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Never mistake Imitation as Exporting


Oriental Art· Master May, 2013 Feature: Why Export “Contemporary Chinese Art”?

Article /Zhu Wei

Interviewer/ Wang Hongzhou

Editor’s comment: As a predecessor of contemporary ink and wash painting, Zhu Wei also led the exportation of contemporary Chinese art. After years of art practice, however, he saw more hidden problems under a buzzing surface. Zhu is not optimistic about the exportation of contemporary Chinese art: “exportation is a good vision. We should have hopes. But we also need to consider how and what? Was our exportation in the real sense? What is exportation anyway? We used to export culture. Was it in original form? No. it was imitation. Because you can only export what is original. How can you export stolen stuff?”

The imitated stuff is no more than a report-back performance, let alone to export. Japan is a case in point. Today, we have neither our own contemporary art nor contemporary art theory. The so called contemporary art going on in China is imitation. It’s gained at the expense of losing our own culture—we are so broad-minded. On the contemporary art exhibition in 1989, the host declared on the stairs of National Art Museum of China: “the Chinese artists completed a path of contemporary art took the westerners 100 years with only 10 years.” So, now we need to be cautious that maybe the western artists would be eager to learn ink and wash paintings since they are so popular.

Imitation doesn’t require original theory. It’s meaningless. Long-term imitation will make you lose thinking and analyzing abilities. You cannot survive on your own. Contemporary Chinese art only has works but no theory and it’s developing rapidly. Where does its theory lie? It’s worth pondering.

Imitation only needs to solve one problem: how to be as similar as possible and even be more like the real. Imitators do not have a say. The contemporary art in world culture system is like what students are in schools. Have you ever heard of school allocating houses to students? Did any school ever send rice, flour, sesame oil and red envelope to students during the spring festival and holidays? Have students ever decided on schools’ guiding principle, personnel and professional ranks and titles? Clearly, the say is not in the hands of students. What can you do about it? You asked for it. They are already showing mercy not to sue you.

Imitation, to some extent, will make you think your own stuff is worthless. Some artists once imagined an international language in contemporary art, arguing only in that language can we be understood by westerners and go global. That’s nonsense. The so called painting language is like pickles. Different methods and flavors co-exist. For example, pickled vegetables in South Korea are hot and salty; preserved radish in Japan are sweet; pickled cabbage in China are delicious enough for me, if made into dumplings coupled with meat, it would be even better; pickled cucumber in Russia are also nice, but I just don’t know with what to eat it; in Europe, there is also a kind of pickled raisins, which taste like eraser dropped in the pickle jar. Up till now, I have never tasted any international pickles. Esperanto appeared in the 1980s. Its letters looked like a mix of English, French, Italian, Portuguese and German and its pronunciation also sounded like a combination of various languages. I’m afraid that one may even scare himself to death when he came back home, lying on bed and hearing such a sentence of Esperanto. But the language was promoted by the Education Ministry of China. National key foreign study schools had their Esperanto department. After four years of study, you can also further your study as a postgraduate. But later, no one heard of it anymore.

Imitating lands us into a weak position. We could be disgraced if some westerner points out the truth. By then, it’s hard for us to hide from the harsh truth.

The only thing we can envision and talk about exportation is ink and wash painting, I guess. Putting aside sense of values, ink and wash painting is our creation and we set the standards and rules. It’s a pity that we still don’t have theories on contemporary them. There is only complain and desperation. We have already wasted so much time. Take the Renaissance in Europe for example, most people regard Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael as the three masters of Renaissance. In fact, Europeans believe the three masters are Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio 200 years before Renaissance, because they are the ones who guided all the literature and art creations in the Renaissance with their thoughts and theories.














模仿别人模仿急了会觉得自己的东西一无是处。甚至曾经有不少艺术家幻想过当代艺术存在着一种国际性语言,只有用国际语言才能和国际接轨才能让西方人看得懂。其实没这回事儿,所谓绘画语言就像是腌咸菜,各有各的腌法,口味都不一样。比如韩国的泡菜偏辣偏咸,日本腌萝卜稍微偏甜,咱们的腌大白菜我觉着吃起来就正好,要是有条件的话再放点肉包成饺子相当好吃。俄罗斯的酸黄瓜也不错,唯一不足的是不知道该就着什么吃。欧洲还有一种腌提子,吃起来像是不小心把橡皮掉缸里给腌了,反正到目前为止我还没吃过国际咸菜。八十年代曾经出现过一种叫世界语的,字母看上去有点英文法文意大利葡萄牙再加上德文的混合体,发出的音就像是一人在一个下午同时撞见了八国联军,跟这个说几句跟那个学几口,晚上回家坐炕上张嘴说出一个句子来,当时把自己都能吓死。世界语当年是教育部推广的,国家重点外语院校专门开设有世界语系 ,四年本科,考研选择世界语也可以。后来这事儿不了了之了。


我们唯一能够憧憬或者谈得上能够输出的大概就是水墨画了,抛开价值观不说,水墨画是我们的原创,标准和规则是由我们自己来定的 。可惜的是我们现在楞还没有当代水墨的理论,有的只是牢骚和绝望,白白地浪费了时间。拿欧洲文艺复兴为例,大部分人都知道文艺复兴三杰,达芬奇,米开朗琪罗和拉斐尔,其实欧洲人认为的文艺复兴三杰是在此之前两百多年的但丁,彼得拉克,薄伽丘。因为是他们的思想和理论指引了文艺复兴所有的文学艺术的创作。


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