The Art Affair that No Affairs

Yu Ke


In the middle of Last century, modern art was coming toward us with its repeatedly interaction by a series of political affairs and social changes, especially under the heavy mist of World War. However, easel art or painting that always acted the important roll in art history, as the carrier of human’s thoughts, couldn’t bear people’s diversity requirement in such a culture-transforming period.

Hence, part of artists quitted painting to other art forms. They put their approximately crazy thoughts into practice in the process of presenting their thoughts. Thus, new art forms such as installation art, performance art, video art, etc. came into being.

But the appearance of such series of new art forms didn’t merely show the coming important change in attitude that artists face art, but also forecast a coming aesthetic seesaw battle between tradition and contemporary.

Because the public at this time have not went beyond the works of Vinci and Angel, nor found their feelings in the works of Van Gogh and Picasso, let aside installation, performance and video art that changed deeply both in art forms and thoughts.

When the public face contemporary art and feel more and more puzzled and confused, we could not help to ask that: wasn’t the former purport of contemporary art making artists go out of their ivory tower and interact and interacting with the audience? Why they went such further that every artistic fonder miserably had to bear artists’ abnormal attitude in their experimental process and more and more and more people felt visual afflicter.

Once someone described it like this: The journey of contemporary art was full of bloody concept and visual violence. It is in the independent, eccentric and radical avant-garde concept that artists went beyond tradition that before 19 century. No wonder that audience could not keep the pace with artists’ changing steps and disagree most of the art works in such a period. To out regret that such a situation lasts quite a long time.

However, with the development of contemporary art, both artist and critics are aware that there should be a connection between the of audience and art creations. In fact, the accomplishment of art works and the establishment of their social value can only realize themselves among audience, because art need to show its significance in the echo that coming from larger range. Artists and critics should not propaganda their concept and then enforce it to audience who have nothing to do with it.

Hence, the best way is to let the audience participate in art works and feel by themselves what art have brought to the contemporary.

In fact, the behavior, installation, image etc. that artists burgeoning in their creating reflected contemporary art’s new intention in concept, forms and visual languages. These have directly involved the contemporary audience who also are the participator, actor and witness of art works.

But in the actual art creation and the exhibition, such kind of resonant relationship is still very limited.

Till a social artist Joseph Beuys, we aware art’s other rise of again.  How

Companied by this, China which has been deeply influenced by Western modern art and as a country with a long history and culture, has quickly gained certain perception in the west development history. Such a long history makes people proud, but at the same time is a heavy burden. Everybody is thinking whether we can share various achievements and gain democracy value with the Western developed countries? Perhaps it is because of this that Chinese modern art in less than 20 years magically finished all dreams which had took place in Western modern art in 100 years, and got on the high-speed experimental train. Although in the art timetable we haven’t got rid of the role of follower, we have begun to integrate with western modern art under the influence of internationalization. However, the still existing problem is that after the success of Boes, the West seems to have gain some truth for culture spread— that is “to create affairs” to grasp people’s hearing and visual nerves, to finish the aim that has not been realized for a long time by modern art, using the method that spreads popular culture. In fact, the success of the Western modern art should contribute to the repeated use of the weapon “communications” .Due to the effectiveness of expansion and spread, it was quickly borrowed by exhibition directors and artists. For example, the former Soviet Union created “Bulldozers event”, by using political pop in the 70s last century. Its result naturally covered two aspects: political and economic. In the political aspect, it catches up with the Western democratic awareness. Although using art as a weapon seemed a little miserable, the revolutionary artists were welcomed in the West due to the effect of cognitive form—The good days were not long, but as a pattern in art they have been recognized in a large scale and also been spread. The beginning stage of Chinese modern art was greatly evoked by political pop. Of course at that time both exhibition directors and artists were copying unconsciously. Perhaps they did not three-dimensionally and systematically consider any strategies to pay more attention to art during the spread process.

However, entering the 21st century, Chinese exhibition directors further finished the transformation from “art imagination” to “creating affairs”. Whether the role alteration relays on popular culture’s penetration and economic flourishing, or the art itself has broken away from the fixed trait, at present we cannot give a correct judgment. But Yuan Gong’s “Transparent Ju”s visit to Tibet this year seemed to be testimony—As a member of the visit; I’m willing to think about it as an interesting evidence.

