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If He Doesn’t Support Artists, Then He Is Not A Gentleman

 

Hi Art, September 2014

Every time when Guo Degang’s crosstalk performance comes to the end, he always sings the Big Truths. In its lyrics: "If he doesn't support artists, then he is not a gentleman." It means, if the rich want to show off their richness in front of the poor, they had better spend money on seeing performances and sponsoring art, which will make them look higher up on the pecking order. In fact the lyrics only speaks of artists' wish. If it were the fact, then it doesn't have to be sung everyday and everywhere. After years of training and education, a general tacit understanding has been reached, and all Chinese can habitually determine what the real truth is: for example, if "the situation is excellent" is mentioned, it indicates that the current situation actually is not very good; if "stability and unity" is mentioned, it indicates that it's neither stable nor united lately; "harmony" indicates disharmony, and so on. "If he doesn't support artists, then he is not a gentleman", while the truth should be "there is no gentleman, and people don't support artists." Otherwise there won't be so many various interest groups seeking gain at the galleries' expenses in a small 798, no matter how slender their profit is, or how precarious they are now.

In recent years it seems not so common but in the past it indeed was often seen that a "tycoon" who stood in the middle of the street with a bag under his arm and even at about four o'clock in the afternoon with a toothpick in his mouth which made people wonder what he had eaten as lunch shouting at a phone about a reinvesting of several billions before he hailed a pedicab and went away on it. Pretending to be somebody who you are not while you are struggling for a meager livelihood makes people feel sorry for you and do not know whom to hate. In the old days when the rickshaw pullers outside the Beijing Qianmen said hello to each other they usually said: "Have you eaten?" This sentence is a greeting of giving each other face, a primer full of good will. The expected answer was "Yes, I have eaten", which meant this rickshaw puller had earned money that day and had used what he earned to have a meal, as well as indicating that his family have something to eat that day. Afterwards the greeting has been spread to all walks of life and become a greeting in line with national conditions, or a national greeting. Even when the central leadership meet with foreign guests, they also wish to let the first translator ask: "Have you eaten?" Having meal in time is the most important mission that our nation has dreamed of to accomplish for thousands of years. It's not only the temptation on the tip of the tongue, but also the realization of the value of existence of Chinese people. No matter what "ism" or party ruled this land in the history, after all the situational slogans such as development, reform, strengthening the national power, revitalization and so on they put forward, actually the only and absolute theme the central government and governments at all levels in every dynasty finally need to resolve is always whether people can eat enough or eat well.

Painters seem to be powerless on describing hunger. So far, I only remember Jiang Zhaohe's The Homeless People, in which the starving people are waiting in line desperately with an empty bowl in their hands. Later an oil painting depicting a farmer-like old man holding a bowl also appeared. Both paintings got nationally noticed at that time. Comparing with painters, it seems much easier for writers to write about hunger. Lu Wei, the screenwriter of the movie To Live, used to write about a painter friend who lived at Old Summer Palace: his main task everyday was not to conceive painting, but to contemplate how to eat the next meal for free. In order to have a meal he made a set of complicated plans, such as whose home he should eat in today, whose home he should eat in tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and two days after tomorrow, and how to eat without causing any embarrassment to each other, and so on. In those days everyone need rationed food stamps to exchange food, so if you went to somebody's home for meal, it was just a one-time trip, otherwise the people you visited won't have enough food for themselves in that month. You had to make a precise calculation on it. It would take too long to tell the suffering, hunger and tears in full.

Yu Hua, the writer who in my mind is the most worthy of a Nobel Prize in China, always shows special preference to describing hunger. In his novel Why There Is No Music he depicted an unusual man Ma Er: Ma Er can hold a whole shrimp in his mouth to eat the shrimp meat and spit out an intact shrimp shell by using his tongue only. Ma Er eats quickly, attentively, never raising his head before he finishes. In Yu Hua's another novel Classical Love he described a more cruel and bloody picture of hunger. The Classical Love subverts the traditional love story of a Cinderella boy and a rich girl pledging to marry each other without parental permission in the back garden of the girl's home before the lucky boy becoming the emperor announced number one scholar later, or similar self-deceiving fantasy. During the famine period, the gifted young scholar didn't become the emperor announced number one scholar, and the rich girl's home was destroyed. When the young man met the young girl again in a small restaurant, the young girl had become a "food person" in food person market. The description in this novel is much more vivid than Fantasy Tales by Ji Xiaolan. A "food person" is a human being whose flesh was going to be a dish on table. In famine years flesh of human beings was eatable.

