Jin Jiangbo¡¯s interview
Jin Jiangbo: Yes. We have seen many good works in foreign countries, but you are not moved. Surely, the move is judged from my personal point of view. From methods, concepts to site rendering, everything is sharp, but you will not capture something that is beyond your own. Then you will find many things in China don¡¯t exist in dictionaries, concepts or other countries. Only in China are there specific methods to deal with it. China is too realistic.
Date: July 19, 2008
Location: Beijing
Interviewer: Man-yu
Video: Chang an lu
Editing: Lang Feng Zhang
Recording: Gui bo Huang
Manyu£ºWhat is your understanding towards art works in each period of time? Does the multimedia technology - computer play an important role in the formation of your ideas? I mean, whether you produce this series of work because of technology, or you have the idea first, then choose to express it by interactive multimedia? What is their relationship?
Jin Jiangbo£ºActually I¡¯m thinking about it too. I¡¯m not going to avoid the contradictory within, which is actually derived from everybody¡¯s understanding of art. I started to use computer in the nineties. At that time I knew nothing about what is art, only knowing that when I played computer I had many fresh experiences beyond my original perception, or to say new aesthetic concepts. Recently I write an article ¡°new media for art¡±. Actually I¡¯m trying to sort out the idea: beginning with machine or computer language, computer functions stimulate people¡¯s sub-conscience consumption. It helps to overwhelm our original on-shelf, planar, geographical experience to create, to graft concepts and descriptions in art into it. Someone might think that¡¯s using technology for technology, but technology experiment serves for the art too. In my opinion, once these things are created, the scope of art is also extended. That¡¯s why the article is called new media for art, instead of new media art.
Manyu: So that the inner relationship is changed.
Jin Jiangbo: Yes. In fact they are like host and guest. Thinking from an angle of art, my present consideration of art is more important, while whether it is a new media doesn¡¯t matter. Another problem is related to computer technology. There are always experimental elements in art. The generation of prints, photography are inseparable with the development of technology, and it always does, always exists, no matter it is computer or other technology. They serves for the art. So I try whatever means, technology, science or interdisciplinary researches, to search former clues of art. Even more, I think as long as you still pose art on a main position, this research might act as a great supplementary to art and the successive development of art concept. It is unlike before: the concept will do everything.
Just now we mentioned the power of art. Actually I think even art is classified among new medias, it will still maintain its own organization. So the power properties remain constant. Another reason is that art¡¯s full of fun. A group of crazy guys stir it up.
Manyu: I think all your words are totally the truth. Other people might regard such as a little bit bookish understanding. If it is the case, then art is not the kind of thing. I can¡¯t say the future, but at present art is still the one in power.
Jin Jiangbo: So if I don¡¯t do in this way, art will not funny anymore. Or else why we need so many artists? As to whether audience¡¯s interaction, participation and experience is necessary, it depends on works£¬or the need of text, structures. Look back to this things, they won¡¯t matter much.
Manyu: Later, the practice of your work changed greatly. You started to make them by very traditional photography. Compared with your previous method, material, technology and theme, we find a series of changes. Surely all your works are possibly connected by inner clues, but the changes are still obvious. So what are these changes? Have you changed your basic judgment or understanding of art? And why£¿
Jin Jiangbo:That¡¯s what I¡¯ve been thinking about too. What exactly is art? There are two sensitive questions underneath. One is what does it mean, contemporary; the other is what is Chinese site. I¡¯ve discussed with my friends. The Chinese society changes too rapidly this days, and it makes art more diverse and exciting. So the art I know about now is how to reflect the immediate on-site events, how to express the thoughts, feelings brought by society changes. Of course these things are macro conceptually, but when it comes down to art, it becomes very micro and specific. Because art is not merely a semiotics, or a pictorial, aesthetic issue, or a new media experience issue.
Manyu: Actually that¡¯s because your understanding of art has changed.
