Shu Yang Interview
The art*s sales should support you to create works more personal, and make your exploration continue regularly, even regard your personal exploration as positive. Because the society*s general standard is to represent the benefit, then perhaps you don*t have the right or duty to represent any benefit, you just represent yourself. However you yourself show some basic thing of human, and people think that they see the most real thing, and you*re inspiring, then people encourage the appearance of these things. So your works can sell well. I think this can be a good commerce.
Date: July 19, 2008
Location: Beijing
Interviewer: Man Yu
Videographer: Lu Chang*an
Editor: Zhang Langfeng
Type-in: Zhang Danni
Translator in English: Zhong Yi
Man Yu: Why we name art as art, it may have its own specialty, which is often considered as form language logic, #
Shu Yang: maybe we should recount the definition of art in aspect of derivation, but why we want to talk about that? We only talk about the art on the conceptual level, while the conception has the exclusiveness, so that art does equal to the science in this level. When we discuss the ※self-discipline§ of art, we should firstly clarify the concept of art, and then we can find its self-discipline in the practice level. For example, what*s a so-called revolution in the art history, that*s self-discipline. The history of art is just that of self-discipline. So it appeared new media, and all these become a system that you*ve already established. Now we only talk about the art, that*s what we prescribed in advance. Yet art includes more, right?
Man Yu: So you think actually the premise of all these talks or judgments is that we discuss it in the conceptual level.
Shu Yang: Like the art may be the sky, but you*re talking about it through the window.
Man Yu: You*ve this kind of understanding, then what*s the other query? Of course this is also related, but you*ve partly answered this question, like I*m an artist, he*s not; I*m individualized, he*s also. Then the identity of him seems to be vague, as well as the works.
Shu Yang: In fact, that*s way I would say that the key of art is the problem of practice. If we stick to this concept, it may limit art*s openness. When you look back on the art history, you may find that it also had an open mind. Those weren*t considered as art perhaps become the art later, while the past art may disappear in the future. The situation exists.
Man Yu: Actually what I mean is that once you said in different profession, if one expresses his individualism in his work, then he*s expressing the art, which is very interesting.
Shu Yang: Of course we may talk about art in a generalized level, for example, a democratic politics man in our imagination should represent the people, but if he shows his own character, then you would feel that he*s charming, or something like that, which is similar to what we call sense of art. In fact Karl Marx had already talked about this in human alienation, which expressed the single side of it. When you put on a uniform, then you become this identity, totally covered by it. However, humanity is various, what*s the possibility of human? It*s art that opens this possibility to the human being - people*s multi-identity.
Man Yu: That means while we talk about the art, we may also become alienation by the art that we think of.
Shu Yang: Like the professionalization and commercialization of art. If we stick the art to a certain single level, all these professionalization or technicalization will become alienation, because this is of the opposite direction to the modern art*s function.  
Man Yu: Here*s a key point, that is your understanding of art. For example, if you look at it from the point of view of knowledge or profession, then this kind of problem may occur. Like what you said, that art is a way to open the humanity, or an approach.
Shu Yang: I think, firstly, art must be something very attached to the human being, which is indispensable. If without it, the reason for art*s existence would be fragile/weak. The how do people look on the life, which is the question surely related to the art. But how to express it, in which way, all this is different like you use which language to speak. But the core must be something that art itself carries: the attention/regards towards the human. I think this is the most basic thing, including the religion, that people try to get beyond. It also uses art as a tool to realize this kind of transcendence. So I think that the inevitable premise of art is the relation between the human being, which is also the most important point.
Man Yu: In the article that you wrote last time, you talked about the individualism. I was doubtful of it. Like this time, the Synthetic Times of the art museum people, when you saw it, there*s a lot of technique elements in it, kind of like the making process of film industry. Because it must needed lots of people to cooperate at the same time, like engineers, artists or others# Then what*s the sense of individualism in it? Or does this kind of art really make sense for our sense of worth?
Shu Yang: In fact, this is the problem brought by the industrialization, the technical support. When it enters the art level, many artists need this support, including the funds. Like Morris, those who do design, as well as Marcel Duchamp, who gave us the answer at that time. His way was to put a work that*s already made into the art museum, which shows the individualism. It*s very simple, &cause this work had never been in the art museum. It doesn*t matter whether it*s made by him. This is different from the classic art. Why we say he*s a revolution, because it*s the place that creates the art work, and the artist gives us a hint. Then what*s the artist*s role in it? He*s like with a golden touch, only when he touched, it may occurred, including the latter #, they all play in a role of wizard. Not like the traditional art that we made one by hands.
