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赵要 |最后一个鸡蛋  ZhaoYao |The last egg

赵要谈最后一个鸡蛋

现居北京的观念艺术家赵要一直关注艺术形式背后起决定作用的诸多因素本文中赵要讲述了此次在北京公社最新个展最后一个鸡蛋的整体构想以及艺术在当代社会中如何通过对信息的调度和再处理成为捕捉和改变集体意识的有效载体展览将持续到108

我一直觉得在我的创作里没有什么个性可言所谓的特点个性其实是通过分析集体意识里的现象我称之为信息再对其进行重新加工再造而形成的而这种特点也是外部集体对所有这些东西重新审视之后产生的认识具体到这次展览我们花了大半年的时间制作一种人造蛋壳涂料试验了很多次最后在一名树脂化工专业的教授帮助下确定了现在的这个配方蛋壳涂料涂在第一个展厅的四面墙上但有特定的图案”。这些图案实际取自各行各业用来做数据分析的曲线图我选了波动比较大的7-8张图拼成一圈从形式上看这些锯齿状的起伏线很像剥开的蛋壳加上涂料的颜色一进门就会改变观众对白色墙体的印象让原来展厅的白墙看上去很有营养像鸡蛋的蛋白整个展览强调的也是这种调度关系作为生命和营养象征的蛋壳与作为理性分析工具的曲线图结合在一起能够引导出我们内部的很多情结无论是对自然的潜意识欲望还是对理性的依赖这跟我最近在四方美术馆展出的作品宇宙黑在旋转》(2016)有一定联系作品中铝板上涂的黑色颜料是奔驰汽车的一款喷漆这么工业化的原料却被叫做宇宙黑”。不光是奔驰所有国产车进口车都有类似的颜色命名系统我觉得这在某种程度上揭示了我们内心对大自然或风景的一种潜意识欲望或抽象认识那件作品比较有意思的一点是,“宇宙黑这个名字跟天空以及整个装置仰望天空跟随太阳的动作之间永远处于某种循环关系中这次的作品同样如此一方面我们需要用曲线图这种理性工具去总结过去分析未来获得某种可控性而另一方面蛋壳的易碎特质永远是不可控的就像用这种涂料涂墙你不可能控制得了最终呈现的效果总有意外发生墙面总在不断剥落

此外蛋壳的质感也能唤起我们艺术经验里对抽象和肌理的迷恋在这个过程中越多想法被调动起来越好我称之为一键启动”。就像现在的智能汽车你不用像以前的人那样必须了解车子的各种零部件和内部结构只需按下按钮就能开走展览也是一样尽管它内部可能蕴含很多逻辑关系但观众不用一开始就明白所有关系只要找到一个点这个点必须非常简单易于操作),按下一个按钮整个信息网络就被带动起来当你想去了解的时候它的内容会很丰富

展览中其他作品也是如此另一房间展出的蛋壳雕塑”,所用材料其实是我从花鸟市场买回来的水缸一共九个同样按照3-4个数据图表拼接起来的锯齿纹路切割去掉缸体的上半部分剩下这部分的形状就像放在地上的一盒鸡蛋壳)、长年使用的肌理感以及我们对陶土器皿的认识等信息含量通通都会释放出来而且这种波动图案通过理性分析出来就是如今社会各行各业带有的节奏感所以整个展厅这样布置你会感觉它跟时代的关系很紧密我一直不太相信个人或原创性在这个时代有多大作用而更愿意将其视为一种集体选择的过程如果非要说原创性艺术家的原创性跟广告设计服装设计等其他行业的原创性之间区别有多大呢在这个创意已经成为各行业基本要求的时代这种区别已经变得非常细微了而作为集体意识的参与者和观察者艺术家个人通过自己的体验和发掘对已有关联进行重新总结和组合进而创造出新的关联对我而言这是一种创造性

— 文/ 采访/杜可柯

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邱文宝 /Voon Pow Bartlett    翻译:姚青

原文载于: Yishu典藏国际版July/August 2015, volume 14, number 4. P28-43.

黑色方块的冒险:抽象艺术与社会1915-2015,白教堂美术馆现场照,2015,图片来源:白教堂美术馆,伦敦。

黑色方块的冒险:抽象艺术与社会1915-2015,于2015年1月15日在伦敦白教堂美术馆(Whitechapel Gallery)对公众开放。白教堂美术馆的新闻通稿称其为“一场意义重大的新展览,梳理着从1915年至今一个世纪抽象艺术的脉络……”1展览的目的在于“重新审视”艺术、社会和政治之间的关系,给几何抽象艺术之进化带来新认识。展览的一百多件作品来自80位现当代艺术家,其中一些艺术家更是享有跨国甚至洲际知名度,例如俄罗斯的卡西米尔·马列维奇(Kasimir Malevich)——这在他著名画作黑与白至上主义组合(Black and White Suprematist Composition, 1915)诞生一百周年之际也就不足为奇了。其他如雷贯耳的大名还有:亚历山大·罗德琴科(Alexander Rodchenko),卡尔·安德烈(Carl Andre),丹·弗拉文(Dan Flavin),罗斯玛丽·特洛科尔(Rosemarie Trockel),特奥·凡·度斯堡(Theo Van Doesburg),皮埃·蒙德里安(Piet Mondrian)。展览使用了美术馆两层楼的绝大部分空间。为我们展现了结构主义艺术从兴起之初在俄罗斯与欧洲作为先锋艺术的革命性开始,到2015年遍布世界各地的漫漫过程。其中包括了中国、中东和南美。

卡西米尔·马列维奇(Kasimir Malevich),黑与白至上主义组合,1915,帆布油画,80 x 80 cm。Moderna Museet收藏,斯德哥尔摩。Bengt Jangfeldt和Jelena Jangfeldt捐赠,2004。

丹·弗雷文(Dan Flavin),给V. Tatlin的‘纪念碑’, 1966–69, 荧光管和金属,305.4 x 58.4 x 8.9cm. © 2014 斯蒂文·弗雷文(Stephen Flavin)/艺术家权利协会 (ARS),纽约。图片来源:Tate收藏:1971年购买。

对馆长伊娃娜·布雷兹维克(Iwona Blazwick)来说,抽象艺术是“是进步地平线上的岬角。它在研究上的空白意味着令人兴奋的未知元素和充满想象空间的多重可能”2在早期几何抽象艺术提议与“新型社会组织”建立联系的基础上。新闻通稿说明了本次展览的四个主题归纳如下:1)“乌托邦”,想象了一个新的超越等级和阶级的理想社会;2)“建筑学”,展现了抽象艺术如何加强社会转型的空间;3)“传播”,观察了抽象艺术调动彻底改革的可能性;4)“日常生活”,追寻了抽象艺术如何渗透到视觉艺术的各个层面,从公司标识到纺织品设计。3

黑色方块的冒险:抽象艺术与社会1915-2015,白教堂美术馆现场照,2015,图片来源:白教堂美术馆,伦敦。

我将先快速评估一下展览评论和思想前提,接着我将深入地讨论两位参与展览的中国艺术家。其他的展评也提到了该展览中几何图形的多样性和可塑性。阿拉斯太尔·斯玛特(Alastair Smart)在电讯报中写道,“基于简单的方块,圆圈,三角形,和长方形图案;展览展现了艺术家在过去的一百年里在抽象艺术中体现出的不可思议的创造性”;Time Out杂志也写道“这是一场不是方块的几何展出”。也有其它嘲讽式的声音,声称展览呈现出“旨在改变世界的艺术…有着宏大的革命性方式…而缺乏普通观察”;卫报的劳拉·卡明(Laura Cumming)注意到,“马列维奇在没有背景语境的情况下呈现于这场展览里,没有提及它原本在立体主义中的根源和一战的毁灭。”4

