视觉“物品” ——许宏翔的行动指南与观看方针

The Visual “Object”—Xu Hongxiang’s Action and Viewing Guidelines


视觉“物品”

——许宏翔的行动指南与观看方针

杨小彦

 

我注意到许宏翔在《李强》这个项目中,把以李强为对象的油画叫做“物品”而不是“作品”。我相信他用这样一个普通词是别有用心的,是故意的。许宏翔先是画了一幅尺寸不大、适合挂在家里的油画送给李强,作为回报,李强给了他一包槟榔,之后,又把这“物品”原样放大,放得很大,起码有几个人那么高,接着就挂在了村子外的山坡上。因为很大,所以,人们远远就能看到这件突兀的“物品”,它非常不恰当地嵌在了裸露的半山上,周围则是开发中的、随处可见因而毫无特色的混乱工地和耸立着的水泥楼群。

 

这里有一种精心准备的贬义在。“物品”等同于一包槟榔,嚼槟榔会上瘾,看油画会不会也上瘾?不过油画不是嚼的,是看的,所以,如果上瘾,就应该叫做“视觉槟榔”。从某种意义看,看画的确和嚼槟榔是一样的。长期嚼槟榔,嘴巴就充满了槟榔的味道,张大看,口腔内全是槟榔特有的色泽;长期看画,看得痴迷,眼睛就会有画的影子,眼睛一看到画,就会扬溢着异样的光彩。只是,我们不会去形容嚼槟榔这件事,因为不值得形容,但看画却必须要有形容,说这是一种审美,一种修养,以及,一种情怀,至少世俗舆论是这样认为的,艺术课程是这样交待的,艺术名家是这样强调的。

 

不过,我猜想长大以后很少交往的许宏翔的发小李强不会这样认为,我是从他的行为举止做出这个判断的,比如,他把一包槟榔作为回报送给了画家,这就能够说明其中的真相。李强会有别的看法吗?我想他不会有别的看法,尤其不会有让我们,艺术界中人,听了之后吃惊不小的看法,他的看法极有可能就是,一定要有的话,对许宏翔的行为感到不可思议!自己的发小长大后投身艺术行业,读了一流的学府中央美院,本科加研究生,学识肯定已高高在上,让他只能仰视,无法平等沟通,可现在,许宏翔他却跑回了家乡,画了一幅发小的肖像,然后放大,放得还很大,几层楼那么高,硬生生地竖在了山坡上。他所做的一切,究竟是什么意思?对此许宏翔也很清楚,他和发小长大以后之所以交往不多,是因为他们已经分属于两个完全不同的阶层,一个是艺术家阶层,社会精英的一分子,每天想着如何去思想、去批判、去颠覆、去反抗,李强这个发小则一直生活在家乡,属于乡村一族,每天的生活具体而麻木,娱乐之一就是嚼槟榔,自然一口家乡话,弄不好,可能很容易骂骂咧咧。从形象看,李强长得很肉,这说明世俗愉悦是他的日常,和思想、批判、颠覆与反抗没有关系。

 

其实,许宏翔的这件作品恰恰证明了他的敏感,其敏感在于,他强烈地意识到了不同阶层之间所天然存在着的趣味差异,对这一差异的严重忽视,正在让艺术变成一种精英手淫的高尚方式,从而失去了影响社会的力量。这一事实迫使许宏翔思考,艺术意味着什么?艺术如果没有力量,我们还有从事艺术的正当理由吗?我怀疑许宏翔回家乡和发小一起喝酒胡侃,给他画像,是想制造一个契机,通过重新和发小一起生活来消除艺术的那一份天生的傲慢。坦率说,许宏翔太熟悉这样一种天生的艺术式的傲慢了,当我们沉浸其中时,真正的批判性就会在傲慢中一点一点地消失,失去了批判性,艺术还有意义吗?也就是说,如果艺术不是一种让人保持清醒的方式,不能促成个体独立自由的成长,我们就没有必要从事艺术。许宏翔希望通过恢复与发小曾经的亲密关系去寻找突破,所以,他才把自己的作品称作“物品”,让发小于不知不觉中成为作品的母题,让《李强》成为一个带有综合判断的社会性隐喻,让野外展示成为众人观看的指南,让作品本身成为每天随意咀嚼的“视觉槟榔”,行动性于是就悄然潜入创作之中,创作也就顺便上升为嵌入社会基层有肌体的突发行动。

