Liberty Leading The People
CHEN YIZHONG 陈一中
February 21 – March 29, 2014
tAd is pleased to present this solo exhibition by artist CHEN Yizhong, who currently works and lives in Chongqing, China. His body of work stretches across different media to explore the predominant yet contradictory concepts of the present and history, time and space, the individual and the public. Presented in this exhibition is his new series of interventional photography. Using the globalized context of the rapid socioeconomic development in China as his backdrop, CHEN builds up a flattened photographic space with the intent to juxtapose, compress, and unveil layers of reality and illusion. His ultimate question is one that concerns the meaning of change.
CHEN received a MFA degree from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 2012. He has also studied under Prof. Michael Brynntrup’s Filmklasse in Hochshcule für Bildende Künste (HBK) Braunschweig, Germany.
Is China Chinese, or not quite?
by araya vivorakij
China is less a country; likewise, Asia is less a geographical region. In Liberty Leading The People, artist CHEN Yizhong portrays “China” and “Asia” as notions, ideas and concepts. Far from self-referential or self-sufficient, CHEN’s ideas of “China” and “Asia” are intertwined with other ideas, specifically “the West” and “Europe” as shown in his photographic images. Together, these and other interrelated concepts are a system of knowledge which has genealogical roots in history. For example, the constructed meanings of “the East” and “the Orient” can be dated back to the 19th-century European literary discourse, as Edward Said demonstrates in his book, Orientalism. This discourse establishes “the East” as antithetical to “the West” in a kind of relation analogous to Jacques Lacan’s notion of self and the Other. Similarly, the genealogies of “China” and “Asia” can be sketched out in the invention of world history during the European Enlightenment and the rise of colonialism, as WANG Hui shows in “The Politics of Imagining Asia: A Genealogical Analysis.” WANG examines the writings of Western scholars Hegel, Smith, and Marx to uncover their depictions of stages in world history and their narratives that have produced knowledge on regions and peoples. “Asia” and “Europe” are constructed, WANG writes, as “two correlated organic parts of the same historical process,” yet they also “occupy two drastically different stages in this historical continuum.” Underlying these 19th-century writings is a universalist narrative of European modernity around the three central themes – empire, nation-state and capitalism. “Asia” is constructed in opposition to European modernity, and therefore is conceived as a backward stage.Read more
The two maps in CHEN’s exhibition, along with his photographic images that resemble tourist photos or postcards, constitute a kind of travelogue. Likewise, his superimposed images of the world’s iconic statues and historical structures, such as the Statue of Liberty and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, call attention to the field of anthropology. The anthropological discourse and praxis first emerged in the 19th-century Europe at the time when European literature of travelogues had become popular. Johannes Fabian, in Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object, looks into those literature of travelogues and the anthropological writings at that time. Movements and relations in space based on visual observation of foreign places are often described in these writings. Not only that the conception of time is their underlying concern, but more importantly time is spatialized. The anthropological uses of time, Fabian argues, place all living societies and cultures on a spatialized time slope, with Europe occupying the modern time and space, while other societies always living in varying distances of the past and primitive space. The concepts of savage, primitive, archaic, civilization, evolution, development, acculturation, progress, and modernization all embody such spatialized temporal concept, and they are essentially, as Fabian points out, categories of Western thought.
When Europe or the West has already colonized the modern time and space, China, Asia, and the rest of the world would always be playing a catching-up game in the names of development and progress. Every effort to “imitate” the West would only put the non-western societies in the stage of “not yet” or, in Homi Bhabha’s words, “almost the same, but not quite.” CHEN’s video piece, Lifting Love, playfully shows young couples kissing on escalators appropriating the Western manner of sexual liberation. That can be seen as a gesture of mimicry, revealing the kind of ambivalence Homi Bhabha describes in his article “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse.” Mimicry, according to Homi Bhabha, “is at once resemblance and menace.” Its very success would only and ironically unveil its failure, since what mimicry can achieved is “almost the same, but not white.”Read more
Today, those ideas, notions and concepts that emerged in the 19th-century colonial time are still potent and alive. They are also embedded in many other common knowledge. “Concepts such as citizenship, the state, civil society, public sphere, human rights, equality before the law, the individual, … democracy, popular sovereignty, social justice, scientific rationality, and so on all bear the burden of European thought and history,” Dipesh Chakrabarty writes in his book Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. We should not deny that European thought has been both useful and indispensable. Yet the problematic lies in its being used as a universal tool to analyse and assess the cultural, economic, and political environments in non-Western nations. Such application would only consign those societies and peoples to an imaginary “uncivilized” past and perpetuate Western superiority. Besides, as Chakrabarty succinctly puts, European thought is inadequate in helping us to think through the experiences of political, economic and cultural modernity in non-Western societies.
