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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Modern art in Shanghai during the 1990s Xia, Wei 1999

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MODERN ART IN SHANGHAI DURING THE 1990S by WEI XIA B.A., The East China Normal University, 1993 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Asian Studies) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April 1 9 9 9  ©WeiXia, 1999  In  presenting  degree freely  at  this  the  available  copying  of  department publication  of  in  partial  fulfilment  of  the  University  of  British  Columbia,  I  agree  for  this or  thesis  reference  thesis by  this  for  his thesis  and  scholarly  or for  her  of  T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f British Vancouver, Canada  DE-6  (2/88)  Columbia  I further  purposes  gain  be  It  is  shall  that  agree  may  representatives.  financial  permission.  Department  study.  requirements  not  that  the  Library  an  by  understood allowed  advanced  shall  permission  granted  be  for  the that  without  for head  make  it  extensive of  my  copying  or  my  written  11  Abstract  My thesis studies modern art in Shanghai during the 1990s, concentrating on the work of four of the more original and well-known artists, Yu Youhan, Ding Yi, Shi Yong, and Zhou Tiehai. In Chapter One, I briefly discuss the historical role that Shanghai played in the transplantation of Western-style oil painting to China in the later 19th-early 20th centuries, the first great Shanghai age of the 1920s and 1930s, the isolated and sterile period that followed after World War II, and the reopening of Shanghai to modern Western art practice during the late 1970s and 1980s . During the second of these periods, Shanghai's "Golden Age," I show that the debate between artists and critics who favored art for social purposes and those who advocated art for art's sake had already begun. Chapter Two concentrates on the oil paintings of Yu Youhan and Ding Yi. Although Yu was one of the first creators of abstract, non-representational art in China, he is more famous for his later American Pop-art-influenced paintings incorporating iconography from the Cultural Revolution period, especially the image of Mao Zedong. Unlike the other artists I study, Yu was strongly influenced by Maoist ideology and has always maintained that art should be made for and reflect the lives of the Chinese people. On the other hand, his student Ding Yi, best known for his series of paintings based on the sign +, has created pure non-representational canvases that he hopes will be universal in their appeal and without political or cultural references. Chapter Three treats Shi Yong and Zhou Tiehai, two multimedia artists. Shi began as an oil painter influenced by Chirico but soon moved onto installation art characterized by a seemingly Minimalist vocabulary and an emphasis on scientific accuracy. In recent years he has worked in a number of media,  iii including so-called "apartment art," performance, and computer technology. His latest works have been characterized by an ironic examination of the relationship between the West as the center of modern art and Chinese artists on the periphery. Zhou Tiehai, who started out as a painter of works superficially resembling the big character posters of the Cultural Revolution, has moved on to creations incorporating painting, video, performance, sound, and photography.  He, too is interested in the relationship between China and the  center and particularly in the tension between the artist's "spiritual" life and the commerce of art. In Chapter Four, I discuss the four Shanghai artists within a broad context of the major issues confronting them, while touching briefly on some other important artists from the city. Some of the major trends in Shanghai art during this period made apparent by my discussion are: (1) an almost bewildering diversity in styles and interests, (2)  a general tendency to avoid the  overt and obvious political comment so typical of Beijing artists, (3)  a genuine  concern about the negative impact of commercialism on art and how to confront or adapt to it, and (4) witty and ironic discussion of the influence of Western hegemonism on the artists of Third World countries, rarely found in Chinese art created outside Shanghai.  TABLE OF CONTENTS  Abstract  ii  List of Plates  v  CHAPTER I  Introduction:  General Historical Background and  the Vicissitudes of the "Shanghai Age" CHAPTER II On Canvas  32  2.1 YuYouhan  32  2.2 DingYi  48  CHAPTER III Off the Wall: Mutimedia Artists  67  3.1 ShiYong  69  3.2 ZhouTiehai  99  CHAPTER IV Dynamism in Disunity 4.1 Change and Disunity 4.2 4.3  124  126  Commercialism and Games Played With Commercialism After 1992  4.4  124  Political Parody and Non-political Gesture - 1990-1995  139  International Dialogue and "Cultural War" From 1993  Bibliography Appendix I  1  Chinese Texts  Appendix II Color Plates  156 172 185 192  V  List of plates Chapter Two: 1. Yu Youhan, Circle: No. 2, 1984. Acrylic on canvas. 114 x 8 7 cm. Photograph by the author. 2. Yu Youhan, Circle 85-5, 1985. Acrylic on canvas. 131.5 x 132 cm. Photograph by the author. 3. Yu Youhan, Circle 88-4, 1988. Acrylic on canvas. 158 x 132 cm. Photograph by the author. 4. Yu Youhan, Abstract 91-1, 1991. Acrylic on canvas. 168 x117 cm. Photograph by the author. 5. Yu Youhan, Abstract 90-8, 1990. Acrylic on canvas. 97 x 82.5 cm. Photograph by the author. 6. Yu Youhan,Abstract 91-6, 1991. Acrylic on canvas. 167 x 119 cm. Photograph by the author. 7. Yu Youhan, Mao Zedong and Whitney Huston, 1988. Acrylic on canvas. 80 x60 cm. Photograph by the author. 8. Yu Youhan, Mao Zedong's Periods of Life, 1990. Oil on canvas. 110x280cm. Photograph by the author. 9. Yu Youhan, Mao Zedong Waving His Hand, 1992. Acrylic on canvas. 122 x 92 cm. Photograph by the author. 10. Yu Youhan, Collective Leadership, 1994. Acrylic on canvas. 103.5 x 86 cm. Photograph by the author. 11. Yu Youhan, Mao Zedong and Zhu De, 1994. Collage of oil on canvas and photograph. 145 x 105 cm. Photograph by the author. 12. Yu Youhan, Reading Through Pictures: Earth, 1996. Acrylic on canvas. 110 x 9 0 cm. Photograph by the author. 13. Yu Youhan, Reading Through Pictures: Statue, 1996. Acrylic on canvas. 110 x 90 cm. Photograph by the author. 14. Yu Youhan, Deng Xiaoping: No. 1, 1996. Acrylic on canvas. 110 x 90 cm. Photograph by the author. 15. Yu Youhan, Deng Xiaoping: No. 2, 1996. Acrylic on canvas. 110 x 90 cm. Photograph by the author. 16. Yu Youhan, Deng Xiaoping: No. 3, 1996. Acrylic on canvas. 110 x 90 cm. Photograph by the author. 17. Yu Youhan, Deng Xiaoping: No. 4, 1996. Acrylic on canvas. 110 x 90 cm. Photograph by the author. 18. Yu Youhan, Look at the Present for the Truly Great Man: No.l, 1997. Oil on canvas, 110 x 90 cm. Photograph by the author. 19. Yu Youhan, Look at the Present for the Truly Great Man: No.2, 1997. Oil on canvas, 110 x 90 cm. Photograph by the author. 20. Yu Youhan, Look at the Present for the Truly Great Man: No.3, 1997. Oil on canvas, 110 x 90 cm. Photograph by the author. 21. Yu Youhan, Look at the Present for the Truly Great Man: No.14 1997. Oil on canvas, 110 x 90 cm. Photograph by the author. 22. Yu Youhan, Look at the Present for the Truly Great Man: No. 5, 1997. Oil on canvas. 110 x 90 cm. Yu Youhan, Look at the Present for the Truly Great Man: No.l, 1997. Oil on canvas, 110x90cm. Photograph by the author.  vi 23. Ding Yi, Street With Red Houses, 1983. Oil on thick paper. 57 x 69 cm. From Ding Yi 1998, p. 13. 24. Ding Yi, Heroism, 1983. Oil on canvas. 78.5 x 95 cm. From Ding Yi, 1998, p. 13. 25. Ding Yi, Taboo, 1986. Oil on canvas. 84 x 84 cm. From Ding Yi, 1998, p. 13. 26. Ding Yi, Cross 89-6, 1989. Acrylic on canvas. 57 x 7 0 cm. From Ding Yi, 1994, unpaginated. 27. Ding Yi, Cross 91-1, 1991. Acrylic on canvas. 120 x140 cm. From Ding Yi, 1994, unpaginated. 28. Ding Yi, Cross 91 -B7, 1991. Colored pen on paper. 35 x48 cm. From Ding Yi, 1994, unpaginated. 29. Ding Yi, Cross 91-7, 1991. Acrylic on canvas. 140 x 170 cm. From Ding Yi, 1994, unpaginated. 30. Ding Yi, Cross 92-4, 1992. Acrylic on canvas. 140 x 160 cm. From Ding Yi, 1994, unpaginated. 31. Ding Yi, Cross 92-8, 1992. Acrylic on canvas. 140 x 160 cm. From Ding Yi, 1994, unpaginated. 32. Ding Yi, Cross 92-B5, 1992. Colored pen on paper. 35 x 48 cm. Photograph by the author. 33. Ding Yi, Cross 93-5, 1993. Acrylic on linen. 140 x 160 cm. From Ding Yi, 1994, unpaginated. 34. Ding Yi, Cross 93-B13, 1993. Pencil on paper. 35 x48 cm. Photograph by the author. 35. Ding Yi, Cross 93-13, 1993. Charcoal and chalk on linen. 140 x160 cm. From Ding Yi, 1994, unpaginated. 36. Ding Yi, Cross 94-B1, 1994. Charcoal and chalk on paper. 38 x 53 cm. From Ding Yi, 1994, unpaginated. 37. Ding Yi, Cross 92-17, 1992. Acrylic on canvas. 240 x 200 cm. Courtesy of Ding Yi. 38. Ding Yi, Cross 92-18, 1992. Acrylic on canvas. 240 x 200 cm. Courtesy of Ding Yi. 39. Ding Yi, Cross 93-B19, 1993. Acrylic on folding fan. 18 x 55 cm. From Ding Yi, 1994, unpaginated. 40. Ding Yi, Cross 94-3 (B), 1994. Acrylic on wooden folding screen. 174 x 240 cm. From Ding Yi, 1994, unpaginated. 41. Ding Yi, Cross 94-B 20, 1994. Acrylic on telephone. 2 1 x 1 5 x 1 4 cm. Photograph by the author. 42. Ding Yi, Cross 94-B 25, 1994. Acrylic on wooden hanger. 42 x 25 x 12 cm. Courtesy of the artist. 43. Ding Yi, Cross 94-5, 1994. Charcoal and chalk on linen. 140 x160 cm. From Ding Yi, 1994, unpaginated. 44. Ding Yi, Cross 95-B40, 1995. Charcoal and chalk on paper. 56 x 76 cm. From Ding Yi—opere su carta, 1995, unpaginated. 45. Ding Yi, Cross 97-9, 1997. Acrylic on tartan. 140 x 160 cm. From Ding Yi, 1998, p. 29. 46. Ding Yi, Cross 97-23, 1997. Acrylic on tartan. 140x160cm. From Ding Yi, 1998, p. 33. Chapter Three: 1. Shi Yong with his Sleeper, 1990. Oil on canvas. 149 x120 cm. Courtesy of Shi Yong. 2. Shi Yong, The Last Classical Worship, 1991. Oil on canvas with nails on the frame. 6 1 x 5 1 cm. Courtesy of the artist.  V l l  3. Shi Yong, Untitled, 1991. Mixed media on cardboard. 44 x 33 cm. Photograph by the author. Shi Yong, Untitled, 1992. Mixed media on cardboard. 44 x 33 cm. Photograph by the author. 5. Shi Yong, Untitled, 1992. Mixed media on cardboard. 4 4 x 3 3 cm. Photograph by the author. 6. Shi Yong, Untitied, 1992. Mixed media on cardboard. 44 x 33 cm. Photograph by the author. 7. Shi Yong, Devation 15 Degrees, , 1993. Installation with photosensitive paper, plexiglass, video and spray-paint. Courtesy of the artist. Qian Weikang, Dividing Into Two Parts Is Still Not Enough, 1993. Installation with chalk and iron wire, 373 x 480 x 277 cm. From Hualang, 45 (1994), p. 27. 9. Jin Lili, Game, 1993. Installation with textile and iron wire. From Hualang, 45 (1994), p. 27. 10 Shi Yong, Leaning Towards A Supporting Point of Force, 1993. Installation with photosensitive paper, steel pipe, video and spray-paint. Courtesy of the artist. 11. Shi Yong, Lifting Objects Five Degrees and Bringing About the Volumes of Shadows, 1993. Installation with photosensitive paper, plexiglass, spotlight and spray-paint. Courtesy of the artist. 12. Shi Yong, Cutting, Setting Up and Then Filling In, 1993. Installation with photosensitive paper, plexiglass, spotlight and spray-paint. Courtesy of the artist. 13, Shi Yong, Partial Volumes of Shadows Interacting, 1993. Installation with photosensitive paper, plexiglass, spotlight and spray-paint. From Xingxiang de liangci tai du , unpaginated. 14. Qian Weikang, Crossing: White Amount 15 Grams, 1993. Installation with sheet iron, gypsum powder and spray-paint. From Xingxiang de liangci tai du , unpaginated. 15. Qjan Weikang, Wind Direction: White Amount 205 Grams, 1993. Installation with sheet iron, gypsum power, video image of a rolling fan and spraypaint. From Xingxiang de liangci tai du , unpaginated. 16. Shi Yong, 480 x 240 x 92 cm, Relation to a Pillar, 1994. Installation with photosensitive paper, plexiglass, spotlight and spray-paint, 480 x 240 x 92 cm. Courtesy of the artist. 17. Yin Jun, Situation, 1994. Installation with black plastic membrane and air. From Jiangsu huakan, (December, 1994), p. 10. 18. Liang Chen, 100cm, Distance, 1994. Installation with blue plexiglass and spotlight. From Jiangsu huakan, (December, 1994), p. 10. 19. Shi Yong, City Space: Moving-leaping 12 Hour, 1994. Performance in the Shanghai urban area. Courtesy of the artist. 20. Shi Yong, Amplification Site: a Cross Echo in a Private Living Space, 1995. Apartment installation with transparent plastic membranes, microphones, loudspeakers, and amplifier and mixer. From Sishiwu du zuowei liyou, 1995, unpaginated. 21. Shi Yong, Appropriating the Site: Body, Sound and Form, 1995. Installation with surveillance camera, pump, inflatable plastic bag, monitors, black membranes, neon signs, microphones, loudspeakers, amplifier and mixer. Courtesy of the Access Artist-Run Center, Vancouver. 22. Shi Yong, Please Do Not Touch "Please Do Not Touch ", 1996. Installation with neon light characters and an alarm system. Courtesy of the artist.  viii 23. Shi Yong, A Plan for an Image Survey, 1996. Media piece reproduced in the magazine and circulated in postcards. Courtesy of the artist for the postcard. 24. Shi Yong, Who Is the Performer? 1997. Still short from the Video piece. Courtesy of the artist. 25. Shi Yong, To Live 'Elsewhere", 1997. Installation with table, chairs, old suitcase, speaker, tape-recorder and amplifier. Courtesy of the artist. 26. Shi Yong, Adding One Concept On Top of Another, 1998. Video installation based on the result of Shi Yong's Internet Survey and Joseph Kosuth's One and Three Chairs. Courtesy of the Plug In Gallery, Vancouver. 27. Zhou Tiehai and Yang Xu, Break, 1991. Graffiti on newspaper. 300 x 4 0 0 cm. Photograph by the author. 28. Zhou Tiehai and Yang Xu, The Knife Needs Sharpening, 1991. Graffiti on newspaper, 206 x 330 cm. Photograph by the author. 29. Zhou Tiehai and Yang Xu, Duke Dan'nuo, 1991. Graffiti on newspaper. 190x270cm. Photograph by the author. 30. Zhou Tiehai and Yang Xu, The Pot Is Broken, the Water Is Gone, 1991. Graffiti on newspaper. 160 x 415 cm. Photograph by the author. 31. Zhou Tiehai and Yang Xu, Rein in at the Brink of the Precipice, 1991. Graffiti on newspaper. 192 x 421 cm. Photograph by the author. 32. Zhou Tiehai, There Came a Mr. Solomon to China—Having a Bath with the Critics, 1994. Mixed media and collage on paper. 230 x 3 5 0 cm. Courtesy of the artist. 33. Zhou Tiehai, Shanghai: Asia's Top City of the Future, 1994. Mixed media and collage on paper, 400 x 250 cm. Courtesy of the artist. 34. Zhou Tiehai, Our Paintings Should Be Packed in Louis Vuitton Luggage, 1994. Mixed media and paper. 200 x 300 cm. Photograph by the author. 35. Zhou Tiehai, Fake Newsweek Cover, 1995. Computer-generated image. 26.8 x 20.3 cm. From the collection of the author. 36. Zhou Tiehai, Fake Artnews Cover, 1995. Computer-generated image. 27.4 x 20.9 cm. From the collection of the author. 37. Zhou Tiehai, We Cannot Afford It, 1995. Gouache and collage on paper. 120 x 2 2 0 cm. Photograph by the author. 38. Zhou Tiehai, We Went to Look for Love, 1996. Mixed media on paper. 238 x 380 cm. Photograph by the author. 39. Zhou Tiehai, Are You Lonely? 1997. Gouache on paper. 238 x 3 8 0 cm. Courtesy of the artist. 40-3. Zhou Tiehai, Will, 1997. Four still shorts of the nineteen-minute, blackand-white silent film. Courtesy of the artist. 44. Zhou Tiehai, Fake New York Times Magazine Cover, 1997. Computergenerated image. 29.2 x 24.3 cm. From the collection of the author. 45. Zhou Tiehai, Fake Facts Magzine Cover, 1998. Computer-generated image reproduced in Facts, 6 (February, 1998), p. 115. 46. Zhou Tiehai, Press Conference, 1998. Photo-based image. 100 x 380 cm. Courtesy of the artist. 47. Zhou Tiehai, New Listing Zhou Tiehai , Rises On Debut Before Reaching Fair Value. Text of financial report in Press Conference, 1998. Photo-based image. 100 x 70 cm. Courtesy of the artist.  ix  Chapter Four: 1. Wang Guangyi, Great Castigation Series: Coca-Cola, 1993. Oil on canvas. 200 x 200 cm. From Inside Out—new Chinese art, plate 35. 2. Fang Lijun, Series 2: No. 2, 1992. Oil on canvas. 200 x 200 cm. From China avant-garge, p. 117. 3. Wang Guangyi, Mao Zedong, 1988. Oil on canvas. 150 x 150 cm. From Modernity in Asian art, plate 155. 4. Li Shan, The Rouge Series: No. 8, 1990. Acrylic on canvas. 105.4 x 147.3 cm. From Inside Out—new Chinese art, plate 37. 5. Li Shan, The Rouge Series: No. 14, 1992. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the artist. 6. Xue Song, Receiving, 1991. Acrylic and collage on canvas. 120 x 100 cm. From Xu Song zuopin ji , vol. 1, p. 6. 7. Xue Song, Helmsman, 1996. Acrylic and collage on canvas. 180 x 150 cm. FromYi shu chaoliu, 2.2 (1993), p. 103. 8. Shen Fan, 94-P-l, 1994. Oil on rice paper. 19 x 81 cm. From Shen Fan, p. 37. 9. Qin Yifeng, Line Field Series: No. 22, 1993. Acrylic on canvas. 130x110cm. Courtesy of the artist. 10. Song Haidong, Not Misprints , 1990. Mixed media on paper. 120 x 76 cm. FromYi shu chaoliu, 2.2 (1993), p. 92. 11. above: Song Haidong in his studio. 1994; below: Song Haidong, 94-43, 1994. Water, color, dust on cardboard. 60 x 45 cm. Photograph by the author. 12. Wang Ziwei, Mao with the Savior, 1993. Acrylic on canvas. 114.5 x 151.7 cm. From Art and Asia Pacific, 1.3 (1994), p. 24. 13. Ni Weihua, Con tin uously Spreading Event (1), 1992. Performance of selling Ni's red paper boxes covered with computer-generated unreadable characters in a shop, Shanghai. Courtesy of the artist. 14. Ni Weihua, Con tin uously Spreading Event (2), 1993. Ni's computergenerated poster(left) pasted together with its models on a street, Shanghai. Courtesy of the artist. 15. Xue Song, Famous Painting, 1997. Acrylic and collage on canvas. 120 x 100 cm. Courtesy of the artist. 16. Zhou Tiehai, Now a Mr. Gourierec Comes To China, 1997. Mixed media and collage on newspaper. 350 x 300 cm. Courtesy of the artist. 17. Zhou Tiehai, Fake Flash Art Magazine Cover, 1997. Computer-generated image. 26.8 x 20 cm. From the collection of the author. 18. Ni Weihua, Art; A Legitimate Presence of Word and Its Object, 1996. Installation with copper, plastic board and iron frame. 340 x 640 cm. Courtesy of the artist. 19. Ni Weihua, Borrowing the Paintings: One Privilege, Two Dividing Surfaces, 1997. Installation with nine purchased commercial paintings. 2.4 x 10 m along the wall. Courtesy of the artist. 20. Shi Yong, The "New Image" of Shanghai Today, 1999. Performance of Shi Yong(left) taking Polaroid picture with the author(right) at the Plug In Gallery, Winnipeg. Photograph by the Plug In Gallery.  1  Chapter  One  Introduction: and  the  General  Vicissitudes  Historical  o f the  Background  "Shanghai  Age"  It is often said that modern art was, more or less, a derivative of technological  breakthroughs beginning at the end of the nineteenth century.  1  New technology, machines, and the mass production of modern industry created metropolises, where modern Western art emerged, grew, and flourished as a product of urban wealth and sophistication. Even today, modern art still symbolizes a metropolitan existence characterized by dynamism, material comfort, cultural inclusiveness, shifting reality, and ruthless competition. Attributed to the desire, turmoil, and bewilderment of metropolitan people and to their eagerness for expression and self-assertion, modern art remains a necessity for many. Thus, it is no wonder that Paris before the Second World War  and New York during the post-war period generated so many influential  new Western art movements, and why Shanghai, once renowned as the "Paris of the East" during the first half of this century, became the birthplace of new art in twentieth century  China.  As a result of the Opium War,  Shanghai was made a treaty port in 1843 and  became one of the few doors open to Western culture and technology in China. Free trade, the full introduction and utilization of Western industrial technology, as well as the rise of capitalism increased material comforts and  1  R o b e r t Hughes,  The Shock of the New, New York,  H. A r n a s o n , History  of Modern Art—Painting  1981, p p . 1-10 and H .  Sculpture  Architecture  Photography, New Y o r k , 1986, p p . 2 3 - 3 0 . Robert Hughes s t a r t s h i s book on t h e new a r t o f t h e c e n t u r y w i t h the c h a p t e r "The p a r a d i s e o f t h e machine," and Arnason launches h i s i n t r o d u c t i o n t o t h e h i s t o r y o f modern p a i n t i n g w i t h t h e c h a p t e r "The I n v e n t i o n o f Photography and t h e R i s e o f Realism." The two s c h o l a r s ' methods o f s t u d y i n g a r t h i s t o r y a r e q u i t e d i f f e r e n t , w i t h t h e former d i s c u s s i n g i t s h i s t o r i c a l r i c h n e s s w i t h i n t h e framework o f h i s own s u b j e c t i v e judgement, and the l a t t e r c l o s e l y examining a r t works as h i s t o r i c a l f a c t s . They, however, share t h e same i n s i g h t i n t o t h e importance o f machinery t o the b i r t h o f modern a r t .  2  economic prosperity in this young harbor city, which, in turn, attracted a huge population from other regions, thus, forming a new immigrant urban context and an open cultural environment.  After 1845, various foreign concessions  (zuyiefJ.^-) were set up in the urban areas of Shanghai, where Westerners from over twenty countries dwelled in search of their fortunes. Shanghai became an international city, involved in a rapid process of urbanization and westernization.  Confronted by miscellaneous imported cultures, Shanghai  people, as the modern scholar Li Chao ^M.  stated, "had no passive psychological  obstacles to exclude or be introspective; but rather, they took the initiative to pander to, and to imitate these new imports in an extremely receptive manner."2 It was with this kind of social mentality and background that Shanghai became the birthplace of modern art in China, where Western oil painting reached maturity, at least with regard to technique, in the first decades of this century. As some recent histories of modern Chinese art suggest, its most dynamic part centers on the history of oil painting. Moreover, before 1949 this history of Chinese oil painting can largely be represented by the history of oil painting in Shanghai. Thus, some discussion of how Western oil painting developed in Shanghai must necessarily preface my study of the new Shanghai art of the 1990s. This is all the more neccesary because this recent art is a product of certain social conditions similar, but not identical, to those at the beginning of this century.  Here, I would like to present this historical  background by discussing the process by which Western oil painting was transplanted to Shanghai.  2  L i Chao^fil,  Shanghai youhua shi -h#S?ft!E5t,  Shanghai,  1995, p . 17.  L i quotes s e v e r a l t e x t s w r i t t e n a t the end of the n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y , which d e s c r i b e Western movies, instruments and costumes i n d e t a i l , r e v e a l i n g t h e masses' c u r i o s i t y , acceptance, and enjoyment o f t h e s e foreign imports.  3  To begin with, the transplantation of Western oil painting was a visual revolution that began with the general population and was then adopted by the elite. Historical studies of Chinese art have demonstrated that the earliest Western oil painting in China was religious in nature. As early as the late Ming dynasty, both commoners and literati had been exposed to the realistic style of Western religious paintings and engravings, brought to China by Western missionaries. Castiglione  During the Qjng dynasty, Western missionaries such as Giuseppe (1688-1766) and Ignatius Sichelbart K&W  (1708-1780)  served in the imperial court as prestigious official painters, teaching the techniques of Western oil painting to Chinese court artists, who were largely regarded as mere artisans by the high-minded Chinese literati.  Influenced by  the example of Western missionaries, a few Chinese literati painters of the late Ming and Qjng periods, including both Wu Bin ^ $ £ ( 1 5 9 1 - 1 6 2 6 ) and Wu Li (1632-1718), allowed Western perspective and realism to appear in a limited way in some of their own works. Nevertheless, the techniques of Western oil painting, considered "barbaric craftmanship"  (yiji i^[r& ) by Chinese literati  artists, were never widely or openly accepted by the cultural elite and thus failed to exert a strong impact on Chinese painting.  3  Furthermore, the  ingrained visual tradition and exclusive cultural psychology supported and exemplified by the literati class also hindered the spread of Western oil painting in China even as a kind of craftmanship. It was not until the beginning of the 1860s when the first Chinese workshop of Western art, the Tushanwan Painting School (Tushanwan huaguan i | l ] $ f  sKlSI), was  in Shanghai, that the whole situation  established in a Catholic church  began to change.  See James C a h i l l , The compelling image, Cambridge, M a s s a c h u s e t t s , 1982, p p . 1-35. In the c h a p t e r "Chang Hung, the L i m i t s of R e p r e s e n t a t i o n , " C a h i l l g i v e s a d e t a i l e d d i s c u s s i o n of the r e s p o n s e of C h i n e s e p e o p l e , e s p e c i a l l y , l i t e r a t i p a i n t e r s , t o Western r e a l i s m i n the l a t e Ming dynasty and s t u d i e s the i n f l u e n c e o f the Western r e a l i s t i c s t y l e on the e v o l u t i o n of Chinese p a i n t i n g . 3  4  In the Tushanwan workshop, hundreds of Chinese orphans, adopted by the church, learned various techniques of Western art, ranging from oil painting to glass painting, watercolor sketching, and photography, from highly skilled Western missionaries.  Although the workshop was designed to promote  Catholicism by producing works of art to be used as religious offerings, it was in fact the first art school in China that systematically imparted the techniques of Western art to a significant number of Chinese people.  From the 1860s to the  1940s, generations of specialists in the techniques of Western art were trained by this workshop, and through these Shanghai artisans, Western oil painting, or more accurately, the Western realistic painting style, began to be imported wholesale into late nineteenth century China and quickly became an indispensible part of Shanghai popular culture. This school for craftsmen was established much earlier than the various Western art schools and academies set up in Shanghai by the new intellectuals during the first decade of the twentieth century and was the forerunner of the later artistic revolution inside China. At the end of the nineteenth century, with foreign cultures and commodities pouring into China, the eagerness for things modern and Western became even stronger among Shanghai people.  The fact that Western oil  painting not only represented Western civilization but was also both visually and psychologically novel, qualities not to be found in most literati painting, quickly made it an indispensible part of Shanghai popular culture. From then on, the Western realistic painting style was widely used in the Shanghai mass media, which depicted wordly objects to satisfy the tastes of a wider range of people than before.  Images of female beauties, set in architectual perspective  and rendered in a highly realistic style, became the most popular subject matter, appearing commonly in calenders (yuefenpai R  \9fW),  advertisements, logos,  5  newspaper illustrations and comic books.  4  Most of these images were meant to  be sexually appealing, but some of them truly reflected the new spirit of a transitional age.  In a newspaper illustration of 1916, we see such an image, a  young Shanghai lady, dressed in a conservative Chinese-style costume,  creating  her self-portrait on a canvas, with brushes and a palette in her hands. The space and the surrounding objects were all well depicted with Western geometrical perspective.^  In a picture of this sort, the popularity of the new visual forms in  Shanghai and their strong impact on the lives and aesthetics of the general population are quite striking. It is worth mentioning that the birth and development of the publishing industry in Shanghai at the end of the nineteenth century also contributed greatly to the dissemination of Western visual forms in China. In 1876, the lithographic printing technique appeared in Shanghai, and in 1902, the techniques of zincography and copperplate printing were imported into China. Those new printing techniques provided an efficient but inexpensive way for Western visual styles to be introduced into Shanghai popular culture. From  1875, the Shanghai-published Children's Monthly Newspaper (Xiaohai yuebao 'h&.R  Hz) began to serialize articles entitled "Elementary Introduction to  Painting" ("Lunhua Qianshuo" f&Sl^ilft), providing the first public introduction to Western painting techniques in a plain language accessible to all. In 1884, the first Chinese news pictorial, Dianshizhai huabao  Pictorial  (Dianshizhai  Hrj^fH^ift^), run by two British entrepreneurs, initiated the  publication of Western-style pictures made by Chinese illustrators in Shanghai.  6  These pictures not only presented a panorama of the social life at  " J i n x i a n d a i h a i p a i shangye mei shu santan" iSMiXMW. yishujia ±LMWM&, 3 (1990), p p . 1 5 - 6 . L i Chao, p . 38, i l . 47. To know more about the Dianshizhai huabao, see J u l i a Andrews, "Commercial a r t and C h i n a ' s m o d e r n i z a t i o n , " i n J u l i a Andrews and K u i y i  4  L i u S e n l i n SIJSRW,  ffi^Hlffi— 5  6  §£,  Shanghai  6  the time, but also introduced "bizarre foreign activities" and new technological inventions to the Shanghai reading public.  7  In the 1930s, the publication  industry in Shanghai entered its golden period, adopting the most advanced printing techniques in the production of a vast number of newspapers and pictorials circulated in the streets of the city. No matter whether they were published for political or intellectual reasons or just for mass entertainment, pictures in the Western visual style were always a crucial component in Shanghai people's daily life. Commercialism lent a strong impetus for the import of Western art to Shanghai. 8 Even at the time of the Tushanwan Painting School, Western-style paintings produced by the artisans there were not merely religious offerings, for some historical records inform us that copies of European masterpieces were also produced by the workshop on the side and were then sold at good prices to Chinese and foreign collectors.^ Shortly after Shanghai became a treaty port, the booming economy gave rise to the first commercial Western-style painting in the city, the so-called "export painting" (waixiaohua  ^f-^tli), which  originated in Macao and Hong Kong. These paintings, for the most part a product of Cantonese painters, depicted scenes of the Shanghai Bund, colonial dwellings, and local customs. Zhou Gua JUlfll, one of the first recorded Chinese export painters, resided in Shanghai for twenty-five years, making a living by running a workshop. *) The "export paintings" represented a big leap in the 1  Shen, A century in crisis—modernity and tradition in the art of twentieth-century China, New York, 1998, p . 183. M i c h a e l S u l l i v a n , A r t and artists of twentieth-century China, 7  B e r k e l e y , 1996, p . 27. By commercialism, I merely mean b u y i n g and s e l l i n g a r t works, w i t h o u t r e g a r d t o whether o r not a r t i s t s made them a c c o r d i n g t o t h e o r d e r s o f patrons. L i Chao quotes a passage t o t h i s e f f e c t but does not g i v e a s o u r c e . L i Chao, p . 7. A c c o r d i n g t o t h e c a t a l o g u e o f an e x h i b i t i o n o f t h i s p a i n t i n g g e n r e , h e l d i n t h e Hong Kong A r t Museum i n 1987 and e n t i t l e d The Scenery o f t h e T r e a t y P o r t s i n the E i g h t e e n t h and the N i n e t e e n t h C e n t u r i e s ( S h i b a 8  9  1  0  7 importation of Western-style painting style, when compared to the religious paintings and the copies of European masterpieces made by the artisans of the Tushanwan workshop. The narrow tastes of collectors and the needs of the market might have limited the individual creativity of "export painters," but the existence of a local market, largely comprised of resident foreigners, encouraged painters to employ foreign techniques with greater flexibility and richness of subject matter. We can even discern the impact of commercialism on the practice of the so-called Shanghai School (Haipai  of Chinese ink painting, which is noted  for its efforts to reform the genre by introducing Western visual elements during the second half of the nineteenth century. The masters of the Shanghai School, such as the three Ren Brothers (Ren Yi ft E M [1840-1896,] RenXiong ft M [1822-1857] and Ren Xun &M [1835-1893]), Xu Guitar(1824-1896), and Wu Changshuo  ^IHfill (1844-1927),  came from more cultivated backgrounds and  worked on more sophisticated cultural levels than the artisans of the Tushanwan workshop or those of the "export painting." However, the highmindness of the literati tradition did not prevent them from moving to Shanghai, very likely in search of a better art m a r k e t .  11  Furthermore, their  s h i j i u s h i j i y a n h a i shangbu fengguang "FA, ^^SL3t:), t h e r e i s a p a i n t i n g b y a Cantonese p a i n t e r named Zhou Gua d e p i c t i n g t h e s c e n e r y o f t h e Shanghai Bund. L i Chao, p p . 9-10. A l t h o u g h t h e myth o f the highmindedness o f Chinese l i t e r a t u s - p a i n t e r s has a l r e a d y been d e c o n s t r u c t e d by James C a h i l l i n h i s book, The painter's practice, New York, 1994, we s t i l l assume t h a t a " r e a l " s c h o l a r - a r t i s t would d e a l w i t h m a t e r i a l l i f e i n a v e r y e l e g a n t and i n d i r e c t way, and t h a t a " r e a l " l i t e r a t u s - p a i n t e r i s not supposed t o s e a r c h f o r a market openly o r l e t t h e market i n f l u e n c e t h e d i r e c t i o n o f his a r t i s t i c practice. However, the masters o f t h e Shanghai S c h o o l a l l moved t o Shanghai and l i v e d by s e l l i n g t h e i r p a i n t i n g s . A l t h o u g h Xu Gu, became a monk when t h e T a i p i n g s r e b e l l e d , he moved back and f o r t h between Yangzhou and Shanghai, the most prosperous commercial c i t i e s o f h i s e r a . L a t e r , he opened a shop t o s e l l h i s p a i n t i n g s i n t h e Temple o f t h e C i t y God (Chenghuangmiao ftfilUJi!) i n Shanghai, t h e urban c e n t e r a t that time. D i n g Xiyuan T U x , Xu Gu yanjiu Jj&^WSS, T i a n j i n g , 1987, p p . 12-3, 60, 75. 1  1  8  reform of ink painting made their art "suit both the refined and popular tastes"  (yasu gongshang Jlf&i&Jt), thus, creating a larger audience for their works. 12 As I have suggested above, commercialism made an important contribution to the transplantation of Western painting styles to Shanghai on the popular level.  Even the elite circle of modern Chinese artists, who emerged  during the first decade of the twentieth century in Shanghai were never openly opposed to selling their works. The first generation of Chinese oil painting masters of this century, such as Yan Wenliang (1895-1953), Liu Haisu MUM  (1893-1990), Xu Beihong  (1896-1994), and Lin Fengmian # J H I S  (1900-1991) have left behind a body of written documents dealing with various issues of Western oil painting, ranging from its technique and materials to its social and aesthetic functions in the Chinese context, but they hardly commented on the relationship between art and money. 13 Some scholars, such as Ralph Croizier and Julia Andrews, argued that there was scarcely a market for oil painting at that time, Andrews stating that oil painting in China "flourished as an academic rather than a commercial endeavor."  14  Margaret Kao even suggested that "the economic factor might  very well have influenced many Western-style artists to return to traditional painting, which catered to a fairly stable public..."!  5  Nevertheless, some  Zhu Boxiong^/feSfl and Chen R u i l i n Ef[JiJj#, Zhongguo xihua wushinian 1898-1949 4 H E S S E + ¥ l 8 9 8 - 1 9 4 9 , B e i j i n g , 1989, p . 159. 1 2  ]  R a l p h C r o i z i e r , " P o s t - I m p r e s s i o n i s t s i n Pre-War Shanghai: The J u e l a n s h e (Storm S o c i e t y ) and the f a t e of modernism i n R e p u b l i c a n C h i n a , " i n John C l a r k e d . , Modernity in Asian art, Sydney, 1993, p . 142. C r o i z i e r ' s r e s e a r c h showed t h a t a r t i s t s l i k e N i Y i d e {SIRS© were concerned w i t h t h i s problem. In 1928, N i p u b l i s h e d a c o l l e c t i o n o f h i s e s s a y s , Yishu mantan SffffSlfc, i n Shanghai. One of the a r t i c l e s i n t h i s book d i s c u s s e d the q u e s t i o n of the l i v e l i h o o d of the a r t i s t . However, t h i s seems t o be a v e r y r a r e example. R a l p h C r o i z i e r , " P o s t - I m p r e s s i o n i s t s i n Pre-War S h a n g h a i , " p . 142. J u l i a Andrews, " A c e n t u r y i n c r i s i s : T r a d i t i o n and m o d e r n i t y i n the a r t o f t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y C h i n a , " i n J u l i a Andrews and K u i y i Shen, A century 1 3  1 4  in crisis,  p . 6.  Margaret Kao, "China's response t o the West i n a r t : 1898-1937," ( u n p u b l i s h e d d o c t o r a l d i s s e r t a t i o n ) , S t a n f o r d U n i v e r s i t y , 1972, p .  1 5  226.  9  sources can suggest that many of these leading artists did commonly sell their creations, though these may have been mainly brush paintings. war period (1937-1945), the Daxin Company Gallery  16  During the  ^0f^AS]SME, located on  the fourth floor of the Daxin Department Store ( one of the four biggest companies in Shanghai at that time, now called the First Shanghai Department Store and still one of the largest department stores in the downtown area of Shanghai), became a very important space to show, and probably to sell, the Western-style works of the leading artists, Xu Beihong, Liu Haisu, Chen Baoyi 18ft (1893-1945), and Guan Liang  (1900-1986).  17  In short, in a highly  commercialized urban context like Shanghai, issues related to commercialism were hardly treated by the leading artists of the age in their writings, not to mention their visual products. This omission was probably due in part to their relatively high social status and their continued allegiance to the myth of the literati tradition of amateurism. Here, I do not intend to do more than mention this phenomenon, but we will say that it contrasts vividly with the Shanghai artistic practice of the 1990s. Acccording to some sources, as early as 1902 Western-style drawing was already compulsory in the Chinese education system, and a few Chinese artists such as Zhou Xiang MM (1871-1933) and Li Shutong ^MlWl  F o r example, Xu Beihong s o l d h i s t o s u r v i v e d u r i n g h i s youth and t o Jiang Biwei, i n later years. Liao i £ S ? # | — B e i j i n g , 1984 ( f i r s t ed. 1 6  Wi, Shengsi zhi lian-Jiang  (1880-1942) went  p a i n t i n g s from time t o time i n o r d e r pay m a i n t a i n e n c e t o h i s e x - w i f e , JingwenJUliP^t, Xu Beihong yisheng 1 9 8 2 ) , pp. 2 6 8 - 8 0 . Jiang Biwei  Biwei huiyilu  &.WiZ-Wi—#f3^?£(ElfJ§fi&, N a n j i n g ,  1 9 8 8 , p p . 3 , 1 2 , 4 3 2 - 3 , and Zhu Boxiong and Chen R u i l i n , p p . 1 6 9 - 1 8 0 . A l t h o u g h L i u H a i s u was born i n t o a r i c h f a m i l y and was s u p p o r t e d by h i s f a t h e r when he r a n h i s a r t s c h o o l i n Shanghai, he s t i l l s e t a h i g h p r i c e f o r h i s e x p e r i m e n t a l a r t , about t e n times t h a t of the most e x p e n s i v e  Chinese i n k p a i n t i n g of the age.  S h i Nan 5 t l ,  Liu Haisu zhuan 8l$j£ISI(8f,  Heilongjiang, 1 9 9 6 , p. 8 0 . A l l of t h e s e a r t i s t s h e l d e x h i b i t i o n s i n the g a l l e r y , b u t , u n f o r t u n a t e l y , we have no p r e c i s e i n f o r m a t i o n about whom t h e y s o l d t h e i r works t o o r what p r i c e s they r e c e i v e d . L i Chao, p p . 9 8 - 1 0 1 . 1 7  10 abroad to study Western art around that time. ** However, it was not until the 1  decade after the collapse of the Qjng Dynasty in 1911 that the transplantation of Western art along with other elements of modern Western culture was carried out comprehensively in Chinese elite and official circles.  In 1912 Cai Yuanpei  ^ 7 n i § (1868-1940) became the first Minister of Education of Republican China, and shortly afterward he made a new plan for the national education system, giving aesthetic education a more prominent position than before. 19 j  n  1917,  Cai went furthur by advocating the idea of "taking aesthetic education as a substitute for religion" (yi meiyu dai zongjiao shuo  J«JHWft^i&!&)  as a way to  create a harmonious life and society. In art education, Cai emphasized the importance of synthesizing the scientific approach of Western realist art with the aesthetic methods of traditional Chinese painting. During the same period, leading intellectuals such as Liang Qichao 3f (1880-1942), and Lu Xun  1873-1929), Chen Duxiu WM  (1881-1936) also called for importation of  Western art as a new cultural and aesthetic form aimed at transforming China into a modern country. The theories of these leading intellectuals had a strong impact on the educated youth of the age. At that time, the importation of Western art techniques and approaches into the educational system was a bold gesture of anti-traditionalism.  Benefiting  from its economic power, geographic location,  and open cultural atomosphere, Shanghai became the intellectual front of the new Chinese art movement, usually known as the "Western Painting Movement" (yanghua  yundong  #SMSj).  In 1912, Liu Haisu, along with other artists, established the first formal Western art school in China, the Shanghai Painting School (Shanghai  1 8  pp. 1 9  Zhu Boxiong and Chen R u i l i n ,  27-30. I b i d . , p. 32.  pp. 19-21, 31, 35.  Michael S u l l i v a n ,  11 tuhuayuan  il^SBjl:^).  This school not only initiated professional exhibitions  of water color and oil painting in China, but also employed live models for nude drawing in the teaching process as early as 1914.  Three years later, Liu Haisu  and his art school infuriated the conservative social authorities by showing the students' drawings of live nude models publicly for the first time ever in China. The heated debate over this so-called moral issue and the fight of Liu Haisu and his supporters with the conservatives lasted almost one decade.  However, by the  middle of the 1920s, drawings of live nudes were victorious and became commonplace in the numerous art schools in Shanghai. 0 2  In the 1910s, the movement of going abroad to study Western culture and science also reached its climax among Chinese youth. Almost all the first generation Chinese oil painting masters left Shanghai for Europe or Japan to study Western art. Due to its metropolitan atmosphere, its relatively stable political environment, and the rich cultual heritage in its surrounding regions, Shanghai became their common base after they finished studies abroad, frequently returning full of ideas for constructing a new country. Thus, it is hardly surprising that during the 1920s and the 1930s, the so-called "Shanghai Age" (Shanghai shidai  -LUsf^fft) in Chinese history,  exclusive centre for modern Chinese a r t .  21  Shanghai served as the  Numerous Western painting  associations, schools, and institutions were established there, and its art circles experimented with a wide variety of modern Western painting styles, ranging from Neo-classicism to Cubism. Nevertheless, the transplantation of Western art to Shanghai involved much more than the establishment of schools and the opening of exhibitions, for there still was the problem of how to activate the imported visual and  2  0  S h i Nan, p p . 52-147.  2  1  L i Chao, p .  54.  Zhu Boxiong and Chen R u i l i n ,  p p . 42-5,  50-62.  12  aesthetic forms in the domestic social and cultural context, rather than engaging in a mere mechnical imitation of foreign painting techniques.  The  first generation of Chinese oil painters adopted various techniques to achieve this purpose, but no matter how much these varied from one artist to another, the painters' artistic concerns and practices can be reduced to two major approaches: making art for social-political purposes, or making art mainly for art's s a k e .  22  Before 1937, these two opposing tendencies were manifested in the  confrontation between artists who preferred realism and those who favored such styles as Impressionism, Expressionism, or Cubism in their canvases. Xu Beihong was the most influential advocate and practitioner among those who promoted realism, and even today his painting style is considered the mainstream in Chinese art academies.  Although he studied art in Paris during  the period when Western painting was developing in new directions, Xu chose realism as the best means to pursue truth in Chinese art and society.  For him,  the stereotyped formats of old Chinese painting, and particularly its depiction of the images in the painter's mind, as opposed to objective studies of life, made it a dead-end art form, and the objective and accurate representation of nature and society became the exclusive aim and meaning of art. In his own paintings, Xu often employed a realistic style to depict historical events with the intent of awakening the masses to their social responsibilities.  After he came back to  China, Xu was mainly involved in utilizing Western realism to reform Chinese ink painting. Verisimilitude thus became the key to his art teaching, while I b i d . , p p . 506-16. S e c t i o n 2 of Chapter F i v e , "The Debate between A r t f o r A r t ' s Sake and A r t f o r L i f e and f o r the Masses' Sake" ^M^WWW WSS A^fe, f&i*Z3&MW£fflftl1ifa^ ("Wei y i s h u er y i s h u he wei rensheng wei dazhong e r y i s h u d i lunzheng") demonstrates t h a t t h i s debate c e n t e r e d on the main i s s u e c o n c e r n i n g Chinese a r t c i r c l e s b e f o r e 1949. It also examines how the i s s u e was r a i s e d by Chinese a r t i s t s as e a r l y as the 1920s and became the focus of a heated debate i n v o l v i n g a r t c r i t i c s and p a i n t e r s d u r i n g the 1930s. See a l s o Yan Tingsong "Lun 'huo' yu 'buhuo'—1929 guanyu x i f a n g x i a n d a i y i s h u de y i c h a n g lunzheng"ifr"Wt "H 2  2  "^fi"~1929^H1^15^aft*WW—Yiyuan  S^Q,  4 (1993), p p . 47-50.  13 Expressionism, along with other new artistic styles, became the principal target of his attack. In 1929, when the first national art exhibition of Republican China was held in Shanghai, this debate came to a head in a famous exchange between Xu Beihong and Xu Zhimo  (1896-1931), a renowned modern Chinese poet and  influential critic of Western art. Xu Beihong refused to take part in the exhibition, because it presented some works influenced by Western Modernism. To justify his decision, he published an article, entitled "Confusion" ("Huo" IS), violently attacking modern Western art in general, and specifically the works of such famous Western Impressionists and Post-Impressionists as Renoir, Cezanne, and Matisse, since in his opinion they had failed to serve society by reflecting it in a realistic w a y .  23  He also denounced Liu Haisu and his art school  for their art practice and teaching methods, all of which followed the Western Modernists. Disagreeing with Xu Beihong's ideas, Xu Zhimo wrote a public letter to the former, entitled "I A m Confused, Too"  ("Wo ye huo"  ^cyttLlS).  24  In this document,  Xu Zhimo criticized Xu Beihong's emotional approach to art criticism and stated that art criticism should be independent from moral concerns.  More  importantly, Xu Zhimo reinforced his theory of art for art's sake by pointing out that mere craftsmanship was inadequate to realize great art works. He emphasized that the value of a work of art does not lie in its verisimilitude, but  Xu Beihong "Huo"I&, i n Wang Zhen 3EM and Xu Boyang ^{681, Xu Beihong yishu wenji ^^&^M^~SCM, N i n g x i a , 1994, p p . 92-4. According 2 3  t o R a l p h C r o i z i e r , t h i s essay was o r i g i n a l l y p u b l i s h e d i n Meizhan huikan H S B f J , No.5 ( A p r i l 22, 1929), p p . 1-2. Ralph C r o i z i e r , "PostI m p r e s s i o n i s t s i n Pre-War Shanghai," p . 136. Xu Z h i m o ^ ^ 0 , "Wo ye huo—yu Xu Beihong xianshen shu" f £ t j l l £ — 2 4  Ht^fc^feli?, i n Xu Zhimo, Xu Zhimo quanji, sanwenji (bing, ding) fzfci£JP^rlH, lfc3t^! ( M , T ) , Hongkong, 1983, p p . 88-102. A c c o r d i n g t o Ralph C r o i z i e r , t h i s a r t i c l e was o r i g i n a l l y p u b l i s h e d i n Meizhan huikan, No. 6 ( A p r i l 25, 1929), p p . 1-4. Ralph C r o i z i e r , " P o s t - I m p r e s s i o n i s t s i n Pre-War S h a n g h a i , " p . 136.  14  in the unique and untrammeled feelings expressed by the artist.  25  In short, for  Xu Zhimo, art was not just a tool designed to reflect or to serve society, but rather a way of living, expressing, and inventing with complete autonomy. The famous debate between the two Xus also attracted the participation of another established realist, Li Yishi ^ I S d r (1886-1942). Li immediatedly responded with his article "I Am Not Confused" ("Wo buhuo" ^ ^ H )  in support  of Xu Beihong's ideas. Though taking a more moderate position than Xu Beihong, he made the social and political function of Chinese art even clearer by stating that Chinese artists should "use the power of art to adjust people's thoughts and to console their spirits" after two decades of social t u r m o i l .  26  In his pragmatic  mind, modern Western art should not prevail in China, not because of its lack of artistic quality, but rather because it was not good for the stability of Chinese society and was not understood by the masses.  27  As Ralph Croizier pointed out in his essay, behind this well-known debate on the artistic style for Chinese modernism "loomed large issues about the nature of art, the role of artists, and the meaning of modernity." ** In Xu 2  Beihong and Li Yishi's statements, we hear a strong advocate of the idea of art for society, a position shared by many Chinese intellectuals of the time. On the other hand, Xu Zhimo was not totally isolated, for in the practices of such firstgeneration Chinese oil painting artists as Liu Haisu and Lin Fengmian, the influence of his approach was obvious, both artists experimenting with a wide range of Western styles influenced by Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism. Liu ibid. L i Y i s h i ^ § H r , "Wo bu h u o " ^ ^ ^ , i n L i Chao, p . 