 

《下地》是许宏翔的另一个项目,在这一项目中,许宏翔所实现的是对观看的再定义。《下地》主要画环境,以驻环境中闲逛的人,地方仍然是他小时生长的村子,在长沙郊区,叫石人村,方法是,随看随画,随画随看,带有某种偶然性,然后,当作品积累到一定数量之后,就把它们放回到生产之地,挂在残墙上,挂在混乱的街角,甚至搁在树中间。每个地方所挂的作品,画的也正是那个地方。比如,搁在树上的那张,画的就是那一棵树的树杆。在这里,许宏翔用了另一个词形容的他的项目,叫“临时展示”,目的是,“把我的作品放到跟我有关的地方看一看”。“临时展示”饶有意味,为什么不是长久展览?因为在乡间,在路旁,在发小们中间,怎么可能会有“长久展览的机会?于是,展览就变成了美术馆的专利,人们走进这些个展览之地,不得不带有仰慕之情,去寻找经典,去膜拜偶像,结果是,那些个挂在展墙上的作品就由此而“神圣”起来,很多时候就会产生坏画变好的错觉。况且,我想这就是“下地”的意思,不是把作品送下乡,而是,让作品回到它的地方去,从而使“下地”具有一种不容置疑的真实在。然后,作品在它诞生之地悬挂,和它所描绘的对象形成了一种奇特的镜像关系,并吸引了乡间游荡其间的人们。乡民们注视着作品,再对比着去看眼前的实物,产生异样的心态。像这样一种“临时展示”,最终会产生什么样的效应?没有人做过调查,无法给出精确的结论。也许没有效应,也许能引发某种潜藏着的好奇,或者会产生疑问,对习惯了艺术就是审美的积习提出了挑战。其实,艺术家的意图很明白,那就是“下地”。

    

《视觉之问》项目和“下地”不太一样,有一种强迫症贯穿其间。许宏翔在回答朋友的寻问时说:“最早2008我做过一批在印刷品上的实验,我想如何能够去除现成图片上的图像,后来找到了一个方式可以实现,这样就区别于借用某些图像进行绘画创作,创作是直接在图像上产生的。后来我把这样一种方式转移到画布上来做,同样先是在画布上喷绘好图像然后再对其进行处理。每次开始一张新的作品时我面对的都是一张完整的图像可能会去除、模糊或是重绘某些局部,最后画面看起来其实是一个挺综合的东西,们都没有过多的叙事或是情节。这样的创作一直持续到2015那一个阶段发展出了几条线索,但总的来讲是在探讨绘画于图像的关系。

 

许宏翔说得很明白,他想找到一种直接的方式,就在图像上作画。这一次他针对的是图像海洋的现实,这个现实是他视觉成长的背景,也是全球化形成的背景。互联网把地球变成了一个又一个小型的村落,储存量的增大和传送速度的加快制造了可怕的图像的海洋。许宏翔面对的就是这个现实,他的素材库是建立在大量的电脑图片的基础上的,选取只能是随机的,因为量实在太大了,无法精选,精选也是自欺欺人。许宏翔把这些个庞杂的图片做了绘画的置换,然后堆叠在一起。为了避免通常认知所导致的结果,以为照片是艺术家创作形象的来源,或者具象艺术的本质在于如何处理图片,许宏翔干脆把图片作为绘画的载体。也就是说,他直接在图片上涂抹,所涂抹的内容基于图片本身的形象而临时改变,以期让涂抹和原本的内容发生关系。在图像匮乏的年代,艺术家的绘画在于“创作“有意义的形象,探讨画中不同因素的逻辑关系,以期让图像自己”去说话。但今天的情形完全相反,图像海洋几乎把我们淹没,无意义的图像上升为主体。许宏翔的素材库不仅建立在图片海洋中,而且,他的选择也是随机的,涂抹因此也变得随机起来。随机的结果是,图片和涂抹互为镜像,互相揭露,同时也互相解释,绘画于是就被消解在这一不断地发生的揭露与解释的循环过程中。

 

