O‘Zine, December 2010
China Bastard - An Interview and cover story made by ‘O’ZINE’ visual magazine
O’ZINE (hereinafter referred to as O): What do you think ‘bastard’ is?
Zhu Wei (hereinafter referred to as Z): If we call others ‘bastard’ on the street, it would be name-calling and others would feel difficult to accept this; if unfortunately we encounter someone rude, he may retaliate with a slap in the face. Yet in special small circles, ‘bastard’ may signify that the people might be courageous and knowledgeable.
O: Can we call those intellectuals who dare tell the truth ‘bastards’?
Z: We could. Intellectuals are the conscience of the society and the critics of the existing social value; there is nothing perfect in this world, so it is what intellectuals should do to criticize and reveal. However in the real society, especially nowadays, we cannot even get to know the truth and cannot be taken as some one knows; therefore it is difficult for the so called intellectuals in China to become ‘bastards’, there is no foundation.
O: Do you think you are a ‘bastard’?
Z: I could only say that I’m trying my best to become one ‘bastard’ and I would make even more effort to become a real ‘bastard’, which, actually, is a very tempting name for me.
O: Do you agree with the definition of ‘bastard’ made by our O’ZINE magazine?
Z: The definition of ‘bastard’ your magazine made only covered a few aspect of it and talks about it from the perspective of personality; yet I think, whether you are a ‘bastard’ or not should be decided by what you have done for the progress of this society…
O: Do you think today China need ‘bastard-style talented people’ or not?
Z: More than thirty years have passed since the Reform and Opening up, yet the reform on the level of culture and citizen met great difficulty in making step forward and we rarely see any courageous and brave figure; if there is any ‘bastard-style talented people’ in China, it is far from enough. Now it’s the time for China to have ‘bastard-style talented people’.
O: What’s the most ‘bastard’ thing you have done?
Z: It’s not my business to talk about it from the perspective of society; as for my personal aspect, I gave up the opening ceremony of my solo-exhibition in Beijing for the performance of The Rolling Stones in Shanghai Stadium held at the same evening and went to Shanghai by air with some friends to watch the performance.
O: What do you frown upon the most?
Z: It is people’s indifferent attitude towards our country and the social status; now everyone in this society only knows how to ‘make money’. Certainly this is also a kind of respond to the call. In those years it was also that everyone, especially those who was born in 1950s and 1960s took part in the Cultural Revolution; now when we are having an economic movement, our peoples born in 1980s and 1990s also take part in it enthusiastically. The reason why so many peoples, including several generations, or even dozens of generations would like to be fooled by one or several people to suspend their own work and donate themselves into one same thing should be traced in race.
O: How do you look upon the different thinking and living way of those young peoples born in 1980s?
Z: Think about it carefully, things done by those born in 1980s haven’t gone too far; they only changed to have less passion and more tolerance, they are more content with things as they are.
O: What your conviction, or in other words, your most important values are?
Z: The first is not do immoral things, the second is not to be taken advantage of by others.
O: What’s indispensable in your life?
Z: Freedom and thought. I must have time to think about something and do something, which are the most rudimentary things for people living on this world.
O: Do you think it is the inspiration of fantasy or the experiences of life that more important to a creator?
Z: Life experience is the most important, this is the only truth; anyone who give other statements is cheating you, do kick his ass.
O: Do you think technique and theory are very important for creation? What’s the most important for creation?
Z: Techniques are progressing constantly and unceasingly, but there are certain laws in it that cannot be disobeyed. As for theory, people have different opinions on it; even now we are still groping about in many things. We do many things before reading the instructions leaflet. The most important thing is you must do it.
O: What a mentality do you have in creation?
Z: I never feel anxious in creation, that’s my mentality. Painting is my lifelong career and I think I would never turn to do real estate business or to drive an airplane; I would feel regretted if I create works urgently with eager for quick success and instant benefit. Passion is transient so I always try to balance myself.
O: What’s your condition when you are not creating artworks? What do you like to do?
Z: I hardly have any time not creating; as for me, to have celebration whenever and wherever possible is a part of creation; I won’t make people see I’m always painting there at any time, which in my mind is no more than acting. I think about what to draw and how to draw almost all round the clock and rarely have entertainments or be in a daze.
O: What other creations do you do except for painting?
Z: These days I’m shooting MV for the Miserable Faith band, which is now in its post-production stage; besides I have written articles for the special column of a magazine for four years.
O: How do you like Chinese classical painting?
Z: Chinese classical painting art is the most glorious painting with today’s contemporary art included. The peak period of it happened in Song, Yuan and early Qing dynasties. However today we are busy connecting with foreign culture and have already given up many of our own things.
O: What do you refer to when you talk about ‘give up’?
