2015年5月1日


Li Zhenhua: Viewer is the closest person for the artist
李振华:对艺术家来说观众是最亲近的人
英译中:马楠

Li Zhenhua is one of curators of the Main project of the 3rd Ural Industrial biennial of contemporary art. He has visited Ekaterinburg in April. We discussed what it means to be a curator, that a budget does not always play a definitive role and that a viewer is the same art object as a piece of art. To illustrate this interview we’ve chosen some projects of the artists who are working with Zhenhua.
李振华是第三届乌拉尔工业双年展当代艺术部分的主项目策展人。他四月份到访叶卡捷林堡期间我们探讨了什么是策展人,还谈到展览预算不总是决定性因素,以及观众和艺术作品同样重要等等问题。

We have very little personal information about you. Please, could you tell us how did you become a curator, what were you doing before this and what did you study?
我们对你不太了解。能否请你谈谈你是如何成为策展人的,你以前从事什么职业,学的又是什么专业?

In 1996 – by that time I have already been working as a chef for quite a long time – my friend has come up with an idea of opening a cafe-gallery in Beijing. After a while I have taken up the responsibility not only for cooking, but for the exposition as well. I can say that’s when it all began, but I must mention that at that time I had absolutely no idea what curation was, I used to be so insecure. So I started to ask different people questions, ask for some consultations, but in 1996 in Beijing there were not many people who could explain what it was all about. The only thing I knew for sure was that there was no market in China, so I couldn’t become an art dealer. At the same time I wasn’t sure that it was interesting enough for me. I would rather study how the art system was functioning, how the art process was organized in other countries. I wished to become a perfect curator in a country where nobody even knew what it was. Gradually I started working in film and music production, sometimes took on some projects with theaters.
李振华:1996年的时候,我那时是名颇有经验的职业厨师,我一个朋友想在北京开一家咖啡画廊。之后我就不仅做厨师,而且开始做(而不是策划)展览。一切都是从这件事开始,但我必须说,我那时并不知道什么是策展,曾经比较没有安全感。所以我开始问各种人各种问题,咨询学习,但1996年的时候没人说得清什么是策展人。我唯一确定的是中国没有艺术市场,所以我不可能成为艺术经纪人。当然我可能兴趣也不在此。我宁可多了解艺术机制如何生效,其它国家的艺术机构是如何操作的。我希望在一个没人知道策展是什么的国家里成为一名优秀的策展人。于是我逐渐开始涉足电影和音乐,还做过一些剧场项目。

Did you work as a producer?
你做过制作人么

Yes, as an event-manager and a producer. However, it is important to mention that everything concerning culture and arts back then was so unclear in China. Nowadays you can just point at someone and say that he is a person of fine arts, another one is in music, and that one is engaged in theatre and film and all of them communicate with people from their own field. Before that, you could meet a film-director together with a musician, accompanied by some foreigner. I think that this short and special period was the time when the process, which we now call contemporary art, began.
In 1999 I won an internship in England sponsored by British council and spent a couple of months there. The most interesting thing is that the projects which I was working on in China and presented as a method were in high demand in England and were understood in the art practice. Mixing together different genres and techniques was a popular method at that moment.
So, apart from my work, I was traveling the country and visiting different institutions. I was curious about their work and asked many «tricky» questions: “Where do you get the money from and what sums do you work with?”, “How do you spend the money?”, “Who’s your audience?”. After I have left England, I repeated it in almost every country I have visited, – Germany, Switzerland, Japan… I believe it is important to understand how the system is working, because it influences the art provided by creators.
李振华:是的,我当过大型活动统筹和制作人。但值得一提的是那个时候在中国,所有文化艺术有关的事件界定都很模糊。现在你可以指着一个人说他是做纯艺的,另一个是玩音乐的或做剧场、拍电影的,他们都只和自己领域的人来往。但在以前,经常是电影导演和音乐人一起出现,旁边陪着一个外国人。我想那个短暂的特殊时期正是现在称为“当代艺术”刚刚开始的时候。
1999年,我受到英国大使馆的资助在英国(ICA)实习了几个月。最有意思的是我在中国做的项目,在英国作为一种方法展示的时候很受欢迎,而且大家觉得这是一种有趣的艺术实践。将多种风格技法相混合的做法在那时很流行。
除了我的(驻留)工作以外,我还花了很多时间在英国旅行,造访不同的人和机构。我对他们的工作很感兴趣,也问了很多不好回答的问题,比如:“你从哪里拿到经费,花了多少钱?”,“你钱是怎么花的?”,“谁是你的观众?”等。离开英国之后,我在到访的其它国家也沿用这个模式,德国、瑞士、日本……我相信摸清系统是如何运作的很重要,因为这会影响到艺术家的创作。