展览的基本前提是:上个世纪是目前人类历史上最民主的一个世纪。抽象艺术是艺术史上最民主的艺术类型,它也很好地呈现并服务了人类的进程。但这次展览对艺术家的筛选过程,却不是透明民主的并引起了争议。虽然这可能也并没有错。卫报的卡明对于一些更知名的抽象艺术家被排除在外表示哀叹:“一些我们最珍视且尚在人世的艺术家,如布里奇特·赖利(Bridget Riley)、弗兰克·斯特拉(Frank Stella)、罗伯特·曼戈尔德(Robert Mangold)、埃斯沃兹·凯利(Ellsworth Kelly)——都是抽象画家。但是去到白教堂美术馆的抽象展览看一看,在整个大型展览里这些人一个都找不到。”5我猜测,其中一个筛选的前提有可能是白教堂美术馆对历史上“第一次”的认同。比如在他们当中有毕加索的名作格尔尼卡,于1939年在白教堂展出,这也是它第一次并且是唯一一次在英国的展出;1958年美国抽象表现主义艺术家杰克逊·波洛克(Jackson Pollock)第一次在英国的重要展出;以及1970年和1971年大卫·霍克尼(David Hockney),吉尔伯特&乔治(Gilbert & George),理查德·朗(Richard Long)的第一次展出。其他包括在这次展览中的艺术家也有很多因“第一”而受到赞美。例如萨劳阿·劳乌达·仇蔡尔(Saloua Raouda Choucair)在1940年代创作抽象艺术,被认为是第一位当代阿拉伯世界的抽象画家;拉希德·阿拉恩(Rasheed Araeen)是第一位在英国用模块化金属原件工作的巴基斯坦艺术家;还有巴西艺术家何烈·欧提西卡(Helio Oiticica)第一次伦敦个人展览就是1969年在白教堂举办的。

何烈·欧提西卡(Hélio Oiticica), Metaesquema 464, 1958, 水粉木板, 29.8 x 33 cm。照片:Todd White摄影 © 所有版权归艺术家所有。鸣谢 Catherine and Frank Petitgas。

艺术家筛选过程更困扰我的是两位中国艺术家的入选,他们从一个和抽象艺术的艺术运动毫无关系的背景而来。赵要和刘韡,同印度艺术家那斯仁·默罕默德(Nasreen Mohamedi)以及捷克艺术家贝拉·寇拉洛娃(Bela Kolarova)一起填补了一个更大的世界舞台的空白。这就像是战后日本和韩国的抽象艺术,或者像伊斯兰艺术的几何图形中固有的抽象艺术。

黑色方块的冒险:抽象艺术与社会1915-2015,白教堂美术馆现场照,2015。左:赵要,精神高于一切 1–93A, 2012。右:刘韡,紫色空气,2014。图片来源:白教堂美术馆,伦敦。

一个可能但让人不愿接受的原因是,这些艺术带来的交换价值。所有起初和几何抽象艺术有关的理想主义现今都和大型集团公司开始商业合作了。电讯报的阿拉斯太尔·斯玛特这样写道“展览的故事可能开始于20世纪初共产主义头晕的阵痛中,但它肯定终结于21世纪资本主义冷酷无情的控制下了。”6随着最近中国当代艺术商业的成功,就不难想象为何赵要和刘韡会入选此次展览。或许是巧合,或许不是,赵要在作品中所用的牛仔布又一次成为了今春服装店的宠儿。这种艺术与时尚的结合不禁让人联想到60年代布里奇特·赖利和她为时尚印刷图案所做的贡献。一条项目录确认了这个:“牛仔布……一种西部无产阶级耐久性的理想材料,让人想起1980年代中国的风尚…”7

但中国艺术家抽象艺术的背景语境是什么呢?抽象艺术在21世纪为年轻一代中国艺术家,像赵要和刘韡提供的不仅是商业的可能性。它可以是对一切崭新的、自由的、激动人心的事物来一次全心全意的拥抱。这就像在1934年苏联政府强制把社会现实主义作为官方政策时,抽象艺术对马列维奇以及他同时代人所产生的影响。抽象艺术还能提供一个新的理论框架和语言。一个受欢迎的并与过去决裂的一种自愿的遗忘“一种故意失忆的艺术”8

抽象艺术在中国的历史,要从1949年以后中国政府因其腐朽的资本主义内涵而被禁止开始。9受结构主义和至上主义的影响,抽象艺术和中国艺术家有一种特有的共鸣。因为他们共享一种社会变革的冲动,因理想主义而具革命性。因为毛时代的革命功利主义的意识形态还有遗留,中国艺术家对早期俄罗斯画作应该不难产生认同。这些画展现了当时的艺术家是如何从旧的习俗中解放出来的。

马列维奇的黑色四边形,无日期,明显是此次展览的核心,象征着他对抽象高声宣告。它会挣脱与大地的纽带,升高到天空平流层的精神层面:“跟着我,飞行员同志,朝着峡谷进发!”10它还能代表一种对西方压迫性政体的逃离。典型的例子是伟大的拉美先驱艺术家,他们逃离了欧洲天主教殖民者的传统残余——例如何烈·欧提西卡(Helio Oiticica)、丽姬娅·裴普(Lygia Pape),丽姬娅·卡拉克(Lygia Clark)等人的作品,以及其他1950年代晚期巴西新具体主义运动参与者的作品。对中国艺术家来说,抽象艺术也是一种拒绝传统艺术创作方法的途径,是改变历史进步的进程与中国梦的象征。11也是去除旧秩序,开始新社会的愿景。布雷兹维克说抽象艺术是“让画家习惯脱离具体实物的新视野…创造了广大的同人联盟…跨越了时间和地域的阻隔…在单一的非历史的通用平台上就可获得”12

 

赵要:精神高于一切1–193A, 2012,丙烯牛仔布,200 x 222 x 8 cm。© 赵要。图片来源:佩斯伦敦。

赵要在白教堂的作品属于2013年在伦敦佩斯画廊首次展出的一个系列。它看起来像是一本集合抽象图形的手册。画布上的组成“看起来像是兔子耳朵的圆圈和三角形的组合;方块上叠加圆圈,看起来像是立在棱上和斜边上的立方体的长方体,但却没有顶……五边形,八边形,平行四边形,和互相交叉的圆环…”13 抽象艺术对他的吸引力可能源于他对数学谜题的着迷。14这种看似数学般的建筑可以追溯回1990年代中国的新刻度小组。这些作品“旨在消除个性和主观任意性”去创造“基于数学公式定理”的作品。15这种来自数学逻辑的力量是对不断涉及机械美学的回响。它们可以在马列维奇的剪刀研磨机(1912)、柳波夫·波波娃(Lyubov Popova)的绘画建筑学(1916)当中看到。在赵要的作品中,这样的痕迹可以在精神高于一切I-93A(2012)的长方体和精神高于一切I-259(2012)的黑色圆圈当中看到。后者让人想起厄尔·李思兹基(El Lissitzky)的Proun组合(1925)。赵要或是故意,或是不经意地在庆祝或挑战一种中国“未完成革命”的审美。16或许他只是愤世嫉俗,像是罗伯特·德劳内(Robert Delaunay),并非要与机械美学产生联系。但正如罗伯特·休斯(Robert Hughes)所说那样,沐浴在现代性成就的光辉下,于1911年画了30次艾菲尔铁塔。也或许赵要是在试着接近一战后费迪南·莱热的玩牌人(1917)当中的敬畏和憎恶。17

柳波夫·波波娃(Lyubov Popova), 绘画建筑学, 1916,木板油画, 59.4 x 39.4cm。图片来源: 苏格兰国家当代美术馆,爱丁堡。

赵要的每一件作品都是和观众联合努力的成果。他的作品承认观众的存在,展现一种与观者沟通的意愿,并表示友好。他解释说他的一些作品就像是电视剧和观众的关系:“可以把我最近作品之间的联系理解为类似电视剧之间的关系。”18

赵要的作品还象征着一种和构成主义运动把观众包含进来的一样的意愿。维克多·什克洛夫斯基(Viktor Shklovsky)(1893-1984),一位俄罗斯和前苏联文学理论家、批评家、作家,想要让观众的理解“去自动化”。他想要通过把熟悉的事物变得不熟悉,来鼓励观众去提高理解的能力以便通过艺术学习生活。赵要在伦敦佩斯画廊的草席和纪录片式的摄影集(展现了他的作品被带到了一座西藏的山里,四处散放在画廊的地板上),显示出他想通过艺术鼓励观众学习,发掘更多的思考,而不是让大多数观众在画廊里步履匆匆地对作品一扫而过。

