Wang Min’an: Game of Bloodiness and Aesthetics
Han Xiao operates the plastic surgery in the art gallery. He carries out the operation by ways of exhibition: with an opening ceremony, art media reporters, interviews, critics making speeches, and a number of distinguished guests from the art circle. That is to say, there is a whole set of artistic system supporting this event. The plastic operation becomes an art work in the field of art.
It's beyond all doubt. But what interests me most is that: for the patients, plastic operation is a personal event full of danger but outstanding meanings. But the private event is now publicly displayed through the spatial switching. Actually, except for those body punishment in public as a warning to others (nowadays, this kind of public punishment has also disappeared), the dealing with body is in an inclosed space most of the time, and it refuses to watch or exhibit. Today, body is exposed boldly while it has become a taboo. Whatever the situation is , in the process of sex, or under treatment, or in health care, or even in punishment, the body is mostly exposed in an enclosed space. But Han Xiao’s plastic surgery is placed in public areas. Also, it aims at exhibiting (it is an exhibition), and it wants to exhibit desperately. Or put it in this way, its purpose is to show and to publicize. Here we can see the changeability of body. That is to say, here, the body has changed animatedly. In addition to the changed body, the changing process has also been showed eventually. This is a process of body being touched and cut by knife, being sutured and being tormented cruelly, which is rather bloody. The meeting between knife and body is always scaring, producing the intense pain. In this process of meeting, the smell of harm and death rises and gets into the air, generating the most suffocating scenario. But it can be full of pleasant sensation-- a kind of one that is close to suffocation, a kind of one that can witness and experience the death. Scare and pleasant sensation, these two absolutely opposite experience occurs in this kind of game with knives and the body. This is the effect of public slaughter, and the very reason for people's longstanding love for it.
The works of Han Xiao takes advantage of it, the character of public display. Once it is publicly displayed, the significance of operation will be deprived, for operation always means hospitals, privacy and closure. But Han Xiao transforms the meaning of operation, or rather, for the objects of plastic surgery, this is the significance of operation. However, for Han Xiao it is not merely an operation. In this way, the operation process has a completely different significance for plastic surgeons, the objects of plastic surgery and the audience. To the patient, she is filled with practical purposes: she needs an ideal and formalized body, a beautiful body, for which she lies here and tidies herself up. For the plastic surgeon, he tries to give some specific form to the body of the plastic surgery recipient. He hopes to meet the needs and satiate the wishes of the recipient. However, once he reveals the process by displaying it in public in the art gallery instead of in the enclosed hospital chamber, this silent operation process has become a live art process. In other words, a careful medical incident has become a sensational art event. If there is a remarkable trend in modern art history that the bound between art events and daily events is broken, then the work's appearing in this form is far from surprising. However, what is really meaningful is that it is a special behavior. If we do not regard it as a plastic surgery, but rather an art event, it is a slaughtering behavior, a behavior full of violence, blood and death. This is the significance the audience experience: what they witness is not or not merely an operation event but a violent one. They experience a real pleasant sensation of cruelty. If we eradicate the intrinsic meaning of plastic surgery, we see here the very resurgence of the mode of ancient public penalty. This is not the intimate relationship between a doctor and his patient but an hostile abusive relationship between an executioner and an executed person.
