Into the Waste Land
走向荒原


Text by Zhao Jun(趙均)
Director of Oriental Art Department of Nan Kai University
1st August 2015.

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Although Sun Yi has just been awarded Master of Fine Arts by Slade School of Fine Art, he has already held many exhibitions in England and Beijing. The footprints of his works are scattered across the world of contemporary art. For instance, with his drawings, he outlined various strange yet familiar images in a sea of news data, they could be it a detail from an area of the world, an expression that can be easily forgot or a plot or an action from a story. The works have a strong visual impact, often mingled with anxiety, excitement or other kinds of mixed feelings. Sun Yi breathed new life into events or information deserted in a corner of the world. In another work, in a winter, he dug a big hole in the open field of his hometown and put a huge ice block into it, as if he was burying a secret, a history or a corpse but with the knowledge that will eventually melt in the spring. Sun Yi has also wrapped parts of the chairs in the audience section with a bandage-like fabric and placed them in disorder so that the disordered and “injured” scene transformed the audience section into a stage. Once, he even wrapped the books in the library in the same way or inversed the books with the chairs, which seemed to announce his intension to prevent people from reading. As his art performance and exhibitions demonstrate, Sun Yi has stepped out of the ivory tower and become an artist, bravely walking into the scene of modern and contemporary culture and engaged with it. It has not been easy for him to be so stern and calm against the international backdrop in the scene with such cool and smart works. Now, let’s shed some light on the scene.

Human civilization has stumbled along as it has constantly been besieged and constrained by numerous idols and taken great pains to break them. Transformations of ideology in any region, culture, society and in any race are none other than the movement to subvert old idols and shape new ones, with difference only in their degree and frequency. Their common feature lies in the inevitable idolization, that is, the objectification, or vulgarization, of a spiritual goal into object of worship in real life. This is the unavoidable dilemma for human existence. The spirit wants to transcend the flesh but is always constrained by it. Fetishism is the very fundamental kind of idol worship, because others are only camouflaged reproductions. For instance, metaphysics in the West, classical aesthetics and art, Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism in China, etc. have constructed and laid the foundation for human civilization, but they all share the characteristics of idolization. Therefore, their value only counts in certain stage of civilization and they cannot serve as eternal and consummate truth. Moreover, the historical constraints imposed by them must be removed. Idols are the objectification of spiritual goals by human beings and go together with the development of civilization. In the face of such an inevitable predicament, modernism emerged with the most profound motivation to eliminate all the strange constraints placed by idols. Firstly, it seeks for liberalization by eliminating idols. Secondly, to avoid the constraints imposed by idolization, all conditions for making idols must be destroyed, which means to abandon the faith in idols and dismantle the world of value and meaning built upon such faith. After that, any meaningful and valuable goals should be crushed through transformation of ideas (in the ways of modern art) so as to kill any attempt to rebuild idols. To materialize it, we will have to pay the price.

Renaissance artists created art with man as the subject and granted God a mortal body with classical aesthetic ideas and methods, and overthrew the deific idols of worldly power in the Middle Ages. Although they initiated and established a world of contemporary and modern humanistic value and meaning, achieving the greatest accomplishment in classical beauty, they fell into objects of worship a few centuries later. The movement to subvert idols continued. The religious reform where Martin Luther tried to break the rank order that Catholic Church used to idolize God and the unification of the state and the church, and the worldwide Enlightenment that proposes freedom, democracy, equality, reason and science eventually freed the world from the oppression of idols of superstition and divine right of kings.

Once the old idols were overthrown, disorder in two aspects will occur, namely, influencing social order and shaking ideas and values. Social order is related to political system, which means there are temporary solutions to it. However, as ideas and values are related to the spiritual world, its disorder will lead to serious loss of value and meaning. At the end of the 19th century, Nietzsche claimed that “God is dead”, signifying the collapse of holy idols as well as the traditional metaphysical system. The destruction of the foundation for divine right of kings and authoritarianism symbolized the progress of institution and civilization. However, with the subversion of idols, the traditional world of value and meaning was lost, which gave rise to the barbaric fetishism, as shown through the confusion of morality and ethics and the termination of classical art and aesthetics. It is never easy to prevent holy value and meaning from possible corruption while subverting idols to maintain the holiness and purity of truth.

