got going with the Scar School of painting and then with performance art, and at that point started being a force in Chinese contemporary art. So since then we’ve had live and performance art, multi-media art. Wang Lin definitely thinks this area has something special to offer—an awareness of destiny. Artists respect the inward glance, rather than some ideology, like in Beijing. Wang Lin curated an exhibition, Starting Out in the West, having to do with this. He didn’t limit himself to Sichuan, but also included Yunnan, and had oil painting, sculpture, performance art, and video in the show. So speaking overall, Sichuan has special character. Wang Lin found that destiny and individual existence were important, as was a tendency to introspection in art.

Sophia Kidd: Do Beijing artists have this character as well?

Zhou Bin: Beijing is actually really complicated, because there are all types of artists, and Chengdu also has a lot of artists that Wang Lin never even mentioned. But overall, he got it right.

Li Kun: This has to do with the isolation here, not very open, so there’s a lot of introspection.

He Liping: Sichuan is not like Beijing. Beijing is a political and cultural center. These days artists there concentrate on politics, ideology. Like Tiananmen, the five pointed star, Mao Ze Dong and so on. Painting definitely gets its material there. Sichuan, the Southwest, artists here don’t have that background, or state of mind, but are instead introverted and environmentally minded. But this is about the only difference.

Wu Chengdian: Okay, Sophia, as a foreign artists is just trying to understand what’s going on in Chengdu. And as performance art is a big part of what goes down here, she’s focusing on performance art, and she especially wants to know what essential distinctions can be made between Beijing or Shanghai and Chengdu. This is normal for a curator. Individual artists rarely concern themselves with this question, but rather the artwork itself. Chengdu’s identity is not important, but an artist’s essence is. There are some Chengdu artists doing work elsewhere, and their artwork’s character is different. They are a Chengdu artist, but after producing work, say, in Beijing for awhile, the gauge their artwork differently. They work with ideologies, in larger scale, get more political, or work with more “sensitive” subjects. But that (kind of artwork) has nothing to do with Chengdu. So individual identity is important, and think of the lifestyle here, the culture, history, these things all influence an artist’s point of entry. It’s definitely a silent transforming influence, but it’s there no less. Wang Lin’s analysis is relevant. Being a curator, to look at things from this angle is useful. But it’s only a part of the picture. The artist’s focus is on the work, but this could change. So Sophia is asking, what’s the essential character of artworks produced in Chengdu? Actually, even I can’t answer this. It’s hard to say. Everybody sees something different. There are artists who came here to produce, others were here from the beginning, and their life experiences as well as foci are different. Perhaps after being in Chengdu for awhile, experiencing the lifestyle here, one makes adjustments…

Sophia Kidd: So when you’re in exhibitions abroad, do people ask you where in China you’re from?

Wu Chengdian: Of course, they definitely want to know where you’re from. Like last month, I was doing a residency in Chongqing, with artists from all over the world. They know you’re from Chengdu, and they say, hey, Chengdu’s a pretty good place, huh? They know Chengdu first of all as a relaxed place, with a slow pace, free time. This is a sort of novelty to them. But none of this means much to me.

Zhou Bin: This focus…like, when you’re in the West, they always pay attention to you being an artist from China. For them, it’s some kind of academic curiosity, or fetish. It’s like us, in China, not really wanting to go to Africa. They don’t want to come to China or Asia, but they’re curious about what a Chinese performance artists will do, what kind of spectacle we’ll produce. So we’re not that into using our Chinese nationality as an entry point into our work. We’d rather work with other Chinese artists, or artists coming from abroad, to get into the deeper levels of art. The spectacle is not important, it’s important, rather to demonstrate, from a professional point of view, how we do performance and live art. We might do it a little differently.

Wu Chengdian: Look at it from the other direction. He’s from the U.S., he’s from Germany, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter. I just want to know what they can do. So, you see, the work’s what’s important.

Sophia Kidd: But what if you do an extraordinarily well received piece. Don’t you think people are going to be all the more interested in where you’re from? And don’t you think, when people speak of you to others, they’re going, in the first few sentences, mention where you’re from?