赵要,精神高于一切现场照,2012。照片:Stephen White。© 赵要。图片来源:伦敦佩斯。

这种把参观者积极的包含在内的做法,也可能是对早期中国艺术家认为艺术应该有社会目的或把做艺术变成一项社会工程的继承。1930年代延安鲁迅美术学院的革命艺术家们,如木刻家古元与当地农民交流并邀请他们来批评自己的艺术作品。1980年代的中国的乡村现实主义,一开始被称为伤痕艺术,描绘了文化大革命对农村和边境地区普通百姓的影响。罗中立的父亲(1980)就是一个非常有影响的例子。它把关注的焦点从明星和政要转移到了普通人身上;把一位普通的晒的黝黑的农民提升为了艺术对象。现今还有一些中国艺术家在集体和公有制上做文章,讽刺地追溯毛时代。赵要提倡一种更多参与艺术的实践,旨在打通艺术和生活的界限。而很多中国艺术家在作者类似的事情,比如艾未未在我们这个媒体驱动的时代,很著名地过着表演式的生活。张培力的作品充满了挑衅和煽动。徐震作品的不敬与有趣和郑国谷的敏感并列在一起,如此等等。

这种社会倾向可能为赵要入选此次展览提供了另一个解释,因为展览的部分前提是“当代艺术家受社会和身边不断进化的世界的影响,仍在实验和挑战表述和现实的概念。”19这最典型的例子就是展览包含了萨拉·莫里斯(Sarah Morris)2008年的电影北京,2008,对北京日常生活的叙述,尽管唯一出现的几何图案是在背景里飘扬的中国国旗。布雷兹维克明确表示出她是绝对支持抽象艺术的社会功用的。并间接指出从展示的成规、表述和类型流派解放出来后,“抽象艺术在美学上消解了社会和政治等级,并且甚至能延伸到实际生活中…”20

有趣的是马列维奇和赵要在某种程度上都被神秘主义所吸引,在艺术中表达一种超越物质的精神真理。对马列维奇来说,抽象艺术的顶峰可以通过无限的、精神的上帝和“至高无上的纯粹感觉”来达到。对赵要来说,对抽象艺术的经验主义的探索为通向精神领域提供了可能性。他希望通过观察、记录、浓缩、和概念化他带着作品的长途旅程来达成。在精神高于一切I-93A(2012)里,印有几何图案的六边形的画布悬挂在有着西藏群山的风景照片的墙上,几何和超验在此结合了起来。赵要并非信徒,他还是被西藏人们和他们去拉萨(上帝之城)的系统性朝圣所打动。以至于他将作品艰难而危险地(对人和作品来说都是如此)运送进西藏的山里让活佛进行加持。在佛教里,活佛是之前的菩萨转世。

刘韡,紫气2号, 2014, 帆布油画, 260 x260 cm。© 刘韡。 图片来源:白立方,伦敦。

如果黑色方块的冒险是马列维奇黑色方块的生日宴会,那么刘韡则是一名不速之客。刘韡在展览中的作品,紫气2号(2014),几乎完全和马列维奇的作品对立。前者是棱角分明的,机器制造的,荧光的;而后者从黑与白至上主义组合(1915)来看,则是脆弱的,不确定的,手绘的。前者拥有几何的精准,并让人望而却步的。刘韡的作品是穿不透的,而马列维奇的作品则是优雅老去的。黑与白原本的边界潜移默化地相互渗透着。21刘韡的画似乎是静止的,不可渗透的,缺乏活力但却雄辩。紫色,粉色,绿色,和蓝色突兀地堆在一起。感官经验上试图去研究这色彩的喧嚣,却被瀑布般的从画上射出的频率和闪光打断了。

但是,对我来说,刘韡的强项在于他作品的多样性。很多中国艺术家通过他们作品的识别度在近期的艺术史中赢得了一席之地。但刘韡不是这样,对他来说,熟悉是乏味的,原创性才是关键。他作品中的区别几乎是不可调和的,例如白教堂的紫色2号和早先的作品消化不良II(2004)。后者是用一种石化产业的副产品——沥青堆出的两米高的一堆排泄物。爱它!咬它!(2006),是用一种给狗吃的可食用的生牛皮骨头做的(狗咬胶)。纵观刘韡的全部作品,抽象艺术并不是他的习惯性思维,尽管他在黑色方块的冒险中的作品可能如此。

刘韡,消化不良II(细节), 2004, 装置。图片来源:刘韡。

刘韡,消化不良II(细节), 2004, 装置。图片来源:刘韡。

尽管缺乏赵要明显的与观众之间合作或是与西藏的联系,刘韡一些迥然不同的作品也同样带有一种社会评论,尽管是尖刻的。消化不良II就是对当代城市生活和城市建筑的探索。据刘韡所说,作品的想法来源于“一张画上面有个巨人,吞下了沿途的所有东西,又在有参观者路过前全部排泄出来了。如果仔细观察排泄物,就会发现他贪婪地吞下的东西不是都能消化的。不能消化的残余物构成了一个迷你的战争场面。”22的确,近距离地仔细观察就会发现不能消化的排泄物的“核心”是成百上千的塑料玩具模型士兵,飞机和战争武器。这是对一些发达国家的揶揄,它们因为进步而发胖,却也饱受战争、贪婪和当今不可持续消费的折磨。在爱它!咬它!里,地板上一堆标志性的建筑模型拥挤地堆积在一起,像罗马竞技场、古根海姆博物馆,还有其他巨大宏伟的公共空间、摩天大楼、和教堂。作品就像是三维的西方文化历史浓缩成了苍白的,鬼魅的碎片。

同样的,尽管不能一眼看出来,紫气2号也是一种社会评论,风格化的摩天大厦式的城市空间映射着城市化的发展。据白教堂目录条目称,“一个复杂抽象的由垂直霓虹色彩的线条组成的网格,暗示着不断变换的城市景观和人在超级大都市里的异化和腐化。”23引用刘韡的话,“城市就是现实;整个中国就是一个正在建设中的城市,这当然影响了我。”24

刘韡,爱它!咬它!,2006,装置。图片来源:刘韡。

这也许就是为何刘韡的作品被囊括在了“建筑学”标题的板块下,此版块旨在探寻工业化和城市化所带来的影响。我们在其中一瞥抽象艺术如何辅助了情感和心理上的宣泄。即使对处于中国艺术世界的一些人来说,20世纪西方概念里的抽象艺术也并不存在,25但它却仍然是中国艺术家有用的工具,他们生活在过去二十年里逐渐揭开的纷乱的能量和洋溢的热情中。强调抽象艺术的革命性根源呼应了当今中国的社会和政治改革里矛盾而破碎的“另一种现代性”。抽象艺术对工业社会日益抽象的社会关系举起了一面阿多诺式的镜子。深思它的社会内容,中国社会存在的抽象本质,26是有益处的。因为中国在全球化的过程中与世界碰撞,金钱和权力替代了旧的社会价值。

从展览广泛的作品中还能很清楚得看到,抽象艺术给艺术家提供了与意义做游戏的可能,甚至是去反抗意义和增进理解。据布雷兹维克说,几何抽象艺术能让艺术家和他们的社群“甩掉文化的包袱、重写国家认同、超越中心和边缘的地缘政治”,以达到一种“更真实的现实。”27平心而论,白教堂的展览并没能像马列维奇的黑色方块在1915年首次展出时对圣彼得堡的公众那样,引发了一场精神上的骚动。28但是,讽刺的是尽管抽象艺术看上去已经失去了革命性的冲动,并且更多地被用作描述反乌托邦的存在。当代艺术家仍然在探索它变化多端、含义丰富的特点。把它作为通向希望(如果不是乌托邦的话)的大道。事实上,几何抽象在21世纪之交似乎批评了它自相矛盾的历史,但它“仍然承诺着不确定的、未知的和政治的…批评家不能轻松统治黑白单色的空白。这是一张疯狂的牌,一种积极的无意识。”29

抽象艺术不确定性的本质可能就是其吸引中国艺术家之处。白杰明(geremie r barme)的“国家虚无主义”称,一些人认为即使是“怯懦的实用主义和投机主义”也不能解决。30这种假定的可悲虚无被控以“国家虚无主义”,杜绝了任何的哲学怀疑主义,或绝对文化翻译里不可能性的审视;抑或是对协同转移的审问。37“国家虚无主义”拒绝艺术实践挑战审查特色经济模型在社会运行以及历史和当代的关系中发展的话语的可能性。最紧要的是缺乏一个话语互动的空间来审视这些矛盾和误解。

