sohu.com, April 28 2012
Zhu Wei: How Rock and Roll Influences Reality
Journalist: Gao Jing
The 2012 Midi Modern Music Festival is around the corner. The scene will contain 4 stages featuring the dynasties of Tang, Song, Yuan and Qing, and nearly 100 bands as well as musicians will take part in the show. After the cooperation in 2006, the organizer of the festival invited Zhu Wei, the famous artist, to share his works again. The official post taking Zhu’s woodcuts as the prototype has been released, and the theme “PM2.5” is created by the joint efforts of Zhu Wei and Zhang Fan, the founder as well as the headmaster of Midi School of Music, in Zhu Wei ‘s Studio. At the same time, the MVs, music documentaries and other works directed by Zhu will also be shown during the festival. We interviewed Zhu Wei on the interpretation of the theme, the spirit of rock and roll music and other topics.
Sohu Art: Why the Midi Festival, which is called as “China’s Woodstock Rock Festival”, has received so much attention?
Zhu Wei: Dating from 2000, Midi Music Festival sees its 12th birthday this year. It was formerly the campus music festival of Midi School of Music established in 1993 and located by the Fragrant Hill at the edge of the Fifth Ring District of Beijing. With passion for rock and roll music, a great number of young people from all over the country gathered in the school. At first they knew little about music, including rock and roll, while they owned their own professional bands after two years of specialized training, many of which have been well developed and gained numerous fans. Most of bands participating in various rock and roll festivals are from this school.
Sohu Art: What is the current spirit that is held and advocated by Midi Music Festival?
Zhu Wei: The spirit of rock and roll is to surpass and influence the reality, which is not limited by the time. Such spirit is just what the rock and roll music festival should convey and express.
Sohu Art: Midi Festival of this year appeals for people’s attention on PM2.5 because the increasingly serious problem is directly harming our living environment and health. As the designer of the post, how do you understand the theme and describe your train of thought when creating the post?
Zhu Wei: PM2.5, the theme of this year’s music festival, is co-created by Zhang Fan, the founder as well as the headmaster of Midi School of Music, and me in my studio. Paying attention to and appealing people to be aware of the worrying air quality that has affected our health is within our power and the only thing that we, the artists facing the worsening living environment, can do.
Sohu Art: The design of the post is derived from your “Woodcut No. 10” which has been exhibited during New York’s Asian Art Week. As early as 10 years ago you began to interpret the status quo of the society with contemporary ink-and-wash paintings, sculptures and woodcuts, declaring your objection to what are harming us. However, we can also feel some indifference in your declaration. What kind of damages your generation having been suffered is the target of such attitude?
Zhu Wei: The woodcut was created in 2003 when SARS broke out. It aims to put an emphasis on our living environment, especially more and more serious diseases propagating through the air. We common people cannot afford any more pressures and troubles beyond those exerted by the society and economic life, even the tiniest ones. Since the Reform and Opening-up started about 30 years ago, several generations have sacrificed a lot, including their personal interests. Although they did not gain much or hold the social wealth, most of them have devoted all they have for the reform and opening-up of our country: this is just the status quo of the country and the current living status of our people.
Sohu Art: As one of the contemporary Chinese artists who have first won the recognition of international art world in the 1990s, you often express subjects of politics and the society in your contemporary ink and wash paintings with subject matters derived from traditional Chinese paintings as well as contemporary figures. What kind of artistic view are the borrowed classical elements implicating?
Zhu Wei: In the world a lot of things are repeating. All that we see today have appeared in the past with different appearance but the same nature. Sometimes we are dazzled by them, but none of them are completely new. Narrating the present with the past things helps with reminding and reflection. What is important is not the form or the style of the painting: it is only a means of describing people’s understanding of life. However, in all eras and societies, a good piece of work must reflect the times accurately. Through a work, the audience should be able to see the ideological trend and status quo of the society, know the impact of the period in the history and feel the artist’s pulses as well as heartbeats during the creation.
Sohu Art: Seeing the replacement of tradition by foreign new culture as well as the cultural vacuum resulting from social transformation, some artists have realized the local values of constructing the “Chineseness”. They are attempting to return to their own context, the cultural link and the tradition to reflect the art and the history. Regarding to the ideological trend of the so-called “traditional reborn art”, what are the common problems the art circle is facing? What is the artistic essence that should really be pursued?
Zhu Wei: It is good to value the tradition, no matter when you begin the cause - even though you are forced to pick it up in desperation. As I have mentioned, all that are happening can be found in the past. Sometimes you may discover that the past things are more interesting, vivid, passionate and even scientific than what we see today.
As to the ideological trends such as “traditional reborn art”, “returning to the tradition” and, more specifically, the concepts of “clear and isolated” and different temperaments, I think these terms are for critics and theorists who consider things on the theoretical basis or from a strategic respect. However, by no means should artists linger on the concepts above unless the job you are doing just accords with those theories. Artists should not follow the trend blindly but persist in their own job. Thinking independently, exploring untiringly and reflecting the change of the times accurately: these are the artistic essences that an artist should pursue.
Sohu Art: During these 30 years, numerous writers, poets and artists have been showing the depression, anxiety, anger and helplessness of this era in their works. What is behind such expression is the further pursue towards the free spirit. As an artistic creator, what do you think is the real prosperity and freedom of sprit?
Zhu Wei: Indeed, people’s depression, anxiety, anger and helplessness during these 30 years can be divided into several stages, and they reflect the feelings that different developing stages of the society in this period gives to the civilian people. The artists’ expression may not be accurate, because all are underway. Who can constantly make conclusions for things underway? Besides, 30 years is meaningless for the long process of history. When I just joined the army, I experienced a field-training for the new soldiers. All of us, with arms, packages and leggings, walked in the mountain at night in the rain. The superior ordered us to arrive and meet at the destination before dawn, so we strained every muscle and nerve to make our way. During the march, the squad leader, the platoon leader and the political instructor kept encouraging and praising us: no one fell behind in Squad One, somebody in Squad Two sticked with training in spite of disease, and Squad Three had applied all skills learned through routine training, for which they could receive an oral reward by the platoon after returning. Every squad raced each other and we were dead tired. However, we heard a sudden whistle at dawn, and then the platoon leader told us we were going the opposite way. The real artistic creation should be done individually, independently and privately, unlike hunting that needs people to gather in crowds for taking care of and boosting courage for each other. Tacit understanding is the tiptop of artistic creation.