设为首页    |    收藏本站
 
  
首页 新闻 专题 研究 档案 年会 论文 自述 · 访谈 期刊 书吧
中国艺术批评家网 - 新闻频道 - 【翟晶】没有他者性的他者:论三位当代艺术家
  您的位置: 中国艺术批评家网 >> 新闻 >> 艺术前沿
【翟晶】没有他者性的他者:论三位当代艺术家
时间:2017-12-19 23:06:43      点击次数:2254      来源:中国艺术批评家网      作者:翟晶     字体颜色

English Version
The Other without Otherness:
On Three Contemporary Artists
By: Zhai Jing

In 1990s, some postcolonial theorists revealed the essentialism nature of the theories and practices of multiculturalism, which was widespread and influential then. Homi k. Bhabha proposed that multiculturalism is a liberal notion, which tends to recognize Other cultures in a pre-given frame that is inevitably Euro-centered, in the name of cultural diversity. Then, in the second half of 1990s, as cultural symbols that dominated the imagination of contemporary art in 1980s fading, people paid more attention to the everyday reality of their own society, and sought to communicate with the international society on this new basis.
Has this necessarily changed the old frame of multiculturalism? Which kind of role do the non-western artists play today? In this essay, I will focus on three contemporary artists – Marina Abramović, Xu Bing, and El Anatsui – and take them as example to discuss how do the Others take part in the construction of the Utopia of International Contemporary Art in a more subtle and more structural way.

1. Marina Abramović: Space of Collective Catharsis
Abramović has dual identities: she comes from a former socialist country Yugoslavia, while ethnically and culturally belongs to the Christian Serbs. This means a lot for her art creation and the reception of her works, but there is seldom direct political implication in her art works. Although she did have used some political metaphors, this was by no means her main attraction.
Generally speaking, Abramović’s works are characterized by three things: directness, use of metaphors, and confrontation.
The quality of directness was clearly visible in Abramović’s works from the very beginning of her career. Some early series of hers, such as Rhythm series and Freeing series, which were performed in early 1970s, touched the extreme of human body and spirit in a direct way. This kind of quality is characteristically Abramović’s, but is not exclusively used by her. In fact, it was derived from a trend of thought that was popular in the mid-20th century, which persuaded people to focus on the inherent qualities and potentials of a certain artistic medium. Clement Greenberg contributed a lot to this “medium specificity” idea, but this did not mean that the idea is valid only in painting. By contrast, the influence of it could be seen in many fields such as visual art, music, dance, drama, etc. As early as 1920s, Antonin Artaud proposed in his Theater of Cruelty that such elements as sound and gesture were more specific for drama than text and dialogue, which had been a tyrant over meaning for centuries. The development of drama, thus, according to Artuad, should focus on the body of actors and the space of theaters. In his interpretation, cruelty was a kind of necessity which was related to life itself. Artuad’s influence revived in America and then in Europe around 1960s and 1970s. Susan Sontag noticed that, compared with drama of that time, happening art had a closer affinity to Artaud’s idea. This kind of art resorted largely to the expressive potential of human body and deliberately rejected text. From this point of view, it was not a coincidence that performance art flourished in 1970s and sought to touch the extreme of body. In fact, what distinguished Abramović from other performance artists of her time was not “extreme” but the “directness” and “necessity” quality of her works. Therefore, it could be said that she was closer to Artuad’s idea than anyone else.
As her important works such as Rhythm 5, Lips of Thomas, Balkan Baroque and Nightsea Crossing suggested, Abramović tends to use metaphors in a straightforward way. This means that it would not be difficult for anybody to understand her works, but this does not mean that her works are generally simple. In fact, what makes her works sophisticated is the way she organizes these metaphors and makes them affect the contemporary western culture. Generally speaking, the metaphors she used could be captured in three categories: Christian metaphors, political metaphors, and metaphors related to primitive religions.
Christianity is still of importance for contemporary western world. On one side, it is the symbol of paternity, and thus the object of cultural critique; on the other side, it still feeds the western culture with notions and concepts. Among performance artists, Hermann Nitsch is famous for his use of Christian metaphors. But it is Abramović who has entered the heart of Christianity. To be precise, her metaphors were organized around “Suffering” which is a key concept of Christian faith. Her performance involved self-flagellation, purifying skeleton, worshiping, crucifixion, and subjecting herself to the masses. In this way, she literally took over the basic contents of Christian faith. And her success came from the fact that she had never resorted to the religion directly. Rather, she made it transformed and internalized, and adapted it in a modern way. Subtly, Abramović satisfied both the westerners’ rejection and their nostalgia of their own cultural gene.
As far as political metaphors are concerned, we should pay more attention to the context of Abramović’s art than her identity as a former Yugoslavian. The context is: the flourish of performance art in 1970s coincided with the May 1968. Being a political event, the May 1968 was noticeably featured by its ceremonial quality. The weapon that young people used to resist the capitalist society included not only self-made explosives and bricks, but also their unusual hairstyles and dresses, delinquency, abuse of sex and drug, mysterious religions, and so on. This is exactly the context in which we should understand the ceremonies in Abramović’s works, such as the psychotropics  in Rhythm 2, the old jeep that was always on road, and the boomerang and gold mine in the Nightsea Crossing, etc. Actually, the political sense of her works is effective mainly on this level, so that they are much more touching than those works resorting to cultural symbols.
The sense of confrontation also features her works -- not only for those conducted with Ulay, but also for her solo works, -- revealing the dualistic nature of her art. This is especially interesting, because the deconstruction of dualism was one of the main achievements of the May 1968, and notions such as multiculturalism and cultural difference was dispersed as a result of this event. However, these historical phenomena work to conceal a simple fact that: the dualism is always needed, now as before, by the liberal western world. The liberal world needs a functional Other, in order to recognize its Self. But this should never be admitted. Abramović’s art works, direct as well as ambivalent, has offered the very needed yet unspeakable dualistic structure, and thus opened a space of collective catharsis.

