INTERVIEWED AND TRANSLATED BY 採訪翻譯 x BOWEN LI 李博文
ART.ZIP: You have discussed the role of the curator frequently. On one occasion you mentioned Klaus Biesenbach’s – chief curator at large at the MOMA, director of MOMA PS1 – background as a doctor, and Yuko Hasegawa’s – chief curator of Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo – education in law. This professional-versus-the-amateur problem is related certainly to the apparently simple but quite subtle question of interiority and exteriority. Bernard Stiegler’s recent talk in China also involved this, the idea of the amateur – not to mention also that this important philosopher was once a bank robber. But artist-curator is perhaps more peculiar an identity. An artist is in the art world, by definition, but stays from the curator in an unique, dynamic and sometimes tense relationship. But before discussing your own practice, and the identity of the artist-curator, I would like to first ask you to share with us your view of the current situation of the curator in China today.
HD: It is rather complex, the present situation of the curator in China. The whole of China, with all its politics, economy, and culture is still in a time of substantial transition. Naturally, the structure of the curatorial is effected. The curators of the older generation have accomplished their historical missions, finished really important tasks. I think, the mission of the curatorial practices in the 80s and the 90s are basically finished. In the new millennium, with the popularization of the education of the curatorial, new curators emerge. But this does not mean that there is a great distance between the two, or one is better than another, that is not what I meant. I am pointing out that, with the social restructuring, there is a discursive change in the structure of the curatorial practice as well. The curatorial experience is of course linked to the change in society. For instance, the so-called older generation, including Li Xianting, Gao Minglu and their groundbreaking ’89 exhibition – an important conclusion of the art of the 80s. At that time, curatorial practices were very different; they mostly curate as critics or theorists.
I also think that, the later practices of this generation were still to a greater extent related to the experience of the 80s. Curators like Fei Dawei and Hou Hanrou, on the other hand, with their overseas experiences, somehow distanced themselves and their experiences from the domestic situation. They have the international perspectives, and a good grasp of global culture, politics and theories. But their positions also posed a big problem: from the end of the 80s to the end of the 90s, in this decade, the decade of post-colonialism, when people used immigration culture, heterogeneity, the identity of the other or the idea of difference to resist Eurocentrism, artists like Huang Yongping, Chen Zhen, Cai Guoqiang and Xu Bing among many others were powerfully presented. But, the historical significance of this group of artists is dimming. This, on the other hand, is related to the global change. That is, it is not only a change within the European, American society, but is also a global transition. The rise of the BRICs in the new millennium has changed the global economic, political order, also the cultural order. Therefore, the art that is dependent upon post-colonial culture and theory is dimming as well. This is a structural change in the society. The latest situation that is happening in recent years is, there has been a rise of young curators with art history background or artistic practice background – Qiu Zhijie is at once an artist and a curator; He Guiyan, Lu Yinghua, Fu Xiaodong, Bao Dong and Cui Can Can studied art history. They are energetic, active, motivating young and new art, especially the artists born in late 70s or the 80s. This is the general situation of the curator in China.
ART.ZIP: In a conclusive statement as such, there is already a very interesting proposition: curator is therefore considered a motivating force, not a force that follows; a curator leads, and does not simply or only conclude or assess the event retrospectively after its happening.
HD: I do think that curatorial practices should not only follow, but should indeed lead and look forward. Harald Szeemann, for instance, curated the Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form in 1969; Jean-Hubert Martin curated Magiciens de la terre in 1989; Achille Bonito Oliva and the Transavantgarde movement etc. – these are all very meaningful examples. So artistic phenomena are supported by theories or other foundations. Martin critiqued Eurocentrism; Oliva attempted finding force unique to Italian art, traveling in time and space, integrating his understanding of the Italian poetics, by looking back to medieval Italian art. These are the instances where the curators utilized their sharp thinking. Other examples include the rise of Japanese Gutai, Mono-ha, and the rise of Monochrome in South Korea, et cetera.