T. S. Eliot, great poet of the 20th century, depicted in The Waste Land the world after spiritual disorder. It is a bleak, dirty wasteland with dead silence where the vulgar desire devours everything like seawater and people walk towards death full of despair. The Waste Land is a faithful portrayal of the world, with which Eliot conveyed his worry as a conscientious modern intellectual.

With Avignon Girl, Picasso shows us how a lady had turned into an ugly prostitute and became the tool of desire in the wasteland of death. In Guernica he enables us to hear the terrible howl when people were dismembered by the Nazi’s death machine. Cubism is the subversion of classical aesthetic ideas and experience from structure to the whole. Not only does it smash the idols, but presets a true picture of death imbued with spiritual disorder and loss of value.

Duchamp added moustache to Mona Lisa, mocking the solemn and holy aesthetics and historical significance of humanism. His Fountain, a urinal, is more a comprehensive and powerful slander to classical aesthetics.

Modern artists subvert classical spiritual idols at all costs and transform themselves and their works into the wasteland where value and meaning are lost. They also have a genuine taste of various sins induced by desire, which seems like they are playing the martyrs. However, they cannot abandon the will of modern intellectuals and the mission of artists. They confront the silent and desperate wasteland and choose to bear the mental stress caused by the overwhelming void due to the loss of value and meaning. Moreover, they constantly resist the inevitable dilemma of objectification and idolization with decentralized, non-value and non-meaning ideas and language—this is the scene of modern and contemporary culture and art.

The possibility for the emergence of new idol worship looms over the destruction of all idols and resistance against everything, which is the fundamental spirit of modern art. A full grasp of this point leads to a thorough understanding of modern art. In the post-war America, abstract expressionism, pop art and other artistic phenomenon were bewildering and beyond comprehension. Yet comparing them with socialist art allows us to see the power and role of modern art in the West in keeping modern civilization from objectification and idolization.

Countering objectification with non-meaning calls for the ability to bear the huge stress from spiritual void. Despite his gradual awareness of this point, Sun Yi still unswerving walks into the wasteland with modern artistic methods, which means that he is going to fulfill the mission and social responsibility of conscientious modern intellectuals and modern artists.

He is still traversing the wasteland without hesitation. As a responsible and independent thinker, he bravely and resolutely joins the modern artists. There is no doubt that his methods are modern as well as international. His art will be associated with many people in modern times, although its influence cannot be predicted. There is one thing for certain: his art will never be kidnapped by money or politics. This is shown in his performance art One Cent, which shows his clear stance against fetishism. This mirrors the spirit of a genuine modern artist or a conscientious modern intellectual, which is the basic safeguard for one to counter objectification and idolization. It is rare and commendable for a young Chinese artist to have such spirit. He deserves our attention.

剛剛獲得英國斯萊德美術學院藝術碩士學位的孫毅已在英倫和北京舉辦過多次展覽,他的作品已經印入當代藝術的視界:在報紙海量新聞數據中他的線條在勾勒一個個陌生又熟悉的圖像,那是來自世界某個角落的細節,一個或許很快被遺忘的表情、一個故事的情節動作,他的線條在新聞數據視野中衝擊流蕩,帶著焦慮、興奮亦或是某種複雜的情緒,他讓被丟棄在世界某個角落的事件資訊重新獲得了溫度。他在家鄉冬天的原野,把一方巨大的冰塊埋入挖好的土坑,像是掩埋一個秘密,一段歷史或是一具屍體,但那只是春天裏注定要融化的冰水。他把台下看場的椅子全部都用繃帶一樣的織物進行局部包紮,橫七豎八的擺放,失序和受傷的場面把看場變成了舞臺。他把圖書館的圖書包紮起來,或又把書和椅子倒置擺放,他在阻止這個世界的人們正常的閱讀嗎?他的藝術行為和展覽表明孫毅早就以一個藝術家的身份沖出了學府的象牙塔,勇敢地走進並參與了現當代文化藝術發生的現場,他的作品很酷,也很帥,身處這樣國際化的氛圍能表現出如此凜然從容的態度,實屬不易,我們看看這是怎樣的現場吶。

