Reviewing what you have learned and learning anew -Chen Hangfeng’s visual presentation

温故而知新——陈航峰的视觉兑现

/顾灵

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故事板布拉福德

 

英国知名艺术家David Hockney的故乡布拉福德曾是19世纪全球知名的纺织重镇,尤以羊毛著称,被誉为“全球羊毛产业的中心”。作为首批工业化城镇,它是英国工业革命的明星。20世纪中叶,正如英国北部的其他后工业地区,布拉福德的纺织产业急转直下,面临着去工业化、房地产贬值、社会不安定、经济萧条等典型“后工业”问题。它是“平行社区”的突出代表,本地白人与大量外来移民之间关于种族、信仰、文化的冲突不断。二战后来自波兰和乌克兰的大量移民与上世纪50年代后期来自印度、孟加拉、尤其是巴基斯坦的移民构成布拉福德的主要移民群体。近年,当地政府为振兴经济极力发展旅游业与文化产业,知名景点包括国立媒体艺术美术馆(National Media Museum )和卡特莱特宫(Cartwright Hall)。其中后者坐落于里斯特公园(Lister Park),前身是曾经的纺织工业巨擘Samuel Lister宅邸,Lister家族将全部艺术收藏捐赠给政府,并由英国地产开发商Urban Splash[i]投资一亿英镑改建成美术馆,作为复兴布拉福德的旗帜。

 

故事板虎杖

 

虎杖(Japanese Knotweed),是一种原产于日本的蓼科杂草,该物种于19世纪维多利亚时期被作为观赏植物从中国引入英国,并广泛种植于各类皇家、贵族园林。由于其地下根系延发深远,极易排挤其他植物,且没有自然天敌的威胁,便很快泛滥成灾,严重影响了本土野生动植物的生存。160多年来,英国每年需投入15亿英镑用于控制其蔓延。2010年英国决定从虎杖的原产国日本引入其天敌虎杖虱(Aphalaraitadori),以期达到延缓虎杖蔓延的目的[ii]。研究表明,入侵物种的全球性增长和传播是过去25年来国际贸易大量增长的结果。

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初中政治课本告诉我们,历史是螺旋式上升、曲折式前进的。然而,随着全球化进程与社会化媒体的不断扩张与深入,我们越来越能切身体会到,对这句话的更真实、准确的可能说法是:螺旋式重复、曲折式原地踏步。——题记

 

 

陈航峰首次来到英国布拉福德是在2009年,作为当地1mile2艺术项目(Square Mile Project)的特邀艺术家,他与一名英国生态科学家、一名英国本土艺术家组成了一个三人小组,针对生态多样性的议题展开研究。这次为期三个月的驻地让航峰知道了上面两个故事,与当地的一些艺术家、科学家交上朋友,也促成其在2010年创作了作品“入侵物种·蔬菜们”。该作品参展今年于布拉福德卡特莱特宫举行的《非自然选择——陈航峰个展》,并占有一间约40m2的暗房。总计160m2的展厅中,精心布置了十余件创作于2006-2011年间跨系列、题材、媒介的作品。标题《非自然选择》源于主办方对航峰早期代表作“疯狂标志”的过于青睐与对其新近作品的不够重视,但最终的展览想必仍能较为综合、全面地反映航峰在过去6年间的艺术创作与思考。

 

疯狂标志

 

1978年,中国文革结束的第二年,拨乱反正,十一届三中全会召开,改革开发和社会主义现代化建设首次被提出;同一年,四岁的航峰被父母送去学国画。中国文人投诸笔墨的雅兴情趣与小航峰成长其中的剧变时代有着颇为讽刺的对比。20年后航峰毕业于上海大学美术学院油画系,对国画的暂时抛弃源自中国基础教育体系的“西边倒”态度,艺术也不例外;谈及绘画必是油画,传统书画教育在整个美术教育体系中无足轻重。但高等美术学院统一枯燥的苏派技法训练与表达观念上的禁锢却让航峰对画家前途望而却步。给我看学生时期的绘画习作时,航峰提到王诘音老师对他的特别影响:“王老师从不教技法,只是聊天。我们画了一幅画去找他,他总是能从画面出发,聊到画外去,这些聊天,让我受益匪浅。”走到画外的航峰接触了时鲜的电脑绘图软件,由此有了全新的图像表达工具与方法,自学平面设计,曾先后在多家广告、杂志公司任职,接触了大量商户、品牌,先后设计多款知名商标、logo,为其后的“疯狂标志”系列积累养分。

