for Analyse for Opposition - MAO
2010, Platform @ Manufactura's Studio in Wuhan organized by Elke Marhöfer
Perhaps similar to the ongoing interest of contemporary artists in cinema — the realm of sound — is what interested us. But this meeting should not only respond to our attention towards sound, it also aimed to provide a critical discussion of divergent political and aesthetical practices.
Facing the fragility
of exchange through experimental, cross-disciplinary practice. A
practice that also changes the space, so that the gallery is no longer
only exhibition space, but also a "play-ground" for experimentation.
Together with the local environmental activist and artist Zhang Xian Bing, we visited the sites.
Can Mao still help us today?
//19 July 2010
We watch the film How Yukong moved the Mountains: the Pharmacy Nr.3 in Shanghai (1976) by Joris Evans. In ancient China there was an old legend called How Yukong moved the Mountains. "There once was an old man, named Yukong. He decided, aided by his sons to remove with pick-axes two enourmous mountains, that blocked the entrance to his house. Another old man mocked him, saying: 'You alone will never succeed in removing those mountains!' Where upon Yukong answered him: 'When I die my sons will remain and succeeding them, their children will carry on the work. And so the generations will follow one after another, making the mountains smaller with each stroke. So why should we not succeed in removing those mountains?' Heaven was touched by this show of faith and sent two celestial spirits who took the mountains upon their backs. Our heaven consists of the masses of the Chinese people.” Mao Zedong, oeuvres complètes III, p. 290. This is how the film elaborates on working conditions and the relations between the workers, and the former owner, of the pharmacy during the Cultural Revolution in Shanghai.
//20 July 2010
Real exchange is fragile, and cultural difference and conceptions like tradition or modernity are often used to generate distance and oppression. The concept of cultural difference generates similar effects as racism or misogyny. Within this thinking of cultural difference, culture isn‘t something that can be acquired, but is given by birth. Within art culturalist ideas and identity politics are still mainstream. How can we prevent this tyranny of culture and cultural Otherness? How can we escape the labeling of Chinese, Australian, German, Swedish (artist)? Is internationalism still a solution, or can we develope other approaches?
Yan Jun presented the performance Save the world he did in collaboration with Mianmian in Shanghai 2010. The performance was re-enactment of John Lennon/Yoko Onos‘ Bed-In piece (1969). Staying in bed, not smoking pot, but eating sun seeds. "Because the sound of eating sun seeds, is the sound of saving the world" Yan Jun.
//21 July 2010
Where do the performance of a judge and the performance of an artist differ? Can we "switch" ourselves on and off? When do things flow naturally?
Xu Tan lectures about his early
performance practice and recent works and Yan Jun performs Water
Xu Tan: On everyday basis we perform being a citizen, [a women], an artist, but can all actions that happen in daily life be called performance? If we can define all activity that in front of an audience as performance, then performance doesn't exist at all, in example you can't say a teachers class is a performance and a judge is exactuating his job as a performance. So I think the most important thing is to make sure what kind of activity can not be defined as performance, so that we artist can appropriate them as performance. When a scientist is looking through a microscope, it will be absurd if we defined that as performance. So I want to find this line between non-performative and performative activities, our job as artist is to appropriate this non-performative activities.
//22 July 2010
Elke: Yes, like a little vain, hippie bourgeoisie in love with themselves.
Yan: I think its a thing of the 60s. In the 60s celebrities and stars were in the focus of the media. I don't have any personal view of their stil. I don't like and I don't dislike. Mianmin has choose this performance and she loves it. Its Shanghai stil, fashion. But she realizes this. I just feel it is fun to play John Lenon, in an unprofessional way. We did research the performance only one hour before we started. We try to google it, to find some pictures, discussed how we dress, just took simple equipment for documentation. Like children playing adults.
Elke: I didn't see the playfulness in the images, but when you explain it it makes sense.
Yan: Sunflower seeds are very important to me, because you can talk about very serious things but in the meantime you eat this. Like old ladies on the street, they eat this and talk about serious personal things. And it is so easy to shift between serious and non-serious talk. Eating sunflower seeds has to be improvised, you can not control that, it is part of a very cheap daily life, you can not make a serious plan for it. Today I replaced the sunflower seeds with water melon. Because it is hot and also we have the sound. When upper-class people eat, they have to be elegant and quite, but when you eat this water melon you have to make sound, since you are not allowed to eat in small portions and with a small pick. You have to wash your hand afterwards. It is similar to the sunflower seeds in a sense. I have seen Turkish people in Berlin drinking tea and eating sunflower seeds, just like Chinese, they sit there with several people on one table, talking, its a way of enjoying life. Its a human treasure, that has to be kept. Specially in Germany and other Western European countries. When today moslem women can not wear their traditional dress anylonger - the next step would be to ban sunflower seeds. We are lucky that we can eat sunflower seeds here.
Elke: Yes, you are right. But this enviroment here, where we are now, this art space is gated community and as well very a controlled environment,... the problem is global.
Yan: What I like to mention again about the sound of eat the seeds: the sound is not a symbolic, but a realistic sound of saving the world. When you eat sunflower seeds, after a while you start to hear this sound, you start to hear the shell falling down on the ground, you feel this tiny sound, then you already become quite, and quite people are usefull for the peace of the world. Then this repeating rhythm is also making people loose and relaxe, it relates to tribal drum and other trance music. In this situation you are helping the peace of the world. This is why I myself like to eat sunflower seeds, because when I eat this I feel empty, I feel loose and I feel peaceful. I really like this rhythm and this peace. I think this makes me at least at the moment a person who is useful for the peace in the world. This is a tiny action, but it effects the world already, it is not symbolic. It is about the face of the relationship of one person and the whole world. I mean the tiny thing can be the whole thing. This is reality. And the performance is somehow a ritual, a ritual to bring people together, this ritual is not seriously a trance situation, but in another way it is trance. Everybody who is coming to this performance is already part of this sunflower seeds sound or ritual. It is real, it is not symbolic. But of course it has on another level a symbolic meaning, but for me it is important to do everything directly, to do things directly, to realize thing directly.