61 and Zhu Boxiong and Chen R u i l i n , p. 495. See a l s o t h e d i s c u s s i o n i n Yan Tingsong, p. 49. A c c o r d i n g t o Ralph C r o i z i e r , t h e o r i g i n a l one was p u b l i s h e d i n Meizhan huikan, No.8 (May 1, 1929), pp. 1-2. Ralph C r o i z i e r , " P o s t I m p r e s s i o n i s t s i n Pre-War Shanghai," p. 136. Ibid. I n Ralph C r o i z i e r ' s r e s e a r c h , we f i n d a d e t a i l e d d i s c u s s i o n o f t h e famous debate between t h e two Xus, i n which L i Y i s h i a l s o p a r t i c i p a t e d . I b i d . , pp. 135-6. 2 5  2 6  2 7  2 8  15 Haisu was especially famous for his emphasis on the free expression of individuality and personal feelings in both his art practice and teaching. Although Lin Fengmian's early theory promoted the idea of art serving the masses, during the later 1920s his personal practice inclined more to pure artistic experiment, namely, devoting himself to sythesizing the new Western visual elements with the aestheticism of traditional Chinese p a i n t i n g .  29  Unlike  Xu Beihong, both Lin Fengmian and Liu Haisu were consciously involved in studies of visual elements such as color, form, brushstroke, and structure, putting more effort into establishing personal signatures in their art rather than using it to reflect the social and political realities of contemporary China. In 1932, Pang Xunqin MWf& (1906-1985), Ni Yide Uffife (1901-1970), together with some other young artists, established the Storm Society (Juelanshe  ^^Hlfc)  in Shanghai.  30  They strongly advocated the idea of oil painting as an  autonomous art form to be used for free expression, thus, pushing the ontonological practice of new Western art movements to a new extreme for that period. In their manifesto, the young artists stated:  We recognize that art is neither the imitation of nature, nor the rigid repetition of any stereotype. We want to devote our lives to expressing our bold and creative spirit without disguise.  In 1927 and 1928, r e s p e c t i v e l y , L i n Fengmian was a c t i v e l y i n v o l v e d i n o r g a n i z i n g the B e i j i n g A r t Conference ( B e i j i n g Y i s h u Dahui JbJStfefl&lA:^) and t h e A r t Movement S o c i e t y ( Y i s h u yundong ) i n Hangzhou. He promoted the i d e a of c r e a t i n g a r t which c o u l d be a p p r e c i a t e d by the m a j o r i t y of Chinese p e o p l e . Zhu Boxiong and Chen R u i l i n , p p . 254, 509510. L i n Fengmian , " Z h i quanguo y i s h u j i e shu" Wl^EMWffiUft-W, in L i n Fengmian, Zhongguo huihua xinlun Hong Kong, 1974, r e p r . of Yishu conglun B e i p i n g , 1946, p p . 17-45. F o r more d e t a i l e d i n f o r m a t i o n about the h i s t o r y and a c t i v i t i e s of the Storm S o c i e t y , see Ralph C r o i z i e r , " P o s t - I m p r e s s i o n i s t s i n Pre-War S h a n g h a i , " p p . 135-153. 2 9  shefijffltfjltjfjJjjtt  WMBR  iSffl&lSifr,  3 0  ^BlJ&lliSfifr,  16 We think that art is neither the slave of religion, nor the interpretation of literature. We want to construct a pure world of structures in a free and synthetic way. We abominate any old form or color, and any mediocre, low craftmanship. We want to employ new techniques to express the spirit of the new age...31  The b o l d manifesto o f these artists was i n s p i r e d b y the m o d e r n i s t i c insight o f new W e s t e r n art movements, a n d , s i m i l a r to W e s t e r n artists since the t i m e o f the Impressionists, the S t o r m Society p r o c l a i m e d a s e p a r a t i o n o f art f r o m literature and religion.  In t h e i r practice, l e a d i n g artists o f this s c h o o l , s u c h as  Pang X u n q i n , N i Yide a n d Yang T a i y a n g  Rlr^Blr (1909-),  studied, appropriated  a n d s y n t h e s i z e d v a r i o u s Western styles r a n g i n g f r o m P o s t - I m p r e s s i o n i s m to S u r r e a l i s m . T h i s m o d e r n i s t i c m o v e m e n t was constantly d i s r u p t e d b y the t u r m o i l of C h i n a ' s c i v i l wars a n d came to an e n d s h o r t l y before the e r u p t i o n o f the S e c o n d W o r l d W a r . W h e n confronted w i t h this n a t i o n a l crisis, it p r o v e d i n c a p a b l e o f o v e r t u r n i n g the view o f art most c u r r e n t since the M a y F o u r t h M o v e m e n t , n a m e l y , the i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f r e a l i s m w i t h the i d e a l o f social involvement.  However, the S t o r m Society represented the first g r o u p effort i n  p u r s u i t o f the o n t o l o g i c a l practice of m o d e r n Western art i n t w e n t i e t h c e n t u r y China. Before the 1980s, there was o n l y one g r o u p i n C h i n a that c a n p o s s i b l y be seen as the successor o f the S t o r m Society i n m o d e r n i s t i c practice, n a m e l y , the C h i n e s e Independent Artists A s s o c i a t i o n (Zhongguo D u l i M e i s h u X i e h u i  jtUfWiSti'),  " o r i g i n a l l y f o r m e d i n 1933 b y a g r o u p of Cantonese students i n  T o k y o w h o t r a n s f e r r e d it to C a n t o n after r e t u r n i n g h o m e . " 3  3 1  ^IHII  N i Yide wrote "Juelanshe xuanyan" ^MftfJ=£lf,  2  In 1935, the  o r i g i n a l l y published i n  Yishu xunkan Wffl^Q^l, No.5 (October, 1932), p. 8. I t i s a l s o found i n Yuan Y u n y i J^EeSlt, Pang Xunging zhuan jfilS^tW, B e i j i n g , 1995, pp. 73-4; L i Chao, p. 70 and Zhu Boxiong and Chen R u i l i n , p. 304. R a l p h C r o i z i e r , " P o s t - I m p r e s s i o n i s t s i n Pre-War Shanghai," p. 151. 3 2  17 members of this group organized a "well-publicized exhibition" of Surrealist art in Shanghai and soon afterwards "retreated to Canton" to continue with their modernistic p r a c t i c e .  33  Based on what has been said above, some might conclude that in the 1920s and the 1930s, the practice of new art forms in Shanghai was either inspired by a sense of social responsibility or by art for its own sake.  However, the former  usually took priority over the latter. Artists at that time commonly participated in art groups and associations, trying to achieve their ideals of social and cultural revitalization though collective efforts, and from 1911 to 1949, hundreds of groups and associations of Western art were established in China, most of them, in Shanghai. Among them, the Orient Painting Society (Dongfang Huahui ^ ^ f l i # ) , organized by Wang Yacheng  ffiiS^  (1894-1983), Chen Baoyi, and  Guan Liang (1915, Shanghai), the Heavenly Horse Association (Tianmahui Ht), started by Liu Haisu (1919, Shanghai), the Art Movement Society (Yishu Yundongshe  lltlfMSfrft),  initiated by Lin Fengmian and Dong Xiwen lE#^C  (1929, Hangzhou or Shanghai), and the Silent Society (Mo She gRitt), organized by Xu Beihong and Yan Wenliang WC%M (1893-1990) ( 1936, Shanghai) all played crucial roles in the transplantation of Western art to China and to the revitalization of the domestic art scene. These pioneers of modern Chinese art were all committed to the course of art education influenced by Cai Yuanpei's call for realizing national salvation through the cultivation of art. Liu Haisu, Lin Fengmian, Pang Xunqin, and Ni Yide, as well as many other first generation Chinese oil painting masters, became important art mentors in twentieth century China by disseminating their ideas and techniques in the classroom, initiating and compiling pedagogical materials, and more importantly, through their theoretical writings  3 3  Ibid.  18 and publications. Therefore, no matter how individualized their artistic practices were, their full commitment to art education and the great impact they created on later generations established them as social figures who were not isolated in the ivory tower of art but closely tied to shared social responsibilities. Even in the Storm Society, the most extreme proponents of art's autonomy before the 1980s, we can discern social and ideological components to their call to overthrow the old aesthetic and visual experiences and, thus, reform society, at least on the cultural level. From the outbreak of World War II in 1937, the utilitarian function of art, especially the political use of art in the war effort against Japanese invasion, became central in Chinese art circles.  In Nationalist-held territories, many  artists dedicated their modern art practice to mass instruction in response to Lu Xun's promotion of art for society and revolutionary struggle.  34  Before 1937,  paintings, woodblock prints, and picture story-books, reflecting life during wartime and social problems in a realistic style, had already become the mainstream. In the 1940s, the general inclination to politicize art and the fact that the unstable political situation and the devastation of war forced many art schools and institutions to leave Shanghai for the interior further limited the vitality of modern Chinese art practice. Although Shanghai remained the most prosperous city and an important intellectual centre in China during that decade, the Civil War and the predominance of Left-Wing art brought the brilliant "Shanghai Age" to an end. When the Communist Party came to power in 1949, Beijing was selected as the capital of the New China, and the political and cultural centre of China accordingly moved north. Soon after Liberation, 3 4  Lu  XunH?i&, "Lianhuantuh.ua bianhu" ^M-MMM^,  meishu ©ISiit§tfJ|&, Shanghai, 1956, p p . 55-8.  i n Lu Xun, Lu Xun lun Lu Xun, "Quanguo muke  l i a n h e z h a n l a n h u i z h u a n j i xu" ^MT^MW H S I 5; and by the same a u t h o r , "Wenyi d i dazhonghu"  shiyi 7,  pp.  i$k#[Mtai§., 772-3.  i n i b i d . , p p . 114i n Jiwaji  ^CSWAafrffc,  i n Lu Xun, Lu Xun quanji ©31 ^ I H , Shanghai, 1938, v o l .  19 the n e w g o v e r n m e n t f u r t h e r d i s p e r s e d the r e m a i n i n g art forces o f S h a n g h a i b y r e a l i g n i n g art academies o n a n a t i o n a l scale. The fact that there was n o n a t i o n a l - l e v e l art a c a d e m y left i n Shanghai i n the e a r l y 1950s indicates that the p r e v i o u s centre o f m o d e r n Chinese art h a d lost its f o r m e r prestigious p o s i t i o n . D u r i n g the regime o f M a o Zedong, art practice i n C h i n a was d e p r i v e d o f most o f its a u t o n o m y a n d richness, serving m e r e l y as a t o o l f o r p o l i t i c a l propaganda.  A s early as 1942, M a o Zedong's "Talks at the Y a n ' a n F o r u m o n  L i t e r a t u r e a n d A r t " ("Zai Y a n ' a n w e n y i z u o t a n h u i shang d i j i a n g h u a "  tSj^i&^JttTjiPff-i)  d-EMlSr^  s t i p u l a t e d the d i r e c t i o n for the further d e v e l o p m e n t o f art,  i n s i s t i n g that art s h o u l d serve the masses a n d the r e v o l u t i o n a r y effort, a n d that artists s h o u l d e q u i p themselves w i t h Marxist-Leninist ideology.3 5  After  L i b e r a t i o n , M a o ' s ideas were u p h e l d as the n a t i o n a l p o l i c y for artistic a n d literary practice and criticism i n China.  T h e subjectivity a n d c r e a t i v i t y o f  artists were d i m i n i s h e d a n d s t r i c t l y s u b o r d i n a t e d to the p o l i t i c a l neccesity o f p r o m o t i n g the C o m m u n i s t Party's i d e o l o g y . A r t i n S h a n g h a i i n e v i t a b l y suffered the same fate. A f t e r the e a r l y 1950s, c o m m u n i c a t i o n between the S h a n g h a i art c o m m u n i t y a n d the Western m o d e r n art w o r l d was c o m p l e t e l y severed.  Many  m e m b e r s o f the art elite were sent to the c o u n t r y s i d e o r factories to engage i n the " r e e d u c a t i o n process." A l t h o u g h d u r i n g the first p a r t o f t h a t decade, some Shanghai-based-artists, s u c h as L i n Fengmian, L i u Haisu, W u D a y u ^ ^ ^ ( 1 9 0 3 88), a n d Z h u Qjzhan ^IIGMj (1892-) retained a certain a m o u n t o f f r e e d o m i n d e p i c t i n g l i m i t e d subject matters i n o i l p a i n t i n g , they were a l l p u r g e d d u r i n g the later p e r i o d o f i d e o l o g i c a l campaigns.  3 5  Mao Zedong  ^^1^., " Z a i Yan'an wenyi zuotan h u i shang d i j i a n g h u a " tE  $E%c3CMMWl.i?ilftliiiS, Beijing,  F r o m the e a r l y fifties, Socialist  i n Mao Zedong, 1964, p p . 849-880.  Mao Zedong xuanji  3s#3t^:ft,  20  Realism, newly imported from the Soviet Union, became the dominant artistic approach promoted by art institutions in China. During the following two decades, especially during the period of the socalled Cultural Revolution, oil painting in Shanghai, as in other parts of China, reached a nadir, becoming moribund in both stylistic exploration and artistic concepts. Art schools were paralyzed; many artists were dismissed from their positions, exiled and generally persecuted. The subject matter of painting became narrower than ever, the nude, still-life and landscape being downplayed or excluded altogether. The principles of Socialist Realism were employed to produce monotonous pictures, either eulogizing the party's policy or giving a fictional account of the new socialist country. Images of the Party's deified leaders, confident labor heroes, and happy minorities took over completely in the oil paintings of those two decades. For contemporary viewers, their highly realistic format presents a portrait of exaggerated political passion and twisted truth. However, the art of the Maoist regime is still very much a part of contemporary Chinese artists' education and ideological memory. We will notice in later chapters that some Shanghai artists are consciously revitalizing the most mechanical formulae of the art of that period with their personal touches, trying to deliver new messages in the current social context. After the Cultural Revolution, art in China started to revive quickly. Although realism continued to be upheld as the exclusive form allowed in art institutions and academies, works emphasizing humanism, which had been smothered by the blind political passions of the Maoist regime's art, mushroomed and immediately caught people's attention. Cheng Conglin's #  (b. 1954) Snow 1968 {Xueyijiu  lL(b.  1948) Father  (Fuqin^.^  liu ba 3 1968 ) (1979) and Luo Zhongli's  ) (1981) may serve as the best examples which  21 use the realistic technique to repudiate Socialist Realism. *' In Yuan 3  Yunsheng's 1%.MQL (b. 1937) mural painting, executed in 1979 on the wall of the newly constructed Beijing International airport, one also glimpses a bright vision, constructed out of line, color and decorative figures.  Besides containing  a female nude, which caused controversy and was finally covered up, this mural painting revealed the first sign of realism giving way to aestheticism in the public consciousness after the Cultural Revolution.  37  From the very beginning of the 1980s, with Deng Xiaoping at the helm, China set a course of pragmatic reforms aimed at economic reconstruction and very soon began to open up to the West. The publication of books on modern Western art, literature, and philosophy immediately had a strong impact on the Chinese art scene. A vigorous revival of modern art practice could be seen for the first time in China since Liberation. In November 1979, the Stars Group (Xingxing huahui  MMS#),  the first non-official art group since 1949, put on  its first exhibition in Beijing, and its bold allegiance to modern Western artistic practice made a stir in the Chinese public and art circles. By the middle of the 1980s, with the maturity of other important art groups, such as New Carving (Xinkedu ffiMBt) in Beijing and Xiamen Dada J K P I ^ ^ in Fujian, all of which actively experimented with various new artistic media and concepts, what Chinese art historians call the "New Tide Art Movement of '85" (Bawu xinchao meishu A IS $f $8 HI©) came into being. Meng Luding's ^ i i ^ T and Zhang Qun's 3ft ffi famous oil painting, In the New Era—the Revelation xin shidai-Yadang  of Adam and Eve (Zai  Xiawa di qishi & $ f B # f ^ - - I 5 # X M W ' J l F 7 K )  (1984), made  concrete the spirit of a new age, that is, the bold pursuit of rationalism, Western  3 6  Gao M i n g l u ^ i S K e d . , Zhongguo dangdai meishu shi  fflG^.  1985-1986, Shanghai, 1991, c o l o r p l a t e 8. I b i d . , c o l o r p l a t e 4. 3 7  p . 36,  1985-1986 ^ S ^ f t ^ l  b l a c k and white  i l . 1 and i b i d . ,  22  civilization, and new artistic freedom. 8 3  Within the same period, major art  journals, such as The Trend of Artistic Thought (Yishu sichao Wvffi^M) (Wuhan) and Report on Fine Arts in China (Zhongguo meishu bao tfiM^vfi&L ) (Beijing), were published, introducing the art of Western Modernism and covering debates on diverse artistic issues. In the middle 1980s when a free market economy began to develop parallel to the autocratic control of the Communist government over the central economy and ideology, a claim to free artistic expression and a serious pursuit of modernism through visual forms demonstrated the common ideal shared by Chinese avant-garde artists at that time, that is, to push Chinese society forward on its course of democratization and modernization. The strong sense of social responsibility manifested by these artists of the 1980s closely resembled that of the modern art movement of the twenties and thirties. In Shanghai art circles, the second transplantation of modern Western art also became the task of many artists, since Shanghai was one of the first cities to be reopened to the West. As early as 1978, a year after Deng Xiaoping came to power, the Shanghai Exhibition Hall welcomed the first Western art exhibition since the Cultural Revolution, the Exhibition of French Rural Paintings of the Nineteenth Century (Faguo shijiu shiji nongcun fengjing huazhan S S + A t S ^ f i j ^ H M ^ f t M ) .  After decades of isolation, Shanghai  artists once again enjoyed the humanity and refined techniques of original Western art works, rather than those of the sterile Socialist Realism. A quick response to this Western influence was the 1979 Exhibition of the Shanghai Twelve (Shanghai shi'erren huazhan _t$5~h— A S M ) . In the February of that year, twelve Shanghai artists spontaneously organized this exhibition in the Children's Palace of the Huangpu District (Huangpu qu  3  8  Ibid.,  color plate  13.  23  shaonian gong  ftMlLE^^IIO.  It featured over one hundred fifty art works by  these twelve artists, ranging from oil on canvas to brush paintings and to water colors, displaying a great variety of subject matter and style.39 i the n  exhibition preface, these artists claimed that: "Every artist has the right to choose the form of expression for his artistic creation. " 0 Their works were 4  characterized by the styles of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and even Expressionism.  Being nine months earlier than the first group show of the  41  Stars Group, this exhibition is considered the first modernistic show in China after L i b e r a t i o n .  42  (Yingchun huazhan  In the same month, the Spring Festival Exhibition  fflflS),  organized by the Shanghai Oil Painting  Institute, was also held in the city. The sculpture Scar (Shanghen featured in this show, was the first nude exhibited in China since the 1 9 7 0 s .  43  From 1978 to 1982, foreign exhibitions were frequently seen in Shanghai, resuming the connection with the outside world that had been lost for decades.  The most influential foreign exhibition during that period showed  Minimalist and Abstract Expessionist paintings from the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in the Shanghai Art Museum in the autumn of 1981. During my interviews with Shanghai artists, I discovered that many of them still have a vivid memory of that exhibition and admit the great impact and excitement created by Jackson Pollock's compelling canvas shown in it. After that, exhibitions of even more experimental paintings by Chinese artists appeared in S h a n g h a i . 3  9  Zhu Pu^fc^t,  44  The '83 Experimental Painting Exhibition (Basan  "Tansuo chuangxin b i x u cong shenghuo c h u f a — P i n g Shanghai  < S h i ' e r r e n huazhan>" &MM%T&M'&.&.$£\ti&--fr±-M<-\--AM&>, ffi, 4  0  4 1  149.5 Ibid.  Meishu %L  (May, 1979), p . 13.  Gao M i n g l u , Zhongguo dangdai meishu shi, p . 690.  Ibid. Ibid. Those e x h i b i t i o n s i n c l u d e the '83 E x p e r i m e n t a l P a i n t i n g E x h i b i t i o n (1983, Fudan U n i v e r s i t y ) , t h e E x h i b t i o n of New R e p r e s e n t a t i o n a l P a i n t i n g s ( X i n j u x i a n g huazhan fsfrS-lafcilJis) (1985, Shanghai J i n g ' a n 4 2  4  3  4  4  24  jieduan shiyan huihua zhan 83' R i ^ l l f i w ^ i i l l ) (Fudan University, 1983) was the first show of abstract painting i n China since the Cultural Revolution. The experiments of participating artists such as Li Shan ^U-I(b. 1942), YuXiaofuifi! (b. 1950), and Zhang Jianjun SSIIIJ (b. 1955) with pure visual elements caught people's attention, but their works were also criticized i n the media for their divorce from the aesthetic demands of the masses. 45 However, the conservatives failed to impede the development of the new. Two years later, Y u Youhan ^ ^ ^ ( b . 1943) organized the Exhibition of the Six Modernists (Xiandai huihua liuren zhan Slft^sK/N AH) (Fudan University), showing eleven abstract paintings, made by himself and five of his students, including Ding Y i T Z . (b. 1962) and Qin Yifeng  ft$  (b. 1961). In the 1990s, Yu Youhan, Ding  Yi, a n d Qin Yifeng still play the role of experimental painters i n the contemporary Shanghai art scene, the latter two distinguished by their obsession with the abstract rendition of visual elements developed by them i n the eighties. From the late 1980s onward, Western art influences also l e d Shanghai artists to go beyond the sphere of painting, and performance and installation works were shown occasionally, 1986 being a very active year i n this respect. In the month of October, three art students from the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Ding Yi, Qin Yifeng, and Zhang Guoliang  wrapped themselves i n  D i s t r i c t C u l t u r a l C e n t r e ) , t h e F i r s t Shanghai Youth A r t E x h i b i t i o n ( S h o u j i e Shanghai q i n g n i a n meishu zuopin dazhan ^ B J z ^ W ^ H i i K r ^ D t i A M ) (1986, Shanghai A r t G a l l e r y , ) and the Opening E x h i b i t i o n o f Shanghai A r t G a l l e r y (Shanghai Meishuguan luocheng zhan Jz^UffeH^tftll) (1986, Shanghai A r t G a l l e r y ) , and H o r i z o n A r t E x h i b i t i o n ( H a i p i n g x i a n meishu l i a n z h a n S^SSillifell^S) (1986). L i X u ^ / f l , "Shiyan meishu z a i Shanghai" ffift§ifJ6r?-E±#5, Zhongguo youhua ^BSJftll, 59.2 ( F e b u r a r y , 1995), p . 2 4 . _ Mao X u h u i , "Yunnan he Shanghai x i n j u x i a n g huazhan j i q i fazhan" S J ± . ^ f r f t ^ l S S S . S i l S , Meishu , 227 .11 (November, 1986), p . 45. Gao M i n g l u , Zhongguo dangdai meishu shi, p p . 700, 714, 720 and L i Shan, p p . 185-7, 196. ^ Huang KellfRf, "Chouxiang h u a , x i n x i n g s h i he guoqing" te^tll:, 1^05?. WIS t s , Jiefang ribao MMLB$HL, (December 6, 1983), p . 4. 5  25 yellow cloths and created performances in natural settings and also on the busy Shanghai streets.  46  As Fan Dian I S M ^ , an art critic and historian, commented,  their brave actions "embodied a positive power in forcing the viewer to accept the new."  47  One month later, sixteen artists put on the 86 Concave and Convex Exhibition (Baliu ao tu zhan 86 COrliM) in the Cultural Center of the Xuhui District (Xuhui qu wenhua guan ^ S l S ^ ' f L l f l )  in Shanghai. Consisting of  sculpture, wall painting, ready-made objects, and symbolic signs around the showing space, this exhibition was labeled a "confusing show" (lingren feijie de  zhanlan ^AJt$¥rflJjlt II )by the popular media in Shanghai but attracted many curious viewers. ^ 4  During the opening a group of young artists created  spontaneous performances and conceptual art, making this "confusing" exhibition even more controversial. As one organizer of the show commented, "there has never been any exhibition in Shanghai with such a tremendous public response and with so many viewers, and there has never been one the works of which were damaged so badly by people, and which had so many anonymous artists taking part in its realization."  49  Shortly after this controversial exhibition, the Shanghai audience saw "the most radical performance show since the 'New Tide Art Movement of '85'".50 It was the "M Art Group" Performance Exhibition ("M Hlffii"  ffeMHtWIt),  held  in the theater of the Shanghai Workers' Cultural Palace (Shanghai gongren wenhua gong juchang  Jt$5IA.'SCit'^MM) in December  of 1986.  Sixteen  artists, including Song Haidong 5 f c ^ ^ ( b . 1958), Yang Dongbai # ^ F J (b. 1959), Qu QianHHS "Budiao, y i c i yishu he ziwo d i biaoxian "^St,—^HaffeS] flj ISftl^lS, Qingnian yidai # ¥ — f x , 49.3 (March, 1987), p. 11. Fan D i ' a n ^ i f i S a n d Hou Hanru (H?£&$n, "Yansheng yu shanbian—Guanyu xingwei yishu d i duihua" M.{%&^&--ffi&ffMMffi#}%iWi, Meishu, 259.7 (July, 1989), p. 14. Gao Minglu, Zhongguo dangdai meishu shi, p. 178. Ibid., p. 179. Ibid., p. 384. 4 6  4 7  4 8 4 9  5 0  26  Tang Guangming Wo^t^M , a poet, and some young art students such as Zhou Tiehai MMM  (b. 1966) and Yang Xu H§;Ji, (b. 1967) created performances on the  stage, with about two hundred of their viewers participating spontaneously.  In  this approximately one-and a-half-hour long exhibition, the violence of some of the performances startled the viewers.  Fire, blood, torture, destruction, and  struggle characterized these works, which not only manifesed the artists' untrammeled rebellion against social conventions and restraints, but also revealed their "presssure, pain and anxiety deep inside their hearts."  51  Two years later, performance art was even seen in the most important official art venue of Shanghai, the Shanghai Art Gallery. As part of the Second Concave and Convex Show—The Last Supper (Di'erjie ao tu zhan—Zuihou di wancan H — JBIHlrlb J H - - f i i ^ W B f t f t ) , which was held there, the excited audience witnessed ten artists, including Li Shan, Song Haidong, Sun Liang -f^J^. (b. 1957), Li Xianting  (b. 1949) (Beijing), and Wu Liang  their so-called Wrapping Performance (Baozha zaoxing xingwei ^).52  , engage in fetLj^Jt^fT  in this piece, the artists, whose bodies were wrapped with white clothes,  sat in a box-like enclosed space and engaged in Dadaist dialogues.  53  Although  the whole exhibition was shut down in the name of fire prevention by the authorities shortly after its opening, its experimental nature and its discussion of the emergence of commercialism and growing skepticism about socialist ideology and beliefs, made it a bold, if immature, gesture in contemporary Shanghai art history. As my following study of four Shanghai artists will prove, during the 1980s artists of that city were no less committed to experiments in new art forms To know more about the 384-7. Fan D i a n and Hou Hanru, F o r example: "Where i s b u s i n e s s . " ^t^i^^cM^T . June 22, 1998. 5  1  M A r t Group Performance e x h i b i t i o n ,  see  ibid.,  pp. 5 2  5  3  p . 14. Godot?" ^ # 5 J I ! $ I I . £ T ? " "Godot went t o do My i n t e r v i e w w i t h L i Shan i n h i s s t u d i o on  27 and concepts than those in Beijing and other major sites of the "New Tide Art Movement," but, unfortunately, their contributions are not well known. One reason for this neglect is that there were no national-level art academies in Shanghai, but perhaps even more important is the fact that Shanghai artists did not generally work in groups, which would have attracted the attention of the popular media, art historians, and audiences.  The only exception was the M Art  Group which was formed in 1986 and disbanded shorthly afterwards. Most Shanghai artists were engaged in individual studies of modern Western art itself, trying to develop personal styles through quasi-scholarly research on new art forms and concepts.  By refusing to form art groups, which tend to place  more emphasis on collective statement, more often than not political statement, Shanghai artists demonstrated an individualized and non-political approach to art making. This attitude continues in the 1990s, endowing contemporary Shanghai art practice with its own special qualities. In February 1989, with the opening of the exhibition "China/Avantgarde" in the Beijing's National Gallery, the most prestigious official gallery in China, the contemporary Chinese art movement of the 1980s reached its climax. About ten Shanghai artists including Song Haidong, Li Shan, Sun Liang, Zhang Jianjun, Ding Yi , Zhou Changjiang JS^tL (b. 1950), and Xu Hong participated in this exhibition.  Three years in preparation, the exhibition was  considered "an enormous victory of independent artists over the official art world," presenting about 300 works by most important independent artists and groups active between 1985 and 1 9 8 7 .  54  Although there was inevitably much  imitation of Western originals, the significant fact is that most of the works, ranging from oil painting and sculpture to photo-based art, installation, and performance, possessed a strong sense of ideological revolt. Wang Deren's 3il3§ Jochen Noth, I s a b e l Pohlmann and K a i Reschke e d . , China B e r l i n , 1993, p . 32. 5  4  Avant-garde,  28 il  (Fujian) act of throwing condoms and coins at the viewers, Wu Shanzhuan's  ^ I L L ! ^ (Zhejiang) selling fish inside the gallery, and Ii Shan's performance of washing his feet for two hours definitely violated normal public expectations for  art in China.  Soon after, the entire exhibition was shut down by police as a  result of the female art student, Xiao Lu's PiU- (Zhejiang) unexpectedly at her installation with a real gun.  shooting  By creating a great tension between their  radical actions and the public, these artists tested the regime's limits on freedom, while at the same time transforming this whole exhibition into a media e v e n t .  55  However, in this historical event in which rebellious spirit was obviously mixed with opportunistic motivation, most of the Shanghai artists took the role of viewers rather than participants. Were they trying to be indifferent, or rather sensible? Despite the immaturity of the Chinese contemporary art movement during the later eighties, partly reflected in the common interest in creating shocking effects, social responsibility, seriousness and idealism were its central themes. As Ralph Croizier commented in his article: "It is this movement that has most directly challenged the cultural values of Chinese tradition and the political orthodoxies of the Communist regime."  56  Nevertheless, from the  Tian'anmen incident in June 1989 until the early nineties, a time when Chinese society underwent dramatic changes, these central themes were altered and eventually disappeared.  During that period, the Chinese government greatly  tightened ideological control over intellectuals.  Progressive art journals were  closed, and the remaining ones were officially "reformed" and stayed conservative.  No avant-garde works were allowed to be exhibited in official  Hang J i a n ^ t K and Cao X i a o ' ou IfVhlSt/ "Zhongguo x i a n d a i meishuzhan ceji-^HJlftUffeJKffiyBB, Meishu, 2 5 6 . 4 ( A p r i l , 1 9 8 9 ) , p p . 5 - 9 . S a n g z i 3£ ^ e d , "Zhongguo x i a n d a i y i s h u z h a n c e s h i " ^KSJftSlffiKfflUIS, Meishu, 2 5 7 . 5 (May, 1 9 8 9 ) , p p . 1 5 - 8 . Jochen Noth, p p . 3 2 - 4 1 . R a l p h C r o i z i e r , "Nine straws i n the wind: A group e x h i b i t i o n o f young women a r t i s t s i n B e i j i n g , " Third text , 31 (Summer, 1 9 9 5 ) , p . 9 8 . 5 5  5 6  29  venues, and shabby studios and private flats became the only showing and meeting spaces for artists.  Meanwhile, the acceleration of economic reform and  the commercialization of Chinese society became the primary government policy. By encouraging people to "look ahead" |n] BLfS {xiang qian kan), a term that has the same pronunciation in Chinese as the expression "looking at money"  i t § ) , the regime meant to fix the masses' attention on the pragmatic  present, and thus, to erase the disturbing memory of the slaughter in 1 9 8 9 .  57  As  Jianying Zha observed, the "naked greed for money, raw selfishness, complete disregard for moral principles, destruction of the enviroment, nihilism, vulgarity, corruption, injustice" constituted the new social reality during the post-Tian'anmen period in China. ** it also brought forth new qualities in the 5  contemporary Chinese art of this decade. In Shanghai, however, the contemporary art scene did not seem to be affected so drastically by the Tian'anmen Square incident, since artists there had been accustomed to use their private studios rather than public spaces and the popular media as the battleground for new art. During this depressed period when many Chinese avant-garde artists left for Western countries in seach of freedom, Shanghai, on the contrary, cheered the new vitality of the art world. On November 22, 1991, five Shanghai artists, in collaboration with three from Zhejiang province, put on an exhibition inside a garage located in a quiet downtown area. 5 9  its unusual venue gave the exhibition a rebellious-sounding  name, Garage Show (Cheku zhan MMM),  which reminds one of the Armory  Show of 1913 in New York.  J i a n y i n g Zha, China Pop—how soap operas, tabloids, are transforming a culture, New York, 1 9 9 5 , p . 1 9 .  5 7  and  bestellers  Ibid. F o r a more d e t a i l e d i n t r o d u c t i o n t o t h i s e x h i b i t i o n , see Wu L i a n g ^ % , "Chekuzhan zha j i " $#S+LSB, Zhongshan ffill!, 7 9 . 4 ( J u l y , 1 9 9 2 ) , p p . 173-7. 5 8  5 9  30  This three-day exhitibion, which I had the fortune to witness, featured works in different media. Shanghai artist Song Haidong's installations, such as  A Lie Detector (Cehuangqi W\WL%&) and To Save Love From Stupid Lust (Ba aiqing cong yuchun di xingai zhong zhengjiu chulai  ffii?fjft£M8ll^14ft! 4 £& l  :]  ^CtB^c;), explored paradox and ambiguity in human nature and "truth." Hu Jianping's f K ^ ^ C b . 1962) illogical assemblies of daily objects revealed an intention to dissolve the objects' symbolic meanings, while seemingly emphasizing them.  In Sun Liang's brilliant oil paintings, one glimpsed odd,  floating images, with allusions to Western literature but at the same time attempting to be independent of the artist's mental control. Although the announced theme of this exhibition was "the reality of current experiences" (dangxia jingyan di xianshi  Is T ^ M W ^ I f ) ,  many of its works, along with  the video installation and the conceptual pieces by the Zhejiang artists, Zhang Peili SftigTJ (b. 1957), Geng Jianyi  WcHlS (b.  1962), and Ni Haifeng UM$& (b.  1946) (all of whom still play an important role in the contemporary Chinese art scene today), exhibited a preference for studying visual vocabularies, art's inner structures, and personal experiences rather than the collective metaphor for ideological revolt so obvious in the New Tide art of the eighties. From the beginning of the 1990s, quite a few Shanghai artists achieved maturity in both their artistic styles and concepts as the fruit of long-time individual research. Their works have been presented in various important international art exhibitions, such as the 45th Venice Bienniale, the Chinese Contemporary Art Show in Berlin and the First Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, Australia. Nowadays, Shanghai artists fly back and forth between Shanghai and art venues in Western countries, while Shanghai remains their base camp. The sophisticated urban context, shifting social reality, and the universal worship of money in the re-emerging  31 metropolis allow their art practice to reflect the most current and sensitive experience of both contemporary Chinese art and society.  In an age fraught  with the discourses of multiculturalism and cultural identity, living and working in Shanghai is also of great benefit to its artists because of the international opportunities it provides. Among the numerous gifted Shanghai artists whose individuality and artistic richness would enable one to write a full book about them, I will discuss four in detail. Two of the artists I propose to study, Yu Youhan and Ding Yi, remain faithful to the canvas, while the other two, Shi Yong S&Jt (b. 1963) and Zhou Tiehai, have gone far beyond the limits of painting and sculpture. The reasons why I have chosen these four artists are: (1) they seem to be the most continuously creative Shanghai-based artists during the nineties; (2) their works exemplify mature personal styles and concepts to a higher degree than most other artists in Shanghai; (3) their art practices reflect issues and phenomena unique to the Chinese context while demonstrating their regional characteristics; (4) they have garnered greater recognition in critical circles both within and outside China, with the result that their creations have been shown more widely in the major art venues of the world. My study will not cover the overseas Shanghai artists' practice, since their art, I think, should be discussed in a different, perhaps broader, cultural and artistic context; and they are not as closely related to the construction of Contemporary Shanghai art scene as those whom I will treat.  32  Chapter Two On Canvas  The deficiency of images will be changed. When pressure is relieved, we will surely see the emancipation of untrammeled forms.  1  Wu Liang  Yu Youhan £ £  S  Born in 1943, Yu Youhan is the oldest artist among the four whom I propose to discuss.  Though he is already in his middle fifties, his artistic  practice of the last two decades is both full of richness and completely contemporary.  Like many other artists, Yu fell in love with art in his early  youth. Growing up during a period deficient in color and image, he was very lucky to meet some special individuals who turned him to the realm of art.  2  In  1965, Yu entered the Ceramic Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.  In the political campaign of 1966, which signified the beginning of the  Cultural Revolution, he was denounced as an anti-revolutionary by his classmates due to his inclination to free-expression and his family background. Yu came from a prosperous middle-class family, and during the Cultural Revolution, his father, a banker, was killed and the family's property was  1  Wu L i a n g ^ j S i ,  "Tuxiang d i kuifa—Zhongguo x i a n d a i y i s h u d i j i n g y u "  BHIIall  #}UZL--tpMMiXWffi#}i&M, Jiangsu huakan 'ttMMW, 166.10 (October 1994), p.  3. My i n t e r v i e w w i t h Yu Youhan, August 16, 1997, Shanghai. D u r i n g the i n t e r v i e w , Yu e x p r e s s e d h i s g r a t i t u d e to a p r i m a r y s c h o o l a r t t e a c h e r who f r e q u e n t l y encouraged h i s i n t e r e s t i n p a i n t i n g . He a l s o a d m i t t e d t h a t he owes a s p e c i a l debt t o Fan J i m a n ^ l B ® (1906-1990), a contemporary o f L i n Fengmian and L i u H a i s u . During h i s t e e n y e a r s , Yu l i v e d next door t o F a n , who was a p r o f e s s o r at the Shanghai Theatre Academy. B e f o r e 1957, when Fan was e x p e l l e d from the s c h o o l and sentenced t o a t w e n t y - y e a r j a i l t e r m , h i s r i c h c o l l e c t i o n of modern Western a r t r e p r o d u c t i o n s and h i s own I m p r e s s i o n i s t i c water c o l o r landscapes p r o v i d e d g r e a t i n s p i r a t i o n f o r Yu Youhan's a r t i s t i c development. 2  33 confiscated.  3  In spite of these blows, Yu's political passion remained high, and  during the sixties, he joined the fanatical youth movement that caused young Chinese to travel around China for the sake of establishing "revolutionary ties" (geming chuanlian  ^ o p $I$fl).  While taking part in a political pilgrimage on  foot from Guangdong to Shaoshan, the birthplace of Chairman Mao, Yu became seriously ill with hepatitis and almost died; but for him, this was an unforgettable period of his life, when personal frustration, illness, and social turbulence were interwoven with vehement political passion and belief.  It is no  wonder then that one sees numerous references to the Cultural Revolution in his work, although in general the period itself was artistically barren. After Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, the Chinese economy began to recover, and art institutions started reviving. At the age of thirty, Yu commenced teaching at the Shanghai Institute of Arts and Crafts and continued to instruct himself in the painting of landscapes and still lifes, trying to make up for the years wasted during the political turmoil. By the end of the 1970s, he had experimented with various styles of Western modernism, including Monet's (1840-1926) ephemeral visions of changing moments and Cezanne's (1839-1906) studies of the paradoxical relationship between nature and its presentation in art.  4  As early as 1979 when Chinese artists began to have more freedom in artistic expression, Yu started his own experiments in abstraction.  3  Andrew Solomon, "Their i r o n y ,  York times magazine, 4  5  Being tired  humor (and a r t ) can save C h i n a , " The New  (December 19, 1993), p . 66.  A good example of the p a i n t i n g of ephemeral v i s i o n s i n Monet's work  Haystack at Sunset Near Giverny, p a i n t e d i n 1891.  is  William C. Seitz,  CLaude Monet, New York, 1960, p . 139. For the p a r a d o x i c a l r e l a t i o n s h i p between n a t u r e and i t s p r e s e n t a t i o n i n a r t , see the d i s c u s s i o n i n J a c k  L i n d s a y , Cezanne—his  life  and art,  London, 1969, p p . 302-5.  A c c o r d i n g t o my i n t e r v i e w , Y u ' s f i r s t (Changcheng SfeK ) was made as e a r l y as of s i m p l e c u r v e d l i n e s rendered on top U n f o r t u n a t e l y , Yu does not possess any 5  a b s t r a c t p a i n t i n g , The Great Wall T h i s gouache was composed of a r e d and green background. v i s u a l r e c o r d s o f t h i s l o s t work.  1979.  34  of the endless political movements and the utilitarian and conservative approaches to art making in China , Yu wanted to create "a new painting"  (yizhong xinhua  ~  J  ® ^ f S )  which would allow him to express directly "the  eternal and ever-changing universe" (yongheng bianhua de yuzhou W ^ W ) .  6  ^KIMSHt  It seemed inevitable that during this creative process, Yu would  receive even more inspiration from Western modernism. During my interview with Yu, he mentioned Cezanne as an early influence with regard to the formal relationship between the perceptible external reality and the inner reality of art.  7  In 1983, the opportunity to see  Jackson Pollock's original works in the Shanghai Museum further consolidated his ideas about the formalist construction of painting. Two years later, Yu showed his abstract works for the first time to Shanghai audiences in the Exhibition of Six Modernists held at Fudan University. Among his exhibited works, The Black Circle (Heise yuan M&M) (plate 2.1) announced the birth of Yu's Circle Series (Yuan xilie  HH^^'J), the first stage in his artistic creation.  In this painting, he washed a very thin layer of diluted black acrylic onto the surface of raw canvas, on top of which irregular, random brush strokes whirled with order in a circle. Yu's non-representational approach surely seconded Cezanne's idea that painting is neither the reproduction of nature nor the passive registration of perceptual experience.  8  At the same time, however,  he transcended Cezanne's struggle between nature and art, making his painting a direct formal expression of his intuitions and concepts.  That can probably be  attributed to his experience of seeing Abstract Expressionist and Minimalist  Yu Youhan's l e t t e r t o me, w r i t t e n on November 23, 1998, p . 1. My i n t e r v i e w w i t h Yu Youhan on August 16, 1997. Cezanne h i m s e l f wrote: "One must not reproduce n a t u r e , one must interpret i t . By what means? By means o f p l a s t i c e q u i v a l e n t s and o f colour." See N i c h o l a s wadley, Cezanne and his art, New Y o r k , 1975, p . 47. 6  7  8  35  paintings from the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Art in Shanghai in 1981. In Yu's Circle Series , one does not feel the strong emotion, chaos, and tension as seen on Jackson Pollock's splash surfaces.  Rather, Yu's construction  of the whole image embodies an orderly unity between paradoxical but interrelated elements.  In his abstract renditions (plates 2.2, 2.3), there is a  visible balance between simplicity and complexity, between randomness and order, between the process of covering (manifested in the overlapping brush strokes) and of revelation (i. e. the intentionally uncovered texture of paint and raw canvas), or between the desire for breaking free (from the circle) and the determination of restraining oneself (inside it). This visual quality is certainly related to his interest in Daoism at that time. In his letter to me dicussing the concepts behind his Circle Series, Yu wrote: "The dots (short brush strokes)...express Laozi's idea that 'the Way gave birth to one, one gave birth to two, two gave birth to three, and three gave birth to the universe'."9  In the same letter, he also explained his interest in the  simple image of a circle after having experimented with different sorts of abstract panting as a result of his love for "grasping things as a whole" (dui shiwu jinxing zhengtixing bawo  ^^^JjlfrMMttfE^.^O  Yu tried to use the  relationship between dots and circles to illustrate the flow and changes within the matter of the universe, as well as the simplicity of its beginning and the richness of its development.! 1 In an essay on Yu Youhan's art, Wu Liang comented that by painting circles, Yu "found the best form to articulate his concepts...and meanwhile, his Yu Youhan's l e t t e r t o me, w r i t t e n on November 2 3 , 1 9 9 8 , p . 2 . Ibid. Yu can be g e n e r a l l y c o n s i d e r e d as a p a r t of the "New T i d e A r t Movement of ' 8 5 . " Gao M i n g l u gave a q u i t e d e t a i l e d d i s c u s s i o n o f t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p 9  1 0  1 1  between Daoism and Yu Youhan's Circle meishu shi, p p . 1 8 9 - 1 9 0 .  Series i n h i s Zhongguo dangdai  36 form was rich in its own meaning."  12  In view of Wu's formalist preferences,  the "meaning" he indicated here very likely refers to the self-sufficiency of formal aesthetics. Wu suggested that by creating rich textures and gradated tones on his seemingly monotonous canvases, Yu legitimized his circles as existing facts in themselves. I would like to argue that this was not the case, since Yu's exploration of abstract form was mainly i n the service of conveying his philosophical content, not for the sake of pure visual and formal experiments.  This point will be clear in my later discussion of Ding Yi's abstract  painting, which would offer a convincing example of the "meaning" (yiwei M Wu Liang implied. Yu Youhan's practice at this period manifests an effort to borrow Western-influenced artistic forms to express indigenous cultural content. In one of his Circle Series (plate 2.4), he allowed the paint, canvas, and gravity to interact with each other in a state free from the control or even interference of the artist, leaving the marks of freely flowing paint on his raw, unstretched canvas. This method may remind one of the Zurich Dadaist, Jean Arp's (18871966) emphasis on "the laws of chance" in creating art works and of Jackson Pollock's claim that "the painting has a life of its own."  13  There is no material to  prove whether Yu Youhan was as strongly influenced by Jean Arp as by Jackson Pollock (1919-1956), but it is easy to perceive the disparities between his art and those of the two Western modernists. First of all, Yu's work was not the spontaneous outcome containing no "meaning or cerebral intention" pursued by A r p .  1 2  i2S /, 2  W uL  shijie  Nor was it the result of "getting inside the canvas" to act physically  1 4  g  Yuan  h  e  o  u  x  i  a  Arnason, pp. 225-226. O x f o r d , 1980, p . 231. Arnason, p. 226. 1 3  1 4  n  g  :  Guanyu Yu Youhan" Hffiflfil:  MlWiHrW-, 80.1 (February, 1993), p. 31.  H&££?&,  Norbert Lynton, The Story of Modern Art,  Yishu  37 in the way that Pollock d i d .  1 5  In accordance with Yu's great interest in Daoism,  his special approach to canvas may well reflect the Daoist idea of "action through non-action" (wuwei zhi wei MMxLM).^  By allowing the natural  forces to complete an artistic product, he visualized a philosophical logic of creation deeply rooted in Chinese culture. Seen in this light, Yu's abstract painting was not just an imitation of Western modernism but was rather imbued with the essense of Chineseness, a cultural identity, unremittingly sought by Yu throughout his artistic career. Yu Youhan continued to work on his Circle Series until 1989. As he admitted later, it offered him a way to find a tranquil, private space in the face of external turmoil and instability.  17  On some occasions (plates 2.5, 2.6), he even  allowed bright colors (more often than not, basic colors) to break through the meditative solemnity of his monochrome renditions. In those rare cases, there was no residue of recognizable subject.  The glistening brush strokes spread  rampantly as far as they could reach, creating pure abstract surfaces possessing an inner order and structure. In 1989, one of Yu Youhan's Circles  was shown in the now famous  China/Avant-garde Exhibition in Beijing, but it did not attract much attention from the audience.  Compared with the shocking performances of other artists  in that show, his abstract painting probably seemed too reticent and introspective.  However, as one of the first few Shanghai artists to begin  experimenting with abstract painting after the Cultural Revolution, Yu exercised a decisive influence on the artistic practice of some younger  1 5  H a r o l d Rosenberg,  The Tradition  "The American A c t i o n P a i n t e r s , " i n H a r o l d Rosenberg,  of the New, New York, 1 9 5 9 , p p . 2 5 - 6 .  One o f t h e o r i g i n a l passages t h a t uses t h i s term r e a d s : "Perform n o n a c t i o n , and t h e n t h e r e i s n o t h i n g you do not d o . " ("Wei wuwei ze wu buwei yi" f&lRiffiMM:Fi&&) . He L u n j i n g Hf^iK e d . and comm., Laozi jiaogu ig^F-& Uj, T a i p e i , 1 9 6 6 , p . 3 7 . My i n t e r v i e w w i t h Yu on August 1 6 , 1 9 9 7 . 1 6  1 7  38  Shanghai painters, among them Ding Yi and Qin Yifeng. However, most viewers of contemporary Chinese art are more familiar with him as a pioneer of Political Pop rather than abstract painting. 