In Zhong Acheng's The King of Chess the writer described the king of chess Wang Yisheng: "When he heard the clinking of aluminum dinner pails made by people taking food ahead, he closed his eyes, with mouth tightly shut, as if he felt sick. After he got his meal, he started to eat it immediately and quickly. His Adam's apple bobbed in his throat. His face was full of tension. He stopped his eating constantly and suddenly, by using his whole index finger, to wipe a grain of cooked rice or a touch of oil or soup caught on his lips or chin into his mouth. If a grain of cooked rice fell on his clothes, he would press his finger on it right away, and transferred it into his mouth. If the transferring wasn't successful and the rice fell on the ground, he would stop moving his feet at once, and then turned himself around to look for it. At this moment if he happened to meet my eyes, he would slow down the process. After he finished the eating, he carefully sucked his chopsticks until they are totally clean, filled up his dinner pail with water, sipped the thin oil slick first, and then with a face of reaching the other shore safely, sipped the remaining water." This is the sequela of hunger. In Cao Naiqian's novel collection I Have No Choice But To Miss You At Night there is a story called Dan Wa. In the beginning of the story Lao Zhuzhu's family had built a cave house and was going to install door and windows. Traditionally, in event like installing door and windows, every household in the village should send a labor to help, and when the job was finished, each labor should have a fried rice cake to enjoy. Dan Wa came home early that day, because in that day it won't deduct any workpoints if he did so. Thus when Lao Zhuzhu went to the collective fields to call for labors, Dan Wa was not there. The fried rice cake was so rare that villagers usually could only eat it once a year during Spring Festival. Groundlessly missing the opportunity to eat fried rice cake, Dan Wa was very unhappy. However, he was embarrassed to tell people the truth, so from the morning till night, he made trouble everywhere for a whole day. It's a story about gluttonous which is developed from hunger.

Throughout Chinese history, severe famines were recorded in every dynasty. Accumulated from generation to generation, every Chinese remains a large area in the brain to store the memories of hunger. No matter how much money we have, it's still difficult to get rid of the fear of hunger and the consequent insecurity. We have been fighting hard unremittingly around the bottom line of survival. A cultural scholar in Taiwan has pointed out that Chinese culture is still a primitive culture but packaged with packing sheets of benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom and trust. A primitive culture is a culture of survival, whose primary feature is that all labor and the value of judgment must be subsistence-oriented, refusing spiritual value. Translated into classical Chinese it is: You can risk your life for a bite of food, because anything else is nonsense.

When some painter buddies get together, there is always someone complaining that the real collector like Zhang Boju is rare, the real gentleman is rare, while there are so many speculators who buying and selling art for survival. In fact, nobody has it easy. Who wouldn't want to live with both money and face, but is it in line with our national circumstances? Look, restaurants which live well are everywhere, while how many galleries are living well?

Zhu Wei

August 17 2014, Sunday

 

 

 

 

没有君子不养艺人

 

《HI艺术》2014年九月刊

郭德纲每次演出最后总要唱一段《大实话》,其中一句:没有君子不养艺人。意思是说有钱同时又想要脸、更想在穷人面前显得比穷人更有钱的主儿,最好多出钱看演出赞助艺术,显得有身份。其实这段唱只是唱出了艺术从业人员的期望,要世道真是那样,也就不会天天挂在嘴上走到哪唱到哪了。中国人经过多年的培养教育普遍都形成了默契,习惯性的就能判断出真实情况:比如形势一片大好,是说明最近形势其实不太好;安定团结,其实说明最近既不安定也不团结;和谐说明其实已经不太和谐了,等等等等。没有君子不养艺人,中间加个逗号其实就是事情的真相。要不怎么一个小小的七九八总是接二连三的发生不同利益团体与利润微薄风雨飘摇的画廊争利的事情?

最近几年好像不常见了,以前老能看见中午不知道吃了什么,下午四点嘴里还叼着牙签,夹着包站在马路中间冲着电话喊着再投几个亿,接着伸手拦了辆三蹦子扬长而去的大款。缺吃少穿还要装其实最累,让人心疼同情怜悯,不知道该恨谁。以前北京前门外拉车的车把式见面头句话就是:吃了吗?这话其实是特别给面儿同时又是含蓄充满善意的垫话,就等对方回答说吃了,表示已经比别人先拉着活儿挣着钱且还拿刚挣的钱吃了饭了,同时家里一家大小今儿有着落了!后来这句问候传到各行各业,成了特别符合国情的礼仪用语,成了国问,中央领导会见外宾也恨不得先让翻译问一句have you eaten?到点吃饭其实是我们这个民族这个国家几千年来魂牵梦绕的第一要务,不仅仅是舌尖上的诱惑,而且已经是中国人存在价值的体现。能不能吃饱吃得再好点儿成了历朝历代中央和地方各级政府,华夏土地上出现过的所有主义和政党,在提出发展改革强国振兴等等一系列应景的口号之后最终真正要落实和解决的唯一绝对主题。