02
Kwan Shuengchi. Doing it with Mrs Kwan… making Pepper Spray

Did you study art on your own?
你是自学艺术的么?

I am a trained chef. I didn’t go to college, so everything including English is my personal achievement. Speaking about art history – I tried to go deeply into it, but at some point I realized that this information didn’t help me to see and understand what was going on in China at that moment. So, I decided to focus on the practice – interviewing artists, for example, which has led me to having my own column in one of the new Chinese magazines.
李振华:我受过专业的厨师训练。没读过大学,所以包括英语在内的所有其它技能都是我个人努力的结果。说到艺术史,我曾经试着去钻研但我发现它并不能帮助我去看清当时中国正在发生的事情。所以我决定以实践为主,比如,走访艺术家,并且在中国的艺术杂志开设自己的专栏。

Which magazine?
哪份杂志?

It is called “The Scope”, a new Chinese magazine; the first issue was published just last year. Although since 2010 I was curating a number of issues because for me magazines are a medium, like any other. I was curious to try magazine as a project. On the other hand, a printed product is good because it has an essence and a physical body–a paper and a statement of space, so dealing with printing arts is quite an interesting challenge for me.
李振华:《艺术客》,一本新的中国杂志,去年第一期刚出版。我从2010年还就策划了不少期专题(为青年视觉、艺术界),因为杂志对我来说也是一种媒介。我很希望能够把杂志当项目来做。另一方面来说,出版物有实体,有纸张、言论等,处理这种印刷艺术对我来说也很有挑战性。

Could you explain what curating means for you? What answer do you give yourself to this question?
请谈谈策展对你来说意味着什么?你给自己什么答案?

Before answering the question directly I want to clarify that now I know way more about art by far, but still I am in a situation when I don’t have all the answers. For example: I am captivated by a question – what is the difference between a curator, a coordinator and a producer. Is there any difference at all? How can a researcher fit in this row?
But the most interesting thing is that all curators aren’t the same as well! Let’s take a curator working in some institution or an independent curator or someone who just got burned after curating one project and they will never go back to this experience. Also there is someone who goes back to curating by chance and doesn’t make it a profession.
李振华:回答这个问题之前,我想先声明一下虽然我现在对艺术了解的不少,但我也不能回答所有问题。例如:我被一个问题难住了——策展人、协调人和制作人之间的区别是什么。有区别么?研究者在其中又扮演什么角色?
当然,策展人也各不相同!有些策展人可能在展览中受到创伤,再也不想有类似经历,也有人偶然成为策展人,且并不以此为生。

I think everyone in art business has a temptation to become a curator once in a while?
我想艺术从业者总会被诱惑想做一回策展人?

Yes, because an artist knows how to build a project, he has a visual experience; he notices the parts of a prospective project. But for me it is important that a curator must be a creator as well, making something new. What can be done by a curator when everything is made by an artist? How can I say that a curator is making something new? I believe that the positive sequence of these two roles can only be possible when the artist doesn’t have a project for an exhibition and it is made in collaboration with a curator’s choice – everything from an idea to the final «product».
李振华:是的,因为艺术家知道如何做项目,他有视觉经验,能够注意到项目的前瞻性部分。但对我来说,策展人同时也必须是创作者,做出新东西,这很重要。一切都由艺术家制作,那要策展人做什么?我怎么知道策展人在创新呢?我认为,这两个角色之间协调合作是可能的,因为艺术家不仅仅为了展览而创作,而展览是由策展人的选择和艺术家之间协调产生的——从想法到最终“产品”。

Are you this type of a curator?
你是此类策展人么?