 

2005年,陈航峰把侍奉多年的广告主—全球知名品牌—的标志“玩”起来,与中国传统剪纸符号化的图案相结合,以平面设计的视觉传达与沟通直白的广告语法创作了首件“疯狂标志”作品。他从设计视角出发,将传统剪纸中的符号元素(如龙凤、鸟兽、花草、民俗等)替换为图形相似的各类品牌标志(LV,耐克,壳牌等),以此消解了标志的含义,探讨现代社会对传统文化的不消化。将每日生活“景观”融入剪纸使之重生,这“景观”对过去的剪纸手艺人而言是花鸟鱼虫,对现代人来说却是品牌广告。该系列作为航峰早期创作的代表作,其媒介从最初的传统手工剪纸、宣纸延伸至有机玻璃、牛皮纸、纹身、屏风(家具)、版画、地毯、墙纸与亚克力板。作品背后的手工劳作与一以贯之对剪纸的温暖怀旧都易引发观者的共鸣,反复而简明的对称图案在剪刀的灵巧游走后之展开一霎有某种浪漫的魔术感。这一系列被描述为“机智,微妙,富于美感而吸引人的”。

 

2007年的《放胆拉》与2008年的《最后的晚餐:快餐》延续了对品牌的调侃,将“疯狂标志”系列中的含蓄幽默外化。《放胆拉》的录像截屏依然有着平面设计的构图、宛如一幅耐克的商业广告,甚至可以提炼出“爱它、穿它、成为它”的广告标语。航峰用橡皮泥和了颜料捏出一条形状为耐克标志、质感高仿真的便便,放在马桶中将之作为一名从头到脚一身耐克的年轻人的排泄物。《最后的晚餐:快餐》也秉承看图说话的讲故事路线,九宫格排列的静帧画面呈现几只鸡将地上用米粒拼成的肯德基标志——山德士上校逐渐吃掉的过程。鸡作为通常被消费的对象将其消费者(人)建构的“权威”消费了,这一循环反思并讽刺快餐及其所处的消费体系。然而更为反讽的是,这些鸡在饱餐一顿之后,面临的仍是被艺术家吃掉的命运。标题《最后的晚餐》名副其实,这一在英国Braziers艺术家工作营驻地期间创作的作品,缘起于艺术家吃腻了有机蔬菜后对肉类的渴望;工作营所在农场的这些鸡走入航峰的镜头,并以“中国死刑犯临刑前要吃一顿好饭”的考虑为鸡们安排了一顿持续近三小时的大餐——鸡显然更会细嚼慢咽,一点儿也不“快餐”。

 

 

琳琅满目

 

就全球化、国际贸易、品牌消费等话题的讨论逐渐跳出既往颇具设计感、图案性与装饰性的表达,从《放胆拉》开始,对诸如录像、雕塑、装置等其他媒材的探索与延伸让航峰的创作有了更多的自由与可能,媒材本身从某种程度上也给予他不同的视角来看待并处理这些话题。

 

航峰在2007年的温州之行亲眼见证了中国作为世界工厂的一枚缩影,一座曾经青山绿水、如今污水横流的小村庄,全世界半数圣诞礼品在此生产。圣诞节对基督教国家与地区的人们意味着家庭团聚与幸福时刻,但对在此工作的一万一千多名手工艺人而言可能只是赚钱谋生的理由罢。这里曾以竹制百叶窗刻画闻名,百叶拉起时,两面各成一幅画作,或山水或花鸟,让窗里窗外更多一番风景;如今却和无数中国的手工艺村庄一样,沦为重复劳作的生产线,在为圣诞彩球喷涂亮粉和编扎装饰彩带的日日夜夜里,憧憬所谓的城市生活。航峰在当地做了三天听不懂一句温州话的异乡客,从这些家庭作坊还保留着的骨子里的智慧与灵巧中寻觅一丝慰藉。“他们像晒干货那样把串在竹签上的塑料彩球依次插在泡沫塑料上等油漆干透,但手中的活计与祖辈的玩意儿全无关系了。”