人類文明一直是在眾多偶像的包圍束縛和掙脫束縛與包圍的糾結中蹣跚而行,可以說不論發生在任何地域、種族、文化、社會中的意識形態的變革都無外乎是在重複著打破舊的偶像又重塑新的偶像的運動,區別只是程度頻率有所不同。其同樣的特徵是精神目標的客體化或者叫庸俗化為現實的膜拜對象即偶像化的必然性是一致的,這是人在世生存的必然困境,精神要翺翔肉體之上,但肉體的束縛卻始終存在。拜物教就是眾多偶像崇拜中最本質的一種,其他只是經過偽裝粉飾後的翻版。再比如西方的形而上學,古典主義美學與藝術,中國的儒釋道思想等等,雖然他們構建了並奠定了人類文明的基礎,但卻都有著偶像化的性質,因此它們只能具備文明歷史過程中階段化的價值而不可以當做永恆圓滿的真理,而且還必須要破除其所造成的歷史性的束縛。偶像即是人類將精神目標客體化的行為,它與文明的步伐相伴相生。面對人在世生存所面臨的這一必然困境,現代主義運動應運而生,其最深刻的動機就是要徹底破除人類生存被種種偶像包圍的怪圈。第一步先是尋求解放,消滅偶像,其次為避免再一次陷入偶像化的包圍必須拆除製造偶像的一切條件,即放棄偶像信仰的同時拆除由信仰建立起來的價值與意義的世界,然後繼續以轉換觀念的方式(現代藝術的方式)顛覆任何有意義與價值的目標以防止伺機重建偶像的企圖,為此我們要付出巨大的代價。

文藝復興的藝術家創造了以人為主體的藝術,沿用古典的美學理念和方法將上帝變成了肉身,瓦解了中世紀神化的世俗權利的偶像,開啟並建立了近現代人文主義的價值與意義的世界,在造型藝術領域創造了古典主義之美的最高成就,之後又成為幾個世紀人們頂禮膜拜的對象。 但拆解偶像的運動一直繼續,馬丁·路德的宗教改革試圖打破天主教偶像化上帝的等級秩序和政教合一的制度,席捲世界的啟蒙主義運動宣導自由、民主、平等及理性與科學的思想,最終將世界從迷信和君權神授的偶像壓迫下解放出來……。

伴隨舊偶像的破除會出現兩方面的失序,一是涉及社會秩序,二是動搖思想觀念。社會秩序關乎政治制度,可以找到臨時解決的方案,但思想觀念關乎精神世界,它的混亂失序所造成的價值與意義的迷失後果十分嚴重。十九世紀末哲學家尼采聲言上帝已死,標誌神聖偶像的毀滅包括傳統形而上學體系的崩潰。君權神授的基礎被打破了,極權專制的政治紛紛破產,這是制度文明的進步。但伴隨偶像的覆滅,傳統的精神價值與意義的世界也隨之迷失,這更導致野蠻的拜物教赤裸裸的興起,直接表現為道德倫理的混亂和古典藝術與美學趣味的終結,這使我們感到打碎偶像保持真理的神聖性與純潔性,又不丟掉神聖性的價值與意義的立場避免可能的墮落是一件多麽不容易的事情。

二十世紀偉大的詩人艾略特以《荒原(The Waste Land)》為題寫下了精神失序後的世界圖景:那是萬物蕭瑟,骯髒死寂的荒原,卑下的欲望向海水一樣吞噬著一切,人們在絕望中走向死亡……。 《荒原》是現實世界的真實寫照,艾略特表達了一位有良知的現代知識份子深切的憂慮。

畢加索的《亞威儂少女(Avignon Girl)》讓我們看到女神如何變身為醜陋的妓女成為死亡荒原上欲望的工具,《格爾尼卡(Guernica)》讓我們聽到了納粹的死亡機器肢解生命時恐怖的嚎叫。立體主義就是對古典主義審美理念和經驗從結構到整體上的破壞,它打碎了偶像,直陳了精神失序價值迷失的死亡圖景。

杜尚在“蒙娜麗莎(Mona Lisa)”的臉上畫上兩抹鬍子,重重的嘲弄了人文主義莊嚴神聖的美學與歷史意義,他用小便池製作的作品《泉(Fountain)》更是對古典美學全面有力的詆毀。