Man Yu: In the common understanding, we think that Duchamp has opened up an art language 每 to take the ready-made work/product for making work 每 he suggested a method of work making. Perhaps the popular understanding is like this. Afterward, there*re a lot of artists cite the ※ready-made work§ to make his work. Then what you*ve said can be seen as a different point of view.
Shu Yang: The ready-made work is a problem provided by the industrialization of that times. At the end of 19th century, there began to have numbers of industrial production, daily life goods. At that time appeared the critics from art towards the ready-made work. That*s to say it*s a cheap and badly made object. Also later, when Morris did the new art movement, they just wanted to re-find the art to resist those copied and cheap products. I think this is another way, but he was only in the face of the problems after the technology got into the modern life. Therefore, in fact, the Hollywood, we talk about the commerce now, all these can be considered as a capital support, or a technical support. It*s not the support for the making, but for the work*s formation, including the new materials, the new media. All these has no big difference from that time. That means this technical support had already existed there, why it could become art, it must needed a person, a thought or a method to make it unique. Then this can may be done by the artists. Like the work of Ai Weiwei, no one would say some of his works as art. at what time, which place, an artist does what kind of work, will have what influence on the mass, all his impact is from his personal/individual view. Then it*s the same thing with Ai Weiwei*s work. In China, there*s no such work in the contemporary area, and no one would like to spend such a big sum of money, to use so many resources to do a such big movement of people. Then it*s his way to do it in this period of time, which is unique. If one day, this become a normal way, or everybody begin to compete, you do with 30,000,000, I do with 50,000,000, then at this moment, the signification may disappear. Just like that now you put a urinal into an art museum, which doesn*t make sense any more. So this individualism is also within his time, to look what*s his influence on the art. The other point is that, everybody says that Hollywood is an industry, you should treat it differently. This industry may produce the good thing, as well as the bad thing. Its entertainment is routine-based, which is only a consumption product. It uses some artistic ways to support the product*s sells. Or whether it can leave a great impact on the later generations, actually in the film history there*s few of Hollywood movies that are really good. So I think these supports and the relationship that we need to take account in should be treated differently, but not lump them on the one hand.
Recently, I*m thinking about a problem. A few days ago, there came a reporter to ask me about the commercial things of 798 zone, including the article that Zhu Qi wrote in the early days. I find that now in the Chinese art culture area, as well as that of the architecture, which lacks an important thing: we seldom think about the understanding of art, but care more about the peripheral operations and supporting things. Like Zhu Qi, was only touching the surface, such as the sensationalized news and the inside stories. In fact the our key problem, it*s difficult to see the people in this art world talk about it, the understanding towards the art itself. People care less about its relationship between the human, but more on the technical level .
Actually, whether it*s art is not really important, the art is only a method/way. Maybe it*s a way different from that of others. The problem it tries to solve may be even related to the ultimacy/ultimate things, I think. The ultimate thing is to surmount the concrete technical problem. For example, the relationship between art and life, but life itself is also a ultimate problem, then how can you relate to it. I think, there*s too much commercial things, in fact, behind this commerce there*s also a power which dominates. That*s to say who*s rich, who*s in power, when one can use his power to decide on something, he may abuse it(or the thing behind the commerce). All these stuff should be a supporting thing for art, they should help art to develop, help artist to make better works. For example, my works can be sold, the art*s sales should support you to create works more personal, and make your exploration continue regularly, even regard your personal exploration as positive. Because the society*s general standard is to represent the benefit, then perhaps you don*t have the right or duty to represent any benefit, you just represent yourself. However you yourself show some basic thing of human, and people think that they see the most real thing, and you*re inspiring, then people encourage the appearance of these things. So your works can sell well. I think this can be a good commerce 每 to stimulate the generation of good thing. Yet, some commerce is no good, it*s only for money 每 copy the thing that can earn money over and over, without the originality.
The power is same to this. Some works are chosen, which is not produced with the artist, but at the request of a power : because I*ve the power and I need such art, now you do such thing for me. Maybe this kind of work become the biggest problem in our art world. If one cannot think over the origin of art, like why I do art in a personal way, then we*re easily get lost. We*ll be cleared up by the power, economy, or the peripheral support, and give up our original motive. For example, the Catholicism and the Protestant, why the latter would be so energetic, that*s because of its emphasis on the individual. The Catholicism has a pope, who communicates between the God and the human. And the pastor comes to preach, being a teacher. He is master of the truth and then tell you what is the truth. While the Protestant let everyone read the Bible by themselves, so the revolution came. Everyone needs to read the Bible, then the printing and translating work must be popularized in every national language, and it also inspired the knowledge communication. What*s the base of this, it*s that every person read his own Bible, and we*re facing one God; we don*t need a religion teacher.