1988 and 1989 marked a crucial transition in Yu Youhan's artistic career. He suddenly set aside the Daoist meditation of his circles and became one of the first Chinese artists to introduce the image of Mao Zedong into post-Mao  painting. Mao Zedong and Whitney Huston (Mao Zedong he Huiteni -Xiusidun 3Z\MM%UMWFEI  'f>fc£ft©) (plate 2.7) is the first piece of his so-called Mao Series  (Mao xilie ^l^^'j) which juxtaposes Mao Zedong, a Chinese political icon, with Whitney Huston, an idol of Western pop culture. Painted after press photographs, both images remain realistic, but the artist's stylistic manipulation is not difficult to discern. Yu molded the images of the two celebrities from bright color blocks and reductive brush strokes, with their features highlighted in a way derived from propaganda art. The garish surface, the rough execution, as well as the awkward encounter between Communism and capitalism, East and West, imbue Yu's iconographic collage with a sense of playfulness and irony. After this piece, Yu Youhan produced more Mao paintings, in all of which Mao Zedong retains the same idealized image of an affable, people-loving, and superhuman leader, an image so familiar in earlier Communist propaganda art (plate 2.8).  However, under Yu Youhan's brush one experiences a feeling of  strangeness, ambiguity, and cynicism. Sometimes, Mao's image is deconstructed into colorful brush strokes or linear contours, taking on digitalized or cartoonlike features (plate 2.9).  Sometimes, the Great Helmsman stands side by side with  female beauties in their bikinis or with Western pop stars. appears in certain classical scenes from the  Even when he  history of the Chinese Communist  Party, such as the one showing him planning military strategies with Zhu De £fc (plate 2.10) or another depicting him together with Zhou Enlai )^Ll?.3fc (left)  39 and Liu Shaoqi  I H ^ i j f (right) (plate 2.11), the sense of familiarity and  seriousness is equally fugitive.  These paintings' flat, vulgar floral patterns,  butterflies, or equally two-dimensional but whimsical images from the ancient Classic of the Mountains  and Seas (Shanhaijing  lij^S^S ) negate any possible  visual or historical "depth." Beyond any doubt, the methods of Yu Youhan's Mao Series  are derived  from American Pop Art. Yu's manneristic reproduction of "a second reality," namely, the portrait of a mass idol so familiar to a mass audience, "has documented his closeness to the image world of the mass media," a quality which Andreas Huyssen associates with American Pop Art. 18  Even Yu's colors, as a  German scholar has pointed out, "correspond more to the smooth coldness of the consumer aesthetic," another quality prevalent in American Pop art. 19 Furthermore, although American Pop artists of the 1960s used their new art form to attack the Abstract Expressionism that had dominated painting in the United States during the later 1940s and the 1950s, most of them resembled Robert Rauschenberg (b. 1925) in beginning to paint under the influence of Abstract Expressionism but never completely rejecting its approach and techniques.20 Similarly, Yu Youhan transformed himself from an abstract painter meditating in his own spiritual realm into a Political Pop artist, who in his Mao Series  asserted his interest in "reality, political phenomena, popular  taste, and idol worship...etc." 1 2  At the same time, however, his preference for  both formal aesthetics and the principle of visual reduction displayed his unbreakable attachment to abstraction in painting.  1 8 1 9  Andreas Huyssen,. After  ed., China Avant-garde, 2 0  2 1  the Great Divide,  Bloomington, 1986, p. 146.  See Yu Youhan's biography by Wolfger Pohlmann i n Jochen Noth e t a l  B e r l i n , 1993, p. 181.  Arnason, pp. 448, 452-5. Wu L i a n g , "Yuan he ouxiang," p. 31.  40 What was the impetus behind Yu Youhan's sudden artistic change? Was it simply the result of the influence of newer Western art? How does he view both his abstract painting and his so-called Political Pop art ? Answers to these questions will enable us to understand his art with greater depth. We have already seen how in his Circle Series Yu employed techniques ostensibly derived from modern Western art to locate concepts rooted in ancient Chinese culture.  However, in Yu Youhan's own judgment, this synthesis was not  a success:  A l t h o u g h m y e a r l i e r w o r k s [ i . e. h i s a b s t r a c t p a i n t i n g s ] t o o k i n t o c o n s i d e r a t i o n t h e expression o f the Chinese [consciousness], I d i d n o t succeed. M a n y f o u n d t h e m t o o Western.  W h a t is this a u t h e n t i c C h i n e s e c o n s c i o u s n e s s ?  I t h i n k i t is s u p e r f i c i a l t o  search f o r it o n l y o n a f o r m a l level. W e have to draw o n the spiritual aspects o f culture.  2 2  These sentences are highly suggestive.  First of all, we discover that Yu  Youhan's approach to making art does not go beyond the Chinese didactic tradition of using form "as a vehicle for the Way" (xing yi zaidao 0 J ^ . ^ M ) .  2 3  Formalistic expression seems to be of great importance in his painting, but content and its communication are actually Yu's major concern. Second, we can say that Yu Youhan is a painter with a strong Chinese consciousness. He prefers Chinese content in his art, hoping his works will appeal to those who appreciate Chineseness over "Westernness" either for intellectual reasons or simply C i t e d i n Wolfger Pohlmann, p . 181. The t r a d i t i o n a l f o r m u l a t i o n o f t h i s i d e a i s " l i t e r a t u r e as a v e h i c l e f o r t h e Way" {wen yi zai dao 3C\2kWtWi), f i r s t found i n t h e w r i t i n g s o f Zhou Dunyi jilll&BB (1017-73). See t h e d i s c u s s i o n i n James J . Y. L i u , 2 2  2 3  Chinese theories  of literature,  Chicago, 1975, pp. 114, 128. A l t h o u g h  Zhou Dunyi's statement has t o do w i t h t h e w r i t i n g o f p o e t r y and p r o s e works, t h e same b a s i c i d e a can be a p p l i e d t o t h e v i s u a l a r t s , hence my rewording o f Zhou's dictum.  41 because the latter is beyond their understanding. sentences looms his new approach to painting.  Third, behind his last two  He questioned his previous study  of the abstract form on canvas and determined to search for the "authentic Chinese consciousness," as we will see later, by engaging his painting with the current social and political life of the Chinese people. 4 2  In one of his letters, Yu also reflected on the reason for this artistic shift, writing:  At the end of the eighties, I thought that the Circle Series was quite good, but it resembled the "ivory tower" too much, and had nothing to do with the masses and society. (Didn't it?) I wanted to propel society forward! (this seems naive now) Thus, I gave up painting circles and changed to the Pop style. If we compare it to the Circle Series, the Mao Series is like the details in the circles. It reflects the social, political,  In C h i n a , the word " s p i r i t u a l i t y " ( jingshenxing Stjif 14 ) has been used i n d i f f e r e n t ways i n d i f f e r e n t c o n t e x t s . F o r the Chinese government, the propaganda buzz word " s o c i a l i s t s p i r i t u a l c i v i l i z a t i o n " (shehui zhuyi jingshen wenming Jtt#i^1SSf ) indicates certain social courtesies uncontaminated by Western c a p i t a l i s t i d e o l o g y . Contemporary C h i n e s e a r t i s t s and c r i t i c s a l s o f r e q u e n t l y mention " s p i r i t u a l i t y " i n t h e i r d i s c u s s i o n s of a r t and c u l t u r e . However, they seem t o use i t i n ways t h a t a r e v e r y d i f f e r e n t from the government and t h a t even v a r y from a r t i s t t o a r t i s t and from c r i t i c t o c r i t i c . For a good example of t h i s , see X i a n y i ISS and Huangdu lf$| e d . , " ' Y i s h u yu wenhua, j i n g s h e n yu yuyan' z u o t a n h u i ,, j i y a o " "W»ll:£flS,ffii*IIOT *aic#£5, Meishu, 252.12 (December, 1988), pp. 4-9. In t h i s a r t i c l e , c r i t i c s and a r t i s t s d i s c u s s the r e l a t i o n s h i p between " s p i r i t u a l i t y " (or " s p i r i t " ) i n contemporary C h i n e s e a r t works and the v i s u a l v o c a b u l a r y , an e x t e r n a l form through which the n o n m a t e r i a l i s expressed. Alhough they have d i f f e r e n t views about t h i s i s s u e , the d i s c u s s i o n proves t h a t " s p i r i t u a l i t y " was, s t i l l i s , a v e r y i m p o r t a n t c o n c e r n i n the contemporary Chinese a r t w o r l d . F o r Yu Youhan, the word " s p i r i t u a l " suggests the essence of n a t i v e c u l t u r e and the Chinese i d e n t i t y i n a r t . For Zhou T i e h a i , another Shanghai a r t i s t who uses the term from time t o time (as we w i l l see i n the f o l l o w i n g c h a p t e r ) , i t f r e q u e n t l y means what i s opposed t o the p u r s u i t of the material. We must s t r e s s t h a t none of the Shanghai a r t i s t s seem t o use the word " s p i r i t u a l " w i t h the r e l i g i o u s c o n n o t a t i o n s i t has i n the West. However, some of them may be i n f l u e n c e d by the t r a d i t i o n a l C h i n e s e c r i t i c a l term " s p i r i t u a l resonance" {qiyun ISai o r shenyun ffcM.), an almost e q u a l l y nebulous word t h a t o f t e n r e f e r s t o the s t r e n g t h o f an a r t i s t ' s b r u s h s t r o k e s as a m a n i f e s t a t i o n of h i s i n n e r ( i . e . , "spiritual") qualities. See Shen Zicheng^fc-f"^ e d . , Lidai lunhua mingzhu huibian jEK"£ WtM&M^M, B e i j i n g , 1982. 2  4  42  a n d s p i r i t u a l life o f C h i n e s e s o c i e t y a n d its p e o p l e d u r i n g the a c t u a l p e r i o d o f m y  life  f r o m 1 9 4 9 t o t h e e i g h t i e s ( f r o m t h e a g e o f s i x to f o r t y ) . 2 5  These lines futher reveal Yu Youhan's attitudes toward the function and the role of art in its relationship to the society. His ideas can been seen as a legacy of the Maoist ideology of art and literature and also reflect his desire to create an indigenous soil and support for his art. In short, Yu Youhan was not satisfied with abstract painting, since it failed to realize his object of making Chinese-oriented art, which can be more widely appreciated by the Chinese audience.  His concern with the relationship  between imported Western visual forms and indigenous cultural elements in his art,  along with his hesitation between the individualized exploration of the  formal and conceptual in painting and his desire to reflect the demands of the masses and external reality, remind us of Yu's predecessors from the great Shanghai age, all of whom faced the same challenge and choice. Although his personal preferences were certainly important, the new social conditions emerging during the late 1980s contributed greatly to the formation of Yu Youhan's Mao Series, the second stage of his mature artistic creation. As a result of China's reopening to the West and its rapid economic reform, a "socialist market economy" developed quickly during the later 1980s. The  commercialization of Chinese society brought people the comforts of  material life, while at the same time undermining the communist value system and  Utopian  ideals that had dominated the country during the Mao era. By the  late 1980s, increasing lust for money, selfish behavior, anxiety, general distrust, and  feelings of insecurity entered into the new psyche of the Chinese masses. A  feeling of profound loss and great disillusionment prevailed in the generation  Yu  Youhan's l e t t e r  t o me, w r i t t e n on November 2 3 ,  1998, p .2 .  43  that had grown up with strong social idealism during the Cultural Revolution. As art critic Li Xianting observed, during the late 1980s and especially after the Tiananmen Square incident, "a popular revival of the Mao Zedong cult was sweeping the nation."  26  Mao became the subject of numerous new songs and  books reflecting the early Cultural Revolution period, and also appeared as a common image on T-shirts and other commodities. Li pointed out:  T h e r e was...a m o r e c o m p l e x p o p u l a r mentality at w o r k i n the h i s t o r y o f Political Pop i n C h i n a t h a n we have seen i n either the Soviet U n i o n o r Eastern Europe.  The M a o craze o f  the early 1990s reflected a M a o obsession...that c o m b i n e d both a nostalgia f o r the s i m p l e r , less c o r r u p t , a n d m o r e s e l f - a s s u r e d p e r i o d o f M a o ' s r u l e w i t h a d e s i r e t o a p p r o p r i a t e M a o Z e d o n g , the p a r a m o u n t g o d o f the past, i n v e n t u r e s s a t i r i z i n g life a n d politics i n contemporary C h i n a .  2 7  In the light of these events, Yu Youhan's creation of the Mao Series  during the  late 1980s seems very understandable. By creating his own Mao cult on canvas, which touched both the collective memory and the current experience of his intended Chinese audience, Yu was able to put into practice his idea of reflecting the common consciousness of Chinese people and their current social reality. Meanwhile, Yu's personal feelings about Mao Zedong were quite ambivalent.  Benefitting from the greater artistic freedom allowed in China, Yu  was now able to employ his own artistic vocabulary to portray the image of the Helmsman, a deified political icon that had once dictated the life and mentality of many Chinese people, including the artist himself.  In Yu's writings, he  admitted that he felt an "unprecedented delight" (qiansuoweiyou  2 6  L i Xianting,  "The imprisoned h e a r t — i d e o l o g y  consumption," Art and Asia Pacific, 2 7  Ibid.  i n an age of  1.2 (1994), p . 26.  de yukuai  tftfifT  44  *WWfir[&) when  he saw the first Mao image rendered in his individual style,  since it expressed pent-up words that he had wished to say for many y e a r s .  28  This artistic freedom certainly gave Yu Youhan, along with many other Chinese artists, confidence to withdraw from the shadow of the repression of humanism during the Maoist era. However, growing up under "the spiritual radiance of Chairman Mao," Yu seemed unable to shake off the memory of those passionate days. His obsessive visions of Mao Zedong remained radiant, as if emerging from colorful dreams of a long-vanished happy world. In his Mao Series , uneasiness about the commercialization of Chinese society seems even more dominant than his criticism of the dogmatic past. This is evident in their vulgar colors and excessive ornamentation, which very likely allude to the tasteless extravagance of the commercial surroundings he depicts, but even more so in the way that past idealism meets the present confusion of values, and the Communist hero is juxtaposed with Western market icons. flashbacks and bitter nostalgia?  Are Yu Youhan's Mao paintings personal  Or are they intended as ironic comment on  both the current and the past political reality in China? Probably even the artist himself cannot answer these questions very clearly. In 1993 Li Xianting organized the show "China's New Art, Post-1989" in the Hanart Gallery in Hong Kong, exhibiting more than two hundred works by fifty-one artists in the styles of Political Pop (zhengzhi bopu J&tnStllf) and Cynical Realism (wanshi xianshizhuyi coined by Li himself.  I c ^ ^ l f ± i l ) , terms that had been  This was the first major show of Mainland Chinese avant-  garde art outside the country and was a huge success, largely because its political content caught the attention of the foreign m e d i a .  29  Yu Youhan's  Yu Youhan's u n p u b l i s h e d notes on a r t w r i t t e n i n J u l y 1 9 9 7 , p r o v i d e d by artist. N i c h o l a s J o s e , "Next Wave A r t - T h e f i r s t major e x h i b i t i o n of p o s t Tiananmen vanguard Chinese a r t seen o u t s i d e the m a i n l a n d , " Art and Asia Pacific, sample i s s u e , ( 1 9 9 3 ) , p . 25. 2  8  the 2  9  45 unique renditions of Mao Zedong immediately caught the eye of the overseas audience, and he soon came to be regarded as one of the leading contemporary Chinese painters of the post-Mao era.30 Shortly afterwards, his Mao paintings were shown in various international exhibitions, including such prestigious ones as the Forty-fifth Venice Biennale (1993) and the Biennial of Sao Paolo (1994).  31  They also appeared frequently on the covers of important catalogues  of Chinese contemporary art published in the W e s t .  32  In addition to garnering  him fame, the success of Yu's Mao Series improved his economic circumstances, and by selling his paintings to Western and Hong Kong collectors, he was able to buy himself a decent studio on the outskirts of Shanghai. In November of 1994, Yu's fame as a painter of Mao Zedong helped him to obtain a visa from the U. S. Consulate in Shanghai, after which he traveled to New York, the world center of contemporary art. During his residence there, Yu finished several paintings juxtaposing Mao Zedong and the Statue of Liberty. However, ideological freedom and the possibility of making a fortune, two strong attractions for the many Chinese immigrant artists living in the United States, did not hold Yu in New York very long, and in 1995 he returned to Shanghai.  His nine-month residence in New York provided him a better  knowledge of contemporary art practice in the West, but the newest and most fashionable artistic trends did not arouse his interest very much. What he was concerned with was still the Chinese content in his painting and its relationship to the indigenous soil from which his Chineseness grows. Why did Yu's Mao Series and other Political Pop and Cynical Realist paintings become successful quickly with Western audiences (particularly with individuals interested in See my d e t a i l e d d i s c u s s i o n on Chinese Pop and C y n i c a l R e a l i s t i c p a i n t i n g i n Chapter 4, p p . 126-7. Shanghai a r t i s t s informed me t h a t the second of these shows was c o n s i d e r e d c o u n t e r - r e v o l u t i o n a r y by the Chinese government. F o r example, see Jochen Noth et a l e d . ; and N i c h o l a s Jose e d . , Mao 3  0  3  1  3 2  goes pop:  China post-1989,  Sydney, 1993.  46  Chinese politics) but fail to arouse much enthusiasm among ordinary Chinese people?  What was the perspective through which the Western media commonly  view Chinese art? How could he create paintings of "authentic Chinese consciousness," which would appeal to a broad Chinese audience, but not just Westerners inspired by Post-Cold War stereotypes or a taste for "exotic" cultures? With all these questions in his mind, Yu Youhan prepared to move into the next phase of his career. In the summer of 1996, I saw a group of new paintings hanging on the wall of his home, all of which retained his earlier formal reduction while excluding both the political icons of the Mao era and the idols of contemporary commercial culture. In one of these works, Earth (Di ife ), the artist depicted a map illustrating southeastern China.  In the center of this painting, there is a  hand holding a magnifying glass which blows up the region of Shanghai in the shape of a surging dragon head (plate 2.12). The pinkish floral patterns covering this part of China resemble the decoration in his Mao paintings, but in this work they create a rich background for a land undergoing a tremendous economic development, in which Shanghai plays a leading role. painting  In another  Statue (Xiang j$L) we see a collage of symbols for various religions and  folk beliefs, including Buddhism, Christianity, Catholicism, fortune telling, and prayers for good luck, reflecting the variety and freedom of the Chinese people's spiritual life in an age of great ideological change (plate 2.13). Here East still meets the West, but this meeting no longer has overt political connotations and is not concerned with intellectual matters.  Rather it displays  something new, but commonplace in the daily life of ordinary Chinese people. The other paintings in this group depict even more commonplace and trivial scenes of modern China, including such images as the Shanghai Television Tower, a motor car decorated for a wedding, or a lady with a cat. Yu called this  47  new series Reading Through Pictures (Kantu shizi by children's literacy textbooks.  Sffll^^*),  a name inspired  By creating simple pictures resembling those  found in such books, he was attempting to delete overt political references from his own paintings, and to make them more easily readable by the ordinary Chinese viewer. Yu painted ten pieces for this new series but later destroyed seven of them, since he was troubled by the problem of the relationship between formal arrangement and the expression of content. 3 3  In late 1996, Yu allowed political icons to reappear on his canvas, finishing four paintings that portrayed Deng Xiaoping.  These works combined  a quite realistic rendition of this political image with a renewed celebration of the artist's long suppressed interest in formal experiment (plates 2.14-17). Significantly, in 1997, these works were exhibited in the Changning District Art Center in Shanghai (Shanghai Changning qu yishu zhongxin  J l ^ ^ ^ l i E l l i W  •-P ' f r ) , the first time in many years that he had showed his work in a venue inside China. Based on his experiments in Reading Through Pictures Yu Youhan created a new series during the second part of 1997, which he entitled Looking  At the Present Age for Truly Great Men ( Shu fengliu renwu hai kan jinzhao  i&JS^A^JMS^^).  Representing his third mature artistic stage, these new  paintings are highly consistent in style and are characterized by dense images, flashy colors, and sketchy renditions (plates 2.18-22). The title of the series alludes to well-known lines from Mao Zedong's ci poem, "Snow: To the Tune of Qinyuanchun" ("Qjnyuanchun xue" ?>L>I11I# 3 ) .  3 4  Yu's generalized but lively  Yu Youhan's l e t t e r t o me, w r i t t e n on November 23, 1998, p . 2. Mao Zedong, "Qinyuanchun xue"'/iC)H# S, i n Zang K e j i a 5 ^ ^ ^ e x p l . and Zhou Zhenfu JilfJ§7# comm., Mao zhuxi shici jiangjie ^£.f8H&MMf&, Beijing, 1962, p p . 3 1 - 2 . The c o n c l u d i n g two l i n e s o f t h e c i poem a l l u d e d t o by Yu i n t h e t i t l e o f h i s s e r i e s a r e t r a n s l a t e d by Nancy L i n a s : "For manhood f l o r i d and f u l l , / Look—the galaxy t o d a y , " and a r e supposed t o " r e f e r t o 3 3  3 4  the  proletariat."  Nancy L i n , Reverberations—a  new translation  of the  48 descriptions of the panorama of contemporary Chinese life, realized by presenting diverse images of ordinary Chinese people, are in line with Mao's idea that the most important people are those of the present.  In these new  paintings, Yu's juxtaposition of images from the mass media together with occasional hints of workers and students from the Cultural Revolution painting vaguely remind one of his Mao Series . However, the elimination of images of celebrities and scenes of cultural and political exoticism separate them from the latter. In his notes on art written in the same year, Yu claimed:  What I am interested in is the nature of art. I think that good art works surely derive from life, which is not only the individual, trivial life of the artist, but even more so the broad life of the masses in its connection with the age. Thus... in the couple of years I have also been trying to portray ordinary Chinese people  35  By doing so, Yu was striving to create a contemporary mass art, seemingly unsophisticated and intended for ordinary Chinese people. For any painter, giving up a favorably-received "signature" and shifting to something new is always a great challenge and risk. For Yu Youhan, a contemporary Chinese artist who is no longer young, doing so over and over demands special courage. Will Western audiences and collectors be interested in his new people's art? Will it be Chinese enough to create mass interest at home? No matter what the answers are, Yu Youhan's social responsibility and his trueness to his artistic ideals have never been in doubt.  complete poems of Mao Tse-tung with notes by Nancy T. Lin,  Hongkong,  1980, p . 42. Yu Youhan's u n p u b l i s h e d notes on a r t , w r i t t e n i n J u l y 1997, by the a r t i s t . 3  5  provided  49  Ding Yi T Z.  Born in Shanghai in the year 1962, Ding Yi was once a student of Yu Youhan and later became his colleague.  While Yu keeps on searching for  Chinese consciousness in his painting, Ding adopts a formalist approach which finds universality in individual experience and realizes constant change in the form of apparent non-change.  During the last ten years, Ding has only painted  works based on the sign +. + is a sign used in print marking, for Ding Yi it symbolizes simplicity and objectivity, embodying no cultural and political connotations.  His unwavering devotion to non-objective painting and his  constant advocacy of restoring autonomy to art represent one important tendency in contemporary Shanghai art practice. During the 1980s, Ding Yi's enthusiasm for the Chinese New Wave art movement caused him to become a performance artist on some occasions.  36  However, his quiet, introverted, and rational personality, coupled with his innate fascination for visual elements, have kept him tied to the canvas for most of his career. In 1986, Ding entered the Chinese Traditional Painting Department of the Fine Arts College, Shanghai University. The study of Chinese brush painting very soon allowed him to realize that this traditional expression focuses mainly on cultural references, the imagination, and codified visual vocabularies, but "neglects what for him is the most relevant aspect of artistic creation: the visual sense."  37  In a later interview, Ding also criticized "what he calls the Chinese  On October 12 and 13, 1986, Ding Y i t o g e t h e r w i t h two o f h i s c l a s s m a t e s gave c l o t h - w r a p p i n g performances i n v a r i o u s p u b l i c spaces o f Shanghai, see Chapter One, p . 24. About one month l a t e r , they p a r t i c i p a t e d i n t h e f i r s t Concave and Convex e x h i b i t i o n h e l d i n t h e c i t y , showing s l i d e s o f t h e i r performances. Gao M i n g l u , p p . 179, 382-3. Monica Dematte, " S i m p l i c i t y , c o m p l e x i t y , s y n t h e s i s — D i n g Y i ' s p a i n t i n g p r o c e s s , " i n her E n g l i s h - l a n g u a g e m a n u s c r i p t , p r o v i d e d t o me by Ding Y i , p . 1. A Chinese t r a n s l a t i o n i s found i n Monica Dematte, "Jiandan f u z a 3  6  3 7  50 h a b i t o f f i n d i n g b e a u t y o n l y i n recognizable objects," a r g u i n g that " t h e C h i n e s e f i n d b e a u t y i n n a t u r e o n l y w h e n they c a n associate its likeness t o s o m e t h i n g else, o r w h e n they k n o w it represents something i m p o r t a n t i n history." ** O n 3  the c o n t r a r y , what he wants the viewer to see is "the object itself, n o t the object it  represents." 9 3  Ding's general dissatisfaction w i t h the Chinese w a y o f seeing c a u s e d h i m to l o o k i n t o f o r e i g n v i s u a l forms f o r some s o l u t i o n . A c t u a l l y , h i s e x p e r i m e n t w i t h m o d e r n W e s t e r n p a i n t i n g started i n the e a r l y eighties, a n d h i s great s e n s i t i v i t y t o the i n t e r n a l s t r u c t u r e o f colors a n d f o r m s is c l e a r l y v i s i b l e i n h i s e a r l y canvases, w o r k s i n w h i c h he d e v e l o p e d his o w n i n d i v i d u a l , n o n r e p r e s e n t i o n a l style.  fcEM^Ufxt)  His 1983 landscape Red House Street (Hong fangzi jiedao  (plate 2.23)  d e e p l y influenced b y M a u r i c e U t r i l l o (1885-1955)  already contained anticipations of vertical-horizontal composition a n d a n o r d e r l y surface d e f i n e d b y lines, characteristics w h i c h w o u l d be f u n d a m e n t a l to h i s Cross Series (Shishi xilie ~\~7j\$fc$\\) later.  In a n o t h e r p a i n t i n g m a d e i n  1983, D i n g e l i m i n a t e d i l l u s i o n i s t i c reality f r o m his canvas a n d started t o follow a M o n d r i a n - l i k e p r o g r e s s i o n i n p u r s u i t of " a true v i s i o n of r e a l i t y . " ^ 4  w o r k w h i c h he c a l l e d Heroism  (Yingxiong z h u y i l^^±  In this  j i ) (plate 2.24), we see  a non-objective composition, i n which expanding, interacting color blocks struggle w i t h his h a r d - e d g e d , g e o m e t r i c a l d i v i s i o n o f the surface, c r e a t i n g the  ffl--TZiltlflftlSiS,  zonghe—Ding Y i huihua d i f azhan "  huakan, 171.3 3 8  (March,  1995), p p .  C a t h e r i n e Yao, "Shanghai's  journal,  (February 2-3,  Jiangsu  13-4.  lonely avant-garde,"  The Asian Wall  Street  1996), p . 7.  Ibid. Hans L . C . J a f f e , Piet Mondrian, New York, 1985, p p . 25-6. In P i e t M o n d r i a n ' s (1872-1944) a r t i c l e "Toward the t r u e v i s i o n o f r e a l i t y , " w r i t t e n i n 1942, he c l a i m e d : "The appearance o f n a t u r a l forms changes but r e a l i t y remains c o n s t a n t . " Thus, he determined t o s e a r c h f o r p u r e reality i n p l a s t i c a r t through "the e q u i l i b r i u m of dynamic movement of form and c o l o r . " See P i e t Mondrian, "Toward the t r u e v i s i o n o f r e a l i t y , " 3 9  4 0  i n by the same author, Plastic  New Y o r k ,  1945,  p . 10.  art  and pure plastic  art and ther  essays,  51 "equilibrium of dynamic movement of color and form" as pursued by Piet Mondrian (1872-1944).  41  Very soon Ding's abstract painting revealed a tendency to simplify, quite possibly influenced directly by Yu Youhan's Circle Series.  During the 1980s,  Ding and Yu were very close; they were not only student and teacher, but were also good friends, organizing experimental exhibitions together and frequently exchanging artistic ideas. Yu's influence on Ding is clearly seen in Ding's [Jinji  IrMJO, a work of 1986 (plate  Taboo  2.25). In this piece, Ding's earlier rich color  blocks give way to straightforward brush strokes, forming clear abstract patterns similar to Yu's circle paintings. If the work's title did not suggest that its cross patterns have symbolic meaning, one would be tempted to take it as the beginning of Ding's Cross  Series.  However, his Cross Series did not really come into being until 1 9 8 8 .  42  In  that year, Ding began to cover his canvases with crosses, simple structures which, in his mind, are not to be taken as symbols for Western Christianity but are totally devoid of any cultural or historical content.  He even changed his  name from Ding Rong T I H , written with nine strokes in the simplified Chinese script, into Ding Yi, consisting of only three strokes, to demonstrate his strong preference for visual simplification.  By avoiding ordinary titles and inscribing  each of his cross paintings with only a serial number and the year of its execution, Ding made his works seem like objective reports of laboratory experiments.  Unlike Yu Youhan, who attempted to express philosophical  concepts deriving from traditional Chinese culture in his Circle  Series, Ding was  determined to eliminate any concrete content or overt self-expression from his  Ibid. Monica Dematte, " S i m p l i c i t y , " p . 2 . A c c o r d i n g t o Dematte, t h e f i r s t p a i n t i n g i n Ding Y i ' s Cross Series c o n s i s t e d o f t h r e e s t r i p s o f b a s i c c o l o r s : r e d , b l u e and y e l l o w , w i t h b l a c k c r o s s e s on t h e t o p . 4  1  4  2  52  Cross Series.  For him, form was not a vehicle for the Way, but an object of pure  perceptual experience. In Ding's earliest cross works (plate 2.26) a ruler and other tools were employed to produce straight lines and precise patterns.  Creating these  paintings required a lot of time and labor and demanded that he work in a highly meticulous way. Thus, the action of painting became more a process of making than a one of expressing.  In these works Ding's choice of colors  (mainly primary colors) was obviously based more on "the physical laws of light" than on the color theories advanced in modern Western art h i s t o r y .  43  As  a result, these paintings displayed qualities of scientific precision and industrial coolness (plate 2.27). Although Ding Yi gradually introduced diagonals and a wider range of colors into the grid-locked surfaces of his earliest cross paintings, even these enriched works remained, in his own words, "complete and exact as the formula 1+1=2."  44  In his abstract paintings Ding aimed at evoking a pure  visual experience  which supposedly could be realized without relying on the viewer's knowledge of art or any cultural background. The viewer is encouraged to be lost completely in the richness and dynamism of these mechanical-looking labyrinths, his eyes wandering from line to line, color to color, and from flat details to the shifting depth of the painting as a whole.  By emphasizing this  eye-oriented experience, Ding hoped that his art could be appreciated by the widest range of audiences, both Chinese and Western, intellectuals and common people.  45  Ibid. Bo Xiaobo 3S/hj&, "Jianduan d i j i c h u y a n j i u " ^J^fa£$?#Bftl, u n p u b l i s h e d m a n u s c r i p t , w r i t t e n on December 22, 1992, p . 1. Ding YiT~Z>, "Ding Y i y i s h u zalun" TZjWffiiSfeflfa, u n p u b l i s h e d m a n u s c r i p t , w r i t t e n i n 1995, a v a i l a b l e though the author of t h i s s t u d y , p . 1. In one i n t e r v i e w , Ding Y i s a i d : "I once t r i e d t o make o r d i n a r y p e o p l e u n d e r s t a n d and l i k e my work, f o r example, by c r e a t i n g b e a u t i f u l c o l o r s , which a r e g o o d - l o o k i n g and i n t e r e s t i n g . " ® f 2 , | A ^ S § r i S A ^ # ^ S ^ ^ R W f f D t i , itlttlWMM&MM., £ F § , W @ . Xu Xiaoyu j f r i l i l , "Ren wufa b a i t u o l i s h i — 4  3  4 4  4 5  :  v  f  53 However, this hope was only an artistic ideal, and Ding confronted some fundamental dilemmas in putting his theories into practice.  First, as the critic  John Berger has pointed out: "The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe," so how could both Western and Chinese viewers be expected to appreciate his works in the same ways? 46 Furthermore, how could Ding attract a wide audience of both intellectuals and common people with an art form that seems far too incomprehensible to appeal to the masses? His practical experiences soon demonstrated the problems inherent in his theories, for when he participated in the 1989 China/Avant-garde Exhibition in Beijing by showing two pieces from his cross series, his works received no attention from the public. Significantly, the conservative art education system in China and prevailing aesthetic conventions that make it impossible for most viewers to appreciate any painting not done in a realistic style were not the only factors causing this neglect. This exhibition, which aimed to be an epitome of the Chinese avant-garde of the 1980s, was dominated by works emphasizing ideological liberation and media effect, and compared to the shocking performances or even paintings and installations tinged with strong political connotations, Ding's art-for-art's-sake canvases seemed too tame and strangely unfashionable. Luckily, however, Ding Yi is not a pure conceptualist, for whom, according to Sol Lewitt's famous dictum, "the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work..." while "the execution is a perfunctory a f f a i r . " Nor is he a fashionable avant-gardist. Otherwise, we would not see him still painting his Cross Series. For Ding Yi, painting is not just the realization of Ding Yi''A^J&SSHSiBijfe—TZ., minutes of an i n t e r v i e w conducted on J u l y 16, 1996 by Xu Xiaoyu i n Shanghai, u n p u b l i s h e d , p r o v i d e d by Ding Y i , p .  2. 4  6  4  7  John B e r g e r , Ways of seeing, Harmondsworth, 1972, p . 2 7 . S o l L e w i t t , "Paragraphs on c o n c e p t u a l a r t , " Artforum, s p e c i a l  (summer, 1967), p . 5 7 .  issue,  47  54  one's artistic concepts or ideals.  More importantly, it is an introspective life  style, an intimate but challenging relationship between the painter and his painting materials, along with his own visual vocabulary. Therefore, execution becomes a very conscientious affair, and the artist is more fascinated by the questions or challenges arising from within the painting itself rather than by dilemmas or issues derived from the outside world. In the early 1990s, when paintings of Political Pop and Cynical Realism emerged in contemporary Chinese art circles as overt comment on the social and political situation, Ding Yi persisted in painting crosses in his suburban studio, committing himself to exploring the potentials of painting as a selfsufficient  entity.  Up until 1991 Ding continued painting his cross works with the assistance of rulers and masking tape.  During this period, he gradually emancipated his  colors from strict adherence to the scientific relationships he had espoused earlier, and from time to time he also painted on corrugated paper to achieve different textural effects (plate 2.28). In the first part of 1991, Ding decided to abandon the use of external aids and to rely entirely on his own hands in the creation of his works. He did this partially for the sake of a new challenge, but new insight into the concepts of precision and completeness also contributed to this fundamental change.  Like  an enlightened mendicant, he realized that the qualities of precision and completeness should not be pursued solely through exterior forms, but that they must become interior essences embodied in one's attitudes towards painting and even life. Thus, Ding Yi Cross Series entered a completely new phase. In the new cross paintings (plates 2.29, 2.30), straight lines disappear, and surfaces are no longer evenly and exactly divided by homogenous patterns. The cross still provides the fundamental structure, but each work is created from a  55  fluid combination of innumerable short brush strokes, free, casual, and composed of random colors. The previous rigidity and stability are replaced by liveliness and even an apparent chaos.  The surface is now charged with a  luminous brilliance created by his pointillist brushwork, which, as he desired, "restores the qualities of the natural colors: their banality, sparkle, radiance, and the novelty resulting from their juxtaposition."48 paintings of Ding Yi's Cross Series  \  n  general, these new  no longer resemble controlled and  unemotional laboratory reports, but primary sites for witnessing the repeated and momentary contacts between the painter's brush-end and the surface of the canvas.  While precision and completeness are still upheld as inner principles,  spontaneity now plays a crucial role in execution, giving rise to a higher degree of complexity and  self-sufficiency.  By changing his way of painting, Ding Yi created a new relationship between his canvas (or paper) and his visual vocabulary. His works became more natural, relaxed, and at the same time, more direct and intimate. The process of painting now consumed less time and became more enjoyable. For several months, Ding Yi indulged in this new experiment and very quickly attained a full mastery of the required skills, writing in his notes: "Craftsmanship hinders the natural development of art. The craftsmanship in an art work only implies banality of perception."  49  Ding felt that painting  should always be a new and challenging experience, both physically and mentally, and as soon as he achieved full mastery of his new approach, he abandoned his earlier methods, introducing more complexity into his cross designs (plates 2.31, 2.32).  D i n g Y i , "Ding Y i y i s h u z a l u n , " p . 1. M a n u s c r i p t w r i t t e n i n December,1995, p u b l i s h e d i n Ding Y i , "Chuang zuo z h a j i " fJflMtJB, Shanghai Art Museum ±MmffiMl, 17 (1996), p . 17.  4  8  4  9  56  In light of the above, one can easily understand why Ding Yi constantly innovates with his painting materials.  Most of his earlier cross paintings  employed acrylic on treated canvases, but very soon he found that the relationship between acrylic and treated canvas is too conventional and that reluctance to abandon traditional materials disrupts harmony between painting and new artistic concepts.  As a result, he changed his method by applying  acrylic directly to raw canvases and allowing the paint to soak into the surfaces more naturally (plate 2.33). From time to time, he also created a very different texture by employing water-color pens or pencils to paint cross works on corrugated paper (plates 2.34). In 1993, Ding Yi started to combine charcoal and acrylic on raw linen, but again he noticed that acrylic seems too industrial when combined with these natural-looking materials and quickly discovered that chalk could replace acrylic to good effect.  Chalk worked particularly well  with charcoal on the surface of raw linen or coarse paper, since both created a congenial, powdery texture, making his cross labyrinths seem more natural and spontaneous (plates 2.35, 2.36). In addition to creating new visual effects, this original combination of materials enabled Ding Yi to redefine the concept of painting in a significant way. First, as the Italian scholar Monica Dematte pointed out, the "soft brush strokes" {ranbi l&^l)  of traditional Chinese and Western painting were now  replaced by the "hard touch" (yingbi huahen Wi^MlM.) created by chalk and charcoal.5^  Painting became even more a physical contact between concrete,  but changing materials, for when chalk and charcoal made contact with the texture of the raw linen or coarse paper, the first two interacted, changing from solids into powders, which either joined the surfaces or spread over them in a spontaneous way. At this point in his career, Ding Yi was no longer treating  5  0  Ibid.  Dematte,  " S i m p l i c i t y , " pp. 5 - 6 .  57 painting as a process for creating illusion (even eye-oriented illusion) but transformed it into a site where physicality could display the organic beauty of materials in a way beyond the total control of the artist. Secondly, the new combination of materials brought Ding Yi new technical challenges.  Chalk and charcoal provided him with a very limited  color range, within which his creativity in the use of color was tested to the limit. Moreover, since chalk and charcoal are too dry and powdery to be easily fixed on untreated surfaces, he began utilizing such unconventional materials as hair-mousse and cockroach spray as substitutes for traditional paint fixer. In 1993, Ding Yi's cross paintings were featured in the Post-1989 Modern Chinese Art Exhibition in Hong Kong, a show later travelling in various revised versions to Australia, Germany, England, Holland, Denmark and Canada. In the same year, Western curators also chose his cross paintings (plates 2.37, 2.38) to be shown in two of the most prestigious contemporary art exhibitions in the world, the 45th Venice Biennale and the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane. In neither of these shows did his works became the focus of the popular Western media, since Chinese art with political content was more attractive to most news reporters. Nevertheless, after years of hard and lonely work, Ding Yi had finally established himself as one of the more important representatives of contemporary Chinese art. In 1993, Ding traveled to many European countries, and after examining contemporary art practice in the West reconfirmed his idea that a mature artist should maintain and perfect his individual vocabulary. He also realized that contemporary Chinese art had been promoted first in the West, and lacked an audience inside China, a fact that would further alienate the new Chinese art from its domestic background. After coming back from his trip, Ding started to deal with this problem in his art practice.  58  In 1994, while continuing to work on two-dimensional surfaces, Ding began to experiment with cross paintings on ready-mades. His first object for such experiments was the traditional Chinese folding fan (plate 2.39), a widely used daily object which also functions as an important vehicle of classical Chinese literati culture. 51 As Dematte argued, the presence of painting and calligraphy on both sides of a folding fan and "the very way to unfold it, slowly, from one side to the other," caused the viewer to "perceive it just as a book, to 'read' it and to interpret any component of the codified pictorial language." 2 5  Now, by covering the fan's surface with crosses, Ding Yi tried to transform this special "book" into an object that contains no historical reading and can be enjoyed by its owner simply for its decorative effect or even practical use. Meanwhile, Ding also painted his crosses on a folding screen (plate 2.40), another common medium for traditional Chinese painting, as well as on such everyday objects of Western origin as telephones and wooden hangers (plates 2.41, 2.42), probably using the latter two for the sake of giving his art a sense of universality and greater appeal to the masses. 3 5  In an interview, Ding Yi explained the reasons why he incorporated such traditional Chinese materials as folding fans and folding screens into his  Cross  Series:  P a i n t i n g and c a l l i g r a p h y s t a r t e d t o appear on f o l d i n g fans as e a r l y as t h e b e g i n n i n g o f the Southern Song dynasty i n China and became e x t r e m e l y p o p u l a r d u r i n g the Ming d y n a s t y . L i t e r a t i a r t i s t s f r e q u e n t l y p a i n t e d on f o l d i n g f a n s , making then o b j e c t s of h i g h c u l t u r e . See Committee o f t h e P a l a c e Museum 6 f e S W ^ ^ I § © l f l , Ming Qing shanmian shuhuaji BRWMI&WWLM, B e i j i n g , 1985, unpaginated p r e f a c e . Dematte, " S i m p l i c i t y , " p . 4. A c c o r d i n g t o C a t h e r i n e Yao, "The Bank o f China has i s s u e d a paper bag f e a t u r i n g h i s c r o s s e s t o be g i v e n as a g i f t t o v a l u e d c u s t o m e r s . T h i s i s c o n s i d e r e d a b r e a k - t h r o u g h f o r Shanghai's a r t scene, as i t i s t h e f i r s t time t h a t a powerful e n t i t y has g i v e n r e c o g n i t i o n t o qianwei a r t . " C a t h e r i n e Yao, p . 7. 5  1  5 2 5  3  59  O n e r e a s o n w a s b e c a u s e t h e s e t w o m a t e r i a l s a r e c l o s e r to t h e l i f e o f t h e o r d i n a r y  people.  M o r e o v e r , t h e o r i g i n a l s h a p e o f b o t h m a t e r i a l s is i n c o m p l e t e h a r m o n y w i t h m y v i s u a l forms... M a n y p e o p l e saw m y f o l d i n g fans a n d felt that they were pretty, a n d thus, they c o u l d have a h e u r i s t i c u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f this k i n d o f (abstract)  painting.  5 4  In 1994 when Ding Yi held his first solo exhibition in the Shanghai Art Museum, he displayed his folding screen and folding fan, both entirely covered with cross patterns, together with his cross paintings.  Among his experiments  with ready-mades, Ding seemed to be most satisfied with these two traditional genres, since his manipulation of them deconstructed their original cultural functions while retaining their original visual qualities. It is worth mentioning that during this period Ding was particularly interested in the art of the renowned American graffitist, Keith Haring (19581990).  55  Haring received his training in a mainstream art institute, but he was  most interested in "defacing" public spaces (mainly New York City subway platforms) with his semiotic, and later ideographic, language.  He also painted  on such ready-mades as T-shirts, pottery vases, and fiberglass, attempting to dissolve the boundary between art and everyday life. Although Haring and Ding Yi are very different artists, Haring's concepts and approach were certainly a major influence on Ding's experiments on ready-mades. However, Ding did not explore this approach any further, since such an open artistic concept led him to a fundamental paradox. He hoped that his art could become an enjoyable part of ordinary people's daily life, but the only effective way to realize his ideal was to transform his works into affordable mass  Xu Xiaoyu, p . 2. I n 1993, during his t r i p to Europe, Ding Y i bought John Gruen's Keith Baring-—the authorized biography, published by Prentice H a l l Press i n New York i n 1991. In the same year, I translated the whole book i n t o Chinese at his request. 5 4  5 5  60  commodities.  Otherwise, as long as they continued to be shown in elitist venues  such as galleries and museums, they could never transcend the category of high art.  In other words, in order to emancipate his creations from the isolation of  high art, he would have to confront their commodity character (an intrinsic part of all contemporary art production) more directly than before and perhaps to the point that he might lose total control over i t .  5 6  Ding Yi was certainly aware of this urgent dilemma, discussing it in some detail when interviewed by the critic Xu Xiaoyu  IrT'Sii'S  in July of 1996.  In the transcription of their conversation, we read:  Xu:  H o w w o u l d y o u feel i f a c o m p a n y w o u l d like to m a s s p r o d u c e y o u r a r t w o r k s ?  Ding:  T h i s is a v e r y t r o u b l e s o m e m a t t e r , b e c a u s e I w o u l d h a v e to d e a l w i t h c e r t a i n  c o m m e r c i a l s y s t e m , t o n e g o t i a t e w i t h i t , a n d t o c o n t r o l t h e w h o l e s i t u a t i o n . If I w o u l d n o t have the c o n t r o l over the w h o l e situation, it w o u l d no l o n g e r r e m a i n a process of a n artistic a c t i v i t y b u t w o u l d b e c o m e s o m e t h i n g like, let us say, a d e s i g n e d textile, w h i c h p r o b a b l y h a s n o t h i n g to d o w i t h a r t .  5 7  In the same interview, Ding admitted that he had been bothered by this problem a number of times.  For example, one carpet company was interested in making  rugs based on his cross patterns, and there was a folding screen company that wanted to mass produce his cross screens. "I felt awkward," he confessed, "and I was not sure whether I should co-operate with them or should have nothing to do with this kind of thing. I still have not made up my m i n d . "  58  Ding Y i d i d not t o t a l l y r e j e c t the commercial a s p e c t s of a r t but wanted t o s e l l h i s works w i t h i n the h i g h a r t framework, i n which he c o u l d c o n t r o l t h e i r q u a l i t y and p r i c e s . Xu X i a o y u , p . 2 . Ibid. 5 6  5 7  5 8  61 The solution to this problem was certainly difficult to find.  