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Interview with Yang Fudong

Interviewer: Davide Quadrio/BizART 2007

Davide Quadrio(Quadio): Is an artist powerful? Do you like to be so?
Yang Fudong(YANG): I think an artist should be a powerful person. With this power, I can enjoy the greatest freedom.

Quadio: Do you still keep reading now? Is reading important for an artist?
Yang: I do not read too often now, but I think it's very important for artists to read books. My current feelings towards reading books are this: when I am extremely busy I really look forward to the chance to reading books a few days later. This is the situation I am in right now.

Quadio: Do you find it necessary that a creative / artistic person have a belief? What do you believe in?
Yang: I am not quite sure about what spiritual support specifically means. But if you still want to accomplish something, artists should have his spiritual belief.
Quadio: Can you explain this belief?
Yang: The belief is what you genuinely believe deep inside your heart. This could be your aspiration or something else that urges you to move forward.
Quadio: Does this belief sustain your life and work?
Yang: I think it's something intangible. It pushes me to continue moving forward, whereas I am just executing its orders.

Quadio: Have you anything to say about art and fear?  
Yang: I seldom feel fear. What I fear is the when I don't believe in myself.
Quadio: So you mean it is more scary when an artist doesn't believe in himself?
Yang: This disbelief in oneself is different from an artist's skepticism about his work. They are two different conditions. So I am not sure.

Quadio: How do you deal with critics and criticism of your work?
Yang: 4:49There is a quotation in the Analects of Confucius - good qualities are to be followed, and shortcomings are to be changed.
Quadio: 5:19Then what comments have critics given you? What sort of impact do they have on your works?
Yang: The impact feels oQuadio. Some critics' thinking is clearer than ours. Perhaps some artists are not very organized when they are doing this.
Quadio: 5:50 Then you think... critics can... ... how to say this, they turn art into their... he see your work, but they may not... ... they write it.
Yang: 6:10 On the one hand, I find critics good, and in some ways they are the same as ordinary audiences. When he looks at the works of this artist, he may be standing in this position... ...
Quadio: 6:23 But do you feel that there are some critics who do not understand your work but they write anyway?
Yang: 6:30 I like the kind of critics who see your work and then they say what they think. There are some "article-writing" critics who have only seen your work on the web. There is a big difference in their works.
Quadio: 6:55 Is it a problem?
Yang: Yes, it is a problem because they actually do not understand you.

Quadio: Have you ever been doubtful of your identity as an artist?
Yang: Well... I think it's unnecessary to be doubtful. I am doing what I like to do. I think it is quite good. A more direct way is to call myself an arts practitioner. This is probably more practical.

Quadio: Is an artist corruptible? / Are you corruptible?
Yang: What do you mean by "corruptible" here? Spiritual corruption? Material corruption? It's hard to say.
Quadio: But you... this corruption...
Yang: If you mean spiritual corruption, if the artist gets a lot of spiritual satisfaction... he will feel very lost. It is hard to say what this sense of being lost is, because with corruption he gets a lot of luxurious things...
Quadio: Spiritual corruption is not material corruption afterall.
Yang: Yes, material corruption... A lot of artists are just like ordinary people. It is of course good to be able to live a better life.

Quadio: Dose art need loyalty? And is it a never ending need?
Yang: I don't know the definition of 'loyalty' and how broad it is. But I believe art requires sincerity.
Quadio: Are you sincere to art?
Yang: Yes, I feel I'm very sincere.

Quadio: What is the most important contribution of art to social life / society?
Yang: I have not really thought about whether it has any big contribution.
Quadio: Nevertheless, art and society should have a certain relationship.
Yang: Throughout these years, apart from living a normal life, he has been changing his way of thinking.
Quadio: What is...
Yang: ... I think...
Quadio: Then how do you...
Yang: Lots of times art is trying in a futile way to change man's thinking. It has not had any real effects. But in fact things are really gradually changing.

