Wu Hong:Translation Between Body and Society

The cause:A cook reads military strategy instead of cookbooks.
Han Xiao just had taken an action art activity named “operation” two months before he wrote this article.    At the same time, he was questioned by many people from the media. The questions mainly focused on  two points. Firstly, could a professional doctor also be an artist? Secondly, was it a commercial speculation in a way that could attract the eyesight of many people? Thirdly, if “the” operation could be considered as action art, could any operation be called action art?
As Zhao Benshan says in his sketch, “A cook reads the military strategy instead of cook-books”, it really happened a little bit suddenly.  However,if we don’t think about the first doubt without prejudice, we will    find that this problem is actually a false problem. In the history of  art at home and abroad, a painter or         a calligrapher usually has some other identity before becoming a painter or a calligrapher and many     artists have two or more occupational identities for a lifetime. What’s more, students in large numbers      can be trained after the advent of modern professional art colleges, and specific talents of extremely  narrow professional range occur with the specialized subdivision of majors in modern time. Only when    both elements are gained together, will there be a situation where a person has the career education background in line with his professional career experience. Even so, there are still many “amateur” artists whose great artistic achievement is difficult to approach for those “professional” artists. For  example, Huang Qiuyuan, who was a bank clerk for this whole life caused Li Keran to sigh, “I feel shameful for not knowing that we have a talent like Yan  Hui in our country.”  Therefore, what someone’s  original profession   is should not be the barrier that stops them from becoming an artist. Conversely, “art” has become a kind   of open knowledge system that does not simply relies on the basis of enclosed handwork experience, especially in the speech logic of modern art. Therefore,regardless of the original meaning described in Boece’s “everyone is an artist”, seen from the acceptance of admitted professional experience, it is only about, firstly, what kind of “person” he is, whether he possesses the knowledge and experience system     for professional communication and secondly, what the “result” is like. In the evaluation system that doesn’t conform to the standard of traditional artistic technique, what we need to analyze is whether we have finished the translation of concepts in the process of using graphic formula, ready-made articlesor the body. Thus, let’s look at “the person” Han Xiao first, in fact, in the process before and after his receiving medical education and becoming a professional plastic surgery, he had fully maintained the interest of a young artist. Even by now, he has still kept the habit of strict reading peculiarity, which has brought him abundant cultivation in literature, history and philosophy apart form his career background as a doctor. Admittedly, driven by the emotions of Werther ’s sorrows, many people may approach some books that explore into life in a certain age, so as to satisfy the youth philosophy of “A youth doesn’tknow the taste of sorrow, so he says he sorrows forcefully to create a poem.” However, few people can maintain such interest after becoming an adult, unless it is related to their profession. In my contact with Han Xiao, I found that his study in literature, history and philosophy outside his career is not just “refined interest” in a recreational style. From this, I think that the knowledge structure accumulated by a person through systematic reading an thinking should also be put on a platform of professional significance  for communication. Apart from this, after going through further study of traditional art in Shandong University of Arts, Han Xiao also specially studied art theories In American Institution of Research, Which triggered his strong interest in modern art. Before the “operation” we can see now, Han Xiao had been practicing artistic creation for quite a long time.In addition,it was also because he was well off due to running a medical entity,he had spent much time in systematically visiting and observing some important modern art museums and modern art exhibitions abroad in recent years.As his own art workshop in Beijing instead.
I adopted the above methods different from writing the general artistic critiques to introduce HanXiao’s personal experience.My purpose is nothing but to tell those people who do not know him that it is very assertive and one-sided to take a person’ s occupational identity as an “original sin” to doubt and criticize. Especially in the diversified society pattern,we should have a tolerant and appreciative attitude for those people with multiple identities. Therefore as for a doctor who is determined to be determined to an artist,  we do not need to simply take him as an amateur by starting from a set of  fixed thinking, let alone to try to figure out his commercial purposes.
Perhaps in the big “medical industry”concept,plastic and face-lifting industries also habitually call thoseclients as “patients”,which is a very interesting phenomenon.”patient”,it means the person being sick.In that way, from a physiological view, why those people who are not sick are called “patients”? Obviously, this is a social, cultural and historical concept which is not related to physiology. I give a simple example. Why our current society regards big eyes, Roman nose and full lip as beauty and sexuality? It runs into an opposite direction compared with the traditional beauty standards of “slanted eyes, small nose and a small cherry- like mouth”. Obviously, aesthetics, including aesthetic standards for human body, is not constant at all. In a historical context, It can present a different cultural tendency according to different social forms. The current China, as well as other non-Europe and America countries, gradually give up their own cultural traditions and tend to choose the standards of the while, why? In fact, it is inseparable from the situation that many countries whose majority is European and American ethic group hold a leading position in the world’s political and cultural structures in the modern society. In addition, the current situation that we become more and more similar in aesthetics of body is also closely related to the trend of visualization and convenience of the information media in the current society. At the same time, the reality that modern women are becoming more and more fastidious about the “visual data” of their bodies, on the one hand, is related to the frequency degree of their social communication brought by the modern women’s professional choice; on the other hand, it also reflects the inner panic and loss in the modern society because of the fierce competition. Therefore, for modern women, plastic and face-lifting are not only the need of similar cultural aesthetic, but also the need of social aesthetic and even a kind of spiritual “drug” in their inner heart.