現代藝術不惜一切代價打碎古典主義的精神偶像,讓自己和作品本身成為價值與意義迷失的荒原,他們同樣也真切的體驗著欲望羅織的種種罪惡,這像是一種苦肉計,但他們最終不能放棄現代知識份子的意志和藝術家的使命,他們直面死寂絕望的荒原並選擇承擔無意義無價值的巨大空虛所造成的精神壓力,並繼續以去中心、非價值、無意義的觀念語言不斷的抵抗再次客體化偶像化的必然困境——這就是現當代文化藝術的現場。

破壞一切偶像,抗拒一切必然要興起的新的偶像崇拜的可能,這是現代主義藝術根本的精神實質,我們抓住這一點就真正理解了現代藝術。戰後美國的抽象表現主義藝術、波普藝術等等藝術現象撲朔迷離令人費解,其實把他們與前蘇聯社會主義藝術比較就能很容易看出西方現代藝術讓現代文明社會遠離客體化與偶像化的力量和作用。

以無意義的手段抗擊客體化這需要承擔精神空虛的巨大壓力,孫毅逐漸意識到了這一點,但他還是毅然以現代藝術的方式走向荒原,這意味著他將履行有良知的現代知識份子和現代藝術家的使命與社會責任。

他正繼續義無反顧地在荒原中穿行,他獨立思考,有所擔當,他勇敢果斷地側身現代藝術家行列,他的方式無疑是現代的也是國際化的,他的藝術將會與我們時代的很多人相關,其作用有多大不能預測,但有一點是十分明確的,他的藝術絕不會被金錢和政治所綁架,他的《一分錢(One Cent)》行為藝術就是主動抗拒拜物教的明確表達,這一點顯示出一位真正現代藝術家或是有良知的現代知識份子的精神品質,這是一個人能夠抗擊客體化,抗拒偶像化的基本保障。這一切對於一個從中國出發的青年藝術家的確是難能可貴的,我們必須關注他。

The Wormhole Effect

Under the influence of his father, Sun Yi has been passionate about reading, engaging with Chinese and foreign classic masterpieces from ancient to modern times, since a tender age and boasts good handwriting. He was no genius, but his rich cultural genes were so engrained that he enjoyed more cultural knowledge than his peers who knew nothing but play. However, it also deprived him of his innocence and purity. His blank sheet has been packed with calligraphy, poetry, classical aesthetics of the West and modern philosophical concepts and historical images, which together integrate him into the net of different value and meaning of history and culture. As a result, his future is destined to be connected to culture and tradition. He will either be a successor or gravedigger of tradition. His study at the Department of Eastern Art of Nankai University has indicated the direction of his future development. As an independent thinker, he gives the least care to immediate interests, which saves him from being a narrow egoist. Instead, he is constantly alive with passion for looking at the stars and shows the basic quality of being a modern intellectual. He is, therefore, bound to be something in modern art. Further study at Slade School of Fine Art unlocked his potential. The study of and research into art in London, an important city in developed Western civilization, meant that he must bridge two unavoidable gaps: the one between China and the West and the other between classism and modernism. These require comparison, criticism and transition between the classical civilizations and modern societies of China and the West. These involve a great deal of academic thinking and analysis, and call for extensive reading, intuition and living cultural conscience. How to bridge the gaps has been challenges confronting modern Chinese culture for one and a half centuries and is a major historical and cultural topic. He who is able to bridge them will become the elite of our times, which will hence bring along a group of genuine international artists that transcend Chinese traditions.

Owing to his rich knowledge and keen cultural awareness, Sun Yi was able to identify the topic and made it his mission and, during his postgraduate study, he tried to put it into practice. For his first exhibition at Beijing 798 Art Zone, he coated the newspaper with white powder and reproduced the images at the back of the newspaper with drawings, which can be seen as a stately discard of the media. It is a careful presentation of the living details hidden under the white powder, that are doomed to be discarded. This process is absurd and ambiguous, but it “buries” the discourse power of the media with white powder and highlights the cheap aspects of the everyday utilized and manipulated by the media and endows it with rhythmic lines and tender care. The work aims to tell everyone that there is no definite meaning for everything and to reject the authorized or secularized definitions of and behind the media. The work, therefore, conveys humanistic care. In the exhibition he symbolically traded this work for one cent, the intention of which is self-evident—a protest against the money-driven fetishism in the Chinese art market, that is, resistance to objectification.