 

这部纪实性的录像短片促生了一个与“疯狂标志”平行的系列“圣诞效应”,从2007年到2011年,以圣诞为主题的录像装置与镂空雕刻的亚克力圣诞树雕塑延展了航峰对圣诞消费体系的思考与讽刺。从圣诞树的镂花图案(依然是品牌标志)里透出的和煦灯光照亮其背后的经济逻辑,也见证了从2007年的金融高峰、泡沫到其后的危机、泡沫破裂直至现今缓慢复苏却貌似依然“不长记性”的经济体制。

 

次年,航峰花了近3个月将录像中的“产品”实物化,以苦行僧般的坚持把回收垃圾分门归类,逐一消毒、清洗,用不同长短的钢丝绳将之串在一起,倘若庞然风铃,各种人造材料碰撞出沉闷的声响,是对快速消费的波普式视觉呈现,也是对环保议题的警示。装置《琳琅满目》曾悬于Art Labor的天顶,这一位于永嘉路、曾经沿街的空间有着一面落地窗,过往行人看着这串五彩缤纷的荒谬装饰,在认出那些平常物件的同时,是否会在下一次购买同一产品时,犹豫一下?

 

同样的思路延续至航峰参与第七届亚欧艺术营——2009/2010视觉工作坊时,工作坊分为卢森堡与上海两期,作品《会有的》和《杯子们》先后创作于欧亚两地。《会有的》是一件录像装置,画面中航峰及其背后的16条手臂组成千手观音的造型,让人联想到对2008年北京奥运会上千手观音表演的戏仿。每条手臂都拿着产自中国的日常物品,如玩具,工具和食品等,它们从卢森堡当地一家超市购得,标价是中国内地售价的十倍。“中国是世界工厂的印象在国外根深蒂固,这种印象已然和中国人的身份联系在一起。”这件作品隐约将纯粹物化的消费现象投射到人的身份问题上,回应工作营的既定主题“迁徙、异变与互相干扰的身份”,并在之后的装置作品《杯子们》中得以深化。杯子们被放在一张底下由砖头垫高的桌子上,杯中盛有清水,墙上装有射灯,桌里藏着震动装置,杯子和水面的投影在墙上微微颤动,嵌有反光的晕圈。他去超市、商场和工厂的休息室向工人们买他们轮班休息时喝水用的杯子,其中大部分是原来装茶叶、咖啡、腌制水果、调料的瓶瓶罐罐。为避免喝错,每个杯子都不一样,它们在展出时俨然成为其前任主人的代表,清洗过但仍隐约可见的茶渍背后是那些人的故事。航峰强调,该作品中所用的所有材料都是现成的,桌子和砖头是捡来的,震动装置是用一台旧电扇的电机改装的;它以全然回收再利用的姿态指向快速消费的弊端。

 

2011年的新作《人造雪花》可算是图案和产品的综合表达,镜面装置映出万花筒般的剪纸图案,而细看图案内容,实则为快销产品。这一装置既是对剪纸表达与图案创作的简短回归,也是利用多种媒介实现不同视觉呈现的创作尝试。

 

 

风渐左西

 

围绕对社会盲目追逐所谓商业品牌、快速消费现象的不断反思,航峰在“疯狂标志”系列同期穿插进行着表达方式、媒介与主题的实验性创作,这些实验不再只是单纯的媒材延伸,更是思路与视野的拓展与深化。从圣诞系列开始,航峰的创作从对传统与现代冲突的呈现、对东西方互相影响的聚焦扩展到对全球化语境中“身份”的理解与探讨。

 

2008年5月19日14时28分,全中国为汶川地震的遇难同胞默哀3分钟,防空警鸣声是沉痛悼念的回响。航峰从其于2000年至2008年间在上海随手拍摄的照片中挑选并联结成3分钟的短片,画面逐张缓慢地挪移,近乎静止;而短片的配乐恰是默哀时的警鸣声。那些或彩色或黑白、或活泼或沉闷的街景人物、空间距离,仿佛都成了时间停滞的某一刻,都是那3分钟及其缅怀的那些生命的延时。这部外表冷酷但内心温暖的短片作为航峰使用录像媒材的有意尝试,虽则简单,却打动人。

