No Real Body

No Real Body pays particular concern to the direction of artistic practice as well as the plight of reality. Here a “real body” does not refer a person’s body or identity, but to a form of primitive spirit or energy. My hope is to use extreme methods to verify the existence of this primary source of creativity.

“No Real Body” is the crisis of our identity. Talking about politics, origins, and religion, we see that (without even realizing it) we belong to certain communities and, therefore, have common way of thinking, common interests etc. These homogenous thoughts and preferences produce the sense of security and identity, as they are understood within a particular society.

This way of thinking may also be applied to a physical body. A variety of social identities still exist (the hero, the individual, etc.). Every individual has to actualize several lines of professional practice, according to their fate1. If life lacks essence, it is very hard for us to find our place independently.

Before the Internet, people were anxious about the real things which stabilize social relationships—social status, professions—and everyone knew their precise place in society. But today, because of the development of the Internet, and the emergence of open information resources, the human role is gradually weakening: more and more jobs require computers, not people. Humankind is aware of this long-simmering problem; this is a challenge to human existence.

From the point of view of art, “No Real Body” reflects the disappearance of a specific art object. Starting with Duchamp’s Fountain, the readymade has replaced individually created works of art, a situation that is a critique against artistic creation and meaning, and ridicules avant-garde art. All this poses questions which are very hard to answer: what is art and what is a work of art?

The changing relations of production also change the relationships between a worker and an artist. Artists cease to create their works with their own hands, and hand-crafting has transformed from the labour of an individual to something undertaken by a collective. Under these circumstances, artistic creation is not limited to a specific person, and yet artists, as individuals, are still treated as if they have not benefited from the labour of the collective.

The concept of “No Real Body” also aims to discuss relationships between objects and art. Generally, the nature of art cannot be seen by the naked eye, it is intangible; however, sometimes materiality or the art object may be viewed as the highest form of art. In this context, a lot of questions emerge: does the nature of art really exist? Is it true that artworks can be shown only if they are materialized? If there is no materiality, what is art?


Es gibt keine Eigentlichkeit (lack of authenticity), Heidegger’s masking of the concept stems from his understanding of truth. Truth is no longer a positivist concept or a real thing; it is also not authenticity. Truth is a kind of disclosure within the world existence. The real meaning of the ancient Greek word “aletheia”—“to unmask”—was lost when it was translated into Latin. Using a Chinese way of thought, we can explain that the emergence of truth is a relationship between matter and its surroundings. This relationship may be visible – therefore, Unverborgenheit [unconcealed – translator’s note] is not masked. Truth is no longer an immutable traditional assertion – it is akin to a blossoming flower, it becomes an event. An emergence of truth is an emergence of event; it is an expression of relationships between all living things in the world and this event; therefore, Heidegger introduces the concept of “being-in-the-world”. He says that people commit actions while being connected to the world by a network of existing relationships. But we cannot always see these relationships by ourselves, and so we act like everybody else does; but trueness (Eigentlichkeit) is simultaneously a non-trueness, so that we could manifest ourselves, allow others to see ourselves, see an existing network of relationships and become enlightened (Lichtung).

Jiang Jun, March 24, 2015, 21:00


Social Status


At the end of the XIXth century, Alphonse Bertillon, a clerk in a Parisian police office, invented a new method to identify criminals by measuring suspects. He called it a system of verbal portrait – a “portrait parle”. At the same time, an Englishman named Francis Galton presented a system of differences between fingerprints. An emergence of these two systems of identification forced people to come to a conclusion: personality is not only social identity; it also consists of biotic data. Today these methods of identification have long been expanded beyond their state (governmental) use – they are widely used in our everyday lives. For example, office workers have to mark the time of their arrival to and departure from work by punching a card, by scanning their faces, by pressing their fingers to a sensor… Furthermore, as our mobile devices evolve, our biotic data will be used for payments. In this way, biotic data predestines our social identity; this is no longer based on changes in our thinking. When an individual’s social status is fully determined by their DNA and biotic data, masking ourselves over the Internet provides new possibilities of life. This means that we’ve got a short-term, vain sense of security provided by these mechanisms. Automatic evaluations of other people no longer influence our life. Inhabitants of megalopolises are becoming more and more estranged; they no longer dare to look each other in the eyes, instead becoming more intimate with their high-tech devices. If a device recognizes or sees me, it means that I am here; if I don’t know whether I slept today, a vigilant machine will tell me; it will also suggest whether I am alive. If my data is recorded now, there is no need to worry that I will be forgotten. In reality, all these high tech inventions are made by people; they are imaginary (virtual) things. To use machines so that we prove our existence – this is exactly what you termed “No Real Body”. How can a person living in this society—a person of biotic data—find an image of a new humanity, a new identity (a real body after the lack of essence).


