1. An interview with Qiu Zhijie by Li Zhenhua and commented by Davide Quadrio

[9am to 12pm, 6 May 2008]

Li = Li Zhenhua
Qiu = Qiu Zhijie
D = Davide Quadrio

Translated into English by Ouyang Yu
Commented and edited by Davide Quadrio
Commented by Li Zhenhua

Post sense and sensibilities and conceptual art

Qiu: At that time, Zhu Qi or someone else was curating an exhibition in Shanghai. Yan Lei produced something that was titled, ‘Welcome Yan Lei to Shanghai’. Things like that, a kind of mechanism that finds an angle that no-one has yet noticed, setting off a hidden arrow or shooting a gunshot, so to speak. Such worship includes examples of Yan Lei and Hong Hao as well as the one that I always cite: putting a note in the exhibition hall saying: ‘None of the works here is mine’. These things bored me to death then. Such works tried to prove that he was more clever than others, than other artists, and of course they tried to prove that he was also more clever than the audience. Basically, there were no other contents, no emotional contents, no narrative contents. In fact, works can be composite; they can narrate things, with emotions, that can move and affect people. And they can even be visually pleasurable and stimulating. Anyway, they can be composite. However, similar works that appear these days do not have anything like what is described above. They call themselves ‘concepts’ but these ‘concepts’ only appear to be concepts; there really are no concepts in them. Conceptual art has got into a zone of errors.

D: I agree with what you say. I actually would like to add something to this point. I think that in many works I see and I have been seeing in China lately is that a concept is already an artwork. I think that there is actually a difference between having the concept/idea for an artwork and call the idea the artwork itself. Where is the process of refining the concept, of choosing it or discarding it? Where is the process or realization of the work? It is the same thing I see in a lot of (to make a simple example) abstract painting in Shanghai: there is a huge difference between Rothko and Qu Guofeng or Ding Yi.  

NOTE: Question for you though: how do you define conceptual art? I also think that there is a problem in translating 概念艺术。What is your interpretation?

Li: I would say there’s conceptual art and concept art, I do think that in Chinese is a conflict between those two for long time, and I think the meaning of what we have mentioned in the dialogue is Conceptual art not concept art.

In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. – Sol LeWitt, "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art", Artforum, June 1967.


Li: Is this in fact the reason why you do the ‘post sense and sensibilities’ ?

Qiu: It’s the real reason to do the ‘post sense and sensibilities’. Later on (I) began to oppose conceptual arts, which is why the symposium held by Huang Zhuan in 1998 in He Xiangning Art Museum (何香凝美术馆) was a real academic forum. The article I presented was ‘The Zone of Errors in Conceptual Art’; it was written for that forum. The forum was on in September or October but I had finished writing it in March or April because, well, a book was intended for publication…. In this article I systematically taunt such artistic concepts as mechanical worship, worship of boredom, worship of minimalism, things like a heap of apples slowly rotting away, the eyes of a chicken slowly dying, an extremely long shot that was called video art. After that, the revolutionary masses would rather stay home watching soap operas and MTV, and it’s much better watching commercials than see a chicken slowly die fluttering. If art has gone to that extent, it’s got a huge problem. At that time, video art had only small shows and such shows were quite underground but were so morbid that one was disappointed. In the beginning, at that time, there was a force that didn’t do things that way. At the time, some young people were not into that. They began gathering together, in two forces, one involving my shidi (younger brothers of the same master), shixiongdi (younger and older brothers of the same master) from the same school. Yan Lei and I played the role in bringing into the 1990s things done in the 1980s by Zhang Peili, Wu Shanzhuan and Huang Yongping, all of National Art Academy (浙江美术学院). Yan Lei was a bit young; it was mainly I because I later became the student leader in the school. Then it was Yang Fudong and Jiang Zhi who had both turned into a group. After 1996 or 1997, shidi like Liu Wei, Jiang Zhi and Yang Fudong began arriving in Beijing. Our situation was alike. In the 1996 video exhibition, Gao Shiming and I ran into a conflict of sorts with Zhang Peili and Wang Gongxin. So the symposium became something of a you-die-and-I-live struggle, a life and death struggle.