In China, for either constructing artistic phenomena or for proposing meaningful intellectual trends, we need supports from theoretical foundations and from art historical or genealogical foundations. Otherwise, we will not be able to determine the axis of art, because intuition alone will not suffice. Intuition is certainly important, but reasonable, logical deduction and judgement are necessities. This is related to the whole cultural system, genealogy of knowledge, including thinking, context, such as Chinese history and the structure of Chinese culture. So, Chinese curators have to have wide perspective, and solid foundation of knowledge, such as art history, politics and sociology, to be able to put art in a large structure and investigate it, and not just reading art in its own limited, narrow realm. Only in such a way can a deep reading of art be meaningful, can one start to understand the happening and production of art. For instance, the the birth of Mono-ha is closed connected to the post-war development of Japan in the late 60s. This is very much similar to the development in China in recent years, with events such as the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo etc. Japanese culture was following blindly European and American culture, so the emergence of Mono-ha was in a way the Japanese response to the Western culture, bringing art back to an aesthetics and philosophy that is unique to Japan, such as the philosophy of Ktaro Nishida and Zen Buddhist philosophy, et cetera. So, though some people consider Mono-ha similar to Italian Arte Povera, American Minimalism, after a close reading one will realize that Mono-ha has a really unique aesthetics and taste. If Arte Povera could be understood as very much sociological, Minimalism as absolute formalism, Mono-ha is very different, in that it stresses the natural materiality, state and relations of things, inseparable from Zen Buddhism, the spaces of temple and garden, and Shintoism. A curator could go deeper and more accurate, putting art back to its structure and try to understand it from there.
ART.ZIP: The feature of the issue is inspired by an artist-curator’s dissatisfaction regarding the curator. She thinks that curator as such cannot do justice to artworks. What do you think?
HD: I think that artist-curator’s dissatisfaction regarding curator as it is known today, is not unlike the fact that critic, artist, institution and curator are all enemies to each other. Curator and artist can never be a unity, so in a certain sense curator is the artist’s enemy – antagonistic, because there is no absolute fairness and justice in an exhibition. A curator is in a way like a director; a film cannot satisfy everybody, and roles cannot be equally important. So there has to be order in an exhibition. Venice Biennale for example, cannot grant every artist the same amount of space, and equally important position.
In fact, some curatorial practices are manifestations of power discourses. Of course, we criticize this power discourse at work, but this sort of system of art is necessary in the society. Curator’s power and responsibilities are granted, given; whether they are in good use or not is another question. Every individual has his/her own preference, taste, aesthetic judgement, so naturally no exhibition could be perfect. Monumental exhibitions are criticized as well, such as the Magiciens de la terre. A lot of people though the curator brought in an excess of non-art objects, and made it improperly. Beneath this was in fact a struggle of power discourses.
Personally, I think that curator and artist-curator are different in terms of judgement and perspective: artist-curators excel in judging the artistic subject: attention to details, sharp understanding, brilliant grasp of the material and the space in the production of art, et cetera. But they are also limited, in that they easily pay too much attention to the artistic subject and rely heavily on personal preference. Relatively, curator could better balance the dialectics of the micro and the macro, the whole and the part of an exhibition, assimilating the trends into the structure of the cultural development, and can effectively lead the development. There is a fine line between the two really. But it could also be the difference between the metaphysical and the physical in nature. Curators are stronger in terms of the thinking and the theorization, thinking deeper in sociology, politics and cross-disciplinary problems; artist-curators perhaps care more about materiality and the the art itself. Regarding power struggle, artist-curators have their own preferences as well, so in fact is caught in another power game. It is not that an artist, after becoming a curator, is not equipped with power. It is equal in this aspect.
Artist-curator was a very trendy idea from the late 90s to the beginning of the new century. In this decade many artists have curated shows, such as the famed Gabriel Orozco, Maurizio Cattelan, Cai Guoqiang and Qiu Zhijie. When Cattelan was working on the Berlin Biennial, he collaborated with Italian curator Massimiliano Gioni, which is very smart. At that time, many artists in the United States also were focusing on developing curatorial practices. I think artist-curator has a unique vitality, but has not been immensely influential in fact. Compared with professional curators, artist-curators are lacking in degree the theoretical and the intellectual. This is also proved by the Documentas and biennales in the last two decades.
Speaking of “amateur curators”, one example is, as we have already mentioned, Klaus Biesenbach who established the Berlin Biennial, and is at the moment leading MOMA and PS1. Although he was not professionally trained, I believe the German education system has granted him a friendly art environment in which he was able to develop a brilliant aesthetic perception. Yuko Hasegawa was previously in law, also; so it is not that only those professionally trained could become a curator. Everybody has the potential to be one, but there are of course standards to meet. The standards mean the abilities of the curators: the ability of knowledge, of fundraising, of establishing relationships with the authorities, institutions, and that of establishing one’s self et cetera. So curating is really a comprehensive, social job.