 

次年在布拉福德1mile2项目驻地期间,航峰认识了当地一名天主教家庭出身却改信伊斯兰教的女艺术家。在对当地民俗与种族、宗教冲突做了一番调查、了解后,航峰邀请她合作拍摄一部录像短片:《对着墙说话》。片中,女主人公面对墙壁用一句话分别陈述她的朋友、家人对她改信穆斯林时的评价。“她说她几乎可以感觉到从墙壁反弹回来的声音”,航峰回忆道。这件作品虽然未能充分表达“墙”这一元素在种族、宗教、文化隔阂上的可能喻意,但同样体现出艺术家对录像这一媒介的实验努力。画面中女主人公的身体部位与同期音轨中的描述相关,平淡不经意的语调却让这些描述中的发生显得和她无关,个中的隐忍与冲突隐约可辨。

 

同是从布拉福德的驻地期间获得的灵感,2010年陈航峰创作了《入侵物种:蔬菜们》,从这件在技术上比先前复杂得多的作品可以看出航峰对多媒体装置的成熟掌控与运用。创作发端是父母所在住宅区的某些居民把公共绿地圈为自留地种植蔬菜的事件,这些蔬菜有机种植,比市面上出售的更富含营养也更利于健康;但占用公共绿地又造成了许多邻里和管理矛盾。航峰为这些蔬菜编写了虚构“对话”,并将之解释为通过“高科技设备”转译的“植物电波信号”,显示在屏幕上与一系列放有植物照片的LED灯箱一并展出。标题“入侵物种”来自文章开头关于虎杖的故事,它在航峰看来是对殖民者被殖民地的植物反殖民的鲜活嘲讽。这些蔬菜与虎杖及其他所谓“入侵物种”一样,被人为地带到不该带的地方,其成因与后果都同样发人深思。

 

在录像创作的同时,还有另一种独特的媒介长久以来吸引着航峰:塑料袋。这一在环保方面臭名昭著的日用品经常被航峰收藏以便循环利用,它是快速消费的典型代表,其储藏功能总是短暂而无力。但不知怎的、它又可以被赋予某种诗意的气质,就像影片《美国丽人》中那番随风起舞、飘荡无依、不知所往的姿态。这种诗意在始于2010年的系列《风渐左西》中得以舒展。

 

《风渐左西》是从《芥子园画传》中挑选出的梅、兰、竹、菊各一幅范本的塑料袋版摹本,航峰将塑料袋裁剪成画面的元素形状(如竹叶、花瓣等)拼贴起来,用大头针固定在木板上并镶入木框;画面左侧的木框里安放了计算机里使用的迷你散热风扇,塑料片随风颤动;而风扇设有定时装置,风停后,画面又静止下来。对航峰而言,这一系列的每个细节都有意味、有象征,如:大头针钉入木板象征着中国传统书画文化其实已经变成了标本;人造风从左面吹来,左西右东,左面即西面,意味着西方文明对中国传统文化价值观的冲击;设置计时器比喻这种冲击其实使传统变得更有价值—一如风停过后,一切又恢复了原样。这套象征解释的对号入座稍嫌生硬,但塑料袋这一材质于航峰手中确脱胎换骨,焕发美感。“挪用”某一既有媒材并将之“错位”置入矛盾冲突的语境里(正如剪纸之于品牌、塑料之于书画)由此引发问题及探讨是航峰一贯的方式,并在这一系列中驾轻就熟;然而从这平添的一份诗意与更具感染力的媒介表达可以看出艺术家的成长。“目前对我来说,可能内容并不那么重要,重要的反而是作品的呈现方式,对多种创作媒材的尝试、探索与发挥”,航峰如是说。

 