Therefore, the difference between plastic, face-lifting and the other medical subjects lies in that plastic, face-lifting industries definitely also take the human body as the object, but they also contain a lot of rich social, historical and cultural information and elements. It is just because of these social characteristics which are different from the pure physiological therapy of medical and surgical operations, that when       Han Xiao takes the plastic operation related to his own “doctor identity” as the material and object of his another “artist identity”, we can see the logic rationality. At the same time, it just answers another question mentioned in the above. It is just the reason why this operation has the possibility of becoming art“materials;” at the same time, it can explain the reason why we cannot generally apply this “possibility” to another operation.
Further explaining the theme; the scalpel used as the translation intermediary of the body and social meaning.
Actually when he has still an artistic youth, Han Xiao had many doubts for his profession of plastic surgery.
Especially for those “patients” who went to see doctors due to panic psychological needs, Han Xiao often persuaded them to give up plastic and face-lifting from the view of the unification of the inner spiritual and temperamental beauty and external image beauty. It was because of this reason that the staff from his hospital said that the “directing doctors” being responsible for accepting consultation before examining weren’t willing to assign the patients to him. Therefore, Han Xiao said he had been “looking upon his profession very painfully”.
It is because of such kind of humanistic critical spirit and skepticism by not regarding the plastic industry  only as a business, Han Xiao is no longer a pure plastic surgeon. In the process of operation, on the one hand,he acts as a specific role of surgeon; on the other hand, he also acts as the role of an invisible and spiritual humanistic critic.It is because of the psychological tension formed by the dual nature of  the self  role that Han Xiao makes him and that operation object form a unity of meaning translation through the intermediation of the scalpel.
Many people only regard the cooperative operation object as the material of Han Xiao’s work, which is very one-sided, because pure operation object cannot form the premise of meaning translation. Therefore, only after Han Xiao combines his identity through visible (plastic surgeon) and invisible (humanistic critic), and then acts the dual functions on the operation object through the intermediation of the scalpel(a bridge transforming the meaning), can we see “operation”, as a common social phenomenon, is changed in its meaning and idea. At this moment, “operation” is not only an operation any more, but also it has ideogenetic characteristics at the same time.
End:transmission media as “meaning participants”
Therefore, even though when Han Xiao had the the idea to perform this operation different form other plastic surgeons, if the “operation” is seen in isolation, a lot of people will still think it is not closely related with art. Therefore, we need to pay attention to another detail at this time, the “route of transmission”  of this operation. When the operation was performed,it was on live television through the large electric screen in the downtown area of Jinan City. In addition, there was also live broadcasting through the public network video in the website of “iqilu.com”. In this way, the “operation” was not performed simply in the operation room. It entered the social public space through the above public routes of transmission. Thus, a simple “operation” became a social and public event. For the common people, we just can survey its “beauty” through its result if we want to know the plastic industry. When we directly present the operation process for the sake of pursuing “beauty” before the public without any presetting, most of the people will instinctively feel strongly uncomfortable in physiology and psychology. Thus, he or she will be asocial introspection to think whether there is anything wrong with the group psychology of “aesthetics” that we are used to in our society. Therefore, from this view, I think if we consider Han Xiao’s action as a commercial speculation, this commercial speculation was unsuccessful, because it just made those women who were prepared to do plastic operation give up the idea due to the bloody visual sense of the operation.
Therefore, in conclusion, I think if the work of Han Xiao counts, it should include the part of the  “operation”   in the operating room  as  well  pubic  “transmission”  process  through  mass  communication  (Media,  on the one hand, means a mode of transmission and a route of transmission, and on the other hand, a participant of the meaning construction, it participates in and sublimates the meaning of works). They     finally became a social and public event to alert and inspire people to deeply think of those social, cultural, gender and aesthetic ideas that we are accustomed to. Thus, I don’t agree with the view that what Han    Xiao did was “action art”, but I do tend to regard it as an “event art”.
August 8,2012