This approach does impress me a lot, but I must state that I do not approve of any authoritativeness from a curator. I think the biggest mystery and the brightest moment is the process of collaboration. One thing for sure: a curator must not look down on an artist and tell him what to do, he must not be a director, – this is the problem that stops people from creating some really interesting projects. On the other hand, an artist should step aside from an “I am an artist, this is my vision” position and keep examining the concept of his project and, moreover, the essence of art. And the curator’s aim is not to direct an artist, but to keep asking him: “Why should you do this?” and ask himself why did he become a curator in the first place, why does he keep doing this, what can be done for an artist, how will the project look in the end? All these kinds of questions…over and over again.
李振华:这种方法确实很打动我,但我必须声明,我并不认同策展人的权威性说法。我认为最迷人、最伟大的时刻就是两者的协作。可以肯定的是:策展人不能小看艺术家,并对他指手画脚,策展人一定不是导演,这也是很多人没法真正做出有趣项目的症结。另一方面,艺术家也不应该陷入“我是艺术家,这是我的眼光”之中,而要不断检查他的概念,更重要的是反思艺术的本质。策展人的目的不是指挥艺术家,而是不断地提问:“你为什么要这么做?”,并且问自己为什么成为策展人,为什么继续这样做,可以为艺术家做什么,项目最终会是什么样?一遍遍地问所有这些问题。

And, certainly, the money issue.
而且,当然还有钱的问题。

Oh, this skill has nothing to do with curation, but certainly you have to be creative, because at some point a lack of funds can stop you.
李振华:这与策展无关,但你当然得创造性地想出解决办法,因为缺乏资金会阻碍项目发展。

So you have to be a good manager after all?
所以,你仍需是一位优秀的经理人?

A creative manager, I’d say because either a large budget or no budget at all should be comprehended. Basically, this is what we had in 90-s, when there was no art funding at all. Making exhibitions, creating something–there is no money in store for you to invest in contemporary art, there is no institutional support. Finding a place used to be a problem and sometimes it was hard even to find something to eat. But, nevertheless, many artists started out in 70-80-90-s. They just worked harder.
李振华:一位富有创造性的经理人。无论预算多还是根本没预算的情况都有。90年代我们基本上没有预算,当时根本没有艺术资助。做展览,创造可能——当时没有资金愿意投资当代艺术,也没有制度上的支持。找场地是个问题,有时甚至都填不饱肚子。但是,尽管如此,许多艺术家还是在70、80、90年代就开始创作了。他们只是更努力地工作下去。

Were they exhibiting?
他们做展览么?

Yes, in all sorts of public areas–on the streets, in some public places like flats, metro, etc. For me this outgo from an equipped exhibition area still looks quite up-to-date, because there are so many galleries and museums out there, that exhibiting has become some kind of a bad habit. Are we used to making exhibitions or do we really need them? Why do we need them – for our vanity only? I can contrast two approaches: “I am successful, because I create exhibitions” and “I create exhibitions, because I care, I feel the needs of art”. And the second approach is more appealing to me, without a doubt.
李振华:是的,在各种公共场所办展览,在街头,在一些公共场所如办公楼、地铁等。对我来说,相比于设备齐全的展览空间,那种即时的展览并不过时,现在有太多的画廊和博物馆,展览已经变成某种坏习惯。我们习惯于做展览,还是我们真的需要展览?为什么我们需要——只为我们的虚荣心么?我可以对比两种方法:“我很成功,所以做展览”;还有“我做展览是因为我在乎,我感受到艺术的需要。”而毫无疑问第二种方法是更吸引我。

When you are speaking about “needs of art” what does “art” mean in this context? Art doesn’t exist independently, it is a result of constant struggle of specific people and each one of them has his own needs and overall understanding of what is going on.
当你谈到“艺术的需要”的时候,你说的“艺术”在语境中是什么意思?艺术并不是独立存在,它是特定人群不断奋斗的结果,他们每个人都有自己的需求并对正在发生的事情有一个整体把握。

For me it is a complex open question, because I have never seen art as a profession. It only became a profession in the past few years which led to an uprise of a large number of professions such as curators, which are a recent innovation. An art scene, where everybody had his role, appeared and an important question is – how can you study contemporary art?
李振华:对我来说,这是一个复杂的开放问题,因为我从没将艺术当做一种职业。在过去的几年里艺术成为职业,并由此出现了许多职业,如策展人就是新近的发明。艺术圈里每个人都有自己的角色,但出现的一个重要问题是:你怎么学习当代艺术?

