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> Zhang Wei, Throwing Dice

  Throwing Dice
Zhang Wei
  “When we talk about contemporary life, we are saying: If you aren’t equipped for a dangerous lifestyle, then you cannot call it contemporary life. This implies that we are powerless to refute being jettisoned into the fragmented flux, but instead must view “destiny” as “a life in motion unable to be controlled,” thus signifying that one’s own destiny is a continuous cycle of creation and destruction amidst the endless change and unpredictable future, and every brief pause is but only a departure point for renewal. This endless motion destroys our efforts to establish sound principals like we wish, but in the course of this acceleration one can catch a glimpse at other entangled worlds, consequently, “Here” (this moment, this location) truly becomes an opportunity to glimpse “There” (that moment, that location). Perhaps this “split vision” strives to replace “gaze” as the way in which we observe our surroundings in contemporary life.

Hu Fang

Today, contemporary life provides context in fragments. In a Chinese reality, the methods we use to penetrate it are also fragmented. What is more, the state revealed by life is also fragmented. These dismembered lifestyles are sometimes parallel, and never able to intertwine, but perhaps they can exist in parallel worlds, in the same space and time. Creation becomes the gateway to life, not merely emphasizing a realistic lifestyle, but using creation to search for and determine the driving force of life, or the way we spend our lives. Each person’s life can be different, and the spirit driving life can be realized and grasped through some kind of medium. We can see an existing reality through the strength of this kind of power, and attempt to gradually close the gap between our personal ideals and real life, to find an exit from our individual existence amidst this fragmented reality.
The curatorial area Throwing Dice is a first attempt to identify Hu Fang’s theories on contemporary life. In this case, the issue that I am facing is: How to cut into this point of view from a visual or insightful angle? It all begins with my perceptions, as an exhibition curator. I’ve decided to abandon the idea of attempting to grasp an idea, and become, instead, a collector of lifestyles. I hope to begin by reflecting on my own lifestyle: my encounters, emotions, thoughts and things in my daily life that inspire me to think. I attempt to search for new works amongst my muddled thoughts, spirit, perceptions, beliefs and other aspects of my personal life. In the end, these works are a certain kind of medium, they can restore to us the kind of lifestyle with which we are familiar, and they can bring us a certain enlightenment. Each personal lifestyle is a personal system, intersecting and extending into other life systems. Is it true that it is impossible to grasp the lifestyles of others, except by imagining them? In this exhibition we see the personal universe of each different life. The area of the exhibition I curated consists in different lives in independent motion, which intersect with each other. If each work was seen in the multiple perspectives of life, I would abandon my attempts to grasp life through my personal opinions, and proactively welcome these individuals that have the same great thirst for life, and the worlds that they have created. Perhaps what we need is an opportunity to make a journey. I want to use the game of dice as a way of creating for us the chance to begin… from there. This exhibition area is not a result, but only a beginning; it is about us, and it concerns us and this moment in this world. But perhaps the moment will appear endlessly, transform endlessly in our futures. This kind of persistence will maybe refocus the lives of every individual who encounters this exhibition.
I use the throwing of the dice as an inspiration for conceiving the narratives of this exhibition area. The artworks on show are all open to several interpretations. The reason I selected them is that they all deal with different individual lives and show their existential complexity. In fact, the exhibition contains representations of moments that we might be familiar with from our own experiences. The artwork can make us recall something from the past, or intuit something we may experience in the future. The continuity and transformation of the artwork will proceed in and flow through the individual lives of the visitors. The area I curated presents different individual creative realities, which may be seen as films with different players and stories. Perhaps the texts below can be seen as their scripts.

Lu Chunsheng:
The Square Loaded with Nuclear Power Is Going to America

The images presented in Lu Chunsheng’s video call for our imagination. When our imagination encounters the actual artwork, it causes a light-hearted reaction. In contrast to this serious, imposing and familiar topic, we unexpectedly see a home-made tricycle pulling a square frame through different environments and following its own ourse. This scene, which seems to be hopelessly at odds with the title, shows the paradox that manifests itself between desire and reality. The title of the work reveals a kind of aspiration or desire, while, in reality, the objects have their own force and path of motion. Behind the work there is another force that makes us imagine another space: the possibility of true power. Truth can be confirmed and explained under different circumstances, but true power often exists somewhere between neglect and carelessness. It is precisely within this state of existence that we have decisive power. This philosophical insight can help us to experience and get through life.