这一系列有数个衍生版本,所用的媒材、表现形式相仿。如2011年9月与知名创意公司W+K(上海)合作镶嵌在公司办公室底楼外墙的互动装置《哪来的风》,以及同月参加OV画廊群展《向文人学习2》的作品《别动》,后者在帆布画面上用墨彩潦草勾勒出一棵松树的枝叶轮廓,依然用大头针将松叶形的塑料袋片钉在画布上;画面下方设有传感器和一台小风扇,在观者靠近时,风扇会自动向画面送风,吹动“叶片”,过了一会儿自动停止。航峰对动与静的转换颇感兴趣,并自行研究相关互动装置的制作,独立完成了上述装置。从剪纸一路走来的手工痕迹一直以让人莫名感动的温度保留在航峰的多个创作中,这种由来已久的感染力让艺术家通过创作提出的问题更为掷地有声。

 

拾来的家具

 

航峰的工作室刚从威海路696搬到西部M50附近的英雄金笔厂,紧闭的窗户把工业片区的浓重灰尘挡在外面,空间空敞,参展《非自然选择》的作品刚运走。航峰摆了个小茶盘,笑着向我介绍工作室里拾来的各色家具:沙发、桌椅,还有幅在拾来的桌子台面下压着的木板油画,画上是毛主席招牌式的和蔼笑容。“当时擦洗这块木板,发觉底下有颜色,花花绿绿。彻底擦洗干净,没想到是一幅画!”回想起《杯子们》中拾来的桌子和砖头,《琳琅满目》中拾来的垃圾,《风渐左西》里回收的塑料袋,航峰说,“生活成本其实并不像理所当然认为的那么昂贵。”他常平和地笑,有着文人画的恬静适然;工作台上大幅绘图纸和各色制作工具是一名设计师的拿手活。桌面躺着《芥子园画传》,传统书画仍是航峰心有所往的创作方式。他些许感慨地评价当下是一种难以言说的状态,过去的创作中积累了太多可以深挖的点,如今到了筛选、舍弃的时候,《入侵物种》所探讨的种族、身份可能会是接下来发展的重点,“但又很难说”。

 

在哪里可以看到陈航峰的作品?

 

非自然选择-卡特莱特宫(英国,布拉福德)

2011.10.29周六-2012.2.26周日

http://www.bradfordmuseums.org/whatson/event_detail.php?ID=347

 

画框之外-白兔艺术收藏(澳大利亚,悉尼)

http://www.whiterabbitcollection.org/news/now-showing/

 

向文人学习2(中国,上海)

http://www.ovgallery.com/exhibitions/

 

哪来的风-与W+K合作的公共互动装置(中国,上海)

http://www.wkshanghai.com/blog/?p=3094


[i]致力于工业厂房、维多利亚时期老宅等旧房改造并重新开发的英国公司

[ii]John Platt,《以夷攘夷——英国反物种侵略新战术》(Fighting aliens with aliens: U.K. imports insect species to tackle invasive plant),Energy & Sustainability, Mar 9,2010

 

Reviewing what you have learned and learning anew

-Chen Hangfeng’s visual presentation

 

Text on the exhition: Unnatural Selection – works by Chen Hangfeng, 

Bradford Museum / Cartwright Hall Gallery, Bradford

 

by Gu Ling

November 2011

 

The politics textbook in junior high school told us “history is moving forward in a spiral, zigzag way”. However, with the globalization and the increasing expansion and penetration of social media, we cannot stop feeling that a more accurate way to say this sentence might be: the history is repeating in a spiral way, and stuck still in a zigzag way.—Preface

 

Chen Hangfeng first came to Bradford in 2009. As an invited artist for the 1mile2event, he joined a three-person team with a British ecologist and a British artist, performing studies on biodiversity. During the three-month visit, Chen made friends with some local artists and scientists, and in 2010 completed his work, “Invasive species-The vegetables”, which was displayed in the “Unnatural selection-Works by Chen Hangfeng” in Cartwright Hall and occupied a darkroom of approximately 40 m2. In the 160m2exhibition hall, a dozen of his works created between 2006 and 2011 covering multiple series, themes, and media were arranged. The title “unnatural selection” originates from the host’s preference for his early work, “Logomania”, and less attention to his recent works. However, the exhibition is still supposed to comprehensively reflect his creation and thinking on art in the past six years.

