Chen Tong Interview
Date: July 29, 2008
Location: Libreria Borges Institute for Contemporary Art
Interviewer: Man Yu, Liang Jianhua
Editor: Zhang Langfeng
Typi-in: Ye Danqing
Translator in English: Bei Anrui, Zhong Yi
Man Yu: It seems that two years ago you participated in the ※Guangzhou Biennial Exhibition§ with that piece. Is that right?
Chen Tong: Yes.
Man Yu: It seems that that piece has to do with the Borges Bookstore.
Chen Tong: Yeah, it has to do with reading, and with the Borges Bookstore.
Man Yu: So, do you think you could tell us just a little bit about your piece?
Chen Tong: Hmm, what can I say? Because at that time, I was mainly concerned with, at that time I didn*t draw, what I*m saying is that that piece is a kind of collection or form of communication between artists, different art pieces and the relationship between the different mediums. At that time, the ※Borges Bookstore§ wasn*t really considered a piece, it was more of an organizational tool. But I have no experience with this type of contemporary art form whatsoever. So, there are two parts to my way of thinking. One is working around a space; what I mean is, at that time, from the eighteenth floor, I would spend forever looking down at Jiangnan Blvd, and would get this feeling of humidity or dampness. I could keep looking at see the Jiangnan Hotel and a particular corner of their beautiful courtyard. I could also see all of Jiangnan Blvd and Jiangyan Road. So, I often used a camera and took a lot of black and white, or those kinds of pictures. And then I would choose a picture that I thought was my sort of a representation of Guangzhou. Then, I would take that picture and scan the 135 negative for a positive black and white image. I used a 300ppi scanner, which has really big pixels. You can*t scan it more than once. And then lastly, I would take this thing, this printed ps version and develop it part by part. This ps version can only be used once, the picture will wash away after the first time. So, you can*t expect to keep this ps version for long. Of course you finish printing it that same day, or you can even get away with it two days later, but half a year later, it won*t work, you can only use it to film the sun. This ps edition has a drum on this machinery, and then there is this thing that*s wrapped up in the drum, and that*s printing for you. It*s the same principle used in silk screening.
Man Yu: So, what did you use to do this piece?
Chen Tong: I used that ps edition. I didn*t just print it. But I think those pixels, because my film is indeed very small, so it sometimes falls short and can be really course, and that*s not really the artistic style that I*m going for; that belongs on rough/thick paper. But, I still took it with me, I put it on a case, and wrote, kind of like a display on one of the TV*s in a public square, and piece by piece made a screen. Now, my intention was, I was hoping to make this piece slowly fade away. Ideally, you wouldn*t be able to see it after half a month, but it was very clear when I first started. But I didn*t reach that goal. Actually, you*re looking at it right now. After so many years, it can still see it*s silhouette.
Man Yu: There still is a silhouette. It has four colors right?
Chen Tong: Just one.
Man Yu:  Just one. Um, black and white?
Chen Tong: Yup. Leek-green, and grass-green
Liang Jianhua: Did it fade a bit during the exhibition?
Chen Tong:  It didn*t fade.
Man Yu: It never faded?
Chen Tong:  Even though it*s a very weak color, it didn*t fade. Theoretically it faded, but in reality you can*t see any change. I had too much respect for this theory. Because I had never seen this edition, and because the printing factories all quickly sold their ps editions, because they all thought it was a waste. So, I had never seen this old ps edition before. The owner of the printing press told me, ※These don*t preserve the Kavalan well at all; they slowly disappear till there*s nothing left§ (Cantonese).  And there wasn*t almost nothing left, it was slowly disappearing, so I believed this theory, this reasoning. That*s why I did what I did. I did one and it was a little course, and another one didn*t have this effect. That*s just one part of the concept, the other was just to spend my free time, so I read books. It*s a little like this painting here today, it*s called ※Reading.§ It*s called that because my wife and my kid are reading; my wife is reading Harry Potter, and my kid has already read, not Borges*, but another children*s story. It*s kind of like Edgar Allen Poe*s stories, his age probably shouldn*t be reading it. It might be even more complicated than Edgar Allen Poe. These two are reading together, back-to-back at the same time. I let Chen Shaoxiong take my machine, kind of like this one, and help me take pictures; besides, there isn*t any film in it anyway. Not even the captions have been edited, and at the end we take a bat and hit it. After we*re done hitting it, I take it off; all the while, music is playing in the background.
Liang Jianhua: Live recording.
Chen Tong: Yes, It*s a live recording, all the way through. This method, under such developed conditions is definitely not considered to be a good thing. But I also don*t know if this type of mentality is good or not. Because this type of art hasn*t been effective, the whole thing is that#. But, it*s still used in some places. For the whole ※Guangzhou Biennial Exhibition,§ we adopted a very striking posture, no one wanted to go, no one wanted to participate. We took out books, right? But, after awhile, we became as anxious as the sea. What I mean is, if you can*t have anything, can*t have a name, it*s not easy to deal. We actually used this to set the minimum standard.
That is to say that the contemporary work itself is not recognized. In my opinion, not recognizing the art reflects upon the system itself. Because, at the time, Zheng Guogu was very busy, and I didn*t know what he thought about this exhibition, I never found out how he felt. However, he did think up a trick, this trick is actually really interesting, and even now looking back on it, it*s very busy. Even now, I*m still a bit doubtful of the system. This is how it is, you specify a request, this concept changes, and then you go do it. So, just as Zheng Guogu and I were taking a picture, we instead had an overwhelming feeling of ※let*s not go, and instead go on strike.§ Finally, at the end we couldn*t strike, and we ended up going. At the end, Zheng Guogu, Chen Shaoxiong, and I, the three of us, and Xu Tan was also there, and so was Lin Yilin, they were also there. Everybody had already accomplished this piece, and had it in this container.
It*s a miniature ※Guang Dong Express Train. Afterwards, in Venice, we made it even bigger, but when we were in Italy, this wasn*t the name of the bookstore yet, it wasn*t even a videotape type of a bookstore, we just called it, ※Guang Dong Express Train.§ That*s why at this time, I personally didn*t feel like I was successful, not truly successful yet. But, I put them away and didn*t think anything of it. 
Man Yu: So, this might just be my understanding, this piece is a relatively early one of your works, could you say that this is the first one that has been interrupted?
Chen Tong:  Actually, in terms of all my work#
Man Yu: What I mean is your contemporary work, that portion.
Chen Tong: Yeah. Actually, I would say that I switch between pieces a lot. I certainly didn*t come into this system to do just one piece. But, that also means that I haven*t achieved this system of entering one piece. In terms of personal connections, we*ve achieved it, we collectively participated in this event, we*re also contemporary artists. But, there is also a problem that as a contemporary artist, you are more focused on your artistic accomplishments. You*re also heavily focused on the organization of our work, and there are tons of benefits from this angle. There really are. But I also don*t use old paintings. We usually use a rather contemporary style to do our work. But, I don*t think that*s very good. As far as my jumping around a lot, within the pieces I*ve already produced, not just the contemporary ones, this usually happens with all of art. My earlier pieces might even be a little better than my later ones. Sometimes, I just suddenly have a good thing, and then later I might have a bad one, even I don*t always remember. Really early on, in 1898, before &89, or maybe a little later, I had made a really cool little device.
