Wen Pei：Art for Revenge’s Sake
Freud has attributed the impulse of artistic creation to compensation."The mystery of artistic creation, is to meet the artists’ unmet desire" is a kind of retaliation of the world, which reminds me of an interview of the artist Xiao Han. Han is a humorous person, with endless ideas and deep thoughts. For all this, his words which touched me most were not those sobering or enlightening philosophy, but was the one : the more twisted the first half of life is, the more comfortable the second half will be.
Once upon a time, in the public view, "contemporary art" is a fashionable exotic. People are more concerned about its topic rather than its connotation. Modern art is opposite to the classical art, while contemporary art is the turning stage of modern art. Although "contemporary art" means "after the modern art", in fact, it has very different contexts between the east and west. Since 1920s or 1930s, people have perceived the cultural asymmetry between the east and west. All aspects of China's modernization process can be summed up as shock, jump, break, and make up. Having accomplished the modernization of science and technology, Chinese culture is still stranded in the modern tail, and the Chinese modern art is still left behind far away by the western world, in terms of time and appearance. As the turning point of Chinese modern art, it is undoubtedly unfair for Chinese contemporary art to integrate into the world contemporary art .
China's modern art took place in a very special period, during which the western culture suddenly invaded, and the culture which had been criticized and tore down by the Cultural Revolution was vindicated. The lost oriental tradition and the Western new things made an information explosion on the hungry cultural ruins. At that time, not only students and intellectuals, but also every person in China was in high spirits. The hot reading phenomenon was prevalent through China, while the western humanistic thought acted opposite to the Cultural Revolution, leaving huge impacts on China's ideological and artistic circles. But all in all, this was a kind of vanity.
The scientific sword cut off the traditional roots of China, and the new western non-rationalist philosophy pointed to the anxiety and nothingness, diminishing the lofty. The boundaries of art are constantly challenged, and the "ultimate ideal" is shattered, which makes modern art no longer trust anything about nature and ontology. People 's beliefs are all broken, but the new direction has not been found. Xuhui Mao said, “A great possibility is added to the future,the multiple factors inter-wined era.”
China's modern artists have abandoned their innocent consciousness, bidding farewell to the classical tradition. They practiced in the creation of the big idea, through a variety of associations and declarations, with an unprecedented enthusiasm to participate in society, ideology and politics. The whole thing began to reach a climax in 1985 and finally ended in 1989. Xu Bing recalled that "After 1985, our feelings to the world have changed, with declining innocent consciousness and increasing boredom.
We do not believe in any supernatural power, infinity, and dreams, which were originally generated by a purely power and brought people a sense of happiness. We entered a rational, but also trivial, indifferent, and anxious era. "The rise of modern art was derived from depressed human nature, but it is too vast to care for the individuals, losing the basic established artistic principles.” The artists spent a lot of enthusiasm on the way and process of their experiments, making the modern art into an intellectual contest which was filled with empty and conception.
After 1989, artists and intellectuals tacitly changed their attitudes, forming a generation with no declaration. They focused on that era and individuals, and no longer claimed their statement. They reflected on modern art through silence, righteousness, observation, and diligence, which turned into the footsteps of Chinese contemporary art.
Unlike the modern art which has distinguished boundaries from the classical art, the contemporary art distinguished itself not by the appearance but the spirit. Contemporary art is no longer confined to materials, techniques, and artistic languages. Further, it began to seek for a deeper existence - reflection and care of individuals. From this perspective, the core of contemporary art is humanitarianism.
Getting away from the weird circle in which modern art demolished the classical traditions, the contemporary art tries to re-complete the connection with the traditional context through the spirit of Western enlightenment liberalism. It inherits the sense of mission and responsibility of the Chinese intellectuals, exploring the universal value of art and the ultimate concern of mankind.
"As a cultural style or lifestyle, art is it different from politics, economy, and law. In addition to the direct spiritual appeal, it must have a revealing of the darkness, which is what we called vanguard and criticism. However, only criticism is not enough, because the critical position is more important. I think it calls for a universal value of care. "(by Cha Changping ). In the current situation in which people’s beliefs are broken, the contemporary art should serve as a constructive cultural form, which requires the artists to be humanists, with the compassion for human life and dignity of human nature.
After the above deduction, it can be concluded that Xiao Han is a humanist.
In fact, Han has a lot of respectable identities, such as artist, orthopedic expert, hospital president,social activist, intellectual and so on. It is difficult to define him by the common view. He is quite able to switch among those roles. To begin with a science worker to a social science practitioner, and finally to a humanity scholar, he is a well-deserved cross-border genius.
Nevertheless, Han said that he would like people call him an intellectual in a quite humble way.
Therefore, Han has shouldered mission of the intellectuals. His era was filled with a variety of dual contradictions, such as traditional to modern, oriental to western, scientific to cultural, and emotional to abstract. On the one hand, he was influenced by western modernist thought. On the other hand, he has inherited Chinese compassion tradition. Therefore, he must have been confused and anxious when he thought about Chinese reality and history in two different ways.
With the development of science and technology, especially since the appearing of the camera, the function, boundary and dignity of art have been questioned and challenged over time. In fact, the earthshaking changes have took place in the whole human outlook, where the cultural and value system, and the spiritual belief have lost the original holy sense. Because of the loss of empathy and the sense of innocence, the dislocation of philosophical and cultural significance, and the human alienation, the intellectuals have confronted identity confusion. This kind of confusion made Han suffer and forced him to reflect, express, and find a way out. Du Xiyun once saw his works and said “he needs to express through these works, otherwise he will be very painful.”
As a result, in order to achieve self-reflection, self-warning and self-salvation, and to avenge to the world which has lost of the principles and ideals, and is fraught with confusion, indifference and vulgarity, Xiao Han became an artist, obligatory.