Ding Yi was  not against the idea of combining high art with industrial designs in order to raise the masses' standard of aesthetic judgment, but the great danger of industrial production was that his work might be reduced to a mere manufactured commodity. Yet, even if he rejected industrial production out of hand, he still could not escape the even more insidious problem of how the elitist "high" art world is able to transform even intentionally subversive art like the creations of a Keith Haring into commercial commodities. As most modern artists have learned to their dismay, it is Utopian to hope to descend from the airy realm of "high" art into the everyday world of popular appreciation without being transformed into a commodity. Probably due to this awareness, Ding Yi finally realized that his experiment on ready-mades was a f a i l u r e .  59  He then concentrated again on the  two-dimensional surface. The works executed since early 1995 reveal his new concerns, which were mainly derived from the paintings themselves. Now Ding started to consider the relationship between his cross paintings and the places they were shown.  In his earlier works, he either covered the surface of the  canvas (or corrugated paper) completely with cross patterns or confined them within predetermined inner frames. Now, Ding left more spaces around the edges and allowed his brush strokes as well as the tone of the painted area to intrude into the fringes (plates 2.43, 2.44), with the result that the cross patterns were organically interwoven with their settings.  In the Aura Aurea Exhibition  held in Reggio nell' Emilia, Italy in July, 1995, Ding introduced new cross paintings of this kind to the public, presenting them in groups without outer  A l e t t e r from Song Haidong t o me, dated October 26, 1994. l e t t e r Song s t a t e d : "Ding Y i admitted t h a t h i s experiment on o b j e c t s was a f a i l u r e " TZ.JftStt*tolttt£Bfc . 5  9  In t h i s (ready-made)  62 frames. These paintings interacted visually with one another and were planned to be in total harmony with the surrounding space of the gallery. The Aura Aurea Exhibition and Ding Yi's solo show in Sicily brought him back to Europe during the summer of 1995, where he stayed for two months, traveling, and seeing the Venice Biennale.  After he returned to Shanghai, he  continued to make painting the central fact of his life.  He forced himself to  paint quickly and continuously, producing about one hundred pieces a year. In other words, Ding Yi's art was not merely produced for exhibitions but became a routine practice, a way to realize his need to be alone with himself and away from the tumult of the outside world. In this introspective but open working process, he was also able to free his artistic creation from the trammels of subjectivity, for when chalk and charcoal united with the canvas or with paper, an uncontrollable material power was generated, conferring the painting with a life of its own. As Ding Yi states in his notes on art:  The power of the autonomous nature of art forces the artist to work within the profound logical relationship between the structure of the visual vocabulary and the derived concept. The result reflects the infinite need of realizing the nature and meaning of art itself.60  Both the quantity and quality of Ding Yi's art brought him increasing recognition. From 1995 to 1997, his cross works were featured in almost thirty group shows, most of which were held overseas and were of great importance in the global presentation of contemporary Chinese art. In 1995, the Shang-art Gallery, the first gallery run by a Westerner in Shanghai since 1949, was opened to promote contemporary Chinese art. Ding Yi was one of the first artists  6 0  Ding Y i , "Chuangzuo z h a j i , " p.  1.  63  represented by the gallery, whose work was very soon featured in a solo exhibition.  From then on, the Shang-art Gallery became Ding's regular venue  for showing and selling his paintings, and the resulting income enabled him to maintain a prosperous, Westernized life style. However, being a successful gallery artist could by no means satisfy Ding Yi.61  In the autumn of 1997, he had his second solo exhibition in the Shanghai  Art Museum, not an avant-garde venue but one that is dedicated to "serious" art. In the postcard he sent to me in December of that year, Ding wrote:  T h e effect o f m y o n e - m a n e x h i b i t i o n was quite g o o d .  M a n y p e o p l e t h o u g h t it was the best  e x h i b i t i o n i n the Shanghai A r t M u s e u m this year, a n d I was also q u i t e satisfied t o have such a large solo exhibition with sixty-five p i e c e s .  6 2  In fact, ever since 1994 Ding Yi's Cross Series has been well received by Chinese official art circles. As mentioned above, as early as 1994, he had his first one-man show in the Shanghai Art Museum, followed by a panel discussion with leading contemporary Shanghai artists about his paintings. Jiangsu Art Monthly  {Jiangsu huakan  ttllfif'J),  63 m  1995,  an authoritative magazine on  contemporary Chinese art, published a Chinese-language version of Monica Dematte's article about Ding, providing a high-profile introduction to his artistic practice. During the following years, his cross works were shown in various group exhibitions inside China, including large-scale ones organized by the government.  64  As Xiao Kaiyu  HHHM, a contemporary poet,  wrote in his  A c c o r d i n g t o h i s l e t t e r , Ding had a l r e a d y begun s e l l i n g h i s works i n 1994 t o f o r e i g n e r s l i v i n g i n China through a d e a l e r i n B e i j i n g . Letter from Ding Y i t o me, dated October 8, 1994. In Ding Y i ' s p o s t c a r d t o me, w r i t t e n on December 21, 1997. T r a n s c r i b e d i n Han Guodong 1f$Wffl., "Ding Y i chouxiang y i s h u z h a n 6 1  6 2  6 3  zuotanhui"TZittl£iSffffKJ^Iifi#,  Shanghai Art Museum, 11 (1994), p p . 2 - 6 .  F o r example, i n March 1996, Ding Y i became one of the f o u r Shanghai a r t i s t s who took p a r t i n the o f f i c i a l l y o r g a n i z e d F i r s t Shanghai 6 4  64  catalogue essay, Ding Yi's works represent "so-called painterliness, full of free spirituality and natural rich forms," which is "the very thing that our art circles have diligently striven after."  65  When Xiao Kaiyu wrote that, however,  he was engaging in sarcasm. On the one hand, he was criticizing Chinese art circles, especially official art institutions, most of the members of which still judge contemporary art work simply according to its visual recognizability, charm, or pleasure, an approach which did not welcome concept-oriented art practices, such as installation and performance a r t .  66  On the other hand, Xiao  meant to warn Ding Yi of the latent danger of being such a well-received painter. As he commented so incisively in the same essay:  Ding Yi's open concepts force him to approach an...original center of art which now has changed into the marginal sphere of non-art occupied by mediocre painting ...The perfection of his art work is actually a powerful hypnosis, the effect of which may keep the artist in his dreamland while the audience is already awake.  67  Biennial. Four o f h i s p a i n t i n g s were shown and one e n t e r e d t h e permanent Shanghai A r t Museum c o l l e c t i o n a f t e r t h e e x h i b i t i o n . Shanghai A r t Museum iz^Hlireti, '96 Shanghai Biennale ' 9 elicitfifeIf ^£S, S h a n g h a i , 1996. X i a o K a i y u i S i l , "Buduan zouxiang fanmian de h u a j i a " ^fRfefilBLWffiMfsL, i n Ding Yi, B e i j i n g , 1998, p . 13. T h i s book i s the c a t a l o g u e o f D i n g ' s 1998 s o l o e x h i b i t i o n h e l d i n B e i j i n g and Shanghai. F o r example, t h e Chinese government p e r m i t t e d a v e r y h i g h - p r o f i l e show of p a i n t i n g s by t h e i n t e r n a t i o n a l l y known B r i t i s h a r t i s t s George and G i l b e r t i n B e i j i n g and Shanghai i n 1993, most l i k e l y because o f t h e r e a l i s m and t e c h n o l o g i c a l q u a l i t i e s o f t h e i r a r t ; b u t t h e C h i n e s e language c a t a l o g u e f o r t h e show d i d not mention a n y t h i n g about t h e o b v i o u s l y gay c o n t e n t o f t h e i r c r e a t i o n s , one o t h e r l i k e l y r e a s o n was t h e e x o r b i t a n t r e n t a l fee charged the a r t i s t s by t h e China N a t i o n a l A r t G a l l e r y , t h e most p r e s t i g i o u s o f f i c i a l venue i n t h e c o u n t r y . See 6 5  6 6  Jierbote  yu Qiaozhi  EL^F-iftWSzWr  yijiu  jiusan nian fanghua zhanlan  eflfffi^F^l^^—3l,~h>  B e i j i n g and Shanghai, 1993, p p . 6-24. Lynn M a c r i t c h i e , "Report from B e i j i n g : P r e c a r i o u s Paths on t h e m a i n l a n d , " Art in America, (March, 1994), p . 51. X i a o K a i y u , p . 13.  6 7  65  In other words, Xiao raised a very classic but urgent issue which Ding Yi had to deal with, that is, how an artist should protect the avant-garde qualities of his works while experiencing commercial success and wide recognition. Ding Yi was certainly aware of this danger, and he kept on transforming his Cross Series in order to avoid it. In January of 1997 he began painting his crosses directly on the surface of cloths with tartan designs (plates 2.45, 2.46). Previously his cross paintings were ignored and even scorned by some contemporaries because they were said to resemble textiles too closely, a similarity that ironically made his art attractive to many people outside specialized art circles.  68  His utilization of textiles with tartan designs (which I  will merely call tartan from here on for the sake of simplicity) was quite likely aimed with a touch of irony at such criticism. By using a homogeneous but highly restrictive background for his cross paintings, Ding created some new technical challenges for himself.  Now, before he can even move his brush, he  must first observe the different colors and cross designs of each tartan's surface, much as a landscapist needs to scrutinize the landscape he is going to present on his canvas. 9 Only after this process of careful observation can Ding 6  decide what colors and cross structures will correspond to and at the same time dissolve the "landscape" that confronts him on the tartan. The resulting tartan paintings are still characterized by visual richness and harmony, but compared to his previous chalk and charcoal works composed on raw linen or paper, they seem calmer, flatter, and more disciplined. The richly varied variety of his cross patterns is now realized and displayed as a subtle compromise between his creativity and what he is given, an apt metaphor for the artist confronted with external reality.  6  8  6  9  Han Guodong, p . 3. L e t t e r t o me from Ding Y i dated March 5,  1997.  66 Painting the cross is still Ding Yi's way of life, but his tartan painting reveals certain ambiguities that cannot be ignored. By applying thin acrylic on tartan, Ding Yi creates a very fine, smooth, and orderly surface, which, to a large extent, conforms to the industrial nature of his painting materials. At the same time, the subtle undulation created by curved lines in the background, and the brilliant, yet "soft" brush strokes seem to contradict the aura of industrial coolness, dissolving it with tender feelings and abundant personal touches. Beginning in July 1997, Ding has featured paintings of this kind in shows held in various museums and galleries. They are commonly presented in groups and are frequently monumental in size.  By transforming manufactured ready-  mades into works of high art and showing them in recognized artistic venues, Ding Yi seems to be gambling with the fate of his Cross Series: Will his paintings be regarded as works of high art or will they be consumed in the way that tartan textiles are? Or will both things happen? Only time can provide the answer.  67  Chapter Three  Off the Wall:  Multimedia Artists  As mentioned in the first chapter, Shanghai artists experimented with performance and installation art as early as 1986.  Yet in the second part of the  eighties, the early practice of these two new media in Shanghai, (as in other parts of China), mainly functioned as a way to demonstrate the artist's liberation from the domestic tradition and authority. This is proved by the violent, Dadaist, and also crude qualities shared by most of the performances and installations of the period and by the fact that Chinese artists in the 1980s favored performance, a more direct and expressive medium for ideological comment, to installation.  The situation was similar in Shanghai.  Performances  were created occasionally by artists who then returned to painting or literature, and the few installations that they experimented with had strong references to social morality or liberation from orthodoxy. By the nineties some Shanghai artists, presented with a world of abundant material options and advanced technology,  found that painting and  sculpture no longer satisfied their expressive needs. Although they had all received a thorough training in those two traditional forms in art school, their enthusiasm for modernity demanded that they go beyond these two "depleted" traditions of art making and establish themselves as professional muti-media artists working in an open and synthetic way. The two artists whom I will present in this chapter, Shi Yong and Zhou Tiehai, epitomize this category.  The works they create frequently utilize various  modern technologies, including photography, video, film, and computer.  While  strongly emphasizing conceptual communication with the audience, their works also stress the refinement, intensity, and sophistication of their personal vocabularies.  By working with different media and technologies, both of them  68 are in close harmony with a metropolitan environment under continuous change, and their art reflects the most urgent issues arising from an era of global communication and consumer-oriented materialism.  69  Shi Y o n g M H  Born in 1963, Shi Yong belongs to that generation trained by Chinese art institutions during the early 1980s but who led the greatest departure from the Chinese academic tradition in this century. By the time he graduated from the Designing Department of the Shanghai light Industrial College in 1984, Shi had gained full mastery of Western-style realistic painting techniques.  In the  second half of the 1980s when the Chinese avant-garde movement began to thrive, and many artists specialized in ideologically oriented installations and shocking performances, Shi remained a bystander  or, perhaps more precisely,  an observer. This was not just because of his introspective personality, but also because of his strong allegiance to painting during the period. Renting a shabby studio in a farmer's house on the outskirts of Shanghai, Shi kept on practicing and experimenting with his school-learned painting techniques in an attempt to develop an individual style opposed to the academic tradition. Through the limited sources available in exhibition catalogues and magazines, he was exposed to various trends of modern Western painting, Giorgio De Chirico's (1888-1978) mysterious presentations of mundane scenes and romantic fantasies particularly intriguing him. In one of his few surviving paintings, Sleeper (Keshuizhe  SmSl^l), a  piece that was produced in September, 1990 and that won him the first prize in the Third Shanghai Youth Art Exhibition (Disanjie Shanghai qingnian meishu zuopin dazhan  S H j a ± ^ # ^ H ^ f P p p AS)  held in the Shanghai Art  Musuem one month later, Shi created his first mature, personal work of art, in spite of his debt to the Italian master (plate 3.1).  At first glance, the scene  seems to be a mere vignette of ordinary life: a man (actually the artist himself) is sleeping in a clear autumn afternoon. A lady walks by outside his window,  70  casting a sidelong glance at the interior and the picture's viewer.  However, the  unnaturally clear imagery, the wraith-like figure of the lady along with the Surrealistic landscape in the backgroud remove Shi's scene from ordinary reality, making it seem more like a deep vision of the sleeper's afternoon dream. From another perspective, Shi's ambiguous shifting between the real and the fantastic seem somewhat static, for the strange lady and the metaphysical outdoors are nothing but components of a painting inside a painting. The reason why I discuss Sleeper in detail here is not just because it is a painting in Shi Yong's individual style, but also because it reveals his great potential for forms of art lying beyond painting. While concerned with the visual effects of his painting and the symbolic meaning of its imagery, Shi also created an open conceptual relationship between his work and the viewer who, after being enticed into his vision, becomes either a voyeur or someone peered at by a voyeur, or possibly both, according to one's way of seeing. After the June 4th, 1989, which caused a group of artists to flee abroad to escape the government's ideological censorship, the avant-garde art movement in China went into hibernation. In Shanghai, public venues excluded all contemporary art exhibitions; most of the artists began spending the bulk of their time in their studios, more committed to individual research on their artistic vocabularies. During the next four years, studios became the only place where one could produce or see contemporary Shanghai art. At the beginning of the 1990s, the rural village where Shi Yong's studio was located became the center of a dynamic intellectual circle, since the cheap rent and the rural landscape attracted a group of artists, amateur writers, and rock performers to move there.  In this quiet village, Shi was not only able to  continue the contemplation of his subconscious and the symbolic meaning of his dreams, but he could also frequently exchange new ideas and information  71 with a small group of intellectuals.  This wide-ranging and stimulating  discussion of art, literature, music, science, and philosophy inevitably broadened his vision and opened his art to new possibilities.  His The Last Classical Worship (Zuihou yici gudianshi de libai "T^^^ET^II^) (plate 3 . 2 ) , painted in 1991, can be viewed as his departure point from painting.  In this self-portrait, Chirico's strong influence remains  alongside Shi Yong's individualistic touch.  In the foreground, one encounters  the image of a hyper-sensitive and anxiety-ridden artist who intends to refuse reality by withdrawing into Chirico's melancholy settings of spirituality and otherworldliness.  However, the nails hammered into the sides of the frame  evoke a new message, "pinning down," as it were, the sense of self-introspection and criticism, directed to the withdrawn, fragile psychology of the artist and to his habit of taking painting as a way to escape reality. In a purely formal sense, the application of these nails demonstrates the artist's departure from mere twodimensional imagery, and as a matter of fact, this self-portrait turned out to be his last piece on canvas. Shi Yong's new consciousness of his relationship to external reality may be interpreted at least partially as a direct response to the rapid changes in the social environment during the early 1990s. Living in seclusion on the edge of the city, he could easily discern that the innocent rural landscape was shrinking day by day, and that his sentimental soliloquy in painting was pale and lifeless in the face of the approaching shadows of skyscrapers.  Thus, how to  step out of his secluded ivory tower and transform the inescapable threats of industrial society into useful sources for his new art became Shi Yong's most urgent concern. In late 1991, Shi started to produce paper works from mixed materials. To carboard surfaces he attached various objects, ranging from pulled-out cassette  72  tapes and rusting nails or keys to old calendars, stamped envelopes, or magazine pages, some of which he found by chance on the roadside when wandering through the fields (plate 3.3).  If one looks at these works carefully, Shi Yong's  soliloquy is still visible in inscriptions that record telephone numbers, addresses, arrow signs, or sometimes spontaneous sentences such as: "I saw a flying saucer" (Kanjian yizhi feidie  — J R f $ 5 ) i|  (plate 3.4, 3.5).  These  intuitive personal touches, along with the subtle print marks of objects and the delicate pulled-out cassette tapes, are covered tenderly by a thin layer of transparent plastic  membrane in the way that a vegetable field is overlain by  plastic sheeting in the winter to guard it from frost (plate 3.6).  This covering  imbues the surfaces of discarded industrial materials with a feeling of intimacy and protection for fragile human sensitivities. Shi's paper works have never been shown in any public venue.  As his  first step beyond the realm of painting, they represented two important transformations. On one hand, all the visual components were carefully arranged by the artist in a way that changed the ugliness of modern waste into beauiful forms. On the other hand , in these works Shi abandoned paintings centered on himself and started to deal directly with everyday materials that embody the rich messages of contemporary urban living. Thus, he was able to transform his humanistic concern, characterized by inwardness and withdrawal in his previous paintings, into an active and conscious observation of external reality. In June of 1992, Shi Yong introduced photosensitive paper into his paper works, possibly because of the fact that this material slowly changes color during its exposure to light, thus enabling his art to correspond more directly to the real world. After experimenting for more than a year with mixed materials on cardboard, Shi Yong produced his first two installations using this new  73 material in the autumn of 1993 for the October Experimental Art Exhibition—the Space of the Post-vanguard (Shiyue yishu shiyanzhan-Houxianfeng de kongjian  + ^^f^*^M--^:^fe^Kl^^)  hosted by the Shanghai Huashan Art  Vocational School (Shanghai huashan meishu zhiye xuexiao _ t ? ® ^ L L | ^ t W ^ ^ H^).  1  Instigated by Shi Yong, Qian Weikang Wt^M (b. 1963), and several  other young art instructors in the school, this exhibition gained generous support from the academy's administrators, and artists were allowed to use the exhibition space for free.  As the first installation show held in an art school in  the 1990s, it demonstrated the relatively loose ideological atmosphere in Shanghai at the time when Deng Xiaoping's southern tour of early 1992 and his "endorsement of more economic reform and commercialization had a liberating effect on art."  2  The school's exhibition hall was divided into several small spaces, in each of which a single installation was featured, and the seven participating artists conceived their art according to this limited, pre-defined arrangement.  In Shi  In Gao M i n g l u ' s s h o r t essay "What i s t h e Chinese a v a n t - g a r d e , " he i n d i c a t e d : "When we use t h e term ' a v a n t - g a r d e ' t o l a b e l t h e new a r t t h a t appeared i n China b e g i n n i n g i n the l a t e 1970s, we do not focus o n l y upon r a d i c a l n o v e l t y i n a r t i s t i c concept and f o r m . . . I n s t e a d , we r e v i v e t h e o r i g i n a l meaning of t h e a v a n t - g a r d e , " t h a t i s , i t s " s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l meaning" which "has g r a d u a l l y been m i s l a i d " i n t h e Western a r t w o r l d during t h i s century. R e g a r d l e s s of whether Gao's view on t h e Western a v a n t - g a r d e a r t movement i s c o r r e c t o r n o t , i t i s c l e a r t h a t i n t h e C h i n e s e a r t w o r l d t h e term "avant-garde" r e f e r s t o t h e a n t i e s t a b l i s h m e n t r e s p o n s i b i l i t y of the a r t i s t i n f a c i n g s o c i e t y as a whole. See Gao M i n g l u , "What i s t h e Chinese avant-garde?" i n J u l i a F . Andrews and Gao M i n g l u , Fragmented memory—the Chinese avant-garde in exile WffitS—*Blra*SrSa&*E3AK, Columbus, Ohio, 1993, p p . 4 - 5 . The term "post-vanguard" used i n the t i t l e of t h i s i n s t a l l a t i o n e x h i b i t i o n suggested a d i f f e r e n t a t t i t u d e o f these Shanghai a r t i s t s towards a r t making. More p r e c i s e l y , they no longer i n t e n d e d t o p l a y t h e p r o g r e s s i v e s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l r o l e o f the vanguard. T h e i r works f e a t u r e d i n t h i s e x h i b i t i o n demonstrated the same i d e a , s i n c e they m a i n l y f o c u s e d on t h e i n n e r o r d e r o f t h e i n s t a l l a t i o n v o c a b u l a r y and on t h e s h a r p e n i n g o f i n d i v i d u a l forms and c o n c e p t s , t h u s , r e v e a l i n g an attempt t o d e t a c h a r t from s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l c o n f r o n t a t i o n s . T h i s term a l s o seems t o r e f l e c t the Post-modernist influence. R a l p h C r o i z i e r , "The avant-garde and t h e democracy movement: R e f l e c t i o n s on l a t e communism i n the USSR and C h i n a , " ( u n p u b l i s h e d c o n f e r e n c e p a p e r ) , Vancouver, 1991, p . 22. 1  2  74  Yong's two pieces, video technology and photosensitive paper were utilized both to expand his allotted space through the "reality" of media while at the same time maintaining direct contact between his art and the immediate external reality. In his Deviation 15 Degrees (Pianyi shiwu du ^^15  HE!) (plate 3.7), he  set up a transparent fiberglass column with photosensitive paper arranged in a straight line in the center of the space (480 x 373 x 277 cm) meant for this piece. One section of this column departed from the main body, and the photosensitive paper inside it gradually diverged from the central straight line, forming a fifteen-degree angle with it. On top of this section and set at an angle, a monitor showed a video image of part of the main column, thus "replacing" the real object. Around the corner, three cones of photosensitive paper were fixed in a position to form a fifteen-degree angle with the straight line in the center of the space.  Here what one experienced was not just the formal rhetoric and the  tension between materials and their propositional spaces as found in the other participating artists' works, such as Qian Weikang's Dividing Into Two Parts Is Still Not Enough  (Yifenweier rengran bugou " ^ ^ M — i ^ ^ ^ f n J ) (plate 3.8)  and Jin Lili's llkffiffl Game (Youxi  JSJUC ) (plate  3.9). One was also enticed into  the conceptual interplay set up by Shi Yong between different visual realities, between the fugitive present (signified by the photosensitive paper) and the seemingly eternal past( seen in the recorded image). Shi Yong's other piece, Leaning Towards A Supporting Point of Force (Xiang yigelidian  qingxie  fa—Btl^i^)  (plate 3.10), was inspired by a  similar approach and insight: he seemed to create a physical balance between a pile of sliced photosensitive paper and its still image on the monitor screen along with the video recording of another detail of the installation. The synchronization of existence in different spaces and times set up a solid  75 conceptual foundation on which the audience could form its own interpretation of the piece. In Shi Yong's first two installations, the subjective expression of the artist seemed to be reduced to the minimum as a result of their scientific execution, industrial refinement, and rational concepts. This reductive inclination became even more obvious in his next works, produced for the show Two  Attitudes of Forms 93 --An Experimental Installation Show of Shi Yong and  Qian Weikang (Xingxiang de liangci taidu jiusan—Shi Yong, Qjang Weikang zhuangzhi yishu shiyanzhan  B&fftWXte&il^.-  MM,  ^^M^.UWr^'M.  In this exhibition which was held in the Huashan Art Vocational School in December of 1993, Shi Yong's three installations took on a Minimalist appearance.  However, using photosensitive paper, fiberglass, and pre-set light  sources as his vocabulary, Shi engaged his works in constant change due to chemical reaction and color transformation, and in this sense, his installations did not embody the "timelessness and structural stability of Miminalist art," but were more akin to Process Art and very likely influenced by Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) and Robert Morris (b. 1931).  3  A r n a s o n , p p . 566-7, 571-2. In the e a r l y n i n e t i e s , books on new Western a r t t r e n d s were a v a i l a b l e t o Shanghai a r t i s t s i n C h i n e s e translations. B e s i d e s t h e t r a n s l a t i o n of A r n a s o n ' s History of modern 3  art (second e d . ) , Zou Denong SPfUfJI e t a l t r . , Huihua diaosu jianzhu • Xifang xiandai yishu shi J&SSIffia^ • M^SitSiWife., T i a n j i n , 1986  ( f i r s t e d . ) , t h e r e was a s e r i e s of Chinese t r a n s l a t i o n s o f more u p - t o d a t e Western a r t p r a c t i c e s and t h e o r i e s , p u b l i s h e d i n Shanghai i n 1992. They a r e R o b e r t Hughes, L i u P i n g j u n S I ^ S e t a l t r . , Xin yishu di zhenhan $Jfi5iif&lftlI8§ (The shock of the new ) , Shanghai, 1989; A d r i a n  H e n r i , Mao Junyan^S^fe t r . , Zongti yishu fflfisLWW (Total art Shanghai,  tr.,  artists  ),  1990; and E l l e n Johnson, Yao Hongxiang t&L'&M and Hong F e i ffiffl  Dangdai meiguo yishujia on art  lun yishu IfrtHHiffifijSifri£?i!fr (American  from 1940 to 1980 ) , Shanghai,  1992.  A t t h e same t i m e ,  two important Taiwan a r t magazines, Xiongshi meishu £S30fH^ and Yishujia Wfflcfc, b o t h of which c a r r y r i c h i n f o r m a t i o n on contemporary art p r a c t i c e i n small supply of WfflWfti l o c a t e d much i n t e r e s t e d  t h e West, were f o r s a l e , though expensive and w i t h a r e c e n t i s s u e s , i n the Shanghai F i n e A r t s B o o k s t o r e Jz$i on Fuzhou Road. I n t h e e a r l y 1990's, S h i Yong was v e r y i n the a r t o f Joseph Beuys and some o t h e r c o n c e p t u a l  76  In Lifting Objects Five Degrees and Bringing About the Volumes of Shadows (Wuti taiqi wudu daichu yingzi rongji  ^Jlltp^S  SJ^^HJ^-^FW^)  (plate 3.11), Shi Yong lifted one side of his fiberglass five degrees off the floor, and then filled the volume of the shadow cast by the fixed spotlight with layers of sliced photosensitive paper. In the other two pieces, Cutting, Setting Up and Then Filling In (Qjege, liqi, ranhou tianchong P]$},±L$EHL  (plate  3.12) and Partial Volumes of Shadows Interacting (Yingzi rongji jubu jiaohe i £ -f^-^.Ma^^.'a  ) (plate 3.13), the same grammar was applied to connect and  activate his vocabulary: the volumes of shadows cast by light sources on objects (the fiberglass) tallied with those of the sliced, filled-in photosensitive paper. Now the shadow replaced the video image of the object in assuming the same importance as the object itself. Measured in the form of volume and solidified with a kind of material that constantly changed quality and weight, the shadow became both an accurately described element and an element which described things precisely, by indicating the immediate relationship between materials and the sites in which they were located. Seen in this light, it is not difficult for one to determine "the other way" (ling yishong fangshi 5^ ) sought by the artist. It is a way that "diverges from humanistic references" (tuoli le renwenxing canzhao M J s § T a n d  through which the  material and the encountered space are "directly described, but not defined" (bei zhijie de miaoshu er bushi bei dingyi  MllL^%ffi^M^:ik^^iii).  4  a r t i s t s such as Robert M o r r i s and R i c h a r d S e r r a . B e s i d e s a l l t h e t r a n s l a t e d books and p u b l i c a t i o n s j u s t mentioned, he a l s o had Biyisi zhuan $£fi5<!S?rffl^, a book on Joseph Beuys which was t r a n s l a t e d and published i n Taipei. Heiner Stachelhaus, Wu M a l i tr., Biyisi  zhuan $.{Jx.%!iW (Joseph Beuys ), T a i p e i , 1991.  S^JSf'IcpJ  The i n f o r m a t i o n i n t h e s e  a v a i l a b l e Chinese t r a n s l a t i o n s must have had a g r e a t impact on S h i ' s a r t i s t i c development. F o r Process A r t , see Arnason, p . 571-5.  Yuyan MBS ed., " Y i s h u j i a t a n y i s h u " Mffii0.Wi.Wffl, Jiangsu huakan, 161.5 (May, 1994), p. 6.  4  77  The installations of the other artist featured in this exhibition, OJan Weikang, manifested the similar objective tendency. Amount  15 grams  (Jiaocha:  3.14) and Wind Direction:  Baise shuliang White Amount  JHfn]: S'felfcit 205 j£ )  205 ke  15 ke  In Qjan's Crossing:  White  ^ X : F i ' f e j & l i 153nL) (plate  205 grams  (Fengxiang:  Baise  shuliang  (plate 3.15), one saw gypsum powder  meticulously weighed out in the quantities indicated in the titles onto the surfaces of iron sheets. Qjan's demand for precise physical accuracy seemed rather unrealistic for works executed and shown in an open public space, but his stubborn emphasis on it demonstrated his similar preference for nonsubjectivity. This similarity can certainly be attributed to cross-fertilization between the two artists, who had been good friends since middle school, but more important is the way it underlined their shared insight into attitudes regarding art making as an autonomous activity. By applying physical accuracy to art making, the two artists implied a desire to refine the vocabulary of installation art to an extreme.  Especially, in an era dominated by the ideological interests of  the Western audience of Chinese art and the operation of an international art market that privileged works of Political Pop and Cynical Realism, Shi's and Qian's objective approach showed an attitude of opposition to prevailing art trends. As Shi Yong himself explained:  With regard to the artistic tendency, the promise to refuse symbolism and metaphors in art is neccessary, since they have been indulged in excessively. To a certain extent, art is an ideology, but the ideology should derive from the work itself.  5  5  Ibid.  78 It is worth pointing out that the "ideology" Shi Yong is talking about here does not neccessarily refer to a political criticism of the regime's policies and the overall status quo. Rather the "ideology" is open to any meanings brought forth by the audience's own reading of a work, or as the catalogue of the two-men exhibition states: "With the presence of an audience, the works will become more substantial and more complete."  6  Shi Yong's (and Qjan Weikang's) production of images "that find their only support in a linguistic order as legitimate as it is necessary," and their effort to "neutralize" the meaning of art works to "bring them to the level of the common man" can be descibed in terms of the "trans-avant-garde" quality of contemporary art, which is discussed by the Italian critic, Achille Bonito Oliva, in his essay "Art Dies Lightly—Keeping Death Alive."  7  This trans-avant-garde  quality clearly differentiated Shi Yong and Qjan Weikang's installations from those produced in the 1980s by earlier Chinese avantgarde artists, who charged their work with "emotional intensity," and asserted haughtiness" of art in its contact with society.  the "superiority and  8  Although Shi Yong meant to exclude symbolism and metaphors from his work, to some critics, his installations were still abundant in symbolic and metaphorical meanings. Yong's Deviation  For example, in the transparent central column of Shi  15 Degrees , the critic Zhang Qjng iMBlf perceived "the  contradictory psychology (of the artist) caught between overloaded ambition  6  S h i Yong and Qian Weikang  " J i d i a n shuoming"  in  Xingxiang de liangci taidu jiusan —Shi Yong, Qian Weikang zhuangzhiyishu shiyan zhan W^M 4&MffiJtttJK,  EM&MW#ffig93--lilS  Shanghai, 1 9 9 3 , unpaginated. A c h i l l e B o n i t o O l i v a , "Art d i e s l i g h t l y — k e e p i n g death a l i v e , " Flash art, 25.162 (January/February, 1992), p. 99. I b i d . Here I a p p r o p r i a t e O l i v a ' s words, " s u p e r i o r i t y and h a u g h t i n e s s , " t o i n d i c a t e the e x c l u s i v i t y and e l i t i s m of Chinese a v a n t - g a r d e a r t movements i n the 1 9 8 0 ' s , when the p r a c t i c e of new a r t was m a i n l y used by a r t i s t s as an i d e o l o g i c a l weapon t o f i g h t the r u l i n g i d e o l o g y and t o c h a l l e n g e the p o p u l a r t a s t e of s o c i e t y . 7  8  79  a n d h i s fragile a n d c h a n g i n g r e a l i t y . "  Zhang f u r t h e r a r g u e d that his  9  c o n t r a d i c t o r y p s y c h o l o g y was expressed i n the w a y that S h i Y o n g d e s t r o y e d t h e p h o t o s e n s i t i v e p a p e r b y s l i c i n g i t i n t o n u m e r o u s s m a l l pieces u n d e r t h e light, a n d t h e n t r i e d to f i n d t h e m shelters b y m e t i c u l o u s l y p l a c i n g t h e m i n s i d e shadows d u r i n g t h e fifteen days o f the piece's on-the-spot e x e c u t i o n . v i e w o f a n o t h e r art critic, Shao Qi W>^,  Shi Yong's a n d OJan W e i k a n g ' s  i n s t a l l a t i o n s were seen as "a t y p i c a l example o f u r b a n a l l e r g y " guominzheng  de dianxing  yili  "ffl rfcililj&JllE"  a n d b e w i l d e r i n g life i n a b i g c i t y .  1 1  In the  1 0  #7$-M—$])  (chengshi  t o the l o n e l y , e m p t y ,  A s Shao a r t i c u l a t e d i n his article: "The  subtle presence o f the sensitivity e m b o d i e d i n light a n d shadow," s o m e t h i n g " i g n o r e d b y n i n t y - n i n e percent o f the audience," a n d "the fragility that l e d to the collapse o f the balance system (of Qian's work) s h o r t l y after t h e o p e n i n g " c o u l d be v i e w e d as " a b l o w - u p " o f city people's " i n n e r sensitivity a n d t h e i r a l l e r g i c reactions t o e x t e r n a l r e a l i t y . "  1 2  Shao's j u d g e m e n t m a y seem a bit subjective, but his statements b e t r a y e d the fact that most Chinese audiences l a c k e d t h e experience a n d s e n s i t i v i t y t o a p p r e c i a t e installations o f S h i Yong's k i n d , a n d that some v i e w e r s ' t o t a l i g n o r a n c e o f i n s t a l l a t i o n art even caused damage to some o f the w o r k s .  1 3  In  Zhang QingStffif, " S h i l i a n g c i x i n g x i a n g h a i s h i l i a n g c i t a i d u — c o n g Shanghai <shiyue y i s h u s h i y a n zhan—hou x i a n f e n g d i kongjian>dao < x i n g x i a n g d i l i a n g c i t a i d u j i u s a n zhuangzhi y i s h u s h i y a n zhan>" ^kM^lfr 9  «sw^»«-«ji?s<+^wi»ir»s--»ft*w^Ri>su <MMtt}M%.wm ffiM&t&>,  Hualang SM,  93  mum  45 ( J u l y , 1994), p . 2 7 .  Ibid. Shao QiS|3^j, " S i r e n d i m i n ' g a n — j i u s a n Shanghai x i a n d a i huihua de x i a n x i a n g z h i y i " &AW$RJ8--93±.MmH%&MtftM$L2-~, Shanghai wenhua -tS ~Xi\L, 4.3 (1994), p . 32. Ibid. Shao Q i ' s mention o f "the c o l l a p s e o f the b a l a n c e system" r e f e r s t o what happened on t h e opening day o f S h i Yong and Qian Weikang's two-man i n s t a l l a t i o n show. As I remember, a l a r g e number o f p e o p l e a t t e n d e d t h e opening. These i n c l u d e d s t u d e n t s , t e a c h e r s from t h e Huashan A r t V o c a t i o n a l S c h o o l , a r t i s t s and i n t e l l e c t u a l s , as w e l l as a r t i s t s ' r e l a t i v e s and common f r i e n d s , most o f whom had never been t o an i n s t a l l a t i o n show b e f o r e . S h o r t l y a f t e r the opening, Qian Weikang's two i n s t a l l a t i o n s were d e s t r o y e d due t o c e r t a i n v i e w e r s ' i g n o r a n c e . One p i e c e c o l l a p s e d as a r e s u l t o f b e i n g touched by someone who d i d n o t 1 0  1  1  1  2  1 3  80  other words, installations of Shi Yong's sort were generally inaccessible to the Chinese audience, thus, failing to achieve the substantiality and completeness desired by the artist. This fact caused Shi to reconsider the relationship between his installations and their spatial and temporal contexts in the hope of better communicating with his viewer. In the following installation show, A Phase of Art '94 (Jiusi yishu di duanluo: Zhuangzhi yishuzhan Tl^RWlMtfl&Mr  : ^ffUfllM)  held in the  Huashan Art Vocational School in May 1994, Shi's work 480 x 240 x 92 cm, Relation  to a Pillar  (480 x 240 x 92 cm yu zhuzi youguan  l^tti^Will) (plate 3.16)  revealed a new method of appropriating space. Although the artist used the same materials (fiberglass and photosensitive paper), and still dealt with the interplay between solid and void, along with light and the shadow, this piece differs from his previous installations in that it was no longer confined by a clearly defined space which only contained one piece and had nothing to do with the other exhibited works. Instead, this installation was developed on the basis of appropriating a pillar in the exhibition hall, a dividing element but also a link with the surrounding architecture's space and the viewer's vision. The result is that this work was clearly integrated into its entire surroundings. Meanwhile, its ambiguous position, as both a barrier and as an extension of the architectural and the visual, stimulated a more engaging relationship with the viewer, both conceptually and physically. As the art critic Zhu Qi  observed, most of the works (and even the  titles of the works) shown by the five instructors and two students from the Huashan Art Vocational School who participated in this exhibition resembled Shi Yong's and Qian Weikang's earlier pieces in their similarity to physics r e a l i z e i t was a work of a r t , and the o t h e r was stepped on by a c h i l d ! F i n a l l y , the two a r t i s t s had t o ask t h e i r s t u d e n t s t o guard the s u r v i v i n g works d u r i n g the e x h i b i t i o n , t o a v o i d more "happenings"of t h i s kind.  81 experiments.  14  Yin Jun's ISI^  Situation (Zhuangtai i$M)  Huiping's Change of the Area (Mianji di bianhua Chen's  100cm, Distance  (lOOcmJuli  obvious examples of this tendency.  (plate 3.17), Tao  fllfJtf^JSi'ftl),  and Liang  j © $ t ) (plate 3.18) are just the most  However, at the same time that Shi Yong's  art practice was creating a strong impact on others and leading to the emergence of a "Huashan Installation School," his fresh approach to space implied a new departure point for his growing concern over the "validity of the installation for the artist or for the viewer," a question simultaneously broached by Zhu Qi from the perspective of art criticism.  15  After this transitional piece, Shi Yong introduced a great change into his artistic practice, making communication with audiences and contact with external reality the premise and kernel of his work. On November 26th, 1994, he created a piece called City Space: Moving-leaping  12 Hours  (Chengshi  kongjian:  Yidong tiaoyue shier xiaoshi ^TfT^IUJ ,#Sj«±BM+—/JNB# ) (plate 3.19) for an art event entitled "Agreed on November 26th As A Reason" (Tong yi shiyiyue ershiliu ri zuowei liyou 1 ^ 1 ^ 1 1 ^ 2 6 S f F ^ S l E E l ) . Hangzhou artists Geng Jianyi and Wang Qjang  iEi/M  This event, initiated by the was realized by ten  participating artists who made art works on the same day in three different cities, Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing. Afterwards, they reproduced their works on postcards to document their activities and to circulate as a special exhibition. On the chosen day, Shi Yong walked within the Shanghai urban area for twelve hours, following a spontaneous itinerary based on his telephone communications with friends. After leaving his studio at 8:00 A. M., he called a friend in the first public telephone booth which he found on the way chosen by Zhu Q i ^ ^ t , "Zhuangzhi d i y o u x i a o x i n g — ' j i u s i yishu duanluo' zhuangzhizhan j i " ^SftjW&ri--'JhWWflsgkfe'gSSSB, Jiangsu huakan, 168.12 (December, 1994), p. 13. Ibid.  1 4  1 5  82  his cameraman. After the artist explained his activity to the first person he called, the latter decided a route on which the artist would find the second public telephone booth to call the next friend in accordance with certain pre-set rules. This activity continued until 8:00 P. M., and it was finally presented in the form of Shi Yong's written instructions, the photographic record of the event, and a map of the itinerary. In this documented performance, the artist obviously made communication "both the content and the form" through which his work gradually arrived at its c o n c l u s i o n .  16  The written instructions still relate this  piece to Shi's previous matter-of-fact experiments, in which the random or necessary, rather than the artist's subjectivity, played a major role in shaping the final results.  Yet, the fact that Shi Yong moved his art directly into an open  space and the way that he used telephone communication, a major component of urban living, to adjust the direction of his maneuvers through the city transformed this piece into "a remakable example" of contemporary people's neccessary renegotiation of a constantly shifting urban e n v i r o n m e n t .  17  If "penetrating space rather than conquering time," as Oliva argued, is the major concern and characteristic of contemporary art, then Shi Yong's action of traversing the city space fits perfectly into the critic's definition of "contemporariety."  18  Seen in this light, his Amplification  Site: a Cross Echo in a  Private Living Space (Kuoyin xianchang: Yige siren shenghuo kongjian jiaocha huisheng  fc^M&:-~M%\±t£±1ifflt!ti£.XM St:) 1  di  (plate 3.20), can be  viewed as another example of the same concern. This piece was produced for  A l e t t e r t o me from S h i Yong dated December 3, 1994. Hou HanrufS$&#tJ, " G l o b a l i z e d , c h a o t i c , empty, d y s t o p i a n , " i n C e n t r o A t l a n t i c o De A r t e Moderno e d . , Transformations, Las Palmas De Gran C a n a r i a , 1997, p . 148. O l i v a , "Art dies l i g h t l y , " p. 99. 1 6  1 7  1 8  83  the second Hangzhou-Shanghai-Beijing collaborative art event, named "45 Degrees as A Reason" (45 du zuowei liyou 45%L ftMM.&). :  In March, 1995, Shi Yong transformed his new studio, a one-bedroom apartment, into a piece of art work. The artist set up transparent plastic membranes in his living room and bedroom, close to the surfaces of which were suspended a number of loudspeakers.  Microphones were located throughout the  apartment, and whenever the toilet was flushed, the washing machine ran, the television was on, or the artist was cooking in his kitchen and talking with friends, the sounds were transmitted by the many microphones to the amplifier and  mixer, and then to the loudspeakers, causing the membranes to vibrate. For  the first time Shi Yong had allowed his art to penetrate into a private  urban living space, and now the trivial activities of daily life became both the engine and amplified content of his work. His transformation of banal, trifling everyday life into an organic entity of sound and vision which, in turn, drew further attention to the banality of mundane existence, can be viewed as an immediate confrontation and negotiation between art and life. One may interpret this piece metaphorically as another reaction to "urban allergy," in the way that it attempts to penetrate into the individual's psychological space shaped by a big city full of alienation, or, as Wu Liang suggested, it may be taken as a piece that deals with the "metamorphosis" (bianyi SiH) "anxiety over invasion" (bei ruqin de jiaolii  of daily life and  ^ S A ' t S ^ J ^ i ^ ) caused by the  takeover of technology. 19 No matter how this work is interpreted, it proves Shi Yong's post-avantgarde attitude towards art making, that is, to create art that is neutral and open to diverse possibilities.  20  Wu L i a n g , "Meige r e n d i l i y o u — d u i ' s i s h i w u du zuowei l i y o u ' d i s h i z h o n g j i e s h i " #MBAWa&--8r" 4 5 j g f t 0 f i t h " ffi) 10 i n Wang Meng 1 9  £  ed.  Jinri  xianfeng  <^B3fc0(5),  Beijing,  1997,  JBft&  p.  145.  A c c o r d i n g t o Wu L i a n g , S h i Yong s a i d : "It ( r e f e r i n g t o 4 5 degrees) i s n e u t r a l , a n d embodies u n f i x e d and v a r i o u s p o s s i b i l i t i e s " 12 (#|45.ff£) JUk^lS 2 0  lft,A##?ffi£lft«Ili£te." See I b i d .  84  In May 1995, Shi Yong had his first overseas exhibition in Vancouver, Canada.  Hosted in the Access Gallery, an artist-run center, this exhibition,  entitled "Not Here Not There," featured two installations, one by Shi Yong and the other by Qian Weikang, both of which were realized through the physical participation and involvement of the audience. Inside the gallery, Qjan used a large blue plastic tarpaulin to construct a corridor paved with scales. When one walked through the piece, which he named Gravity Corridor (Zhongli zoulang  STJ^MP), the  light turned on and off alternatively as a result of the viewer's  contact with the scales. Qjan's corridor still allowed the viewer to decide whether or not he/she would enter it, Shi Yong's Appropriating the Site: Body,  Sound and Image (Jieyong xianchang: Shenti, shengyin, ying xiang "f^ffl^,^: J r f l c , l ? T 3 , : ! i £ f ^ ) , however, did not give the viewer this freedom, since as soon as he entered the gallery space, he automatically became a part of it (plate 3.21). Shi installed a moving surveillance camera at the entrance to the showing space to keep close watch on the audience, transmitting each person's image onto a monitor screen set up in one show window in front of the showing space.  The artist covered the glass in another show window with a black plastic  membrane, putting loudspeakers close to its surface. When the audience talked and moved inside the showing space or walked across Qjan Weikang's Gravity Corridor, microphones, which Shi had set here and there, collected the sound. The sound then went through an amplifier and finally reached the loudspeakers, causing the membrane in the show window to vibrate. It is interesting to mention that Shi Yong even used the storage room next to the gallery's entrance, perhaps for the first time in the history of Access. A n inflatable plastic bag installed inside it was blown up gradually by viewers who stepped on a pump serving as the staircase leading to the membrane-covered  85 show window,  thus connecting the storage room and the window via human  activity. Human participation was essential to the completion of Shi Yong's art in this piece.  Yet the participants now were not merely the artist himself and his  close friends, but included any viewer, Chinese or Western, who happened to walk into the gallery.  The participation of non-Chinese viewers was  particularly instructive for Shi, because he found that their different cultural perspective enriched his work with new interpretations and issues beyond his previous i d e a s .  