Xu Tan:

Dictonary of Keywords
(Key Words from Searching for Keywords Project) /

huó sheng huó huó mìn [live, life]

“… Everyone is the same. From close up, you see yourself doing something different from others. From afar, it is all the same. You do certain things to maintain your level of energy, and then you keep draining it. You can’t live your life energetically every single day. It’s insignificant and boring most of the time…”
Excerpt from an interview with Liu Wei

“… Actually art is principally based on overlooked things in life. A lot of interesting artists work with such material...”
Excerpt from an interview with Zheng Guogu

shè huì [society]

“… So although contemporary art from China is not proactively or consciously striving to establish a connection with society, in reality it reflects certain problems of the past few decades…” Excerpt from an interview with Ai Weiwei

“… My feeling is that Chinese contemporary art, including the entire painting profession, has always occupied a decorative position in Chinese society…” Excerpt from an interview with Lu Hao

“… Now in China we see more and more training in quasi-occupational social labour…”Excerpt from an interview with Xie Nanxing

Tseng Yu-chin: Who is Listening?

Tseng Yu-chin’s works are a little naughty and something of a practical joke, like splashing cream in people’s faces, getting a smile from the observers and those who’ve been subjected to the prank. Experiencing this child-like amusement, we can discover endless moments of beauty. Such moments sometimes seem to disappear without a trace. They are like a mysterious surprise that arrives when you least expect it, and then they quietly end. If we reflect on this surprise, perhaps it will prepare us for the nobility of life itself—something we so seldom consider. But when the experience is over it will, at a certain point, become part of our everyday feelings.
Perhaps the surprises in life are intended to be forgotten quickly. But, on the contrary, surprises as a way of discovering the reality of being leave us with spiritual strength. This is the reality of our deepest memories or the reality of physical sensation. And there is beauty in it. Tseng Yu-chin’s works make us conscious of this beauty.

Pak Shueng-cheun: Waiting for a Friend (Without Appointment)

These works by Pak Shueng-chuen are fragments impinging on his life. In one of the photographic series we see the artist in the subway waiting for someone, or at the airport waiting for someone else. In another picture he is waiting in front of a building until all of its residents go to sleep. He has recorded the raised temperature of the seat vacated by a passenger on public transportation. The works on display convey moments he has lived. Life is actually not that special, every person has a life, and every one of us lives it at every moment, at every second. Perhaps it is too familiar, since we are always unconsciously and consciously finding different strategies to fill our existence with meaning.
We all have different ideas as to how to fill our lives: we hypothesize on the meaning of society, and then try our best to create what we believe is meaningful; we hypothesize about social theories and ethics we believe to be correct and pertinent. Then we spend our energy and time upholding principles and actions that maintain social and political traditions, although many of these values were passed onto us in such a way that we do not question them, but automatically consider them good.
Therefore our life’s path and communicative means revolve around all this, according to innumerable unwritten social rules and regulations.
But many individuals reject these values, or at least question them. Pak Shueng-chuen’s works reveal the possibility of doing so. His art confronts us with the blank space of an erased life. Pak constructs a life that also constitutes a very special relationship with the world. Although his existence has not changed, and we often exist in such states, his actions are performed consciously. His awareness enables him to construct an alternative way of communicating with the world. We have no way to verbalize this communication, but we can appreciate it through his works and experience, and perhaps model each of our conscious actions on this changed perception of reality.

Yang Fudong: An Estranged Paradise

In Yang Fudong’s early work Estranged Paradise we see the struggle of a youth who leaves the relative security of school and enters a harsher reality. It is not only a struggle of emotions, it is a search for a personal life. This is the artist’s starting point, and in his later works we see the development of his constant search for a spiritual world.
We each experience personal struggles in the course of our lives. Humans, as complex living organisms, forever exist in an undefined state. We forever exist in a state of polarization: trapped between our lust for life and our longing to live in total freedom, in the world of our imagination and in reality, in the real world. The relationship between the two is constantly negotiated and renegotiated. So much of our lives has been prearranged and formed by technology, and we often simplify or overlook the conflict between ideal and real—when in fact all of this is taking place in a single being.
Yang Fudong’s films bring to mind this kind of existence and anxiety. Do we have to accept this inner conflict as a normal state of existence—or does another kind of life aesthetic exist, an internal struggle of abstract aesthetics? If we are able to experience this state through aesthetic means and close the gap between ideals and reality, can life be more poetic or meaningful? Yang Fudong’s works unfailingly help us to perceive the existence of such poetry.

Cao Fei: i-Mirror

Cao Fei’s work i-Mirror originates from her experience with the online game Second Life. This work not only records stories from her life and her love experiences during a year spent intensely interacting with the online digital world, but is also a search for an individual existence and spiritual sustenance somewhere between reality and virtual life. Cao Fei sees Second Life as an extension of the self. In it she has created another self, and through this virtual self she observes and understands her own depth and complexity while, at the same time, broadening its scope.