Jin Jiangbo: Yes, I re-interpret the concept of contemporary in my mind.
Manyu: So your understanding of contemporary art is entering the site directly when a problem emerges.
Jin Jiangbo: Yes. This is what I call entering Chinese site directly. As I¡¯m engaged in photography, I think entering the site brings a subtler, more specific and accurate experience.
Manyu: So as the angle you just mention, many people will encounter this problem, considering your investigation method. They will ask you if it is a work of realism reflection theory, or what is the difference between your work and those from social workers, socialists? Since you think of issues in the eye of an artist, how do you present the values of your work? And finally, how do you distinguish your present work and previous realism works with former guys?
Jin Jiangbo: This is always in my mind too. Actually if I don¡¯t make it that way, I think there¡¯s no way else. Art is a quite specific job. I come to realized that more every day. To some extent, art is not really important. When it confronts a social problem, or faces this moment, art becomes a tool. We can describe it as a tool for culture, thoughts, spirits or the society. In front of the identity ¡°tool¡± , art is a slave. There¡¯s no way to change it. No matter it is of realism or non-realism, artificial traces are unavoidable in any work. So how can you overwhelm it and get rid of limits from the reality? When art becomes a work, it needs methodology as a backup. When art is presented to be read, I think I don¡¯t mind whether others regard me as a realist or socialist. Surely maybe the socialists will dig deeper, but in my opinion, the value of art is derived from its connection with immediate social issues. Only in this way can it be interesting. Maybe I¡¯ve not find the correct path yet, but I¡¯ll still do it. In this process I have to experiment. That¡¯s how the tag ¡°experimental¡± emerges. Contemporary is the intention while experimenting is the process. In this way, art becomes very interesting. The art is something which has to be experimented so that we see whether the path works. It doesn¡¯t matter whether I really find the anwer to the question I raise or not, as long as I¡¯ve done experiments. For, so many explanations exist in art, whether or not it is this one is of minor importance. I think when the artists come down to details, he will strive to find a way to experiment. So I do photography as the first text. I aim at reality while actually it goes beyond reality. Because too many questions in Chinese society are not left to be answered but to be reflected. The reflections are too late to be concluded in theories, in relationship the socialists summarize. The mode of development is a kind of reflection. So many things vanished, get forgotten. And this leads to art¡¯s identifying as a symbol of mainstream ideology of the moment. Then the original sensitivity, reflection, criticism, spiritual things are considered as art capital. The art market turns into a tool for production. In this process, I believe few artists could capture the experimental elements in art. For instance, in a big place as Beijing, I guess thousands of kinds of art are dealing with quite symbolic things. Surely everyone has his own method. But for me, I will focus on the losing site, then experiment, find the connection and try to exceed it. Documentary photography is already powerful and fantastical enough. Take my work ¡°The Great Economy Retreat¡± as an example. It reflects the arrival of the turning point of economy, the evacuation of post-colonial and thinking of the former thirty years. If you see it on site, this stuff is shocking enough. So why using posed pictures?
Manyu: Or to say, it¡¯s already beyond your imagination.
When you face the site, you are unable to pose a sense of absurdity in it. There¡¯s no need for you to place props or people there, because these things have already been fermented and mature enough. I think using documentary photography to record is one of my experiments. Firstly, it serves as a text. Art keeps changing. I don¡¯t know what it will turn into. But that¡¯s why art is interesting and can be pushed forward, instead of keeping your style fixed. I think neither aesthetic concept nor the goal of making works is important in art. If you regard to as an experiment, or a research on contemporary problems, then, to say the truth, whether or not it is a work is not important any more, or even whether there has to be a concept of work. In my mind, the concept of work is circulative. It develops all the time. So I regard art as an plan. I concern it, describe it and analyze it in long term. So I do use photography to do the first text. At the same time a record will be kept in the photography too. The reason why I use long length, wide-field size is nothing more than obtaining more information. Somebody chooses another way. They stitch pictures to make a very long, large and continuous repeated image, and claim how good their works are. Actually I think one is enough. It¡¯s expressive enough. Why repeating it! Make it so cumbersome.
