TRESPASSING:Yang Zhenzhong Interview II/Li Zhenhua x Yang zhenzhong,Translated by Sachiel Yuu
L: The juxtaposition of the new works and the design made for the exhibit Trespassing has achieved a rather interesting dialogue and consensus. Also, the blue paint applied to the bottom of the wall of the exhibition space is highly reminiscent of childhood memories or hospital rooms.
Y: Indeed the blue paint evokes memories of hospitals, schools, or dormitories,even government offices. We shared the same opinion as soon as the idea of wall decoration came to mind. It also instantly creates a relationship between all the works exhibited in Hall A and the intended ambiance of the entire show. Still,as you suggested, it also echoes the theme of the show; that being the memory.
L: The entire show has a jovial tone, even at times providing games which are delicately invented and challenge the viewers. Do you think some of the works are overly compelling or that meaning is too forced?
Y: I don’t think highly compelling designs necessarily baffle viewers. You should never underestimate the capacity of the audience to participate in games or interact with the art. Besides, the presentation of some of the works demands the participation of viewers.
L: A few works in this show have the capacity to trigger a physiological reaction, which I believe produces a resonance that goes beyond just the visual field.
Y: Perhaps you are referring to the video installation Sleepwalking Is a Therapy?The large images in video change dramatically and continuously while the design of the installation prohibits any attempt to step back for a comfortable viewing distance, rendering some viewers dizzy. But such an effect correlates directly with my original plan. I am not sure how many viewers are actually able to watch the whole 15-minute video. It is a similar experience to the one you may have when playing an online fighting game. For some it becomes terribly vertiginous after only a couple of minutes, but for others it will barely affect them at all. Apart from the overwhelming dizziness caused by the images, the heavy breathing during the blackouts between different scenarios may also force a violent or physiological reaction.
L: Not to mention the sense of tension provided by the video installation Let’s Puff.
Y: I think the sense of tension that stems from Let’s Puff is not as strong as that from other works. But we did make a joke the other day, about the possibility ofthe security staff next to the entrance eventually suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder after three months of this exhibition. Also present in Let’s Puff are my thoughts on the concept of puffing or breathing. Normally breathing is a process automatically regulated, hence rarely noticed by the human body. When one pays attention to his/her respiratory rhythm and strength, however, is stress created? Certainly there is professional training like qigong exercise to help teach conscious control of breathing, or quite a number of sports that involve discipline of one’s breathing. Nevertheless it remains a subject worthy of study with the possibility of introducing viewers to pre-made emotions or scenarios by means of repeated moving images and sounds in video installations.
L: That answer is just great. Would you place yourself into such pre-made scenarios?Or do you make these designs subjectively, so that they evoke a certain feeling among people, yet hold resonance with your own experience?
Y: Subjective design and control are definitely present. In most of my video works, sound is indispensable; its involvement often proves equally as important as that of the image. Differences only exist in terms of function within different works. Sometimes the sound stays unaltered, like that in I Will Die and Spring Story and so on. Sometimes contradictions, or paradoxes, are generated by the juxtaposition of sound and image, as seen in Fish Bowl and Exam. Also there are cases when the presentation of sound and image renders or reinforces a sense of space and viewing experience; for example, Let’s Puff, Sleepwalking Is a Therapy,etc. Even further experimentation can be found in Shanghai Face, in which the consistent change of sound manipulates, or in other words, upsets the images.
L: Artists use art as a means to challenge the traditional viewing behavior of the audience, is this purpose still relevant to the process of making art today? In your case possible examples would be Fish Bowl, Shanghai Face, Sleepwalking Is a Therapy and so forth.
Y: Do artists work, most of the time, in a manner that reflects the behavior of those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder? A good idea calls for an equally good method for realisation. The creation process thus becomes a challenge in itself.
L: I understand that you hope to associate personal issues with artistic creation, like the connection established between I Will Die and the theme of reality in your own work.So what do you think about the relationship between the systems of implication, explanation and presentation in your artwork?