He never stops thinking and with thinking comes along different works. While bridging each gap, he serves as a vanguard in the modern art of the West and spares no efforts to make a difference in the scene of modern culture and art with modern methods. Sun Yi is realizing a dual traverse with his experience in art and art performance. First, as a journey through the barriers set by various idols, modern art bears the pressure from spiritual void to survive the worldly wasteland and aims to keep civilization away from the constraints of objectification. Secondly, it is through two different civilizations and histories.

There is a huge gap between the society in China and modern civilization in the West. It is a gap between barbarism and civilization, between backwardness and progressiveness. Traditional linear thinking indicates the great difficulty in getting rid of barbarism and establishing civilization and the impossibility of completing one-off transformation within a short time, whether in terms of details or the whole. It might be realized with the efforts of several generations. However, with synchronous thinking, it is possible to fulfill a one-off transformation, as simultaneously speaking the switch from one space-time to another is a kind of journey.

According to the notion of wormhole in theoretical physics, the linear space between two separate ends in the universe can be deformed to bring close the two ends and form a wormhole through which man can traverse a far distance within a short time.

So is it possible to build cultural wormholes? The deformation of space is a result of the enormous energy field and the wormholes are synchronous traverse space. For art, its reproducibility, narrative and descriptive language, which are frequently used in classical art, are diachronic. Yet for modern art, the language is conceptual and the concepts are synchronous, which can give rise to cultural wormholes. Having honesty, conscience, cultural awareness, knowledge, the wisdom and ability to transform concepts and the courage to undertake responsibility and moral strength will form the magnetic field needed for deforming cultural space.

Cultural wormhole is an interesting and positive hypothesis. While historical lessons teach us that idolization is the danger that must be eliminated in a civilization, modern art implicates that it is respectable to have courage and wisdom to traverse the barriers formed by idols with paradoxical logic. Hence, we fully support Sun Yi to walk unswervingly into the wasteland of spirit with modern art. At a time when our nation is facing different cultural challenges that must be tackled, every bit of effort on cultural transformation is the only way and only hope to bridge the gaps. Sun Yi’s experience in education and practice in art reminds me of the hypothesis of the cultural wormhole. I am more than willing to see and firmly believe that Sun Yi will complete the anticipated dual traverse with modern art, for the Sun Yi that I know is well equipped with all the necessary qualities, competence and other conditions. I am convinced that my judgment and expectation is correct, for his recent series of works, art performance, ideas and opinions have constantly proved it. It is also my sincere hope that those who pay attention to Sun Yi try to understand and judge him with the ideas mentioned above and offer him necessary criticism and support.

蟲洞效應

孫毅從小在其父親影響下喜歡讀書,寫一手好字,書目涉及中外古今經典名篇名著。他並非神童,但豐富的文化基因早已注入他的生命脈絡,其結果是他比只知玩耍的同齡夥伴更有文化,但也過早地失去了無知者的天真與單純。他早就不是一張白紙,那上面已密密麻麻的寫滿了各種書法詩文、西方古典美學、現代哲學的種種概念意象,這些把他編織進了歷史文化的各種價值與意義的網路之中,註定他的未來命運與文化傳統息息相關,要麽成為傳統的後繼者,要麽成為傳統的掘墓人。他在中國著名的南開大學東方藝術系的學習已顯露出他未來發展的端倪,他喜歡獨立思考,從不在乎眼前利益,避免了成為狹隘的利己主義者,而是時常洋溢著仰望星空的熱情,顯露出成為現代知識份子的基本品質,這註定了他將來會在當代藝術領域有所作為。英國斯萊德大學讀研的機會,令他的潛質得到發揮,在發達的西方文明重鎮倫敦的求學,尤其是學習與研究藝術,意味著他將面對著幾個不可回避的跨越,即中國向西方的跨越,古典向現代的跨越,這其中還要完成中西古典文明的比較批判與轉換,中西現代社會的比較批判與轉換等等,這是大量學術思辨的工作,需要讀書更需要心靈的直覺和文化良知的覺醒。這樣的跨越其實是擺在了一個半世紀以來所有現代中國人面前的難題,如何完成這樣一種跨越是歷史與文化的重大主題。誰能應對它,意味著誰就是我們時代的精英,這樣的跨越也意味著時代將造就一批超越中國傳統的真正的國際性的藝術家。