21  In addition, his first experience of making art in the West  corrected his earlier assumption that Western artists do not need to concern themselves with the limiting conditions that frequently confront Chinese artists creating media art. In this piece, he started with an ambitious plan of great technological complexity, but after arriving in Canada, he had to constantly adapt his work to limits imposed by budget, the gallery's space, and the availability of equipment, finally realizing his earlier concept in a more flexible and spontaneous way. His cross-cultural experiences led Shi Yong to new insights into art making, both with regard to its position in various cultural contexts and to its technical realization under limited conditions.  In his first letter to me after this  exhibition, he wrote: A t t h a t t i m e , S h i Yong's i n t e r e s t i n p e n e t r a t i n g the showing space t h r o u g h t e c h n o l o g i c a l networking and h i s t o t a l u t i l i z a t i o n o f human a c t i v i t i e s were f o r the most p a r t connected w i t h h i s i n t e r e s t i n the l i n g u i s t i c e x p l o r a t i o n of i n s t a l l a t i o n a r t as a new medium. He d i d not i n t e n d t o charge h i s work w i t h any p o l i t i c a l c o n n o t a t i o n s , especially when contemporary Chinese a r t p r a c t i c e made s t r o n g e f f o r t s t o c h a l l e n g e the r e g i m e . D u r i n g the a r t i s t ' s t a l k i n Access G a l l e r y , however, S h i Yong work was l a r g e l y d i s c u s s e d i n a p o l i t i c a l c o n t e x t which i n v o l v e d v a r i o u s i s s u e s d e r i v i n g from a Western p e r s p e c t i v e , i n c l u d i n g such q u e s t i o n s as the v i o l a t i o n of human r i g h t s and freedom as w e l l as t h e d i s o r i e n t a t i o n of human beings i n a t e c h n o l o g i c a l age. Although t h i s d i s c u s s i o n made S h i Yong's work more complete by e n r i c h i n g i t s meaning, i t a l s o caused him t o t h i n k about the p o s i t i o n o f h i s a r t w i t h i n different c u l t u r a l contexts. 2  1  86  Limited conditions [for art making] are not just a problem in developing countries but also exist in Western society, which is subjected to the government's policy of cutting cultural budgets. This means that art may adopt a more economical, small-scale, and flexible way to realize a concept (which is actually of the greatest importance)... In short, the trip to Vancouver had a tremendous impact on m e .  2 2  During the remainder of 1995, Shi Yong did not make any new work. He kept on thinking about this problem of limits while he was engaged in earning money to support his art. After deeper reflection, he realized:  The limitation itself is not merely an economic issue, but also involves a system, namely, invovling the problem of limits created by another specific kind of ideology. A n d this is the characteristic cultural situation in our country."  23  Here one determines a big shift in Shi Yong's artistic perspective.  He seemed to  be accepting Marxist ideas about the dialectical relationship between the economic basis and the superstructure, an idea that he must have been exposed to in his Chinese middle-school textbooks.  Now for him economic limitations  reflected ideological limits. In his letter, Shi Yong did not clarify what his "another specific ideology" refered to.  Since he mentioned "the characteristic  cultural situation" in China, it may be assumed that he was talking about the Communist ideology.  However, I would like to argue that for Shi Yong, an artist  who had being involved in various commercial projects in money-oriented Shanghai, capitalist ideology was a more important concern. In addition, we should not ignore the fact that even Communist ideology in China, especially, in  2  2  2  3  S h i Yong's l e t t e r S h i Yong's l e t t e r  t o me dated J u l y 7, 1995. t o me dated January 29, 1996.  87  Shanghai was going through a process of great transformation under the influence of the increasingly capitalistic economic structure of society. But one may ask: what were the reasons for the profound change in Shi Yong's perspective? A n d what did this change mean to his subsequent art practice? Answering these questions is certainly very important for us for understanding his new artistic concepts and approaches during the most recent stages of his career. Shi Yong's first experience of working with the Western artists from artist run centers like Access was certainly a major factor in these changes.  As  Shi Yong himself mentioned in the letter just quoted above, in Vancouver he realized that although artists in the West are not subject to the same kinds of ideological prohibitions that ones in Communist countries are, their work is still limited by the ways in which capitalist ideology determines how society's resources are to be spent (or in the case of many artists, not spent).  In this  sense, the limitations of capitalist ideology create common issues for both Western and Chinese artists, and studying these issues through his art might very well help Shi Yong to build up a new international dialogue with the West. To a great extent, Shi's new insight can also be attributed to his increasing interest in the post-modernist discourse, which has become more popular in Chinese intellectual circles since the middle 1990s. In an age when art in general has shifted from interest in stylistic originality and formal innovation to treatment of its cultural-political context, he seemed to be following the mainstream practice initiated in the West, i. e., using art as a method to establish and validate the identity and social position of a marginal cultural community. Thus, his study and exploration of the constraints of both the economic basis and the superstructure caused him to begin examining the effect of Western captalist ideology, the ruling ideology in the contemporary art  88 world, on Chinese  artists. By doing that, he could locate and define his own  identity and position in the future artistic dialogue with the West. In short, from 1996, how to manoeuvre within limited conditions became Shi Yong's new concern. He decided to employ the most feasible and economic way to have his art function more effectively on the ideological level.  His Please Do Not Touch "Please Do Not Touch" (Qjng wu chumo"QJng wu chumo" W^lMI^"  iflf^JflS^")  (plate 3.22), a piece presented in the installation  exhibition Under The Name of Art— Contemporary Chinese Art Exchange Exhibition (Yi yishu di mingyi—Zhongguo dangdai yishu jiaoliu zhan i ^ ^ ^ f ^ J £t£— t B^f^fl&£$f£fl), t  3  which was held in the Shanghai Liu Haisu Art  Museum (Shanghai Liu Haisu meishuguan AzMMMM^.Wii$)  of Shanghai in  March, 1996, can be seen as his first step in this new direction. In this piece, the technical complexity, which had been such a dominant feature in Shi Yong's previous installations, disappeared. What one saw was merely the Chinese words, Qjng wu chumo mfy)MWk ("Please do not touch") written in red neon lights. These were arranged on the floor, and when one walked within a certain distance of these words, an alarm system set up by Shi sounded, just as it would if one had touched a masterpiece in a museum. Here the audience's involvment was still indispensible to complete the expression of Shi's concept.  However, the relation between the audience and his  work no longer simply remained a linguistic structure through which the artist pursued the self-sufficiency of his installation art. Rather it functioned more as an immediate reference to the ideological framework in which art has been shaped, positioned, and justified. Let us see why and how. It is obvious that on the semantic level "Please Do Not Touch" is a common taboo confronting audiences inside museums and galleries, both of which function as the "showrooms" of art history. Shi Yong's witty citation of this  89 taboo very likely alluded to the paradoxical nature of art history, especially, the history of modern art. Perhaps he is suggesting that this is basically a history of breaking taboos, but at the same time a history of constantly transforming the fruits of taboo-breaking actions into new taboos. For example, Pablo Picasso's (1881-1973) utilization of non-mainstream cultures such as Black African art and Marcel Duchamp's (1887-1968) transformation of taboo objects like urinals into art works enriched art history by leading it in new directions.  24  However, these subversive art works became untouchable taboos  themselves as soon as they were accepted and valued by a tolerant art world and dealors with a sharp sense of smell. Now by making the sign Please Do Not Touch, which originally had no artistic meaning and value inside mainstrean art venues, into a legitimately exhibited art work, Shi Yong seemed to follow Picasso and Duchamp, trying to further expand the capacity of art through his own appropriation,of taboos. Furthermore, by setting up an alarm system which kept the audience outside certain limits, Shi Yong changed his prohibition-art work into a tabooed object, thus assuming that his work had achieved a certain status in the context of the art world. In this sense, he was giving a live performance of one act in the evolution of modern art history  A c c o r d i n g t o P i e r r e D a i x , "Picasso was not the f i r s t t o have thought o f renewing p a i n t i n g by d e l v i n g i n t o p r i m i t i v e a r t , but he was c e r t a i n l y t h e f i r s t t o fomulate the problem i n t e c h n i c a l and a e s t h e t i c r a t h e r t h a n m o r a l t e r m s . " See P i e r r e D a i x , Picasso, London, 1995, p . 63. Picasso's Les Demoiselles c'Avignon (1907) i s a good example of i n c o r p o r a t i n g A f r i c a n s c u l p t u r e and s o - c a l l e d " p r i m i t i v e " Romanesque C a t a l a n p a i n t i n g i n t o h i s work, which d i s c o n c e r t e d and s c a n d a l i z e d the mainstream a r t w o r l d o f h i s age. F o r t h i s work, see i b i d . , p . 60. Besides Picasso, M a r c e l Duchamp i s another i c o n o c l a s t i c f i g u r e who i n t r o d u c e d even g r e a t e r change i n t o modern a r t h i s t o r y . In 1917, Duchamp s u b m i t t e d h i s most n o t o r i o u s readymade Fountain, a p o r c e l a i n u r i n a l s i g n e d by the a r t i s t w i t h R. Mutt, t o the e x h i b i t i o n of the New York S o c i e t y of Independent A r t i s t s . Alhough t h i s e n t r y was r e j e c t e d by the hanging committee of t h i s e x h i b i t i o n , i t was r e p l i c a t e d l a t e r i n a number of c o p i e s and was accepted by the modern a r t w o r l d as another c l a s s i c piece. See Anne d ' H a r n o n c o u r t and Kynaston Mcshine e d . , Marcel Duchamp, New York and P h i l a d e l p h i a , 1973, p . 282-3, and A r n a s o n , p . 2 2 9 . 2  4  90 which now is more closely related to the packaging and promotion method of the capitalist market economy. Seen in his own cultural context, Shi's self-affirmation and self-elevation can also be viewed as a projection of the paradoxical psychology of contemporary Chinese artists, who are confronted by a modern art history dominated by Western practice and ideology and when their art is commonly legitimized first and, in many cases, only in the West. Here Shi Yong not only expressed his (and other Chinese artists') wish to be validated in the Westerndominated art world, but at the same time seemed to mock the whole process and system of this validation. While dealing consciously with current cultural situations in his art, Shi Yong also determined to give up his identity as solely an installation artist, allowing himself to use any possible methods to realize his artistic concepts.  25  This change is apparent first of all in the technical simplicity of all his works produced since 1996. Secondly, it is demonstrated by the fact that from 1996 Shi Yong became more and more obsessed with the idea of casting himself as an actor, thereby endowing his art with a strong sense of performance. In 1996, Zhang Qing curated a medium exhibition, entitled Passing the Plane (Chuanyue pingmian ^M^M)  which was published in the fourth issue  of Gallery Magzine that year. Six Shanghai artists purchased three pages in the issue of the magazine to show photographs of their new w o r k s .  26  As one of the  participating artists, Shi Yong used computer technology to create A Plan for an Image Survey {Xingxiang zhengqiu jihua 0 ^tlE>rcl!f ifJ) (plate 3.23). What one sees in this "survey" are frontal portraits of the artist with twelve different computer-designed hair styles.  In the text explaining the survey, Shi Yong  Ibid. Zhang Q i n g , "Jingguo pingmian meitizhan" (1996), p p . 3 4 - 6 .  2 5  2  6  ijfiiS^B^MJS, Hualang,  57.4  91 expressed his urgent desire for a fresh image with the statement that he wished to "keep in step with a new era" (gengshang shidai de bufa  M-h^ftfi^J^'fJc )  when social reform deepens and global communication becomes more frequent.  27  However, further on in the text he explained that, due to his  declining analytical capability, he had to turn to the viewer to help him decide the right image which can "both maintain his individuality and at the same time reflect the spirit of the new age."  28  This time Shi Yong positioned his art directly on the stage of contemporary Chinese social life by examining how an artist can forge a new identity in an indigenous cultural environment undergoing constant change due to globalization. Unlike the art performances seen in 1980s China, Shi Yong's work did not intend to create a strong impact on the audience through any emotional or physical stimulation. Rather it adopted a welcoming attitude, allowing the audience to play a decisive role in determining the "spirit of the new age." To a high degree, this dramatic abdication of responsibility on Shi Yong's part also reflected his ironic perception of the artist's role and of the function of art in the contemporary social and cultural milieu. Art now has no power to influence and change society. Contrarily, it is meaningful only as a cultural performance of the contemporary drama tied with the tastes and lives of the masses, a characteristic prevalent in the other industries of a consumeroriented society. Accordingly, the artist is no longer superior to his audience, but rather becomes a public character with various simultaneous personae and is just as bewildered or slick as others in society. Shi Yong's daily life was also characterized by multiple roles. In order to support himself and his art, he had been involved in various commercial projects, the most important of which was designing and overseeing the 2  7  28  See t e x t i n p l a t e ibid.  3.23.  92  construction of the largest discotheque in Shanghai (and one of the biggest in the world) during the first half of 1996. art teacher.  No longer was he merely an artist and  As a successful commercial designer, Shi played the role of a  sophisticated social being. He gradually endowed himself with various personalities in order to adapt to the highly commercialized and complex metropolitan environment.  This process of adaptation changed Shi Yong's  personality and also changed his general view of art. Art no longer seemed sacred, and art-making became a vocation.  By relying on the strategies and  intelligence of the artist, his art aimed for the maximum possible validity and legitimacy under limiting conditions. To be sure, no Chinese artist, art critic, or theoretician is allowed to ignore Western political and cultural ideologies, when it comes to legitimizing or validating contemporary Chinese art. Up to the present, these offer the major stage on which such processes can take place, thus heavily influencing the orientation and development of Chinese art. With this observation, one can easily understand the reason why since the summer of 1996 Shi Yong has conceived his art within a context of international communication. By identifying his works with performances or props on the international art stage, he has attempted to expose the still unhealthy nature of the post-Cold War exchange between the West and China in the art world. His An Art Sample from China  (Laizi zhongguo  di yishu yangpin  5fc i i 4^  gUft^ffiMttiSj), which was produced in August, 1996, is the first piece that deals directly with this problem. It is simply composed of a luggage cart, on top of which lies a transparent suitcase with luggage tags from the customs of various Western countries.  Inside the suitcase hangs a Chinese costume, half Mao jacket  made from a red material, the other half a traditional jacket made from Chinese  93 rice paper.  Each side o f the costume has a l a b e l , one i n English a n d one i n  Chinese, r e a d i n g , " M a d e In C h i n a . "  S h i Y o n g e x p l a n a t i o n of this piece reads:  ... a well designed and finely tailored item of clothing considered typically Chinese according to Western ethnocentric views can safely become a privileged source symbolizing the situation and identity, (and it is the new taxonomy of culture created under the name of Western muticulturalism that is privileging this s y m b o l ) .  29  Now this s y m b o l seemed to be presented i n another p r i v i l e g e d s i t u a t i o n , i . e., as a n object that b y going t h r o u g h customs w o u l d be r e a d y to enter the spotlight o f the overseas stage, where Western stereotypes w o u l d accept a n d j u s t i f y its existence. absurd.  Seen i n this light, the t r a n s p a r e n t suitcase n o l o n g e r r e m a i n e d  O n the c o n t r a r y , it f u n c t i o n e d as a perfect " w i n d o w " for u t i l i z i n g the  r u l i n g i d e o l o g y to c l a i m w i t t i l y the l e g i t i m a c y a n d p r i v i l e g e o f S h i Y o n g ' s sample of indigenous a r t .  3 0  Here the artist's d u a l c r i t i c i s m was self-evident.  On  the one h a n d , he was attacking the West for its s u p e r f i c i a l j u d g m e n t o f other c u l t u r e s b y stereotyped c u l t u r a l a n d p o l i t i c a l ideas. F o r example, m a n y W e s t e r n e r s still associate Chinese c u l t u r e n a r r o w l y w i t h c h o p s t i c k s , tea, r i c e paper, o r m o r e recently, w i t h M a o Zedong a n d Deng X i a o p i n g . T h e y d o n o t realize that d e f i n i t i o n s o f t r a d i t i o n a n d c u l t u r e are u n d e r constant f l u x a n d regeneration. O n the other h a n d , S h i Yong is also m a k i n g a p a r o d y o f c u r r e n t c o n t e m p o r a r y Chinese art practice, w h i c h f r e q u e n t l y utilizes the strategy o f e x p o r t i n g i n d i g e n o u s c u l t u r a l p r o d u c t s to the West to gain f a v o r w i t h W e s t e r n audiences.  Some Chinese artists attempt to l e g i t i m i z e t h e i r w o r k b y p l a y i n g w i t h  t r a d i t i o n a l Chinese materials o r p h i l o s o p h i c a l concepts i n a n attempt to p a n d e r  2  9  3  0  S h i Yong's m a n u s c r i p t about t h i s p i e c e , w r i t t e n i n August, Ibid.  1996.  94 to foreigners' demands and/or tastes. In other words, they portray themselves not in their real form but in the form of the other's other. Yet Shi Yong questioned this kind of art practice by using the same materials and stereotypes of the artists he attacked, a paradox that is best described by Shi Yong's own ironic statement-question in his explication of the piece:  "This is the reality of  cultural exchange of marginal cultures guaranteed by Western multiculturalism.(?)"31 A similar paradoxical approach can be seen in the works Shi Yong produced in the summer of 1997. piece Who is the Performer?  For example, his thirty-minute audio-video  (Shei shi biaoyanzhe  Hl^ifeM^)  (plate 3.24)  displayed two scenes in alternation, the first consisting of a palm moving horizontally and vertically on the screen, and the second a blurred female face moving back and forth in the action of kissing the screen.  This piece was  realized in an unusual way, for the artist actually did not allow the objects he filmed (i. e., the hand and the face) to move but instead shifted the video camera back and forth to create a sensation of motion. If the relation between the objects he shot and the camera lens could be understood as that between the performer and his stage (or audiences), then, Shi Yong's deliberate exchange of the character of the former and the latter was certainly another metaphor (though much more subtle in this case) for the reality of interchange between contemporary Chinese art and Western ideologies on the international stage. During the same period, Shi Yong also produced an installation called To Live 'Elsewhere'  (Shenghuo  zai 'biechu'  Shanghai Art Exhibition (97' JlM^'RMWM), Shanghai's Changning -fk^  SlUS') for 97' Contemporary held in the cultural center of  district in August, 1997 (plate 3.25). This time Shi  Yong put an old suitcase used by a traveler against a wall, on which he had  3 1  Ibid.  95 attached some empty quotation marks made from paper, cleverly suggesting to his viewers the once popular saying "to live elsewhere."  32  He also placed a  conference table and chairs in the center of the exhibition hall, symbolizing the center of authority in the art world. During the exhibition, a speaker hidden in a hole in the center of the table and connected to a tape-recorder and an amplifier inside the suitcase, played the sentence "I refuse" again and again. Here Shi Yong carried on his analysis of the current cultural reality. However, his criticism was directed even more at the paradoxical nature of criticism itself, or as he wrote:  In the present reality fraught with verbal strategy and media operations, the suitcase, which once symbolized a spiritual journey,... now exists merely as a cultural performance, which fictionalizes the spiritual departure by providing for it a stage, a prop, or a performer. When the spiritual symbol tries to be away from and to refuse the problematic center of authority in a calm manner, its voice, however, has never left nor intends to leave the site of this center of authority.  33  By setting up a stage full of spiritual melodrama, Shi Yong expressed his total distrust of the so-called spirituality involved in contemporary art practice.  In  an age when criticism of Western cultural hegemony became a popular and sometimes heated discourse among Chinese art theoreticians, critics, and artists, most of whom were influenced directly or indirectly by the Orientalism studies initiated and developed in the Western academic world, Shi Yong's lingering T h i s d e r i v e s from M i l a n Kundera's n o v e l , P e t e r K u s s i t r . , Life is elsewhere, New Y o r k , 1974. The Chinese t i t l e of t h i s n o v e l i s Shenghuo zai biechu Chinese t r a n s l a t i o n s of s e v e r a l i m p o r t a n t n o v e l s by M i l a n Kundera were p u b l i s h e d i n B e i j i n g d u r i n g the l a t e r e i g h t i e s and early nineties. S h i Yong and Qian Weikang bought t h e s e t r a n s l a t i o n s and d i s c u s s e d M i l a n K u n d e r a ' s n o v e l s f r e q u e n t l y w i t h l i t e r a y f r i e n d s i n the e a r l y n i n e t i e s i n S h i Yong's v i l l a g e s t u d i o . S h i Yong's m a n u s c r i p t about t h i s p i e c e , w r i t t e n i n A u g u s t , 1997. 3  2  ^SffiS'JS.  3  3  96 voice of refusal was more like "a double-edged sword" (shuangrenjian JwlJ).  St^J  It cut sharply in both directions; that is, it attacked both the problematic  34  outside reality and the equally problematic reality of the art criticism itself, a criticism which was motivated by the desire to be accepted in the West by engaging in a further Western discourse. It is worth mentioning that in the spring of 1997 Shi Yong had the chance to go to the Vermont Studio Center as an artist in residence.  He spent  one month in Vermont but did not find the place very exciting due to its lack of a cosmopolitan atmosphere. After that, he headed for New York and then traveled in other parts of the United States for a couple of weeks. His second trip to the West caused him to think further about his role and position as a contemporary artist from Shanghai in the front line of global communication. Although the art world no longer seemed as innocent as it had before, it still charmed him, since he treated it as a glamorous and challenging stage on which a courageous artist could use his wisdom and intelligence to win applause for his performances while at the same time maintaining his sense of humor. In the autumn of 1997, Shanghai  Today  Shi Yong put his survey of The New Image of  on the Internet, the most effective medium for global  communication.  As a result, individuals from all over the world (but mainly  35  from Western countries) participated in the activity of choosing the best hair style and costume for the artist. Besides the previous criteria he set up for his initial image survey, Shi Yong now also requires the person surveyed to choose a new image for him which can be "most convincing for international communication."  36  By inviting his viewers to answer the question: "In today's  China, what kind of new image do you think can play an important role on the  3 4 3  5  3 6  Ibid. Please v i s i t Ibid.  the w e b s i t e http://www.shanghart.com,  and open S h i Yong.  97 stage of international communications?" he presents himself as a leading character on the international stage.  37  Besides giving himself media exposure on the Internet, Shi Yong also sought to set off his performance against the most effective background for highlighting his self-image on the stage of international communication.  He  conceived a project The International Version of the VIS project: the New Image  of Shanghai Today —Image Advertising, Presentation and Selling (<Jinri Shanghai xin xingxiang> 'VIS' jihua guoji jiaoliu ban—Xingxiang guanggao zhanshiyu cuxiao  <^B±^ff^^>'VIS'Itf!j^^^M--0&fll£JS^fJ&  fM$&) for the traveling exhibition Cities on the Move, which was held in Vienna in November of 1997 to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the Vienna Secession. In this work, one finds the new self-image that Shi created by combining the most-favored hair style and costume chosen by his Internet survey arranged against seven new city sites of Shanghai, including the Bund, the Pearl of the Orient Television Tower in Pudong, the main Metro station, and the overpass in the downtown area. By connecting his new image directly with these new images of Shanghai, a city considered by many to be a new world center of economic and cultural exchange, Shi portrays himself as a prominent figure performing with the eyes of the world upon him. In this ongoing project, the artist plans to make his self-image located in front of these famous Shanghai city sites into posters, postcards, and illuminated billboards. They will be presented and sold in various public spaces, retail shops, major squares in big cities around the world, and also inside museums and art galleries.  Shi Yong's project also includes detailed plans for selling the  objects created so that his new image can be put on the global market. Here one may notice that what Shi Yong hopes to carry out is very similar to what Andy  3 7  Ibid.  98 Warhol did during the 1970s. By making his own image the subject of his art and by promoting it with popular methods in a commercial society, Shi is seconding Warhol's idea that an artist should seek stardom like a celebrity, a way to assure the function of art in contemporary consumers' society.  38  Yet at the  same time, much like Warhol, he is mocking the whole process by which one becomes a star, with the difference that the celebrity images of Chinese artists are created in most cases by an audience outside China. Shi Yong attempts to approach a large audience by means of selfpromotion and self-packaging, but he is also aware of the existence of more sophisticated audiences who are influenced by their knowledge of art history and who possess the verbal capacity to shape art history both at the present and in the future. Thus, in Shi Yong's Adding yige gainian  shang zai jia yige gainian  One Concept on Top of Another  &^M^x&Az^1}U^M$&1it)  (Zai  (plate  3.26), a conceptual piece featured in Vancouver's Grunt Gallery as part of the city-wide exhibition Modern and Contemporary Art from South of the Yangzi River in the spring of 1998 and shown recently in Plug In Gallery in Winnipeg, the conspicuous appropriation of a classic of modern Western art history is used by him as a postmodernist strategy to validate his expression of the self in the context of the other. The starting point for this piece is Joseph Kosuth's (b. 1945) One and Three Chairs, art.  3 9  a established conceptual work of contemporary  Following Kosuth's format precisely, Shi Yong's work is composed of (1) a  Andy Warhol a s s o c i a t e d w i t h many wealthy and p o w e r f u l f i g u r e s i n s o c i e t y and f e q u e n t l y i n c o r p o r a t e d images o f c e l e b r i t i e s i n t o h i s a r t work. I n t h e s i x t i e s and s e v e n t i e s , he was a l s o i n v o l v e d i n f i l m , v i d e o and p u b l i c a t i o n i n d u s t r i e s , exposing h i s ow image t o t h e p u b l i c . See John O'Connor and Benjamin L i u , Unseen Warhol, New Y o r k , 1996. A r n a s o n , p . 469. K o s u t h ' s o r i g i n a l p i e c e c o n s i s t e d o f (1) a photograph o f a c h a i r , (2) a r e a l c h a i r , and (3) a t e x t w i t h a standard d i c t i o n a r y d e f i n i t i o n o f the word " c h a i r . " See t h e i l l u s t r a t i o n i n Joseph K o s u t h , Art after philosophy and after ( c o l l e c t e d w r i t i n g s by Joseph K o s u t h , 1966-1990), Cambridge, M a s s a c h u s e t t s , 1991, f i g . 6. 3  8  3  9  99  color photograph showing him sitting on a replica of Kosuth's chair with the hair style and clothing selected by his Internet survey, (2) an object (a real replica of Kosuth's chair) and the same image of the artist projected on top of it by means of a video projector, and (3) a text, which specifies the,concept of what it means to be a contemporary Chinese with both his physical features and cultural identity shaped and accepted by the present age of globalization. By adding an image of a contemporary Chinese selected by the Internet to a legitimized concept symbolizing Western verbal power, Shi Yong's performance once again evoked the East-West discourse. He seemed to be attempting to validate his work for sophisticated viewers familiar with modern art history, while at the same time commenting on the predicament of contemporary Chinese artists and art in a Western-dominated world. And once more he was sitting in the center of the stage, in this case on Kosuth's chair! During the exhibition, some Western viewers raised the question of why it was necessary for Shi Yong to appropriate Kosuth's piece rather than create his own original work, but if they were willing to look into the reasons for this carefully, they would be well on their way to understanding a crucial facet of contemporary Chinese art.  100  Zhou Tiehai MMM  Three years younger than Shi Yong, Zhou Tiehai is the Shanghai-based multimedia artist most active in the international art circles of this decade. As one will notice in the following discussion, Zhou's art is similar to Shi Yong's work since 1996, in that it deals systematically with the problematic cultural reality confronting contemporary Chinese artists in a decade of rapid globalization and commercialization. What distinguishes Zhou from his contemporaries are his urbane and witty art vocabularies that expose the reality of art world and his paradoxical strategies that have enabled him to position himself and to validate his art within the same reality he is criticizing. Born in the later sixties, Zhou belongs to the generation that for the most part was too young to be much involved in the avant-garde art movements of the early eighties in China.  However, his aggressive personality made him a  bold participant rather than a witness in that decade, in spite of his youth. A study of Chinese art history in the eighties reveals that he was one of the few individuals from his age group who strove side by side with those of the older generation for ideological liberation and new artistic expression. Any study of Zhou's earlier artistic practice can hardly neglect Yang Xu ^ jli (b. 1967), another bold young art student of the time, who produced art together with Zhou from 1985 up until 1991. In 1985 and 1986, Zhou and Yang worked together for the first time as a team, creating a group of large-scale graffiti on used newspaper. The Wall Newspaper  As Zhou recollected later, the first piece was named  of New Life  (Xin shenghuo  qiangbao  ^f^.7r57©$S), but the  title was ambiguous when pronounced in the Shanghai dialect and could also be interpreted as The Wall Newspaper of Sex Life (Xing shenghuo  qiangbao  14 ^itHi  TH^H). In this work the two artists painted popular media personalities of the  101 time and wrote various newspaper slogans and titles, such as "More Rats in China than Human Beings" (Zhongguo de laoshu hi ren duo and "Typhoon Arrives" (taifeng lailin  SaJH^fcSra).  40  *P HI W^JIl.tfc.A^')  Although none of these  early paintings survive, they are still worth mentioning, since they were the first newspaper paintings Zhou was involved with in his attempt to build a direct connection between his art and social reality. Zhou's and Yang's first public (and also the most famous) collaboration was a ten-minute performance called The Sense of Violence  (Baoli gan  M-fl^),  which was presented as the final piece of the M Art Group performance exhibition held in Shanghai in December of 1986.  As suggested by its title, this  collaboration involved a good deal of violence and other disturbing activities. Both artists went onto the stage completely naked, and Zhou was whipped by a person holding a branch, while two persons grabbed Yang by his shoulders at the same time another person pricked his back violently with needles.  Yang  shouted loudly in Chinese: "Nietzsche is dead! I am the Nietzsche of C h i n a ! "  41  In 1986, presenting a performance of this sort on stage demanded extraordinary courage and a thoroughly rebellious young heart.  Zhou and Yang's shocking  physical involvement in this performance clearly demonstrated their emancipation from the restrictions of the Chinese cultural tradition and ruling orthodoxy. Moreover, by claiming that Nietzsche was dead they also intended to subvert the twentieth-century Western value system established upon Nietzsche's premise that God is dead. According to Gao Minglu, this performance pushed the "anti-art" theme of this group show to "the level of being totally  My i n t e r v i e w w i t h Zhou T i e h a i conducted i n h i s s t u d i o on August 12, 1997. In the Shanghai d i a l e c t , the word f o r "new" and "sex" have v i r t u a l l y the same p r o n u n c i a t i o n , and Zhou and Yang were c o n s c i o u s l y u s i n g the word as a pun i n the p i e c e ' s t i t l e . 4  0  4 1  Gao M i n g l u ,  Zhongguo dangdai meishu shi,  Zhou T i e h a i on Janunary 2,  1999.  p . 386 and my i n t e r v i e w w i t h  102 opposed to civilization and was anti-culture."  42  In other words, their piece can  be seen as the climax to the most radical performance event held before the 1989-China/Avant-garde exhibition. As untrammeled young men, Zhou and Yang were certainly interested in exploring new visual vocabularies in an attempt to oppose artistic conventions. In 1989, when both of them were studying at the Fine Arts College of Shanghai University, they produced their first set of installation works, Chair Series xilie  (Yizi  f^-fM^^'J). The surviving visual record of the piece shows that it consisted  of simple wooden chairs, but with seats made from the wooden chopping blocks used in Chinese kitchens.  Compared with the visually stimulating and  politically provocative installations mentioned in most studies of the Chinese avant-garde movement of the age,  Zhou's and Yang's Chair Series  seemed too simple and quiet to be of great historical significance.  may have Yet when  seen within the context of Zhou's personal artistic development, these installations are extraordinary, since I believe that they adumbrate a subject that he has been treating constantly in his art during the 1990s. The chair has been central to a number of highly important modern art works, such as Joseph Beuys's Chair with Fat (1963), Kosuth's One and Three Chairs Warhol's Electric  Chair  (1965).  43  (1965) and  One can argue that the use of the chair in  modern art is at least partially related to its value as a symbol for authority and extension of the central concepts of a social system or ideology.  Although it is  hard to prove to what extent Zhou and Yang were conscious of what the chair symbolized to modern artists in 1989, we cannot escape the fact that Zhou's later practice constantly focuses on the conflict in the art world between the  4 2  Gao M i n g l u ,  4  F o r Joseph Beuys'  3  ed.,  Zhongguo dangdai meishu shi,  The essential  Chair with Fat,  p . 384.  see A l a i n B o r e r , L o t h a r Schirmer  Joseph Beuys, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1997, p l a t e  83. F o r Andy W a r h o l ' s Electric Chair, O'Connor and Benjamin L i u , p . 48.  see  the i l l u s t r a t i o n i n John  103 authorized and the unauthorized or the chooser and the chosen, and it is quite possible that Zhou and Yang's Chair Series  was an early visualization of their  awareness of the art world's power struggles. As mentioned in the first chapter, a contemporary art exhibition, the Garage Show, took place in Shanghai in November of 1991.  One of the major  impetuses for this exhibition was to present works for a visiting Japanese art critic, Chiba Shigeo  ^HfS:^ (b.  1946), who was at that time a researcher in the  Toyoko Museum of Modern Art and was interested in introducing contemporary Chinese art to his country. At that time, Zhou and Yang had just graduated from art college; but due to their participation in the M Art Group show, one of their Chair Series  and three of their large graffiti pieces created in 1989 were  accepted for exhibition by the senior artists curating the Garage Show, some of whom were the leading members of the M Art Group. Yet just before the opening, Zhou and Yang's works were excluded because of disagreements with some senior artists about the number of works to be shown. This unforseen event was a great disillusionment for these two enthusiastic but callow youths. They suddenly realized that the art world is not as pure as they had imagined, since it is also contaminated by the hierarchy, competition, and selfishness typical of the rest of the world. As an angry response to their disappointment, Zhou and Yang soon produced five Revolution  Series  (Wenge xilie  graffiti, which they called  'SC^i^0 \) ]  Cultural  and which were also painted directly  on large surfaces made by joining newspapers together. In the first two pieces of this series,5reak The Knife Needs Sharpening  (Daofeng  (Juelie  bumo rensheng  $il^) (plate 3.27) and xiu  TJ^^^A^lW)  (plate 3.28), one could hardly miss that the two artists had intentionally appropriated the form and language of so-called big character posters (dazibao  A^$B), the  wall newspapers of the Cultural Revolution period, the qualities of  104 which were combined with poor handwriting, childish brushstrokes, and clumsy Western figures derived from paintings in the Louvre. According to the critic Li Pingxin  ^ P'L\\ 2  Revolution" (dierci  Zhou and Yang seemed to create "a second Cultural  Wenge H — ?K.~$0$' ) in their studio by "projecting their  dissatisfaction onto the surface of the discarded newspaper."  44  The vehement  emotions and conflict expressed in these works were striking, for they successfully combined politically provocative language with blunt and vigorous visual renditions. In these two graffiti, those who understand Chinese would easily find not only familiar catchwords from the Cultural Revolution period but also specific phrases used by the Chinese government during its campaigns against "bourgeois liberalism" in the 1980s. In Break, one sees such sentences as:  During recent years, capitalist views on art and life have been rampant...Art has already reached the stage of being manipulated at will by the bourgeois reactionaries. Thus we have to break completely with modernism and post-modernism.  45  In the second piece, the artists wrote:  Aim the spearhead of struggle at the bourgeois class... Create all kinds of images to help the masses propel history forward.  46  According to what Xiaomei Chen tells us in her discussion of "official Occidentalism," such ideas were originally advanced by the Chinese government  L i P i n g x i n ^ ^ ' ( j , "Huashizhong d i huajia—guanyu Shanghai meishu de d i y i xianchang" fam&--ffl&±Mttiffigiffitt}%—W*S, chaoliu SfflJiHSfE, 2.2 ( F e b r u a r y , 1993), p p . 98-102 . F o r the Chinese t e x t , see Appendix p . 189. F o r the Chinese t e x t , see Appendix p . 189. 4 4  4 5  4  6  qianwei  Yishu  105 in an attempt to oppress political opponents at home, thus, consolidating its domination of domestic politics.  47  Now by using these anti-Western and anti-  bourgeois sentences in their paintings, Zhou and Yang seemed to be superficially supporting the position of the government, which in previous decades had constantly oppressed the practice of modern art by charging that it is a product of corrupt Western bourgeois ideology.  48  Yet it is hardly necessary  to point out that Zhou's and Yang's motivation in using the government's language was certainly different from that of the authorities.  Indeed, Zhou and  Yang provide an interesting example of Xiaomei Chen's argument that Chinese Occidentalism is "a discourse that has been evoked by various and competing groups within Chinese society for a variety of different ends."  49  More  precisely, the voice of the government's anti-Western and anti-bourgeois campaigns, evoked by two frustrated young artists in their westernized painting, was now being employed to resist one group of privileged senior artists who, though strongly allied with Western ideology, were seen as a ruling force suppressing the emergence of the younger art generation at home. art critic, Ojanzi  As the  pointed out:  In Zhou Tiehai and Yang Xu's work, there are criticisms directed at the hypocrisy of contemporary culture and art practice together with the pursuit of spirituality aimed at fighting for one's own rights.  50  Xiaomei Chen, Occidentalism—a theory of counter-discourse Mao China, New Y o r k , 1995, p p . 6-7. 4 7  in post-  As Lauk'ung Chan informs u s : "New forms o t h e r than s o c i a l i s t r e a l i s m have been c a t e g o r i z e d as 'bourgeois a r t ' (before 1980), as b e i n g ' s p i r i t u a l l y contaminated' ( i n 1983), and as ' b o u r g e o i s l i b e r a l i z a t i o n ' ( s i n c e 1989)." Lauk'ung Chan, "Ten y e a r s of the Chinese avantgarde— w w a i t i n g f o r t h e c u r t a i n t o f a l l , " Flash art, 25.162 ( J a n u a r y / F e b r u a r y , 1992), p . 110. Xiaomei Chen, p . 5. Q i a n z i ^ f r ? , "Minzhong d i j i n g s h e n l i l i a n g — Z h o u T i e h a i he Yang Xu d i 4  8  4  9  5  0  1  y i s h u " ^Mt^^V^tlM-m^M^iWtM^mffl,  i n Zhao B i n g ffifek e d . , Duoyuan  106  The reason why I have employed the theory of Occidentalism in my discussion of these graffiti is not because I am very interested in the theory itself, but rather because I would like to emphasize the fact that from the very beginning, Zhou Tiehai has used art in a very political way. His art is political because his major motive in conceiving and creating it is, as my later discussion will prove, to fight the forces that dominate the contemporary art world, while at the same time obtaining recognition and power in the same world by means of strategy. In the Cultural Revolution Series, Zhou and Yang were not just concerned with claiming their rights in the domestic art world, they also paid attention to the development of a consumer culture, which from 1991 onwards began to cause tremendous changes in Chinese society.  In the other three graffiti of the  series, we notice that the tension of opposition is considerably less. The aggressive language of the Red Guard and the stereotyped proletarian figures of the big character posters give way to more spontaneous collages constructed from a kaleidoscope of images and playful sentences derived from news media, commercials, and daily urban life of the contemporary world. One sees a French noble having his hair dressed in Duke Dan'nuo (Dan'nuo gongjue  j^Wij&M)  (plate 3.29), a Western lady juxtaposed with Poison perfume in The Pot Is Broken,  the Water Is Gone (Hupo shuijin IsiS^klii) (plate 3.30), and a fairy-tale image painted side by side with a Chinese boss making his fortune in Japan in Rein in at the Brink of the Precipice (Xuanya lema I ^ H U J H ) (plate 3.31). Even if one cannot understand the Chinese text, these grotesque and gaudy visions, rich in the imagery of the consumer culture, unfold a picture of a society full of material temptations and chaotic bewilderment. zhuyi—nuoyong di celiie J5--I95ffllftjSB&, Changsha, 1 9 9 2 , p. 9 , i n Dangdai yishu xilie congshu <%8ttW$H> {rffllWW, no. 4 .  107 We have to admit that the social environment of Shanghai during the early nineties was not very conducive to the development of young artists' careers. On one hand, due to political and economic limitations, contemporary Shanghai artists had very few opportunities to exhibit their works. On the other, the commercialization of Chinese society caused people to doubt the socialist value system in general and begin challenging the "spiritual" side of art-making which had been at the center of the avant-garde movements during the 1 9 8 0 s .  51  Under these circumstances, Zhou's and Yang's artistic collaboration  came to an end; and after 1991 Yang became an interior designer.  After similar  disillusioning experiences, Zhou lost interest in contemporary Chinese art, and during the years 1992 and 1993 he did not produce any works, making his living as an independent film and video producer in Shanghai. Yet during those two years, contemporary art in China changed at a pace commensurate with the country's rapid economic reform and opening to the West. Less strict ideological control inside China, fast economic growth, and multicultural policies in Western countries encouraged the Western media and art world to start "discovering" contemporary Chinese art, though mainly as a post Cold-War phenomenon. The year 1993 was particularly critical. In that year, the showing of Political Pop art and Cynical Realist painting in the Hanart Gallery in Hong Kong caused an upsurge of enthusiasm for Chinese art in the Western world, and Chinese artists started to be chosen to participate in various prestigious international exhibitions.  It was against this new social and cultural  background that Zhou Tiehai resumed his career as a contemporary Chinese artist. In 1994, after returning from a stay of several months in New York, Zhou resumed his art activities by producing a wall-sized painting on the surface of Here "the s p i r i t u a l s i d e of art-making" r e f e r s t o n o n - m a t e r i a l p u r s u i t s i n the p r o c e s s of a r t i s t i c c r e a t i o n . 5  1  108 wrapping paper, There Came a Mr. Solomon to China—Having Critics  (Zhongguo  laile ge suoluomen—he  pinglunjia  a Bath with the  tong xizao  ^  1193fcT{IS^  Mffi--%tt¥rW$M\a\%cM:) (plate 3.32). To the best of my knowledge, this is the first documented work that Zhou created independently. Obviously, its large size, crude materials, and use of a collage of roughly-done images and bad penmanship betrayed its stylistic continuity with those newspaper graffiti that Zhou had produced together with Yang Xu.  Yet in spite of these similarities, the  individuality of Zhou's new work was equally evident.  Unlike the graffiti that  he produced together with Yang Xu, the surface of the new piece was much less crowded.  By arranging relatively simple elements in a more orderly way, Zhou  was obviously attempting to focus the viewer's attention on certain subject matter, rather than keep his eye busy with details.  Since Zhou's work is  frequently related to his experiences in the art world or in the daily reality of Shanghai, it is vital to understand these elements in his creations, if we wish to understand them. In this piece, the background is supplied by both the title and the painting's Chinese text:  H i s m a j e s t y , t h e g r e a t M r . S o l o m o n , d i d n o t c o n s i d e r o n e t h o u s a n d li t o o f a r , f o r h e b r a v e d the w i n d a n d waves a n d a r r i v e d i n C h i n a . His bright p i e r c i n g eyes gaze f r o m n o r t h to s o u t h into the hearts o f people i n peripheral r e g i o n s .  The"  5 2  Mr. Solomon" in this passage is Andrew Solomon, a journalist specializing  in art reportage and author of a book on Russian art just before the downfall of Communism.  53  The New York Times sent him to China in 1993 to write about  contemporary Chinese art, an event alluded to by the name on the boat in this  5 2  See the t e x t i n p l a t e  3.32.  Andrew Solomon, The ivory tower—Soviet artists glasnost, New York, 1991.  5 3  in a time of  109 painting. At the end of that same year, he published an article entitled "Their Irony, Humor (and Art) Can Save China" in the New York Times  Magazine,  which introduced contemporary Chinese art practice to Western audiences mainly from a political standpoint.  54  Zhou met Solomon twice before he created  this painting, once in Shanghai in 1993 and the other time in New York in 1994. This experience of having contact with a representative of Western media who was interested in contemporary Chinese art strongly influenced Zhou's return to the art world. In this particular painting, Zhou was narrating a true story. The exaggeratedly humble tone he used to describe Mr. Solomon, a Western explorer of contemporary Chinese art, revealed his acute observation of a new and obvious unbalanced relationship between a curious center and the "peripheral" area the former had chosen for study. By creating a picture of artists taking a bath with the critics, Zhou fully exposed one of those facts of the early 1990s that Chinese artists rarely discussed, namely, that when a very few art critics and curators in China became the sole channel through which the Western media and art world obtained lists of contemporary Chinese artists "worthy" of attention,  many artists engaged in a secret and highly treacherous contest to  cultivate better personal relationships with those domestic authorities and jockey for exposure in the West. Thus, once again Zhou Tiehai's subject was the power struggle in the art world, but the change in that struggle suggested by his new work hints at a possible reason for him rejoining the ranks of artists at this time. When contemporary Chinese art moved to the Western stage, the shift of power from authorities in domestic art circles to Western journalists, museum directors, gallery curators, and so forth challenged its previous hierarchy. Thus, a new period had now arrived, a period when young Chinese artists would  5  4  Andrew Solomon,  "Their i r o n y , " p p . 