Ma Zhandong: There are two possibilities. One, they are interested in Chengdu artists’ work. Or two, they’re just into the work, but happen to ask about its site of production.

Zhou Bin: Well, it’s like in the West, originally “Made in China” meant low quality, and after awhile it meant high quality. We don’t want Chengdu artists to have a single identity, or to represent the same essential character. It’s not even possible.

Li Kun: I think that after we entered the internet age, whether it’s art or whatever, we approached some sort homogenization. It’s easier to understand each other. Here in Chengdu, without even leaving my house, I can see what’s going on anywhere in the world. So mutual mimesis and influence are more immediate. Not like in the industrial age, where each site of production had its own essential character. These days it’s harder and harder to look at things that way, because of the internet, for better or for worse, we can’t escape it.

Liu Chengying: In the information age, identities are interlaced. As in Beijing, many artists there are not from Beijing. Actually in Beijing, there are very few Beijing (born) artists. In New York, there are very few New York (born) artists. Artists go there from all over the world, identities interweave. So I commend Li Kun’s point of view, if you want to demarcate or regionalize an artist’s work, that’s hard to do these days. Post-modern art is not regional, but individual. Artworks are not created in styles, but as individual pieces.

Yan Cheng: As I said earlier, this is Sophia’s ideal, a curator’s ideal, to create a set of parameters and call them “Chengdu”. So I gave her some advice. On the other hand, she poses this question, we all analyze her point of view…so this is how I see it. Sophia hopes that Chengdu has a group of artists, who have feeling for Chengdu, who are deep thinkers, or at least think deeply about their artwork. She hopes that there is something here that isn’t found elsewhere. Is this the ideal?

Sophia Kidd: I’m not actually trying to make such a big deal out of this. It’s my editor who wants to know—is there anything special about Chengdu?

Chen Xiaori: Let me say something here. I mean, I’m not an artist, but I’m involved in the arts. I feel like when someone asks where you’re from, it’s as meaningless as when Chinese people ask each other, “Have you eaten?”. There’s no purpose, and after you answer you’re from Chengdu, that’s it, from experience the asker may understand that Chengdu is a fun place to visit, and that’s it. Ten years later that person will have no better understanding of art in Chengdu. This is how I see it. Whenever professors taught me about art from certain areas, I always thought it was too linear, like 1,2,3…and so on. Think about it, if you follow logic, it’s easier to draw certain conclusions…but let’s draw an analogy here. Take artists from seven different cities and put them together, now pick out the Chengdu artist. Nobody can do that, right?

Sophia Kidd: So you feel my question is pointless?

Chen Xiaori: No, no, I’m just saying, if you ask it from another point of view, the conclusion is different.

Chen Mo: I’m sorry, arrived late. If I may ask, this question you’re discussing, what are you comparing Chengdu to?

Wu Chengdian: Beijing and Shanghai, of course.