从上述不同的项目实施看,许宏翔的实践具有明确的行动性,创作之于他,几乎等于自我制订的一套行动指南,目的是让观看从原先狭小范围中获得解放。但是,如果以为这样一来,观看就变成了乡民与发小的观看,又把许宏翔的意图给弄颠倒了。乡民与发小的观看永远也不可能是一种与艺术有关的观看,或者准确些说,永远不可能包含着一种穿透世界的观看。许宏翔要的是穿透,至少穿透他所面对的表象,从原有艺术所定义的表象,到现实生活所规范的表象。所以他要把作品称之为“物品”,所以他要不断地去“下地”,他一直在问,从视觉之问到艺术之问,然后到人生,到社会之问。他所生活的时代,生活的环境,生活的国度,在急剧膨胀的岁月中,留下了太多的疑问与机会,他就生活在这一系列的疑问当中,把疑问演变成机会,或者相反,把机会落实为疑问。

 

一旦视觉不再是“物品”时,行动的指南还有效吗?这是我们所要追问的,也是许宏翔内心所焦虑的,也正因为如此,观看才变得有重量起来。

 

2018年131日温哥华草之 

 

 

 

 

The Visual “Object”—Xu Hongxiang’s Action and Viewing Guidelines

by Yang Xiaoyan

Jan. 31st, 2018

Vancouver

 

It has come to my notice that in the project of Li Qiang, Xu Hongxiang treated the paintings as “objects” rather than “works”, a choice of wording which I believe is quite deliberate on his part. The story goes like this. Xu painted a medium-sized painting and gave it to his childhood friend Li Qiang as a gift and received a pack of betel nuts in return. Later, Xu enlarged the original painting “object” to the height of several men piled up and hung it up on the hillside by the village. So conspicuous was this object that people could see it from very far off—it just stayed there, out of place, among the ubiquitously featureless construction site and jugged cement buildings.

 

There’s quite a sense of disparagement in this designed arrangement. The object of painting is analogous to the pack of betel nuts, to which people are easily addicted. Likewise, would we also be hooked to appreciating paintings? But there’s a distinction—paintings are for people to see instead of chewing, so we’d develop an addiction to the “visual betel nuts”. In a way, appreciating paintings and chewing betel nuts are the same thing. If you have a habit of chewing betel nuts, there would be a smell of betel nuts in your mouth, and the inside of your mouth would be tinted with the color of them. In the same sense, eyes addicted to seeing paintings would be tinted with the shadow of paintings, and glimmer if they’re set upon a painting. But we do not care about describing the act of chewing betel nuts, thinking it not worthwhile to do so. In contrast, appreciation of paintings is regarded as a matter of aesthetics, cultural refinement and sentimental display—so it is, at least, in the view of the secular world, the academia and the artists.

 

However, judging by Li Qiang’s giving a pack of betel nuts to Xu Hongxiang, it is my guess that Li Qiang does not share this view. What is his take on this? I don’t think he has one, let alone one that would take us art people by surprise. If anything, he would find incredible what Xu Hongxiang had done. From Li Qiang’s perspective, this childhood friend of him has devoted his life to art, having studied at the first class Central Academy of Fine Arts and graduated with a master’s degree. Xu Hongxiang has become someone superior whom he could only look up to. But now, Xu has returned to his hometown, drawn a portrait of Li Qiang, enlarged it to stories high, and put it up against the hill. What does this all mean? Xu Hongxiang is well aware of the reason why the estrangement came about between him and his friend. They are now belonging to entirely different classes. He belongs to the social elite, an artist who live to think, to criticize, to subvert, and to rebel, while Li Qiang remains in the village, living a more concrete yet numbing life, chewing betel nuts now and then, speaking the dialect and being used to swearing probably. His plumpness also suggests a life filled with secular pleasure, a life has nothing to do with thinking, criticizing, subversion or rebellion.

 

In fact, this piece by Xu Hongxiang demonstrates his sentimental reaction to the inevitable gap in taste between different classes, the neglect of which is rendering art an ennobled way of self-entertainment enjoyed exclusively by the elite, losing the power of social influence. It compels Xu Hongxiang to wonder: what is the meaning of art? Without power, how can we be justified to do art? I think Xu Hongxiang was attempting to create an opportunity for himself to erase the inherent hauteur of art by returning to his hometown, drinking and chatting with his friend, and drawing pictures of him. Frankly speaking, Xu Hongxiang knows well that the critical power of art is being diminished in the immersive presence of arrogance, and once the critical power is gone, so is the meaning of art. In other words, if art fails to keep people sober, or facilitates individual growth, the artist is not justified to be engaged with it any more. Therefore, Xu Hongxiang tried to make a breakthrough by renewing the earlier intimacy between him and his friend. He called his work “object” and put his friend in the place of the motif, making Li Qiang a social metaphor integrated with comprehensive judgment. The field became a guide for the audience to see the work, and the work per se a “visual betel nut” for people to chew on. In this way, the creative work is imbedded with the meaning of action and is elevated to be an organic contingency within the grassroots in society.