Man Yu: but here comes a problem: different people have different understandings towards Bible, like the #, it would become a heathendom. Like Hong Xiuquan, who also used such a mode.
Shu Yang: I don*t think we can judge the heathendom by its words. You cannot judge me only because I think of something not good, like the law, we must see the behavior according to the fact. Only wehen it*s harmful to the society, then it may be called as ※heathendom§. You can*t say its doctrines are wrong so that it*s the heathendom. The other thing is on the moral level. No matter when, the morality is not black or white, it*s not closed. Sometimes the morality can be a kind of restriction. So why the Bible could be such a great liberation, I think it*s the real initiation. The initiation of industry society is the French Revolution, if we look back more further, we may find that it cared about the arousal of individual. Without it, we wouldn*t have the industrialization, nor the pursuit of nature or personal things. What*s more, our lives are limited, only some years, if we can*t respect our own time, that*s too empty. If those who do with art cannot respect their own thought, that would make no sense. Our collectivism education has been lasted too many years, like I*m doing art for realizing the modernization, for the good of our following generation, or for correcting people*s wrong concept# all these are ridiculous. In the society, a mature idea is not a simple competition, not asking whether you*ve money or not, what can I get from this society. I think we should ask ourselves what you*ve experienced through all this. If you do in this way, you will feel less restriction outside, perhaps you*ll find your real power to do something you really want to do, and you*re able to continue. In brief, actually art*s ultimaty is to be individualism, which involve the whole movement of the world, including your own creation. I*m not trying to give art a ultimate definition, to say that in the future, art equals individualism in the dictionary, I don*t meant that. But at least now, for me this is the only basis (individualism) that I do my art on.
This is also related to the basic structure of China. Since our childhood, the family education teaches us how to be adapted in this society, which concerns the whole culture. If now we do arts or culture without thinking of these problems, or changing this situation, and want the culture to develop, that*s impossible.
If we continue to do with the old thoughts, old ways, then how can we be possible to create the new things? Like those who do the ink painting, the ancestors drew rocks in this way, then I use another way, I spray a rock. However, this cannot solve any problem, what its value? Those things are not the standards, if I spray a rock for my whole life, then it could be meaningful. Don*t think about the result. If you put yourself into a history list, then won*t work, for sure. Nowadays, there*re lots of people using the commercial ways to make themselves into some ranking list 每 for short term it*s a ranking list, and for long term it maybe the history 每 this is really absurd. Firstly, you should see what you*ve done, what*s your value towards others. How can the outside world give you de democracy and freedom? You*re a slave who wait others coming to liberate you, then who will come? The artistic and social problems are related to our life feelings and experiences, if we don*t really think about this, then I think we*ll get very empty and frustrated. I think the technical things should be finished in the artists* studio, where has the materials and methods. The personal thing like researching the art history is your own homework, which is optional. But that won*t the thing that you want to communicate, unless you*re among the person in this occupation. The things in this level can be seldom seen in the gallery or museum, at least it*s not the topic that everybody*s talking about.
Shu Yang: What do you think of Zhu Qi*s motive?
Lu Chang*an: I think, maybe he*s addicted to it. More people react, more exited he get.
Shu Yang: I think his article is no big thing. He*s not the guy who lack the ability of thinking. It*s not strange that he talked about this. Because the problem lays there, the problem is how well you know about it and whether you would say it. He couldn*t be the only one who knew about this. Others also knew that, but why they didn*t say? This can be the question.
Lu Chang*an: This could have the positive influence, which made people be calm down and think about this, however is there something negative?
Shu Yang: I don*t think it has the negative impact. Will ※cracking down on counterfeit goods§ has a negative impact? What you said is like some those local officials 每 ※result of cracking down on counterfeit goods is to crack down our economy§. Actually, you should look at this benefit over the view of those who play it, from a bigger point of view, the support for your creation.
Lu Chang*an: I*m thinking from this point of view. When there*re some big interest groups doing this, it*s certainly no good. Yet this makes everybody on the art chain become very calm. For this buyer, there*re a lot of galleries, who didn*t participated too many hypes, and their price are moderate. With the market*s rising, this is a stable thing, but it also influences his sales. 