ChenShaoxiong.InkMedia.IMG_6464
Chen Shaoxiong. Ink Media. Сourtesy by Pekin Fine Arts

You can study contemporary art in many institutions.
可以在许多机构学习当代艺术。

Yes, there is no doubt about that and you can find a large number of links, a wide context, but what you can teach is not contemporary by definition. It is history. Contemporary art is at least 40 years old–depending on the theory that we support and we have to constantly re-examine and revise contemporary art.
李振华:是的,这毫无疑问,你可以找到大量的链接和上下文,但你能教的不是对当代的定义。而是历史。根据我们认可的理论来看,(中国)当代艺术至少40岁了,我们必须不断地重新审视和修订当代艺术。

Not even every year – every day.
甚至不是每年而是每天。

It truly depends on the perception of time. The Indians, for example, see future, past and present as inseparable, and their sequence makes what you know as “contemporary”. Contemporary art is impossible if taken out of its context–it is based on the world’s ontology, its history and recent events. At the same time, we keep thinking a lot about the future–with a technical approach–it is done to bring the future closer. And this is a topic of art, too. For example, I really like the way an intellectual was seen in the past–you could call a man intellectual not only if he was a professor or related to science somehow. Those were the people who had great influence on the society, – not criticizing or questioning, but those who created, were useful in a way, policemen, firemen. I think art should aspire to this.
李振华:这确实取决于对时间的感知。比如在印度人看来,过去、现在和未来是不可分的,它们的序列构成了所谓“当代”。脱离语境没法谈当代艺术,它基于对世界的本体论认识、自身历史和最近发生的事件。与此同时,我们一直在想象未来,技术是为了拉近未来。这也是艺术的话题。举例来说,我真的很欣赏过去的知识分子,你可以称一个人为知识分子,不仅因为他是教授或与科学相关。知识分子是对社会产生重大影响的人,不是批评或质疑,而是在某种程度上创造有用的价值,比如警察、消防员。我认为艺术应该有这样的追求。

In your opinion, does art mater?
在你看来,艺术重要么?

Yes, very much, I suppose, because art today is about communication. And, I think, this is what we’ve been leaving behind for years.
李振华:是的,我认为非常重要,因为艺术与沟通有关。而我认为,这些年我们做得不够。

I’d like to ask you to talk a little more about communication. And why did we lack it in the times before contemporary, as you say. Many researches, art researchers and philosophers say that these days communication is escalating, but it has changed its meaning.
我想请您多谈一点沟通的问题。为什么你说我们在当代之前缺少沟通。许多艺术研究者和哲学家说,目前沟通在加速升级,但它已经改变了原有的意义。

I’d rather speak about communication between art and people. How art communicates with kids, disabled people, what it does to the “wide audience”. Art has never been so important in the past, because now it takes people to the public space, it makes them equal. An artist is no longer a Hand of God or a creator of something unattainable. Today artists offer some prospect and share it with other people. Modern artists work in the fields of biology, economy, philosophy… basically, contemporary art pervades every aspect of life. I’d state that art is in the middle of the individuality, freedom, and knowledge. And, of course, you should not forget the matter of money. This is why artists make big sculptures, small sculptures, big paintings, small paintings, landscapes, portraits… I am not saying this is not art, but it is created to be consumed. In other cases–unconventional–we have to kind of ask ourselves, why do we need art, why is artist important. I think it just must be there, to state something you can’t pass by.
李振华:我更想谈谈艺术和人之间的沟通。艺术如何与孩子和残疾人沟通,它对“广大观众”产生什么影响。过去艺术没那么重要,但现在它将人们带到公共空间,使他们平等。艺术家不再是上帝之手或不寻常物的创造者。今天的艺术家提供一些观点,并与他人共享。现代艺术家在生物学、经济、哲学等领域工作,基本上,当代艺术渗透到生活的方方面面。我想指出,艺术是在个性、自由和知识的中间。当然,我们不应该忘记钱的问题。这就是为什么艺术家们创作大雕塑、小雕塑、大画、小画、风景画、肖像画……我不是说那些不是艺术,但它是为了消费而被创造。在其他非常规情况下,我们也要问问自己,为什么需要艺术,为什么艺术家很重要。我想艺术必须存在,它能说出一些你无法忘怀的事物。