D: I am actually tired as well of this kind of confrontation or  on the other hand, paimapi (拍马屁) attitude. Like you are saying Qiu Zhijie, in these kind of debates it is impossible to have a constructive intellectual discourse and analyses. I found incredibly tiring to sit and listen to very formalized theory or very stupid comments on who is the next laoda. Li Zhenhua, do you remember? It was like in Shenzhen for Wang Jianwei exhibition this year. Round table. Wang Jianwei asked a group of people to come to discuss critically his working and comment on development of it. Result: 2 hours of nonsense, of teacher-like comments or compliments for what Wang Jianwei achieved and how important he is for Chinese artistic development.  Only few people dared to speak their mind…such a waste of time.
  
Li: well, in general this is about how Qiu Zhijie is begin to give a intro about the link of 80s-90s, and that will follow with why they have begin with the post sense and sensibility group.

Li: What sort of form you and Gao Shiming preferred?

Qiu: Gao Shiming and I were of the same gang. Wang Gongxin and Pei Li were of another gang. When they did video art, they insisted that the television should be stripped of its case, be cool and somehow distinguished from home video. It seemed that they argued because of my Present Progressive Tense, my work that featured the wreath but they could not stand the wreath appearing in the video installation.

Li: But what is the reason for their non-acceptance of it? Was it not sufficiently pure for them?

Qiu: Too sensational or sentimental. Not cool. On top of that, the TV set was hidden away and its case not stripped off. For them, the best would be to put the TV sets in a row and have the floor strewn with cords and plug boards. In addition, the TV cases had to be stripped off, to give a sense of industrialness associated with television. It hurt them to see so many wreaths of a rural society in my work. Gao Shiming’s work also turned them off. It was jointly done by Gao Shiqiang, Gao Shiming and Lu Lei. An iron frame of an hexahedral house. Where the door was, there were two television sets, the door handle and feet on the floor. Then, where the window was, there was another television set playing the wind with rippling curtains. The door handle showed people constantly pushing the door open to enter. On the side of the feet, feet were shown to be constantly going in and out but not synchronously. Then, in one corner of the room there was another television set, a video camera scanning along the corner of the wall because this iron frame was the construct of an abstract space examining ordinary life, matched with quite sensational music. Zhang Peili and others could not handle this because at that time there was a pursuit of cool conceptual art. International taste was anathema to the young people who needed tell stories and wanted sensationalism. This became apparent in the 1996 symposium on video art. Even for video art, there was a division of two generations until Wu Ershan and Yang Fudong came on the scene. It was probably because Yang Fudong gained huge international success that our tendency took a toe-hold for our generation.

D, Wait, do you think that there was a sort of “coolness” in Zhang Peili’s approach to conceptual art that instead to be a sort of “interpretation” of it with a China based “understanding” of it, it was only “trendy” and “hip” to be close to a “purified” and essential vision of the works?

Li: I like the word purify, I think that the moment after 1996 video art exhibition curate by Qiu Zhijie and Wu Meichun, there’s certainly a taste mater of video art making as trend in China through.

Li: But Yang Fudong didn’t take part in the post-sensibilities with that kind of work or with the imagistic model that is normal now.