 

In the Field, another project by Xu Hongxiang, redefines the act of viewing. Set in Shiren Village, a hamlet in the outskirts of Changsha where he grew up, the paintings focus on the environment and the wandering people. There’s an element of fortuity in his practice. He painted as he walked, and the paintings would be placed back to where they were made, on a dilapidated wall, on the corner of a chaotic street, or even on the branch of a tree. They were exactly the images of where they were placed. For example, the picture of the branch would be put on the tree. Xu Hongxiang used another term to define this project— “temporary display” for the purpose of “seeing the work at the places that related to me” It’s quite interesting because the exhibition can’t be there for long, in the field, by the street, among his childhood buddies. For this reason, exhibitions have been monopolized by art museums, where deluded people look for classics and worship idols, giving the works on the wall a sense of sanctity. By the name of “In the Field”, Xu means to return the works to where they belong and replace the illusion with authenticity. What’s more, the fascinating mirroring effect between the work and the image of the place attracted people passing by, who would stop and watch, comparing the image with the real. What could be the result of this temporary display? There is no gauge for a conclusion. Perhaps no effect has been achieved, or a lurking curiosity was piqued, a doubt raised, a challenge proposed against the stereotype that art equals aesthetics. In fact, it is quite clear that the artist intends to return art back “in the field”.

 

Visual Questions is different from In the Field because of its compulsiveness. In response to questions from his friends, Xu Hongxiang said: “As early as 2008, I did an experiment on printed pictures. I succeeded in removing the image on them and creating works in a straightforward way, instead of borrowing images from elsewhere. Later I moved on to canvas, completing an image first and then developing it further. Every time I paint something new, I would work on a finished image, trying to remove, blur or repaint some part of it to make an integrated painting with little narrative. This practice lasted till 2015. I explored several paths in that period, but all in all it was about the relationship between painting and image.”

 

Xu Hongxiang made it clear that he craved to paint more directly, hence the painting on the image practice. But this time, he is confronted with the reality of the sea of pictures, a background of his visual growth as well as globalization. The globe has been compartmentalized into small villages by the Internet, where the increased storage and transmission speed have created a ghastly sea of pictures. In the face of this reality, he bases his collection of materials on the massive amount of computer images, randomly selects the ones for the replacement of painting, and put them together. To avoid the customary cognition that artists borrow images from pictures, or that the nature of realist art is the handling of pictures, Xu Hongxiang used the pictures as carriers of painting. Put it another way, he would dab right on the pictures—as for which part, that would depend on the image itself so as to establish a connection between the dabbing and the original image. Back in the times when images were rare, artists created meaningful images to explore the logic through different elements in order to give them a voice. But drowned in today’s sea of pictures, we are elevating the meaningless image instead. The randomness of his selection of pictures from his own collection, and of his dabbing has resulted in the intra-mirroring between the picture and his dabbing. They reveal and explain each other, a relentless cycle which consequently diminishes his painting practice.

 

Based on the projects mentioned above, we can tell that Xu Hongxiang’s practice is imbued with a strong sense of action. For him, to create is like setting rules for a series of actions so that the viewing process could be liberated from the narrow space. But it cannot be said that the viewing should be done by his fellow villagers and childhood friends—that would be a misunderstanding of his intention. His fellow villagers and childhood friends could never relate their viewing to art, because their vision could not see through the world. But this is what Xu Hongxiang wants, to at least see through the surface that art defines and the surface of the normalized reality. This is why he calls his works “objects” and goes “in the field” time and time again. Living in this age and country fraught with questions and opportunities, he’s been asking a string of questions about vision, art, life and society, trying to turn them into opportunities, or converting opportunities into questions.

 

Will the guidelines still work once the vision stops being an object? This is what we keep asking as well as what Xu Hongxiang is anxious about. This is also the reason why the act of viewing matters.