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Cao Kai. Summer of 1969

At the same time, is it important for an artist to be clear?
同时,对于艺术家来说清晰重要么?

Yes, but not in a traditional sense. Today, having a large scale of opportunities and instruments, an artist can make you understand something without showing or explaining it. You can see/hear/touch/smell the work of art and feel cold or hot, feel pain or sexual satisfaction. You will literally FEEL something and THIS is the contemporary art. A friend of mine, an artist from Norway, makes projects about smell. You can never understand the construction of smell, but you will feel it. I’ve learned from her the way we see the world, because we learn from the smell as well. I’ll make it clear: the smell of gas, for example. Notoriously, the natural gas has no smell, but in order to deal with it and make the gas noticeable, to prevent accidents, we add this smell to it. And this smell is no longer just a chemical combination, it is a threat. But this is a synthetic smell, it was created by humans. The same is with baking. So, what we’re speaking of here is not understanding, it is immersion into the process, re-activation of the human body and perception without using our head or body.
李振华:是的,但不是在传统意义上的清晰。今天有大量的机会和大把的手段,使得艺术家能让你明白一些东西,而不用展示或解释它。你可以看到/听到/触摸/嗅到艺术作品,感到冷或热,感觉疼痛或性满足。你可以切身感受,这就是当代艺术。我的一个朋友(Sissel Tolaas)是挪威的艺术家,她做与气味有关的项目。你永远无法了解气味如何形成,但你能感觉得到它。我从她那里学到了看世界的方式,因为我们也可以从气味中学习。清楚地说,比如天然气本身没有气味,但为了防止意外发生,我们给它添加气味以引起人们的注意。而这种气味不再只是一种化学结合,而是一个威胁警告。但是,这是合成的气味,它是人类的创造。烘培也是一样。所以,我们在说的不是理解,而是浸入过程之中,重新激活人体的知觉,而无需使用我们的头脑或身体。

Pushing the boundaries of understanding and perception.
拓宽理解和感知的界限。

Exactly. Communication, in this case, is giving some new emotions to the viewer. Once there were some curious debates in China dedicated to the innovations in art. Many people with classic education do not see contemporary art as real art, because it doesn’t operate with familiar symbols and is aimed to reflect the current situation. Do we have to study art in order to operate the images coming from design? I think it is a crucial question. Is there something we don’t know yet? Why do we need to place some of those images into a white cube to expose them? What do they have to tell us? This morning I visited an exhibition by Leonid Tishkov–no question it wasn’t about the art presented there, – it is about nostalgia, emotions. Not everyone can see this.
李振华:没错。在这里,我们称之为沟通,赋予观众一些新的情绪。在中国曾有一些关于艺术创新的奇怪辩论。许多学传统艺术的人不认为当代艺术是真正的艺术,因为它不是用熟悉的符号和操作系统,而旨在反映当前情况。我们学习艺术难道就是为了使用设计好的图像么?我认为这是一个至关重要的问题。我们还有什么还不知道?我们为什么要将这些图像在白盒子里展示?它们要告诉我们什么?今天早上,我看了列昂尼德·季什科夫的展览,毫无疑问这个展览不是关于所呈现的那些艺术品,而是关于怀旧和情感。不是每个人都可以看到这一点。

I believe that contemporary art today is not a process of creating an image, it is an art of explanation, an art of interpretation.
我相信,今天的当代艺术不是为了创造图像,它是一种解释、阐释的艺术。