Manyu: Or to say, you have different starting point of making photography from them.
Jin Jiangbo: Yes. I just want to capture boarder and larger information. The film can be magnified, up to three or five meters. So here we are studying the language of analysis. You say you will take some pictures of the market. Using wide-angle lens you are able to contain hundreds of shops. Every shop¡¯s number is still visible after magnified. Actually this is both a universal and narrow way to express or criticize China. An unavoidable topic is, a family turns into a manufacturing unit, an economic unit, then it turns into a social behavior. This represents a large part of management systems in China. It¡¯s not a social behavior. Under such management system a small cyclic system emerges. Everybody here pursues realistic value following the law. And it might last for decades, in the mode that the father is the factory director, the mother is the sales manager in charge of transportation as well.
Manyu: Yes. Some time ago one of my friend brings a group of Shunde officials here to visit. Just like that, they have an electric appliance factory there run by a family. And they sales quite well. They have a large economic base.
Jin Jiangbo: Yes. That¡¯s why Chinese goods go all over the world. The key is that there are so many fundamental units manufacturing. These factories are based on family. One family compose the entire industrial chain. The mother stalls and sales, the father manages production and workers. As to the children, they learn English or something else and run international trade, international transport. This forms a chain. Products from the end of the chain come into 80 percent of families in the world. Actually, this fact takes large amount of information to summary.
Manyu: Have you any other means? What do you plan to do?
Jin Jiangbo: I¡¯m thinking about archeology. I¡¯ve spent much energy to collect evidences in sites, or to say conduct archeology, when I was doing the ¡°The Great Economic Retreat¡±. Why capital flushed in and swept away? Why people disappeared and economic units followed? What¡¯s left? The process. Where is the process?  Right in the site. Real things in the site is how it flushed in and swept away. Many things are involved: A company established in China. To seek profits it recruits many workers, produces and manages in a concentration camp style. Migrant workers come across the country, and the capital is gathered around the world. Then an airborne city like Dongguan emerged, a result of pursuing foreign trade export as economic growth point in the first three decades. So I collect many concrete, visible evidences. Like, management of floating population, proves  of family planning, temporary residence permits, household management certifications, or worker¡¯s staff card, production flow sheet, employee rating sheet, punching out, or even their collections of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan star photos. All these traces are very micro and subtle things in the wave of economy. Though this economic development has retreated, things are left. There are signatures in every pair of shoes. So I regard them as archaeological texts.
Manyu: What you say reminds me of the novel ¡°One Hundred Years of Solitude¡±. Latin America at that time was just like that. Lots of capital flew over there, then it exhausted that place, be withdrawn, and left a totally corrupted remain.
Jin Jiangbo: Yes, that¡¯s my original idea. Why I filmed the Chinese goods series and shown the market bubble characteristics? It would pay a price. When I was doing the ¡°The Great Economic Retreat¡±, I found their causal relationship. It¡¯s one of my research results.
Manyu: The details you¡¯ve mentioned are unique to China. Like floating population management. Nowhere else exists.
Jin Jiangbo: Yes. We have seen many good works in foreign countries, but you are not moved. Surely, the move is judged from my personal point of view. From methods, concepts to site rendering, everything is sharp, but you will not capture something that is beyond your own. Then you will find many things in China don¡¯t exist in dictionaries, concepts or other countries. Only in China are there specific methods to deal with it. China is too realistic. So this constitutes a part of my plan too. The third part of the plan will be in the form of dialogue, a talk with the economists. I think economists are like artists. Everyone has his own opinion, mainstream or non-mainstream, macro or micro, about finance or currency. Talking with them is to verify my views in art as well.