Qiu: He showed I Did Not Force You, that showed a girl on one side of the table and constant change of boys on the other side, a very short video work. At that time, his Strange Paradise was not yet edited. The Back Yard: Sunrise was not yet complete, either. That was a small practice work, a prelude to the great explosion of his video works. You look at the Image and Phenomena-96' Video Art Exhibition. In 1998, I wrote an article, titled, ‘In the Name of Art’.
Another group of people(artists graduated from CAFA). This was an academic reasoning. We were all opposed to that whether it was video art or whatever [Oy: the Chinese text hardly makes any sense]. On one side was Sun Yuan and others. On the first day of 1998, Feng Boyi curated Traces of Existence in Yaojiayuan, in Cai Qing’s space. That exhibition had me, Song Dong, Yin Xiuzhen, Wang Jianwei, Zhan Wang and Zhang Yonghe. That was probably all, and probably the best group then in the field of installation. Zhang Yonghe did a level-pull push-pull door, an epitome of conceptual art. Song Dong cooked noodles for others with pickled sour vegetables. Cai Qing himself planted coins in the soil. And then I dug a hole for archaeology; I intended to dig a very deep archaeological hole in which I would place television sets at different heights and different three-dimensional levels and the television sets would play crows flying in various ages in that space. In the end, it was frozen over in the winter. We southerners had no idea that the winter in the north was like that. The workers spent a week trying to dig a hole but could not move it unless they came in with the forklifts but then who could afford forklifts in those days? Eventually, they worked hard at it for over ten days, managing to get to a certain depth. Later on, I changed the previously recorded video to be something else about the history of changes in this stratum of earth, which used to be a rubbish tip and a pond, containing water and rubbish. At the archaeological pit, I found a lot of things. I made a museum piece of these things in the exhibition hall. On the third day after that exhibition, Ma Xin, who was working in the Art Gallery of Central Academy of Fine Arts, came to see me and he wanted me to go and see their works. At that time, they were opposite to Shuoyaoju, behind the Sculpture Research Centre where Zhan Wang worked. This was the group that consisted of Qin Ga, Sun Yuan and Zhu Yu. Then, Liu Wei and Wang Wei got in touch, thus getting together and forming two strands of force, one from Central Academy of Fine Arts (Beijing) and the other from National Art Academy (Hangzhou). Then, it was probably Zhu Yu or Sun Yuan who told me directly that only I among the famous could help them because their stuff was fucking too much. There was an obvious division of generations then, one being the famous people and the other being their generation, ambitious and wanting to emerge.

Li: That was 1998 and was the division already that distinct?

Qiu: Anyway, that gang of people was so rotten. Daily, they were trying to be clever and they wanted to do violent things. They were still painting. Sun Yuan was drawing breasts on real objects. The way Freud did his paintings that Liu Xiaodong taught at Central Academy of Fine Arts was lay it on thick. Painting a variety of foods. In fact, their earliest scheme was to paint a standard room. For that reason, they began doing an exhibition on post sense and sensibilities. Only Cai Qing was able to finish at that exhibition, it was very successful and he was very excited. In fact, Cai Qing was the first one to do art space, earlier than Mustard Seed Garden (Li Zhenhua Founded in 2001). It was unfortunate with him, though. The day before yesterday I saw him and several months ago in Singapore I laughed at him. I said to him: You bastard could have managed to do the earliest art space and you could also have become the earliest sponsor of post sense and sensibilities but you did not manage to be part of such a top history. His reason was that he was ill. I think there were also psychological reasons because he thought this gang was so young that he did not have much confidence in them. He came to me and to Wu Meichun, saying that he hoped that Feng Boyi would do the first show and that I and Wu Meichun could do the second show. So we said that he’d better get those young people to do it if he wanted to do it because we all knew that there were these young people and that if he wanted, he would better do it with these young people. So, Cai Qing said: okay then, let’s see. I got everyone together and had a meeting in Peony Garden – where I live. At the time, I’m sure Liu Wei and Wang Wei were also there. Then, a heap of people including Sun Yuan were talking about the scheme. There were Yang Sen and Fang He from Central Academy of Fine Arts, and, later, Chu Yun and Zhang Yu joined us. Zhang Yu is now in Sichuan. Then, Chu Yun mysteriously disappeared before the opening of post sense and sensibilities (alien body and illusion1999). Even a year or two after that, there was still rumour that he had died of drug somewhere. At the time, Cai Qing met these people. After a while, I urged him by telling him that our scheme had been put together and was moving ahead. One scheme was by Zhang Huan, from Fujian, who had taken refresher courses in Zhejiang College of Fine Arts as well as in Central Academy of Fine Arts. His scheme was to renovate Cai Qing’s dog house, things like that. Anyway, a variety of schemes were being discussed. That year I talked about this group of people in my article, titled, ‘The Zone of Errors in Conceptual Arts’. So, recently, when I saw works by Xu Zhen, or Huang Kui, or even Yang Zhenzhong, they all very intelligently got hold of some position. Then, these works were characterized by the fact that they could only be established in a group show but not in solo exhibitions. Can Xu Zhen’s work be established in a solo show? He’s good at ambushing and needs people to ambush.