Y: Personal issues that appear in the presentation of my artwork are not inevitably relevant to the viewers. The symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder reflected in the artists’ way of working, as we have just talked about, can become apparent when a bunch of works are displayed at the same time. Aren’t personality traits of OCD sufferers commonly, or even essentially, shared by people engaged in a variety of jobs?
L: There are plenty of familiarised and estranged qualities of everyday life displayed in this very show. Alternatively, one may say the boundary created by the show allows for a complete fusion of the visual field, much unlike qualities of the everyday world.
Y: It is highly likely that the estranged everydayness comes from the transformation of everyday objects into something specious. It is not difficult to recognize what it is, yet it no longer bears the same old look.
L: Is it the theme of “not being in the moment” that we see more in this exhibition, or the concept of “trespassing”?
Y: I think they are both there. It is hard for me to judge. What are your thoughts?
L: I believe I sense more of “not being in the moment”, because I do look forward to seeing more of your work and new creations. Maybe the future will be even brighter.
Y: Thanks! What shall I say? I am also looking forward to it? The exhibition does make me consider having another one featuring only new works in the near future.
L: Do you feel the need for a completely new exhibition is in consideration of methodology or object? Or are you wishing to prove willingness to wave goodbye to the past? We are recently confronted with the reality of overproduction, so how do you keep balance with this? What is your understanding of the “new”?
Y: It is actually a simple question. Overproduction is never a problem for me because I am always idle and thus not productive. The idea of a new exhibition comes from the need for self-challenge.
L: Trespassing is the theme you chose. How does the word respond to your works?
Y: Trespassing was initially intended to refer to the warning signs with yellow and black stripes. Yet for the whole show “not in the moment” is perhaps a better phrase. Going through the entire process, I considered the possibility of a theme mutually translatable between Chinese and English. The literal translation of “not in the moment” doesn’t seem like a bad idea at first, but just as Maria Grazia has pointed out, the themes are trying to place stress on two different aspects, one on time and the other space. It is good to have them both function in a complementary relationship.
L: The exhibition features both old and new works yet it is not retrospective. What do you think of the temporal connection between your works and the site on which they are exhibited?
Y: The time span of the works in the show is 1996 to 2013. Most of the selected works have been shown for a very short time in group exhibitions at various times and in various places. This time they are presented simultaneously in an exhibition, I believe this indicates at least a certain level of interconnection and crossreference.The presentation of these works in one exhibition is by no means the same as that of an individual work in a number of group shows. I find it hard to articulate the essence of the connection, but I do feel the simultaneous display is justified and absolutely necessary.
L: There are many other works which are excluded from the show; for example, your photo series and your single-channel videos. What do you think of their absence? Does it lead to any incoherence in the show? Are the works strung together merely temporally or does any other connection exist?
Y: Temporal coherence is not the focus of the show, which is why it is not retrospective.But I gather words will not easily clarify the main connection. As I said previously, the selection and arrangement of artworks are mainly built upon my instinct. What is your opinion of it as curator?
L: The space is definitely inadequate for a retrospective show. It presents a tough task as to the decision of the content of the artwork, particularly when it comes to the rebuilding some of the old works. Challenges also emerge from the difficulty of working out a single smooth route so that viewers can go through the show following a habitual and temporal path. Therefore, the show is positively not retrospective. But there is still something interesting there. For example, the hint of kinetic installation successfully connects <Shanghai Face> and the latest production <V>, whereas both <Sleepwalking Is a Therapy> and <Let’s Puff> are related to forced bodily actions, with others dealing with the same types of illusions and special references to peeking and politics. At the beginning of our work we are faced with the process of elimination, a method which also dominated the later works and helped us chose the key idea that the exhibition would convey. It is the most direct and accurate approach to the limits of the artist, rendering the art even purer. In spite of that, I still feel a bit of regret towards the absence of words, for they not only fill in the space and offer a basic interpretation of artworks,but also function to indicate the viewing route. Truly such an arrangement would have resulted in an overload of information, possibly leaving the show excessively literary.That’s why I finally agreed not to display the words.