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Dialogue between LU Xinghua and ZHANG Qing

Interviewer: LU Xinghua Dec,2011

LU Xinghua (LU): The installation of cctv is an excellent experiment of die soziale Plastik (or die soziale Skulptur). Initially it did not exist in society but you build it and leave the reality looped inside the system. Your work, I suppose, is talking about the possibility of constructing a certain reality. Cctv equipment in your work is not sent by the nation to prevent something happening. Instead, reality will turn out incomplete without it in our daily life, like a tent without support poles. Your point is that reality does need monitoring, even as support on hypothetical or psychological level. Security, as Americans claim to promise, is not real security but pre-guarantee. In this case, cctv system is by no means omissible from our everyday life.

ZHANG Qing (ZHANG): If you pay close attention to surveillance footages on web or TV, you will realize the difficulty of finding out the suspect committing a crime. Unlike what happens in a movie, where camera always faces the right way when director intends a most emphatic portrayal of misdeed, cctv monitors are sluggish showing the images you want. They make lazy observants diligent because you are supposed to dig it out. You will still be baffled even if I hand you a surveillance video of crime scene: what exactly is he doing? Undoubtedly, cctv changes the way we look.

LU: The position from which cctv peeps is the place where dominator sits and overlooks. Now with such equipment anyone can make their way and sneak a peek. We all watch the reality through surveillance monitors, like children keeking at the stuff of their parents. It is a new chapter of reality where people under suppression detour around suppressors and watch behind them. In Shanghai, for instance, China is often examined through the eyes of American or British art commenters. Does it make any difference with cctv?It is a position, awfully boring. And yet it has components of games. Surveillance monitor is a dominator,as indifferent, aloof and unconcerned as God. Ordinary people get excited furtively when they look at the screen, a moment like the time when we are little and we open dad's wallet to check out slinkingly how much there is. In fact, what can we do even if we know?

ZHANG: Yes. The way we look at Shanghai and ourselves now is actually quite like the one used by BBC.

LU: Otherwise, you feel like not watching when you have watched. The evening news is there for comforting: Big harvest in farms, tons of money in banks, tellers busy around counting the number, national leaders shaking your hands and you just feel wonderful watching all of these.
ZHANG: I name my exhibition as cctv. What I film is to create a perfect character beyond anyone's imagination who is an idol people can rely on. I spent more than two months in the Scotch factory where I found out workers, compared with their counterparts in my country, enjoyed a higher social status in an even more socialistic environment. In communication with employers or bosses on top rank, there was no image of bootlicking. Welfare benefits were all good and people worked with enthusiasm. Hierarchy, however, did exist, though they refused to admit. It was invisible but it was there whatsoever. One of my works, Learning from Tom, is to satirize the figure of social worker in capitalism.

LU: It is practically an exchange, a swap of two realities. It is just like a game built up by cctv which then adds what is missing. It is thoughtless of us towards surveillance. We find it bad and we want to remove or avoid it. Monitoring, in fact, does not invade into our life. Instead, it is produced because of our subjective need to watch. Its vices speak symptoms on our side. Why do we live so miserably and why do we need cctv? Because our need of it goes first.

December 2011  

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