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Probing into Movement and Silence

Author: Liang Shaoji Translator: Lu Jiang 2020

Created between 2014 and 2016, A Move in Silence explores the dynamic yet static, imaginary yet realistic feature of life through silk and light. The wall of the installation, twined with traces of silk, constructs a universe-like vast space. A dismantled clock with no hands is placed on the ground, while a stone pendulum is suspended in midair. Meanwhile, the work also looks like a prayer wheel between heaven and earth, flickering and floating. Since the silkworms wriggle in the shape of an “8” when spinning, the light that casts on the installation produces a marvelous spectacle - the transparent silk foil flows and rotates subject to the change in audience’s focal point, resembling cloud, sea, and cosmic particles. It thus forms “a move in silence” of the flows of life, time, and history.

Why do I transform the Chinese idiom “motionlessness in silence” (寂然不动) into “a move in silence” (寂然而动)? Silence signifies quietness, meditation, and creation. “Returning to  the root is the state of stillness; stillness is a return to life itself.” Tiantai Buddhist teaching “zhi guan” (止观, “zhi”, shamatha, means the cultivation and calming of the mind, and “guan”, vipashyana, refers to the contemplation of reality) holds that the sensation of mind is the core of five human senses. The teaching guides us to understand, experience, and sense the world attentively, instead of turning a blind eye to our surroundings. In this way, we can further achieve enlightenment.

Under the current context, isn’t “a move in silence” a portrayal of the social reality? The term offers us many important implications. When the pandemic strikes, the whole nation locks down. The clock stops, everything silent. In a world of chaos, people self-quarantine at home and live on the immune system. However, this experience of being towards death is a precious opportunity for deep reflection. We return to the starting point of life as well as the original intention of creation to examine and contemplate the extravagance of contemporary human-beings - the worship of capital and quick effects, the indulgence in pleasure, the abuse of high technology, the destruction of nature, and the disregard for life and humanity. As long as humans repent with an honest heart, we can defuse the situation and realize nirvana rebirth, just as the silkworm breaking through the shell. Hence, “a move in silence” describes a state of existence that incorporates the activation of inner potential and the transformation between movement and silence - “the conversion to the opposite” (道反之为动).

It is often said that “things change with the passage of time” (时过境迁). In fact, it is not always the case. A Move in Silence takes on fresh meanings as time passes by. After Wenchuan earthquake, I witnessed the large, prayer-wheel-like distillation tower that collapsed at the chemical plant in Hongbai Town, Wenchuan. With great sorrow, I picked up a stone brick in the ruins, wrapped it in silk, and dropped wax on it to create the work Si Kong. Later in 2014, in my solo exhibition Back to Origin at ShanghART Shanghai, that stone relic from Wenchuan was further transformed into a floating pendulum in the shape of a silkworm-cocoon-like oval. At the moment, the stone is awakened again. Although the journey back to work and production is not easy, we will eventually tackle it with our heart as strong as the stone. After going through great natural disasters, plagues, and wars, human-beings has become more powerful in the face of any difficulties. The pendulum of history slowly spins and will speed up, light and silk flying and waving.

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