ART.ZIP: We perhaps can even compare the role of the curator with those found in sister arts, such as the role of the film producer, or director.
HD: In a way, yes, curators are like directors. It is not a very precise analogy, but regarding each role’s functions, it works. Casting – inviting artists to participate; fundraising, writing exhibition proposals; locating space for shooting, locating space for exhibition in museum or other venues… the processes are similar, they just function differently. Film industry has to be populist, closely related to box office, commercially influential; art, on the other hand, especially those managed by serious curatorial practices, is still to a large extent non-commercial. This includes biennial, documenta and many other academic exhibitions etc.
ART.ZIP: In recent years, also emerging are concepts such as “super-curator” or “celebrity curator”. Do you consider this problematic? Many labeled this way were not professionally trained, but are very much exposed to medias and press as the focus of an exhibition.
HD: Again, it is a question of the role of the curator and his/her influence. I think there are at least three types of curators: super-curator, who immediately becomes the focus of any exhibition, with artworks and artists supporting his ideas by ways of illustration; the second kind of curators work in parallel with the artists, with their relationships more marked by an equality. Through a “conspiracy” they get to realize a certain balance; the last kind of curators pushes the artists to the foreground, with the exhibition revolving around the artworks. Biennials today tend to secure a “super-curator” or “celebrity-curator”, in a way that is perhaps not unlike branding, trying to maintain influences. This is the first type at work; in fact a lot of curators are very powerful, a bit too much like a director. But I think the most important thing is still the construction of the exhibition: whether or not an exhibition can be inspiring, can be exterior to our experiences, can be intriguing, be it in the system of art or in the sociological. There are so many shows today, in which many are disappointing. This requires reflection.
ART.ZIP: Also we are seeing a number of philosopher-curators today, such as Boris Groys, Slavoj Zizek, and Wang Minan et cetera. They were trained in philosophy or literature criticism, and have been working in these fields for decades. What is your take of this?
HD: Curating is really a open task, but is also a complex social/cultural project. Curating could be very subtle. We have talked about a number of great thinkers today; they explain themselves and their shows very well. For instance, Jean Francois Lyotard curated a great show in the Centre Pompidou. But academic curators are also limited, because curatorial practices involve also close readings of the language of art itself, the logic of the concept, its relations, and involve dealing with the relationships between works, between works and spaces, and between works and contexts. This could be very subtle: it is a challenge for the curators to make the arrangement reasonable, interesting, and surprising. The making of an exhibition does not only entail writing a good article, but also entail achieving a certain visual effect, and be inspiring. A simple comparison could be: the museum(or any other space) is the body, the artworks are the clothes – how to dress well depends on the person’s(curator’s) taste, or (judgment)wisdom. An academic curator might fail reading the spatial subtlety of the works, especially the spatial relationships. For instance, shall I put a work in the corner, in the air, or in the middle, so that it can respond actively to other works nearby? It depends on experience, and is hard to formulate, because all spaces are different. It is again like shooting a film: the worst way is the old way, and constant renewal and dealing are the right solution. Shipping an exhibition from the UCCA to the MOMA will have to be a challenge, not merely a question of logistics.
ART.ZIP: Are you following any international curatorial movement or trend at the moment?
HD: To me, if there is any movement or trend in the global curating, one still has to find it in the biennials and the Documentas. However, compared with those in the 80s or 90s, the biennials and Documentas today are not that academic, leading and influential anymore. Besides these exhibitions, in recent years I have been following closely the exhibitions in the BRICs nations, and the ecological environments of Asian art, because this area is very lively. As it is well-known, the global financial crisis influenced the whole of Euro American world, and by extension the art within. The global is moving towards the East – China, specifically. But of course the Chinese society has its own problems, still in its development, not yet reaching goal. But at a very high speed already. I experienced Beijing in the 90s: exhibition of contemporary art was illegal, so the exhibitions were only for “internal reference”, or the police would come. Now, in China, with the proliferation of biennials, galleries, private collections and the whole of the art market (including art fairs and auction houses), it is already vastly different from a decade ago. This should not be underestimated. In the future, China might see an even greater development, because the whole society is building a complete system, while the institutions are developing themselves. Also there are unpredictable factors: the tax-free zone in Shanghai is a new attempt, for instance. This involves many things, including the cultural industry. Also, a better legal system is very important as well, this will lay a solid foundation for the further development of Chinese art, clearing things that were previously oblique.