Sun Qidong, May 16,2015


The main problem is still the crisis of personal identity and of social status – these concepts are invented by culture, and they have more and more impact on human life, race, nation, profession and so on, becoming substitutes for the biological identification of being human. The political and cultural establishment of the country have completed this shift without any resistance. The national pavilion at the Venice Biennale may be seen as an identity crisis in the specific geopolitical and cultural sphere, and which is an issue left over from the history of the biennale. It is controversial; however, for on the one hand it demands the development of international characteristics and the erasure of the borders between states, and on the other hand it sets up a monument to nationalism. Following new developments in technology and culture, social identity has again become the most important problem. This problem already manifested itself during the Cold war, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and this was accompanied by the emergence of Chinese contemporary art. Social identity became again an effective strategy and tactic in the sphere of culture. Besides, the unraveling of forms of social identity—for example, “defector,” “hero,” “whistleblower,” “conqueror,” “hacker,” and so on—became a new spiritual reality of life; maybe in the future they will also be able to be organized into a more interesting existence. Like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, no matter where they come from or who they represent, who went and did something important despite their origin and nationality, they will always remain temporary and transformative agents, as in the masking effect described in Derrida’s Specters of Marx.


Not at the Scene

“Not at the Scene” usually refers to physical reality, but today this understanding is falling apart, because of mass communication by the media such that people can receive information from anywhere even though they are not at the scene. We shared the 7 July London bombings, the 9/11 terror attacks, and more recently we watched the videos of ISIS decapitations. All this allows us to say that information has no territorial borders; mass media became a platform for discussion, reposting, and anonymous comments. By communicating in a virtual world, people create an internet space where different data-streams come together – texts, pictures, and videos. Besides, internet bots fill the gaps, and new information is produced continuously. Today internet is in the mode of a landslide. Pornography, violence, terror and so on – all this concerns human nature and became wide spread in the Internet age. As governments tried to control TV in the past, now they try to control the internet: by using an IP address we, often unwittingly, leave a multitude of traces on the internet, which can be analysed and recorded to produce an analysis of human behaviour and the societal condition. On the one hand, it is a political necessity, on the other: a business requirement. News is used to direct the public by serving up necessary information; today they seem to emerge from the surrounding reality and, by touching on vital issues, they expand the people’s systems of sense and perception. An aesthetically pleasing picture on TV is replaced by a shaky, noisy, bleary personal video. “Not at the Scene” is transformed from the spatial experience to the time experience; bodily limitations are erased; and temporary relationships complete the series of events. Fragmentation of our everyday life is a result of consequential events, and the so called experience of organised everyday life may be seen as an experience of industrial revolution, since authenticity in art is replaced by synchronicity (of data transfer).


Producer of Relations of Production

Enter Ghost, exit Ghost, re-enter Ghost (Hamlet)

In today’s world, mass production is often carried out without workers, which may be beyond anything Karl Marx ever expected. The idea of surplus value is not only something that is to be exploited, but has become the centre of our everyday real lives. Observing the citizens and their urban lives, one may discover that producers no longer provide concrete products. Rather a large number of professions are becoming merely a lubricant for society, while small workshops and individual producers are being replaced by large corporations. Consumers consume “services,” workers work on “platforms,” and a huge amount of workers are entering into new and virtual relationships where value has become a measurement for social stability. Self-awareness in a free economy, the consumption of immaterial “products,” and the mobilization of consumers have caused a loss of social identity. Just like the industrialization in food production led to the decrease of the number of producers, mechanization of manufacturing plants has led to a decrease in the number of workers. Only the work and services of large manufacturers’ dealing with people and communication thrive. Producers still exist, because consumers are also workers. Based on this, e-flux founded the so-called “timebank”3. Social relations come close to the level of a professionalised temporary game; product value is correlated with the concept of time, it becomes the never-ending interrelation between time segments and the times: people are changing, news is spreading – and, therefore, even larger economic interests emerge. But the emerging economic interests, the relations between producers and products, and economic relations are now collapsing. This suggested to me an idea: what if, in this age of transition, capitalism will not be what perishes, but rather there will be a change in an experience of relations of production and methods? Producers do not provide concrete objects, but they provide connections to past experiences; they play a multitude of roles4 on the Internet and in the new media. This also explains why art needs to provide a public resonance, in addition to an aesthetic experience. An artist has to understand what is really art—which, therefore, is governed by individual creative objects—and what belongs to the material of society and existence, being situated in the particular point in time. By using various means to strengthen harmony in interpersonal relationships, or replace the Internet with a real experience. Artistic creation and the transient bodily experiences stretch as far as the scene of an accident; successful relations of production lack the producer – this is the final resistance.


