1. A comment on Candice Breitz artist talk in Canada (free style)

    https://www.gallery.ca/en/learn/Candice_Breitz.php

    "Haha I listened to it all. I guess for me the most interesting part is that Candice mentioned the shaping fragments (It’s super interesting, the "parenthood" of social media) of our identities which is a question I often ask to myself as well… I was born and grew up in a nice family (my parents used to be really poor in the countryside but they worked their ways to the best universities in China (back in the 80-90s there was still a huge space for class mobility) and got a middle-class-ish social status after all these years working in a state-owned company. In a word, well educated but was adapted to the society, intelligent but couldn’t go beyond the cage of the traditions, caring, loving, nice and supportive but dull and boring in most of their life. I had never been abroad except from Thailand when I was 8 (and I’m sure I didn’t even see any Kathoey), but then a major part of my knowledge is from the west through reading and films and music and such. I guess my passion for the west in a long period of time did give me really positive influences (I never avoid my identity as a Chinese but I don’t want to be tagged) but now it seemed to have disappointed me in various ways (such as the westerners’ inherent imaginations of the "mysterious Orient” as a cultural spectacle, the misinterpretations and stereotypes through the filtering of the western media of this crazy post-Mao socialist country (which I think actually the core problem of China is not unique but a common one, it’s the problems resulted when the global Capitalism clashed with the China which was in void, ruins and pains). I guess after all these rant my point is, simple as it is, it’s a Beckettian question that I don’t know where am I going to as much as I don’t know where I came from, as a modern man. Perhaps in my case it’s different from Candice, since China and South Africa had a hugely different history and social contexts and in terms of the roles they played in the globe, but there’s something similar here. I guess China is not my biggest concern since I think the west is also unavoidably in shit now and the offers (this corrupted, polluted word "freedom" and such) from the west are no longer valid (I mean the culture as a whole). America used to be a huge inspiration, a Utopia as a democratic, free, equal and prosperous country, but my mistrust in the American culture has always been so strong that I decided to come to London. I guess my identity as a Chinese whose Chineseness is almost invisible (well I cook well and I cook like a Chinese and eat like one). The notion "China" to me is an  estranged, defamiliarized cultural myth bounded with speeding Capital, exploitations, inequality and nice (mostly in a passive and compromising style) and tolerant general public (If you look into Chinese history there used to be a much better hospitality to minor races and different cultures, and also in terms of gay tolerance) and a mixture of which was sadly reduced to a minimum: the praise of the past and the wisdoms of our ancestors is often granted within tiny intellectual circles who were trapped and limited within the time they were born. I mean, back to the topic where I came from I guess for me my practice as an artist, however, is more to do with art itself (if there is such thing as "art itself"), I mean I guess I have a belief in it, not for its function, its cultural and political meanings as such but for the “experimental field” of "freedom" which "art" seems to provide (and also beauty, not in the sense of those aesthetic trends tastes or formulas): in this sense to me politics and such are inherent within it. I mean it also in a way that I think for me there are better approaches to change the world such as becoming a politician (it’s different when an artist is politically engaged and making "political art" or using its “art” as an intervention). I guess for me why I like Candice’s work is that they seem to have balanced a critical approach to the socio-cultrual materials and this ambiguous space of artness, when I watched those strange montaged film clips I felt thrilled since there seemed to be something more than just identity politics and mainstream cultural products and social critics… Perhaps what made them intriguing is that they successfully estranged the everydayness (in a sense that we every individuals live in) into something mystical but revealing, although the original materials are just the cultural products we consume, and perhaps live ourselves into."

     

  2. I love this idea of fighting for nothing. Striving towards nothingness, making things big for nothing, aiming at nothing… To me that’s the most powerful and poetic way of living. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

     

  3. Writing on: True Love Stories: 2006-2013

    Since I started working on this piece I’ve had a period of severe depression several mental breakdowns and nights which almost buried me… but I guess all these no longer matter, since they gave completeness to this finial ritual: it ends since I’m able to tell the story. 

    It was the first time that I looked back at my personal life to make a work from and it started with such a vague thing: there wasn’t a story, since there isn’t any plots, nor a beginning or an end, specific time or space where everything took place. It didn’t really happen, it was known only afterwards like any other love stories, since one cannot express “suffering” by the word “suffering”: “one cannot write without burying sincerity.”(Roland Barthes), but now it’s made into a highly structured and beautifully crafted work. Those failed attempts in which I tried to put it in words and those struggles through those impotent sentences are now the catalysts of this work.

    I guess in a sense it’s selfish, since it seems to have “publicized” a personal experience I had with someone, but I think it’s also valid in a wider context and also to the audience, instead of just one of those soap operas or gossips about my personal life. There’s a doubling: many of the things have very personal meanings to me but they are also expressed through various detached means.

