Opening: Saturday March 24th,3-6 pm
Attempts at Subversion and Destruction: New Works by Da Xiang Feng Boyi
Da Xiang has a forthright and honest manner, and approaches his art with a similar tenacity and sincerity. Even still, when I encounter his new work, I am surprised at the audacity and radical nature of his artistic ideas and creations. A comprehensive survey of Da Xiang's work must take into account his attitudes, methods, and feelings towards the relationship between traditional classics and contemporary situations. In his work, these attitudes and methods are carried out through means of "appropriation, distortion, subversion, and destruction." His destruction, manifested in his use of visual imagery, encompasses several layers of meaning. First, there is a subversive destruction, demonstrated in his works mounted like traditional scroll paintings. The readymade records of our daily material consumption-banking records, receipts, and ATM transaction slips-are altered, mounted, and suspended like traditional Chinese paintings. This process of appropriation and substitution already approaches a "subversion" of literati painting. Second, there is destruction through distortion, whereby traditional and contemporary symbols and styles are juxtaposed and pieced together to construct absurd and comical visual implications. Third, there is destruction by "plundering." In this example, a scene of two fighting fish is projected onto four sheets of rice paper suspended from the ceiling. The fish serve as the background image as viewers are invited to shoot them with toy water guns filled with black ink. These sheets of rice paper, subsequently hung in the gallery, possess an ironic playfulness. From a distance, they capture the artistic mood of traditional Chinese landscapes, while also resembling Jackson Pollock's abstract drip paintings.
In general, we are drawn to the artistic allure of classical works that have passed the test of time, and venerate their temporal transcendence. Thus, the continuity of tradition is an inevitable logic in our artistic creation. However, in our tradition, there exists another tradition: the anti-tradition. This kind of tradition developed throughout the twentieth century, to such an extent that the tradition of the anti-tradition is one that cannot be ignored. In art history, the revision, reinterpretation, elaboration, and even subversion of classics has been an ongoing phenomenon, constituting one facet of cultural transmission. Since the 1990s, Chinese artists have relied more on using methods of deconstruction, dissolution, and the parodying of traditional discourse. In other words, one characteristic of Chinese avant-garde art is the use of symbols and sources from China's long cultural tradition. They are manipulated according to contemporary cultural trends and then creatively realized through different mediums. Sometimes, cultural transmission is not conducted in one fell swoop. It can also be passed down in a contradictory manner, for example through revision, reinterpretation, elaboration, and subversion. In some ways, the improvement of society and development of civilization also require the courage to scorn the classics. Classics aren't formed through man's adherence to and reproduction of his ancestors' achievements. A classic is the crystallization of a creator's creativity. Every artist that revises, reinterprets, elaborates, and subverts the classics not only expands the classical spirit and the expressiveness of art, but also forces us to reconfirm the status of classics within tradition. In this way, it is not enough "to respect and to fear the classics" because this does not furnish them with a new, meaningful interpretation. We don't need to consecrate them on an altar. Rather, it is hoped that they can be a kind of nourishment, to be absorbed and digested, becoming a source of healthy sustenance. This truly embodies the value of the classics.
Thus, Da Xiang's new works have created two lines of thinking: one emphasizes the absurdity of tradition, while the other conveys a metaphor for reality. In the visual path of absurdity, we can see a kind of appropriation and imagination of the classics. In particular, the placement of "secretions-calligraphy-machine-printed slips" in the middle of an exhibition hall, transposed with daily objects from a supermarket. This jumbling between the self and the viewer, between history's poetics and reality's predicaments, forms a kind of hypertext pieced together to result in a parody of sorts. If we examine this from the perspective of visual art, his use of these kinds of methods and symbols transform the classics and shape a new style and form of tradition. He employs periodized themes from classical subject matters, while also implying a kind of absurd situation. In reality, Da Xiang's experiments turn that which is familiar into the unfamiliar. By controlling viewers' expectations and allowing them to experience a new mode and surprisingly new perspective, he lets them enjoy the freedom of breaking away from the rules and regulations of the classics. When the viewer starts to inspect the work, s/he begins to recognize that the text that s/he is reading is already no longer a traditional visual image, but rather has been subjected to Da Xiang's distortion and destruction. Visual texts are already deeply embedded with his individual mark. From a sociological perspective, an analysis of his works is in actuality an analysis of our own social phenomena. These works are our cultural way of life, the historical process and contemporary state of social reform, a real reflection of the blending of Western and Eastern, and a confused mix of conditions under a so-called postmodern society.
In Da Xiang's metaphorical line of thinking, the greatest occurrence of distortion can be found in his conscious comicalization of everyday objects and symbols. In his installations, he presents expressions and metaphors of his understanding and evaluations of contemporary society. These kinds of multilayered associations are not only interwoven into one form, but also give a concrete focus for the realistic portrayals of culture found in his works. Perhaps, we have no choice but to acknowledge the penetration and expansion of information technology into society, the fetishization of money, and the prevalence of consumerism, etc. All of these factors lead to the increasingly difficult emergence of self-initiated innovation in the field of cultural production. We see a greater contention for profit from all sides, trendier fashions, more sensational effects, and the collapse of the cultural value bubble. In truth, Da Xiang's subversions, destructions, and satirizations are all very cold; they're unfair and they're disdainful. In the postmodern context of our society and culture, to be dissatisfied, to be suspicious, to ask rhetorical questions, and to transcend are all reactions that can bring about a new cultural production. It is possible that they can engender a new value, a timely, proper cultural criticism, a re-examination of cultural history, and a bringing together of social reality with a new recognition. They can bring about a much-needed path for new thought, even if it is at the expense of dividing, reconstructing, indiscriminately applying, or even deconstructing and subverting traditional cultural products. In our respect towards history, and respect towards its conditions, it is possible to take alternate or counter-routes to give birth to new ideas and concepts, to generate new aesthetics, and to realize the joy of breaking taboos.
As the intersection between the culturalization of materials and the materialization of culture becomes increasingly apparent, the derivative and marginal effects of social and cultural production enact improvements on all of society. Here, besides subversion, destruction, and the game of satirization, there are still many more urgent self-initiated innovations and creations waiting for people to unearth and practice. Da Xiang's works embody just such a practice of experimentation and criticism. This pursuit, I believe, on the one hand grants a kind of pluralistic approach to understanding history and newly recognizing our society. On the other hand, it is also implies that under the wave of deconstruction since the twentieth century, the essence of classical cultural tradition has persevered. And, in this perseverance, there is the hope and expectation for the growth of new meaning.
(Translator: Peggy Wang)
Da Xiang - Press Release as pdf-File 55,8 KB