虚无主义的概念对理解赵要在白教堂的作品很有帮助。一方面,他作为艺术家为人非常和蔼可亲,以至于把他的作品弱化到了优柔寡断的程度。他的作品和装置看起来并没有任何形式或逻辑的统领。事实上赵要本人在一次线上采访中(2013年1月31日)向笔者透露,他的装置中没有社会意义或精神关系。其实它们只是一种实验,以此来看各种元素怎样影响,以及怎样和观众互动。头脑风暴思维游戏的几何图案是为了更深入地探索艺术和观众的关系。另一方面,对非主流艺术来说,总有绝对翻译的不可能性、文化含义的多样性、和艺术谜性的问题(第二个问题话题太大,余下的文章不予讨论)。从跨文化的角度看,虚无主义不一定是覆盖着铁丝网的。当然,虚无主义很容易让人联想到尼采的生存焦虑,但同样让人想起的还有东方视角,诸如佛教信条中的无为和涅槃或道教中的空虚和顺其自然,这些也可以是肯定和积极的。31佛教传播一种从虚无的此世中抽身的理念,可以理解为逃避痛苦的厌世哲学。它对一些人来说这是他们所向往的宗教。“无”(虚无)在道教中,也可以有积极的含义,指人从万千尘世烦恼和欲望中解脱出来。

赵要试图获得更真实的现实并没有像策展人布雷兹维克所说的那样扔掉文化的包袱是抽象艺术的特点之一。32相反,他通过西藏来反映佛教,在他看来,这样做可以为作品带来更深的潜在意义或多层意义的外界元素;质疑藏在作品表面的形式和象征意义下的内容。33这就自圆其说地解释了虚无主义并不都是消极和负面的,不止是一味否定,也可以有积极的意义。把几何抽象艺术和藏传佛教的景观结合在一起,对预想标准和规范概念以及宗教和哲学思想的理解提出疑问。这就像马列维奇对“充满了非主观感知精神”的至上主义作品的探索一样。

刘韡相反地,并没有透露多少关于他自己或作品的内容。Chen Xhingyu在艺术:当代中国艺术期刊中写道,他更愿意挑战观众,让观众去思考他们和艺术的关系,用艺术的力量去得到第一手的体验,尽管可能是通过一些日常平凡的情境。34选择像迷中迷谜局这样的标题更加深了高深莫测的意味。但据刘韡本人所说,这种沉默和保留是因为被误解和被歪曲,“我真的对我要表达的和最后被表达出来的意思之间的不符感到非常困惑。这也就是为什么我不再写东西也不再情愿接受采访了。”35白教堂展现出来的他是沉默寡言的;他的作品是关于意义的民主化的。引用他说的话“(在一个空间里)拥有什么东西是特别关于身体,是你可以感觉到的。我只是中间人,起到抛砖引玉的作用。这就是民主,但是一旦我开始解释其中的意思,我就变成了力量实体,变成了霸权。”36

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III-188a

PAINTING OF THOUGHT/很有想法的繪畫

2015.01.15 – 02.26 | PACE HONG KONG

Written by Zhao Yao

 

Painting of Thought is a very apt and fitting title for these works. The two books that provided the source images for these paintings say the following on their covers:

 

  1. A magical book full of challenging wisdom, geniuses around the world are playing 1000 Thinking Games. Why are Japanese people so smart? An American had a sudden realization that thinking is built through play. (A must read for the never-surrendering Chinese. Nanhai Press, 2005.)

 

  1. Top international thinking games to rapidly unlock your mind’s potential. The 600 thinking games played by all the top students in the world will help you grasp effective methods for enhancing cognitive abilities, heightening powers of observation, analysis, logic, deduction, judgment, imagination, creativity, memory, thinking and action. The more you play, the smarter and more successful you will become. (600 Thinking Games from a century of Harvard students. Huawen Press, 2009.)

 

From the first painting, Painting of Thought has a sense of mission. How do we look at a painting? How do we understand a painting? How do we create a painting? This series approaches fundamental questions of art from the perspective of painting, particularly abstract painting. Unlike conceptual art in the general sense, this series is not expressing certain criticisms or concepts but instead practicing criticisms or concepts. First, everything here is readymade. Readymade images, readymade colors, readymade fabric, and a readymade understanding of painting. Furthermore, these readymade understandings and concepts of painting are produced by these readymade images, forms and materials. This also includes the understanding and ways of thinking about painting produced by existing art history education and artistic experience. The various visible visual elements and invisible abstract thoughts serve as the fundamental elements of creation, just like the colors and brushstrokes of painting, and they are combined together according to an internal logic and order.

Painting of Thought, being constructed atop a purely logical foundation, is both serious and playful. The removal of the playful aspects of the images, and the use of stacked layers of acrylic to build up an aura out of the glossy sheen, are not intended to produce that sacred aura of traditional painting but instead to imitate the radiant sheen of plastic children’s toys. The artist is playing with the sacred aura not to make the profound superficial but instead to use this process to bring the sparkling sheen of plastic, which permeates the everyday experience of contemporary society, into the painting and to elevate it. This, together with thickness and sheen, are integrated and materialized by a purely abstract logic. The aura that busts forth from this is the aura of ideals and abstraction. Meanwhile, this materialized aura is also a form of resistance and balancing against the criticality created by pure reason and abstract logic. These works use this resistance and balancing to transcend painting and criticism, and to return to a more metaphysical level to discuss and practice more fundamental issues regarding art and culture. The relationship that emerges here between criticism and resistance is the dialectic relationship between form and content.

Created using a method akin to a television series, Painting of Thought is a forerunner to the 2013 exhibition Spirit Above All. It marks my earliest creative practice to explore the dialectic relationship between form and content. Painting of Thought is sometimes treated as a series of abstract installations inserted into the system of painting. Just as my other series are constantly created and enriched, this series applies a reverse logic to constantly expand and enrich their meaning and content as it grows continuously.

《很有想法的繪畫》能叫“很有想法”是名副其實,理直氣壯的。這些繪畫圖形主要來源的那兩本書的封面上寫著:

 

1)一本富有智慧和挑戰的、風靡全球的奇書,全世界聰明人都在做的《1000個思維遊戲》。為什麼日本人那麼聰明?美國人恍然大悟,思維是玩出來的。(不認輸的中國人不可不讀,南海出版社,2005)

 

2)國際頂級思維遊戲,迅速開發大腦潛能。全世界優等生都在做的600個思維遊戲,幫你快速掌握提高思維能力的有效方法,全面提升觀察力、分析力、邏輯力、推理力、判斷力、想象力、創造力、記憶力、思考力、行動力,讓你越玩越聰明,越玩越成功。(百年哈佛學生做的600個思維遊戲,華文出版社,2009)

 

《很有想法的繪畫》從第一張開始就是帶著使命而來的。如何看待一張繪畫,如何理解一張繪畫,如何創作一張繪畫。以繪畫特別是抽象畫的角度思考一些藝術的本質問題。它與一般意義上的觀念創作不同,它不只是表述一種批判或者觀念,而是去實踐一種批判或者觀念。首先在這裡一切都是現成的——現成的圖像,現成的顏色,現成的織布,以及現成的對繪畫認識的理解觀念 &更進一步說,這些現成的繪畫認識和理解觀念就是從這些現成的圖像、形式和材料裡面產生出來的。同時還包含了在現有藝術史教育和藝術經驗下產生的對繪畫對藝術的理解和思考方式。各種可見的視覺元素和不可見的抽象思維作為創作的基本要素,就像繪畫裡面的顏色和筆觸一樣,然後按照一定的內在邏輯和秩序集成在一起。

在純粹邏輯基礎上建立的《很有想法的繪畫》既是嚴肅的又是遊戲的。除去圖形本身的遊戲性,用丙烯顏料厚厚堆積起來的光滑表面產生出的光暈,並不是在制造傳統繪畫上那種神聖光暈(aura)而是效法兒童塑料玩具高光部分散發出的那種光澤。把神聖化的光暈遊戲化並不是要把深邃的思想淺薄化。而是通過這個過程,把當代社會日常經驗裏到處閃爍著的這種塑料光暈帶入畫面並使其昇華。這個和厚度和光澤是純粹抽象邏輯集成到一定程度並物質化後爆發出來的光暈,是理想與抽象的aura。同時這個物質化的光暈是對純粹理性和抽象邏輯組建的那些批判性的抵抗和平衡。通過這個抵抗和平衡來超越繪畫和批判,回到更加形而上的層面討論和實踐藝術與文化裡面更本質的問題。此時批評和抵抗展現的關係,就是形式和內容的辯證關係。