43-51, 66,  70-2.  110 have the opportunity to compete with their senior colleagues on a level playing field. Encouraged by this new situation, Zhou resumed his activities as an artist. Besides the piece just mentioned, he produced a group of large-size wrappingpaper paintings in 1994, works which both commented on the new cultural situation conditioned by the East-West relationship in addition to criticizing the consumer culture of the era. A typical example is Shanghai: Asia's the Future  Top City of  (plate 3. 33), in which Zhou covered a huge surface with a  patchwork of pages from books on cultural criticism and art theory. On the top of the painting, a prominent line of Chinese text reads: "The famous prostitutes of the late Qjng Dynasty were the fashion models of the masses"  W^^fj^^^A  B#77 §f£iAlfc^'f££lf#l.55 Underneath this sentence, one sees a computer:  processed photographic image of a famous late Qjng prostitute which had appreared in a recently published Chinese book about early twentieth-century Shanghai popular culture, a work that like many other similar publications nostalgically glorified the city's past as a commercial and economic center. 6 5  Now by confronting the audience with both this past image and a current question: "Shanghai: Asia's Top City in the Future?" Zhou was able to juxtapose and  draw parallels between two related fragments of Shanghai history, thus,  exposing the immoral, ugly, and greedy exchanges involved in an increasingly materialistic Shanghai society in the process of restoring its past glory and position in the world.  See plate 3.33. See Tang Zhenchang IfflSifr? ed., Jindai Shanghai fanhua lu 2rft-h7§SiSP3&, Hongkong, 1993, pp. 218, 223, photograph 7 0 . The main l i n e i n Chinese on t h i s painting also derives from the same book. The o r i g i n a l sentence 5 5  5 6  i s "m^m^^mft^^^&^mm^^n^nmm^mmin^m^..''  Ibid., p. 251. For a similar example, see Shi Meiding }fefi55E:ed., Zhuiyi—jindai Shanghai tushi ^M--i&.{X^Z.MM$., Shanghai, 1996.  see  V  111 To be sure, it is not correct to say that attacking Shanghai's consumer society is all that this piece is about, since Zhou's criticism of elite cultural practice in contemporary China is easily discernible in the remaining Chinese text, especially, in the sentence written below the main line in Chinese,  which  reads: "Are Temptress Moon and Shanghai Triad... very interesting?!" (Feng yue, Yao a yao, yaodao waipo qiao...hen you yisi ma?! <M,B>, < ^ 1 ? f ^ ^ ¥ ' J ^ f - ^ (  W&M^Mll)  Here Zhou alludes to two films directed by Chen Kaige  IfX and Zhang Yimou SIHIS respectively, the two Chinese directors most favored by Western viewers.  A new "Shanghai fever" had brought about the  publication of numerous books about the city during the early twentieth century, and these two films can also be seen as symptoms of the same malady. The stories of both take place against the background of Shanghai gangster societies in the 1920s and, even more than the books, tend to pander to the Western (and domestic) audience's interest in the mysterious old Shanghai fraught with sex and violence, crime and intrigue, and the ever-present possibility of a swift ascent to riches and power.  Now by questioning the quality  of these two films, it can be argued that Zhou Tiehai is not just criticizing them in isolation but that he is also attacking the habitually over-simplified way in which Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou present Chinese history and society for the sake of appealing to the Western audience, with its fascination for stereotypes about China and exotica in general.  57  However, when Zhou questioned the  Zhou T i e h a i ' s view i s s i m i l a r t o what one f i n d s i n the w r i t i n g s of other Chinese i n t e l l e c t u a l s . See Wang Y i c h u a n ' s i — J l | d i s c u s s i o n of the d i f f e r e n c e s between the Western r e c e p t i o n of Chen K a i g e and Zhang Yimou as opposed t o i t s r e c e p t i o n of the " F o u r t h - G e n e r a t i o n " C h i n e s e directors. In h i s a r t i c l e Wang a n a l y s e s the s t r a t e g i e s used by b o t h Zhang and Chen f o r p r o d u c i n g Chinese f i l m s l i k e d by Westerners and c r i t i c i z e s b o t h f o r l a c k i n g " r e s p o n s i b i l i t y t o h i s t o r y " and f o r t h e i r "anxiety of c r i s i s . " He a l s o a t t a c k s them f o r u s i n g " a l l e g o r i c a l C h i n e s e n e s s " t o a t t r a c t Western a u d i e n c e s . Wang Yichuan 3E—JM, "Yuyanxing zhongguo qingdiao—Zhang Yimo yu d i s i d a i " MWM. PW\&M--'SkW SyfeSSESf't, i n Wang Meng, J i n r i xianfeng ( 2 ) , 1 9 9 4 , p p . 7 7 - 8 5 . 5  7  t  112  unbalanced cultural communication between the West as center and China as fringe, his own presentation of Shanghai as a seductive and exotic oriental prostitute, fell into the same category which he claimed was uninteresting and problematic.  In this sense, his criticism (or possibly implied self-criticism)  became an integral part of his self-posturing strategy. Squeezed between a commercialized metropolitan life style and the acute consciousness of an intellectual, Zhou, like many Shanghai artists, developed a schizoid frame of mind. He called himself a "yuppie-hippie" (yaxipi  a  term that indicates the contradiction between the materialistic and spiritual sides of his life.  Besides attacking the Western cultural hegemony and the  relevant problems it caused for contemporary Chinese culture, Zhou soon launched an ambiguous engagement with materialism. His Our Paintings Should Be Packed in Louis Vuitton Luggage (Women de hua yaoyong Louis Vuitton di bao lai zhuang ^ f f l F f t l l i l f f l L o u i s Vuitton  Wfe^fc^),  which was made in 1994,  can be viewed as an early example of this new development (plate 3.34). In this painting, one sees contemporary Chinese art works packed in a piece of namebrand luggage on their way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This time the artist may have been trying to give the same weight to the financial and cultural value of art works, or perhaps he was attempting to mock the inseparability of the two values as the operation of the art world suggests. Though different viewers might read the work differently, it is clear that materialism not only remained a critical subject in Zhou's art but also was treated as a new force that interfered with and shaped his way of being an artist. In 1995 Zhou started to employ computer techniques to make slicklooking fake covers of important Western news and art magazines, on which his own image or his paintings, originally done on cheap, crude materials, were  113  highlighted. The first piece he finished in this series was a Newsweek  cover,  on which the image of Zhou as a yuppie was set against the backgound of his painting The Knife Needs to be Sharpened,  an earlier graffiti work full of  revolutionary spirit. The English headline on the cover, written in white block letters, reads: "Too Materialistic, Too Spiritualized," a perfect visualization of the artist's schizoid mentality (plate 3.35). As Hou Hanru pointed out, the artist "engaged in the fantasy of being a media star or the fantasy of selftransformation into a rich and famous person," thus reflecting the materialistic desires "shared by many young urban Chinese of his generation."  58  Yet at the  same time, as a young man who had been born with a rebellious nature and intellectual consciousness, Zhou could not give up his love for the pursuit of the spiritual life he had experienced during the avant-garde art movements of the 1980s. The artist's inner struggle was painful and sincere, but his sense of irony was also unmistakable in the way that he transferred the crudity, social criticism, and anti-commercialism of his original painting onto the highly finished surface of a magazine cover with the express purpose of selfpromotion. The irony was also manifested in the glamorous and dramatic way that he presented his most personal introspection and inner conflict and at the same time  "put into gear a formidable public-relations machine that reflected  Zhou's march to international fame."  59  This fake cover later became one of his  most representative works and has been featured frequently in the European art world. Here a little story which Zhou told Mishi Saran in an interview originally published in The Asian Wall Street Journal background to his fake magazine covers.  5  8  5  9  C4.  may help us understand the During his three-month trip to New  Hou Hanru, " G l o b a l i z e d , c h a o t i c , empty, d y s t o p i a n , " p . 147. M i s h i S a r a n , "In p e r s o n , " The globe and mail, (January 9, 1999), p .  114 York in 1994, an acquaintance familiar with Chinese artists asked Zhou: "How come I haven't heard about you?" and: "How much does your work cost?" These two questions shattered Zhou's earlier artistic naivete,  and he admitted to Saran:  B e f o r e , I t h o u g h t t o b e a n a r t i s t , a l l y o u n e e d is y o u r w o r k t o b e g o o d . . . I s u d d e n l y d i s c o v e r e d t h a t w a s n o t the case. Y o u h a v e t o b e o n t h e l i s t .  6 0  As we have seen in our discussion of Zhou's There Came a Mr. Solomon, at the beginning of the 1990s, the "list" was mainly in the hands of a few Chinese critics then. However, by 1995, when contemporary Chinese art was already known to Western audiences and collectors, being on the list of various Western curators and dealers became a test of one's artistic creativity, but perhaps even more of one's skill at "navigating a treacherous web of relations with gallery owners, museum curators, writers and, yes, other artists." 1 6  Now by featuring  himself on one of the world's most powerful media covers, albeit a fake one, Zhou was expressing the necessity of being "on the list" in the contemporary art world and was putting himself on the list! In addition to the Newsweek  cover, Zhou also produced an Art News  cover during this period (plate 3.36). Besides reflecting the conflict between the commercial and non-material present in the Newsweek  cover, this work also  treated the difficult situation confronting Chinese artists of this decade.  Due to  the almost total lack of a domestic audience and support from the Chinese government, most Chinese artists have been forced to show their art outside the country.  Since the major Western art magazines are the most effective and  powerful medium through which Chinese artists can become widely recognized  6 0  Mishi  journal, 6 1  Ibid.  Saran, (July  "The a r t i s t 24-25,  1998),  i s on the cover," p.  11.  The Asian Wall  Street  115 by Western audiences and then become famous inside domestic art circles, being on their covers is obviously a fantasy shared by many Chinese artists. Thus, Zhou's Art News  both criticizes the difficulties faced by Chinese artists in their  homeland, while at the same time exposing their ill-concealed eagerness to be accepted by the West. At the same time as he was making these fake magazine covers, Zhou also produced his second set of large-scale paintings, most of which combined painted images with computer-generated fake magazine covers and which expressed his sense of regret about the disappearance of authentic personal feelings among people in Shanghai. For example, in We Cannot Afford (Women of Vogue  fudan  buqi ^f^M^-^f^.)  It  (plate 3.37), we see an enlarged fake cover  magazine, featuring a group of the most famous Shanghai prostitutes  of the 1920s arranged at the center of the work and separating a contemporary young couple on its two sides. The picture of the prostitutes, the alienation between the man and woman, as well as the artist's claim that: "We cannot afford it," and: "We do not have peace of mind"  Ifc^'kli^MSf) allude  to the  indifference and anxiety always present in contemporary Shanghai life, where true love has been diminished and contaminated by l u c r e . In hisWe Went to Look for Love (Women xunzhao  62  aiqing  qule $5{PH|i$c  §?11f5feT) (plate 3.38), made in 1996, the same message was delivered in a more straightforward way.  Here Zhou portrays two Joe Camels ( originally an  advertising icon for Camel cigarettes) as dandyish and somewhat wicked cityslickers, who like the artist himself went looking for love in Shanghai.  Their  sense of ultimate frustration in this quest is expressed by the Chinese sentence written in small characters under the painting's title, which states that they "cannot find good love, and they cannot live without it, but if it is found, they 6 2  See t h e t e x t i n p l a t e 3 . 3 7 .  116 will give themselves more trouble" (haode zhaobudao, meiyou you shoubuliao, youle you rang ni fangde budeliao trtfj&^m, ^^T).^  U ^ X ^ T ,  W T X H f f t ! ^  As Zhou realized from his personal experience, love needs to be  cultivated by money in Shanghai. This same idea is also expressed by the fake Newsweek cover collaged in both a black-and-white and color version onto the lefthand side of this painting, the English headline of which reads: "Where to Find Love in Shanghai." The cover shows a common scene in Shanghai, a young couple without money or a private apartment, who can only date on the street at night. Here the artist's anxious desire for true love and his feeling of loss are expressed in a unique visual rendition full of bitter playfulness.  The contradiction between Zhou's  yuppie interest in material power, symbolized by the slick Joe Camel, and his longing for personal fulfillment, seen in the loving couple dating on the street, once again suggest the schizoid mentality which he shares with many young Shanghainese.  In paintings like this, one glimpses one of the few moments  when Zhou shifts his attention from the problems of the art world to the reality of daily life. 64 In 1996, Zhou started to use sound in his art. In the installation show Under the Name of Art, the second exhibition in which he participated during the 1990s (the same exhibition that showed Shi Yong's Please Do Not  Touch  "Please Do Not Touch")  Airport  (Jichang  $k%).  Zhou presented his first sound piece, called  During the whole opening day of this exhibition, as the  audience walked around the exhibition hall to see the installations made by  See t h e t e x t i n p l a t e 3.38. I t i s i n t e r e s t i n g t o p o i n t out t h a t Zhou was not the p a i n t e r o f t h e s e p a i n t i n g s , s i n c e t h e y were r e a l i z e d by h i s a s s i s t a n t a c c o r d i n g t o h i s i d e a s and d e s i g n s . In t h i s sense, he c a s t h i m s e l f as a c o n c e p t u a l a r t i s t , more p r e c i s e l y , a d i r e c t o r whose i n t e l l e c t u a l s o p h i s t i c a t i o n and t a l e n t became t h e b r a i n b e h i n d these h i g h l y i n d i v i d u a l i z e d and impressive v i s u a l presentations. 6  3  6 4  117 fifteen other participating artists, they could constantly hear Zhou's airport announcement recorded on a tape. After a professional announcer reported the departure times of different flights to such Western cities where contemporary Chinese art had been shown as Venice, Berlin, Brisbane, and Vancouver, the audience was told:  D e a r p a s s e n g e r s , w e are s o r r y to i n f o r m e v e r y o n e t h a t d u e to b a d w e a t h e r f l i g h t L F I 1 7 0 t o K a s s e l w i l l b e d e l a y e d i n its d e p a r t u r e . departure time. T h a n k y o u .  We w i l l keep y o u i n f o r m e d about the  6 5  At that time the Documenta Exhibition in Kassel, Germany was the only internationally prestigious art event in which Chinese contemporary art had not yet been featured. In this simple sound piece, Zhou transformed the exhibition hall into an airport departure lounge and the audience, many of whom were artists, into passengers waiting anxiously for the flight to Kassel. Here Zhou's ironic view of the business side of the art world was clear beyond words, for idealism and ambition under the banner of art became a synonym for human vanity and crass materialism. . In 1997, Zhou's art started being shown outside China, and his career as a successful artist began. This was partly due to the efforts of his agent since 1996, the Shangart Gallery, an organization that initiated a fruitful connection between Shanghai artists and Western (especially European) collectors, dealers, curators and art lovers. At the same time, Zhou's good command of English allowed him to associate with a wide range of foreign friends dwelling in Shanghai, including consuls and cultural attaches from different European  6 5  Wang L i n 3 E W ,  " Y i p i p i n g de mingyi—Zhongguo  zhan pingshu" l^atfFW^fe-- tJa#{-tSlK^cStS#l!fe, t  (June,  1996),  p. 21.  dangdai y i s h u  Jiangsu  jiaoliu  huakan, 1 8 6 . 6  118 countries, and his many social contacts, together with the uniqueness of his art, enabled him to enter various venues in the Western w o r l d .  66  Yet the more Zhou  succeeded in his career in the art world, the more he became obsessed with the problems he experienced as a contemporary Chinese artist. In March of 1997, Zhou was invited by the famous Japanese curator Shimizu Toshio Vrf  to have an exhibition in Tokyo with two other  internationally established artists, hwa  -SlE'ffc  Sone Yu H " ^ ^ from Japan and Ch'oe Chong  from Korea. Zhou produced two pieces for this exhibition, the third  part of a large show, Promenade in Asia. One of his works was a large-scale painting, named Are You Lonely? (Ni gudu  ? jfr5H$l?) (plate 3.39).  In this  piece Joe Camel once again catches the viewer's eye with a halo over his head on which are written the English words: "GLORY SPLENDOR WEALTH RANK" (rong  hua fu gui  ||lj§lSjlt)  obviously referring to all the wonderful things in this  world that success in the art business can bring o n e .  67  These four English  words are, however, contradicted by the eye-catching Chinese characters  '"fftSU  $1", which according to Zhou himself, imply that "even if arriving in Kassel, you will also be lonely" (jiushi daole Kasai'er, ye gudu  $S).  68  gfc^^'JT^HHf, tilffl  The melancholy appearance of the apparently successful Joe Camel  expresses the same bitterness of spiritual loss deep inside the artist. If this painting communicated Zhou's inner struggle and pessimistic view of the art world's reality in a concrete and amusing way, then the other piece he produced for the same exhibition startled the viewer with its extremely blunt text. This second piece consisted of a nineteen-minute black- and-white silent Here I do not i n t e n d t o say t h a t Zhou i s merely a s o c i a l o p p o r t u n i s t . A t a time when t h e r e i s h a r d l y any support from the domestic audience o r t h e government, s e l f - p r o m o t i o n and c l e v e r , o r even o p p o r t u n i s t i c , s o c i a l manoeuvres, (which are omnipresent i n the contemporary a r t w o r l d ) , become n e c e s s a r y f o r Zhou T i e h a i and h i s c o m p a t r i o t s t o e s t a b l i s h t h e i r a r t i s t i c careers. See t h e t e x t i n p l a t e 3 . 3 9 . My i n t e r v i e w w i t h Zhou T i e h a i on May 29, 1998. 6  6  6  7  6  8  119 movie, which presented three minutes of black screen,  then thirteen minutes  of the English word WILL alternating with its Chinese synonym Bixu  'J&ZW ,  then one minute of the English text FAREWELL ART!, alternating with its Chinese translation Zaijian yishu  S J T L B E I I ^ ! , and then two minutes of film  credits (plate 3.40-43). This little "melodrama" can best be viewed as another eye-catching and creative vision produced by the artist to catch the attention of the audience, but it also showed its viewers a portrait of the conflict between the artist as an ambitious warrior pursuing worldly success and his spiritual disillusionment with the art world as another battleground for business. Two months later, Zhou participated in one more group exhibition, entitled Another Long March, held in the Dutch city Breda. According to the exhibition coordinator Tang Di Hrf£'s report, this was the first big exhibition in the West featuring conceptual art from mainland China with eighteen artists from Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Lanzhou participating.  69  For this show, which was held in an abandoned military barracks, Zhou presented a simple sound piece, consisting of such bugle calls as reveille and taps, which were played to the audience as they filed through the exhibition hall. This piece, which ostensibly alluded to the title of the exhibition, may have reminded viewers of the cultural long march taken by contemporary Chinese art under exceedingly difficult circumstances, but Zhou probably intended to comment on the business side of art, too, or as he once said: "Artists are like soldiers. Whether they like it or not, they have to obey the rules and have to keep on fighting."  70  Since China has became increasingly capitalistic during  this decade, the battle he was talking about was more likely to be an individual struggle for personal success, and the rules that the artist must obey refer, more 6 9  Tang Di^kWi, "Zhongguo guannian y i s h u z a i x i f a n g d i y i c i dazhan d i  shimo" <PWWi£Wffi&ttJ5B—Jiangsu 1997), p p . 13-17. My i n t e r v i e w w i t h Zhou on May 29,  7 0  huakan, 202.10 1998.  (October,  120 or less, to the compromise of one's "spirituality" and personal principles in order to obtain material prosperity. In this piece, Zhou blew his bugle like a valiant warrior, but his demand for spirituality in the art world soon presented his viewers with a completely different vision. In November of 1997, he was chosen to participate in the exhibition Cities On The Move in Vienna. For this show, Zhou produced another conceptual piece, consisting of a black flag flying from the top of the exhibition building, on which were emblazoned the two Latin words "Vale Arte" Art") written in white letters.  ("Farewell  During the opening of the exhibition, Zhou had  the two curators lower the flag to half mast and keep it there until the show was closed. This piece also appeared later on a fake cover of The New York Magazine  Times  dated November 30, 1997 (plate 3.44). Now instead of being a  disciplined soldier fighting for victory in the art world, Zhou despairingly proclaimed the death of art on the part of an individual whose idealistic view of art as a purely spiritual and noble social activity was crushed by the operation of an art system which, as Oliva observed: "in our time has become a force that both guarantees and limits the artist's existential freedom." ! Paradoxically, 7  Zhou's farewell to art was not expressed by some suicidal gesture as seen frequently in earlier art history, nor through the demise of his artistic career. On the contrary, his assertion that art is dead remained another creative action performed in the art system to supply its continuous demand for objects of the imagination.  In other words, by constantly involving himself in the repetitive  and creative process of "assuring vitality to the definition of art," he further asserted his survival and identity as an ambitious artist.  7  1  Art, 7 2  72  A c h i l l e O l i v a , "Why have a r t i s t s stopped committing s u i c i d e ? , " 24.161 (November/December, 1991), p . 90. Ibid.  Flash  121 Thus, no matter whether Zhou presented himself as a warrior for or gravedigger of art, he was, to a large extent, doing so as a strategy to validate his work in an art world mainly dominated by Western perspectives and a globalized economy. As his most recent works show us, the more directly he confronted those dominant forces in the art world, the more he was able to create attention and admiration for both his art and himself. The cultural section of the February, 1998 issue of the Swiss news magazine Facts carried a report about Zhou's exhibition in Bern at that t i m e .  73  This article showed a picture of Zhou's fake cover of Facts magazine, on which the artist presented himself as the alleged murderer of a Swiss journalist (plate 3.45). According to the author, Zhou's cover, which he had enlarged to show in the Bern exhibition, was inspired by reading an earlier story in the magazine about a Swiss man who had been accused of murdering someone in China. Although similar in technique to his earlier fake magazine covers, this new piece was an even more radical act of the imagination, for by casting himself as the murderer of a Western journalist, Zhou was consciously subverting the Western media's overwhelming capacity for shaping the reception of contemporary Chinese art in the West and influencing its development in its indigenous context. Yet, it is impossible to miss the ironic fact that Zhou's radical gesture of negating the power of the Western media made him once again a Western media star. In March of 1998, Zhou participated in another group show in Vancouver, Canada. For this exhibition, he produced a piece entitle  Press Conference  (Xinwen fabuhui iff IM# fiTli") which consisted of three life-size photographs, ;  in which he remained the glamorous central figure (plate 3.46).  This time he  acted the statesman, claiming that "relations in the art world are the same as the  7  3  "Der K u n s t l e r p o s i e r t a l s K i l l e r , " Facts,  6 (February,  1998), p .  115.  122  relation between states in the post Cold War e r a . "  74  Meanwhile, he also listed  himself as a newly issued stock on the Shanghai Stock Exchange Market. As the text of the financial report incorporated into this piece indicated, Zhou Tiehai, a newly listed stock, appreciated among overseas investors, its value mainly under the control of European buyers (plate 3.47). Here Zhou was commenting on the power relationships within the international art world, especially between Shanghai and the West. He seemed to suggest that in an age of globalization the reality of cultural communication on the international stage is mainly determined by economic relations between nations, and, to a large extent, the position of an artist in the art system is related to, and judged by, the value of his works on the global cultural market. As Oliva wrote: "...the notion of success seems less a question of passing into history than of ranging through geography.  Criteria of time and immortality have been replaced by space and  ubiquitous presence on the international art circuit."  75  As a matter of fact, in 1998 Zhou's art was featured in more than ten overseas exhibitions.  At the end of that year, he won the first prize of the first  Contemporary Chinese Art Award set up by a Swiss art foundation and was recently selected to take part in the 1999 Venice Biennale. We can see that within an extremely short period he has established himself as the most internationally active and best-known multimedia artist residing in Shanghai. Now by issuing himself as a stock Zhou was merely reaffirming this idea of his immediate value as a global "commodity," which passes into the space but lacks historical depth. In the text of this piece, one reads:  7 4 7  5  See the t e x t i n the middle image i n p l a t e 3.46. A c h i l l e O l i v a , "Why have a r t i s t s stopped committing s u i c i d e , "  p.  90.  123  If the Zhou climbs much higher it willfinditself very vulnerable to market fluctuations and exposed to the whims of profit-takers," said a market analyst with a Shanghai-based securities firm.  76  We are not certain if the "Shanghai-based securities firm" is some Chinese critic or (more likely) Zhou himself, but in any case he is expressing anxiety about how the whims of speculators will influence his future value.  However, in spite  of his concerns, his "fundamentals remain sound, and bullish traders expect renewed interest by overseas buyers to bring Zhou Tiehai higher in the long term."  77  Thus, as long as he continues to produce objects of the imagination, the  art world, now mainly Western, will continue to affirm his value.  7  6  7 7  See p l a t e Ibid.  3.47.  124 Chapter  Four  Dynamism  i n Disunity  T h e l i g h t a n d c o l o r o f the nineties are getting m o r e a m b i g u o u s .  radicalism only in  still  remains,  this way does  art  this  age  combines  banality,  W h i l e the a u r a o f  hedonism, kitsch, and  Utopia,  and  carry richer meanings. 1 Zhu Qi  Change and Disunity  In China, the 1990s were a decade of tremendous social transformation. The  communist regime's Western-influenced economic reform and the rapid  growth of a global consumer culture created a capitalist-socialist society. The Chinese people's unified political idealism of previous decades faded away and was replaced by the individual's endeavour to survive and prosper in a constantly shifting social structure. Contemporary art practice in China experienced a similar transformation. As Gao Minglu wrote in a recent essay: "The grand subject matter and Utopian vision" of Chinese avant-garde art during the 1980s have changed into the individual's "more cynical or mundane approach" to "real situations" in this decade.  2  In Shanghai, an increasingly capitalistic city at the front line of China's economic and cultural encounter with the West, the self-centered on,  perspective  and interest in, making art became increasingly characteristic in the  nineties. Art became more "a production determined by multiple pressures, Zhu Q i , "Yishu zuowei y i z h o n g mingyi—Shanghai 'Zhongguo dangdai y i s h u j i a o l i u zhan' baodao" WfiftSJ — ±.U ' *ffl#ftMfff3t^S'IB*, Hualang, 55.2 ( F e b r u a r y , 1 9 9 6 ) , p. 27. Gao M i n g l u , "From e l i t e t o s m a l l man: The many f a c e s o f a t r a n s i t i o n a l a v a n t - g a r d e i n mainland C h i n a , " i n Gao Minglu e d . , Inside out-new 1  2  Chinese art,  New York, 1 9 9 8 , p. 1 6 4 .  125 including the state, the market, mass culture, international institutions, and so on," rather than "a pure ideological and cultural production."  3  Under the  influence of diverse inner motives and external pressures, art in Shanghai displayed a great disunity during this decade. This existed in three areas: (1) disunity within the works of a single artist, as we saw in Chapter Two and especially in Chapter Three, (2) disunity among various artists in Shanghai, and (3) disunity between general tendencies in Shanghai and those in Beijing, the Mecca of contemporary art in China. To locate these disunities will, hopefully, paint a broader and more dynamic picture of Shanghai art during the 1990s, one in which political memories are interwoven with aesthetic detachment, resistance to and compromise with commercialism, and global dialogue, side by side with "cultural war" against Western hegemony.  3  I b i d . , p.  165.  126 Political Parody and Non-political Gesture — 1990-1995  The Surge of Political Pop and Cynical Realism  The first art wave in the 1990s was "Political Pop" and "Cynical Realism," painting conditioned by social realities after the Tiananmen Square Incident and initiated and supported mainly by Beijing artists. Wang Guangyi 3Ejjlrii (b. 1956) of Beijing and Yu Youhan of Shanghai were two leading figures of the "Political Pop" side of this new wave. Their paintings in this category juxtapose images of Mao Zedong and other stereotypes from Cultural Revolution-period posters with the forms of American Pop Art (see Wang Guangyi's Great Castigation Series: Coca-cola plate 4.1).  4  [Da pipan xilie: kekou kele  A f f i ^ H ^ ' J : nT • "1^],  Their art's ironic political parody arises partially from their loose  execution and garish surfaces, but even more so from the way that Communism encounters capitalism, and the political heroes in the collective Chinese memory engage in a dialogue with Western market icons. The Cynical Realists, typified 1963),  by Beijing artists Fang Lijun ^M/$<J (b.  LiuWeiSlI'Jt (b. 1965), Zhao B a n d i S ^ J M b . 1963), and Yu Hong M E (b.  1966), depicted the banal, unexciting, and nihilistic fragments of everyday life (e. g., Fang Lijun's Series 2: no. 2 [Dier zn zhi er H  —  ]  ,  plate 4.2). This  became the younger generation's favorite method of satirizing the social and political environment that they encountered.  5  Born in the 1960s, these artists  had a passive or blurred memory of the Mao period and were no longer idealistic, especially after witnessing the Tiananmen Square Incident.  Their  paintings revealed a very personal, inverted, and trivial perspective towards  4  5  I b i d . , plate 35. Jochen Noth e t a l e d . ,  illustration,  n. p.  127 the present reality, which both expressed their political dissatisfaction, while relieving their own sense of helplessness and anxiety.  6  As already mentioned, shortly after the exhibition "China's New Art, Post 1989" held in Hongkong in 1993, this new art wave of political parody attracted a great deal of attention from the overseas art world.  7  Although this sort of  painting aroused the interest of the Western audience in contemporary Chinese art, it also created the false impression in the "politically and culturally exotic eye of..[its] consumers" (largely Westerners) that in the early 1990s resistance to the regime's ideological control was the only concern of creative artists in China.  8  Meanwhile, the capitalistic marketing methods of the art world created  a great commercial success outside China for paintings of political parody.  9  This  encouraged many other artists at home to imitate the same subject matter and style, diminishing the initial artistic and ideological contribution of the genre and even lowering it to the level of kitsch, or what Milan Kundera aptly calls  Art c r i t i c L i Xianting promoted both P o l i t i c a l Pop and Cynical R e a l i s t a r t . He explained the l a t t e r as "an attitude of awakening sarcasm, an attitude aiming at challenging any intention to change the r e a l i t y , and also an attitude of dissoluteness and helplessness i n the face of 6  anxiety" -MBIKlWMlKjflSft,  - T O f f Hafe*S5RIKl^H*«IKlfflK, —  AVlMfflftrM^M1UM3iM&tt}M&. Monica Dematte, Qi Yule IBSJ8 t r . , " L i Xianting tan Zhongguo xiandai yishu" y&WL&WL'P9%L{tW$3, Palazzo Ruini quarterly contemporary art magazine in Chinese (Luyinigong wenhua xinxi qikan MWWgJMkfS&ffl^l), 1 (Spring, 1994), unpaginated. In 1993, the reworked exhibition t r a v e l l e d to Sydney, B e r l i n , the Venice Biennale, and a year l a t e r , to London and Vancouver. The leading European art magazine Flash Art also reported the e x h i b i t i o n of t h i s new Chinese art and described i t s "mistrust of idealism, s p i r i t u a l wounding, and the desire for transcendence and escape." See "New Chinese art at Marlborough," Flash art, 27.175 (March/April, 1994), p. 61. Hou Hanru, "Beyond the cynical-China Avant-garde i n the 1990s," Art and Asia Pacific, 3.1 (1996), p. 44. For example, i n 1992 Wang Guangyi's o i l painting Great Criticism (1990), which combines proletarian poster images of the C u l t u r a l Revolution with Coca Cola signs, became the cover image of the January/February issue of Flash Art. According to Andrew Solomon's report, one year l a t e r Wang's work "reached prices i n excess of $20,000. He recently rented a $200 hotel room just 'to f e e l what i t was l i k e to l i v e l i k e an art superstar.'" See Flash art, 25.162 (January/February, 1992), cover page. Andrew Solomon, "Their irony," p. 49 7  8  9  128 "the translation of the stupidity of received ideas into the language and  of beauty  feeling." 1 °  Shanghai:  Ambiguity in Political Parody  In Shanghai, paintings with political symbols from the Maoist period flourished, too. First of all, the "ambivalent and incontrovertible love for Chairman Mao" observed by Andrew Solomon in Chinese avant-garde circles, made the image of this political icon a favored subject matter of several Shanghai painters, including Yu Youhan, Li Shan and Xue Song 1964).  11  (b.  Yet their creations were different from what one saw in the works of  the Beijing artist Wang Guangyi, who in his 1988 painting Mao Zedong (plate 4.3) placed several monotonous, iconographic portraits of Chairman Mao behind a prison-bar grid, thus, provoking the critical response from Ellen Johnston Laing, that they were too clear to "further stimulate the intellect."  12  The appropriation of the Mao image by Shanghai artists was not simply directed at a total negation of the Maoist ideology of the past; rather their Mao paintings, though easily classified under the category of Political Pop art, actually M i l a n Kundera, The art of the novel, New York, 1998, p . 163. Andrew Solomon, " T h e i r i r o n y , " p . 66. E l l e n J o h n s t o n L a i n g , " I s t h e r e Post-modern a r t i n t h e P e o p l e ' s R e p u b l i c o f C h i n a ? " i n John C l a r k ed., Modernity in Asian art, Sydney, 1993, p . 221. F o r Wang Guangyi, "the u l t i m a t e s i g n i f i c a n c e o f a r t i s t h e e x t i n c t i o n o f i c o n o g r a p h y which r e s u l t s i n t h e complete d i s a b i l i t y o f a e s t h e t i c judgement." I b i d . , 219. I n a s h o r t e s s a y w r i t t e n by Wang Guangyi h i m s e l f , he d i s c u s s e d t h e meaning o f t h e " c u l t u r a l r e v i s i o n i s m " (Wenhua x i u z h e n g z h u y i 3 t ^ L $ £ l E i | S ) i n t e n d e d by him i n h i s a r t work. He s t a t e d t h a t f a c i n g a l l t h e p r e - e x i s t i n g c u l t u r a l i c o n o g r a p h i e s (wenhua tushi 3t{LISil:i£) was a f a c t f o r a r t i s t s nowadays. "We s h o u l d examine i t c r i t i c a l l y , and then engage i n a c e r t a i n r e v i s i o n o f t h i s c u l t u r a l 1 0  1 1  1 2  f a c t . " »nnmffl«MijtoiB3i£*ffle, mtkms-^otmnmn^m^JE. He f u r t h e r c l a i m e d t h a t t h i s " c u l t u r a l r e v i s i o n i s m " was t h e v e r y meaning o f h i s e x i s t e n c e as an a r t i s t . See Wang Guangyi, "Dui sange w e n t i de h u i d a " f l H i M P t B S W l E l ^ , Meishu, 243.3 (March, 1988), p.57. I n Wang's  Great Castigation  Series,  he seems t o engage i n a r e v i s i o n o r a  c r i t i c i s m o f the c u l t u r a l iconographies and t h e c u r r e n t commercial system.  i n both the past Maoist  ideology  129 concealed more personal messages and ambiguous feelings along with their questioning of Mao's absolute authority. When I asked Li Shan: "What do you think about people calling your work Political Pop art?" he responded that it "reflects historical phenomena which have been interwoven with the culture of the individual.  "  i  3  Similarly, Yu Youhan's visions of Mao Zedong, as seen in Chapter Two, are more an ironic comment on the loss of idealism in the present Chinese society than a total negation of the Maoist era. Being an enthusiastic believer, participant in, and victim of Mao's political movements, Yu finds the memory of that age of extreme importance to both his life and art. He admitted during an interview with Andrew Solomon in 1993: reject a piece of ourselves." 1 4 rich personal meanings.  "When we reject Chairman Mao, we  Certainly, it is a piece of himself which contains  In his notes on art, Yu claimed:  In m y w o r k , t h e i m a g e o f M a o Z e d o n g h a s d i v e r s e c o n n o t a t i o n s :  sometimes he represents  C h i n a , s o m e t i m e s t h e East, s o m e t i m e s t h e c u l t u r e , s o m e t i m e s t h e l e a d e r , s o m e t i m e s t h e p r o g r e s s i v e a n d s o m e t i m e s t h e c o n s e r v a t i v e , o r s o m e t i m e s h e is m e r e l y a d e c o r a t i v e pattern.  1 5  In my 1998 interview with Yu, he also pointed out that Wang Guangyi's paintings stress negative criticism to an excess and that he himself wishes to create a more optimistic vision of the Mao period. Thus, the ironic sense is present in Yu's paintings, but the radiant image of Chairman Mao still remains. As Li Xianting said: "A misguided idealism is better than no idealism at a l l . "  1 3  1 4  1 5 1 6  My i n t e r v i e w w i t h L i Shan i n h i s s t u d i o on June 2 2 , 1 9 9 8 . Andrew Solomon, "Their i r o n y , " p . 66. Yu Youhan's u n p u b l i s h e d notes on a r t , w r i t t e n i n J u l y 1 9 9 7 . Ibid.  16  130 Li Shan, who belongs to the same generation as Yu Youhan, is famous for his Rouge Series (Yanzhi xielie MMi^l),  which he started in 1989.  These  works are characterized by sensuous, pink flower petals, which sometimes surround androgynous faces, and at othere times are entangled with male nudes and their sex organs. No.8  17  In 1990, the Mao image appeared in Li's Rouge Series:  (Yanzhi xilie zhi ba SSiJiif^'J^ A ) (plate 4.4), but it was very different  from Wang Guangyi's or Yu Yonghan's rendition of this political i c o n .  1 8  Under  Li's brush, an originally patriarchal Mao was feminized by a pinkish background and the reduction through the use of light and shade of the Chairman's face to a triangular shape consistent with traditional Chinese standards of female beauty.  Even more extreme was the way in which Mao was  depicted with a pink lotus in his mouth, rather like a Spanish Flamenco dancer. Another rendition of Mao Zedong was more restrained in its use of the color rouge, but the image of Mao was equally feminine, or at least sexually ambiguous (plate 4.5).  One may impose a political reading on Li Shan's Mao  paintings, interpreting them as a feminine subversion of the monotonously patriarchal Mao era, but this phenomena may be explained even better by the artist's own ambiguous sexuality.  19  Xue Song is another Shanghai-based artist who appropriated the image of Chairman Mao in his paintings from time to time. In 1990, an accidental fire To know more about L i Shan's Rouge Series, see Wu L i a n g , "Tongwang y a n z h i d i g u o d i daolu" ffi^lHlllWKWJI$&, Yishu chaoliu, 2.2 ( F e b r u a r y , 1 7  1993), pp. 6 2 - 8 . Gao M i n g l u e d . , Inside out, p l a t e 37. The a m b i g u i t y i s a l s o manifested i n L i Shan's own e x p l a n a t i o n o f h i s .Rouge Series. In h i s obscure a r t i c l e , L i admitted t h a t "my m o t i v e and r e a s o n t o c r e a t e Rouge Series has t o do w i t h the game between t h i s wai wei xing yang shi ^kHfeft^ and a u t h o r i t y . " The Chinese e x p r e s s i o n l e f t u n t r a n s l a t e d i n t h i s sentence can be understood i n two ways, " p e r i p h e r a l s t y l e " and " p e r i p h e r a l s e x u a l s t y l e . " A c l o s e examination o f L i ' s a r t i c l e r e v e a l s t h a t he i s emphasizing the second meaning. As he w r o t e : " S e x u a l i t y and a u t h o r i t y c o n s t r u c t an overwhelming v i s i o n o f absurdity. "teUff^^^lgfiSc—liJSMSt^W^fl:!^. L i Shan ^ U ) , "<Yanzhi> x i l i e yu wo" <JE 11B y i s h u chaoliu, 2.2 ( F e b r u a r y , 1 9 9 3 ) , p . 6 9 . 1 8  1 9  131 destroyed Xue's studio and burned all his books to ashes, and since then ashes and  charred fragments of burnt books have been used as major components on  his canvases. Xue has constructed silhouettes of various historical images from them, ranging from political icons and journalistic pictures to ones deriving from books on art history. In Receiving Xue  (JiejianWM.)  (plate 4.6) made in 1991,  burned the collected writings of Chairman Mao into small pieces which he  then pasted around the edges of his canvas. In the center of this work he painted a blurred image of Chairman Mao in a familiar gesture of receiving the people. In a similar painting, Helmsman (Duoshou  tts^) produced in 1996, the  image of Mao was even more easily identified (plate 4.7).  Using Chairman Mao  as subject matter is quite rare among artists born in the 1960s, and in the case of Xue  Song, whose mother, a middle school teacher, was tortured to death during  the Cultural Revolution period, its use seems quite complex. Political parody is certainly one possible explanation, but if Xue intends to destroy past dogma by burning Mao's writings, then why does he bother to reconstruct the Chairman's deified image again and again? Does he intend to represent an era full of political enthusiasm and show the lack of a spiritual leader at the present time? Or,  graduating from the Shanghai Theater Academy (Shanghai xiju xueyuan _t  $ & l 8 c 0 J ^ I £ r i ) , where Li Shan teaches, does Xue follow the path of that senior artist to get quick recognition and success? No matter what the answer is, Xue Song's anger, criticism, and opportunism seem to have been restrained and neutralized by the aesthetic interplay between material, texture, form, and color in his works. As we saw in Chapter Three, Zhou Tiehai and Yan Xu also appropriated the format of Cultural Revolution posters in their graffiti produced in 1991. However, their work was even farther from the approach of the Beijing artists,  132 since their parody was not directed at the regime's policies or the status quo, but mainly at the special situation in the domestic art world.  Non-political Gesture  In Shanghai art of the early 1990s, appropriating political images from the Maoist era was not a rare phenomenon, but works of this sort were not received favorably in local art circles. In November of 1993, Wu Liang, the chief editor of a literary journal Shanghai ~$C^), published an article in Jiangsu  Literature  Art Monthly,  painting in general as a "sociological tool"  (Shanghai  wenxue  attacking Political Pop  tt^"^S^XM,  which subjected the  autonomous aesthetics of art to an external relationship with politics and ideology.  20  Wu further criticized Political Pop art as an inefficient "sociological  tool," since its criticism of the social reality in China was elusive and indirect, and aimed at Western acceptance rather than creating a revolutionary effect among the domestic masses. Wu's article stood as the first critical voice against political or political-looking art in the Chinese art circles of the nineties.  To a  large extent, Wu's ideas reflected a prevalent local attitude to art making, which was further supported by the growing non-political stance of Shanghai artists  Wu L i a n g , "You meiyou y i g e ' zhengzhi bopu " ' W&W—MtikfeffiM, Jiangsu huakan, 155.11 (November, 1993), p p . 33-4. In h i s o t h e r a r t i c l e p u b l i s h e d about one y e a r l a t e r , Wu a g a i n c r i t i c i z e d the work of the P o l i t i c a l Pop o r C y n i c a l R e a l i s t i c s t y l e i n t h r e e ways: (1) i t s l a c k of self-sufficiency, (2) i t s monotonous and d e f i c i e n t imagery, which was a r e s u l t o f o p p o r t u n i s t i c i m i t a t i o n and s e l f - r e p r o d u c t i o n , and (3) i t s i n c a p a b i l i t y t o connect w i t h the Chinese audience and s o c i e t y . In h i s e s s a y , Wu i m p l i e d h i s p r e f e r e n c e f o r a r t w i t h s u f f i c i e n t a e s t h e t i c q u a l i t i e s , f o r m a l i s t s e n s i t i v i t y , and c r a f t m a n s h i p . He a l s o p o i n t e d out t h a t "the i m a g e . . . i s not the e x p o s i t i o n of c o g n i t i o n , o r the r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of a f a c t , but i s c o g n i t i o n and a l s o a f a c t d i r e c t l y by 2  0  i t s e l f " Hm.. . * e - M » t o a & # 5 f c H B « t o i i * , e M £ - s s » , M J|t—lHHlft. H i s view r e p r e s e n t e d the c o u n t e r c u r r e n t a g a i n s t the  M  «  e x c e s s i v e use of a r t f o r p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l purposes i n C h i n a ever s i n c e the b e g i n n i n g of t h i s c e n t u r y . Wu L i a n g , "Tuxiang de k u i f a , " p p . 3-4.  133 during the early nineties.  These artists hoped to rectify the misunderstandings  and the tide of kitsch thrown up by the earlier trend to political parody and to restore art's long-lost autonomy. Ding Yi offers us a very convincing example of this phenomenon in the realm of painting. His decade-long Cross Series paintings, based entirely on the simple, objective structure of the figure +, intend to negate any possible political and cultural references and create a pure visual experience for the viewer. Fan  tf  In addition to Ding Yi, two other well-known Shanghai painters, Shen 3  (b. 1952), and Qjn Yifeng focused solely on color, texture, and  compositional arrangement in their canvases. At the end of the 1980s, Shen Fan developed a unique technique for making his abstract paintings. He covered canvas or wooden boards with oil paint, then placed rice paper on top of them, rubbing it so that the oil would transfer onto the paper. This laborious process was repeated for each sheet of paper several times, creating a rich and abstract surfact. The works he created in the 1990s reveal his fascination with the primary colors, especially red, white, and black. As a result of covering his surfaces again and again, Shen leaves layers of overlapping and interwoven vestiges on the surface of rice paper, thus, allowing his materials to display their own aesthetic existence, contingent but self-sufficient (plate 4 . 8 ) .  21  Qjn Yifeng, who actively  participated in the modern art events of Shanghai together with Ding Yi during the 1980s, has devoted himself to his Line Field Series (Xianzhen xilie $kW-%^\) during this decade.  These acrylic paintings on canvas are composed entirely of  a rich interweaving of straight and curved lines (plate 4.9). Although the abstract patterns that the three artists are obsessed with vary from one to another, their attitude and approach towards art making are  1  The c o l o r p l a t e i s  from Shen Fan ^A», Shanghai, 1997,  unpaginated.  134 strikingly similar. For them, art is neither the mirror of the surrounding world's shifting scenery nor the symbolic record of the irony, nostalgia, or melancholy inspired by the individual's social and political life.  Rather it is a  meditative process of labor, reiteration, and propagation, a process in which the exclusive contemplation of problems intrinsic to painting itself fits into Clement Greenberg's definition of "purity" and "modernism" in a r t . Shanghai artists seem to be the earliest consistently painters in C h i n a .  