Copenhagen, June, 2008
The exhibition at GL STRAND presents your work from the early and very significant work An Estranged Paradise until the recent No Snow on Broken Bridge.
Q: There is an apparent grow in size from small-scale monitors to large-scale installations. Will you touch upon the evolvement in your work?
A: I never concerned about the change of monitor size, I just want to use suitable monitors, space and right way to fit with my work. Video installation is a way that I can shift to use in my work.
Q: Please elaborate on this change of physicality in respect to the experience an installation brings in comparison to that of a smaller scale single channel?
A: Maybe they can be seen as two different roads, one is horizontal, another is stretched away into the distance
The role and identity of the intellectual is a significant point in your work (e.g. The First Intellectual, Liu Lan and Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo
Forest) and there are several examples of historical references to the role of the intellectual.
Q: Can you introduce the concept of the intellectual in Chinese culture to a Western (Danish) audience?
A: I couldn't define the whole concept of Intellectual, I just feel young intellectuals should be educated, they still have their own believes, dreams in realistic society, they still feel confident about the future and come in on it sincerely.
Q: And how do you see the position of the intellectual in China of today?
A: With the development and the opening to the outside world of the country, intellectuals in China will be more and more respected and understood.
Q: Is the longing for individual freedom/some sort of retreat from the hectic public life for many of the protagonists in your work a point that you see as widespread in Chinese society in general?
A: Wherever in which country, each man has his own dream no matter how big it is.
The title of the exhibition at GL STRAND is China in Transition, and your work has often been interpreted as dealing with the changes of modern China a country and culture set between modernity and tradition and with a past, which seems to be vanishing.
Q: What is your view on these readings?
A: Sometimes you can exchange the mode of thinking; maybe you should experience it personally. Don't judge the things that happened in somewhere out of your beat subjectively or at second hand.
Q: What possibility does the Chinese society of today present to contemporary art and artists?
A: Many things are changing, and many things are possible.
Q: Also your work hints at a significant level at the massive differences between rural and big city China. Is this a dichotomy that can be overcome, as you see it?
A: I believe human effort can achieve anything. Sometimes I miss the delight of the peaceful country life in my childhood, I used to play on the farm, ride horses or feed the rabbit with some green vegetable. If I never grow up, I won't concern about what adult concerns.
Q: Your work is very much about modernity and the boundaries and possibilities it sets for the individual, could you elaborate on that?
A: Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Q: In several of your work emotional and psychological human states of mind as for instance regret, melancholy and love framed by a changing society prevail. Does the modern society - a society in constant flux - entail a certain set of emotions, as you see it?
A: Society is developing very fast, and also there's been a noticeable improvement in science and technology. People work on without cease. Sometime we forgot our childhood, the life that was a veritable feast for our mind. And I think people still should believe something or try to have the independent thinking.
Q: Your work contains many references to traditional Chinese culture that for the untrained Western eye are impossible to decipher. For one the sense of an otherness. How is this otherness perceived in the Chinese art and culture - now and in a historical framework?
A: In Chinese culture we emphasize sense, just like when you love someone, it is very hard to say any proof that why you love this person.
Influences and references.
Your films are a complex body of work drawing on many references. Though embedded in the Chinese art tradition, Robert Storr, curator of the last Venice Biennale, has also stated the French New Wave of the Sixties.
Q: In what way do you draw on the cinema to graphical legacy - either a European or Chinese?
A: I like many artists' works both Chinese and western, but I like to express my idea by my own method.
Q: Also the notion of narrative in your work is significant. However it is not a typical narrative there being no typical evolvement in your films as we know it from traditional cinematography. Instead there is often a surrealistic element that impedes an unequivocal understanding of the stories in your work. You have previously addressed this matter in respect to the opposition between "realistic cinema" and "abstract cinema". Can you introduce this concept to our audience?
A: I think there should be another kind of film exists except the movies we watch in the cinema or the pop images shown in the Tv set. There are many artists try to make that kind of film, I am one of them, what we take it's a kind of concept film that contains freedom, fearless courage and beckoning images.
Q: You were originally trained as a landscape painter, and your way of catching the Chinese landscape, e.g. in Liu Lan and No Snow on Broken Bridge, is breathtaking.
What does the landscape mean to you - as a natural phenomenon and an art historical subject?
A: Sometimes I feel landscape is kind of thinking by your heart, or a kind of emotional state. When you lost your heart, you shall not see the landscape even it is beautiful.
Q: You are often mentioned in conjunction with Shanghai, where you live. Does the city and you living there, as opposed to living in e.g. Beijing or Chengdu, have significance for your work, and if so how?
A: Wherever you live, the place should be your home. You should come to understand its past, present-day or future. Because it can make you happy, make you sad, make you miss and make you forget. Although you couldn't see it sometime, it is omnipresent.