作為像電視連續劇一樣的創作方式。《很有想法的繪畫》系列還是2013年《精神高於一切》那個展覽的前身。是探討形式與內容辯證關係最初的創作實踐。《很有想法的繪畫》還被當作一個放入繪畫系統裡面抽象化了的裝置。在其他系列不斷的創作和豐富下,從一種反向逆生邏輯對其意義和內容不斷擴充和豐富,不斷地生長著。

 

Spirit above all III-69_acrylic on denim_200x222x8cm_2012-2013

Zhao Yao: Spirit Above All

Voon Pow Bartlett

Yishu Volume 12, Number 4, July/August 2013

According to Pace London Gallery press release, the artworks for Spirit Above Allwere brought to Tibet to be blessed by a “Living Buddha.”[1] This is documented through mural photographs of the Tibetan landscape that provided the backdrop on the walls of the gallery upon which the paintings are hung. The press release also informs us that the artist is “fascinated by the relationship between art and its audience,” creating an “on-going cycle of self-assessment, and reconstruction of the old to produce the new, a process the artist describes as ‘self-consumption’.”[2] Zhao Yao expresses the wish to challenge how art is perceived, that ‘‘the attention should never be on the paintings themselves, which I deliberately repeat in different series to deconstruct their visual power, but the concept behind the forms. I am interested in the way we look at exhibitions and how our pre-existing knowledge, whether cultural, religious, or political, affects our perception of art. I like to provide context for my works, but not to disclose my own opinion so the discussion can remain open. In the same way that the puzzles I use aim at training one’s brain to think logically, I want my exhibitions to challenge people’s conventional way of looking at art.”[3]

 

Spirit Above All consists of a series of paintings, nine in all, executed with acrylic on denim, averaging a size of 250 x 200 x 8 cm. The colour scheme of the installation gives an impression of a grey day in London. Nevertheless, I found myself drawn to the shapes and patterns on the canvases and challenged to recall my mathematical training. There were circles combined with triangles to look like rabbit ears, circles on squares, cuboids that look like square rooms placed on their sides and some on their oblique sides, with their roofs sliced off, providing views from the top, like scenes from ancient Chinese paintings. Pentagons, octagons, parallelograms, and intersecting rings, executed in black, white, and light grey on stripy bluish denim canvases.

Zhao’s artworks and installation do not appear to be guided by any form or logic. In fact, Zhao himself revealed that there is no social significance or spiritual relationship in the installation, merely an experiment to see how the different elements interact with each other, and with the audience. The geometric patterns that can be found in brain teaser puzzles are to do with a desire to discover more about art; the references to Buddhism and Tibet are to bring into the work some external factor which may potentialize meaning or layers of meaning, or to bring into question what lies beneath its formal qualities and symbolic meaning. [4]

 

Nonetheless, in the context of the historical and social backdrop in which Zhao lives, the images and the particular way this installation is put together, provoke an interesting discussion relating to probable Russian influence, ideological and religious connotations, and, in particular, early and recent trends in contemporary Chinese art.

The juxtaposition of geometric shapes, spaces, and colours in the series entitled Spirit Above Allecho the Russian Constructivists, many of whom were also graphic designers. Constructivism was an artistic and architectural philosophy that originated in Russia in 1919, in the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution, which was a rejection of the idea of autonomous art.[5] Chinese artists such as Zhao are living under a similar political turmoil and social upheaval. Where the Russian community had lost confidence in Tsar Nicholas II in the early twentieth century, the Chinese experienced trauma after the Cultural Revolution during 1966–76. Where Russia turned from an agrarian society into an industrial one, Mainland China also underwent a cataclysmic transformation where millions of farm workers swarmed to find work in cities. An agrarian society was transformed into an industrial one; a projected four hundred million Chinese citizens became urban residents over the last decade.[6]

 

It is no surprise then, with China’s own industrial revolution following its opening up to the rest of the world in the late 1970s that Zhao may share in concept the Russian constructivists’ celebration of the contemporaneity in machines. Zhao’s current obsession with mathematical puzzles and the power of logic echo the incessant references to the machine aesthetic that can be seen in Kasimir Malevich’s Scissors Grinder, 1912 and Natalia Goncharova’s The Laundry, 1912.[7]In particular, Zhao’s Spirit Above All I-93A with its cuboids and Spirit Above All I-259 with black circles are reminiscent of El Lissitzky’s Proun Composition in both the use of geometric shapes and an understated tonal range. Perhaps Zhao is intentionally, or unwittingly, celebrating or challenging an aesthetic in China’s “Mechanical Paradise,” its “Unfinished Revolution.”[8]

Kasimir Malevich’s Scissors Grinder, 1912

As the Constructivist movement was also in favour of art as a practice for social purposes, the analogy with Zhao’s work can be taken a stage further, one beyond the visual seductiveness of plasticity of the abstract shapes into the Receptionist theory from the work of Viktor Shklovsky and Mikhail Bakhtin. There is ashared desire of involving the audience, to create works that would make them active viewers of the artwork. Shklovsky wanted to develop the meaning of art through the act of perception in order that people can discover more about life from looking at art; in other words, to make things that are familiar to us unfamiliar, to oppose the “automatism of perception,” that the artist should “de-automatize” the perceptions of the audience.[9] “The technique of art is to make objects unfamiliar, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important.”[10]

The above statement is almost contiguous to Zhao’s own manifesto in the Pace London press release, where he declares more interest in the relationship with the audience than the artworks themselves. He demonstrates his desire to communicate with the audience in this exhibition by having straw mats for them to sit on and albums of documentary photography showing the ascent of the artworks to the Tibetan mountains. He compares his work to a relationship between a TV soap opera and its audience, and considers every piece of work as a collaborative effort with his audience, and a development from his previous series [In the interview with the artist, he said,  ‘I consider my recent work to be like a TV soap].  

The concern for art to have a social purpose is also reminiscent of earlier Chinese artists who turned making art into social projects. There were the revolutionary artists of the Luxun Academy of Fine Arts in Yan’an during the 1930s such as woodcarvers Gu Yuan who interacted with rural communities and invited them to critique their art.[11] Later, during the 1980s, the RusticRealism in China, which was first referred to as Scar art, depicted the impact of the Cultural Revolution on ordinary people in rural and border regions—Luo Zhongli’s Father is an influential example of Rustic Realism.[12]

 

Despite his claim of non religiosity, Zhao is impressed by the Tibetan people who kowtow to Lhasa every day as a form of pilgrimage, so much so that he organized the artworks to be carted up the difficult and treacherous (for both humans and artwork) trek up the Tibetan mountain to be blessed by a “Living Buddha,” a reincarnation of a previous Buddha according to Buddhist religious doctrine. This recalls Chen Danqing’s Tibetan series, shown in October 1980 at the graduation exhibition of the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA). Chen portrayed Tibetans in their everyday life in a dignified way, ‘avoiding the patronizing depictions of ethnic minorities common at the time’.[13]

 

The abstract element of Zhao’s work also has a Chinese legacy. It is not clear if his intention is, like avant-garde artists such as the 1980s Stars Group, to challenge aesthetic convention and political authority in China, or the “Abstract Aesthetic” of Wu Guanzhong, who argued against the dominant forms of realism in favour of abstraction—“no subject, just form.”[14] However, the seemingly mathematical constructions of Zhao certainly harken back to the days of the New Measurement Group of the 1990s when conceptual artists such as Wang Luyang, Gu Dexin, and Chen Shaoping worked as a team from their home and created a mini-movement referred to as Apartment Art.[15] The New Measurement Group “aimed at eliminating individuality and arbitrary” to create work  “based on series of mathematically formulated propositions.”[16] Zhao goes even further by adding another layer—an empirical exercise—to his abstract canvases through observing, recording, condensing, and conceptualizing his journey on a Tibetan mountain.