2 2  These three  non-representational  2 3  In the early nineties, another important figure in Shanghai art circles, Song Haidong, also shifted to a non-political approach in his art practice. Song's early conceptual work Not Misprints  (Bingfei yinshua  cuowu  M^EPfij'J^tl^)  (1990, plate 4.10) and installations, such as Lie Detector (1991), in which he presented a flight recorder as a lie detector, carried strong messages deriving from external reality and mainly questioned the nature of truth and communication in social structures and forms. However, after the Shanghai Garage Show of 1991, Song began a process of introspective self-cultivation. He created hundreds of paper works that recorded nothing else but random, subtle traces of water, ink, chalk powder, and even dust, all left behind by his brush's and fingers' contact with the surface of the cardboard (plate 4.11). In his notes, Song wrote:  2  2  Clement Greenberg, "Modernist p a i n t i n g , " i n F . F r a s c i n a and C .  H a r r i s o n , Modern art and modernism: A critical 1982, p p . 5 - 1 0 . p p . 193-201.  anthology,  R e p r i n t e d from A r t and literature,  New Y o r k ,  4 (Spring,  1965),  T h i s can be supported by E l l e n L a i n g ' s argument t h a t t h e r e had been no t r u l y n o n - r e p r e s e n t a t i o n a l a r t i n China up t i l l t h e l a t e e i g h t i e s . See E l l e n L a i n g , p p . 209-212. 2  3  135  I believe that between this material and the other there is something that exists... This kind of 'existence' does not lie behind the art work, nor is conceived by the mind, but emerges gradually from within the work itself.  24  His interest in bringing forth this kind of inner existence excluded "subject matter, riddle answers, cultural interference, personal metaphor, and historical clues" from his Minimalist w o r k s .  25  In other words, he was able to emancipate  his art from the tangle of social life, ideology, and politics. Within the category of installation, works by Shi Yong, Qjan Weikang, and some other artists of the Huashan Art Vocational School represented the "linguistic and psychological shift towards a certain scientific rationale" as required by "metropolitanization."  26  Inspired by modern physics and technical  innovations, both Shi and Qjan employed scientific measurement in their installations from 1993 to 1995 (see pp. 73-81).  With its strong emphasis on  accuracy, rationalism, and refinement, their work displayed an abstract relationship between time and space, form and material, thus, offering another form of resistance to social and political interference in the arts. In May 1995 when Shi Yong and Qian Weikang were holding their installation show "Not Here, Not There" in a Vancouver artist run center, another version of "Mao Goes Pop" was exhibited in the Vancouver Art Gallery under the title of "Here, Not There." This coincidence ended up being a frontal engagement between the art of non-political gesture and the art of political parody, both of which have coexisted in the Chinese art scene since the early 1990s.  2 4  2 5  Song H a i d o n g ' s u n p u b l i s h e d note w r i t t e n i n J u l y 1994, p . 2. Wu L i a n g , "Zuowei y i z h o n g c u i z a i w u d i ' h e n j i ' — S o n g Haidong de  zhishang zuopin" M —  W 'fi&F ' —5fc#£IKjlR-bf1sft,  Song Haidong  ^ ( e x h i b i t i o n c a t a l o g u e ) , Shanghai, 1993, p r e f a c e . Hou Hanru, "Ambivalent w i t n e s s e s — a r t ' s e v o l u t i o n i n C h i n a , " art, 29.191 (November/December, 1996), p . 63. 2  6  Flash  136 Based on the previous discussion, we can differentiate two distinctive art practices in the Shanghai art circles of the early 1990s. One was to appropriate familiar political images into art works that, besides their concealed ambiguous meanings, inevitably took on an appearance of political parody, and, to a certain extent, reflected general concerns and sentiments prevalent in society. The other was to exclude political symbols and connotations from art production, making art an autonomous space where materials, forms, and pigments could display their own power and wisdom. This phenomenon seems to resemble the situation in Shanghai art circles during the 1920s and 1930s, since we see once again the contrast between art reflecting social-political reality and art created mainly for its own sake. However, beneath the similarities lies a fundamental difference.  During  the Great Shanghai Age, some artists supported the idea of art for art's sake in their individual practices and group manifestos, but the motives behind their ideas were actually quite similar to those who used art to serve politics, for the sense of social responsibility and the desire to carry out a modernization of China through the practice of new art forms stood as the major impetus behind their modernist practice. It was not until the late 1980s, or perhaps the early 1990s, when some Shanghai artists persistently detached their works from social and political involvement, at least on the subjective level, and that the first thorough practice of art for art's sake came into being in modern Shanghai. One might maintain that this non-political approach should still be seen as political. Shanghai art critics Zhu Qj even defined it as "an antagonistic, ideological strategy," arguing that art of this kind, even though apparently differing from politically-oriented art (i. e. Political Pop art) was actually a trend parallel to the latter, since it was equally inspired by a nationalistic motivation, which aimed at constructing modernism in China by developing a  137 dialogue with the W e s t .  Nevertheless, the exclusive interest of these Shanghai  27  artists in formal aesthetics, abstract concepts, and the process of art making demonstrates their desire to restore autonomy to art, rather than making it an appendage to something else. Certainly the reasons why art for art's sake emerged during the early nineties in Shanghai require further study.  During this decade, with the sense  of social responsibility and idealism declining in Chinese art circles, art became more and more the individual's business; and personal relations among artists became increasingly distant. Unlike their ancestors during the 1920s and 1930s, contemporary Shanghai artists hardly ever work in groups, societies, or associations. Although most of them teach in art schools, the fact that they have to give instruction in academic painting and sculpture, assigned subjects irrelevant to their artistic interests, makes it nearly impossible for them to build a give-and-take relationship with their students, most of whom are only interested in becoming commercial artists anyway.  Moreover, artists no longer  play the roles of art critics, writers, and theoreticians, as Ni Yide and Xu Beihong did half a century ago, and their artistic ideas are only expressed through their works and communicated within a limited circle. Not only has their relationship with society become distant, but they now lack a public voice. According to Ralph Croizier's research, during the 1920s and 1930s in Shanghai "several of the leading newspaper carried weekly art supplements and broad interest pictorial magazines regularly covered modern art events...That means that the urban reading public at least knew of the existence of modern a r t . "  28  In the nineties, the general Shanghai public pays  no attention to modern art practice. Especially during the early nineties, a 2  7  Zhu Q i , " Q i e k a i pingguo h o u . . . — n e i b u geming de kuwei h a i s h i  zaisheng?"  Wffi¥lfrtoteSS£S&?,  4.3 (March, 1996), p p . 44-5. 2  8  Ralph C r o i z i e r ,  "Post-modernists  Meishu guancha  i n pre-war Shanghai," p p .  140-1.  138 period when there was no encouragement from foreign collectors in Shanghai and when the environment was either hostile or indifferent, the Shanghai artist withdrew further from the public space as a cultural "elite" becoming a "small man" in his studio and, thus, making the practice of art for art's sake a possible and distinctive phenomenon.  Although their art making may seem  selfish and even anti-social, this sort of inward-looking, individualized practice enabled them to explore the nature of art in greater depth.  139 Commercialism and Games Played With Commercialism After  1992  The Lure and the Perils of the Art Market  Deng Xiaoping's southern tour of 1992 accelerated the development of a free-market economy in China. As Michael Sullivan pointed out, contemporary Chinese art "from this time forward...was to be bound ever closer to the art market in a way familiar in the West and Japan but unprecedented in China itself."2 9 Outside the country, international recognition, especially with regard to painting, was always closely connected to financial profit.  After the exhibition  "China New Art: Post-1989," paintings of the "Political Pop" and "Cynical Realism" styles attracted worldwide attention and achieved a considerable commercial success.  30  In November of 1993, the Art Asia Fair was also held in  Hong Kong for the sake of selling and buying contemporary Chinese art works. According to some sources, the famous veteran artist, Wu Guanzhong M S ^ ' s (b. 1919) distinctive landscapes were priced from 300,000 to 600,000 Hong Kong dollars, while the realistic academic oil paintings of renowned mainland painters such as Wang Yidong HitJf 3ft (b. 1955) and Jiang Guofang HHHT? (b. 1951) fetched prices ranging from300,000 to 500,000 Hong Kong dollars. Even  M i c h a e l S u l l i v a n , pp. 278-9. A c c o r d i n g t o I a i n Robertson's r e p o r t , Johnson Chang, t h e p r o p i e t o r o f t h e Hanart TZ G a l l e r y i n Hong Kong, who o r g a n i z e d t h e China New A r t : Post-1989 e x h i b i t i o n , "was f l u s h e d w i t h success" a t t h e 1995 V e n i c e B i e n n a l e , " a t which he i n t r o d u c e d t h e work o f two o f h i s Mainland p r o t e g e s , L i u WeiSlfil and Zhang XiaogangI8ISIBID," (both o f whom p a i n t e d i n t h e P o l i t i c a l Pop o r C y n i c a l R e a l i s t i c s t y l e ) . By September o f 1995, Chang's mainland a r t i s t s had "on average seen t h e v a l u e o f t h e i r work rise ten-fold." I a i n Robertson, "'Shanghai not y e t an a r t market,' says Johnson Chang," The art newspaper, 51 (September, 1995), p . 37. 2 9  3 0  140 the Shanghai artist, Wang Ziwei's Zedong (plate 4.12)  BE-^Hf  (b. 1964)  "Political Pop" portrait of Mao  became a "name-brand" commodity. ! 3  Inside China, the Guangzhou First Oil Painting Biennial (Guangzhou diyijie youhua shuangnianzhan ^ ' I H ^ ^ I r - t r i S ^ ^ M )  was privately  organized and sponsored in October of 1992 to sell contemporary Chinese art to newly rich domestic entrepreneurs.  32  According to Lu Peng  (b. 1956), one  of its major organizers, the original purpose of this exhibition was "to borrow marketing methods to further develop modern art trends emerging since the early 1980s."  33  Despite the great controversy that the biennial caused in  contemporary art circles, it became the first crucial impetus for  the  development of commerce in contemporary art inside China, a phenomenon that was strongly supported by some scholars in their writings.  34  V a l e r i e C . Doran, "The commerce of a r t , " Art and Asia Pacific, 1.3 (1994), p p . 2 4 - 7 . The source of Wang Z i w e i ' s p a i n t i n g i s I b i d . , p . 24. One j o u n a l i s t of JVenhui Daily 5CS^, Bo X i a o b o , who was a c l o s e f r i e n d of Wang Z i w e i i n the e i g h t i e s , informed me t h a t Wang s t a r t e d t o i n c o r p o r a t e the image of Mao Zedong i n t o h i s p a i n t i n g even e a r l i e r than Yu Youhan. Wang has been based i n Toronto s i n c e 1995. My i n t e r v i e w w i t h Bo Xiaobo on June 8, 1997. T h i s l a r g e e x h i b i t i o n was sponsored by a p r i v a t e company i n S i c h u a n , the X i s h u A r t C o . M^Sffff^S], t o the amount of 2.5 m i l l i o n y u a n . More t h a n two hundred a r t i s t s p a r t i c i p a t e d i n the e x h i b i t i o n , which showed over f i v e hundred p a i n t i n g s . Before the twenty-seven p r i z e - w i n n i n g p a i n t i n g s , most of which t u r n e d out t o be avant-garde works, were s e l e c t e d , another domestic n o n - s t a t e company, the Shenzhen Dong H u i I n d u s t r i a l Company MM^WMs&Mift'&WLfeftl, had spent one m i l l i o n yuan t o purchase a l l the works t h a t would win awards. See Chen X i a o x i n W.*£{§, "1990-1992 n i a n Zhongguo (dalu) meishu d a s h i j i s h u liie" 1990-1992 ^4*60 (A|S*J^ffi?A^BBSBsfeBS-, i n Zhang Qing e d . , Jiushi niandai Zhongguo meishu 1990-1992 A-i-¥tt*PS^.ffi 1990-1992, Wulumuqi, 1996, p p . 178, 193. See a l s o M i c h a e l S u l l i v a n , p . 278, and Pang R e n f ^ A , "Zhanping x i n x i " SfPfW H , i n Zhao B i n g e d . , p . 40. Lii Peng B?§2, "Cong 'Is Me' shuokaiqu—guanyu j i u s h i n i a n d a i Zhongguo y i s h u de l i n g s u a n k a n f a " f l £ ' I s Me'fSBB*— B S J ^ + ^ f t 4^ HMfftffclSI&g?*, Jiangsu huakan, 177.9 (September, 1995), p . 17. Gao Minglu admitted t h a t t h i s e x h i b i t i o n was "the f i r s t n a t i o n w i d e a v a n t - g a r d e e x h i b i t i o n s i n c e the Tiananmen I n c i d e n t , " but he a l s o c r i t i c i z e d the n a i v e t e of i t s purpose and i t s c o r r o s i v e e f f e c t on the a v a n t - g a r d e s p i r i t of contemporary a r t i n C h i n a . Gao M i n g l u e d . , Inside out, p . 201 and by the same a u t h o r , "Zhongguo y i s h u de zhanchang z a i Zhongguo bentu" ^MMW^lMM^'PM^il, Jiangsu huakan, 150.6 (June, 1993), p . 16. Another important c r i t i c L i X i a n t i n g s t a t e d t h a t the o r g a n i z e r s of t h i s e x h i b i t i o n made so many compromises w i t h t h e i r sponsors t h a t the show mixed avant-garde works w i t h a l a r g e body of 3 1  3 2  =  3 3  3 4  141 One year later, almost at the same time that the 1993 Art Asia Fair was being held in Hong Kong, the Chinese Art Bureau of the Ministry of Culture sponsored the China Art Exposition in Guangzhou. This was "an unprecedented event in that it was the first time an officially organized exhibition in China was allowed to sell art."  35  The Cynical Realistic paintings by avant-garde artists  such as Zhang Xiaogang 3581 Nil (b. 1958) from Sichuan, whose works were featured in the 1993 Venice Biennale, and Zhu Wei from Beijing all sold at very healthy prices. In 1995, after it had been staged in Guangzhou twice, the China Art Exposition, the largest national showcase for contemporary Chinese art since 1993, was even moved up to Beijing, the city with the tightest ideological control in C h i n a .  36  Although the 1995 exposition continued to "provide an  interesting cross-section of Chinese works of art and occasional glimpses of newly emerging trends," its eclectic and commercial nature, suggested by the dominance of traditional bird-and-flower paintings and academic realistic oil works in the style of Chen Yifei ^ j ^ f H (b. 1946), made it mainly an exposition concerned with the commerce of a r t .  37  With China more and more open to foreign investment, foreign dealers and collectors have also moved in since the early 1990s, some buying academic commercial p a i n t i n g s . T h i s caused the d i s a p p r o v a l of many p a r t i c i p a t i n g artists. See Monica Dematte, Q i Yule t r . , unpaginated; and Pang Ren, p . 40; and Lu Peng, p . 17. A t the same t i m e , o t h e r s were v o c a l l y s u p p o r t i n g the c o m m e r c i a l i z a t i o n of a r t . One month a f t e r the e x h i b i t i o n , L i Xiangmin an e d i t o r of the s c h o l a r l y j o u r n a l Jianghai Xuekan i T S s S f J , p u b l i s h e d an a r t i c l e about the s u b j e c t i n Jiangsu Huakan, the l e a d i n g monthly j o u r n a l of contemporary a r t i n China. Based on a h i s t o r i c a l study and comparison, L i b o l d l y promoted t h e i d e a t h a t e n t e r i n g the market i s the most b e n e f i c i a l way and the u l t i m a t e d e s t i n a t i o n of a r t . L i Xiangmin, "Shichanghua: Y i s h u de z h o n g j i g u i s u " TtT^Ht: l§lt<Jlr3$&jil§??jij, Jiangsu huakan, 143.11 (November, 1992), p p . 11, 19-21. V a l e r i e C . Doran, p . 26. However, a t t h a t time any a r t i s t who c r e a t e d works which were not o f f e n s i v e t o the Chinese government c o u l d show them i n the C h i n a N a t i o n a l A r t G a l l e r y i n B e i j i n g i f he was w i l l i n g t o pay the r e n t a l f e e . See Lynn M a c r i t c h i e , p . 51. Susan Dewar, " B e i j i n g r e p o r t , " A r t and Asia Pacific, 3.1 (1996), p . 101. 3  5  3  6  3  7  142 oil paintings to make a quick profit and others working with the avowed purpose of promoting contemporary Chinese art in the long run. Quite a few foreign-run art galleries, such as the Red Gate Gallery (opened in 1991), the Court Yard Gallery, and the Hanmo Art Center, were established in Beijing and were able to attract many avant-garde artists to their stables.  38  The huge influx of foreign and Chinese investment into Shanghai since 1992 has made the city resume its status as a domestic and international economic center quickly.  Surprisingly, however, Shanghai, "with no dealers  and little cultural infrastructure," did not see the formation of a market for contemporary art in the first part of the nineties. officially organized art fair.  39  There was no privately or  The local government showed great enthusiasm for  developing a market for brush and ink painting as well as Chinese antiques as early as 1992, but it had no interest in supporting any contemporary art practice that diverged from the academic tradition.40 The fact that Beijing had been the art Mecca of China for two decades attracted most of the foreign dealers there, and the first foreign-run gallery in Shanghai since 1949, the ShanghaiArt Gallery, a venue which is devoted to the promotion of contemporary Chinese art, was only opened in 1995. However, the lack of a local market at that time did not mean that Shanghai artists steered clear from the business of art. During the first half of the 1990s, selling works to private collectors after overseas exhibitions or through agents in other parts of China was already a common practice among local painters, including non-academic ones. For example, Yu Youhan's  Joan L e b o l d Cohen, "China's f l o w e r i n g g a l l e r i e s — a group of s e r i o u s new g a l l e r i e s i s c h a l l e n g i n g the s t a t u s quo i n the Chinese a r t w o r l d , " Art news, 96.9 (October, 1997), p p . 146-7. I a i n R o b e r t s o n , "Shanghai not y e t an a r t market," p . 37. 40 Tuyet Nguyet and John C a i r n s , "'92 B e i j i n g i n t e r n a t i o n a l a u c t i o n and C h i n a t r e a s u r e s '92 Shanghai," Arts of Asia, ( J a n u a r y / F e b r u a r y , 1993), pp. 55-61. 3  8  3  9  143 portraits of Chairman Mao, which had appeared frequently on the covers of important exhibition catalogues featuring contemporary Chinese art since 1993, became very popular commodities among Hong Kong and foreign collectors. Ding Yi's Cross paintings, which were mainly created for the sake of art itself and for the artist's personal, interior quest, have also came onto the market as a result of his increasing international exposure since 1993.  In 1994 the New  Amsterdam Art Information Consultancy in Beijing, run by a dealer from the Netherlands, became Ding's domestic agent, and his work on canvas reached prices from 2,500 to 3,000 U. S. dollars by the end of 1 9 9 4 .  41  By this time he had  also signed contracts with a number of foreign galleries and dealers who were displaying his work overseas. The art market did benefit quite a few Shanghai painters, enabling them to work under better conditions and to concentrate on artistic creation without being distracted by economic needs. However, entering the art market was not always pleasant for them, and artists sometimes risked losing their reputations and even their artistic creativity. For instance, despite their serious motivation, Yu Youhan's Mao paintings, along with other "Political Pop" art, were attacked as "double kitsch" (both "political kitsch" and "commercial kitsch") by the critic Gao Minglu, and Ding Yi's Cross Series was indirectly criticized as a collection of homogeneous decorations designed for the moneyed class.  42  Judged by the kind  Ding Y i ' s l e t t e r s t o me on Octorber 8, 1994 and November 20, 1994. See Gao M i n g l u ' s d i s c u s s i o n o f " P o l i t i c a l Pop" a r t i n h i s "From e l i t e t o s m a l l man," pp. 52-3. I n one a r t i c l e , t h e Suzhou-based a r t c r i t i c Zhang Qing wrote: "They ( a b s t r a c t p a i n t e r s ) o f t e n i n t e g r a t e t h e h i g h l y f i n i s h e d q u a l i t y o f t h e i r p a i n t i n g i n t o t h e environment o f f i v e - s t a r h o t e l s , d e l u x e apartments, and b u s i n e s s o f f i c e s . " ffeintttt!l§lfH#J*3$S£#I 4 1  4 2  £ M f f i g i l , l & f f i ^ S , WajIff^S^WJIHftM—W.  S i n c e Zhang l i v e s v e r y  c l o s e t o Shanghai, and h i s study m a i n l y f o c u s e s on t h e contemporary a r t p r a c t i c e i n and around t h e Shanghai a r e a , h i s c r i t i c a l comment on t h e a b s t r a c t p a i n t i n g s as such v e r y l i k e l y a l l u d e s t o Ding Y i and Shen Fan's work s o l d by t h e Shanghai A r t G a l l e y . Zhang Qing, "Ni g u d u — j i n r i Zhongguo y i s h u j i a de z h u a n g t a i " ^\M®--4"B *PKiSffl&^fHjiKli, Jiangsu huakan, 196.4 ( A p r i l , 1997), p. 40.  144 of works they created, some Shanghai artists seemed to have become aware of the dangers that commercialism posed for their art. If in the eighties the Chinese avant-garde artists mainly fought against the Communist repression and Marxist ideology for individual freedom; then in this decade they encountered a more powerful rival which possesses the ability to subject the free spirit of the artist to the basest material values.  Therefore, non-conformity  to commercialism became another visible characteristic in some local artists' practice in the first half of the 1990s.  Uncollectability  For those who had no intention of becoming involved in the art market, uncollectability was highlighted as the most important feature of their works. This was first reflected in these artists' choice of media. According to a report published in Jiangsu  Art Monthly,  one of the top ten news items in the Chinese  art world during 1993 was that "experiments in installations and performance art obviously increased."  43  As the art critic Yi Ying 4151 wrote in his article:  When a conceptual artist chooses the medium of action, performance, or installation, it means that his choice will be excluded by the academy and the market...and that he locates himself in a position opposed to public taste and social norms.  44  In Shanghai, this phenomenon was particularly obvious.  From 1993 to  1995, a new installation school, which I have called the Huashan Installation School, appeared in the city (see pp. 80-1). Artists belonging to this school, best Cheng FengfiScftl, "Jiusan zhongguo meishu j i e shixiang xinwen" ' 93 *P S^. ffl&l^+JilllTHI, Jiangsu huakan, 160.4 ( A p r i l , 1994), p. 16. Y i YingSr^, "Qianwei huayu yu shangye shehui" fuflRrl&Ira#&®li!ftt#, Jiangsu huakan, 179.11 (November, 1995), p. 8. 4 3  4 4  145 exemplified by Shi Yong and Qjan Weikang, devoted themselves to developing a very distinctive trend of installation art. At the same time, female artists such as Chen Yanyin W-fflia (b. 1958) and Zhang Xin 5S^f also worked with the same media as their male-counterparts, but their use of this long male-dominated art vocabulary was imbued with feminine consciousness and sensitivity.45  By  using their own savings to experiment with new media, and by creating something which was largely uncollectible by nature, these artists demonstrated their detachment from the commerce of art. In addition to installation, Shanghai artists also did performance art sporadically as a way to create non-collectible work.  It is worth mentioning  that this medium was especially popular in Beijing art circles, and artists there employed it as "the most direct way to express the real situation of human beings living in a culturally, politically and morally alienating society."  46  In  To know more about Chen Yanyin and some o t h e r female i n s t a l l a t i o n a r t i s t s ' works i n t h e f i r s t p a r t of the n i n e t i e s , see Xu Hong tzfcfiE, "Dialogue—the awakening of women's c o n s c i o u s n e s s , " Art and Asian Pacific, 2.2 (1995), p p . 48-51. L i a o Wen " J i n g j i de d i a n f u x i a n x i n g de Shandong—Zhongguo dangdai y i s h u zhong de m i x i n g fangshi"W &ttM9. » r r A 9 J B » - - t o & t f e i t f S e , i n Zhongguo dangdai yishu zhong de niixing fangshi yijiu jiuwu PM^{XMW PttHc\zffi& 1995, B e i j i n g , 1995, p r e f a c e . Zhang Qing a l s o wrote a c a t a l o g u e e s s a y on Chen Y a n y i n ' s i n s t a l l a t i o n s produced d u r i n g t h a t p e r i o d ; see Zhang Q i n g , "Tonghui z h i j i " SBf £8?, Jiangsu huakan, 172.4 ( A p r i l , 1995), p . 40. I n t h e f i r s t p a r t o f the n i n e t i e s , B e i j n g a r t i s t s f r e q u e n t l y gave p h y s i c a l l y v i o l e n t and p s y c h o l o g i c a l l y d i s t u r b i n g performances, which were l a r g e l y p o l i t i c a l i n meaning. F o r i n s t a n c e , Zhu Fadong 7fcl$3fl walked down t h e s t r e e t s of B e i j i n g w i t h a s i g n on h i s back, r e a d i n g : "This Person f o r S a l e . P r i c e n e g o t i a b l e " itXLIJ1§, MffiWiWi (ciren chushou, jiage mianyi) . On May 13, 1994, Zhang Huan 3KS (b.1965) s a t i n a t y p i c a l Chinese p u b l i c t o i l e t f o r h o u r s , w i t h f i s h o i l , honey and thousands o f f l i e s c o v e r i n g h i s naked body. In another performance done on June 11, 1994, Zhang even hanged h i s naked body on a c e i l i n g beam f o r f i f t y m i n u t e s , d u r i n g which time he caused h i m s e l f t o b l e e d s l o w l y , h i s b l o o d then b e i n g b u r n t on a s t o v e . In t h e s e performancess, t h e a r t i s t ' s body was used as an "object o f p h y s i c a l and p y s c h o l o g i c a l m u t i l a t i o n " i n a way t h a t i n t e n d e d t o "awaken p u b l i c c o n s c i o u s n e s s of human d i g n i t y " w i t h i n a s p e c i f i c s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l c o n t e x t . Hou Hanru, "Beyond t h e c y n i c a l , " p p . 44-5. A l s o see Leng L i n g "Shi wo ( I s m e ) — j i u s h i n i a n d a i zhongguo x i a n d a i y i s h u qushi" T&SS (Is me)—^L*f"^fC*P S , Jiangsu huakan, 172.4 ( A p r i l , 95), p . 18; and Zeng X i a o j u n # / H £ , A i W e i w e i 3 C ^ ^ and Xubing j^&R e d , Hongqi $ESS (the f i r s t i s s u e o f t h i s underground a r t p u b l i c a t i o n ) , B e i j i n g , 1994, p p . 56-7, 70-1. 4 5  t  4  6  1  t  146 Shanghai, performance art was not characterized by violence and the use of allegory intended to criticize the regime's political and cultural policies, as it was in Beijing; rather it explored a new vocabulary for the sake of communicating rich individual concepts rooted in a broader intellectual context. For example, Shi Yong's City Space: Moving—Leaping Twelve Hours, already discussed in the last chapter, not only created an interactive relation between the artist and the audience, but also transplanted art into an open city space, thus, illuminating the universal issue of an individual's position in an information-oriented urban network. The Shanghai artist Ni Weihua ^ H f ^ (b. 1962) is another important figure who has worked in the field of conceptual art during this decade.  In 1992  and 1993, he created a series of performances called Continuously Spreading Event (Lianxu kuosan shitai ^ i i l f i l i l x ' ^ t i ) , with the aim of creating a break in the chain of information, knowledge, and communication in people's daily life. In 1992, he had used computer technology to create non-existent Chinese characters, which he printed on the surfaces of hundreds of little red cubes made from paper. In his performance, Ni distributed these red cubes, covered entirely with his newly-invented Chinese characters, selling them in shops, sending them via the mail, and giving them away to people on the street (plate 4.13). In 1993, he once again used a computer to process several popular street posters (one of which was an advertisement for the treatment of venereal diseases seen everywhere in China) into a form that could not be read. His performance was to paste these one by one onto walls next to the original posters on which they had been modeled (plate 4.14). Shi's and Ni's performances conveyed their artistic concepts in the form of seemingly familiar, low-profile social activities, such as crossing the city space or proliferating daily information in public. Both artists claimed that, by  147 creating one-time, make-shift works, which focused on developing intellectual dialogue within the vocabulary of art, rather than creating eye-catching effects through politically-charged, radical behavior, their art was valuable on the conceptual level of communication, but not in the media-stimulated art market. Certainly it has never been easy for Shanghai artists (or for those in other parts of China) to make installations or performances, when one considers the lack of public support in terms of funding, available venues, or even understanding. Until now, such artists have to earn money from other sources to support their artistic experiments in new media and technologies.  In the first  half of the nineties, when one could get rich and famous by painting realistic landscapes, females nudes, Chairman Mao, or abstract patterns, the situation for multimedia artists was extremely difficult.  The official art venues in Shanghai  (except for a few alternative public spaces) shut their doors to installation and performance art, and there was hardly any chance for them to show their works outside C h i n a .  4 7  Under such trying circumstances,  these artists luckily  adopted new showing methods to protect the vitality of their art and its communication from political censorship and commercial temptations.  These  methods included: (1) Showing art in private living spaces, an example of  which is Shi Yong's Amplification Site: a Cross Echo In a Private Living Space, (see page 82-3) typifying what Gao Minglu calls Apartment Art, or art in which  Only t h r e e p u b l i c venues put on b r i e f i n s t a l l a t i o n shows i n Shanghai d u r i n g t h e f i r s t h a l f o f the n i n e t i e s . They were the garage i n t h e Shanghai E d u c a t i o n I n s t i t u t e , the e x h i b i t i o n h a l l o f the Shanghai Huashan A r t V o c a t i o n a l S c h o o l , and the v a c a t e d b u i l d i n g which used t o be t h e Shanghai C h i l d r e n ' s L i b r a r y . From January 22nd t o 2 4 t h , an i n s t a l l a t i o n show, e n t i t l e d I n s t a l l a t i o n — t h e P o s i t i o n a l i t y o f Vocabulary IraIfM^fi was h e l d i n the t h i r d venue. Seven Shanghai a r t i s t s p a r t i c i p a t e d i n the show, i n c l u d i n g Wang Nanming 3i$rM , t h e curator. 4 7  148 the artist locates "a distinctive personal discourse" in his "unsalable and unexhibitable" w o r k .  4 8  (2) Showing art in a documentary form, a new method first used as early as 1991 in Chinese art circles to further intellectual communication in a time when the large-scale exhibition of experimental art was impossible to realize inside the c o u n t r y . showing method.  49  Shanghai artists showed great support for this new  Besides actively taking part in the three national document  exhibitions from 1991 to 1994, they also participated in smaller group activities carried out individually in separate places and later recorded in documentary form, as we have already seen in Chapter T h r e e .  50  According to Karen Smith's  report on these group activities, by producing works "that can neither be bought nor possessed," and by circulating the documents of their works in the art world, these artists broke their silence in a modern Chinese society that "joyfully succumbs to consumerism." ! 5  (3) Showing artistic ideas in the form of proposals. In July 1994, four Shanghai artists, Shi Yong, Qjan Weikang, Ni Weihua and Hu Jianping exhibited Gao M i n g l u , "From e l i t e t o s m a l l man," p. 161. I n 1994 t h e f i r s t n a t i o n a l - s c a l e document e x h i b i t i o n was h e l d i n B e i j i n g a t t h e s u g g e s t i o n o f t h e Sichuan a r t c r i t i c Wang L i n i t showed photographs o f r e c e n t works by over f o r t y a r t i s t s and l a t e r t r a v e l l e d t o some o t h e r p a r t s o f C h i n a . One year l a t e r , t h e second n a t i o n a l document e x h i b i t i o n was opened i n Guangzhou. I n 1994, t h e t h i r d document e x h i b i t i o n was h e l d i n Shanghai under t h e t i t l e " I n s t a l l a t i o n — E n v i r o n m e n t — P e r f o r m a n c e (Zhuangzhi—huanjing—xingwei|8[ S--38fcSj£--frln8." I t p r e s e n t e d photographs and s l i d e s o f i n s t a l l a t i o n s and performances c r e a t e d by Chinese a r t i s t s a t home and o v e r s e a s d u r i n g t h e 1990s. See Chen X i a o x i n g , p. 172. J i Fenffi3£, "Zhongguo dangdai y i s h u wenxian ( z i l i a o ) zhan d i s a n h u i zhan" f BiffCSIiBWSfeSltt (Sft )SS|H11JR, i n Zeng X i a o j u n e t a l ed., Hongqi , pp. 150-1. L i n H a n j i a n , "Jilu <zho ngguo dangdai y i s h u wenxian z i l i a o z h a n — d i s a n h u i zhan (Shanghai)>" 4 8 4 9  E»<*H*{"t**W*S:K*»JR--}» = ilS(Jl?S)>,- Xingdao ribao I f i B f ,  (May 23, 1994), p. 5. There were two group a c t i v i t i e s , "Agreed on November 26th As a Reason" and "45 Degrees As a Reason," c a r r i e d o u t i n November 1994 and March 1995, r e s p e c t i v e l y , by a r t i s t s from Hangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. See Chapter 2, pp. 81, 82. Shanghai a r t i s t s S h i Yong and Qian Weikang p a r t i c i p a t e d i n both a c t i v i t i e s , and Chen Yanyin i n t h e l a t t e r . Karen Smith, " R e p o r t — b r e a k i n g t h e s i l e n c e : new a r t from C h i n a , " Art 5 0  5 1  Monthly,  186.5 (May, 1995), p. 24.  149 the blueprints and written explanations for their new artistic ideas in the First Hanmo Exhibition for New Propositions in Art (Shoujie Hanmo yishu xin fang'an dazhan If ^11II t i f f $ T ^ ^ A M ).  52  Shi Yong, Qian Weikang, Song  Haidong, and Hu Jianping also made contributions to the catalogue Chinese Contemporary Artists' Agenda (1994) (Zhongguo dangdai yishujia gongzuo jihua 1994 ^ f f l ^ f t ^ f f i ^ I f ^ f r f f l conceptual a r t .  5 3  1994), a special collection of proposals for  By conveying their concepts in a non-objective,  dematerialized form, these Shanghai artists, as with their comrades working in the other parts of China, not only challenged the conventional means of artistic expression, but also allowed themselves to maintain the freedom and purity of their art practices in the face of material limitations and commercial interference.  54  In the first half of the nineties, fragile, coarse, transient, or non-art materials were also commonly used by Shanghai artists, very likely as a way to endow their work with an impermanent, changing and, thus, unconsumable beauty. For instance, Song Haidong brushed water, color, and even dust onto the surface of cheap cardboard (see p. 134).  Shi Yong filled shadows with sliced  photo-sensitive paper, thus, subjecting his art to such eroding forces of nature as light, time, and temperature conditions (see p. 76). Qian Weikang covered F o r t y - t w o c o n c e p t u a l a r t i s t s from a l l over China p a r t i c i p a t e d i n t h i s e x h i b i t i o n , which was o r g a n i z e d i n B e i j i n g . See "Shoujie Hanmo Y i s h u X i n f a n g a n Dazhan" MMJSMSffeffTJ^AJK, Hanmo yixun I S i S l , 4.2 (1994), p . 7. In 1994, B e i j i n g a r t i s t s Wang Luyan 3Etl;2fe, Wang You shen U U l r ' , Chen Shaoping W.^ ^ and Wang J i a n w e i S i J S ® worked t o g e t h e r as a c a t a l o g u e committee and p r i n t e d out a s p e c i a l c a t a l o g u e c o n t a i n i n g a r t p r o p o s a l s from n i n e t e e n m u l t i m e d i a a r t i s t s from a l l over C h i n a . Wang Luyan e t a l e d . , Chinese contemporary artists' agenda (1994) Zhongguo dangdai yishujia gongzuo jihua (yijiu jiusi) PMM{tMffl0.H{ ^i\M (1994 ), B e i j i n g , 1994. The phenomenon o f communicating a r t i s t i c concepts i n t h e form o f p r o p o s a l s , t e x t s , and o t h e r p r i n t e d m a t e r i a l i n contemporary C h i n e s e a r t c i r c l e s d u r i n g the f i r s t p a r t of the n i n e t i e s i s d i s c u s s e d i n more d e t a i l i n Huang Duilr$|, "Zuowei y i z h o n g duihua de wenben—zhengtuo ganga j i n g d i de q i a n w e i y i s h u j i a "ftfi—STOWX*--!*flaJSffi^JfeWmffiWffl&, Hualang, 50.3 (March, 1995), p p . 29-32. 5  2  5  3  2  r  5  4  f  150 sheet iron with a layer of accurately weighed chalk powder, implying that even a light touch could change the original states of his work (see p. 77).  Since 1994  Zhou Tiehai has created a group of wall-size graffiti paintings on discarded newspaper and wrapping paper, ironically questioning the commercialization of both life and art (see pp. 103, 106).  Even for those whose art had already  entered the market, their use of certain materials demonstrated these artists' non-conforming, even critical attitude to the market system.  One convincing  example was Ding Yi who executed his Cross Series on raw canvas or cheap paper. The unconventional painting materials that he applied to his canvases, such as chalk, charcoal, and sometimes even hair-mousse or roach powder, no doubt challenged the durability of his work as a valuable commercial object (see p. 57). Thus, we can say that concern for staying away from the corrosive forces of the art market was a major factor influencing these Shanghai artists' practice during the first half of the nineties. However, the shadows in Shi Yong's installations of this period only provided an idealized and highly vulnerable protection for the photosensitive paper inside them, and in no way could they stop the process of change when the work was exposed to light. This can serve as a metaphor for the question of whether Shanghai artists could remain immune to the temptations of the material world in an age when Chinese society was undergoing rapid economic reform and when the meaning of art became more blurred than ever. The answer to this was, no, for in response to the shifting reality, Shanghai artists were, and still are, constantly on the move.  "Moisterning the Brush"  151 In 1995, the Shang-Art Gallery, run by a Swiss dealer, Lorenz Helbling, opened in Shanghai. From that year until March 1999, it occupied a hallway in a luxurious five-star hotel in the downtown area of Shanghai and showed a miscellany of contemporary Chinese art w o r k s .  55  Business has not been bad,  and that is probably one reason why Ding Yi eventually let the Shang-Art Gallery represent him. According to Mr. Helbling: "The gallery's buyers are mainly Europeans, Americans, and Southeast Asians who live in China, and a few foreign collectors who visit China sporadically."  56  Besides individual  collectors, some overseas galleries and large foreign companies have also bought contemporary Chinese art work regularly, thus, contributing to the development of a growing market in Shanghai.  57  Shortly after its opening,  Shang-Art Gallery put a website on the Internet, promoting its artists to a wider public.  Now, as a venue of international standing, it stables eighteen artists  mainly consisting of established or emerging figures from contemporary Shanghai art circles.  Painters, such as Yu Youhan, Li Shan, Ding Yi, Shen Fan,  Xue Song, and conceptual artists, such as Zhou Tiehai, Shi Yong, and Chen Yanyin are now all promoted by this gallery. I do not intend to say that the Shang-Art Gallery played a negative role by enslaving the souls of Shanghai artists to the material values of the market. Actually, since its opening in 1995, the gallery has largely served as a positive force, supporting and stimulating the contemporary art scene in Shanghai at a time of hostility or indifference.  After being promoted by this venue, which  frequently caters to foreign ambassadors and cultural attaches working in  S h a n g - A r t G a l l e r y moved t o i t s new l o c a t i o n i n F u x i n g Park MMfeM, next t o a h i g h - c l a s s r e s t a u r a n t Park '97, on March 18, 1999. F o r more d e t a i l e d i n f o r m a t i o n , p l e a s e v i s i t the website http://www. shanghart.com. I a i n Roberson, "Emerging markets—Shanghai i s t a k i n g t o meishu ( a r t ) , " The art newspaper, 63 (October 7, 1996), p . 39. Ibid. 5  5  5  6  5 7  152 Shanghai, some young artists, best exemplified by Zhou Tiehai, have been able to develop connections with art communities outside China, thus, gradually establishing their international careers. Furthermore, after the cost of living in Shanghai rose rapidly as a result of rapid economic development, earning money from outside sources to make a comfortable living and support artistic activities has become more and more of a distraction from pure art. Therefore, some Shanghai artists decided to enter the gallery system, in the hope that the money they earned from the art market could help "moisten their brushes'^ run bi M^); could help them to create new a r t .  5 8  i. e. the income they earned  For example, by selling his paintings made  of ashes and burnt fragments, Xue Song bought himself two adjoining apartments, one to use as his studio, the other for his living quarters. Xue claimed that there was nothing wrong with selling his art so that he could paint in a well-lit studio and spend more time on artistic creation rather than working at other jobs just for the sake of making a l i v i n g . (Minghua  59  His work Famous  Painting  ^fafi), which was produced in 1998, features the two Chinese  characters "famous painting" (^SS), the character for painting (hua made from burnt fragments of Chinese currency (plate 4. 15).  S)  being  It is possible to  take this work as an expose or critique of the hidden relationship between fame and profit in the art world, but it can also be considered a visualization of the ever-lasting tradition of  "moistening the brush."  In summary, since most major Shanghai artists entered the gallery system after 1995, their relationship with commercialism has become more The term "runbi" has a long t r a d i t i o n i n art history, the e a r l i e s t use of which I found comes from the Sui dynasty. Wei Zheng Suishu MW, B e i j i n g , 1973, 38.3, p. 1137. In James C a h i l l , How artists lived and worked in traditional China, New York, 1994, t h i s term i s frequently used i n the author's discussions of how a r t i s t s i n t r a d i t i o n a l China were involved i n the commerce of a r t . See pp. 4, 54, 61, and 85 f o r examples. My interview with Xue Song on June 12, 1998. 5 8  5 9  153 ambiguous and complex. Selling art is no longer taken simply as a gesture of total compromise, but a frontal engagement with commercialism, a dangerous game in which by relying on one's self-consciousness,  moral judgment, and  wisdom, one may be able to transform the negative side of money power into a positive force for artistic creation. In 1996, the senior artist Yu Youhan stopped painting Mao images and started to depict common scenes and ordinary people in contemporary China (see pp. 46-7). One major reason for this artistic shift had much to do with Yu's Maoist-inspired belief that art should fulfill its responsibility to society by presenting the masses and their surrounding reality. On the other hand, it can be seen as an intentional farewell to his Mao Series, a painting genre which achieved a considerable commercial success but also excited much hostility in domestic art circles. Yu's new paintings, now being promoted by the Shang-Art Gallery on the Internet, seem to be left in an unfinished state on purpose, with some areas remaining unpainted and the contours of figures being sketched out rather than delineated in the academic, realistic style.  By doing this, does Yu  mean to question the uncritical appetite of the consumer society? Or does he mean to restore a moral aloofness to his art by creating something new and not immediately attractive to the ideologically-focused eye? No matter what the answer is, Yu Youhan does not intend to be out of the market completely, for he determines the size for his new paintings in accordance with the convenience of future exhibitors and collectors.  60  Ding Yi is able to make a reasonably comfortable living from his Cross paintings, but his tug-of-war with commercialism is constantly evident in his artistic practice. In the beginning of 1997, he began painting cross patterns directly on the surface of tartans. These works represent a marriage of artistic  6 0  My interview with Yu Youhan on August 16, 1997.  154 creativity with manufactured products, which in turn gives birth to a new commodity on the level of high culture. In Ding's dangerous game-playing with art and commodity, we witness a pessimistic, but also positive solution to the dichotomy between the two; since the artist cannot escape from the commercialism of the age, the only way he can maintain his artistic purity and value is to elevate the quality of the commodity he produces. For multimedia and conceptual artists, being promoted by a gallery does not mean that they can become prosperous. Zhou Tiehai's paintings are eagerly sought by foreign collectors, but the fact that he can produce only a limited quantity in one year forces him to work as a free-lance video producer to make ends meet.61 Nevertheless, gallery promotion does present him opportunities for international exposure, which not only bring him money to realize his conceptual works in overseas venues, but also help to increase the value of his art in the long run. Heavily indoctrinated with the idea that material pursuits are not the most important thing in life, Zhou finds it impossible to give up his criticism of the commerce of art. In Now a Mr. Gourierec Comes To China (Zhongguo you Hale Guleike  ^SX^Tii^i)  (plate 4.16), a painting made in 1997 and later  produced on a fake cover of Flash Art Magazine , playing with commercialism became an unmistakable theme (plate 4.17). Mr. Gourierec's story is similar to that of Mr. Solomon in the other painting we already examined (see pp. 108-9), and both works examine the effects of Western power on contemporary Chinese art.  6 2  The first time I saw Zhou's painting, it was still very small (approximately  Zhou T i e h a i ' s c r e a t i o n of a r t l a r g e l y depends on the i n s p i r a t i o n s he draws from r e a l s t o r i e s happening i n h i s s o c i a l and p e r s o n a l l i f e . In a c o n v e r s a t i o n w i t h me on January 2, 1999, he s a i d : "No new s t o r i e s , no new a r t w o r k s . " T h i s c e r t a i n l y l i m i t s the q u a n t i t y o f h i s a r t i s t i c production. Zhou's t e x t on the lower l e f t h a n d c o r n e r on t h i s p a i n t i n g r e a d s : "Gu L e i k e ( F r e d e r i c l e G o u r i e r e c ) : He majors i n F r e n c h c l a s s i c a l l i t e r a t u r e i n the P a r i s Upper Normal C o l l e g e . In the summer of 1996, he was sent 6  1  6  2  155 45 x 45 cm), and contained nothing other than the central figure. When I visited his studio again a couple of weeks later, the small piece had been enlarged into a painting of wall size, emphasizing its theme more dramatically. Zhou also wrote a short dialogue between an enthusiastic collector and himself in its upper righthand corner, explaining the reason for this change and how he effected it:  [A c u s t o m e r a s k s : ]  " W h a t is t h e p r i c e o f t h i s s m a l l p a i n t i n g ? "  [Zhou t h i n k s to himself:] " A d d i n g s o m e n e w s p a p e r a r o u n d this s m a l l p a i n t i n g a n d b r u s h i n g s o m e c o l o r s o n t o its surface w i l l m a k e i t a large piece." A f t e r t h i n k i n g f o r a w h i l e , [he] m a d e t h i s p a i n t i n g i n t o o n e w h i c h c a n b e e i t h e r b i g o r small.  6 3  Set against its huge but empty background, the central part of this work seems ridiculously small. This absurd visual contrast not only demonstrates Zhou's intention to question and ridicule the way in which an art work is priced as a commodity, but also projects his attempt to sustain a moral distance between art as a free conceptual expression and its fate as something on the market. Ni Weihua is another conceptual artist of the second half of the 1990s, whose work concentrates on the relationship between art and money.  In March  1996, Ni, too, participated in the exhibition Under the Name of Art, showing his t o C h i n a by the L o u i s V u i t t o n Company; he v i s i t e d B e i j i n g , S h a n g h a i , and Hangzhou, p r a c t i c i n g medicine and making diagnoses f o r over f i f t y a r t i s t s and c r i t i c s . . . " For the Chinese t e x t , see Appendix p . 190. Judged by t h e s e words, M r . G o u r i e r e c was c e r t a i n l y one of the Western d i s c o v e r e r s of Chinese a r t , who f o r many Chinese a r t i s t s and c r i t i c s s y m b o l i z e the o p p o r t u n i t i e s of exposure i n the West. Here, Zhou i r o n i c a l l y d e s c r i b e s the r e l a t i o n s h i p between M r . G o u r i e r e c and C h i n e s e a r t i s t s and c r i t i c s as one between a d o c t o r and h i s p a t i e n t s . His text a l l u d e s t o the d e c i s i v e power of Western judgements on the C h i n e s e a r t w o r l d and a l s o exposes Chinese a r t i s t s ' eagerness t o be a c c e p t e d by Westerners. F o r the Chinese t e x t , see Appendix p . 190. 6 3  156 installation Art;  A Legitimate Presence of Word and Its Object (Meishu: ci yu wu  di hefaihua zaichang HI©: M^ffiffiik  ^t^tM).  This piece consisted of two  shiny bronze Chinese characters for "art" (meishu HI© ) written in the standard script (plate 4.18). Facing this piece, one inevitably becomes entangled in all the sophisticated conceptual interplay between the signifier (the word "art") and the signified (the art product itself), between the code associated with academic art in China (the Chinese characters for "art," meishu ) and the context of a contemporary art exhibition in which everything can be justified under the name of "art."  64  According to the exhibition curator Zhu Qi, Ni spent  sixteen thousand yuan on this work, breaking the record of production costs in contemporary Chinese art circles.  