 

 

Logomania

 

In 1978, the second year after the Cultural Revolution, the Third Plenum of the Eleventh CCP Congress was held to bring chaos back to order, when reform and opening-up and socialist modernization were initiated. In the same year, four-year old Chen was sent by his parents to learn traditional Chinese painting. Chinese literati’s elegant interest in painting is an ironic contrast to the drastic changes in the time when Chen grew up. Twenty years later, Chen graduated from Oil Painting major, Institute of Fine Arts of Shanghai University. This temporary abandonment of Chinese painting was a result of China’s elementary education system “leaning toward the West”, in which art is no exception. It must be oil painting when talking about painting; the traditional painting and calligraphy art education becomes trivial. The uniform and repetitive training on Soviet Brush-stroke style techniques and the restriction on expression of concept in the university made Chen feel frustrated about being a painter. When showing me his works as a student, he mentioned the special influence of Wang Jieyin on him: “Professor Wang never teaches techniques, we just talk. We drew a painting and took it to him. He could always talk about topics beyond the painting. These talks benefited me a lot”. Chen came into contact with the fresh computer graphics software, with which he had a new tool and method to express images. Learning graphic design by himself, he has worked in a number of AD and magazine companies. He met a variety of firms and brands, and designed a variety of well-known trademarks, logos, which serves as an accumulation for his subsequent Logomaniaseries.

 

In 2005, Chen began to play with the logos of worldwide well-known brands he had been serving for years. By combining with the traditional Chinese paper-cutting patterns, he created his first Logomaniapiece through graphic design and plain advertisement language. From the design perspective, he replaced the traditional symbolic elements in paper-cutting (such as dragon, phoenix, bird, flower, folk customs, etc.) with similarly looking logos (LV, Nike, Shell, etc.), attempting to dissolve the meaning of logos and investigate the failure of modern society to digest traditional culture. Reviving the daily life scenes in paper-cutting, was the animals and plantsfor the craftsmen by then, but advertising and brands for modern people. The series, as a representative of Chen’s early works, is created in the form of initial traditional manual paper-cut, rice paper, then extended to synthetic glass, kraft paper, tattoo, screen (furniture), print, carpet, wallpaper and acrylic. The labor behind the works and the persistent admiration for paper cutting are very likely to cause the viewer’s sympathy. The repeated simple symmetrical patterns created with scissors produce a magic feeling the moment they are opened. This series has been described as “witty, subtle, aesthetic and attractive.”

 

The Last Supper: Fast Food / 最后的晚餐:快餐

 

Just Poo Itin 2007 and The Last Supper: Fast Foodin 2008 continued to tease brands, externalizing the subtle humor in the Logomaniaseries. The screenshot of Just Poo Itstill holds a graphic design composition, sound like a Nike commercial, which can even be extractedas the slogan as “love it, wear it, and become it”. Chen made a highly realistic poo in the shape of Nike logo using plasticene dye, and put in the toilet as a piece of excrement from a young man who wears Nike suit. The Last Supper: Fast foodalso tells a story. The static picture in a grid arrangement shows the process of several chickens eating up the figure of Colonel Sanders, the KFC logo made of rice on the floor. Chickens, often the consumed, consume the authoritycreated by their consumers (people), and this reversion rethinks and satirizes fast food and the consumption system it is in. What’s more ironic is that these chickens still facing the fate of being eaten by the artists after the meal. The title The Last Supperis true. This work, created during his stay in Braziers Artists Residency Program, originates from the artists’ hungry for meat when they became tired of eating organic vegetables grown locally; the chickens in the farm where the residency house is located came into Chen’s camera frame, and he arranged an almost three-hour long feast out of the consideration that “death penalty criminals are to have a good meal before executed”—apparently chickens are better at eating slowly, it’s not at all “fastfood-ing” .

 

Luxurious Riffraff

 

The discussion on globalization, international trade, brand consumption and similar topics gradually walk away with the expression in the sense of design, pattern and decoration. Starting from Just Poo It, the exploration in other medias such as video, sculpture, installation give Chen more freedom and possibilities, and the medias themselves also offer him a different perspective to look at and deal with these topics.