 

It is interesting to note that Zhao’s way of working reflects the trend of conceptual, process driven, abstract work that many Chinese artists have adopted on the world’s stage. “ . . . recent attempts to revitalize Conceptual art practice have become something of a trend and constitute a welcome alternative to the primitive commercial operations previously prevalent in the Chinese contemporary art world,” writes Carol Lu.[17] This situation is evidenced in a few exhibitions I have seen recently, both in Beijing and in other parts of the world.For example, his way of working with abstraction and a fascination with the audience is also shared by another Chinese artist with a concurrent show in London.Le Guo “momentarily suspend(s) a painting not in order to encourage a spectator to assign fixed narratives and meanings to this image, but, instead, to encourage this spectator to imagine an unfixed process where potential forms become actualized and then frequently potentialized again.”[18] Hong Hao at Pace Beijing (March 16–April 27, 2013), digitally scans everyday objects to reduce them into abstract shapes to be presented neatly in a multitude of harmonious configurations and colours. Another concurrent show at Beijing Commune is that ofLiang Yuanwei who uses lipstick to draw on the irregular geometrical shapes formed by scrunched-up paper [Mar 21 – May 18, 2013]. Writing on one of her earlier shows in 2012, the critic Leng Lin rejoiced at the transformation of contemporary Chinese art from being preoccupied with socialist content to an exploration of art itself, which, in his view, emerged in Liang Yuanwei’s work as “consistent contemplation,” where “one can find the peacefulness of the traditional paintings from the Song dynasty.”[19]

 

The pursuit of peace and harmony can be seen with some Chinese artists working with nature, or at least natural materials. Hu Xiaoyuan at Beijing Commune in 2012, worked with found detritus of wood and transformed them with paint, nails, and silk. The various shapes and sizes of wood, although not vertical in orientation, exude a mystical aura similar to that of totem poles. Another artist who uses natural materials to comment on the industrialized society is Cui Fei.[20] She creates shapes that allude to Chinese calligraphy, much like Xu Bing, but with painstakingly positioned twigs, thorns, seeds. These tender tendrils emanate an incorporeal aura. Despite Zhao’s disinclination to discuss or disclose the true meaning of his work, the use of muted colours, pleasing abstract shapes, and mountain scenes are almost failsafe ways of conveying peace and contemplation.

 

Zhao’s new canvasses are drained of colour, a disaffected work to perhaps reflect a disaffection with life. Spirit Above All, albeit with a seemingly more upbeat title than I am your night, that was exhibited at Beijing Commune in 2011, seems to demonstrate a loss of his earlier vibrancy, fun, and joie de vivre. There is a new level of austerity and sparing use of shape. With this new restraint, it is tempting to read into Spirit Above All a dumbing down. Perhaps it is a personal maturation of a young artist, or perhaps it is a result of his reflection on the uncertainty of a country undergoing such enormous changes.

Despite his assertion of not being interested in presenting to the audience a didactic stance, it is clear that Zhao would like the audience to be challenged to think logically, to respond honestly and without preconceptions.He also hopes that the installation will work in unison, as a nostalgic function to recall and to inspire memories, just as the use of denim recalls and unifies with his previous exhibitions.

 

For Zhao, it is the reflection on process that is important for an artist, and the audience, of working beyond formal qualities. He invites us to bypass the art itself; he hopes, to arrive at the essence of the content, the concept. He has faith that the audience not only knows more than he does, but is also able to help him develop his work. ‘I think in many situations, the audience has a very clear understanding of a situation and its development, sometimes even more than the artist’].His absorption with the audience may be interpreted as relegating the responsibility of constructing meaning, and becomes, not “self-consumption,” but audience-consumption. In any case, there is an ambivalence that is manifest in the disparateness of his current presentation that may serve to encumber such affiliation.

 


[1]Pace London Press Release, www.pacegallery.com.
[1]Ibid.
[1] Ibid.
[1] All views from the artist, if not indicated as from the Press Release, are from an email conversation between author and artist.
[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructivism_(art).
[1]http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/31/us-china-urbanisation-idUSBRE92U00520130331.
[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructivism_(art).
[1]“Mechanical Paradise,” the title of Robert Hughes’ first chapter in The Shock of the New, Thames and Hudson, London, 1992 (1980): 9, to describe art movements such as the Futurists and the Vorticists as a reaction to the conditions of the industrial revolution of the beginning of the twentieth century in the West. China’s Unfinished Revolution is the title of a talk by Jonathan Fenby, April 30, 2013 at Kings College, London
[1]http://blogs.ubc.ca/nachoip/2012/09/11/shklovsky-and-bakhtin/Art as Tecnique. Viktor Shklovsky.
[1]Viktor Shklovsky, “Art as Technique,” in Art in Theory 1900-2000, eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (Hoboken: Blackwell Publishing, 2011), 280. 
[1]Ibid, 79.
[1]Gao Minglu, ed., The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art (New York: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 2005), 369.
[1] http://www.artspeakchina.org/mediawiki/Chen_Danqing_陈丹青.
[1]Ibid., 369. 
[1]Wu, Hung, Chinese Art at the Crossroads (London,: New Arts Media Ltd., 2001), 206.
[1]Ibid.
[1]https://www.frieze.com/issue/review/wang_luyan/, on an exhibition of Wang Luyang’s work at the Arario Gallery in Beijing in 2007.
[1] Author in conversation with Le Guo, March 19, 2013.
[1]Beijing Commune catalogue on Liang Yuanwei, 2012.
[1]The Lookout: A Weekly Guide to Shows You Won’t Want to Miss, Aia Staff, 2.5.2013. Cui Fei’s “Tracing the Origin” is at Chambers Fine Art, New York, 2 May – June 7, 2013. http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-opinion/finer-things/2013-05-02/the-lookout-a-weekly-guide-to-shows-you-wont-want-to-miss-10/. Accessed on 11.5.13.

囊谦

ZHAO YAO: SERIAL PERFORMANCE/中文

Post in: Posts Shop Talk | July 23 , 2013 | Tag in: LEAP 21 | TEXT:Sasha Zhao / TRANSLATION: Katy Pinke

So as to preserve a sense of mystery—and weaken, to as great an extent as possible, the audience’s romanticized versions of what happened—this is the only “evidence” available to prove that the event truly transpired.

In his work , Zhao Yao has found a sound and sustainable mode of exhibition that he calls “serial performance.” Born out of his suspicion with regard to all of the formalized complacencies created by contemporary art, the method allows him to engage in ongoing strikes against mechanisms of the exhibition as well as of his own working process.

In “You Can’t See Me You Can’t See Me,” his 2012 solo exhibition at Beijing Commune, Zhao Yao was extreme, nearly exactly copying his 2011 “I Am Your Night.” Some of the same works were made with different material, or with enlarged mass or geometric proportions, while others were borrowed from collectors who had already purchased them, for the purpose of re-exhibition. The show even opened on the same day, one year later. The result of the 2012 exhibition made Zhao aware of the fact that even when an artist does nothing, the audience is still able to enjoy the same thrill that would come with seeing an entirely new exhibition. Worth noting is that Zhao still identifies himself as a member of the media. He is therefore both a creator for and a professional member of the contemporary art audience, and uses his own exhibitions to test out the significance and efficacy of exhibitions themselves, the traditional relationship between artist and audience—formed as it is by the same one-time-only exhibition dynamic. This way of thinking is also extended to his latest solo exhibition, “Spirit Above All.”

Details »

Spirit Above All - Zhao Yao (images courtesy Pace)

Zhao Yao Spirit Above All at Pace London/中文

Chinese artist tells Phaidon about 200 mile journey to Tibet to have new paintings blessed by living Buddha

We were reflecting on Pace Gallery founder Arne Glimcher’s views on Chinese art as we took in a show that opened at Pace London yesterday. The works by Beijing-based artist Zhao Yao in his exhibition Spirit Above All are a prime example of Glimcher’s assertion of the importance of the narrative in Chinese art right now. We’ll recap briefly in case you missed it first time round.

“There’s an urgency there that does not exist here (in the west). The Cultural Revolution destroyed the entire history of China for a generation. So you’re dealing with the oldest country in the world and the newest country in the world and that schism between who they were and who they are and what is happening in China – that’s the narrative.”