Man Yu: Wow, that*s got to be your earliest eh?
Chen Tong: That little device, yeah it was. I got a hold of a piece of fabric and inscribed on in an Allen Ginsberg poem. After I had finished, some places were pulling a hole in the fabric, and then I just took a string and tied a few knots. Before June 4th, even up until then there were still people who went and looked for these things out on the street. On the top, there*s a little bit of red, the commas and substitutes are in red as well. I don*t know who, but sometime threw it around Changsha, in that area. Later people were still looking for it up the street. At that time, those who were a part of the exhibition board, wanted to take the painting; I made them something else instead. But, before I made them something else, I had a painting published, a lot of people still remember it, it was a beautiful historical painting, kind of like a Luokewei Kent painting, it was never printed. Originally, it was a big engraving. I think it was about six planks of plywood, either way, it was really long; it might even be a longer than this wall. The camera that he used to take the pictures was about this big as well. And yeah, obviously the pictures are big too. All the pictures used with this camera
Man Yu: Is that a plane?
Chen Tong: Planes and slot machines, that collection of pictures, was very clear, live in fact, very clear at the time. But I don*t know where it went; at that time I saw it in a Hunan magazine. From that, to a banner, you can*t say that I don*t remember the banner, not to mention, it was in this ※Guangzhou Biennial Exhibition.§ After Guanzhou, I went straight to Venice. Venice, however, thought I hadn*t done anything. So, I was more than willing to highlight the others. So, I wrote was characters on the ground. I helped them build all the tables and cabinets over there in YangJiang, but all the plans were done by them. I just said that there was only one table that I wanted to draw, and they very casually handed over their ideal table and stool. They were both their ideal, not mine. I only asked that the cabinet was well done, and they used a YangJiang paint to do so. Afterwards, they sold it and split the money with me. I haven*t seen this thing#., regardless, one day I opened a container and there it was. So, the individual*s participation was a little feeble. Also, the grounds in Venice were particularly large, and there were still a lot of people, so my impression wasn*t particularly good. But, I thought Guangzhou was a bit better; Guangzhou is small, and afterwards, there were a few things, a lot of strong stories/memories from that experience. Venice didn*t have any of that. So, the pieces at Venice, I used my attention to, what I mean to say is that, you can*t say my pieces spent my free time; you should instead look at YangYong*s, ShaoXiong, anyone. Afterwards, we had something that looked like a bookstore, and that served as our framework. After Venice, in order to repay Zhang SongRen, we finished the Hanyaxuan Art Gallery by 2004, and had a group exhibition. I was rather serious about that.
I then did ※this one good thing,§ it was very grasping, because at that time, Saddam was in hiding. It was just a chest, and this is his dictionary. You can translate it using silk screen on sheet metal. On the dictionary, there*s a glossary with words that involve Saddam in any way. You can pick any letter from A to Z, all twenty-six letters are there. Just take it and stamp it on the sheet metal, and use iron to circle it, and you can translate it over. When you*re translating the end of it, you realize that there*s a pyramid here, and at the bottom of the pyramid there*s Saddam*s open journal.
Man Yu: Is that a print of the Pyramids?
Chen Tong: No, it*s plastic, but it*s called the glass pyramids. Here, we*ve combined art and politics. We*ve taken wire and plastic wrap to make the Louvre*s glass pyramid, and then added a light underneath.
Liang Jianhua: You*re saying this is the base right?
Chen Tong: It*s a trunk, I*m in the process of making an ammunition trunk, the top of which is blank. There*s a cover on top, which is a turned over book, and then you turn to the last page to see it#
Man Yu: Underneath there*s a three-dimensional Louvre.
Chen Tong:  You think there*s no light under this sealed chest, but there*s actually a bit of light coming out from inside this little hole. If you look down into it, you can see a picture of Saddam.  
Man Yu: What is the intention of this piece, in your own words?
Chen Tong: I wanted to combine art and politics. And then, under the pyramid there is a hole through which you can see Saddam. Initially, during the Iran-Iraqi War, I didn*t think anything good about Saddam, but after I went to America, I started studying Saddam, and his purpose. So, I drew his picture and made this at the same time. Then, I looked in the dictionary and found good words and bad words, right? Most of the words involving him also are words that I personally identify with. That film is still exists, it*s at Zhang SongRen*s. I think this piece is better than both of the other two pieces, but it*s still not ideal. Because I made this chest, I made this ammunition box. When I started though, I thought it was going to be a fruit case, the kind that you sell fruit in, but it didn*t really work as that. Then, I just made it into an ammunition case, though it*s not particularly refined. Then I painted it#  I just did it by feel. But, I still took it. This effect on the piece, actually made it a little bit better. But, this illustration is still really strong. I definitely don*t take the stories from these pieces and bring them into the piece, as very few things can really be considered whole otherwise. But, something that I think is really important is, when I was conceptualizing this piece, the whole time, I never considered it important to consider the outlay. Actually, for Zheng Guogu*s piece, it*s really important that every time he thought, it was really costly. Every time, his pieces are at least 50,000 RMB, and then there*s the equipment to move such a big piece, that*s also at least 50,000 RMB, it*s usually higher than this. This time, including making and selling the clothes at the He Xiangning Museum of Art, he*s expecting to spend around 50,000 RMB. But, this time when I realized this problem, when we had to spend money, I realized that his thought process wasn*t the same. You don*t spend money, it*s under a thousand, and you get at least a hundred RMB, it*s really easy for a problem like this to arise.
Man Yu: Do you mean in terms of this painting? Or in terms of how you made it? Or the thought process behind the work?
Chen Tong: Um, the influential thoughts. I mean, considering that this is coming from someone who doesn*t do their work continuously, well, I do everything at a low product cost, but that comes with it*s own problems. But, from someone who works straight through, they shouldn*t have any problems; they can sell their products for fairly cheap, but that*s only relatively. You want to make eight pieces, and he doesn*t want to spend a lot of money, but he*s the one who works straight through. 
Man Yu: In terms of these kinds of experiences, you only have one experience right?
Chen Tong: Yes. So, I am right now in the process of improving it. Because when you have to pay your expenses, you can*t just casually do it, you pay the person who wants to exhibit your piece first. If there*s no one to exhibit your pieces and no one*s looking for money, then who will give you money? What grounds would there be to give you money? It*ll take away from the piece, and you*ll put it aside. You*re going to want to forget it and give up, but if you can find low costs, you can do it. There are a lot of things〞too many things〞that are composed of things that have to do with your own personal life.
Liang Jianhua: Have you come to terms with it? 