Manyu: Talk with them.
Jin Jiangbo: Yes. And this dialogue is a complement to the process of Cultural Revolution. Then I¡¯ll experiment. I¡¯ll use some new media, videos or interactive means. It doesn¡¯t matter in what form.
Manyu: So you are more like a observer in the process. You don¡¯t make too much judgment about him, right?
Jin Jiangbo: Yes.
So, there is a problem here. Artists with the identity of observer in China is still scarce. If we magnify it into a boarder concept, we will find a flaw: they are more likely to observe and judge with his set value, or in common sense, political correctness. Political correctness itself should not be questioned. But people dislike moralizing works. Like last year¡¯s Venice Biennale. Some artists and curators back from the Biennale feel many works are politically correct, yet lack vivid expression. That¡¯s it. Surely, such a value has not been recognized everywhere in China, but it¡¯s still very important. In global dimension, this free value has been a mainstream ideology for several decades, and it brings up many topics too. So back to the artists. Judging, reasoning, approving or negating a thing by a set knowledge might be a trap.
Jin Jiangbo£ºYes. I think this is an important question. Actually when I do art researches I look into it particularly careful too. If we think from another perspective and ask what exactly the Chinese contemporary art is about, I think I might be unable to deal with it. I might go into a dead end or misunderstand. But even discussing this profound provides more values than thinking about some superficial Chinese contemporary issues. That¡¯s my point of view. In eastern countries, the concept of art develops all the time, though some issues related to social reflection theory here are influenced by the west. I think it is because the interpretation of art has accelerated since the second world war. Thinking over in this scope, whatever it is, social reflection theory or art ontology, it is all periodic. But it happens in Chinese site, it makes a difference from former art methods and concepts in 85 new wave time. Because now, it is time for us Chinese to reflect. So in this period of time, only when I make art according to social reflection theory and methodology can I find many interesting stuff. This Includes my interpretation of Tan Xu¡¯s work ¡°Key Words¡±, a work of true wisdom of him during this period.
If an artist stays in this stage in every period of time, then he will produce no interesting works, just keep repeating. So I¡¯m not sure what I will do in the future neither, but I will go on. Everybody is working for the art, for its environment and diversity, just to make it more of fun. Everyone has his own way to do it. Some of their targets or perceptions may coincide. In my eyes, that¡¯s a very exciting thing. In some occasions it is because we has similar interests in common that we can cooperate. Unlike Sociology or other science, logic and reason are important. Us artists can be very sensible here. Yet sensible is not a working force, but finally we¡¯ll go down to researches. Surely we can¡¯t criticize sensibility either. In the present situation, how to work more realistically still remains a problem.
Manyu: Is it because the realtity of China has too much influence on people?
Jin Jiangbo: We Zhejiang people has a special feature. Everytime we go back and get together, we can always find that more than ten out of the fifty classmates are now millionaires. They¡¯ve never been to universities. Instead, they engaged in business at the very start. Twenty to thirty millions a year, very solid financial security. PhD as I am, I never has that fortune. Done nothing big in either art or business. Then I ran a company after moving to Shanghai, and now I still have a team. That¡¯s why I put economy as background of my art work ¨C all related to this experience. For example, Shanghai Science and Technology Museum now practices museology with the help of science and multimedia means. Long before they used concrete relics, exhibits, all real things, but now they are more of experience nature. I happened to be among the first batch of experimenters. This helps me to deal with art greatly.
Through venture capital operations, my company was once purchased by others. I used to be vice CEO in a company of two to three hundred people, managing staff and projects of two to three hundred million worth. Running such project is complicated under these circumstances, even more complex than art system. Art is nothing more than self entertainment. There are lots of fun and value left to be discovered. But that project is tough, if it screws up, I will get sued. So that period of time inspired me a lot, only that it doesn¡¯t create individual values. Unlike art researches, a little bit personal values or self-entertainment always exist within.
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