In any case, when people see a knife approaching a body, they must have a special experience. The history of knife and that of civilization are closely related. The texture, shape and purpose of knife are changing ceaselessly. From the clumsy stone knife in the early stage to the sharp knife made of stainless steel in modern days, it has a consistent mission of dismembering bodies. The history of men's fight is, in a sense, a part of the history of knife, for it is the knife that causes and aggravates the massive death of men. Though there are many ways to kill or punish people, using knife is still the most classical way. Till now, because of the control of guns, the main tool for people to kill is still knife. Simply because the sharp blade of knife can dismember human bodies easily, it can also be used to save the life by doctors to remove the tumor from the body, remedy physical flaws or eliminate redundant organisms on the body. Today, knife serves as an important tool of killing people and saving lives. The same knife acting on the body can obtain completely different effects and purposes. It seems that killing people does not need to train while medical operations need meticulous and patient long-term training. Killing people with knife is always brutal, for it can start from any part of the body without rules, and all it needs is to use the force of knife to approach the body. However, scalpel is just the opposite, which has strict regulations and requirements and needs perfect safe, pinpoint accuracy, elaborate calculation of scalpel and dexterous apply of hands. An excellent doctor is also an excellent artist of using hands. Operation is an art of knife and a dance of knife, while killing is just the abreaction of truculence. However, there exists a kind of slaughter technology using the lightness of scalpel and it also needs lots of training just like medical operation: people invent a kind of torturous killing technology which demands every cut should be on the proper place of the body to let people being punished suffer the largest pain and to make the time of suffering longest until they die. Every second before the death, the pain of people being punished could be thinned and counted. This is a kind of killing technology--it is also a kind of art--which reaches its peak in the ancient slow slicing technology. Just like that patient training is needed to use scalpel, such kind of killing also needs training, and the knife of killing is also a high-level form of art: it needs appreciation. People circusee slow slicing, not only to experience brutal punishment, but also to watch the superb skills of the slayer. What an impassionate killing! It gives a creative artistic sense, in a rational way, to a horrible and brutal incident. He vividly put this horrible creative art before the surprised and fascinated eyes of onlookers . This was probably a dream of Bataille: he attempted to carry out a real slow slicing ceremony, which, though long conceived, suffered miscarriage because of the intrusion of Nazis.
In fact, plenty of works which apply bodies, especially the self-torture of bodies as the media objectives are responses to Bataille. Artists, when reforming their own bodies, make various attempts on their bodies in an effort to identify the physical limits and potentials, try all kinds of extreme bodily pleasures and painful experience, and endeavor to sense the distance between the body and death. Bataille is a hidden ancestor of this massive body art. Han Xiao's works certainly involves the relationship between body and death (any action of knife acting on the body has the potential possibility of death). However, compared to general body art, which emphasizes the body's special experience, Han Xiao's works focuses on the exhibition of art of the knife; or rather, the technical exhibition at the moment that the knife touches the body. However, this is not the technique of scalpel, for once the operation is moved to an art gallery, the significance of the scalpel is weakened as far as possible and the significance of treatment is weakened to the greatest extent. To be more exactly, Han Xiao's works is demonstrating the general and special connection between the scalpel and the body, a dangerous game between the two. This game wavers between killing people and saving life, between the art of scalpel and the art of dismemberment. In other words, he combines the sabreplay of murder and that of saving life. He tries to arouse terror when people are tranquil and arouse tranquility when people are in terror. This is a game of bloodiness and aesthetics, and also a game of tranquility and terror.
In fact, Han Xiao has cut many non-patients with his knife and left his traces on many bodies. He knows the details of the body well. He tries to make a new body and forms a new space of the body again, and he can imagine all kinds of ideal body forms and change these bodies according to these imaginations to make them have a new sight. In terms of this, the body is figurable and is a changeable object, just as the same as the nature object that people can change freely. They are the objects of Han Xiao. But, now, he starts to try letting knife pass his own body. Han Xiao wants to show a new behavior, moving knives on himself. He wants to portray his self portrait anew and once for all. Different from those body artists, moving knife on himself is not a kind of extreme experience for Han Xiao. He is not torturing himself and will not impose any pain on himself. But, it still is a kind of special experience. He himself experiences the trace of knives as his own object. This is not some kind of pain experience, but a kind of experience about self portraying. For many times people have picked up brushes and portrayed their own bodies, and for many times people have picked up knives, cut others' bodies and portrayed others, but, making self portrait in the way of moving knives on oneself maybe is the first time--although there used to be many people who cut themselves, they are not for completing self portrait, but for completing their own special experience. For that matter, Han Xiao's self cutting, returns to the old tradition of self portraying in a strange and sinuous mode.