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Interview with Zhang Ding

'Opening' 2011-05-21

Q: I heard that you have changed the name of this exhibition, so what's the name now?
Zhang: It's called 'Opening', which is an opening (ceremony). There will be a show from about 3 pm on the opening day, more like a nighttime party, or just a party, so to speak. Anyway, the exhibition starts 4 to 5 days after opening.

Q: So this is not considered a normal solo exhibition, is it?
Zhang: Whether it's normal or not, it is an exhibition after all. But we anticipate and try to control it not to be a normal one. Actually we might make it more interesting instead of focusing on the exhibition itself. Audience will directly feel the elements of 'gymnastics', 'aesthetics of classism' and 'party atmosphere' when entering the exhibition room.

Q: How did you have the idea of making nighttime party?
Zhang: Maybe I am interested in the forms of entertainment in modern life. You see now every event does have opening, among which sports meeting is the typical one; of course there are many more. In a word, as long as there is an event, there is an opening, and many events are held in the forms of entertainment, so do openings.  

Q:  Do your creations relate to 'gymnastics'?
Zhang: They might be related to the origin of gymnastics. Gymnastics refers to naked body in ancient Greece, which is the standard of body figure instead of sports, consciously shaping body figure. Sometimes when I watch gymnastics, it looks beautiful, but I just feel something wrong. So this exhibition might be related to the 'standard of beauty'. Gymnastics and sports equipment from the works are all the reference that is the materialization of standard of beauty. We have changed some sports equipment beyond recognition, some body shapes are kept while practicability is lost.

Q: What are the rules of 'modify' and 'keep'?
Zhang: Sometimes it is all about control of rhythm. To me the shape of body and the foundation of vision are both related to intention, which determines the size and forms of media.

Q: For example, what's your intention of creating such form as the big installation in the Law Exhibition?
Zhang: This might be related to the proportion of human body. Due to the existence of proportion, we broke the height, steep grade and compatibility of human actions so as to make obstacles.

Q: What about the works in this exhibition?
Zhang: Many of our installations are related to human proportion in this exhibition. As you know sports equipment is designed according to the length of human arms, legs, proportion and strength. And then in the modification of uneven bars, we actually set the size according to the trajectory of human rotation on the uneven bars. We connect some points to form the base and then control the angles to display aesthetically. In the 'Opening', this installation is a wine chest.

Q: I see you drawing the sketch while speaking, is that your habit?
Zhang: Actually I am not a rational person but work emotionally. This can be drawn and see what I want to say. Of course, the final results, whether there is an accident or not all depend on the facts. Recalling my previous works, I am very clear about what needs to be done better. I am now more certain that I am good at expressing emotional things; of course there will be some rational elements in it. When I believe 'this feels good and how it influences others', I will follow this direction. Logic will be weak in the process because there are some vague thoughts, but I can present clearly in vision: I am certain what effects will be and what will happen.

Q: How do you see the creation of artists, watch and being interpretation?
Zhang: Artists are simple; maybe you can say how he does it. Actually works provide much information: material, shapes and structures. All of those blending together can have cognitive feelings to viewers. I think unless the work is too conceptual that description might be part of the work, the most important thing is still to watch and feel the work.

Q: Compared with 'Tools' and 'Law', what's your state of mind for this solo exhibition?
Zhang: 'Tools' is exceptional with strong desire of expression at the time in contrary to the peaceful mind now. This year we have the solo exhibition of Opening and we have a plan of performance later.

Q: Performance and live show are not like general entertainment; instead they are inflammatory, is that the way you want?
Zhang: I really hope that I can make an inflammatory live show. But I am not that easily stirred up. I am still drawing the draft on how to do the next live. I want to do something heavy, like noise and metal as well as something mild. Our instillations can be made much of literature.

Q: What's the influence of music on you? Sounds like 'Opening' and next plans are very cross-over.
Zhang: No, not at all. I am still creating like before. I can't say how big influence of music on me, but I am always listening and paying attention to it which makes much fun to me. I might have dream of becoming a rock star, but this is not real star dream for my foundation and sense of music are weak. However, music makes me feel great and inflammatory element is one of the aspects I like music.

Q: There is focus on the marginal groups reflected in your works like 'Great Era' and 'The Dream of Yabulai', but this time the solo exhibition directs another extreme, so does it have any suggestion of fashion and noise on evening show and party?
Zhang: No. I think I used to follow the trend as well, now what I am doing is just cooler.

Q: In the 'DIAL', your work of 'Lost…Shanghai' seems very marginal.
Zhang: Don't you think it's romantic? Actually I didn't know what to do at all at the time I graduated.

Q: Was 'DIAL' the exhibition you participated in when you just graduated?
Zhang: Right, it was 2004. I learnt many things at the time, but no concrete creation methods and direction yet. Under such circumstance I created 'Lost…Shanghai', which is more like a work. Under the state of fresh graduation without any luck of creation, you know, the luck of suddenly finding what you like to do.

Q: So now you see your previous works in such way?
Zhang: Right, nothing good or bad, just practices. Actually what I am doing now is practice as well.

Q: There might be no concepts of practice and work, the feeling of works is strong.  
Zhang: No, no, they are all practices. I am not that proficient yet, still looking for how to do better and how to express more freely.

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