Chen Tong: Yes, I have. The pictures are like a house; the way wealthy people move houses and the way that poor people move houses aren*t at all alike. The wealthy people find a company to move their things for them, they hire a car; that*s how they move houses. 
Man Yu: Now, if their house is taken away#
Chen Tong: He didn*t* move, and he*s not.
Man Yu: Was it not just a problem that came up during the making process.
Chen Tong: I think it has influenced my thinking.
Man Yu: Are you saying that this has a negative influence?
Chen Tong: It does have a negative influence. Because I initially studied wash painting, I*ve tightly integrated wash painting, as well as oil painting, with farming civilization. So, these two types of paintings actually have a lot of problems. The oil paintings are a bit western though, so it makes everyone feel closer to globalization. This also means that the oil painting has a contemporary appearance. Today, there are a lot of oil paintings that are not contemporary, but they still are very popular. Though, when thinking about contemporary wash paintings, you must water it down because what*s most important is that it*s final product has to do with farming civilization. So, when we go to redo the piece, create a whole new piece, we must break it up into pieces. I once asked Shen Yuan, another artist who*s studied National art; I asked her: ※Has your experience with National Painting negatively influenced your works?§ She said ※it has.§ I have obviously been aware of this, but the way we approach this predicament is different; I try to overcome it. I try to think up ways to conquer this dilemma, so most of my resources come from my own experiences at other jobs. For example, in my wash paintings, I start by recounting things, retelling old stories. This type of narration isn*t traditional; I don*t understand traditional narratives. I rarely receive this type of influence; I have contemporary narratives. I link these two types of narratives together in an attempt to make it a little better. But, once again, it depends on your time, your schedule, and your plans. You can say, if most of your time is spent at dinner parties, you need taste, or you need to settle your lifestyle〞your plans will have to shift quite a bit.
 Man Yu: So, the art exhibition at the Guangzhou station (※Guang Dong Contemporary Art Exhibition§) later this year (May), will you have a piece there? Is this piece also going to have to do with the Borges bookstore? Can you talk a little bit about your thought process on this piece?
Chen Tong: Oh, that*s a long story, because Boerges Bookstore is really a piece of art. The original idea for it actually was Hou Hanru*s, not mine. Hanru has a lot of records at the bookstore; he had just returned to the country in the 90*s, and started looking for resources right away. The bookstore was open and had just moved locations when he stumbled upon this phenomenon of Contemporary Art. So, he had the thought to take these doors, brands, etc and take them back with him and do an exhibition. The mentality of my pieces at that time had not quite made the transition to where it is now; I thought it was okay at that time. Actually now, I think the way it is now, still needs to be questioned. But, it is a fact that it is a piece of art and he found that he close down the bookstore. I don*t have the energy to help make this bookstore earn more money, or even make more adjustments to the strategy; we can invest a little more, expand its influence and do more advertisements.
Man Yu: Did you use this angle to understand the bookstore?
Chen Tong: It isn*t hard to keep working with this bookstore; at least, I don*t think it*s hard. But you do want to give up, it*s hard. Others will ask if you*re running the bookstore? But, you*re not running the bookstore, and you spend a lot of time talking about why not. And then there*s also the younger generation who think that they don*t have anything to do; they*ve worked at the store for years, and now don*t anymore. You have to deal with this often. You*ll lack confidence to go and do it yourself, and because of this, it grows into its own.
Man Yu: That doesn*t mean that you won*t have it by then# what do you think?
Chen Tong: It*s not me who can decide all this. So I don*t think Libreria Borges is my personal production, though I do add lots of my personal character into it. But these years, it*s Lu Yi who handle all these affairs. He has a more impressive personal mark compared with me, but people still regard the Libreria as mine. This may related to the beginning. Because this Libreria has a great influence on the history of contemporary art in Guangzhou, so I do this work. Of course, we should firstly define what is contemporary art. Do all those drawn today belong to the contemporary art? Are all the young artists contemporary? Basically it*s similar to the situation that we see now, for example, like Da Wei Elephant, Yangjiang youth, and some others in Shenzhen, including those who graduated from the fine arts institute, # and all that with the cultural consciousness of contemporary trend. In fact, the time and the space are both related to the Libreria. When we haven*t had the committee of curatorship and haven*t fixed the time, like Yang Xiaoyan, Wang Huangsheng, Yang Jiecang, we gathered together to discuss how to make this exhibition. At that time, everyone thinks that our Libreria should attend this project. Jiecang advised me to do well in the work of this Libreria, because the French collector had great interest in it. So they wished that this work could be appeared on the show, and I did do a lot of projects for this collector. However, I just couldn*t find a appropriate way to present the Libreria in a vision way, whether by text or by drawing. It was too narrative or too documentary, or less natural, it wasn*t appropriate enough anyway. Then I decided not to care about the collector, I think it should show the whole history. So I began to think about the process of looking for a door. Because the Libreria had been moved for eleven times or more, theoretically, it needs to be dismantled and installed again for every move, but in fact, it didn*t. Because # Then the door has our special color, like blue# So I just want to use the way of looking for, even it*s not mine. I looked for a memory, so I left one or two door. But I can*t find the door in the past which is better, then I went to the street to look for the door. I went to the place which sells the old door, and also somewhere in Tianhe. Finally, I got ten doors, adding this one it should be eleven in all.
Man Yu: You*ve moved eleven times.
Chen Tong: More or less, it*s like a symbol. In fact, I don*t care about the number, no matter it*s 8 or 9. Maybe the number*s more important to the effect of exhibition. If it*s not good, then we just take off one. All I demand is just the material of door should be log or wood. Of course I don*t want those things made by plywood, I want the door of real wood. It*s ok if it*s a toilet door but made by wood. So I mixed the paint into this color and brush the door. When I brush the door, it seems that I also brush all the people related to the Libreria, involved in the past, now and future. I brush whoever I see, and just do this thing. I planned to video all this, but at last I gave up this idea because of lack of time. As the representative of this work, I couldn*t put all the time on this one work, but quit the whole curating project. At that time, Zhen Lin also looked at my project and gave me some suggestions. I immediately thought about making the door jamb. Zhen said he liked that, and he would pay for this 每 the door with jamb which blocks the whole entrance of art museum that everyone must pass through from this side. But fortunately we didn*t make this one, if so there would be much more different opinions. # Finally, people think that how a Libreria could be an art work. But in fact this is not true, the Libreria didn*t become the work, but the maker/author of this work.
Man Yu: The way I understand this from the description he gave me of this piece of yours is that, this bookstore actually came about because of the background of your piece.
Chen Tong: No, the bookstore is the author.
Man Yu: You understand it as the bookstore is the author?