Z； I mean form and content. Ink and wash painting has experienced two large-scaled catastrophe; one is the ‘May Fourth’ movement happened in late Qing and early days of the Republic of China, another is the ‘Chinese Traditional Painting Revolution’ during the socialism period. In those years, Xu Beihong introduced sketch perspective into ink and wash paintings, this has damaged the unique aura of our Chinese culture and our ink and wash painting. In fact, it showed a lack of confidence in our own culture.
O: Do you think we have given up more in the ‘May Fourth’ period or after the establishment of PRC?
Z: ‘May Fourth’ was the beginning of westernization which didn’t covered too many fields; actually it was in the Cultural Revolution Period that westernization happened most prosperously; The Cultural Revolution has caused a mortal damage to Chinese traditional culture which surpassed Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s ‘Burying Books and Burying Confucian Scholars alive’.
O: You have always been persisting in ink and wash painting creation, yet ink and wash painting is indeed quite marginalized now; how do you cope with this predicament?
Z: Actually I could be regarded as an ascetic monk who sticks to his own belief, inherits it and develops it. Ink and wash painting is our national treasure and our own cultural brand, we should stick to it and meanwhile in content of it, pay more attention to real society and common people’s life.
O: What do you think Rock and Roll is?
Z: I don’t think there are much musical elements in Rock and Roll; in fact, it is a critical form with music as its carrier to realize abreaction.
O: Is Rock and Roll only suitable for young people?
Z: And all those who have passion; it has nothing to do with age.
O: What kind of Rock and Roll do you like?
Z: I love those combine well with local culture, such as some works of Cui Jian, Dou Wei and He Yong.
O: Do you like to inquire upon the past and history?
Z: Actually I pay more attention to reality.
O: How do you think about today’s China?
Z: The current situation of China is troublesome now, it’s a society characterized by vanity. As common people, we have no feeling of safety and have no idea of what to do; we have no hope for the future and don’t know how to make the next step; some even dare not make any step forward. This is a really miserable period. The longer this period is, the serious a bursting out would happen later. People have less and less freedom with their capability of control their own life decreased to be weaker day by day.
O: So in your eyes, this is not true freedom, but only that people’s life become colorful today?
Z: I could only say that materials are more than before, yet on spiritual level, people are much poorer than before, or even they are monotonous in spirit today. Many say that China is in a transition stage, yet I don’t think so. The very beginning of this period was transitional, yet now we are circling like sitting on the whirligig in a playground round and round. The longer this period is, the more terrified and impatient people in it feel.
O: What problems do you think there are in the art circles today?
Z: Within such a society, could art circles be better? Maybe the only thing they could do is to play the game of those days before Liberation again.
O: Do you think artists could have more right of discourse after they become famous and rich?
Z: That would happen in a civil society.
O: You have been in touch with foreign galleries many years ago. What differences there are between the foreign and domestic artistic environments in your opinion?
Z: Foreign artistic market is very calm. Artists need to pay great effort and long time to wait for success.
O: What do you think Chinese culture is?
Z: What do you think the culture in such a social condition in China would be?
O: How do you like the Chinese Rock and Roll works created in late stage?
Z: Today’s Rock and Roll music in China is more internationalized; in other words, it is going further and further away from Chinese Rock and Roll music.
O: At present, young people’s works of music, painting or film can hardly transcend their predecessors. What do you think the reason of this phenomenon is?
Z: It is still the problem of this society. People born in 1950s and 1960s grew up in the turbulent, transitional and speculative times of the society; now it is a circling, stagnant and confusing period, so how and with what could young peoples realize any transcendence?
O: What do you think about the impact of market economy on Chinese people?
Z: Look into the mirror everyday at home and you could see this impact launched on Chinese by market economy. If this impact comes from a market economy society, then you would see another look.
O: What society and life do you want?
Z: A civil society, where everyone has freedom and people are rich both in material and spirit; in other words, a market economy society.
O: If you are asked to dress up to be ‘bastard’ like, how would you make it?
Z: A true bastard looks honest, simple and unsophisticated, he even looks a little bit rustic; those who dress up to be strange and queer are playing games that we have discarded long ago, they are lovely, not ‘bastard’. A real bastard is low-keyed and never pays attention to his external appearance, because he could understand everything.
O: How do you think about fashion?
Z: Fashion is necessary, it belongs to young people. They are judging this world so they need fashion.
O: What do you think of Zhu Wei? Could you make a self-evaluation with one sentence?
Z: I think I’m a punctilious people who live cautiously and don’t want to offend people; I don’t want to look for trouble and I decrease my life to be the simplest in order not to have too many things that would disturb my creation. Thus I could close the door and stay in my studio to do whatever I want to do.