Dossier (Archive)

The traces of present and past civilizations are preserved through an archive which strengthens the legitimacy of an individual existence. Ever since artists renounced the title of performers, anonyms began to transfer empirical experience. Liquidation of concrete objects, an attitude to a certain concrete act in the situation when things are surrounded by artistic quality, allowed everyday things to transform into the beginnings of an artwork. This also makes us think about the fast coming of an era. An artist’s work consists of registration, registration and liquidation of records which designate the state of things. In this way, an archive becomes an action of recording of primal events; it uses the recordings of spectacles, of the movements of performers, spectators and space made by media. If Google’s panoramic scanner used recordings from the scene of an accident, it perhaps would be able to come even closer to the so called personal reality. By this discussion of an archive, I want to point to the present and to the future, since archive depends on a particular registrar, a protocol taker, and even on the nameless public as a whole; and at the same time, reality turns into a theatre. Attempts to imitate reality still exist in the form of theatre and cinema; artists, mixing together (erasing?) the boundaries, complete their creative work, becoming even closer to their reality, while the unique nature of an artwork fades even further (is reduced). A real cinema (documentary film or immediate cinema) or a real theatre (reality show, adaptation of actual events of everyday life) may be gradually replaced by the mechanisms of the future archive. Future archive is a recorded reality as it is, and also the uncompleted tools of contemporary art. Gradually, an artist turns to the real reflective work: between the theatre of the future and the present lies a certain zone ‒ for example, Mark Lee’s creation of “#I” (a keyword corresponding to a visual goal ‒ a tag), which helps to reach certain time and space within virtual space [where the photo is made, the service – translator’s note], releasing at the same time the intra-psychic freedom and fear. All this spreads through the documents, through the Instagram and various illegal programs of Internet service providers, and gives rise to an emergence of mass selfies from different countries.


Short Conclusion

This is a reflection on the theme of mobility proposed by Mrs. Alisa Prudnikova, as it helped me to remember many historical events and images. For instance, I will never forget the day I spent in Ekaterinburg. Since 2005, my concern about the heritage of the communist era has transformed from pictorial memories from my youth into a very concrete reality. I visited North Korea, Inner Mongolia, Russia and Norway. All these countries are linked to a modified socialist reality. Most of all, I am concerned with people in this transformed society – what forms their lives and professional careers take in the transition from socialism to capitalism; the changes in the so called structure of social policy are generally semi-automatic, and are usually not radical changes. So what did change after all?

Now art also faces changes to the way it is seen, experienced and perceived. Answering the question of when art will appear or at which moment it will not appear, depends on different standards of judgment and perception, and requires the courage to constantly break from those standards. When it comes to all of the above issues, No Real Body is to do with comprehensive thought, as well as the portents stemming from the currently on-going discussions. My thanks go to my friends Jiang Jun, Sun Qidong and Wang Yiquan, who found the opportunity, together with myself, to thoroughly study and research the direction of changes, and also the various traces of those changes, and to find out whether those changes concern us. Also many thanks to the curatorial team of Ural Industrial Biennial, and also to all the participating artists.

Li Zhenhua,

Beijing, May 29, 2015






  • English version have been proofreading by Wang Yiquan, the final version have been proofed by Edward Sanderson.


这是一个工作的方向和有着具体思考的现实困境,真身不等于身体和身份,真身类似于元神和某种原始能量,我只希望通过一种极端的方式来验证是否存在这一工作的原点,或者说创作的原初之存在。没有真身是身份危机的综合,如我们在讨论身份、种族、政治和宗教的时候,个体被自然的隶属于某一群体,这个群体有着共同的倾向或意志(或反某种意志),这些都构成了一种社会中存在的安全感和认同感,同样所谓个体的东西也依旧是这一逻辑的结果,所有个人主义的东西,或英雄主义的东西,存在着某种共性,在这里个体所需要实现的无外乎几种方向(职业生涯)上的宿命 。没有真身同样是社会关系上,职业化转型的缺失,因为互联网和知识公开,人开始处于另外的困扰中,如之前的现实中,身份和职业是社会关系中不变(稳定)的量,也就容易解释这些社会关系中身份和职业中的人性。没有真身,就是社会身份缺失的困扰,从职业化的消失,到知识的丰富,个体成为一种处于社会机器(体制)边缘,可能被随时抛弃的角色,人的存在感开始被挑战。