Li: He’d have enough people for him to ambush or else his work could be done in vain.

D: oh, this is interesting indeed. I love the perception you guys have of Xu Zhen. I actually think that, no matter what Xu Zhen has created very consciously another gang and I contributed to some extent in making this happen. He is, like many artists with a distinctive cleverness, attracted to power and play it along. I tell you, this is the reality and this is what made many Chinese shows in BizArt soo similar.

Qiu: This gang of people could not play leading roles. They were ‘scraping’ along, the kind of works we’d call parasitic. Such works were the ones we were very much against and that were very much despised in an age in which post-sensibilities grew up. But then, ten years on, such things appear again.

D: Maybe in Beijing’s terms they could not play “leading roles” but I think that the role of Shanghai in this sense was quite unique. This insular fraternity of people without specific contestants made the group around Xu Zhen i.e. Bizart truly at the center of everything.  Only few artists were able to be out of this game like Yang Fudong. Now that I am away I can see more clearly. Xu Zhen’s visions of the role of contemporary art in China, ethnically Chinese was and is above everything and anyone. It is the case of what happens to artists like Jin Jiangbo now that you are talking about heishehui: used for the purpose and then washed away!

Li: Still something quite mainstream, isn’t it?

Qiu: No, mainstream only on the heishehui website (art-ba-ba.com). Recently, I also found that the heishehui website thought they were mainstream themselves but it was really not as mainstream as imagined. No one bothers looking at Guangdong-based artists. In Beijing, I was more in touch with the Lu Jie and Pi Li circle. These circles of course would look at the heishehui website but, in fact, it’s not that mainstream. However, to a certain degree, it became the centre of public opinion. So, something intelligent became a standard. Ten years on, have we not progressed? It seems that we’ve had the revolution in vain.

D: I do not think that the real problem is mainstream or not. I think that the main problem is about growing out of what you built yesterday. The push to change is so important for art organizations and the responsibility of this is also fundamental. I think that in China in the period you mentioned we passed from a total economy in the arts (what you said about not having money to do anything) to a straight power system which is based on power and money and exclusion of people that is not instrumentalized to your own success. It is exactly what you explained before for post sense and the various groups in Beijing. Same story.

Li: here we try to talk about the ignorance and lacking of knowing artists from other area in China, and the powerless gang (group) in function of being important in these days.

Li: It suddenly occurs to me that Xu Zhen has never been at ‘post sense and sensibilities’ exhibitions.

Qiu: We’ve had the revolution in vain. Because back then we were very much against such things, parasitic, intelligent, shooting hidden arrows (behind people’s back), being clever, ideas-based art, falling from conceptual art to ideas-based art, then saying cool by oneself or saying cool about people or saying weird things that would easily sound profound and that would sound conceptual and very thoughtful once they sounded profound whereas in fact there was no real thinking in it.

D: yes I agree, this is the process of most of the exhibitions in Shanghai and not only: it is like the recent exhibition “NO NO” in Beijing in Long March. The title: needs to be smart. Then the works in it needs to be “smart”. I am not totally against the idea of checking on the quality of the art, but this process very often was about “justifying” only the group of people who were in the same line of thinking. IT is what Biljana Ciric defined as the Xu Zhen’s syndrom: the last word is always by Xu Zhen. It is why I was always complaining with Xu Zhen about the choice of the solo exhibitions in BizArt lately: some artists like Jin Feng (xiao) are not at level but still he had two or three exhibitions in BizArt to try to help him out. This sectarian attitude I think is not good for anybody, not for BizArt nor for the artist who simply does not progress. Bizart was about giving opportunities but with the time became more and more about becoming defensive.
Check what is said in this blog: it is so clear! It is so evident how Bizart is   closing up.
http://shanghaichase.blogspot.com/2008/12/suddenly-seeking-xu-zhen.html

Li: Can this be turned into an issue? Sometime ago, I met a collector who had a view and said, ‘In my collection I only collect the best work of an artist’. I then said, ‘I am skeptical of your view. I mean how can you judge what you have collected is the best work of the artist! If this artist has a very clear methodology or system, I think you should collect all the works of an artist as all the values are identifiable instead of choosing a certain effective work for collection.’