对于饥饿的描绘画家们显得力不从心,到目前为止我只记得蒋兆和的《流民图》,绝望的饥民们排着队手里拿着碗,后来还出现过一张油画一农民模样的老人手里也拿着碗,这两张画都引起了当时整个社会的关注。与画家们相比,作家就显得得心应手的多。电影《活着》的编剧芦苇曾写过他一住在圆明园的画家朋友:每天的主要任务不是构思画画,而是想着如何蹭饭。为了吃口饭他有一套复杂的计划,今天到谁家吃,明天到谁家吃,后天到哪吃,大后天到哪吃,如何才不至于给对方造成难堪等等。那时候吃饭每个人是有定量要粮票的,到人家吃饭的话,只能一顿,多吃就威胁到别人家的口粮了,必须做一个精密的计算。多少艰辛困苦与饥饿的泪水,非一言所能道尽。

在我心目中最应该获得诺贝尔奖的作家余华对吃的描写也一直情有独钟,小说《为什么没有音乐》里写了一个叫马儿的奇人:马儿能够把整只虾囫囵吞进嘴里,单凭口舌的蠕动,就能吃掉虾肉,吐出一只完整无缺的虾壳来。马儿吃饭很快,专心,不吃完绝不抬头。他的另一部小说《古典爱情》更是描写了饥饿的残忍和血腥。小说颠覆了传统私定终身后花园,落难公子中状元,才子佳人不着五六的故事。灾年书生并未中状元,小姐家也被拆迁,书生在一小饭馆偶遇到小姐时,小姐已沦落为菜人市场的菜人。比纪昀的《阅微草堂笔记》对菜人的叙述还更上一层楼。菜人乃人肉市场的人,饥荒年代人肉也是要吃的。

阿城在《棋王》里写棋王王一生:“听见前面大家拿吃的时铝盒的碰撞声,他常常闭上眼,嘴巴紧紧收着,倒好像有些恶心。拿到饭后,马上就开始吃,吃得很快,喉节一缩一缩的,脸上绷满了筋。常常突然停下来,很小心地将嘴边或下巴上的饭粒儿和汤水油花儿用整个儿食指抹进嘴里。若饭粒儿落在衣服上,就马上一按,拈进嘴里。若一个没按住,饭粒儿由衣服上掉下地,他也立刻双脚不再移动,转了上身找。这时候他若碰上我的目光,就放慢速度。吃完以后,他把两只筷子吮净,拿水把饭盒冲满,先将上面一层油花吸净,然后就带着安全到达彼岸的神色小口小口的呷。”这就是饥饿的后遗症了。曹乃谦的小说集《到黑夜想你没办法》中有《蛋娃》一篇,讲的是老柱柱家做好了窑洞要装门窗,按惯例装门窗这件大事要从各家各户请一个劳力去帮忙,而且帮忙的人必须得有油炸糕吃。因为这日不出工不扣工分,蛋娃不慎提早回了家,老柱柱叫人帮忙时就没叫上蛋娃。油炸糕一般过年才能吃上一回,这次平白无故错过了吃油炸糕的机会,蛋娃这一天都没过痛快,又不好意思直说,干脆从早到晚惹了一天的祸。这篇故事讲的是从饥饿延伸出来的馋。

翻开中国历史无论哪个朝代都有过严重饥荒的记录, 代代累积下来,每个中国人脑袋里都有一大块区域专门用来储存对于饥饿的回忆,无论有多少钱也很难摆脱对饥饿的恐惧和由此造成的没有安全感。大家一直在生存底线周围上下求索,努力拼搏。台湾一文化学者曾经指出:中国文化乃是经过仁、义、礼、智、信包装过的原始文化。原始文化即围绕着生存的文化,基本特征是一切劳动和对价值观的判断均以维持生存为目的,拒绝精神价值。换成文言文就是:为口吃的可以玩命,其它都是扯淡。

平时几个画画的哥们儿凑一起吃饭总有人抱怨像张伯驹那样真正的藏家不多,真正的君子太少,为了生存倒腾艺术品的炒家倒是遍地。其实大家都不容易,谁不想既要钱又要脸,但是符合国情吗?睁眼看看,活得好的饭馆到处都是,活得好的画廊有几家?

朱伟

二零一四年八月十七日星期日