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简介: 全球青年文化之声 | www.vice.cn | 微博@VICE中国 |艺术家赵要完成了一件面积将近10000平方米的装置作品,从北京工厂运往青海玉树的摩耶寺。11月23日,当地100多名村民和喇嘛出动,经历一整天,共同把这个庞然大物抬到海拔5000米的雪山山顶,铺展开来。实施当天,我们和艺术家与作品一起坐在在大卡车里穿过长长的峡谷,来到雪山脚下,纪录下了这个作品的向山顶的搬运过程。

向雪山搬运一万平方米


©️ 异视异色(北京)文化传播有限公司

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【预告】赵要最新10000m²大型装置”精神高于一切”11月23日即将呈现

2016.11.23 Spirit Above All

10, 000-square-meters work

Will be on display here

 

2016 年 11 月 23 日,赵要最新的大型装置作品将在青海省玉树藏族自治州囊谦县白扎乡摩耶寺实施。此次作品长 116 米宽 86 米,是赵要 2012 年”精神高于一切”项目的延续和发展。经过两年多的项目筹备和制作,作品已于 10 月底顺利运到摩耶寺山下。届时在寺庙和乔美仁波切的支持和帮助下,与当地村庄里的 100 多个人一起把作品搬到海拔近 5000 米的雪山山顶展开。此次”精神高于一切”选取了《很有想法的绘画》作品里面相同的思维游戏图案,应用藏地大型布贴唐卡的工艺,参照摩耶寺现有唐卡的尺幅(120 x 80m)制作而成。这件 10000 平方米的作品将被固定在山顶,与山谷里的经幡、白塔、摩崖壁画等自然人文环境相呼应。作品将在自然环境里展示整个冬天之后再回收呈现。项目以”晒”为主要线索和当地展开多项目文化合作,并随时记录各种变化。在此期间将不断组织和接受人们的参观和拜访。

敬请关注!

 

On November 23, 2016, Zhao Yao’s latest large-scale art work, Spirit Above All, will be carried out at Moye Temple in Baizha at Nangqian County, Yushu autonomous prefecture, Qinghai province. The 116-meter-wide-and-86-meter-long work is the continuation and development of Zhao Yao’s 2012 work of the same name, Spirit Above All. After more than two years’ preparation and production, the work has been successfully transported to the mountain of Moye Temple at the end of October. With the assistance and support of the temple and Chakme Rinpoche , the work will be carried to the snowy summit by more than 100 local villagers and then unfolded there, almost 5000 meters high above sea level. Selecting patterns of thinking puzzles from the series A Painting of Thought and employing large-scale Tibetan Thang-ga cloth sticker technique, the new Spirit Above All is produced according to the size of Thang-ga at Moye Temple (120×80 meters). The 10, 000-square-meters work will be installed at the mountain top, alongside the existing Buddhist sutra streamers, white pagoda, and cliffside murals in the valley, echoing the local natural and cultural environment. The work will be exposed to natural environment for a whole winter and then be collected and displayed. The project aims to establish multiple cultural projects via local cooperation under the theme of “drying painting”. Meanwhile, various changes of the work will be monitored and recorded, throughout which process the work will accept and welcome visitors continuously.

Please stay tuned!

*在此特别感谢第九世乔美仁波切、摩耶寺、骆易女士、白兔当代艺术收藏以及北京公社的大力支持和帮助。

*Special thanks to 9th H.E Chakme Rinpoche, Moye temple, Ms Luo Yi, White Rabbit Collection and Beijing Commune .

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.