As we know, understanding or following this narrative can be tricky at times but Zhao Yao, a young Chinese artist currently showing at Pace London 6-10 Lexington Street is inviting the viewer to reflect on their own perceptions of his work, saying the interaction with the artwork and the self-consciousness of the viewer is at the crux of it.  Details »

Zhao Yao: Spirit Above All/中文

2013.05.16 Thu, by Christopher Moore Translated by: 梁舒涵

Spirit Above All,” Zhao Yao solo exhibition

Pace Gallery (6-10 Lexington Street London, UK)Feb 12 – Mar 16, 2013

Painting is difficult and is getting more difficult. Most of the most interesting and provocative art of recent decades has not involved paint at all. Challenged first by photography and then by the rise of conceptual art in all its forms, including performance, the potential for painting, perhaps the most ancient art form, to contribute to new thinking now seems exhausted, condemned to be a talent of social instruction, an middle-class pedagogic discipline, like piano playing or sonnet composition, redundant and effete.

And yet its power to hold our gaze remains compelling. So what are we to do? How we expand its definitions now, our understanding of its conceptual registers, historically and as physical action, must be approached in unexpected ways. Its basic definition of the application of pigment to a surface must be challenged. Painting may even become a practice that may not involve anything we traditionally understand as paint at all (look, for instance, at the work of Katharina Grosse, Ann Veronica Janssens or Wolfgang Laib) Details »

ZHAO YAO: YOU CAN’T SEE ME, YOU CAN’T SEE ME/中文

Post in: Reviews | October 18 , 2012 | Tag in: LEAP 16 | Reviews Date: 2012.06.12-2012.08.12 | Reviews Venues: Beijing Commune

Zhao Yao’s latest solo exhibition, “You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me,” is an almost total replication of last year’s “I Am Your Night.” It would be easy to take this exhibition as one-time-only event, a disposable strategy; such an opinion would not be baseless. “You Can’t See Me” is a direct attack on the exhibition system and contemporary art production. It is not particularly fresh, nor is it difficult to comprehend. Its effectiveness is closely related to the present environment. The exhibition can be seen as an active response to the sluggish, pressurized status quo, pronouncing a warning without breaking the rules. Zhao puts a variety of questions on the table, from the issue of newness in contemporary art to the significance of duplication, serving as starting points for deeper discussions. Upon closer inspection, Zhao’s courage lies not in his grievances with the exhibition mechanism, or in the risk of raising doubts and conspiracy theories—well-trained audiences are unlikely to be moved, and anyway, perceptible, surface-level “newness” is not a necessary condition of contemporary art discussions—but in the bold, inward-looking move of putting himself on a point of no return: where can one go from there? This easy escape serves as the starting point for a more challenging artistic journey.

View of “You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me,” 2012 Beijing Commune

Of course, no exhibition is truly a matter of life and death, and artists should not imprison themselves within a single logic. Here, the artistic practice of GUEST, a small collective of artists including Zhao Yao, must be considered. As a group, GUEST has been able to conduct many experiments with a certain kind of openness, allowing Zhao to move forward with his own ideas within a dynamic, vigorous process of unceasing action and feedback. But when “action” itself becomes a kind of affirmation, those within it must ask themselves if active participation alone can satisfy their curiosity and conscience. Whether it is the staging of artistic happenings or the production of new ideas, the original “aspirations” often fade away in the name of “action.”

It is worth remembering that “You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me” is not a complete reproduction of “I Am Your Night.” Although Zhao Yao has emphasized that the minute differences between individual works are not of great importance, it cannot be denied that the artist has made some small-scale revisions. As always, form—dimension, material, and texture— is important here. After the initial wave of doubts, debates, and arguments wrought by different stances and intellectual games has faded, we can observe with cool heads the transformations of the objects within the gallery. (Upon closer examination, we discover that the transformations are not as minor as we initially believed.) Rewinding to a year earlier, we can consider the artist’s original intentions in positioning these forms within the same exhibition space (as well as the consequent reactions and judgments). We may also weigh the messages concealed within this iteration of the objects—even if whether or not the changes are complete is a topic for discussion in itself. If this exhibition is nothing more than a standalone conceptual experiment, why make formal changes to the objects?

This sense of irresolution may be the most intriguing aspect of the exhibition, which turns out not to be a completely pure and dry conceptual exercise. Zhao Yao’s attitude is not as rigid and unwavering as it seems. Still struggling with whether his work has achieved full formal completion—while producing exhibitions, Zhao has not completely given up on producing artworks—he seems unable to escape the contradiction that arises from the combination of the roles of artist and curator. From another perspective, the legitimate status and respect accorded to the objects in the exhibition space remain inescapable to both curator and artist.

 

Guo Juan (Translated by Daniel Nieh) 

You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me

Zhao Yao 2012 June 12 – 2012 August 12

The “Ah” (ha) Moment

by Edward Sanderson

Last year’s solo show of the work of Zhao Yao, his first with Beijing Commune, left me with a less than positive feeling. To then have that (rather strong) feeling overturned by this new presentation of what is ostensibly the same work is surprising.

The development of Zhao’s two solo shows with Beijing Commune are important starting points for an analysis of this change of heart. In 2011 Zhao’s first solo show, entitled I Am Your Night, collected together a set of works that I disliked for being overly derivative of current stylistic clichés in internationalised contemporary art. Their aggressive shapes, mannerist constructions, and vibrant colours all seemed to smack of a style seen too often elsewhere in the world and possibly revealing a symptom of a globalisation of artworks. One nice touch however were the strings of the Chinese character 啊 (an “ah” of various kinds of interjection) in long, pulsing lines around the room, following the walls and floors to provide a physical thread holding the other objects together.

The current show is pitched as a continuation and manipulated repeat of I Am Your Night, demonstrated by its opening on the same date, and using many of the same works (several borrowed back from collectors for this purpose), in much the same arrangements, or adjusting the originals in scale or material to create new versions of the objects. The title of this show, You can’t see me, you can’t see me, is obscure, but perhaps mirrors this aspect of repetition.

Zhao Yao,You Can’t See Me You Cant See Me Exhibition View; Courtesy of the artist and Beijing Commune Details »

“You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me” 

If, as Wallace Stevens once remarked, “Sight is a museum of things seen”, then Zhao Yao bore this out with his most recent show.

Heaving open Beijing Commune’s metal door and stepping into the light, one paused in one’s tracks, surveying a scene which seemed strangely familiar. Densely spiked silhouettes, a coiled figure, fabric paintings and bent sculptural lines for an instant entertained one’s glance before memory intervened – puncturing the expectation of a brand new exhibition. Gradually, and with a mixture of discomfort and intrigue, it became clear that this was the sight of things already seen.

For “You Can’t See Me, You Can’t See Me” Zhao has effectively restaged “I Am Your Night”, his first solo outing of last year. Some works were simply shown again or recalled from collectors; others, such as the clicking TV sets on the floor (“You Can’t See Me No.2”, 2012) which now numbered not two, but three, were multiplied or compressed; where last year there had been a blue human figure in a fencing mask, this time one appeared in white. The two exhibitions opened on exactly the same day, 12th June, one year apart.

Of course, Zhao is not the inventor of repetition, or of restaging as a ploy. Indeed, one might point out that artworks are restaged over and over again in successive exhibitions. As if in recognition of the fact that no repetition can be absolute, this year’s show was not an exact replica. Nonetheless, it is the sensation of recurrence which resonates here, and beyond an initial peculiar effect, there are various avenues to pursue. Last year, the interplay between the works – deliberately meaningless parodies of “conceptual” form – came to the fore. Now, the fact of exhibition itself takes precedent, with the works as mere props; the artist appears to flick away accepted – and expected – tenets like crumbs from the table of display: conceptualism as a force for originality, artworks with individual power, a new exhibition as a stage for virgin artworks. As if to drive home the point, the works’ titles are all those of the exhibition they were made for, followed by a number. Could this be called a “readymade” exhibition? It is not a response to pressure on young artists from a hungry scene to create, though one might call it an economical approach. Details »

ZHAO YAO: I AM YOUR NIGHT/中文

Post in: Reviews | October 12 , 2011 | Tag in: LEAP 10 | Reviews Date: 2011.06.12-2011.07.31 | Reviews Venues: Beijing Commune

View of “I Am Your Night” 2011 Beijing Commune

The phrase “I am your night” could essentially be interpreted as a blunt statement aimed at the audience, and especially at the artists, or socalled experts, who showed up to Zhao Yao’s latest solo show. And if this audience adopt this rather poetic phrase for their own rhetorical needs—by turning it into one of those stock phrases used when responding to an exhibition—then they’ve unfortunately missed the joke. For in comparison to the work featured in the exhibition, the title seems to be reserved for those in the know.