Chen Tong: Yes, like what is arranged. Author name: Libreria Borges Institute, it*s an author. Like Vitamin, it*s also an author, but it didn*t think more about the concept of the work. It*s just a stall, placing some books. For me, it*s doing according to the way of works, that we do a work. However, some people are confused in this relationship, and it*s easy to get confused because it writes ※Libreria Borges Institute for Contemporary Art§ on the glass door, the people will think that it*s an art work. However, in fact, it*s the author of this work, and I*m the real operator of this author. Because this author isn*t a legal person or a natural person, it is a unit, then how can it do this? It must have someone to put in practice, and that person is me. But during my doing of work, I also asked lots of people about what to do. We discussed how to arrange it, it*s better like this or that? Everybody had participated in it, so I don*t think it*s my personal work. I like to listen to others* opinion, but at last I found that it*s also very troublesome if you listen too much. So just do what you like to do, actually it*s not me who decide what to do but the work itself.
Man Yu: That*s what you called the piece at that time?
Chen Tong: §Libreria Borges§ is the author, and the work*s name is ※violation§, which alludes the cultural attitude of ※Libreria Borges§. As a bookstore, it doesn*t make money, which is incompatible with the basic laws of business. Long time ago, there was a journalist talked to me that, ※you don*t make money and don*t follow commercial principles. This is not right.§. I said, I just do what I love to do.
Liang Jianhua: Provided that this piece breaks away from all the other varieties, the cause-and-effect you spoke of earlier, simply from the angle of this piece, what do you personally think of this piece.
Chen Tong: I don*t think it*s awful, but I can*t say it*s good. It*s just one piece in a set.
Liang Jianhua: Are you saying that after this ※Borges§ there will be a whole set?
Chen Tong: Yup, it*s not an awful piece, but if you say it*s not good, I*d actually not spend money on it. 
Liang Jianhua: Do you mean that there are still a few things that you haven*t done?
Chen Tong: Yes, I didn*t really spend money on it, just within1000RMB, maybe a little more if we count the paint in. However, spending 10,000 RMB on making an installation is also considered as that you don*t spend the money. Then how can you borrow only one thousand yuan from others? You must solve it by yourself, and when you do something by yourself that could be deficient, isn*t it? Besides, I*m also the curator; I*m not taking the profit or the right into account. I just mean I should put all my energy into doing the exhibition affair. I*ve seen too many cases like this: those who*re self-seeking in their own works but regardless of others. However for me, I don*t have so much time to do my own work. So that tomorrow would be the opening, and I brought it in the evening before. Just after finished all the preparation for other, then to put it there. So if someone thought it was inappropriate (during our discussion), then I could took it out. But no one had ever said that, and I also thought it wouldn*t caught too much attention, because it has no information, except the door and the blur color. Then is ※Libreria Borges§ doing advertisement? No, I never do that, so those who say that don*t really know the situation.
Liang Jianhua:  Is this one of the contemporary pieces that you cut?
Chen Tong: Yes.
Liang Jianhua: What do you think in comparison to your earlier pieces. 
Chen Tong: It*s a little purer, particularly in comparison to earlier pieces. The information that I wanted included in that is also a little purer. But, the problem throughout is that I didn*t spend a lot of time or money, but it*s still purer than earlier works.
Man Yu: Now, you just said that this piece includes words embroidered on cloth. Does that include your later worksㄛ ※Guangzhou Biennial Exhibition,§ this time in Guangzhou? It seems that they all almost have to do with reading, or with the bookstore, is that right?
Chen Tong: Actually, it has to do with Chinese characters.
Man Yu: Now, this piece here has to do with reading, this part with books
Chen Tong: Yes.
Man Yu: Then could you talk about the basic idea of this work?
Chen Tong: This work hadn*t been edited till now, but I could say I*m full of expectation. When I think of such a great lineup that I*ll make and so much money that I*ll spend, I don*t feel upset, or I don*t think it will be wasted or futile. In fact, I*m looking forward to it. Of course this is related to the beginner, because you haven*t  shot in the studio, you didn*t have so much money to do it. But when I talked about the ※expectation§, that*s because it*s not an idea rushed into brain, but does related to something.
Because of the reading, I did one when I was in Guangzhou. Then the year before last year, or at the beginning of last year ? Tucson told me that he was applying for a funds to shoot this Runaway in China. He brought nigh people here and at that time I said I could help you a little, like finding a place to live. Because I had some houses at that time.  I meant that even if you hadn*t enough money, I still hoped that he could make it work. But later he just settled this matter by leaving it unsettled. I thought maybe he didn*t plan it well enough, also the money wasn*t enough. Yet very soon, the Tokyo guy became the project curator of this LV (project), who was invited.
Then at that moment Tucson began to transform a concept, that*s to say that he wanted to combine the film shooting and DV making. If he decided to do film that would be more difficult. His younger sister is in the film company, however, she can*t always give him the funds. Then he started with the plot of runaway. Of course, he also got inspired from me, because when we had the proseminar in Beijing, I pointed out that  you had some problems in the place of your work: you describe Beijing as a city full of aggressive ambience. Like the motorcycles run everywhere, but that*s impossible, there*s no more motorcycle in Beijing. (which/where doesn*t allow the motorcycle in). If once you had the license plate than you can keep it, but you cannot have a new one. So it remains only a few motorcycles. I said there*s only such situation in Guangzhou. He said, if you want to go there than just there (Guangzhou), it doesn*t really matter with the place. But actually, doesn*t he really care? He wrote about the Imperial Palace in it, so whether it matters or not?
If he had a brain-storm at that moment, then he could have let pass all these problems. But after that he was thinking of it. So when the Tokyo Palace project failed, he planned to shoot the Runaway in Guangzhou. Then he discussed with me, but the ※reading§ work didn*t count in. But he did one abroad, about the reading of Camus* Letranger. I don*t know how he did it. But before that, in Tangren we did the work Accumulation 每 the last stop in Guangdong Express. At the exhibition Next Stop, I also introduced Tucson. He only brought several photos which were for the reading. He kept doing this reading project, this made me think about a question, yet I didn*t think it thoroughly. What first came to my mind was that, ※as an author, why he was so cared about those stuff related to reading?§
Yang Tianna also reminded me. Because at the Ink Painting Show, Tianna helped me to sum up a ※reading§ role. When I began to draw those kind of ※current events§ paintings, she found out that I painted them by the way of reading. Afterwards, we went to the Changing Scenery and Illusion show. She demanded me not to hang the paintings, but lay them down, like ※reading§ the album of paintings, but just put inside the show windows. To make more things to ※read§, I also made ceramic pieces, screen printed in FoShan, which are shown as #. The images were just the things that my paintings express. At that time, she also emphasized a lot the ※reading§. Perhaps in our talk this time, she will still emphasize it.
At the exhibition ※Ink, Life, Fun§ in Shenzhen, she asked me to be as a recorder, which was also related to the ※reading§. You just record what others do every day, like ※writing§ diary but by painting. I was silly at that time, I didn*t know how to record. I said how can I manage to do it? Then I just drew whatever I saw. I drew Chen Shaoxiong and Ocawa*s working. I went up and saw two Italians working which made me feel that they*re like the persons and little birds in those Badashanren*s works. So I drew some small figures of them, really vivid. I also drew a picture which is called 4 little pieces of the absence: lots of people didn*t come, like Wu Shanzhuan, Yan Peiming. So there were four absences and I drew Wu, Yan in it, those guys he was familiar with. When he heard about that, he said he wanted to buy it. So after the exhibition I gave this work to him.