孫毅的知識儲備與文化自覺很快讓他辨識到了這一主題,他知道他屬於這個主題,他勇於接受並在讀研期間就嘗試著承擔它。他在北京798的第一個展覽的情況是:他把報紙塗上白粉,又用線條複現背面的圖像,觀者可以想見這一過程是把堂而皇之的媒體新聞垃圾化處理後,又倍加珍惜地精心勾勒出掩埋在白粉下且終將被丟棄在角落裏的一個個生命的細節。這過程十分悖謬,引發許多的歧義,但總的來說是用粉刷的方式掩埋了媒體的話語權,然後又將被媒體利用和操縱的廉價的生命細節撿起來並給予有節奏的線條和有溫度的關懷。他作品的深意就在於告訴大家一切都還沒有找到確定的意義,以此拒斥媒體和媒體背後各種權威或世俗化的定義,同時傳達出人道主義的關懷。在展會上他以一分錢的價格象徵性的交易他的作品,其意圖倒是十分明確的,即抗議國內藝術市場金錢至上的拜物教潮流——抗擊客體化是他作品的明確意圖。

接下來他的思考連續不斷,作品也不斷出臺,他在繼續著一個一個的跨越的同時保持著在西方當代藝術中前衛的姿態,他以現代方式在當代文化藝術的現場正努力的有所作為,綜合起來看孫毅的藝術經歷與藝術行為正在形成一種穿越,這穿越是雙重的:其一、現代藝術本身就是穿越的,它穿越種種偶像的屏障,承擔著精神空虛的壓力走過世俗的荒原,努力讓文明世界遠離客體化的束縛。其二、是兩個不同文明歷史空間的穿越。

中國社會與西方現代文明相比差距很遠,可以說是野蠻與文明,落後與進步的差距,用習慣的線性思維看,從野蠻邁入文明談何容易,不論從細節還是從宏觀上看在短時間內一次性的完成跨越幾乎是不可能的,至少要經過幾輩人的努力或許可能,但用共時性思維來思考就會不一樣,一次性跨越就是有可能的。在共時性中完成包括由一個時空向另一個時空轉換的事件準確的說應該是一種穿越。

在理論物理中有一個蟲洞的理論,即將宇宙中遙不可及的兩點之間的直線空間彎曲,在兩個拉近的極點建立蟲洞,經過蟲洞人類可以在短時間內完成遙遠距離的穿越。

我們設想文化蟲洞該是怎樣的吶?空間彎曲是巨大能量場作用下的結果,蟲洞是共時性的穿越空間。藝術中再現性和敘述以及描述性的語言是歷時性的,這常常是古典藝術使用的方法,現代藝術語言是觀念性的,觀念是共時性的,它會產生文化蟲洞的空間效應。心靈的誠實與良知,文化的自覺,知識的儲備,轉換觀念的智慧與能力,承擔的勇氣與責任心以及道德的力量會積蓄一種能量,構成作用於文化空間彎曲的磁場。

這是一個有感而發的很有趣的積極設想,當歷史教訓我們偶像化是文明社會必須根除的禍患,現代主義藝術啟示了我們在悖論的邏輯中不斷地穿越偶像的屏障是一種令人尊重的勇氣和智慧,我們會更支持孫毅以現代藝術的方式義無反顧的走向精神的荒原。當我們身處的民族正面臨一個個必須跨越的世紀性文化難題的時候,每一個個體致力於文化變革的努力是實現跨越的唯一的途徑和希望。孫毅的求學經歷與藝術實踐讓我產生了文化蟲洞的設想,我也更願意並相信孫毅能以現代藝術的方式完成我們所共同期待的雙重的穿越,因為我所瞭解的孫毅具備了必要的素質與品質及相應的各種條件。我相信我的判斷與期望是準確的,因為他最近的一系列作品和藝術行為及思想言論在給我不斷提供著可靠的證據,我也希望關注他的人們嘗試著用以上的想法來理解和判斷孫毅,並給他必要的批評與支持。