Qiu: Because ‘the best’ is for others to say. It may be judged ‘the best’ with this standard but not necessarily with that standard.

Li: This is not the issue that we referred to as being clever. Every piece of work looks fine, effective. However, when placed in a system, there is no special need for their existence.

Qiu: Actually, what can I say? What on earth do we want art for? We have now got so metaphysical. This thing keeps turning into your tool and this tool is meant to make you feel good or proud and if you seek expression it’s meant for you to give vent to your feelings. All this is to turn it into a tool. I’d like to have art keeping you, taking you along. This tool is more like a boat and when you get on board you can’t help yourself. It should be enlarging and expanding as you go along, not in a corner where you take something and poke everywhere. Not like that. It’s like you have a dog and you intend to walk the dog but end up being walked by the dog. Art is like such a dog, the kind of a dog that can walk you (artist). Thus this thing can enrich you.

D: I think that it is good to dare. Art needs daring. The problem is what limits you want to give to it. What you define as becoming too metaphysical I think it actually simply reduced to this mere idea: art when truly genuine shows its best value. I think that in many Chinese contexts (and not only Chinese) we forget about this truly unnecessary role that art has got: it is the art/dog that is walking us that sometimes it is the most successful: to be transported, to be passive sometimes is what denies what you said before: “parasitic, intelligent, shooting hidden arrows, being clever, ideas-based art, falling from conceptual art to ideas-based art, then saying cold things by oneself or saying cold things about people or saying weird things that would easily sound profound and that would sound conceptual and very thoughtful”

Li: In the Buildings Breaching the Regulation exhibition, Yu Ji was intriguing in that there was a person standing inside a cage with needles everywhere. I felt that it would be better if he himself stood inside it. It’s a water prison and one cannot get out. There is a relationship to the body, a very poetic work, moving, like the No No exhibition done by Lu Jie last time. I like Jiang Zhi’s work best; it’s a poetic existence that contains the context of the individual. It seems that it does not matter to him whether he is part of this group show or not. The work is not directly related to the concept of the exhibition, space, directions of Long March Space or other artists. He does not happen directly. That is, the artist is a status of a self.

Qiu: That’s what I meant just now by saying that certain works could not be established in solo exhibitions. There are too many group shows these days. They are not just group show works but also works of the opening ceremony. That’s even more disgusting.  It seems Le Dadou (Davide Quadrio) at Shanghai BizArt disliked it a little.

Li: I am sure Le Dadou (Davide Quadrio) at Shanghai BizArt will certainly not do that kind of show because we have communicated with each other quite a lot. What is more needed is research, continual research that penetrates other fields of knowledge.

D: of course I can not not agree on this point. I am so tired of these shows without a beginning or an end. These biennales, this group shows etc. I am so tired of seeing a smart show with smart artists. I want to see the real work. Like you said Zhenhua about Jiang Zhi’s work. I want to see the artist’s self. Let’s get out of that kind of this  “art system”’s approach. We need to get back to have time for research, for getting deeper into what we do. It is, as you said Zhenhua, important to make our knowledge wider. I feel after 10 years working in the China context that I know so little of the other parts of the world. I need intellectual knowledge and time.

Qiu: I agree. When you (Dadou) came to seek me out because you (Dadou) wanted to invite me to go to Mongolia, thinking that I might get interested in doing research there, we talked a lot about this point. In fact, it is in my plan! The only problem is time. When can I go? I have to work on the Nanjing Yangtze Bridge Plan this year. I did an investigative tour in Asia that included places like India and Iran; I had that basic experience. At the time when I did the Asian tour, I proposed that Mongolia should be included. At that Asian tour, I also proposed that we should do double times in the first stage. Double times in fact refers to the correlation of Western colonization to Thailand’s Buddhist calendar, China’s rural calendar and Japan’s calendar, talking about Western colonization and Christian colonization. In fact, at the time, we wanted to be double colonizees. Double colonization is colonization by communism. One of the earliest notions of globalization is Marxist globalization, the communist globalization. So, in Asia, there once appeared one colonization by communism, including Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mongolia, Korea, and Afghanistan. I wanted to do a history of colonization by communism but of course this is a sensitive issue, not easy to do. I’m still wondering how to work on this leftist colonization.