So the identity of recording was to ※read§, which was still related to the written words. Therefore, Tucson shot a series of ※reading§ photos, and he also wanted to made a ※reading§ short film, and then rearrange Runaway. What I*m now doing in fact is to do what he haven*t done. Yet I don*t know how he planned to do, as for what I plan now is related to the Libreria. Because I was always thinking that we should spread our contemporary culture by all means to those places where it seems should not go to.
For example, this Yi Le Rd is not a cultural road. But we try to build a cultural environment here, which is to put the literature on the street. The road is so narrow, surrounded by the smokes and ashes, all in a messy, and I want to build up a so-called culture here. Tianna also knew about it, and she asked me to send her a photo which showed all those buildings nearby. This project also planned to promote itself to those marginal area. I once suggested my students to go to teach in the primary school of rural area. It*s no problem, I will keep all your post. You return once a week, and I give you money. Your duty is just to set a library room in the rural area*s primary school. I give you books for free, but it*s us to choose what kind of books. We won*t give the teaching materials. We*ll intentionally put those books that kids can*t understand, like Borges, into this library room. And you*re in charge of it, then I pay you. I once talked about this idea with Huang Yanmei. But she didn*t go to that school anymore, because it was too porr and too far away. So she went to Shenzhen then. There*re always this kind of project to help the poor. But I didn*t dare to do it. Like I couldn*t make such a plan in Sichuan, that*s immoral. How can you do that in a place where the houses have been fallen down (in the earthquake). I would like to do that in a normal area, if there*s a chance.
When we were little, there was morning reading. We read Yang Shuo*s prose, Lu Xun*s Diary of a Madman, and the poetry of Mao*s or Li Bai*s. Just reading over and over, it doesn*t matter whether we understood it or not, like singing karaoke. Then like the Tucson*s work cannot be put into the teaching material, but one of Robbe Grillet*s works was put in it. Like his Djinn, which was written with a strongly grammatical features and looks like a teaching material. It uses all kinds of grammar and tense. Once a Hong Kong Mandarin specialist, Wang Kai, wanted to publish a French version in Hong Kong. So my idea is related to this, kind of like promoting a work in a improper circumstance. The subtle thing is that Tuscon wrote this novel in 2006, which was too short to find a publishing house willing to publish it. But whatever, it will be published, for sure.
Man Yu: You were just talking about Zidanes Melancholy
Chen Tong: Yes, Zidanes Melancholy, because it only has more than a dozen pages, so that we couldn*t find a way to publish it. We need to talk about the contract, so it just left there. We were discussing that, if we can make it work next year, whether we need something more to add in. Then, Gao Shiming suddenly called to invite us to attend the Third Guangzhou Triennial, where would have a ※thinking house§ project. He said, ※it*s ok to print it out, no matter how you do that, what*s more, you can collaborate with a French writer§. I was thinking who would that be? Robbe Grillet*s no longer there, I didn*t know whom he was talking about. But I thought Tuscon was a person realy easily to cooperate with. The next day, I told him to collaborate with Tuscon, and he said ok, I was also thinking of this. But he had never seen it, so I told him about what was the idea: to print the book, then read it. This work could have a process of changing. You had the idea then you did that. It was simple, just need a machine.
What I imagined is in a rural primary school, lots of kids, having a running nose# But they*re reading this. We will use a outdoor scene, set the camera onto the dais. Just read, when it*s over, it*s over. I also think about reading French at the same time. I was in # and found a class, let the teacher assign this task. I put the machine on the dais and read, too. So I played the two frames at the same time. Afterwards, I met Tuscon in Paris, talking about this collaboration. We were at a caf谷, and I asked him which image is better: the realistic one or the decorative one (people in it are like the robots, in a line)? He said the latter was better. Actually I was guessing his thoughts, I knew that he would prefer the latter because in his works, he cares a lot about those parallel or vertical lines, while he doesn*t emphasize much doing the work ※realistically§. Last time, when we shot the film, he wanted the background to be all dark. How great it was! If you want it like daytime it would be a mess. No, he didn*t want that, what he needed is all darkness. Because he likes the sense of form all the time. For him, whether it makes sense or not is less important. But of course, in his work that did make sense. At night, the motorcycle has the flashlight, which he was really interested in. So we tried our best to satisfy his demand, even gave him a lot of suggestions. Once I wrote an article about his photography. He uses the 100∼film to take photos in the dark background. So now he can take whatever he wants, no matter in what kind of light situation#
Man Yu: Did he use 100 rolls of film?
Chen Tong: With the 100∼film, he may uses B-#, but you must control it well. You have to#  I was very much inspired by this: firstly set the question and the level of difficulty, then I*d like to see what can I do? If you*re going to take the train at 12 o*clock, and I say we have a one hour*s interview. You don*t have to worry about that, I*ll arrange all the thing so you can smoothly do the interview, and a car will be waiting for you just after you finished. I always do things like this. We want to see whether there*s a possibility, if it really cannot work, ok, no problem. Only one train going there? What if we go to take the plane? So we always try the possibility. As well as with the 100∼film, some of them are not very good, but some are not bad. Then I tried to do something within the ※limit§, like this ※reading§ project. Because this project reminds me of Da Vinci*s the Last Supper, whose style is close to the Chinese scatter perspective. Each figure is flat, each person has his story. So I wanted to have a such effect and I told him to do like this: two layer up above, the upper one like this, the lower one like that, back and forth, which sounds great. But how can it managed technically? We tried a lot of ways, like push-pull, digital, film, # all of that. And we don*t have much money, so at last we can only use this way, which was ok. The technique I imagined was too difficult to reach, but that was less important. I think through the process of making this work, I used his unfinished ideas, that basic conception. He didn*t mention that was reading, but I had a more plentiful method which he couldn*t imagine in France. His wife has a bookstore, but maybe there they don*t need such a conception - to convey/pass these books to the people.
Man Yu: You mean that their background isn*t the same.
Chen Tong: Yes, he didn*t say that we need to pass all these to among the people. In China, we have a very strong feeling when do the bookstore, which is when people asked, where*re the readers, are they college students# I said, I don*t know. Of course there*re college students, but they*re not the biggest target. Once we opened our branch store at Tianhe, which last only three months. That was partly because of the management problems, but the thing more important is that we chose to put the store there by reason of there*re lots of universities surrounded. So I said, if we counted the probability as one ten-thousandth, we could still have our readers. So we opened it. But actually, the more noisy the place is, the less you earn from it. Before, I sold the books in Fine Arts Institute, where I could earn thousands of yuan one day. But in South China National University, I could only earn hundreds of yuan. There*re much more students there than that of Arts Institute. That was not because they knew me or not. In fact, if you define whether you like it or not according to the class status, which would be totally wrong. So in China, we especially consider that our readers are from the bottom of the society, without job, unmarried, no child, even without the sex life, but perhaps they have such kind of pursuit. Or maybe some others have a high status, who just want to use books as a decoration. So there*re various types of people, and I can*t say who*re our readers. They*re from every corner of China and of the world. And as a teacher,, , I*m surly have my own thought towards the education. For me, the most important thing of it is how to develop the values view for the children, especially in this era. This is also the conception that the book Little is good wanted to convey, which I agree with.