ART.ZIP: What are you working on at the moment?
HD: In 2014 I curated in Monaco the exhibition On Sharks and Humanity. It lasted for half a year, and was very international in nature. It will tour to Moscow and open on the 28th of May there, and will tour to the National Museum of China in September. In October I will be sitting on the international judge panel for the Florence Biennial. Presently, I am working on curating an exhibition that involves young artists from both China and South Korea in Jinjihu museum in Suzhou. I was invited to curate the Flagship Exhibition Hong Kong 2015, following previous curators such as Eugene Tan and Fumio Nanjo. I was also invited to act as the artistic consultant for a massive Chinese art exhibition that involves 9 museums in the 8 cities of Ruhr area in Germany. That’s about it for now.
Telling from my personal experience, curatorial practices have its own problems. From the outside it seems China is very rich now, but curating an exhibition involves many things and is therefore still very much limited. Funding is difficult, but funding is the most important thing, related to basic necessities such as installing, technical support, logistics, and creation et cetera.
The premise is of course passion and dedication. You have to love your job, and you have to know it well as well. You can only love one thing if you know it well, otherwise the love could be superficial. Only can you be passionate about it after knowing and understanding clearly the art. You have to pay attention to the state of the works, that is, its means of production – how to use and transform the meaning of materials, works in spaces and in contexts. I am still learning, watching closely the art of the realms unknown to me. I still need to learn about many things, such as art in India, middle Asia, Latin America and Africa. For instance, I curated in 2012 a unit called Image Anxiety in the Photo Espana. Although it was successful, during the process I got to learn my limits. But this is also what is intriguing about curating: meeting the unknown, facing challenges and difficulties, and constantly try to overcome and go beyond.
ART.ZIP:您在過往經常討論策展人身份的問題。您提到美國MOMA策展人克勞斯·畢森巴赫（Klaus Biesenbach）是外科醫生出身；您提到長谷川佑子（Yuko Hasegawa）是學法律出身的。這個問題與“專業”與“業余”這個貌似簡單但是實則深邃的問題是有關的——或“內部”與“外部”起源的問題。最近貝爾納·斯蒂格勒（Bernard Stiegler）來到中國美術學院做講座，其中一個主題便與這個問題有關（更不要提這位重要的哲學家本身曾經因為持械搶劫入獄）。但藝術家策展人這個身份特別有趣：本身是行業的一部分，但是與策展人身份有著獨特的、有動態張力的距離與關係。作為一名資深策展人，您是怎麼看自己的工作、身份的？