2. Xu Bing: Guard the Liberal World
Abramović is by no means the only one who tries to bring the needed yet unspeakable dualism back into contemporary art. Xu Bing is equally success in doing so. In general, Xu Bing’s art works could be divided into three categories: the first series of his works deals mainly with language and words. The second series discusses the relationship between Eastern and Western culture. However, the works that are classified into the last series lack commonality in theme, style, and art media. Actually, they are different from each other, except for the fact that they share the similar time (produced after late 1990s), similar background (ordered and funded by certain institutes), and similar potential audience (international art world). This reminds us that they are related closely to Xu Bing’s identity as an “international contemporary artist”.
Actually, as we would see, what to be represented and how to represent is deliberately decided in these works, and they would help to guard the cultural boundary-line of the liberal western world. In this way, they satisfied the conflicting demands of respecting cultural difference while maintaining the neo-colonial world order at the same time.
Dualism could be found in many of Xu Bing’s works. But he is so skillful that this subtext could hardly be observed by the audience. Where Does the Dust Itself Collect? (2004) discussed the 9·11 from a Zen perspective. Frankly speaking, there was nothing new in this work. However, what makes us interested is the fact that: the symbolic meaning of this incident was clear, but Xu Bing endeavored to make that meaning suspended. Some scholars has proposed that the massive interpretation and propaganda around 9·11 should be acknowledged in the context of the politics of fear. Slavoj Žižek believed that the narrative strategy of 9·11 propaganda was parallel to that of Hollywood disaster films, which suggested that there existed an attempt of interpreting the incident in a stereotyped way. Again, this is unspeakable, or the stereotype will become invalid. However, there will be no difference between “we” and “they” if we lose our public image of freedom, tolerance and equality.
Suspending a meaning that could not be suspended, Xu Bing showed us a void gesture. This is excellent. The privilege of 9·11 in the value system relies on its visibility. On the contrary, what the dispossessed be deprived is this very visibility. Obviously, Xu Bing has observed this basic truth. His void gesture works to defend the sheer visibility of 9·11 without taking a stance. However, as the visibility itself equals a stance, Xu Bing did have showed his stance clearly. Let us put it this way: Xu Bing could try to suspend the meaning only when the meaning would never be suspended. This suspense might be a void gesture, but it is still suspense.
Historically speaking, stereotype worked as a basic narrative strategy in many colonial texts. And it works in a same way in many of Xu Bing’s works, among which the Forest Project (2008-undergoing) is a good example. In this project, Xu Bing makes Kenya children paint trees in the way he taught them and then sells their paintings via e-commerce. Once the paintings are sold, the earned money will be used to plant more trees in Kenya. Apparently, the project is ill-designed and can never run effectively in the long turn independently. Whether it will be successful or not relies completely on Xu Bing’s personal influence.
How can Xu Bing make such a work be appealing to the public? Firstly, he resorted to a popular modern motif “Environment Protection” that is politically correct. Then he created a romance which was starred by the gorgeous yet vulnerable Kenya and innocent Kenya children. He said: these children were so simple and imaginative that Chinese children seemed to be over-civilized compared with them. We could hardly ignore the sense of stereotype inherent in this narrative, which recalled Gauguin’s Tahiti immediately. There would be no need to recite the colonial nature of the Tahiti romance. We all know that it worked to maintain the pre-given world order by repeating and romanticizing the dualism of barbarism / civilization.
As we can see, what Xu Bing’s project sells are not Kenya children’s paintings but western public’s colonial imagination. Similarly, what the public pay for are not children’s paintings but the pre-given world order, which underlies such popular modern motives as “Environment Protection” and “Charity”. By the way, Xu Bing’s Helsinki Himalayan Exchange (1999) took “Charity” as its theme, and was similar to the Forest Project in many aspects. Therefore, what Xu Bing devoted himself to with great enthusiasm was not a ill-designed project, but a world order that he has no choice but to guard.
It is interesting that Xu Bing used to make his works, most of which are straightforward, complicated by enwrapping them with complex interpretation. Take Phoenix (2007-10) as an example. The whole process of funding, producing, and exhibiting this work was documented by a group of text providers, among whom are artists, art critics, poets, writers, etc. They endeavored to produce an interpretation system, which was composed by large amount of interviews, seminar documents, criticism articles, and books.
To some extent, contemporary art is featured by the intimate relationship between art works and interpretation, which is a legacy of Duchamp. In this post-Duchamp era, interpretation becomes part of the art work, and even tends to overwhelm the art work. Xu Bing once said that it was because contemporary art are confusing for the public. He is wrong after all. The reason lies in the fact that the possibility of interpretation becomes an important factor in deciding the value of art works. As a result, even those straightforward art works would resort to interpretation to make themselves seem to be more valuable. Interpretation does not necessarily help to reveal the significance of art works. Rather, it is equally possible that it would make people even more confused. However, this ambivalence of meaning is by no means meaningless. It works to create a sense of alienation and multiply the possibility of interpretation. From this perspective, we would understand Xu Bing, who used to deny those self-evident elements in his works such as his father’s medical records in the Tobacco Project (2000, Duke University, Durham).
Interpretation also works as a mechanism of hegemony. Markus Miessen tried to show us the hegemonic nature of “Public Participation” projects, which often promise us to be democratic, over the recent 10+ years. He believed that it was the innocent public image of “Participation” that helped to conceal the hegemonic nature of the rule of the game. And there is the interpretation, which tends to be more and more refined and professionalized. As the theories becoming increasingly complex and rapidly updated, the interpretation becomes an exclusive field for experts, and becomes hostile for outsiders. The possibility of interpretation is multiplied as well as minimized. What appears in the illusion of democracy is the shadow of hegemony.