Man Yu: Okay, I*m going to ask a question: Do you think that the world view on an artist*s work is important, that the influence that it has on the artist*s work is important? Have you thought about this before?
Chen Tong: Yes. I want to let this (thought) transcend what so-called ※paint(or write) as t, , he person is§. Some people think your moral quality is not so good, so your work will not be good. Or, if one work*s bad, then the artist may be bad, too. For example, if you draw the pornographic pictures, you may be very erotic person. But I don*t think so. In my opinion, what*s important for the contemporary arts is the artists* sense of responsibility, which is ultra-ideological and ultra-moral. Perhaps sometimes the art would be utilized by a certain morality, or ideology, but the art itself transcends this. So working as a bookstore, we have a strong responsibility of culture. This isn*t for covering the gold foil on our faces, but actually to see how and till where can this penetrate. Therefore, the less money one has, the more we would like to take care of him/her. Someone bought a book of ninety yuan, and I*d pay thirty or forty yuan to deliver it to him by express. So I lost money, then what do I really want. It*s not for the compliment, but let him feel that he can do something, and I can do that, too. Just to tell you that I also think you*re really important to me, and this thing is important, too. Even I lose money for delivering you the book, which doesn*t matter. I don*t care. So I think this penetration is very important, by a way of building the bookstore along the street. To look for these children to read, whether there*s a choice or not, I just want to have a try.
I only want to use this work to discuss a lot of problems related to the culture. I didn*t talk much about this when I did the description for the art museum. Whatever, this is the sport firstly, a competition of Zidane in the World Cup, and he hit another player. The author was on the scene, and this had two different senses, conceptually and physically. His presence led him create a very personal description and comment for this Zidane event, which finally became a competition between the sport and the literature. And of course the literature would win, because the author added a lot of thing, such as his tranquil life, his escape, his melancholy and hesitation towards these different things. In fact, there was a autobiographic description in it, and the literature part won that of sport. You can see both of them in this work, so when the children read it, the sports part will attract them.
Man Yu: Actually, I*ve had a question I*ve wanting to ask since the beginning: Why did you choose this book? You just talked a little bit about this#
Chen Tong: Yeah, Well, now I use art, it embraces using sport as a foundation for literature. Literature won, and now I use art and embrace it again. But this art is only one type of a vision. After I embraced it again, we thought again about what would happen. Because there*s no narration, we used pieces of what he read as narration. But, this piece is still conceptual. Because this is dull, the camera may as well have been asleep, we were just there reading a book. But if you listen carefully, you can still hear a few things, and that will produce some weird things, you even think, why would I want to take a piece of literature and make this?
Liang Jianhua: Then how about the question part?
Chen Tong: The question*s not the same. The question produced a so-called interaction. Of course there*s some fashion involved, but it*s all video installation, video equipment, video copying equipment, and copying and recording painting equipment.
Man Yu: Haha, you use this word#
Chen Tong: Yes, this fashionable is really the only way, there*s no way to completely solve this problem. The kind of cooperation I have with Tucson though is that he writes the book, and other than saying ※OK§ or ※No§ to my suggestions, what else does he do? I think and give him some tasks, like I get him questions to think about, because that lets him think consider things from the perspective of the reader.
 Man Yu: Who raises the questions
Chen Tong: On principal, we let participants, those are reading the book ask the questions. But, I also make quite a few exceptions and let some who haven*t read the book ask questions too. Really, you just have to have come in contact with the work and have some thoughts on it, and then you can ask questions. There are two types of people that often have helped or have dealt with the piece and have an opinion. The first are the people who are involved in making the production, all the names that belong in the credits, which are more than a hundred. And then there are everyone who is connected through them, for example their parents who support this and want to show their gratitude. Then, from all these questions we chose a few good ones, interesting ones and let him mull over and answer them.
Man Yu: These questions are definitely not ones that you predetermined?
Chen Tong: No, not until after reading the book did I have these questions. We then take these questions and give them to the author. When the author wants to answer these questions, kind of like you*re doing now with this video camera, and then we record his responses. He tells me what number question he is answering and then I make another video. When you*re sitting on the this table, or in a digital picture frame, the simplest digital picture frame doesn*t have any decorations, and is just within this table, this way, you can*t run away with the decorations. There is also a light box embedded in the table through which he can see the question. If it*s in French, then there is a matching Chinese translation. Tucson has also seen this and all you have to do is take away the headphones and he will start talking.
Man Yu: These kinds of interactions really exist?
Chen Tong: Yes, he answers the questions, you record what he says beforehand, and then interact live, on the spot. You hear how he answers the questions, and underneath you have subtitles, Chinese subtitles. You remove the headphones and he just starts talking.
Liang Jianhua: By the time he*s taken off his headphones, hasn*t the screen already moved on?
Chen Tong: Yes, but everything moves forward at the same time, so it works.
Man Yu: It just stops at that moment?
Chen Tong: It won*t eliminate what you say, it*ll just stop, once you pick up the headphones it*ll talk and then it*ll keep repeating when you put down the headphones; it*ll just go in a circle. There are fourteen kinds of screens like this, which also means that there are also fourteen questions; seven use French to display the questions and seven use Chinese. There is only embedded in the table though. The difficulty with this piece though, is that you have to be careful of the order, you have to use a touch sensor device.
Liang Jianhua: So, have you decided on the order yet, or no?
Chen Tong:  I spoke with Jin Jiangbo, he said that using a DVD to broadcast is a little cheaper, he said he was talking with some friends and they said that I should still use the computer to broadcast. I asked how many computers I would need for that and he said that it*s best to have a corresponding computer for every screen. If that doesn*t actually work then you can make-do with one computer for every two screens, thus I needed seven computers, as well as seven video cameras. I had not thought about that kind of money.
Chen Tong: According to those that do these kinds of pieces, it*s really important that I do more than just meet my important condition standards. It*s also really important that my paintings are all done just by myself, with no help. But, after I finished this piece (※Thinking Room§), there were a lot of people who participated. There were a lot of things that I delegated to others to do. I still thought it was fine though, because true contemporary art is actually really hard to accomplish completely on your own. Not for lack of effort on my part, but it*s inevitable that you will have people help you with your piece. Like that door for example, you have to have people come help you put it up. Without having people come help you, you can still do it, but it*s best to have, just one person is fine, come and help you move the door. With this piece, however, you have no choice but to let people come and help you; one person can*t do it by themselves, absolutely can*t do it by themselves. They have a really big work-team. This doesn*t mean that they*re happily relaxed; I think it*s just an experience. This experience they can later use to help them with later pieces. As far as Contemporary Art goes, the production costs are first going up.      