    The back ground music which is looped throughout the entire show under the table where the pinky stuffs are while the sound of the balloon performance looping in the TV monitor is separated in the headphone. It’s the original recording of the performance with hitting sound of the balloon and heavy footsteps, contrasted the peaceful, slowed and stretched, cliched late 80s Chinese romantic song (Pinky Memory by Han Bao Yi, which has personal meanings to me but it’s not necessary to be known). Next to it there’s a framed photograph of the fragments of the actual balloon which exploded at the corner of the space where the performance took place and a plate with a piece of raw steak on top of Ikea rosy napkin and tablecloth as well as knife and fork on each side. The poster on wall was a souvenir from Liverpool Biennial in 2012, with images of combating and fighting in pink color. On the floor are the pink LED balloons, same brand and type of the one I used in the performance.

    The framed pictures on wall are cropped from a full scale photo of our class taken on a school trip in 2009. The original photo is clear but the cropped ones are pixelated and vague since they are enlarged to this scale. They are hardly visible in the dreamy blue LED light on show.

    The video set on the other side are all made specifically for the show. The video on projection is my body spinning, posing and taking off shirt etc., with some other loosely related images and clips overlapped. It’s deliberately made to be sexual and ambiguous, sometimes flirtatious, sometimes the body turned into a displaying object, stretched in slow motions, some images desaturated while some over-saturated, with my face often couldn’t be seen, suggesting another “persona”, an imaginative character or images of a desirable body. Relating to this, there’s a TV monitor in the corner that goes on every 15 mins announcing this frightful truth to everyone: the universe is expanding… There’s a funny coincidence behind it: when I was a kid I always worried too much about the universe and those fundamental questions like what will happen after death and that really resulted in my serious, highly “philosophical” approach to life, my “unhappy, over-thingking” childhood and a slightly anxious personality. In last Christmas when I met him (the original person who appears as an imaginative character in the work: the lover) he told me that he’s been depressed since his friends told him recently that the universe is expanding. The film footages are from Annie Hall (which I re-filmed it from a projection on wall so it’s actually not from the original film footages), an Woody Allan film with this funny anecdote about the protagonist’s childhood. I half-jokingly weave all these together, it was a banal but fundamental truth that perhaps everyone asks to themselves; The overlapping (since “being-in-love” often suggests uniqueness and distinction) of these stories seemed to have eliminated the gaps and pull everyone out of this self-indulgent sentiment of the work into the banal universality again. I made it loops as if an intruding force that breaks into the slow, peaceful atmosphere of the space every 15 mins.

    A detached set from the gay-ish, homoerotic, nostalgic aesthetics of the rest of the work is placed on the opposite side of the room in the middle of the blank wall. This monochromic, clinical and seemingly “asexual” display of objects with me present as the protagonist (dressed in black) performing a still for long durations. During the performance I gazed on my phone which is showing a screenshot of text messaging (“There will be life”) interface. A framed, b&w photo taken earlier when I sent the text to a friend originally is on display as well, and by an error it was sent twice. Next to it it was a text piece in a diary format, in which there are some “performance-ish” “stories” I wrote that are vaguely explaining the elements appeared in the show. Most of the stories are made up or just similar to things that actually happened, some are real but not indicated. It works as hints for the whole work and link separate elements together without making them literal, since it was carefully written in a rather ambiguous tone, suggestive without being precise. The black balloon pumper next to the diary is the same one I used to blow up the balloons, which some think that it almost looks like a hardcore sex toy while the others found it quite alien and strange (they didn’t get it was an air plumper). The video looping in the laptop is originally from a clip from Happy Together by Wong Kar Wai, which was filmed while I was watching it at night and made it into monochrome. A doubling here, suggesting potentially distancing gaps between the characters in film, the spectator/voyeurist (me), and the actual audience viewing the work. This monochromic set represents the protagonist Neptune, but in the other parts, i.e., in the projection the protagonist doubled into two (potentially more) characters (a detail in the video: the clip of me taking off my shirt is overlapped with the image of my mother). I guess it’s about the narcissism involved in love relationships, and the Oedipus complex (Roland Barthes:  “I am then two subjects at once: I want maternity and genitality. The lover might be defined as a child getting an erection: such was the young Eros.”).

    The hysteria and anxieties lying under this seemingly peaceful environment: the stillness of my performance, noise of the balloon bouncing and the space that caged the balloon, violent nature of the pink poster and the raw steak, the intruding noise of the “the universe is expanding, the universe is expanding….”, are all suggesting the hidden turbulent forces under all intimacy: the paradoxes of love and indifference, indulgence and detachment, banality and sacredness, and the tension between repulsion and desire, seduction and rejection, youth and mortality…… Perhaps also as what Foucault put it in The History of Madness, “an attachment to oneself is the first sign of madness.” 

    Text by Yangyi Ouyang 

    Last amendment: 29/1/2014

     
  4. The “diary” was left on the last page (hitting up the balloon) in the show. People are welcome to read it, but perhaps because they were all set in a very clinical way very few people had actually read through it. These pictures were not taken afterwards at home from the “diary”.

     
  5. Documentation on site II

     
  6. Photo documentation on site I

     
  7. A documentary of (True Love Stories 2006-2013) I made for the work. Site-specific at Harts Lane Studios, New Cross Gate.