3. El Anatsui: An Africa that Has Nothing to do with Africa
In mid 1990s, as El Anatsui got increasingly familiar with the international contemporary art, he decided to reform his artistic methods. His works became bigger and bigger since then. He replaced pottery and wood with metal materials such as bottle-tops. And the procedure of producing his works became labor-intensive, low-tech, and energy-consuming.
When Anatsui said that size is an expressive tool, he is completely right. It is the size that decides the significance of many contemporary art works. Kuspit proposed that “operatic” featured the 1980s art in America, and its value lied in its look of greatness. He pointed out with amazing insight that this tendency should be traced back to Wagner, and was criticized by Nietzsche.
In his Der Fall Wagner, Nietzsche commented that: Wagner was a sickness. He used the corruption of music as a means to excite weary nerves. He did not believe in beauty. Rather, he preferred the large-scale, the sublime, the gigantic, that which moves masses. Holiness, which was needed by the masses and which would shut the door of thoughts, was exactly what he wanted. Thus, Nietzsche said: “Wagner the actor is a tyrant, his pathos flings all taste, all resistance, to the winds.”, and “It is full of profound significance that the arrival of Wagner coincides in time with the arrival of the ‘Reich’.”
The contemporary interest for total-work-of-art should be traced back to Wagner. And it is from Nietzche’s perspective that we could acknowledge the significance of the total-work-of-art. It is not only a kind of artistic complex that is composed by series of different art media, styles, and forms, but also a hegemony mechanism that is sustained by grand size, gestures, and symbols. Therefore, the expanding size of contemporary art works should be regarded as the mimicry and confirmation of the hegemony.
In 1990s, when Anatsui entered the “International Art Circle”, he found that his works were too small, while the contemporary art works were becoming bigger and bigger. During the following 20 years, one of his main tasks was to expand the size of his own works. The use of bottle-tops made it possible. He devoted himself totally to the production of the grand spectacle of contemporary art. In 2007, he exhibited two works Fresh & Fading Memories and Dusasa at Venice Biennale, which were large and were representative for his new style.
And the use of bottle-tops also led to massive low-tech labor. Anatsui compared this kind of procedure with traditional African mode of production, which evokes in us post-colonial imagination.
Furthermore, bottle-tops are wastes, and they are ready-mades as well. As wastes, they remind us of such motif as “Consumer Society”. As ready-mades, they play a significant role in modern art history. This is, again, a legacy of Duchamp. Dramatically, Anatsui interpreted his own works in a way similar to Arthur Danto. He said: “I transform the caps into something else.” He believed that he has “uplift” base materials and elevated them to the status of art. And he compared this transformation to lgbo religious practice, in which an ordinary broken pot is transformed into a spiritual dimension. As a serious scholar, Danto has distinguished the meaning of “transformation”, which was Anatsui’s phrase, from that of “transfiguration”, which was borrowed by Danto from the Christian vocabulary. However, it could not be ignored that both Danto and Anatsui explained their own phrase in a religious way. Apparently, Anatsui used “transformation” to express the same religious and metaphorical significance as Danto’s “transfiguration”: to change the object’s nature without changing its physical status.
With the help of bottle-tops, Anatsui entered the modern art history. When he said: “In 1990 in Venice Biennale I showed as an African artist, … But 16 years after that, I went as just an artist.”, he was absolutely correct. But he did not mean to ignore his African background. In fact, he used to interpret his own works in an ambivalent way. On the one hand, he put his works in the context of African customs, religions, and colonial histories; on the other hand, he denied the similarity between his works and African productions. Obviously, he is not willing to be acknowledged in an Africa-related context, while he knows very well that this is exactly what the western audience expects of him. Is it self-contradictory? No. After all, we have been so familiar with paradoxes that we would never be confused by such a comment: “The African Anatsui is the International Anatsui, while the International Anatsui has nothing to do with Africa.”