Tibet is not a suitable place for living due its 4000kms average elevation—limited natural resources and thin air, in some sense, the physical straggling presses people’s ability to have a metaphysic thought. So I guess it shouldn’t be a rich land for ideas—Of course, it is another thing for the pilgrims or the saying that the God wants you to achieve great success. Therefore, in the early 80s last century, some college students, with ideal in their mind and driven by romanticism and revolutionary realistic, came to Tibet, expecting to create a democratic and pure fashionable culture different from inland. But very they all fled away because of the bad natural condition and inadequate materials. They neither protested something of Tibet nor realized a somewhat Tibet. Therefore, today’s Tibet is still the Tibet under religious influence, the Tibet of racial idea, the Tibet of exotic style, the Tibet in the romantic imagination and the Tibet in the tourism exploration…So the expectation of realizing a future culture in Tibet is at the first sight romantic. Because it neither has the earth to hatch fashionable art, nor the foreign culture to transplant. Its myth only exists in the Tibetan people’s experience. And the strangers always sow the seed that will never come out in the process of self-imagination and intended experience. Therefore, those superficial, mixed and mysterious cultural phenomena are perhaps not the real Tibetan cultural signs. Of course someone will ask what on earth is the culture which Tibet really is and needs, or only because of its special position in region and historical sensitivity in the political aspect? The answer might be pessimistic. 

On the other hand, the “Transparent Ju” attracts a group of artists who are active in the contemporary arts circle. We have no doubt of their achievements and impacts in the mainland. However, as the important person to the Tibet, they are a little far-fetched in the strategic way. The reasons are various. First, most of the artists have little further research on the Tibet arts in past and present. Second, different nations read and understand the art variously in the expression of concept and image. So when the artists are conveying their information, they are likely to make some mistake. The most important thing is that, because of such mistake, the strategy and concept of the curator may meet trouble. In fact, we can take the expo in the Occident made by Saki as an example. When the famous round exhibition were hold in America, Ophily, an not very famous African artist and his work Goddess drawn by the dejecta of elephant aroused more discussions. The American democracy has its limit, let alone the blaspheming of the holiness of the religion. However the president of the time went with the trend, and tolerantly treated the unaccepted contemporary arts. Strangely enough, the curator and participants of the expo were finally accepted by the Britons people and Americans even by the Europeans who were fist very angry about. It achieved great success in the process of fighting against the politics and the religion to the integration of culture and economy.

So we have to speculate that what do we want to get, and how can we succeed in the process of artistic news and making of events? Such activity with artistic creativity and academic value is not only the curator’s original concept, but also needs the artists’ performance and suitable strategy. In the “Transparent ju”, the participant artists of different type and region made up a perfect group. It is a pity that, they used more original way of their creation in both media materials and concept. So, unlike Ophily there was little amalgamation with the artists, the curator, even with the local audience. Admittedly, in our region of contemporary arts, there is no one likeDasaki, or Damine.Horst -newsmen who are continuously in pursuit of experiment and are born to attract the audience and can trigger the controversial things of the society. There is a famous Chinese sayings that even the best cook can not cook the delicious food without enough materials. In this regard, the original aim of the curator can only be proved in the series of experiments.

In fact, in the process of concept, there were a lot of examples which brought us more impression and thoughts. For example, the Fair Tale of Ai Weiwei in the Karsile documentary expo, or the Four Sides of Hearings and Propagation of-a tactful name of the dual-year expo in Guiyang planned by Ye Yongqing. Thanks for this title, the curator and artists could avoid the embarrassment that Guizhou is not a place suitable for this large-scale expo. Similarly, Ai Weiwei was taking the advantage of the power of title to avoid the embarrassment that a thousand Chinese went to Germany. At that time, I was in Karsile. No matter they were Chinese or German, the key was whether you belonged to the one thousand men. Then, we can feel the power of propaganda. As to Fair Tale, if we take it as an artistic art, people might try their best to guess the academic meaning of the curator. The problem is that the curator doses not want to answer the question, and refuses to accept the explanation of his concept of the art, whether it is well-meaning or spiteful. What interests him most is the art or the propaganda of the event. Fair Tale can prove it very well. Under his careful designing, Ai Weiwei’s work got more attention which is the first time in the Chinese contemporary history. Then we can work out an invisible rule of the contemporary art: A successful artistic activity is an news event which can arouse more public attention, and the event must accord with the concept of the curator. Pitifully, the shelf-art has the insurmountable shortcomings. For the most time, it is the artist’s idea of the artistic creation in a period, and it has tight connection with the artist’s personal experience for its time limitation. So it is a little hard for the art to accord with the curator’s cultural proposition under the content of society in the large-scale activity. Consequently, from the last 1980s, the number of artists who are in charge of shelf-art is reducing. I have to draw the lesson from this event in the planning of the contemporary art activity. Only through this, we can use the rule of the art, and make more artistic events to influence the people in the sensitivity of new art.

The “Transparent Ju” triggered our attention to the contemporary art, and the re-understanding and re-thinking of the relationship between the curator and artists, the artistic creation and the general audience. The remained problem is that how can we make the art become a pervading event with social influence in the process of transmission? Then we can make up the alienate relation between the contemporary art and the public, grow the cultural meaning which can surpass the art’s own limit, and create the possibility of cross-region by communication and interaction.