Es gibt keine Eigentlichkeit,海德格尔的遮蔽性一概念,来自于他对真理的理解。真理不再是实证主义的,概念和现实性的对应,也不是正确性,而是一种在世界中存在的显现。真理的古希腊文aletea的意思就是祛遮蔽,在翻译成拉丁文后意义就偏离了。
——姜俊 2015年3月24日21点


十九世纪末,巴黎警察局的Alphonse Bertillon研究出了一套以人体测量和疑犯相片为基础的犯罪身份鉴定体系。他本人将该体系命名为portrait parle(肖像描述法)。同一时期,英国的Francis Galton推出了指纹鉴别体系。这两种“统治技术”的诞生,使得一个人的身份不只是一种社会认同,而是一种生物数据。现如今,这一套采集验本并完成统计的计量装置,已经超出国家机器的范畴,向人的日常生活渗透,公司的白领需要打卡、扫脸、按指纹……更甚之,随着移动终端的发展,我们的生物数据可以完成财务支付等功能。
——孙啟栋 2015年5月16日






今日世界大量的工作并不存在生产者,这可能是马克思 始料未及的,剩余价值不仅仅是被剥削的部分,而成为真实生活本身。看现在城市人生活的情况,生产者并不提供具体的产品,大量的职业正在成为这个社会的润滑剂,而生产的产品却消失了,之前的小作坊或个人的生产,被更大型的企业产品所替代。消费者消费“服务”,生产者工作的是“平台”,大量的生产者正在走向一种新的、虚拟的生产关系,价值成为一个社会稳定的标尺,自由经济中的某种自觉,而没有具体的被消费对象,或因为被消费对象的身份模糊,及其移动性,所导致的新的社会身份的缺失。如食品工业化带来的生产者(农民)的减少,工厂机械化、智能化带来的生产者(工人)的减少,只有服务于大型企业的,与人打交道的职业,还在繁荣的增幅状态中——如互联网行业的从业者。生产者在这里既是消费者也是具体的生产人。在这一关系下,如e-flux创始者们所做的《时间银行》 就是对这一情况深刻的洞察,社会关系开始走向一种范职业化的时间游戏,价值从之前相对物质的概念中出走,价值成为今天生产关系中不断互动的时间和时态,每个人都在通过时间的累计、新闻传播的知名度,来换取更大的经济利益,而创造这一经济利益的根本也早就脱离了之前的创造。如生产者和物品的关系,以及链接这些关系的工厂、田地,还有其经济关系,都在崩塌。这让我开始思索,是否这个时代的转型,并非资本主义必将使自己消亡,而是生产关系和方式的改变,同时也终结了从日常生活模式到哲学概念的种种经验。生产者在不提供具体物件的情况下,在今天还在提供着连接着过去经验的某种身份,填补着公共空间的视觉元素,他们带着各种面甲 ,在这一社会生活范围之外,他们也都是自己的国王,在互联网和新媒介上扮演着各种角色。





对现实的模拟,一直以来是剧场和电影所尝试的,艺术家通过混淆这一界限来完成其艺术工作,越接近真实本身,作品的特性也就越弱化。真实电影(纪录片或直接电影),或真实戏剧(真人秀节目、将真实的日常事件直接搬上舞台)都会逐渐被未来档案的工作方式取代,未来档案所纪录的就是真实本身,也是现在的艺术手段无法完成的。而艺术家对这一现实的思索逐渐转化为——介于未来剧场和现在之间的某个地带,如Marc Lee作品《#me》中按照标签(tag)在虚拟世界飞行到具体的地点时,内心的自由和恐惧也在同一时间释放。而所有这些都是被纪录的,被instagram和其他网络服务商的后门电脑程序,衍生出大量的来自不同国家的selfie。

如果档案在过去,其形式为一个文件袋中的那些照片和手写的纸质材料,在今天档案意味着每个人生活的全部。因为这些都在通过电脑和网络被完全的分类纪录,直到有一天需要(见棱镜计划 )。所有人可以在网络上暂时的隐身,或借助洋葱系统 将沟通信息密闭起来,但是任何人无法取消其通过物理手段完成的痕迹,这些痕迹也终将被时间和技术攻破,而人们希望做到的并非阻挡时间和技术的到来,通过延迟时间,也就赢得了时间和主动。人的生存境况前所未有的与时间联系起来,无论是身体上的,如对身体的手术、注射和细胞激活等,还有思想上的,对延迟时间的迫切,不仅仅是延迟生命,而是在每一刻都付诸实施的通过移动性替代物理性和地缘的距离,通过干扰信息完成自身的主动。





2015年5月29日 北京

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