Man Yu: Haha, that*s really honest.
Chen Tong: The production costs are going up; I*m not doing this on purpose, they*re just really that expensive. Of course, the people who are willing to invest, the sponsors that are willing to invest. But there*s no other way.
Liang Jianhua: What do you do if you can*t find any sponsors?
Chen Tong: We can*t manage it without the sponsor, if nobody*s willing to spend the money on it &cause he doesn*t understand it. Or like Zhenglin said, we have too many projects now, so it*s difficult. Or one will think he has no similar experience so he decides not to do it. Why I do it is because they ask me to do. Therefore, one of the conditions in nowadays is that one is ※entrusted§. It*s not like writing; writing is
free, when it is finished I*d see who would be willing to publish it, and this ※I§ is entrusted. Of course that I*m not the guy who can do whatever you entrust, if just drawing that*s ok. So I get back to my own system, and also connected to that of Tucson*s. This is a very interesting experience, whether it*ll be successful I don*t know, but it*s fun. Because at the same time, I*m doing a solo exhibition in Germany.
Man Yu: Your own personal exhibition?
Chen Tong:  Yes. At first it didn*t plan to have the contemporary part, it tended to be an exhibition more about the communication between different peoples and cultures. Frankfurt and Guangzhou are sister cities. In the past, they often invite the traditional artists to make show in Frankfurt, but the contemporary art is the new trend, so they begin to find some other kinds of artists. Yang Jiecang, wanted to recommend me, because he wanted to help me. But in fact, now I*m out of their system, they can just ※use§ the ability that I have, for example, to make a workshop in Mauritius (a French island in Africa) is within my ability. But if it*s something beyond, then I can*t find a convincing evidence to prove myself, until now. So they asked me to do that exhibition in Germany, and the curator there just chose some of my pictures to do the show. I thought if we just do something like that, casually, of course I can also do that. But I don*t like it, I accept your concept 每 politics and eroticism. I can do something new according to this subject. So now the pieces haven*t been down yet.
Man Yu: Have you thought about the foundation of these pieces, or no?
Chen Tong: My pieces are like this. We all have seen the film ※Lust, Caution§, which attracts us the most is the shots that were cut. Even some people went to Hong Kong for seeing this. Now we can also buy the DVDs. But at first we couldn*t see that much. I think the art is closely related to the pornography, so I was thinking about what*s the use of pornography and making love? They cannot fill up your stomach, actually you even have something out. But it*s art! So you can shoot whatever you want in the movie. However there*s a censorship of film, so you can*t make everything visible. But those strongly suggestive scenes are all really tempting. Then I think about our ancient pornographic drawings, which were so seductive/raw. But they were only pictures that cannot moving. In the movie, actors are living persons, they are real, so you can have lots of guesses. You would say, wow, Tony Leung is making love to Tang Wei#or something like that. Then I decided to draw a series of comics of ※Lust, Caution§.
Before I was drawing the comic strip. I mean I earned money by drawing those sheets. So I transcribed the novel of Zhang Ailing onto the sheets, no words were changed. But, I was crazier than Ann Li, because I put something much more pornographic into it, even this paragraph is not like that, sex life, I still drew like that. You want to enjoy yourself to the full, so I just let it to the full. What*s more, I don*t only had this, like Ann Li, I also wanted to show the scenery of old Shanghai in that time. Like the Lenin in 1908, with a drawing really delicate, from the architecture, decoration, to the costume, hairstyle# to draw everything. Then I told Tuscon about this idea, he also thought it was fun. But it really takes me a lot of time to make it, which is not the efforts of eight or ten years. Because I always draw in a very ※rough§/quick way, if you really want to draw every detail of it, you have to do it seriously. However who will pay for it? So I just had such a project in theory. Afterwards, when he mentioned this, I was thinking that, in fact, the relationship between ※Lost Caution§ and ※cinema§ is the same to that between ※politics§ and ※pornography§. Only the politics in it is not what we*re talking about today, not that represented by the politician. But it still relates to the political environment. So according to this idea, I decided to change a little. I didn*t draw the sheets (of albums), but draw within a procedure of making film, like looking for the settings and the actors. For me, I looked for the settings and the actors in the paintings.
Man Yu: Just to paint the process.
Chen Tong: Yes, my actor is an object of sexual implication/suggestion, and my settings also imply the sex of politics. Then I decided to go to Shanghai, because I want to establish a certain relationship between the ※Lust Caution§. I could also paint a lot in Guangzhou, but I was I thinking that I should be more close to this event. Of course I painted the new Shanghai, adding some views of old Shanghai. Then the characters are very different, like stars, fictional person, friends, all with sexual implication. I put the politicians and stars together. Like ※Sarkozy§ with ※Tang Wei§, they*ve nothing to do with each other, but I hang them together intentionally. I often see in the news, that who*s with who, those gossipy news. If he met Tang Wei in Cannes, perhaps he would like her, then there could be a ※scandal§ like this. Therefore, I make them be together in purpose, but taking the chance. You may get in trouble if you draw some politicians and invent a life for them. So recently I*m thinking that I don*t need to draw the real politicians, I can draw the politician acted by the stars. Actually they didn*t really act the politicians.
I painted Tom Cruse*s acting a president in an election campaign with those gestures. Those politicians on their political stage always act a kind of thing or a role. But I didn*t told them about this change. The other project was that I need to paint the bank street on Bund in the way of line drawing, lots of banks. I planned to add a neon lights in this painting, but this may not be realized. If I write the letters on a ink painting, this would be very ugly. Then by adding those neon lights, like the English name of Citi Bank, the painting would have the light colors besides the ink colors. Those shining light and reflection, various colors, when I thought about it, I was so exciting. But this still has the problem of fire control, so I was wondering whether this could keep the temperature without burning the papers within dozens of hours. However this perhaps can*t convince German side.
So I*m a unknown. Like the fact that I went to Shanghai, how I would painted is also a unknown. Then I went back to my traditional way of doing that, by sketching. I also painted the persons in night clubs, like those scene of singing karaok, which I used the ancient method to note: by ※look in the eye and remember by heart§, only by the impression. What I draw was kind of unfashionable/old-style. It was difficult for me to draw in a modern way. Till now, I still have a question/doubt that whether I can smoothly finish this project, maybe I will lose a something. This is a ink painting exhibition, kind of intergrated, which can surpass my ancient works. I was doing these two things in the same time, but not really attached to each other. But there*s one thing that I found a ※state§, which is related to the entrusting and cost. If this was not a solo exhibition, but a group exhibition, then I would maybe not think thus. But this is a solo exhibition, which I need to buy tickets by myself to check the exhibition place. My first destination was Frankfurt, where I spent only one day. Then I prepare to go to France to paint this series of (ink) paintings, in which I need to change the background 每 the context of my living. If I paint it in China, in Guangzhou, then I can*t be divorced from this context. If I paint in a western background, I think it would have something different. There*s a big studio in France, so I can have another atmosphere for creating the works. Here I*m always drawing the ※imitation§, which is easily infected by its aura. So I will go to France to paint some, and others will painted here. Time*s getting much closer, I*ve still lots of things unsure. Fortunately, for these two exhibitions, we still have some reserves. But there*ll be the Olympics soon, so we don*t know what will happen, maybe we can*t even borrow the equipments at that time. So we must reserve some time to prepare all these stuff. But whatever, it still remains two months before September comes.