Li: A colonization by thought, not by people.

Qiu: That is appealing. Those patriots and idealists were all drawn by the ideals of communism. It did not use violence but it’s an ideology. It’s they themselves going in search of it, they themselves hungrily studying Marxist theory and returning to engage in revolution.

D: they sometimes use violence as well, let’s not forget. Violence of ideas that prevaricates the social-political environment of a community is violent for sure and very disruptive. On the other hand the colonization of communism has a history of violent and traumatic behaviours: look at what the Russians did to Buddhist temples in Mongolia. The cultural revolutions damaged religious buildings to the point of destroying them, in Mongolia the Russian literally eradicated all signs of temples. When I went to Mongolia I was deeply shocked, I could not expect that at all.

Li: Among all we have see a pretty damaged world with the most leading parties, Communism or Capitalism, what have happened after 1900 will not let us forget about us are not far still from the brutal history. I am always wondering if every revolution should base on killing others or violent…

Li: That could be said to be the greatest political and social phenomenon of the 20th century.

Qiu: Apart from the two world wars (1st and 2nd world war), the ups and downs of the communist movement [shaped the history of continents].

Li: The world wars were, in a sense, a conflict of certain mechanism of an economic society. The appearance of socialism was the greatest construction, the greatest core and the beginning of a society and political pattern dominated by thought.