Our existing in relationship to the landscape of contemporary life means that the backdrop of our lives is constantly destroyed and reconstructed. We are powerless to experience eternity, and likewise have no way to define the world from a single perspective. The immediacy of truth generates doubt and different perceptions. The boundary between living and dreaming becomes blurred. Perhaps dreaming changes the way people endlessly create and determine what they consider to be reality. Perhaps real life represents a desire to live in the here and now. Maybe that moment is not important. Cao Fei’s i-Mirror allows us to experience a certain moment of her existence marked by immediacy and truth. This reality challenges our conventional understanding and definition of society, and reveals the emotions she actually experienced while going beyond those dimensions into her second life. As viewers in our first life, this experience moves us.

Kan Xuan: Lovely e Sleeping

Reality is complex and we have no means of predicting what will happen next. We are easily seduced, and just as easily find ourselves struggling within, hardpressed to emerge from the turmoil of our inner lives. But we can choose how to fight the turmoil, and then live according to our choice. Perhaps this is the choice Kan Xuan has made, an artist who likes a happy life: a blade of grass, a splash of sunlight—everything moves her and can be a source of joy. Kan Xuan’s art does not tackle any great narratives or lofty topics. Her creations are more like a collection of vignettes of life’s small pleasures, which are both meaningful and profound.
Happiness is very simple. It is neither separate from us, nor belongs to any specific person. In truth, the means to content ourselves have always been within reach. But seeking happiness is no easy task. Perhaps this process of approaching joy is an exercise in self-perfection. Kan Xuan’s work makes us appreciate that the ways in which we can be happy are simple: watching a beetle on our skin, climbing a tree to commune with ourselves, or seeing a statue of Buddha with new eyes. All of these can bring joy, and not just to one person. On the contrary, this joy can spread through the world.
Kan Xuan’s works do not tell us how to achieve happiness, but bring us closer to the feeling of joy.

Chu Yun: Constellation

Our infatuation with objects has landed us in a state of materialistic collapse.
Unconsciously, we work everyday for material things, thus unconsciously determining the way we live. In our unconscious state, we are partial to the new and dismiss the old, but if we were to slightly adjust our view we would discover, in fact, that our relationship with material objects is not merely dichotomous. What appears to be a dichotomy is actually a process that we are unconscious of and incapable of describing. It is an accumulation over time of commonplace unconscious relationships. In these relationships, objects are no longer simple material objects, but become complex vehicles for the process of life. Chu Yun’s long-term creation is intended to let us glimpse such complexity. He collected used soap from his friends, and these colourful soaps reveal an accumulation of various lives and their trajectories. He takes used electronic appliances, and makes their “power on” lights flash incessantly. These objects conveying individual life transmit an unconscious happiness.
Chu Yun’s work should not be mistaken for an infatuation with material objects, since he is more interested in our unconscious. He is interested in our ability to determine our unconscious potential. In the course of our everyday life, everything is done unconsciously. Even if we are conscious of it, it is still controlled by an even greater system, namely the collective conscious. Chu Yun’s works focus on the personal condition experienced in an unconscious state. This unconscious state is expressed at different levels, some of which are political, others related to lifestyle. His art is located somewhere between these different levels, allowing us a glimpse of how we live in this unconscious state.

Duan Jianyu: Art Chicken in Florence- at dawn and at dusk

While reflecting on certain moments in my life, Duan Jianyu’s paintings often come to mind. Or perhaps I should say that her painting has made me more conscious of those moments in my life.
When I’m walking along the street and I see a queue of people waiting to buy chicken kebabs, who will later squat on the street curb and eat them, I think of the work of Duan Jianyu, like the painting of a middle-aged woman shooing chicken out of a room. Duan Jianyu’s landscape paintings make me think of my trip to Guilin. I was watching people crammed on a boat greedily eating the contents of their lunch boxes against a landscape of incomparable beauty. What I saw was the contrast between each human being’s daily experiences and the beautiful picture postcard surroundings. Although her paintings depict unrealistic scenes, they never fail to arouse in me associations with existing ones. This is because the depiction of reality in her paintings is not visual but emotional. There is a kind of abstract emotion that comes from a person experiencing a heightened state of consciousness. It is an inclination as yet undefined. It is a kind of reflection or expression of man in his natural state, a medley of expressions of man in a very basic state. More than anything, it is a state of chaos: mankind’s illogical, primal condition. Whether we are personally enjoying the view, or just looking at a postcard, Florence will always be beautiful. But we see another kind of beauty in Duan Jianyu’s works: the beauty of Florence that encounters a chaotic subconscious.