Quadio: During your career, when did you feel special, different, frustrated - and why?
Yang: First of all, I do what I like, I create works of art. I cannot agree with the term "career life". I find this term strange and it reminds me of NBA players. I cannot imagine any NBA player... for example... and then he is hurt and cannot play... but I think first of all we cannot define things with our careers.
Quadio: But nevertheless, in your work time, there should be some time when you feel special, different or distant with others.
Yang: At the very beginning, surely every artist will experience some hard time. At that time an artist's problem was which way to choose: to carry on or to give up. Perhaps, it's not a difficult problem for all the artists. You'd better put it this waYang: some artists need ten or twenty years to succeed; while others only need one or two years. Will you carry on or give it up?

Quadio: "As an artist, do you feel you have responsibility in a social and cultural context? In what ways?"
Yang: This responsibility is, as said at the beginning, to believe in a spiritual belief. The belief is to be responsible to oneself, then to society.
Quadio: But there should still be a bit of difference...
Yang: As a child, I was taught to take responsibility for even the smallest deeds, so I cannot say for sure that artists have any contribution to society.
Quadio: But don't you think... Let's look at the cultural and art development in Shanghai during the last ten years. No matter what, some artists really have pushed forward the development. Do you think those Shanghai artists have taken the responsibility for improving the culture environment?
Yang: I believe it is those young artists who have made the greatest effort. They play an important role in... Those who are most forceful and aggressive bear the most advancing ideas. These ten years' achievement is all made by those artists in their young age.
Quadio: Generation after generation.
Yang: By once they start they change a lot of things.

Quadio: How did people around you react to your calling yourself an artist?
Yang: Their reaction is sometimes very simple. First, all my family and friends outside this circle were skeptical when I chose the so-called contemporary art as my career. They didn't believe it. They regarded it as an illusory career. Now, even my parents begin to realize that contemporary art is not a bad thing. At least, they knew I could make money. I can make a living with it. So I believe many artists have this feeling. The issue is that you cannot decide not to do it. It has become your life and your career. Whether as artists or filmmakers, life is harder. Artists can also live well. The family's worry is your survival problem.

Quadio: Does Art open conflicts? Should it do so?
Yang: I think it should open conflicts because when a new work or idea is introduced, it cannot be one hundred percent accepted by everyone
Quadio: How do you explain... ?
Yang: At least, the conflicts have changed those fixed ways of thinking. People may think differently, in a simple way.

Quadio: What is the relationship between Art and Culture?
Yang: Just like the sweater you wear, there are an inner side and an outer side.
Quadio: Is art an inner side or outer side?
Yang: You better ask those who make sweaters.

Quadio: What is the relationship between Art History and Ideology History? Is Art History equivalent to Ideology History?
Yang: To me, this is too big an issue. I am not the axis in the globe, so it's hard to make a conclusion.

Quadio: Is "Decency" of concern for an artist?
Yang: There are many types of so-called "Feng Du". My interpretation is that it is the tolerance of artists.
Quadio: How do you explain the "tolerance"?
Yang: Tolerance means, umm... , how artists deal with details. How they react to other's work as well as their own work? They should deal with it with sincerity, which shows tolerance.

Quadio: What and how should the relationship between Art and Politics be?
Quadio: Do you think there is a relationship between art and politics?
Yang: I am not familiar with it. From my own perspective, there isn't a strong relationship between art and politics. But many will take advantage of this relationship. The individual artist may nto care about politics, but some artists love politics because he thinks I is a good tool and method for entering society.
Quadio: Do you think it's related to uhh... artist's spiritual support?
Yang: No. I think those who take advantage of this relationship come with an agenda. But it's hard to tell what kind of purpose they serve.
Quadio: Do you think the...
Yang: it's hard to define which art has the correct standrads, which art has not. And it's hard to measure. Perhaps some regard an artwork as standard while others think of it as non-standard. The difference of region plays a part, too. So it's strange.

