A Talk in Huantie Studio
Time: Mar. 29th, 2008
People in the dialogue: Liu ZhuoQuan, Lian Dongya (Hereafter referred to as Lao Liu, Xiao Lian)
Lao Liu: When did you come to Beijing?
Xiao Lian: In 2006.
Lao Liu: What did you do before that?
Xiao Lian: I had a temporary job in a commercial photographic studio in my hometown.
Liao Liu: (Smiling) What pictures did you take at that time?
Xiao Lian: A series of works named after “Balcony”.
Lao Liu: What does that mean?
Xiao Lian: Those days were very boring to me. Except sleeping and working, I did nothing every day. Fortunately, I found myself interested in cultivating flowers. Then, I regarded the bonsai on the balcony as the prospect and put some dough figurines of self-murderer. I liked the uncertain relation between the bonsai and the scenery behind the balcony.
Your “balcony” reminds me of Hitchcock’s film, “Rear Windows”. That film is also about murder. Are you influenced by him to some degree?
Xiao Lian: I hadn’t watched that film. I just felt very gloomy at that time. The state of my life was repetitive which was similar with suicide to me. To be honest, I once studied suicide and the way of death seriously.
Lao Liu: So serious?
Xiao Lian: You know I am a self-imprisoned person. I seldom communicate with people and have a sense of fright to the society.
Lao Liu: Why?
Xiao Lian: I don’t know. Anyway, I have an antipathetic feeling to the society.
Lao Liu: Everybody must live in the social group. You are suspected to escape the reality. Have you tried to find reasons from yourself?
Xiao Lian: I don’t know. In fact, I like to stay alone. Maybe I am unable to see anything fine and hopeful in the society.
Lao Liu: How do you make a living in Beijing?
Xiao Lian: At first I do something for my friends, now by selling my works.
Lao Liu: Do you have more chances to contact the society after you came to Beijing?
Xiao Lian: Small changes happened, but I also like staying alone.
Lao Liu: Are there some changes in your art works?
Xiao Lian: Yes. The ways of treating things are changing. In the past, I did things in an individual and emotional way. Now I begin to display some social things. For example, the immoderate rebuilding and expanding in the city. Besides, I am interested in migrant workers’ life. They work for the city every day like ants, but their life has nothing to do with this city.
Lao Liu: Right. In fact, we are similar with them to some degree.
Xiao Lian: You have more contact with the society and there seems to be a social concern in your works all the time.
Lao Liu: Maybe that has something to do with my personnel experience. After graduating, I went to Tibet and worked there. And in 1986 I came back to Wuhan and then worked in Guangzhou. In 2001, I began to live in Bejing. Just as you Know, I like to rebuild the social relationship whenever I came to a new place. Compared with you, I have a deep feeling about the Chinese social system.
Xiao Lian: Why did you quit the job in TV station in 2005?
Lao Liu: It is very tired to work for a social system and the most important thing is you can’t do things freely. Because what you can speak is institutionalized. Personal idea and emotion are always enslaved.
Xiao Lian: Is this the reason why you began to do art.
Lao Liu: Right. I was not determined to do art at the beginning. I just detest the system and right. Certainly, art is a better life style. There is a certain destructive strength in contemporary art, which can make me get an “existing” pleasure and a freedom of expression.
Xiao Lian: But there is also a system in the field of art, for example, the gallery system.
Lao Liu: Yes. No matter what system it is, finally it is a personal choice. No matter art or life, my bottom line is not to accept the enslavement from any right.
Xiao Lian: Well. I think everybody hopes to live like this. But the realistic cruelty always presses people very much, and people have to make concessions.
Lao Liu: To me, reality is not good all the time. Similarly, politics is always full of deceiving and history is a pile of nonsense. However, I believe people have a spiritual strength. Everybody who came to this world is unique.
Xiao Lian: Your recent works seem to display some problems of the city. You made some famous odd building in Beijing with coal. How did you think?
Lao Liu: I have been very interested in Chinese buildings all the time. I can find very strong Zeitgeist in them, especially land-mark buildings, which are symbols of a certain ideology and right. I had a deep feeling about them even when I was a child, for example, the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the Great Hall of the People, etc.
Xiao Lian: Yes, but now it seems to become a feeling of deceiving.
Lao Liu: Everybody knows National Theater, Bird Nest, Water Cube and CCTV new building in Beijing, all of which are large-scale and unavoidable. They seem to be a typical mixture of western liberalism economy and Chinese centralization of state power. These two forces met together and released great energy which is unable to be judged for the moment. I made the buildings with coal in order to confirm such a realistic state.
Xiao Lian: What state?
Lao liu: It is hard to say. A few like ants on a hot pan. There is a strong sense of restless, like some changes in human bodies, which are uncertain.
Xiao Lian: Like a latent period of cancer.
Lao Liu: That’s right.
Xiao Lian: What do you think of the relationship between the society and art?
Lao Liu: In my life, I can’t get rid of the misty sense of life and oppression from different systems. I doubt what characters describe as ” a world full of meanings “. In my view, most of what human civilization represents is about the right. So, I do not believe in the society.
Xiao Lian: Yes. It is also very strong to me.
Lao Liu: In my option, art is related to personal imagination, no matter contemporary art or classical art. It is important to have the power beyond any social order. Only those works can last for ever. I think the real world is unreliable. In fact, we only have different ways of watching the world.