 

In his trip to Wenzhou in 2007, he witnessed an epitome of China as a world factory. Once a green and now a contaminated village is the place where the world’s half Christmas gifts are produced. Christmas for people in Christian countries and regions means family reunification and happy moments, but for the more than 11,000 craftsmen here, it may be only a reason to earn a living. This place is once famous for carved pictures on bamboo shutters, which, when pulled, form two paintings at both sides, making it more scenery inside and outside the window. But it’s now like other villages in China, falls to a labor-intensive production line, dreaming about the so-called urban life in days and nights painting Christmas balls and weaving ribbons. Chen spent three days as a stranger without understanding the Wenzhou dialect, trying to find a comfort from the wisdom and delicacy maintained in the bones of these home workshops. “They put strings of plastic balls on bamboo stick on foam like dry foods, and wait for them to dry, but what they has nothing to do with their ancestors’ stuff.”

 

This documentary short video (Santa’s Little Helpers) gives birth to another series parallel to the Logomania. From 2007 to 2011, the Christmas-themed video installations and acrylic Christmas tree sculptures extended Chen’s thinking of and satire on Christmas consumption system. The pleasant light from hollow patterns (still brand logos) on Christmas tree illuminates the underlying economic logic, and witnesses the financial peak and bubble in 2007, the subsequent crisis, bubble burst in 208, and now the slowly recovering but seemingly “forgetful” economic system.

 

圣诞老人的小助手 /  Santa’s Little Helpers

 

 

Wind from West

 

Continuously thinking about the blind pursuit of the so-called commerce brands and fast consumption, Chen made experiments in expressive methods, media and theme concurrently with the Logomaniaseries. These experiments are no longer mere extension in media, but an enhancement in vision and sight. Starting from the Christmas series, his works developed from the presentation of conflict between tradition and modern times and focus on interaction between the West and the East to the understanding and investigation of “identity” in the global context.

 

Also inspired during the residency in Bradford, in 2010 Chen created “Invasive Species: The Vegetables”. From this more technically complex work, we can see Chen’s skilled control and use of multimedia devices. This work is created based on the planting of vegetables in public fields in the residential compound where Chen’s parents live. These organically planted vegetables contain more nutrients than sold vegetables and are more beneficial for health; but the occupation of public green fields caused lots of trouble between the neighbors and the compound management. Chen made up a series of fictive conversations in between the vegetables. The conversation was shown on a big screen under the guise of a scientific log, i.e., the conversations from the vegetables were captured by a “high-tech device” which analyzed their “biological signals.” along with flashing LED light box contain photos I took for the vegetables The title “Invasive Species” is originated from the story about knotweed which Chen knew from the friends in Bradford, in Chen’s opinion it is a satire on the colonist being colonized by the plants in the colony. These vegetables and the knotweed and other “invasive species” are the same, all brought to places where they should not be, the causes and consequences both being thought-provoking.

 

While creating video, Chen has long been attracted by a special medium: plastic bags. The notorious product in environment protection is always accumulated and waiting to be recycled by him. It is a typical representative of fast consumption, with an always short and weak storage function. However, it can be endowed with a poetic temperament, just like the posture of dancing with wind, floating, and forwarding but nowhere, as in the film American Beauty. This poetic romance was emerging from the Wind Blow from Westseries in 2010.

 

 

Wind Blow from Westis a version of replica paintings made in plastic bag for plum blossoms, orchids, bamboo and chrysanthemums selected from the book Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden. Chen cut plastic bags into the shapes of elements in those traditional literati paintings(such as bamboo, petals) and pinned them onto a wooden board inlaid into the wooden frame. Two PC cooling fanswere mounted in the wooden frame to the left of the board, causing a periodic rustling of the plastic pieces. Yet when the timer goes off and the fans stop blowing, the pieces always return to their original positions. For Chen, every detail in this series has a meaning, for example: nail the pins to the board signify that the traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy have actually become specimen; the artificial wind is arranged to blow from the left side, or the west, symbollizing how traditional Chinese cultural values are affected by Western civilization. Because of this, the original becomes even more valuable – after the wind stops, they take their original shape. These explanations sound a little stiff, but plastic bags really have a complete change in his hands to sparkle. Relocating an existing medium in a conflicting context (like paper cutting for brand, and plastic for painting) to trigger issues and investigations is a routine practice of Chen, which he is very familiar with. But this trace of poetic sense and more captivating expression through media show his fermentationas an artist. “Currently for me, content might not be so important as the way my work is presented, to tryout, exploration and exertion of more media forms,” says Chen.

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