Chen Mo: Alright then, let me start with Beijing’s character. Shanghai has no character. Beijing is a sort of miscellany, with artists from everywhere. I’m not saying this because I’m in Chengdu, but because I’ve been all over China, and I’ve seen it all, clearly. Shanghai is a commercial city, with a highly advanced economy. But there’s no live art there, nor even any art, because that place is just a place for selling. Everything’s a storefront, with no agriculture. Agriculture’s where you grow things, and Shanghai’s where you sell things. And Beijing, Beijing’s like this, because of all the ideology, all the fighters for rights go there. It’s also a place of opportunity, where anything can happen. People think it’s going to be easier to make things happen there. Let’s look at the last 30 years of performance art, from the ’85 New Wave Movement until now, it’s been like 25 years. If you take Li Xinjian’s Everest as an example to set standards by, he did that in 1986, so 24 years ago, okay so it’s not even 30 years. Beijing’s performance scene is all over the place, a mess, full of opportunism, extremism, and antagonism. If you want to talk about live art, talk about 1989’s Modern Art Expo, Wu Shanzhuan selling pairs of shrimp, and condoms, Zhang Nian’s incubating eggs, and that’s that. Also 1994’s Adding One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain. Or Old Li curating Fascination With Pain, Zhu Yu’s Eating Dead Infants, or Jin Feng transfusing blood from one hand to the other hand, also the American Zhang Huan. Now in the 90’s what happened? Not Beijing artists, but individual artists, the basic essential release of artists in Beijing. Beijing was a site. At that time, artists were not producing in the city, but in the countryside and prefectures of Beijing. Songzhuang, East Village, also Yuanming Yuan were all out in ebf. Then everyone was in the center, and it was hard to continue, all the way up to this year, around June, Chao Bai River, how far is that from Beijing? Like almost all the way to Tianjin, they’re still catching people. Performance art, take your pants off, get naked, put it on the web. That’s nudity, not art. There is no real Beijing style, not like Wang Chuyu, that kind of style, Shu Yang, that kind of essence. The Gao Brothers, they have their character, and so on. Between them all, it’s rough to hammer out a style, a group visage, a school of art. A lot of great artists, like Zheng Lianjie went abroad. Artist of the Year this year was not from Beijing, but Changzhou. Historically, Chinese art is regional, but we’ll talk about that later, but a region has a body, a visage. Even Yangjiang has a visage, Guangzhou, Xiamen Dada, and so on, Chengdu’s visage, even early Zhengzhou had a visage. Even earlier, Lanzhou had its art squad. But now, most of these bodies and visages have disappeared. Beijing had a monopoly over the whole country, because people believed they could develop there, get fame, make money, but it wasn’t really like that. Especially after the ‘08 financial crisis, we saw the lie. So artists just  started to put, felt that being autonomous was good. To get back to Chengdu, these past 20 years, there has been a sort of artistic ecosystem here, a balanced one, right? Not to see it as a micro-climate, but there is a main current, from the 80’s on through, a ceaseless flow. The new generation takes over, then a newer one, a progression, like the Chengdu ecosystem, ever self-renewing. I’ve said this many times, but why is Chengdu considered to be the comprehensive city, a tolerant city? When an artist moves to another city, it’s hard to get by. This happens everywhere, having to do with history and milieu in a place. So let me talk about Chengdu’s real specialty. First—the diversity here. Most aboriginal Sichuanese were killed at the end of the Ming Dynasty, during the peasant rebellion led by Zhang Xianzhong. So, second—everyone is Sichuan is an immigrant, and intermixed. If you don’t realize that this is an inter-regional city, you’ll be unable to see a lot of what goes on here. It’s kind of a mafia society, where we respect the older generation and love the new. And third, it’s multi-cultural and creative. Because of these three elements, there’s a sense of taking risks, a creative mind-set, and of course, lots of speculation, to innovate. My last point is that there’s a sense of solidarity here, that mafia thing, we make it together, all arrive, we help each other…make sacrifices. These past couple years, I’ve seen these same trends in Sichuan oil painting. Artists paint from their life. Artists in other areas don’t. Take for example The Water Protectors, from ’95 to ’99, this is a classic example. Three exhibitions having to do with water protection. Also, Zhou Bin and Liu Chengying protesting demolition of Kuan Zhai Alleys, and Yan Cheng curating the Three Gorges Dam exhibitions. Three water levels, three exhibitions. I’ve never seen anything like this outside Chengdu. There’s no payback for this kind of artwork, only spiritual payback, that’s it. It’s a satisfaction you get, for working in your community, not for money, but for art and awareness. Chengdu’s all-embracing nature is imbedded in the life here. In Chengdu, when we eat together, it may start out a couple of us, but soon grows into twenty. This could never happen in Shanghai. If you don’t have this generosity then you’re art isn’t going to be any good. Art is not a political mandate, it’s not a legal precedent, it’s not precise like mathematics, with clear lines. Art is fuzzy, and flexible, ai!, it changes, one day like this, tomorrow like that, right?






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