Liang Jianhua: The Contemporary art that you do, is half of it wrapped up? 
Chen Tong: I think so. In Guangzhou, such a condition is really necessary. Because I*m not a evolutional type artist, like Liu Xinhe. Their ink paintings are on the top in China, with the innovation. However, they slowly evolved their style from the skill of Fine Arts Institute. It*s a process of evolution, but after that we don*t know what he wants to do now. For me, it*s a leap process. After this Frankfurt*s show, I*ll go back to draw the comics for living. But if this show could reach my ideal, then it must have a new result, which is what I said that, whether we can really make ink paintings become a contemporary language. We must erase something, add something, and throw away something then this change may be completed.
Liang Jianhua: You said that after these two pieces of works, you become really in it. Then whether you*ve a more intergrated view towards the contemporary art?
Man Yu: Do you know what you have yourself, or can you say what kinds you have? From your own perspective.
Chen Tong: Yes. As for the paintings, there*re a few conditions: for example, like the exhibition of Guo Wei, having the great paintings but in a modern way of painting. Just painting realistically the models, in 16:9, and Liu Xiaodong*s realism has his evolution, which is on the same level of Guo Wei*s. The other type is that of Yang Yong and Zheng Guogu, which is just a painting. # We respect the development of paintings, even going back to the romanticism, impressionism, including all the process of change in Chinese art. This is our next step. 
If the change was due to the times/era, then how can we connect today*s reform to the times/era? How can it be the language that belongs to this era. From this point of view, it still has space for the ink painting, as well as for the oil painting, but the important thing is never looking how others do. Maybe someone would say, ※others do the neon lights, you do the same thing!§. Actually, I just borrow this. No one ever made the neon lights on the rice paper, they just made a neon light. But I put it on the rice paper, in which I found a rationality and felicity. I would like to try to mix up all these things. I think maybe nowadays those people engaged in paintings can take into account the ※fault§ way, which has almost no contact to others. On the one hand, I can directly use those sketch works for the show, and on the other hand, it is a premise to record the life. But I won*t do it really, I know I shouldn*t do that. What*s more, I should avoid the modern trend, which is very popular at present.
In Guangdong, Sichuan, Beijing# there*re a lot (of these things), which also have the benefit, because you can be accepted by the market. You belong to this style. You must have your own style, which cannot be correspond to others* works. So for me, it is still the action painting. The painting for me is an action/a movement. The first thing you should express is the sense of action, trying to build up a complete state, which has nothing to do with the studio. So I went to do the sketch in Shanghai, but most of the time I was chatting with the people there. Before, I didn*t talk much when I was in Shanghai, just seeing the market and the friends, or attending some activities. But this time I intentionally talked about the old Shanghai with the locals. I don*t know if this is really useful. Chatting is another kind of recording. At last what I want to paint cannot be finished here, so I*d like to go aboard, which costs a lot. Actually, if we need to separate the elements in the painting, where remain still a lot of traditional impact. That*s no problem. But what really pursue is an amelioration, which you change a little without being noticed, but just this little change make the thing more interesting. You didn*t change a lot, but why others can*t make it? If your paintings follow the trend, or close to it, but they*re curious about some points in it. They*ll talk to you, analyze you, and then they find it*s really profound! It*s amazing! You need a lot of time to have this effect, then I think it*s good. The artists that I highly praised, are those like Xu Tan, Chen Shaoxiong, Lin Yilin# Their works have an important characteristic, which is their continuity. For example, Chen Shaoxiong has a more sensitive feeling towards the form, then the ※changeable§ is his characteristic. Or Xu Tan has always the same pointcut to the conception. So I can find their respective characteristic. Then what*s mine? Just like you say, the relationship between the reading and the bookstore is for sure. Furthermore, every time my works is related to it. I don*t understand. I really don*t whether I can do some others, like those doing works with body or # but I never think about it, I refuse to do like this.
Liang Jianhua: From here on, the events that you have contracts with, are just people that you have already established relationship with?
Chen Tong: Not really, because these organizations have different types, some for curating, some for service. If one person come and think it*s good, then we cannot interpose him, as well as for an exhibition recommended by everybody. Of course we all highly praise the conceptual stuff, this is a guaranteed work in contemporary art, no matter whether it*s good or not. So Ellen*s work at that time 每 she belongs to this 每 it didn*t matter what her art base is. We haven*t invited a famous oil painter, a ink painter to give a lecture, or make a show, all were conceptual, including Lu Haiyan*s paintings that I*ve just seen these days. How great she painted! I asked her to paint an advertisement on the rice paper, now she paints all on the rice paper. She has a mature basis of painting, and at that time, I said I like this series 每 of family. I gave it the name ※family§. There*re family members, like uncle, mom, dad, sister, cousins, in such a big series of image. I said why it*s great because you surmount yourself. As too many of your works are reflection in the mirror, to yourself, very narcissistic. But this one is looking to the others, related to the society, and you are also in it, in your family. So I think it*s quite good. I said when you would finished, just let me know, and gave me a price. If it*s ok, I*ll buy it, or make an exhibition for it.
This is a problem. The young generation artists, like them, they*ve just graduated and have no problem in their skills. However his skills are only used in some rough idea, which means after deleted a lot of things, and make with the remains. In previous time, the realistic painters painted this for this exhibition, that for that exhibition, if there was nothing then I just did the life drawing. But he*s not like that. He has a concept of himself. But in my view, it*s no good if you over care about yourself. Because the autobiography that we understand is not like this. The Zidane that Tuscon writes is a clever autobiography, which is contemporary. Every work has its own autobiography, but not like Haiyan*s looking at herself through the mirror. Maybe in the end, she doesn*t even need a mirror, so that she can just paint with the memory. I think this kind of state will cause a lot of troubles. Firstly you haven*t the market, which means you cannot be accepted by it. If we*re concerned about the society, we can be admitted by the society. Because he*s also look at this society. If you just paint yourself, if I don*t like the real you in the life, then how can we do? Why I should look at you, who are you. Certainly I*m talking about a complete experience, a spiritual substance. But why we always do in this way? I didn*t say that much to her, but just encouraged her to continue that series of works (family). I suggested that she*d better not use a way of self-care or self-portrait, since the understanding of ※self§ is not like that. This is also influenced by Tuscon, that he*s in it, but write about others, not himself.
© Copyright FCAC 2008
© Copyright FCAC 2007