The three Others take part in the construction of International Contemporary Art in three kind of ways, defining themselves in the context of modern art history. This is typical for contemporary non-western artists. Clearly, they are the Other without otherness, the Other belonging to the center. However, to acquire a position in the center, they have to put themselves on the border and identify their marginality firstly. This identification should neither be too clear, nor be too vague. Perhaps, the recent revival of Nationalism is positive to some extent. At least, it will show us that not only the Universalism is a failed Utopia, so is the Hybridity.

 

                                                                      Zhai Jing                                              
                                                                      Capital Normal University, Beijing, China
                                                                      2016.9

上一页 [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] 

【责任编辑:郑荔】

分享到:0
    
    下篇文章:【朱青生】应该重视古根海姆“世界剧场”展 【 打印 】

    相关文章
【孙振华】生态文明与城市艺术 2018-10-22 16:15:41  
【陈孝信】超写意中国个案之(七)——洪耀 2018-10-22 16:04:27  
【陈孝信】“超写意”中国个案之张浩 2018-8-21 10:58:26  
【陈孝信】“超写意”中国个案之申伟光 2018-8-21 10:39:33  
【陈孝信】“超写意”中国个案之白明 2018-8-21 10:17:20  

第三十四届世界艺术史大会专题 图片文章
乌镇国际当代艺术邀请展正式开幕... 图片文章
2015年装置艺术专题综述 图片文章
轻舟已过万重山——批评家访谈录... 图片文章
澄明之境——批评家访谈录之水天... 图片文章
重要的不是艺术、又是艺术
彭德:《美术思潮》始末记
孙振华:妈妈和儿子
2016年第一届艺术媒体提名展·青... 图片文章
魏光庆:正负零 图片文章


【孙振华】生态文明与城市艺术
【陈孝信】超写意中国个案之(七... 图片文章
【贾方舟】在精神空间寻求建构的... 图片文章
【陈孝信】“超写意”中国个案之... 图片文章
【陶咏白】 “进行时”女性艺术 ... 图片文章
【陈孝信】论水墨艺术领域内的社... 图片文章
【水天中】“国立艺术院”画家集...
【徐虹】德国绘画回望——从浪漫... 图片文章
【杨卫】语言的暴政与无边的民主... 图片文章
【杨小彦】我们需要什么样的艺术... 图片文章
每周一书|《中国当代艺术史1978... 图片文章
【易英】抽象艺术与中国当代艺术... 图片文章
【殷双喜】艺术批评的写作 图片文章
【张晓凌】谁制造了病态化中国 图片文章
【朱青生】批评的际遇与反省 图片文章
【邹跃进】什么是当代艺术? 图片文章
第十二届中国美术批评家年会将于... 图片文章
【孙振华】走向开放的中国雕塑 图片文章
【沈语冰】塞尚的工作方式:罗杰... 图片文章
【皮道坚】新艺术“聚落”与“生... 图片文章





     
     
     


Copyright 2008 ysppj.com All Rights Reserved 艺术批评家网 版权所有  京ICP备14051874号-1

未经授权禁止转载、摘编、复制或建立镜像.如有违反,追究法律责任。