65  In this respect, the artist was able to  "reduce art history to two characters, which manifest the quality and aura of money power." The  66  same idea can be seen in Ni's Borrowing the Paintings: One Privilege,  Two Dividing Surfaces (Nuoyong huihua: yici tequan, liangci jiemian  It: - ^ # H , M^lr-Hn),  SPfflM  another conceptual piece featured in the '97  Contemporary Shanghai Art Exhibition (plate 4.19). For this work, Ni merely purchased some academic-style commercial oil paintings, which were hung on the exhibition hall's wall. Works of this sort certainly raise questions about the dividing line between installation and painting, art and non-art, and intellectual space and social taste. More importantly, it reveals exactly how the commerce of art has changed profoundly the existence and orientation of artistic expression in Shanghai during this decade. To know more about the i d e a s behind t h i s p i e c e , see N i Weihua {SlSsr¥/ "<Meishu: C i yu wu d i hefahua zaichang>quanshi—changshi z u i w e i "biaozhun duzhe" er k a o j i n "zuopin de y i t u " ^ f f e : tftn&lt&MyfitW - - » W f £ f i " » ! g a * " i f f i * f f i " f t & t o T S H " f Dangdai yishu a photoc o p i e d a r t i c l e p r o v i d e d by the a r t i s t but m i s s i n g the date of p u b l i c a t i o n ( a p p r o x i m a t e l y 1996), p p . 25, 38. Zhu Q i , "Yishu zuowei y i z h o n g m i n g y i , " p . 26. Ibid. 6 4  6 5  6 6  157  International Dialogue and "Cultural War" — From  1993  Guoji jiegui  After guoji jiegui MWk&^lk (literally, "international linkup") became the most important policy of the Chinese government in its development of the national economy, Chinese artists started to engage in a dialogue with the Western art world in a way unprecedented in Chinese art h i s t o r y .  67  Since the  West's "discovery" of contemporary Chinese art in 1993, frequent and wide international exposure has been a common experience for its avant-garde  The i n i t i a t i o n of t h i s dialogue i n the early nineties i s attributed to several factors a r i s i n g from China's opening to the West. (1) Numerous i n f l u e n t i a l a r t i s t s , including Huang Yongping W^cSfc (b.1954), Cai Guoqiang HBI3t (b. 1957) (from Fujianj, Gu Wenda (b.1955), Chen ZhenWW, (b.1955) and Zhang Jianjun (from Shanghai), Xu Bint^fek (b.1955) (from Sichuan) immigrated to the West starting i n the l a t e r e i g h t i e s . They frequently sent the l a t e s t art news back home along with accounts of t h e i r experiences of working i n the West. As early as January, 1989, a l e t t e r from Gu Wenda i n New York was published i n a domestic a r t journal Meishu HAS. In t h i s l e t t e r , Gu t r i e d to point out a d i r e c t i o n for avant-garde a r t i s t s at home by sharing with them his observations on the most recent American art scene. The works created by these a r t i s t s abroad not only established t h e i r international careers, but also helped to increase Western audiences' interest i n contemporary a r t i n China; (2) Chinese art c r i t i c s residing abroad, such as Hou Hanru and F e i Dawei ISA^i, contributed to building up a direct dialogue between Chinese and Western a r t by publishing a r t i c l e s i n foreign and domestic a r t journals and by organizing exhibitions of Chinese art overseas; (3) A r t i s t s at home paid close attention to art movements outside China. As the Chinese economy rapidly grew closer to the West during the early nineties, they made a great e f f o r t to explore various contemporary a r t vocabularies, ranging from Pop Art and non-representative painting t o i n s t a l l a t i o n , video-art, and performance, thus creating a foundation for an i n t e r n a t i o n a l dialogue. See Hou Hanru, "Departure lounge a r t — Chinese a r t i s t s abroad," Art and Asia Pacific, 1.2 (1994), pp. 34-41. Gu Wenda, "Zai Meiguo huajie kan Zhongguo y i s h u — z h i yiwei youren de xin (zhaiyao)" &mmM&m^mWffiA.ttl<E(M% ), Meishu, 253.1 (January, 1989), p. 64. F e i Dawei, "Faguo dangdai meishu kaocha" j&H!i? ftHfl&^til, Meishu, 242.2 (February, 1988), pp. 68-72. Yang Jinsong #3& " J i a n l i yizhong d u i h u a — B a l i fangwen F e i Dawei" —SUsHSfTJTC--E5? 6 7  Jiangsu huakan, 164.8 (August, 1994), pp. 38-9. For overseas exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art from 1987 to 1992 i n c l u s i v e , see Jochen Noth et a l ed., p.42.  158 artists, and some of them have participated in the most prestigious art exhibitions in the w o r l d .  68  During the last decade, Shanghai has become one of the four major contemporary art centers in China (the other three being Beijing, Guangzhou, and  Hangzhou); and its contemporary artists have made great contributions to  the development of this new cultural dialogue. The four artists whom my study focuses on can be taken as the most representative figures in their own city. In 1993, Yu Youhan and Ding Yi participated in the China New Art:  Post-1989  exhibition. Afterwards, as two of the best-established contemporary Chinese painters, their works were featured in internationally prestigious biennials and triennials, and have been exhibited on all the world's continents, except Africa and Antarctica. After he resumed his contemporary art practice in 1994, Zhou Tiehai built a promising international career with astonishing speed.  From 1997  to the beginning of 1999, his work has been featured in almost twenty overseas venues (equivalent to having an exhibition open outside China once every one and  a half months), and this summer his art will be presented at the 48th Venice  Biennale. Compared to these three artists, Shi Yong has not had such wide overseas exposure, but his maneuvers to be part of the international dialogue are  evident in his practice during the second half of the nineties.  Since August  1996, he has not only dealt systematically with the problems involved in this new cultural interaction but has also made an endeavor to expose his artistic concepts and even his self-image to a wide range of overseas audiences in a way that penetrates both space (via the Internet) and time (by appropriating  The most prestigious international exhibitions i n which Chinese a r t i s t s were presented include: the 45th and 46th Venice Biennales (1993, 1995), the 22nd, the 23rd and 24th Biennials of Sao Paolo (1994, 1996, and 1998), the Documenta X (1997), and the 1993 A s i a - P a c i f i c T r i e n n i a l of Contemporary A r t i n A u s t r a l i a . For other important information about t h i s , see Chang Tsong-Zung, "Beyong the Middle Kingdom: An insider's view," i n Gao Minglu ed., Inside out, pp. 61-75. 6 8  159 historical models).  Shi's surging artistic creativity will allow him to have more  overseas exposure in the near f u t u r e .  69  Opportunities for showing art overseas have greatly supported and stimulated the contemporary art scene in Shanghai and other parts of China, which otherwise might have been smothered in a social environment fraught with hostility, indifference, "limited conditions" (a problem that Shi Yong discussed), and commercial distractions. The experiences that Chinese artists have in the West update their knowledge of Western art and culture and enable them to adjust, refine, and enrich their artistic vocabularies and concepts, furthering the process of domestic modernization and global pluralism on the cultural level.  In this new situation, we see a change in the course of  modernism in Chinese artistic circles. "Chinese modernism," which was "rooted in a desire for internal strengthening"  previously, "answering only to its own  social and cultural demands," now seems to have developed into an open and ambitious "transitional modernism," which aims at international communication, recognition, and contributes to the construction of a rich multicultural w o r l d .  70  Communication creates understanding and friendship,  but also gives rise to misunderstandings and conflict.  During this decade when  the West has been the main host, patron, and judge of contemporary Chinese art, which lacks a domestic audience and government support, communication between the West and the Chinese art world seems to be problematic and disputatious.  The Rise of Nationalism S h i Yong took p a r t i n a group e x h i b i t i o n i n Winnipeg i n J a n u a r y , 1999, and he w i l l show h i s work i n South Korea and A u s t r a l i a i n the s p r i n g and summer of t h i s y e a r . My c o n v e r s a t i o n w i t h S h i Yong on J a n u a r y 7, 1999 i n Winnipeg. Gao M i n g l u , "Towards a t r a n s n a t i o n a l modernity: An overview of Inside 6  9  7  0  Out: New Chinese art,"  i n the same author e d . , Inside Out, p p . 16-7.  160  In 1993, the curator of the 45th Venice Biennale, Achille Bontino Oliva, managed to present the show in an untraditional way by giving exposure to "other" cultures. For the first time, art from countries such as Australia, South Africa, and Korea was brought to Venice. Oliva also visited art studios in China, choosing works by over ten artists to be shown, and this was the first time that avant-garde art from China was presented in such a renowned international art event.  Developed along "thematic poles—north/south,  east/west—calling  attention to the reciprocal influences and the cultural exchange between East and West," this exhibition created a valuable opportunity for the Chinese art world to meet the West, but it also initiated a criticism of Western hegemony among Chinese art circles. 1 7  There were several reasons for this.  First, since there was no national  pavilion for Chinese artists in the Venice Biennale, their works were hosted in the Israeli P a v i l i o n .  72  For some artists, the crowded, dimly lit showing  conditions revealed the Western center's discrimination against Third World countries.  73  In addition, most of the works chosen to be shown in this Biennale  were of the Political Pop and Cynical Realism styles. As Hou Hanru complained later, this selection reflected the two different standards used by the West to judge Western art and Chinese art, that is, the use of the ontological standard (in which art vocabulary is regarded as the most important element) for the former  G i a n c a r l o P o l i t i , C h r i s t o p h e r M a r t i n t r . , "Bonito O l i v a , Documenta, and t h e B i e n n a l e , " Flash art, 166.10 (October, 1992), p . 87. S i x t y c o u n t r i e s took p a r t i n the 1993 V e n i c e B i e n n a l e , but o n l y t w e n t y - e i g h t had t h e i r own p a v i l i o n s . I b i d . , p . 143. T i a n B i n Bfl# e d . , based on a tape r e c o r d i n g , "Shenhua—xifang yu Zhongguo—di s i s h i w u j i e w i e n i s i shuangnianzhan canzhan y i s h u j i a g u i l a i 7  1  7 2  7  3  t a n ganxiang" # » - - 1 5 ^ l l t H - - * E B - r 5 : B a m » f * ¥ S # R * l » * W * * J B * , t  1  Wang Meng e d . , Jinri xianfeng ( 2 ) , B e i j i n g , 1994, p p . 20-2. Two p a r t i c i p a t i n g a r t i s t s from B e i j i n g , Fang L i j u n ^?73i& and Feng Mengbo $L, complained about t h i s s i t u a t i o n when d i s c u s s i n g t h i s show.  in  161  and the Cold War ideological standard for the latter.  74  Finally, as China started  to become more powerful economically, nationalism re-emerged and grew among Chinese intellectuals. A nationalistic tendency was evident as early as 1993 in some participating artists' reactions to this Biennale.  Beijing artist Wang Guangyi  stated that there was no equality in cultural communication. He emphasized "national spirit" (minzu jingshen l ^ ^ f i f 1$) and called on the Chinese government, art critics, and artists to take the initiative in creating a "Chinese myth" (Zhongguo shenhua ^ HSi^fc) for the sake of achieving an important international position for Chinese c u l t u r e .  75  In the view of Fang Lijun, the  reason why there were so many exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art in Western countries was because "the West intended to subject Chinese art to the order of world art," which, as his words implied, was the order of Western a r t .  7 6  Another Beijing artist Feng Mengbo MW$L (b. 1966) shared Fang's opinion and further argued that a national identity (minzuxing development of contemporary art in C h i n a .  J3c$£1rE) is necessary for the  7 7  In addition to these artists involved directly in the artistic dialogue with the West, Gao Minglu, an influential curator and scholar residing in the United States, supported this nationalist idea in his writings. In 1993, Gao, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, published a letter with the title "The Battlefield of Chinese Art is Inside China"  ("Zhongguo yishu de zhanchang zai Zhongguo  bentu" ^ P S i i ^ t f t S f c ^ & ^ i : ) in Jiangsu Art Monthly, writing:  ZiwenFil^C e d . , "Yishu wenti de zhongxin yu b i a n y u a n — c a i f a n g Hou 1 Hanru" WflBB5HW4 'OlliWI~8ftBfiS»flI, Jiangsu huakan, 171.3 (March, 1995), p . 7. T i a n B i n e d . , p . 15. I b i d . , p . 20. I b i d . , p p . 21, 23. 7 4  7  5  7  6  7 7  162 We should not expect the West to recognize our contemporary art. In their position as the mainstream culture, they [the Western audiences] are not willing to and are not going to accept you, particularly when you are following them. We should overcome our own strength.  them with  78  In Gao's view, real communication between East and West is impossible, and a cultural war against the West, suggested by his term "overcome" becomes an inevitable solution. If the 1993 Venice Biennale was the beginning of this "cultural war," then the 46th Venice Biennale of 1995 made the situation even tenser. The curator this time, Jean Clair, constructed the show on the theme "Identity and Alterity," focusing on "the historically relative nature of representations of the human b o d y . "  79  Although this theme offered "extensive possibilities for escape  from the western-centered narratives which have dominated the interpretation of twentieth-century art," the show itself, as some Western writers pointed out, remained Western-centered, since it was dominated by European artists, despite including works by Liu Wei, Zhang Xiaogang, and Yan Peiming I960]."  80  Skia  [b.  The three Chinese artists who took part in the show were all  recommended by commercial galleries overseas, and the careless and inappropriate way in which some of their works were shown betrayed "a sign of their marginal importance to the overall conception of the exhibition."  81  The exclusive nature of this exhibition provoked outrage in the Chinese art world, and a cry for combat against Western hegemony resounded in the 7  8  7  9  Gao M i n g l u , "Zhongguo y i s h u de zhanchang z a i Zhongguo bentu", p . D a v i d C l a r k e , " F o r e i g n b o d i e s — C h i n e s e a r t a t the 1995 V e n i c e  B i e n n a l e , " Art Asia Pacific,  16.  3.1 (1996), p . 3 3 .  Ibid. L i u and Zhang were i n t r o d u c e d by Hanart G a l l e r y i n Hong Kong, and Yan P e i m i n g USUI, o r i g i n a l l y from Shanghai, was based i n F r a n c e and r e p r e s e n t e d by a g a l l e r y i n P a r i s . I a i n R o b e r s t o n , "Shanghai not y e t an a r t market," p . 37. David C l a r k e , p . 3 3 . 8  0  8  1  163 writings of some c r i t i c s .  82  Their articles attacked the two Biennales as Western  curators' conspiracies to control or exclude the art of non-Western people and demonized the West as a united entity, which as the "self," always stood on the side opposed to China, one of the "others." Meanwhile, cultural relations between the West and non-West, the center and the fringe, were frequently discussed by Chinese critics within the frame of the world political structure, since, as the critic Leng Lin  pointed out: "cultural dialogues inevitably  become the core content of the world's political life" in the post-Cold War e r a .  8 3  These antagonistic and ideologically-charged opinions were obviously inspired by national self-respect, which had been insulted by Jean Clair's curatorial decisions.  Art critic and scholar Huang Du f f H  wrote a review essay  after his trip to the 46th Venice Biennale. He stated that it was urgent for China, "a great and cultured nation" (wenhua daguo  ~$CikJ^M), to have its own  national pavilion at the Venice Biennale, since "prestigious international art exhibitions of this sort are analogous to the World Olympics, which can represent a nation's political power and cultural position."  84  To win this  cultural war seemed very important for the nationalists; and in articles published in China since 1995, one frequently sees the word "strategy" (celiie W. B§) in the theoretical discussions about how to achieve an equal artistic dialogue with the West.  Besides general agreement on employing contemporary artistic  vocabularies to locate the national identity in artistic expression and content, D a v i d C l a r k e , p . 33. Huang Du, "Zuowei zhengzhi c e l i i e de dangdai y i s h u — c o n g d i s i s h i l i u j i e w e i n i s i shuangnianzhan kan dangdai y i s h u de 8 2  zouxiang{fmmmm^u{mm--^mm^^m&Mmm¥^mn^mmmM^, Jiangsu huakan, 180.12 (December, 1995), p p . 33-5. Zhang Q i n g , "Ronghe yu c h a y i " B i f e n " ! ! ^ ^ , Jiangsu huakan, 192.12 (December, 1996), p . 6 and by the same a u t h o r , "Opening or s e c l u s i o n , " Opening, 1 (1996), p p . 40-2. Gao L i n g i ^ ^ and Leng L i n < £ # , "Wenhua d u i h u a : Shenfen he celiie" 3Cft fMS#f:9 ft]^fl& Hualang, 49.2 ( A p r i l , 1995), p . 47. A l s o see Huang Du, p . 33. Zhang Q i n g , "Ronghe," p . 6. Huang Du, p . 39. A l s o see Leng L i n , "Chujing yu jueze" l&l£j£#l#£fil, Hualang, (May and June, 1995), p . 63. L e n g ' s a r t i c l e agreed w i t h H u a n g ' s , t r e a t i n g a r t as a way t o get g l o r y f o r o n e ' s c o u n t r y . 8  3  ,  /  8 4  164 some critics also supported the idea of taking state-planned cultural export and import to enforce contemporary Chinese art onto the international art stage.  85  In these cases, they sounded like mouthpieces of the Chinese government, for whom culture seemed to become bargaining chips in political deals.  The Alternative to Nationalism  The four Shanghai artists whom my study has focused on were inevitably caught in the dilemma of choosing between cultural dialogue and war. My earlier discussion of the sharpening of this cultural war in the context of the contemporary Chinese art world as a whole will hopefully offer a necessary background for one to understand their artistic concerns and maneuvers in dealing with this conflict.  It will also set up grounds for comparison enabling  us to identify how they differ from the nationalistic critics and artists just mentioned.  According to all the materials available to me, these four artists  seem the most sensitive regarding this issue among the contemporary artists of Shanghai. Since 1993, they have discussed and dealt with this cultural conflict in both their writings and art works. Although they cannot represent all Shanghai artists in this respect, their viewpoints add new dimensions to the study of this problem and to a certain extent reflect the regional characteristics of Shanghai.  8 5  Tang D i , "Guanyu 1995 n i a n W e i n i s i shuangnianzhan de z h u t i z h a n z h i  b i a o t i de j i d i a n shuoming" H » % S N B f f i » ¥ S I H l ± H J S 2 » Stfi  JLtifflfi,  Jiangsu huakan, 1 9 6 . 4 ( A p r i l , 1 9 9 7 ) , p . 1 8 ; and Huang Du, p . 3 9 . As e a r l y as 1 9 9 3 , a r t c r i t i c Kong Chang'an suggested the i d e a o f p r o m o t i n g the "products" of contemporary Chinese a r t t o the i n t e r n a t i o n a l a r t scene by u s i n g export t e c h n i q u e s , namely, u s i n g the v o c a b u l a r i e s and i s s u e s a t t r a c t i v e to the Western a u d i e n c e s . Kong Chang'an, " O r i e n t a l People Should Not Dream (Dongfang r e n b u b i zuomeng" J f l ^ A ^ i & H & l ? ) , Palazzo Ruini, 1 ( S p r i n g , 1 9 9 4 ) , u n p a g i n a t e d , r e p r i n t e d from the December 1994 i s s u e of Yishujia  165 After participating in the 45th Biennale, Yu Youhan expressed his thoughts regarding this unprecedented meeting with the West in written form; but one does not find the disappointment, frustration, or antagonism implied in some other artists' reactions.  Rather, Yu seems to have enjoyed his cultural  experience in Venice, where he was moved by the eternity and creativity embodied in the masterpieces of Western art. At the same time, he confirmed the value of the Chinese works featured in the exhibition, pointing out their successful reflection of certain aspects in current Chinese society which made them as valuable as their Western counterparts. According to Yu, the value and international position of contemporary Chinese art works are not decided by Western standards, but rather by their affinity with the society in which they are rooted, and by Chinese artists' self-confidence in their artistic pursuits. In his view, Western acceptance and recognition should not be a major concern in Chinese art practice. Yu also responded to the nationalistic ideas proclaimed by some Beijing-based artists and critics returning from the Venice Biennale as follows:  This time after we came back some artists talked a lot about national spirit. This requires examination. One kind of these people lacks self-confidence and wants to "play the China card" with the aim of finally being acknowledged by the Western audience. I think that is not necessary... , and I hope that no one will write out this sort of prescription for our entire art movement.  86  Yu's artistic practice tries to locate the affinity of his work with the social life of Chinese people, and in this sense, his artistic method is in line with that promoted by some critics, namely, using contemporary vocabularies to locate  6  T i a n B i n e d . , q u o t i n g Yu Youhan, p p . 2 6 - 8 .  166 and reflect the national identity. However, the reason why he does this has little to do with any strategy in the "cultural war" against the West, but rather in order to create a new identity for Chinese art that will be familiar to, and valid for the Chinese people.  This difference can be demonstrated by his artistic shift  from the Political Pop style which had attracted the broad interest of Western audiences to new, low-profile works depicting ordinary scenes and images in China. After this shift, the national identity he searched for in his art was no longer a cliched, and Western-favored one with national politics or political history as its essence; rather, it changed and was reconstructed constantly as a result of the artist's close observation of the rich, everyday life. At a time when the voice of overcoming the Western hegemonic center through strategic "cultural war" was prevalent in Chinese art circles, Yu Youhan's approach offered another possibility to solve this conflict: Chinese art should seek a selfsufficient existence in domestic soil, for it is not an appendage and has no reason to measure its value according to its proximity or distance from the Western center. Differing from his teacher, Ding Yi paid close attention to this problematic cultural dialogue between China and the West. In his letters written in 1995, this problem seemed to be on his mind constantly, and in one of these, he wrote:  At present, world-wide exhibitions of Chinese avant-garde art are unequal, since the recognition of Chinese art is decided by the ideologically-grounded response of the Western audience on the media level, but not by any solid scholarly standard of art. Thus, it will be very dangerous if you do not jump out of this circle and look at the situation from a broader perspective. 7 8  7  Ding Y i ' s l e t t e r  t o me, w r i t t e n on A p r i l  6,  1995,  p.  2.  167  In the same letter, Ding also pointed out that avant-garde art should challenge universal issues, and that it would be very narrow-minded if Chinese artists only concern themselves with Chinese identity in their a r t .  8 8  In another letter, written one month iater, Ding gave more consideration to how truly equal artistic communication between East and West can be achieved.  89  His suggestion was to discard two existing norms of making art in  the non-Western art world: namely, the regionalist approach of showing off one's traditional heritage and the subjective over-use of one's cultural and political i d e n t i t y .  This idea was possibly inspired by the Shanghai art critic  90  Wu Liang's article "Does a Center Exist?" ("You meiyou yige zhongxin de cunzai" ^ & ^ H @ 4 ' f r l f t # & ) , written in 1992. 1 J  :  9  In his writings, Ding Yi showed his clear awareness of the problems involved for both sides of the cultural dialogue. He certainly had a very different idea from Yu Youhan regarding what Chinese artists should express, writing: "Art truly becomes a scholarly pursuit regardless of the background or identity, I think this is the ideal of art."  92  During this decade, this artistic ideal  has been pursued consistently by Ding Yi in his Cross Series, where a simple but universal visual vocabulary has been discovered, studied, reiterated, and explored. The Minimalist composer, Philip Glass has described his music as "a kind of 'presence', freed of dramatic structure, a pure medium of sound...one in which neither memory nor anticipation has a place in sustaining the musical  ibid. Ding Y i ' s l e t t e r to me, w r i t t e n on May 3, 1995, p . 1. Ibid. Wu L i a n g , "You meiyou y i g e zhongxin de cunzai?—guanyu Zhongguo dangdai y i s h u de c h u j i n g " Utpfotil&&?-JH&<PM&ttWffitil&tiL, 8  8  8  9  9 0  9  1  Yishu chaoliu  9 2  , 2 . 2 (February, 1993), p p . 3 9 - 4 1 .  Ding Y i ' s l e t t e r to me, w r i t t e n on May 3,  1995.  p.l.  168  experience."  93  Ding Yi's work certainly offers us a visual parallel to what Glass  describes here, its basic unit being neither cultural, regional, nor political, but something purely visual and mental, which can resonate in the souls of all human beings.  If, as suggested by Wu Liang, making art a conjunction of the  individual's sensations and a universal experience is a constructive solution to Chinese-Western cultural conflict, then Ding Yi, along with two other Shanghai artists, Qjn Yifeng and Shen Fan, can serve as good examples.  94  As we have already seen, Yu Youhan tried to create a new identity for Chinese art, which was not based on the preconceived political and ideological identity favored by the Western audience, while Ding Yi totally rejected the idea of a separate national identity in favor of a universalistic view of art.  However,  in Shi Yong and Zhou Tiehai's works one can find a clear identity for Chinese artists, which is an ironic reaction to Western assumptions about Chinese culture and the power that the Western- center exercises on Chinese artists. According to their art, a problematic Western center does seem to exist, but their strategic battle against it has already been examined in Chapter Three. In the Asian  Wall Street Journal's  interview with Zhou Tiehai, Zhou  complained frankly that what Western audiences want to see most of all in contemporary Chinese art is democratic thoughts providing examples of opposition to the Chinese Communist P a r t y .  95  He further claimed that: "He  cannot wait until the 'Chinese' is dropped from in front of 'artist,' since 'the Chinese label is a political label.'"  96  Zhou's art practice managed to avoid the  simple "Chineseness" required by the West, replacing it with another Chinese identity that might touch a sore point in his Western viewers.  Robert Morgan, Twentieth-century music—a history modern Europe and America, New York, 1990, p . 433. 9 3  9 4  9 5  9 6  of musical style  Wu L i a n g , "You meiyou y i g e zhongxin de c u n z a i ? " , p . M i s h i S a r a n , "The a r t i s t i s on the c o v e r , " p . 11. Ibid.  41  in  169 Shi Yong's works produced since 1997 systematically appropriate Western-favored images of contemporary Chinese art to make a parody of Western notions concerning China.  In his most recent piece, The "New Image"  of Shanghai Today (Jinri Shanghai xin xingxiang 'n B _h$|:$?l&M.), a performance given in Winnipeg in January of 1999, Shi, who was dressed the same as in his piece on Kosuth's chair, took Polaroid photographs of himself together with anyone in his audience who was willing to pay a dollar fee, or two dollars if he put his hand on their shoulders (plate 4.20). Seeing the many excited Westerners taking pictures with this new Chinese image, even some Western viewers were struck by the sarcasm embodied in the scene -- Western viewers were both the creators and consumers of the new Chinese identity!  9  7  In other parts of China, we may find some artists questioning and attacking the hegemonic Western center in their writings, but they seldomly do so in their works of art. Thus, we can hardly find a match for Zhou Tiehai or Shi Yong, whose works not only systematically focus on and criticize the problematic cultural relationship between China and the West, but also comment sarcastically on their own problems as Chinese artists in this cultural exchange. Unlike those Beijing critics and artists, Zhou and Shi have never related themselves to the ambitious nationalist ideal of competing with the West on the cultural (or political) stage. By exposing this issue sharply and humorously in their art, they aim at bringing about some new understanding and positive change to this problematic cultural relationship. As a matter of fact, exposure of Zhou's and Shi's critical works in Western venues do prove that the Western art world is more tolerant of outsiders than some of the Beijing artists have admitted. More importantly, it shows that the Shanghai artists' creations have  9  7  My c o n v e r s a t i o n w i t h a Western viewer d u r i n g t h i s  performance.  170 started to help some Western viewers examine and perhaps rectify their preconceptions about the culture of the "other." The exhibition Looking Out/Looking In, held in Plug In Gallery in Winnipeg, can be seen as an good example of this phenomenon.  Opening on  January 6 of 1999, this show featured works by four Shanghai artists, Zhou Tiehai, Shi Yong, Hu Jieming r$7>BJ| (b. 1957), and Ding Yi. Ding showed abstract paintings, but the works of the others were all characterized by the irony directed at Western preconceptions and the economics and politics involved in the East-West cultural dialogue. In addition to Zhou Tiehai's photobased Press Conference Top of Another  and Shi Yong's video installation Adding One Concept on  and his performance The New Image of Shanghai Today, Hu  Jieming's video New Journey to the West (Xin xiyou ji  ^ f S a S i S ) was also  shown, a piece appropriating approximately twenty minutes of footage from the Chinese television series Journey to the West • (Xiyou ji H J S H E ) , based on a classical story about a monk and his three disciples trudging to India to learn the essence of Buddhism. During his residence in Vancouver's Western Front Artist Run Center in 1998, Hu asked three Chinese-Canadians (two artists Gu Xiong W^Wi. and Lin J i n g s h a n ^ ^ L L ! and one art dealer Zheng Shengtian 5^) as well as some Western curators and artists to improvise dialogues for the appropriated footage. As a result, the original story was transformed into a new one about a contemporary pilgrimage of Chinese artists to New York, involving Green Cards, grant money, solo exhibitions, and so forth! As far as I know, this was the first exhibition of contemporary Chinese art held in the West, which focused on exposing the problems usually concealed under the seemingly harmonious cover of East-West cultural communication. Tim Schouten, the curator, is a Canadian artist who visited Shanghai in 1997, and the realization of the show offers an example of further understanding reached  171 between Western and Chinese artists on the basis of their common experience and communication. In various reviews of the show, we also begin to see some new perspectives of the Western media and audiences, which are beginning to examine the way they look at the "others." For example, in his discussion of the exhibition, the critic Robert Enright pointed out that "the broader question being asked is what being Chinese means to a white audience."  98  Another  critic, Christopher Olson, concluded:  Until then, you're guaranteed to leave Plug In with an aching (or spinning) head, after being forced to examine your own assumptions and stereotypes of what contemporary Chinese art would or should look like."  Obviously, the works by these Shanghai artists, which present a selfconsciously constructed inner view of themselves arrived at after looking out at the West, also offer a site for Western audiences to examine themselves after looking out at China. Works of this sort might cause "headaches," but they also prove that the boundary between the "self and the "other," or between the center and the fringe, can be shifted and blurred. The fact that Zhou Tiehai and Shi Yong's works (of this sort) will be featured in the most prestigious international exhibitions this summer allows one to be opitimistic that equal communication and understanding may be achieved more quickly than expected. 100 R o b e r t E n r i g h t , "Art review: Four a r t i s t s e n t e r i n g t h e Western a r t market ponder what b e i n g Chinese means t o a white a u d i e n c e , " The globe and mail, (January 9 , 1 9 9 9 ) , p . C 4 . M i s h i S a r a n , "In p e r s o n , " i b i d . C h r i s t o p h e r O l s o n , "Hey, t h e y ' v e got i r o n y i n C h i n a , t o o — P l u g I n e x h i b i t c h a l l e n g e s Western p r e c o n c e p t i o n s , " The Manitoban, 8 4 . 1 4 (January 2 0 , 1 9 9 9 ) , p . 1 6 . 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"Yishu zuowei yizhong mingyi—Shanghai 'Zhongguo dangdai yishu jiaoliu zhan' baodao" W ^ i ^ M ^ ' 4 M'M^Wi^^^i 1  B:  Hualang SHE, 55.2 (February, 1996), pp. 26-7.  184 . "Zhuangzhi di youxiaoxing—'jiusi yishu duanluo' zhuangzhizhan j i " m m . m m ^ - % m m m m . w f i e s t a , jiangsu huakanU-mmvi, 168.12 (December, 1994), p. 13. ,  Ziwen ill ~3t ed. "Yishu wenti de zhongxin y u bianyuan—caifang Hou Hanru" H M ^ M f f t 4 4 > P I ^ ^ - 4 £ l f i ^ $ r $ n . Jiangsu huakan, 171.3 (March, 1995), pp. 7-8. 3  185 Appendix  I  Chinese  Texts  (According to the number of the footnote. For example, 1.2. is the second footnote of Chapter One).  Chapter One  1.2. mm'zmKmm&mt&>>b&fem, w&m±ft>Lmm%mm, m& i.26. mmm^timmnmm^m, i.3i.  z m m m m m .  m m t m m ^ ^ m ^ m m ,  m^s5E«w0«ws«,  i.4o.  sffl&flmwftsmftfj&ftftgi^.  1.47.  ^lt-@S^«mg?S*f^WiE@^»^.  1.49.  ±M'&%L~mmmn$kAmnm,  1.50.  "85  a n s  ^-mmmm^mmitxmm^sh  mm^mmmmmmmmmm  1.51. W^^IJ&WE^, *rg*n*£. Chapter Two 2.i.  2.9. 2.12.  H^6iJB^##5ij^,  &mfim&mmm, &  ffltt,-fe*3ST^m&&:  &m&^&m^Mm& H^H^."  -ffl*a[^*3iflfe*^W^5C, |S|JJi:|5]^mi@0^*#X^Wi#^m  186 2.2i.  mm, msmM, A * ® * , mn, mm. ...mm.  2.25. ±m^Am^^m,nm^mim}"mB,u^±"m^m''r, "Pop."  m^fife§HTHl,  2.35. nmmmm^mm^M:  x±m. 2.44.  mi+i=2  mx  «TO£IB*Sm«,  mmBmmm-^.^±^^m,  msm  ...m&wummM^m^®.  m$£..M.*z*  -m%&,m%..  2.48. mm,&m*&mmmm:  fewi,  mm,yt-E,  R^m^mmmm±m  mm.  2.54. - ^ J M f f l f a # S A f t £ M J f c t k B : ^ , S W S f c J & ' S ^ ^ W ^ ^ t R M ^  2.57. ff: m^-m±mwM±mimi^ff , a  0$, ^MfWSSSJaS^HtiH.  w^^mmi  fcHMft^JgflJ^®,  Wfcgft^di-'M  187  mmmmr. 2.58. 2.60.  a  nmmmm, ^^mm^im,  m^mmmmwrntr,  MM&W  f ^ ^ ^ l i t t T J i t l M i f S i f D M t ^ M I I I ^ *  mmmmmm-m^ 65  {tf^mj^AMjiiit.  2.65. ^ ^ m w i » a m i i ^ & & j ^ * w j E s ^ @ ^ * s * , (  2.67. TZWIiliftftEffilJSS^  m^&mmm  SEtft  Chapter Three  3.5.  3.9. 3.12.  3.15. 3.16.  umm^mm^mm,fem^mEmmmttmm^&wM,mwzm  mM.mmmmM.mmm^m^Mm^mm^M'bm. 5M@£J^H^£7i+7LFfiI^^^  fiSWS«««W«tt,  J6»«*»S»f^#7  £ » * § i ^ - « 5 $ ,  R^-t^-ai^.  188  3.22. mmmm'mm&"mm^m&-mmm*mmmw mmm. m a  3.23.  3.27.  H-^Jfeffi^E^ft^A,  t m i i  "l&ffflte"  M#K^-f@^  g!Efe«failAW<Hte, X - K B ^ f r N r f t ^ ^ i * ® ^ .  3.28. -w&m<imM$\,&mi5*<b±m±mnm}m * H « " n  3.30.  « ™ 3 r  m^Fi#7n^h^liETW#4 ^S^:'fb^-@^M^*.? ]  3.32. ^t-m^tmmmm^mmmmm^BMnM,, m.mw.mmmmzm  w-mjammm: -mum, -mmm, -mm^, H@S&#. nttx 3.40.  m*5ET, S S 4 » H W m * !  189 3.4i.  (mmmmmmmmnmmmm^.,)  - $ I E S I « I « S X ^ ,  3.43. mmm^fm^mmmm^mWi±. 3.44. ^^m^±mmmmx±m^mmn,..MmBmrmmmmmKmm 3.45.  »&mfa$tmm&..Mm&UA®tiahm&m®m$i  3.48. &mmmmmm&}tt&*, 3.5i.  wtmm^n^itmmm^mm.^m\^^c  rnxwrnmnmr, ^ M U M , m m ^ m ^ w w .  fi&fflMffi^i^g  3.64.  #ft^,^m&f^M^Ais  &^?RffiH?gffiW  L F 1 1 7 0 la3K, &  3.70.  «flm8ft£l«±,  * P # ^ £ ^ & M I ,  #M£frT#:.  Chapter Four 4.1.  4.13. 4.15.  9o^ttm&&mftmiEm%mm, ^mm±m^m,  mmmiXikmmm  K^TmAfSA^b^WM^^. ^ a W ^ a * ,  ft*Jfc£,  ^ ^ M ^ m ^ ^ ^ ^ l H l ^ :  W B * f t * « » A ,  - f c J f c E t o £ I M W + ^ £ « # £ . .  4.24.  M f f ,  4.25.  ± s , gts,  f  l  M  W  W«rflfeft*2l^,  ,  WWrXft  M  stitiYx, %xm^, m$tmm  4.33. f t f f l r t T ^ ^ ^ « M A + ¥ ^ M ^ W m f t ± ^ « ^ S ^ W ^ M .  190  n-mmitmmmmmmu, mmmmmmm^m, i f e t i ^ f t w  4.43.  4.44. ^mmmmmnmmm^mmmm^mm^M.m..M^±^mMK  mm®. Hiif^L ( F r e d e r i c  4.62.  Le Gourierec)  m&m... 4.63. m.whmm#i% j>? /  4.66. mmm$.m^mnmmm, mm±mmnm^mjt. 4.78. m^mMmmm^Azmmmm.ttmm, t f f i s i E W ± « 4.83.  ^mmm^m^m^mw^m^±^^^^^  4.86. m^iHi^w*s^mA^s^Mit,m.&wwfrffi,m-m&m&Bmn  191  4.87. mr^mmmmm^^^mm^^m^mr^,  'stasia  4.92. mm^miEmm±^m-mmmm^ w^mm, nmrn^mmmmm. :  2.2. Yu Youhan. Circle 85-5. 1985. Acrylic on canvas, 131.5x132cm.  2.7. Yu Youhan. Mao Zedong and Whitney Huston. 1988. Acrylic on canvas, 80x60cm.  2.8. Yu Youhan. Mao Zedong's Periods of Life. 1990 Oil on canvas, 110x280cm.  2.11.  Yu Youhan. Mao Zedong and Zhu De. 1994. Collage o f o i l o n canvas a n d photograph, 145x105cm.  2.12. Yu Youhan. Reading Through Pictures: Earth. 1996. Acrylic on canvas, 110x90cm.  2.13. Yu Youhan. Reading Through Pictures: Statue. 1996. Acrylic on canvas, 110x90cm.  2D0  2.18-21. Y u Y o u h a n . Look at the Present for the Truly Great Man: 1997. Oil on canvas, 110x90cm.  No.1-4.  2.oZ  2. 22. Yu Youhan. LooJc at the Present for the Truly Great Man:  1997. Oil on canvas, 110x90cm.  2.23. D i n g Y i . Street With Red Houses. Oil o n thick paper, 5 7 x 6 9 c m .  2 . 2 5 . Ding Yi. Taboo. 1986. Oil o n canvas, 84x84cm.  1983.  2o5  2o6  +'*'_•*• ±  I  *  -  '  s  f  ?1 • ~'  1  *  1  * »  ^ i l U ^ . ^ ^ ^ ^  '-0}  8  u  OC  -r  X  \r< W  1  M-4  CJ G.  c3  -  8  c H  5 a  5 ' . ' . » -f—•—M-l -4 » | _ •  "  u O _ ' _  _J , • . ,., ,  .,.  "  M r  M J  ~  • I -  i  ^^^i  > t  M i l l  f — -  .L L i ' i -  ;  :  i .  „ ___ ; .i  »"» i  1 ' _  JU^,—, ,_L  i  >  t  CJ  u  i  i  _o a u  :  I ' l l I  : A —1-« t  •  K "? G> Vi Vi  8  5  oo  I;  4 4 j  '  1  \  ii • _' . J  \\^'Tllli- 'JL! Lt  1  !  _ _ !  :  "H 'i'  ' _ ' ._ :  (  I ' l l 1" i f r ^ - - • — ! -  _ L i . * — * — '-'  '-'  j -  CN CN  2o7  2o8  £ C I—I  x o -r  > KlT^xi  • I r z i r \ i / . , . . 1\ • V  . . . . . . .  ,,-.y, ,y,  .  sr. i ^ ; ,  .V -,",;A:K. (  o u  % <  T I  a S3  g © ro  2. 34. Ding Yi. Cross 93-B13. 1993. Pencil on paper, 35x48cm.  2/1  2.12.  21*  2. 38. Ding Yi. Cross 92-18. 1992. Acrylic on canvas, 240x200cm.  2/5  2lG  2.41. Ding Yi. Cross 94-B 20. 1994. Acrylic on telephone, 21x15x14cm.  2/5  2Zo  22]  2ZZ  - -.  ijf'jikfl  II  wmm  '  ? HP  i •  i  1S  —<  it  '. i n< \ * jvjp) I f i J=J #t jyr! <• \ i «• : / i «• at [jjpl lit v^i m n c >• i . ' ; — s » r r il T P T T j ' ' ' 1 J J T H H T * W I H ; i i ' k B r T T ' l b l JM-M Ii - L i Stti- It-f-r-J* i-A-im ai-iri'-ii rl Mara; I 'hrwTlrli r l — I n :  1  ••: 1 Ifi t liftil I rl! 1 It I * l^-l Mflifi OTFf I iiJtrira#=iilit  II ifflR  -223  224  225  3.6.  Shi Yong. Untitled. 1992. Mixed media on cardboard, 44x33cm.  226  3.8. Q i a n W e i k a n g . Dividing Into Two Parts Is Still Not Enough. 1993. Installation w i t h chalks a n d i r o n wire, 3 7 3 x 4 8 0 x 2 7 7 c m .  3.9. J i n L i l i . Game. 1 9 9 3 . Installation w i t h textile a n d i r o n wire.  22*  2*f  3.11. S h i Y o n g . Lifting Objects Five Degrees and Bringing About the Volumes of Shadows. 1 9 9 3 . Installation w i t h photosensitive paper, plexiglass, spotlight a n d spray-paint.  23°  23/  232  235  3.15. Qjan Weikang. Wind Direction: White Amount 205 Grams. 1993. Installation with sheet iron, gypsum power, video image of a rolling fan and spray-paint.  3.16. Shi Yong. 480x240x92 cm, Relation to a Pillar. 1994. Installation with photosensitive paper, plexiglass, spotlight and spray-paint, 480x240x92 cm.  3.18. Liang Chen. 100cm, Distance. 1994. Installation with blue plexiglass and spotlight.  237  -23?  3.20.  Shi Yong. Amplification Site: a Cross Echo in a Private Uving Space. 1995. Apartment installation with transparent plastic membranes, microphones, loudspeakers, and amplifier and mixer, above: two installation views of this piece .  Shi Y o n g . Appropriating the Site: Body, Sound and Form. 1 9 9 5 . Installation set u p i n the Access A r t i s t - R u n Center, V a n c o u v e r . O n the right side o f this p h o t o g r a p h , we see the entrance to Qjan Weikang's Gravity Corridor.  .22. Shi Yong. Please Do Not Touch "Please Do Not Touch". 1996. Installation w i t h n e o n light characters a n d a n a l a r m system.  24o  1 mm  H U B S  E B U M .  WITCHERY  nam  i  **iftit£«  vmetm  Sffl*«Sffl*». » »  aroargxa. *A»SKftaiM«  «u#aaarg  a«*»l: •MLt*tt«JUtii»ifti«wiK WSMCt: 200333  Is/  1^ 3.23.  «»#aiia2a*3cajt«Mim*A*i8.  A  G  B C  H I  D  J  E  K  F  L  i iUH  M» * a a  Shi Y o n g . A Pian f o r a n Image Survey. 1996. M e d i a piece r e p r o d u c e d i n the magazine a n d c i r c u l a t e d i n postcards.  Who is Iks] 3.24.  S h i Yong. Who Is the Performer? 1 9 9 7 . Still short f r o m the v i d e o piece, showing a part o f a b l u r r y female face.  241  24-2.  3.26. above: Shi Yong. Internet Survey of New Image of Shanghai Today. 1997 to present, below: Shi Yong. Adding One Concept On Top of Another. 1998. Video installation based on the result of Shi Yong's Internet Survey and Joseph Kosuth's One and Three Chairs.  243  3.28. Zhou Tiehai and Yang Xu. The Knife Needs Sharpening. 1991. Graffiti on newspaper,206x33Ocm.  244  3.30. Zhou Tiehai and Yang Xu. The Pot Is Broken, the Water Is Gone. 1991. Graffiti on newspaper, 160x415 cm.  245  3.32. Zhou Tiehai. There Came a Mr. Solomon to China-Having a Bath with the Critics. 1994. Mixed media and collage on paper, 230x350cm.  246  3.34. Zhou Tiehai. Our Paintings Should Be Packed in Louis Vuitton Luggage. 1994. Mixed media and paper, 200x300cm.  247  •  .  .-  -  j . • r .-,  Newsweek  THE INTERNATIONAL  3.35.  NEWSMAGAZINE  Zhou Tiehai. Fake Newsweek Cover. 1995. Computer-generated image, 26.8x20.3cm.  24?  3.36. Zhou Tiehai. Fake Artnews Cover. 1995. Computer-generated image, 27.4x20.9cm.  3.39. Zhou Tiehai. Are You Lonely? 1997.(side view) Gouache on paper, 238x380cm.  250  3.38. above: Zhou Tiehai. We Went to Look for Love. 1996. Mixed media on paper, 238x380cm. below: detailed view, fake Newsweek covers. 1996. C-print,(each) 87x60cm.  251  252.  Slje JfeUr ^orkSimeg)Magazine November 30,1997  3.44.  Zhou Tiehai. Fake New York Times Magazine Cover. 1997. Computer-generated image, 29.2x24.3cm. It shows Zhou Tiehai's black flag bidding farewell to art.  KULTUR N a m e n  CLAASSEN-HEIMKEHR 1991 gjng der Claassen Verlag an den Hildesheimer Gerstenberg Verlag; jetzt kehrt er wicder zu seincm angesummten Haus Econ zuriidc. Denn bd der Munchner Econ-ListVerlagsgeseUsdiaft siehl man den einstigen Verkauf inzwischen als Pehler. Bd Claassen untergebradit sind Sduiftstdler wie die kanadische Bestsdler-Autorin Margaret Atwood oder der Italiener Cesare Pavese, ein modemer Klassiker. Und Claassen hah die deutschen Rechte am Margaret-MitdiellWdthit «Vom Wlnde verweht».  u n d N o t i z e n  d e r  W o c h e  Der Kunstler posiert als Killer  GATZA-ABGANG  DOPPELPACK ! «Mein Herz so welss» j hiess 1996 der Bestsel! ler des Spaniers Javier i Marias, als gebunde-  Mm W^.;r  p.  KCTOUSKUTSCMC AUS CHINA: Zhou Tiehai gestaltet die Tnel tirtemationaler Magazine um.  Sdiwerer Rvickschlag Kir den j Frankfurter Eichbom Verlag, derj Mine der neunziger Jahre in einej Kri.se genet und sich daraufhin } selber eine Verjungungskur von; Kader und Programm verschrieb: j Bereits Anfang Jahr ging Lektor i Thomas Hade, jetzt verlasst der; profiliene Programm-MacherI Mathias Gatza den Verlag. Beide i waren die jungen Hofmungstrai'.rr | des Untemehmens, nachdem sVh; dessen Griinder Vito von Eichbom j zurudtgezogen hatte.  AUFTRITT  Die FACTS-Ausgabe mil dem Bcricht iiber einen in China  nes Buch bei Kleit-Cotta erschienen. Das Taschenbucti gibts bald doppelt Heyne, dessen Lizenz demnachst auslauft hat es schon; ab Juni kommt dazu dtv. Die zwei Verlagc gingen zusammen, um den dritten potenten Konkurrenten, Goldmann, auszubooten.  STIPES DEBUT Michael Stipe, Sanger des amerikanischen RockErfolgsquartetts R.E.M., versucht sich als Filmproduzent - an einer nicht ganz unproblematischen Buchvodage.  des Mordes angcklagten Schweizer hat den chinesisch~n Avantgardekiinstler Zhou Tiehai, 31, zu einer ironischen Retour kutsche inspiriert Zhou, der immer wieder Utelblattcr internationaler Magazine zu Kunst macht, weilte in der Schweiz, weil die Berner Galerie Bernhard Schindler zurzeit (noch bis 14. Februar) Werke von ihm zeigt. Sein FACTS-ntelbild, auf dem Zhou Tiehai selber als « J o u m a listen-M8rder» posiert, wird im April in der Ausstellung «Asia Ci ty» in London grossformatig zu sehen sein.  JAVIER MARIAS auf Deutsch im Doppelpack.  STJK ^American  2f * Rim. c  f  Psycho» von _ ' _ .  Bret Easton Ellis, die Story vom wahllos mordenden STEPHEN KING, 50, Konig alter JOHN GRISHAM, 4 3 , s c h e f f e ! t ^ f i | Wallstreet-Brcker, Horror-Autoren, erlebte eine Zuruckals fleissiger Gerichtsthriller-Autor skandalisierte Anfang B k M ^ setzung Fur die dem Ubersinnlichen Geld. Das Branchenblatt «Pubder neunziger Jahre mit gewidmeteTV-Serie«Akte X»verfasste Ushers Week!y» liefert die exakten ^ 3 f l ihrer gefuhllosen Blu^Wmm ^hj ereinOrehbuch. D o c h d e r Produzent Zahlen: 30 Millionen Dollar b e t n g tigkeit Amerika. Regie EmSm \M$ ^ ' C ' ^ Voriage allcin 1996 das Einkommen des AmeriJrj soil "Mary Harron Kt'-'^PS^wS nicht zufrieden und wies sie zuruck. fuhren, die sich mit kaners. Und d e r Grisham-Gesamt' «l Shot Andy Warhol" < t e t e Version gefiel Umsatz inklusive diverser Verfilmungen ^MS^B^ ihm - und isl in Amerika bald zu sehen. einen Namen machte. ubersteigt die Milliardengrenze.  JTssp  B-jSL- WSPj Sfl^lC  h r  ^ISHsBV^  E r s t  s  d i e  a r t e r  w  a  r m  [  e r  U D e r a r r r e  115  3.45. Zhou Tiehai. Fake Facts Magzine Cover. 1998. Computer-generated image reproduced in Facts magzine.  254  If yue want lo know how tin West -i.v Shanghai, read Time, Der Spiegel, The Asian Wail Street Journal etc  if >mi wu in to know the view of u ShutiKhai artist, see the 1 1 1 \ i pufie.  3.46. Z h o u T i e h a i . Press Conference. 1998. (full view) Photo-based image, 100x380cm.  New Listing, Zhou Tiehai, Rises On Debut Before Reaching Fair Value Shanghai  W  HEN first listed July 12 on Ihe Shanghai Stock Exchange, Zhou Tiehai appeared undervalued, rising only slightly in thefirstfew hours of trade.  But Class B* shares in the issue appreciated steadily over the next two weeks, as foreign buyers learned more about the enterprise's fundamentals. One European buyer even was rumoured to be accumulating large blocks of the stock in a bid to obtain a majority stake, traders said. The gradual appreciation accelerated into an all-out buying spree beginning on July 26, when the unnamed European buyer discovered previously undisclosed assets in Zhou Tiehai. The stock closed out the month just below a psychological high. Traders then said they doubted the stock would rise much further. "If the Zhou climbs much higher it will find itself very vulnerable to market fluctuations and exposed to the whims of profit-takers," said a market analyst with a Shanghai-based securities firm. Yet an injection of new funds on Aug. 6 caused the stock to soar on strong buying again rumoured to originate from Europe. The initial surge was followed by three to four days of consolidation in the value of the stock. Traders said it was a technical correction, ending on Aug. 10.  vestment had become overvalued, took some profits. By Aug. 13, the Zhou had fallen to more sustainable level, before its shares were suspended from trading ahead of a shareholders meeting. When trading resumed Aug. 26, the Zhou look a slight knock, consolidating on Aug. 27 to a level just below its pre-suspension price. According to market participants, the stock is now valued fairly in the eyes of the big houses and seems likely to remain stable in the foreseeable future. Ets fundamentals remain sound, and bullish traders expect renewed interest by overseas buyers to bring the Zhou Tiehai higher in the long term. Indeed, some traders said they have seen indications in recent sessions that foreign houses are accumulating the Zhou again. •Shanghai has [wo stock markets. Class B shares are denominated in US dollars and tradable only by overseas investors: Class A shares, denominated in yuan, are available only to domestic Chinese buyers.  The Zhou fell slowly over the next few sessions, as the European buyer, realising its in-  3.47. Z h o u T i e h a i . New Listing Zhou Tiehai , Rises On Debut Before Reaching Fair Value. Text o f financial r e p o r t i n Press Conference. 1998. Photobased image, 100x70cm.  255  4.1. Wang Guangyi. Great Castigation Series: Coca-Cola. 1993. Oil on canvas, 200x200cm.  256  4.3. Wang Guangyi. Mao Zedong. 1988. Oil on canvas, 150x150cm.  4-  PS 65  rs 3 o S3 3 c  !sa  c c  o & I—' • •  o  9o IS  O  Z5T  Li Shan. The Rouge Series: No. 14. 1992. Acrylic on canvas.  4.8. Shen Fan. 94-P-l. 1994. Oil on rice paper, 19cm x 81cm x 5.  4.9. Qjn Yifeng. Line Field Series: No. 22. 1993. Acrylic on canvas, 130x110cm.  262  3 OS  o • r-~ o •a o  to  S  tN  ci,,—i  2«*  0.  as  c  M 0  c •§-° '3 g bO ai  C ><  oa  I  T  * iitTifiTf lf!-.4tf! Ill X  d ,—<  -t  4.11. above: Song H a i d o n g i n his studio. 1994.  .11. below: Song Haidong. 94-43. 1994. Water, color, dust o n cardboard, 60x45cm.  4.12. Wang Ziwei. Mao with the Savior. 1993. Acrylic on canvas, 114.5x151.7cm.  265  4.14. N i W e i h u a . Con tin uously Spreading Even t (2). 1993. Ni's computer-generated poster(left) pasted together w i t h its m o d e l s o n a street, Shanghai.  2U  4.15. Xue Song. Famous Painting. 1997. Acrylic and collage on canvas, 120x100cm.  4.16. Zhou Tiehai. Now a Mr. Gourierec Comes To China. 1997. Mixed media and collage on newspaper, 350x300cm.  The  World's L e a d i n g  A r t Magazine  V o l . X X X n" 197 Winter  1997 U S  $7  International  Flash A r t  4.17. Zhou Tiehai. Fake Flash Art Magazine Cover. 1997. Computer-generated image, 26.8x20cm.  26?  2.J0  

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