On the one hand it is, because artists frequently have to work outside of the visual aspect, but also they sometimes make double objects or reflecting objects. For example, Koons’ work. What is it about? It is about luxury. The viewer is reflected in this luxury, gets inside it, and for me that is really interesting. Or, let’s say, Michelangelo Pistoletto constantly breaks the mirrors and the viewer is reflected in this broken glass, re-examining his own image. I believe this is the way the viewer can comprehend art and it is not about creating an object, it is about making the person take part in the art-process.
李振华:一方面是这样,因为艺术家经常要在视觉以外工作,同时他们有时还会创造双物体或反射物体。例如,昆斯的作品。与什么相关呢?它关于奢侈。但它反射出观众的奢侈,这对我来说非常有趣。或者,我们说米开朗基罗·皮斯特莱托不断地打破镜子,而观众的形象反射在碎玻璃中,因此得以重新审视自己的形象。我相信观众能够通过这种方式理解艺术,它不是创造一个物件,而是让人参加到艺术的过程之中。

Something similar happens in quantum physics which says that there is no space without the viewer.
同样的事情也发生在量子物理学中,没有观众就没有空间。

Well, yes, and here we are back to the Indian world view: what comes first? In fact, none of the elements does, and we live in this religious context, where you know not who the subject is or where it is.
李振华:是的,在此我们又回到了印度世界观:什么是第一位的?事实上,没有一个元素是第一位的,我们生活在这样的宗教语境中,在这里你不知道主体是什么,在哪里。

You were speaking about James Tarell’s project in Oslo, where people go inside a hill to look at the sky through a hole in the roof. It turns out that previously people used to look at a masterpiece and realized that it was made by DaVinci or Rembrandt, while now they are a masterpiece themselves? What is art in this case? A hole in the sky or the viewer?
你谈到詹姆斯·特瑞尔在奥斯陆的项目,人们到一座小山上,通过山洞顶上的一个洞来看天空。以前人们看惯了达芬奇或伦勃朗的杰作,现在他们意识到杰作就是他们自己?在这种情况下艺术是什么?是那望向天空的洞还是观众?

For the viewer it is the hole, I guess, but without a doubt for an artist it was important to create this atmosphere, – this is the object, the connection between the viewer and the artist, which can’t be articulated. For some people art is the color, for others it’s a hole in the floor. An artist plays with people’s notions. You come to see an artwork, but I think we often get deceived by our own vision, which tells us what we see and what we know. Generally speaking, knowledge today is a curious substance. A person with an iPhone “knows” a lot more than a professor. This is why today we must ask ourselves: “Why the hell do we need all this knowledge at all?”
李振华:我想,对于观众来说是洞,但无疑对于艺术家来说创建这种氛围重要——这个物件位于观看者和艺术家之间,无法阐明。对于一些人来说,艺术就是色彩;对其他人来说,艺术是顶上的洞。艺术家与人们的观念做游戏。我们来看一件艺术品,但我认为我们常常被自己的所见欺骗,它告诉我们看到了什么又知道些什么。总的来说,如今的知识很奇怪。一个使用iPhone的人比很多教授“知道”的更多。因此今天我们必须问自己:“我们究竟为什么需要这些知识?”

Yes, and as Sherlock Holmes used to say: «If I remember that the Earth is round, I will have no room in my head for some really important information».
福尔摩斯曾经说过:“如果我一直念记地球是圆的,我脑中就没有空间来记一些更加重要的信息。”

Therefore, today is not only about delivering facts to the audience, but also emotions. However, we should realize that emotions are certainly something difficult to deliver. You can only share them with your closest ones and for an artist the closest one is the beholder of his art. You should not forget that.
李振华:因此,今天不仅是将事实传递给观众,还有七情六欲。但是,我们应该认识到,情绪很难传递。你只能与你最亲密的人分享情绪,不要忘了对于艺术家来说最亲近的人就是他的观众。

*此访谈首发与2015年5月1日,乌拉尔工业双年展网站:http://en.uralbiennale.ru/news/blog/2015/5/1/79

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