“Shed Asia” was the theme of the 19th-century modern Japanese thought which was driven, as WANG explains, by the negative way of defining “Asia” adopted from European thought. Yet instead of shedding this Eurocentric idea of “Asia,” “shed Asia” was paradoxically a movement toward detaching Japan from Asia and Westernizing itself with the European idea of civilization. Today, however, many scholars have envisioned different constructive and imaginative ways of “shedding Asia.” Chakrabarty, for example, instigates a project to provincialize or decenter the taken-for-granted notions of Europe and the universalist narratives of capital modernity by renewing European thought from and for the margins. In his (re-) imaginings of “Asia,” WANG seeks to excavate the diverse and different values, policies, rituals, and economic relations that have been suppressed, negated or relegated to the past by the Eurocentric historical narratives. Alternative histories, in any event, have to be written with a rethinking of the concept of time. Instead of a single linear historical time, Chakrabarty argues that historical time should envelop other kinds of time, and that it should not be integral but, rather, out of joint with itself. Instead of using time as a distancing and separating device to construct a superior self-image of the West versus the backwardness of the Other, alternative histories demand an interactive narrative to be written in the mode of coevalness. Coevalness is defined by Fabian as the intersubjective time which acknowledges the co-production of history and modernity by all peoples and societies at the same time. For Homi Bhabha, co-production is the result of social encounters between individuals and societies of different traditions or cultures. His intervention of “the third space” embodies the notion of hybrid nature of societies and their heterogeneity characterized by ambivalent and ambiguities. In this hybrid space, any claim of authenticity of cultures or hierarchical ‘purity’ of cultures is simply untenable.
What I see in CHEN’s work is an undertaking of what these scholars have called for. Not only does he seek to unveil and reconstruct the narratives of time and historical process, he also works toward creating a “third space” and re-imagining the role of China in shaping history in today’s globalized context.Read more
Bhabha, Homi K. 2004. Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse, The Location of Culture. NY: Routledge (Classics edition).
––. 2004. The Commitment To Theory, The Location of Culture. NY: Routledge (Classics edition).
Chakrabarty, Dipesh 2007. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton University Press.
Fabian, Johannes Fabian, 2002. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia University Press.
Said, Edward W. 1979. Orientalism. NY: Vintage Books.
WANG Hui 2007. The Politics of Imagining Asia: A Genealogical Analysis. Translated by Matthew A. Hale, in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 8(1), 1-33.