I first encountered Zhao Yao’s work at his solo exhibition in the 51m2 series at Taikang Space in 2010. This time, at Beijing Commune, Zhao’s intention seems to be to push his practice even further towards its fundamental purpose. At last year’s solo show, he used a pencil to meticulously color in the banknotes of various nations, leaving only the smiling face of their leaders. Although not a particularly refreshing idea, this piece did succeed in raising a smile in those who shared with the artist an appreciation for simple logic and subtle transmutation. However, it could very well be this empathic event that engendered greater suspicion among the audience present this time around.

Details »

20110627192736-f7fff6ed9ade423494eed85d0179542c
I am your Night
Zhao Yao
2011 June 12 – 2011 August 29

Glad Gazing at the Commune

by Iona Whittaker

Zhao Yao was amongst the emerging artists featured in Taikang Space’s “51m2” series  that stretched from early 2009 to the beginning of this year; one suspects he will not be the only one to have a solo exhibition this or next year partly as a result. The pieces that occupied a single room at Taikang – the graphite-obscured bank notes, coins rubbed smooth, a chat-room-charted version of Beijing time, a long length of material inscribed with a series of numbers – do not reappear here. What does reappear is a strange sculpture effectively composed of a dark green line — with a black sludgy substance sticking to its length in places – that is bent and curved into a strange 3-D form; big but weightless, twisted and somewhat dark but somehow dynamic, not ugly. Attendant to this odd conceptual beast is a Chinese character pasted in a line along the floor and round the walls at floor level, swelling big and small in a wavelike fashion, the sound of which when read aloud is an endless “aaaa.”  It is at first a perplexing and fun discovery to make. Details »

北京公社|BEIJING COMMUNE
北京市朝阳区酒仙桥路4号798艺术区内
2012.06.12–2012.08.12

*赵要,“你看不见我,你看不见我”,展览现场,2012。

在“你看不见我,你看不见我”中,赵要抛出了一个经典的希区柯克式的麦高芬(MacGuffin):当我们试图沿着既定的路径去追求展示效果时,便会发觉遭遇的其实是悬置的事件。艺术家在此布置了智力陷阱,将破坏性因素埋藏在观者习以为常的认知路线中,同时也向“业内人士”以调侃的语气发问:生产“新”的展览是否是艺术行业默认的游戏规则以及全部意义所在?

将之前一年的展览(几乎)原样复制,使得“你看不见我,你看不见我”可以称得上是一场“虚拟”(simulated)的展览,或至少是艺术家针对当代艺术的现实展开的一场虚拟的批判游戏。重现一场展览,或者让“旧”展览复活,在此的意义是在亵渎的意义上对于消费性展示方案的一次嬉仿。“虚拟”首先在“错时”(anachronism)的名目下展开:如果说当代艺术的生产以“新”作为其自我周转的命脉,力求持续创造“当代性”的价值与诉求,那么赵要力图批判的恰是这种关于“新”的时间意识形态。“错时”意味着在展厅中“过去”被再次遣返,而当下则在这种闪回(flash-back)中趋于消解——不同时段的重叠、纠缠使得过去与现在变得同步与共时化,不可分辨且相互让渡。而正是在这个过程中,展示的时间生产体制被打破,“不合时宜”导致了真正的时间差异的现身:在这种虚拟的时间粘连中,赵要以强硬的姿态获取了一种独立的时间体验,一种可以不断重新开始的姿态,一种对于历史再建构的权力。 Details »


BEIJING COMMUNE 北京公社

798 Art Zone, No. 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
June 12–July 31

 

View of “I Am Your Night,” 2011.

In “I Am Your Night,” Zhao Yao’s latest exhibition, a series of childishly bright and geometric paintings ironically titled “A Painting of Thought” (all works 2011) mock the profundity of a rising undercurrent of young canvas-favoring Conceptual artists who work in Beijing today. Indeed, many of these artists have shown at the same gallery that Zhao now fills with dripping wire and spiked wood constructions, televisions that come alive at the sound of a tongue clicking, and his so-called “thoughtful” paintings, copied directly from optical teasers and perception puzzles onto tartan cloth. His ugly aesthetic and holistic approach to the gallery represent an almost magical attempt to puncture the sanctity of the exhibition space and demystify the painting process.

He focuses his subversive energies on challenging the validity of painting and confounding viewer expectations. The exhibition envelops visitors like a constructed “situation” in the vein of Guy Debord: Here, amid the tangle of screaming sculptures, critical self-awareness is encapsulated by text spelling out the exclamation AAAH, a single repeated Chinese character that crisscrosses the floor in long diagonals.

Zhao believes in the importance of the artist’s hand, having executed all the works himself, although his coarse technical choices demonstrate a rejection of fine handiwork or painterly processes and their correspondingly complex ideologies. But despite the artist’s attempts to disembowel pretenses, as well as the arbitrary impression made by his assemblage, each work is detailed and precise. As can be seen here, Zhao has slunk into a recognizable style, which has caused more established artists to see his art, as his career ascends, as prestidigitation rather than as a true break with the idea of a personal aesthetic.

— Lee Ambroz

《短路》—赵要访谈

和赵要见面之前,从北京公社的个展《我是你的黑夜》和作品的形式语言本身,我进入了自我既有的语境:“在中国当代艺术的严肃主体气质中,赵要的作品有很少见到的幽默。他的艺术浓烈轻松,准确淋漓,带来清新的审美气息;作品自信而平实,富有张力,却没有紧张感。赵要足够冷静,否则难以拿捏形式与表达的平衡。无论是装置还是绘画,线条少了直白,多了圆浑,时间从容地铺陈于空间。艺术家的气质解构了这个时代典型的紧张与焦躁,一种稳定,舒服,活泼的距离感带来对当下时代的审美体验。”

这个判断有误吗? 无论如何,艺术家质朴,幽默甚至聪明,灵活的平和确实打动了我。

实际上,赵要通过展览和大家做了一个形式的游戏。这个游戏以新趣味的形式出发,把观众带进来,当大家以惯有的当代艺术感知分析评判的思维进行对接时,却发现无接可对。人们预期并相信这个有意思的形式背后一定有丰富的思考,等待去挖掘,期待品味一杯从没喝过的鸡尾酒,却发现里面什么都没有。思维顿时失却了延展的素材和空间,让人无所适从,一个可能的对话遭遇了空洞,造成了认识的短路,却成功造就了一个体验,那就是:请不要依赖你的经验和惯性来思考。这个体验也许会受益于我们如何看待世界。

这个展览更多针对的是艺术界人群,当我们在一个圈子里工作生活,这种惯性的认知就会很强大。赵要的思路已经明确地打开,他会在更大的范围内就“认知与惯性”与观众展开游戏。如果他的游戏让你兴味盎然而来,怅然若失其中,若有所得之后,那么这个艺术实践就成立了。在既有的认知逻辑关系之间建立一种新联系,制造一种新的体验和感觉,从而达到另外一种认识。

赵要在构建这个游戏的时候,是善意的“给”,他一直思考艺术如何对社会有一定的触动作用,他不满足于给观众一个结实窝窝头的效果,也不愿重复再说“吸烟有害健康”。表达一个态度不如给观众一个经验,通过体验达到可能的认识转变。他很看重艺术通过实践的方式,通过构建,引入,游戏的过程,对你产生了怎样的影响,这个影响是否有助于解放思想,跨越障碍,摆脱困境,开放包容地看待这个世界,从而影响行动。

我仍要说,赵要是位出色的形式构建者。初次面对他的展览时,我的兴趣和经验就被激发了,社会与生活的视觉体验和作品碰撞:我感受到时代的焦灼,念头交织成粘稠的欲望,声音琐屑混为热气腾腾的喧嚣,如喷薄的岩浆,浊重四溢,嗡矒垂涎,妖娆而虚无,丰满而不足,都市的霓虹弥漫着春药的气息,鼓胀虚妄滥情的蓬勃。华丽的仪式感后,一片荒谬的苍凉。 Details »