HD:我覺得策展實踐的確不是跟風的事情，是需要去帶領，需要有前瞻性的。比如說哈羅德·史澤曼（Harald Szeemann）在1969年策劃的《活在腦海中：當態度變為形式（Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form）》；讓-於貝爾·馬爾丹（Jean-Hubert Martin）在1989年的《大地魔術師（Magiciens de la terre）》展覽，阿基萊·伯尼托·奧利瓦（Achille Bonito Oliva）與“超前衛運動”（Transavantgarde）等等。這些例子有著借鑒意義。所以藝術現象都是由理論或別的根基作支撐的。馬爾丹《大地魔術師》是對西方中心主義的批判；奧利瓦嘗試回歸到意大利中世紀藝術之中去尋找獨特的意大利藝術的能量，以穿越傳統和當代的時空，以融入他對於意大利詩學的理解。這些都是策展人有著敏感思想的例子。再比如日本的“具體派”（Gutai），“物派”（Mono-ha）的崛起，韓國的單色潮流（Monochrome）等等。
藝術家策展人有一段時期很盛行，大概是90年代後期到2000年初。在這個近十年間多人都策過展，如著名墨西哥藝術家加布裏埃爾·奧羅斯科（Gabriel Orozco）、莫瑞吉奧·卡特蘭（Maurizio Cattelan）、蔡國強還有邱誌傑。 當卡特蘭策劃柏林雙年展時，他與意大利專業策展人馬西米利亞諾·吉奧尼（Massimiliano Gioni）合作，而不是單獨策展，這種做法相當聰明。那個時期的美國也很有很多藝術家進行策展實踐。但是我認為藝術家策展人非常有活力，但並沒有產生深遠的影響，這是事實，與專業策展人相比較，他們在理論和思想高度上要欠點。這可以從近二十年的文獻展、雙年展的實踐經驗中得到證明。
ART.ZIP:另外還有一種學術策展人，比如說哲學家博裏斯·葛羅伊斯（Boris Groys）之前在中國策展，齊澤克（Slavoj Zizek）目前也有考慮進入當代藝術圈，汪民安最近也將在上海策劃展覽。他們都是從哲學或文學批評背景出身，已在自己的專業領域工作了幾十年後開始策展實踐，您怎麼看這樣的身份轉變？
HD:策展是一項開放的工作，但它也是一項復雜的社會／文化工程。策展的工作有很多微妙的地方，我們今天談到了很多偉大的哲學家，思想家，他們的策展在解釋上都非常清楚到位，比如法國哲學家讓-弗朗索瓦·利奧塔（Jean Francois Lyotard）就曾在蓬皮杜策過展。但學術型策展人對藝術本身的把握有些許局限，因為除了思想和理論的解讀外，策展工作不僅需要解讀藝術本體的語言／觀念邏輯及其關系，還涉及到對作品與空間、作品與作品、作品與語境的關系巧妙處理，這很微妙：如何在空間內把展覽的安排合理有趣，甚至讓人驚喜，是對策展的考驗。展覽不光只是寫篇好文章，也需要考慮如何達到展覽預期的視覺效果，從而給人很多啟發性的東西。這裏我想做一個簡單比喻，如果把美術館（或其他空間）比作身體，那麽藝術作品被比作衣服，怎樣合理搭配就檢測著（策展）人的品味或（判斷）智慧。因此，一件作品放在不同位置的效果是截然不同的，這使得對藝術作品的解讀會發生變化，好比穿衣搭配，顏色搭配不同導致了視覺效果，從而導致對東西的理解和品味的變化。所以學術策展人不一定能解讀到作品在空間中的微妙之處，尤其是空間的關系，比如作品是安排在墻角、空中、中間還是和其他作品產生呼應，這是一種經驗之談，很難描述，因為不同空間有不同的應對方法。就像拍一部影片，最失敗的做法是照搬模式，不斷的更新和應對才是正解。倘若將北京尤倫斯藝術中心（UCCA）的展覽突然轉移到紐約現代藝術博物館（Museum of Modern Art）展出，這會是一項很大的挑戰，不是作品往那一堆就可以了。
2003年我受邀出席了東京森美術館（Mori Art Museum）以“幸福”（Happiness）為主題的開館展覽，由戴維·艾略特（David Elliott）和皮耶·魯奇·塔基（Pier Luigi Tazzi）共同策劃，此次展覽讓我印象深刻。在其中一間展廳裏擺放著傑夫·昆斯（Jeff Koons）作品《熊和警察（Bear and Policeman, 1988）》，熊摟著警察，警察看向熊；正對面是一件北朝鮮的石膏雕塑作品，女子手捧土豆在微笑；而背後是一張小尺寸油畫作品，主題是北朝鮮人在稱土豆。這立刻折射出一種關系——幸福的相對性：資本主義高度發達下美國幽默的幸福觀和北朝鮮為了生存而出現的虛假的幸福觀。作品間傳遞出很微妙的信息，專業的策展總是能引發很多的聯想和思考。當然不是說反對哲學背景的人進入策展行業，我在嘗試尋找，如何將視覺藝術的內在性充分展現出來，使人產生思考的價值，而不是簡單的堆砌，需要考慮作品的輕重、大小、強弱、緩急，是否互相幹擾，是否和諧，是否能建立有機的聯系，是否能產生有效的對話。從理論上說起來很容易，但實踐過程中需要相當豐富的經驗。
HD:去年（2014）我在摩納哥海洋博物館策劃了展覽《鯊魚與人類（On Sharks and Humanity）》。展覽持續了半年之久。這是一個國際性的展覽，今年5月28日將在莫斯科開幕，9月將在中國國家博物館與觀眾見面。10月，我將前往佛羅倫薩雙年展擔任國際評審。目前我也正在策劃蘇州金雞湖美術館的中韓年輕藝術家的展覽。去年年底，我被邀請策劃2015香港藝術中心《年度旗艦展覽（Flagship Exhibition）》，前幾屆的策展人分別是陳維德（Eugene Tan）、南條史生（Fumio Nanjo）等人。另外德國魯爾區8個城市的9個美術館聯合組織一個超大型的中國藝術展，邀請我擔任藝術顧問，差不多是這樣。