Shu Yang: Zhu Qi only wrote about these person with the sky-high price, not about others. If this could influence the ordinary gallery*s sales, it only shows that Chinese market is not mature at all, and the common business deal is not in the normal mood. Firstly someone does a propaganda, and then others follows, which is abnormal and irresponsible. This is not premise for a good buyer or collector. If he likes this and is willing to pay for this, then it may have the part of investment. However the premise must be this, which is the most essential thing for building your collection system. Without it, what*s your collection?
Lu Chang*an: then like the words I just said about the influence, which cannot be the premise#
Shu Yang: Yep. Because, be frankly the Chinese market now is weak. I feel that China now lacking a process 每 by communication and persuading, the gallery build up a ditch with the collector. Those art lovers will communicate with each other and gradually get to some consensus, like what*s valuable and what*s not. Due to the event of Zhu Qi, many galleries are saying that he made a mass, brought out a big trouble, and was an annoying person. Why everybody says in the same tone? Because he just talked about this profession, like the gangster*s afraid of people saying he*s of the gangland. Why now these guys have such a reaction, without the sense of shame and keeping discussing this thing. He did the wrong thing and use this wrong thing to attack others. These people think they*re strong and they have their reasons to do such things. They should do this, because it may lead to a good result. This is their logic. Zhu Qi*s also in the media. He certainly thought about what he wanted to do. The last few years, perhaps he did more commercial things, maybe now he*s still looking for his own position, but how about the future, it*s hard to say. We don*t need to talk about his motive, the key point is whether this event is talking about the real problem. My point view is, you want to do in a commercial way, it*s ok, if you like it then just keep it. However, you shouldn*t dislike others* saying that your way has the problem. If you think it*s effective, then you just go on. But not get afraid because of others true words. Like you say I*m a gangster, then I am a gangster, no matter whether you say it.
Lu Chang*an: Because of this issue, many people think we*re with them. If you have your idea, you can just express it.
Shu Yan: Many people have the same way of thinking. They think themselves as the Party central committee 每 correct for all, not allow others talk whatever they want. These people have a strict requirements for others, but never for themselves. If you do the right thing, then people won*t say that. It*s just that simple!
Lu Chang*an: When Zhu Qi mentioned ※set a gathering§, people think there*s fraudulence in it.
Shu Yan: ※Setting a gathering§ breaks the law, you know? If at abroad, these guys must be caught. However, in China, they stay there, without any sense of shame. You*re committing a crime, not a mistake or a moral problem, which is not a simple thing. Frankly speaking, the Chinese law is not perfect, there*s no such restriction. If there is, then all these guys should be put into the jail. Therefore, they*re very strange, completely reversing the black and white, mixing the rights and wrongs. If Zhu Qi has the problem because of his saying of nonsense, then this is another affair. But if there*s an evidence, then you perhaps can really bring a lawsuit against him. Now, China has big problem in establishing and practicing the law, which mixed a lot of things, without the common sense. So it*s really ridiculous. You cannot admit such thing, if once be found, there would be very serious. So people always say that they haven*t done it, which is impossible. As much as I know, Zhu Qi couldn*t have much evidences.
Lu Chang*an: He can*t go to the court, because he can*t point out a certain (organization). What he said is a phenomenon.
Shu Yang: So it*s just a phenomenon, however, so many people came out to say#
Lu Chang*an: He replied it, he said who*s afraid of this market, then wrote another article.
Shu Yang: This is not only a personal feeling. Those foreign gallery directors come to China and say here*s too commercial. These guys are doing the commercial arts abroad, and they say that of China is too commercial, then you can imagine how*s the Chinese market like. If someone against Zhu Qi*s article, then we can only say that the moral standard in this art world is really low# even without caring about their own face. I think everyone in this profession should take their responsibility and duty. You need to help this industry to continue in a good orientation, and to keep the justice of the process. Everybody should follow the rules, if you set a trap and cheat people, then how can this go far? Only those who are short-sighted and blinded by the profit can did such things.
Lu Chang*an: For the art media nowadays, it*s really not easy for them to be independent or have their own point of view. After all, they need to feed themselves, organizing in a company way. So they can*t be too absolute, but relative# so this is especially not easy to do .
Shu Yang: Even we say China is commercial, it can*t be more commercial then America. But why the American media can be more objective and fair, relatively ? Firstly, your commercial profit comes from your credit, which means you can tell the truth. Then people can support you, your commerce. You*re not an advertisement, but establish the real public credibility, which is the real basis for a media commerce. They*re willing to buy it, and say it*s good. What*s your so-called profit? Without the public credibility, you cannot obtain the so-called authority, but only an interest income, which is opposite to the media commerce.
© Copyright FCAC 2008
© Copyright FCAC 2007