策展人 , 作者：araya vivorakij
翻译者 : 陈一中 (translated by CHEN Yizhong)
“中国”仅仅指代一个国家，就像“亚洲”仅仅是一个地域概念。但在陈一中的个展《自由引导人民》中，他将“中国”和“亚洲”展现为观念和思想。 他们并非自我指涉或自我满足，其作品中的“中国”和“亚洲”还与其他概念相关联，尤其是那些图像作品中所显现的“西方”和“欧洲”。所有这些加在一起，建构了一个具有历史系谱根基的知识系统。例如具有对比性含义的“西方”和“东方”概念，可追溯到19世纪欧洲重要的文学议题——东方主义。就像爱德华·萨义德在他的《东方学》中著述的。在这个议题中，“东方”和“西方”被设立为类似雅各布·拉康的自我与他者之间的对立关系。与此相似，“中国”和“亚洲”的轮廓可以在欧洲启蒙运动时期撰写的世界史以及殖民主义的兴起中被勾勒出来。在汪晖的论文《亚洲想象的系谱》中，通过对西方学者黑格尔，史密斯，以及马克思等人著作的引用来揭示了他们对世界历史舞台的描述，同时指出了他们的叙述所生产出的有关于地区和人民的知识。“亚洲”和“欧洲”是二元对立的，在论文中他指出：“同一历史进程中两个关联的有机部分”，另一方面“又在连续的历史整体中分立于两个截然不同的舞台。”在这些19世纪的书写背后，是一个欧洲现代主义的普世性叙述，并围绕着三个中心议题——帝国主义，单一民族国家，以及资本主义。“亚洲”被看作欧洲现代化的对立面，因此也被设想为一个反面的舞台。Read more
陈一中个展中的两张地图，连同其他类似旅行照片或明信片的图像作品。 建构了一个类似游记的结构。作品中叠加的标志性雕塑和历史性建筑，如自由女神像和比萨斜塔，将注意力引向了人类学的领域。人类学的讨论和实践最初发端于欧洲19世纪游记文学极为盛行的时候。Johannes Fabian，在他的著作《时间与其他：人类学如何让事物客观》中，考察了那一时期的游记文学和人类学文献。在这些文献中有许多建立在对异域的表面观察而描写的运动和故事。他们重点关心的不仅是时间的概念，更重要的是时间被空间化了。Fabian认为，对时间的人类学式运用，伴随着欧洲对现代时间和空间的占有，伴随着其他社会存在于不同距离的落后和原始空间中，使得现世的社会和文化都被放置到了空间化的时间衍溢上。饥荒，原始，古老，文明，进化，发展，文化渗透，进步以及现代化的概念都体现了这种空间化的时间概念。并且，Fabian指出，这些都是西方思维最基本的范畴。
当欧洲或者说西方将现代时间和空间殖民的时候，中国，亚洲以及世界上其他的国家和地区则始终在以发展和进步的名义玩一个追赶的游戏。所有企图“模仿”西方的努力，最终都能将“非西方社会”放到一个“将至未至”的位置上。用Homi Bhabha的话说就是“似是而非”。陈一中的录像作品《上升的爱》，戏剧性地展现了青年情侣在自动扶梯上接吻，引出了一种西方性文化的表达方式。这可以被看作是一种模仿的姿态。揭示了Bhabha在他的文章《关于模仿和人类：殖民话语的矛盾情绪》中的矛盾心理。在 Bhabha看来，模仿“是一种相似性和针对性的结构。”讽刺的是，他的成功之处也只是暴露出它的失败， 因为模仿能达到的只有“是似而非白种人”。Read more
可是，今天，学者们设想了许多更有建设性和想象力的途径去“脱离亚洲”, 目的是去改变 “亚洲”的定义, 观念, 和思想。例如Chakrabarty发起过一个项目，通过从边缘地带更新欧洲概念的方式，将理所应当的欧洲概念和资本主义现代化普世论叙事本土化和去中心化。汪对于“亚洲”的想象或再想象，力图挖掘出那些被欧洲化的历史叙述所压抑、否定或被归为落后的政治、种族和经济关系中不同的价值。无论如何，通过对时间概念的重新考量，许多替代性的历史已经出现。Chakrabarty认为，历史的时间不应该是单一线性的时间，更应该覆盖其他的时间，它是整体的，同时其自身也是混沌的。一种替代的历史需要在同时性的模式下以交互的叙事方式被书写，而不是把时间当做分裂和离散的机器，来建构一个不朽的西方自我的想象，以对应于他者的落后。同时性被Fabian定义为主体间的时间，它承认了被所有社会和人民在相同时间里共同创造的历史和当代产物。而对于Homi Bhabha而言，这种共同产物是不同传统和文化中的个体和社会之间相互碰撞的结果。他所构想的“第三空间”是个具有杂交特性的社会，当中并含着矛盾而模糊的异质性特征。在这个杂交的空间中，任何声称文化的确实性或文化的“正统”分级，都是站不住脚的。