Quadio: How do you see the relationship between Art and Ethics?
Yang: Mmm... This relationship is kind of...
Quadio: Or say, the relationship between artist and ethics.
Yang: Mmm... Artist and ethics are thousand miles apart, aren't they?
Quadio: Artists are destroyers of ethics?
Yang: Actually, artists don't have the ability to do so under traditional ethical standard. It depends on people's view on ethics.
Quadio: So how do you see the role of art in ethics?
Yang: An artist should have his ethical standard.

Quadio: After you sold your art, do you miss it? Do you know where it is? Always?
Yang: I don't miss it too much. But at least, I have to know its whereabouts.
Quadio: What about those works you consider especially good?
Yang: If they are works I especially like, surely I would want to know where they are, especially if they are my favourite ones.
Quadio: Do you think you can look after them that way?
Yang: Yes, I think so.

Quadio: Is art a mass product? Should it be?
Yang: It depends on which work it is. If it's a good work, I hope it can be mass-produced.
MC: For example, recently a... is mass-produced. What's your opinion?
Yang: We cannot say much about this kind of mass production...
Quadio: Yes, I agree. Movies can be seen everywhere, but for other kinds of art like photography... if...
Yang: Yes. It will lead to a lot of problems. If they are mass produced, such as in catalogues which are then circulated worldwide, then it is an important exchange means. But I think mass production is good, including online communications. Lots of artists learn on the Web or from libraries. For example I like the movie of... ... in the past, I saw it via video tapes.
Quadio: Hmmm... ...

Quadio: Would you like to use your money to support young artists? Just to sponsor them?
Y:Yes, I will. But I need to know more about the artist first. I will help those artists if I can and as long as I know them.

Quadio: Luxury and Art, Art and Luxury? What do you think about this relationship?
Yang: It's quite simple. Something can be bought, while others cannot. Art can be called luxury items. Of course some things cannot be exchanged with cash. You cannot buy skin. You cannot buy God.

Quadio: How do you arrive at a price for your art? And how do you value your work?
Yang: Some works are priced based on the market. But some works, especially my favorites, are hard to price.
Quadio: What about value?
Yang: It depends on who the buyer is.
MC: Then does the measurement standard come from the heart of the artist or a standard beyond artistic value?
Yang: From my perspective I may just be able to provide... I cannot say how other people judge me.
Quadio: Is it an artist's obligation?
Yang: Many artists regard their works as the best. Or at least some of the works are the best, but others don't think so.
Quadio:... ?
Yang: Yes, because some artists' works are not necessarily right... culture...
Quadio: How do you see this value?
Yang: You mean which are my good works and bad works? This is a matter of how much heart the artist puts into his works. The standard is simple. As long as I devote my heart in the work, it is a good one to me.

Quadio: Is a curator a facilitator or an artist-user?
Yang: The relationship is like one plus one.

Quadio: Do you find it agreeable to share your money with your gallerist?
Yang: Yes, I think it's agreeable.
Quadio: You find it quite a normal way of doing things?
Yang: Yes, but the precondition is that there is mutual trust. They must help each other.
Quadio: It's not necessarily a problem of money.
Yang: Yes, it's a problem of mutual trust.      

Quadio: Is your art a product?
Yang: How to say this... .I think it's a work.
Quadio: Even after it has entered the circulation?
Yang: Yes, I think I accept this way of saying it.

Quadio: Do you think that people should understand your art? Do you need people to understand your art?
Yang: I think I need their understanding. The more people know your work the better. (33:10)

Quadio: QUOTE
Art needs to be inspired by Nature externally, and ultimately be fused with the internal artistic ideals of the artist.
—Zhang Zao, Tang Dynasty
Quadio: Do you agree?
Yang: Yes, I agree. Actually these days when I work on art I have some thoughts. I will feel something, and then months or years later, you will discover that this personal point of view, despite the changes of life, has not yet been forgotten. If I think something can be done, I do it. So a lot of the times I respect this feeling.

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