Qiu: Socialism is a social experiment that failed prematurely, quite tragic, but of course it did not fail completely. It created icons that were greater than any created by capitalism. It created Mao Zedong and Guevara. It had saints, saint like Guevara. Such saints were even accepted by its enemies. Its enemies of course introduced it into a system of consumption. Its enemies also accepted its saints. No-one could handle a saint like Guevara because Guevara had the qualities of all the cowboys (spirit) from the American West, always with a cigar (a symbol of dick) between his lips.
Chairman Mao was the same. In China, one would find it very hard to appreciate Mao’s world influence, very shocking! When the Maoists just won the election in Nepal recently, American went mad, as they had been anti-government armed forces. America defined the Maoist armed forces as terrorists. Recently, Nepal pretended to stage a democratic election because the king disappointed them. As a result, Maoism won the election and terrorists won it. And they say they won’t destroy their traditional relationship with India and that China is their example. America is worried to death. They managed to instigate Tibet but Nepal changed its colours. Those terrorists in the mountains persisted by holding Mao’s image in their hands, which is why I am particularly interested in Mongolia. Guo Xiaoyan, from Guangzhou, wanted to do something about Xinjiang. Recently, when I went to a conference in Huangshan, I had a look at their Tibet Plan. They got Liu Xiaodong to do things like painting Qinghai. I realized that it involved the participation by Goethe-Institute and the whole narrative was entirely Shangri-la, titled, The Disappeared Site. As soon as I saw it I said the title was not right because The Disappeared Site deprived itself of The Disappeared Horizon,  that is, the description of Shangri-la by Dr Lee. A girl said, ‘We want to return to the simplest plateaus, blue skies, white clouds, temples and lakes’. As soon as I heard that I lost my temper, ‘But temples are not the most important as they are the result of the colonization of Tibet in Tang Dynasty. Nepal and Tang Dynasty jointly colonized Tibet, each sending a princess there, taking Buddhism there. What’s more, the narration here is very confused.’ One photograph shows a group of chyrrus passing through an opening underneath a bridge, claiming the construction of a number of bridge openings for the chyrrus to pass through. In fact, it is a forged photograph. In the painting by Liu Xiaodong, two Tibetan youths are walking along the railway lines in parallel to each other, both wearing Han garments. However, as soon as Qinghai-Tibet Railway was complete, they stopped wearing traditional Tibetan attire. Later, I gave a talk, saying, ‘Why do they say we forced Tibetans to wear Han attire? It is obvious that we Han Chinese were also forced to wear Western suits. However, this western suit is really comfortable and reasonable. You can’t say that Chinese won’t wear it and Tibetans won’t wear it because it was Europeans invention. We also would like to share the process of modernization. It’s a process of modernisation, not that of Sinicization, nor that of Westernization. This shouldn’t have been a problem in the first place. But I’m sure what I say will sound problematic if I say that the Tibetan railway will be worse if the Communist Party does not control Tibet. Just think of it, the fact that the British got Tibet. The British were the best lovers of railway building in the world. If the Communist Party did not put Tibet under control, Tibet would have been criss-cross with railway lines and the Tibetan missionaries who had entered and taken residence there in those days would have long ago put on Western suits and been using telephones. Today, only the upper-class aristocrats wear Western suits and the lower class may still wear gowns.’ So, their overall narrative is problematic. As this discourse is so pervasive, they got stuck in it in spite of themselves, particularly when they got the money from the Goethe-Institute. Cui Qiao was brain washed although Guo Xiaoyan wasn’t. She was born in Xinjiang, half-han, and is critical of modernization. However, Cui Qiao represents the Western position. In the end, the Western position was stronger. In the narration of Tibet, they were impulsively concerned with cultural impact and issues of colonization. However, the narration fell into the traps of cultural impact and issues of colonization. Nevertheless, their academic research was open and there was interest in this subject. And they were hoping to expand their research in the direction of anthropology and they had this impulse. That’s when you’ve got to be vigilant. Wherever this discourse goes one faces pitfalls. If you do not hit back, you will fall into the traps dug up for you long ago. There’s something, the catalogue in the Tibetan Investigation exhibition. At the time, I wrote a very long article as I had prepared the whole history of paintings around the subject matter, including the investigative reports. I ended up with thirty to forty thousand characters, approaching fifty thousand characters with the addition of other things. Then, I threw in the material about spray-painting and Zhou Yi (Zoe Butt) and others translated the lot. Prior to the anniversary celebration of National Art Academy (Hangzhou), I asked Lu Jie to print the catalogue for distribution on the occasion. Lu Jie said, ‘Okay. We won’t drag on with this’. Because the design was ready a long time ago, ready to be printed straight away. Just at that juncture, something happened in Tibet. Foreigners at Long March Project rose in collective rebellion, refusing to do this catalogue called The Tibet Investigation. According to Lu Jie, Dai Wei (David Dong) held a position close to his, relatively neutral. There were other old foreigners who simply stopped working, finding my article too leftist and too Chinese for them to accept. Even the translation of meaning of words was problematic. For example, I wrote about Tibetan artists in my article and they thought that I should only write about Tibetan artists and they found my control over, and distribution of, types of themes unacceptable to them in the process of my writing. Whichever way Guo Xiaoyan and others did it, they had this impulse to use a more anthropological approach. We have been engaged in this activity, doing a certain cultural research, the same way Le Dadou in Shanghai BizArt engaged in academic activity, through the creation of an academic platform in order to probe one experience after another. Dado was critical of BizArt. He wanted to escape to Thailand to stay for a year. His disgust with these things in fact became a contrast, with something else emerging from it.

D: The Tibet Investigation is an intriguing project and it is amazing how Tibet immediately makes people uncomfortable. I have been myself in my precedent life living and working in Qinghai and Ganna researching architecture and post- communist reconstructions of Tibetan architecture (both vernacular and religious) and the implications of the modernization (can we say that?) on the environment (both on technical/materials aspects and the impact of what you Zhijie described as “process of modernisation, not that of Sinicization, nor that of Westernization). I do not want to get into what you described since I see s possible danger in finding ourselves in sterile confrontations: visions of history of China are indeed still too connected to the regime and a deep re-analyses of the history of China outside the communist heritage is still far away from being undertaken.
What I am interested in saying is that, no matter what, it is fundamental to dare the extremes, to dare opinions and to be open to controversy. This is what I think is needed in this historical time. It seems, instead, that we are surrounded by a sort of fear of the change of perspectives: I see this incredibly strong in the way economy is treated. The globalization failed and still governments are trying to support a system that clearly does not work. The same is for the art system in China: if you remember when we talked Zhenhua about the craziness of the art market in China and the need for a serious position of the major actors in response to this situation, artists (among many we know very well) were arrogantly thinking only about the short benefits and not really thinking on the long terms: the clear proof is that all experimental places turned themselves into galleries and when, at the beginning of 2008, talking with BIzArt people about getting engaged in the financial of BizArt because I could not support that anymore 100% and after 10 years of doing that I was tired, the great idea was to open Shopping Gallery namely to support BizArt. The decision was taken without me aware of it and still I do not know how Shopping Gallery is supposed to support BizArt…

Li: I like what you said:’ we are surrounded by a sort of fear of the change of perspectives’ and I found that people normally against things without knowing the whole concept, even not be bothered for a discussion to give to both side, I found the danger of being 100% correct in whatever the field, that people forgot as an artist is important to give an new perspective contribute to the existing concept of what we believe in, which cause many misunderstanding and problem with people’s emotional conflict.

Li: You have been discovering new artists from your work in 1996 on video art exhibitions to the post sense and sensibilities in 1998 and 1999 to when you later worked on China Art Triennial (Nanjing, China 2005), which is somewhat similar to what you are doing now on The Tibet Investigation, a bit like a social survey, in which you discover young artists, particularly in the China Art Triennial.

Qiu: There was a project in the interim, titled, Long March: a walking visual display (2002), which had a different meaning for Lu Jie and I. For Lu Jie, it’s to solve the ‘Chinese/foreign’ issue, one that involves the internal and external issues. For me, however, when post-sense and sensibilities developed in the 2001’s version, it turned into a curatorial experiment. When split up, it became a critique of the system. In the process of curatorial experiment, it turned to ‘in-situ art’ in terms of the media and to curatorial experiment in terms of working methods. That the appearance of Long March coincided with that was a curatorial experiment for me on a big scale and it was for me a relationship between the elites and the bottom social stratum. For Lu Jie, it was a question whether the history of Chinese art was shown to people at home or abroad and whether it was for overseas curators to pick art or for Chinese art to sell overseas. His definition of Long March was to substitute it for sales overseas. His article played a slightly similar role to mine, ‘The Zone of Errors in Conceptual Arts’, always preceded by a guiding article. Later, when I wrote about ‘post sense and sensibilities’ it all read like declarations. Previously, the guiding academic preparation served as a guiding principle. Previously, Lu Jie wrote one, about whether it should be going in from without or going out from within or whether it should be going through the wall for overseas sales or resolving the issue on the spot. Later on, when I wrote the curatorial proposal for Long March, I added many of my initial ideas. We must consider what we could give others instead of what we could gain from outside, including the proposed ‘Chinese contemporary art’, not ‘contemporary Chinese art’. This reversal took the vein of Chinese contemporary art. It does not say that contemporary art is an international club and Chinese contemporary art is its Chinese part and communism. I don’t think it’s that kind of relationship, the one that tries to link Chinese Communist Party more to the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and to Chen Sheng and Wu Guang (?), not to Moscow. Later, there was a change although the basic idea was not about the within and without. For me, Long March, on one hand, was a large-scaled curatorial experiment, and, on the other, an expansion from the bottom. That’s what I got to know in this tour. My abilities at social investigation were greatly exercised. And it is in fact a large-scaled investigation.

D: Zhijie, I am happy that finally I got this comment on the Long March from you. It is clear now that your intention was very different to what Lu Jie, occasionally, wanted to build on top of the research project/long march.  I am also really supportive of the interpretation and the different reading of ‘Chinese contemporary art’, vis a vis of ‘contemporary Chinese art’. I try always to use “contemporary art in China” since this leaves ethnicity more open to differentiation: art in China can also be not-chinese (han) and let the position of artists ethically Chinese but with international back-ground or foreigners have a contribution in the development of contemporary art.
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