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SCOPE 《艺术客》

November 2014 二零一四年十一月



November 2014, SCOPE

Artists and Reading

Editor's Note: Artists are a kind of people who create images. Does reading mean anything to artists? Today the answer seems clear. The essence of history, ideology, and tradition has been kept in books, and choosing what to read builds up an artist's knowledge structure. The challenge of contemporary art requires an artist to rely more and more on his knowledge structure. However, the images and literatures are unable to replace each other. The following dialogue between SCOPE and artist Zhu Wei will be an example showing the relationship between Zhu Wei's images and what he read.

SCOPE: Do you like reading? What can reading bring to you?

Zhu Wei: I didn't like reading since when I was a child. Being printed on books or not, the authority of books is always weak for me. Of course it's related to the historical background at that time. When I was young I often saw words like "Unity, Tension, Seriousness, and Liveliness" which I couldn't understand: how could a person be of both unity and tension, and of both seriousness and liveliness at the same time? How is it possible? Who has the right to command others in a condescending tone like this? It's a request from an adult to a child, from a commanding officer to a soldier, and from the ruler to the people. It's lack of the basic common sense of human being.

But now is different. There are more books with common sense, and more people with common sense. I came to like reading. Unfortunately I'm lack of basic training, which makes me read slower than normal speed, and it's hard to change. The benefit is I seldom forget what I have read.

Some titles of my painting series came directly from books. For example for the ink painting Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre in 1990', and the prints cooperated with Singapore Tyler Print Institute in 2004, The New Pictures of the Strikingly Bizarre, both titles are derived from the vernacular novel written by Ling Mengchu in late Ming dynasty. The painting Beside the Girls in 1996 was named from Volumn II of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, Within a Budding Grove (in Chinese it was translated as Beside the Girls). For my recent works, there is a painting Curtain (2010), which was named after Milan Kundera's essay collection. And painting Hills Beyond A River (2010), originally it was an art history book of Yuan Dynasty written by James Cahill. The content of these books agreed with both of my mental state of creation and social changes at that time.

SCOPE: What kind of books do you like to read? And what's the proportion of them?

ZW: Actually I prefer newspapers and magazines now. The materials of newspapers and magazines are closer to reality. A book is like a house, the author building it from the foundation, and then structure, bricks and tiles, sometimes a layer of glass wall before it finished. All of these actually are a product of the author. Whether it's good or not is related to the author's idea, how profound his/her knowledge is, and how he/she explains profound theories in simple language. Being fiction or nonfiction, any book actually is a theory, a dream, a lie by an author. A book's relationship with reality is not as close as to the author.

Generally I'll choose books based on to what degree the book reflects reality, and whether it shows me something new. For example, there are mountains of books written by Chinese scholars about seeing the world from a Chinese perspective, among them the Indifferent to the World: 100 Years of Revelation, authored by Zi Zhongyun in 1990', is more pertinent, impartial, and without the inherently narrowness of weakling. Written by Wu Xiaobo, the Storming 30 Years: Chinese Enterprises 1978-2008 interprets merchant in a new light, lifting them from the bottom of traditional social status order which used to be "scholar, farmer, artisan and merchant" to a little bit higher. This book is not another popular opportunistic success studies, but a serious history. Ray Huang's 1587, a Year of No Significance takes the fifteenth year of Wanli as a miniature of thousands years of history in China, and draws a conclusion that being lack of "sensible mathematics" is the reason of China's less-developed. It seems like another expression to say China is ruled by men rather than laws, but with an American style of spirit of science, this book gives us an optimistic impression as if, as long as you are willing to change, the change will come. And Zhang Yihe's The Final Nobles. It brings the shadow of a past time back to life. All of these are interesting books.

Of course, most of what I read is relevant to art. I won't bother you with more examples. Besides that, I'll see whether the book is associated with things I concern. If a book is about a research on Madagascan ferns, no matter how new its idea is, and how true the facts are in it, it's still hard for me to finish it.

SCOPE: Do you think everyone should read books every day? What is the purpose to read a book?

ZW: One ought to read books as early as possible. I'm not encouraging a three-year-old child to recite Di Zi Gui (Standards for being a Good Pupil and Child), or bring a celebrity motto book to argue with everybody he meets at dinner tables. I mean, what a person read before his thirty has influence on him, while after that, even brilliant books will degenerate to footnotes and sidelights.

However, footnotes and sidelights are still important. Taking James Cahill as an example, several of his art history books have been translated into Chinese. These books are accurate and powerful footnotes, and they can help readers to judge and conclude things precisely. They are inspiring for me.

I seldom rely on books to relax myself, but with a few exceptions. Biographical books are useful in this aspect, and autobiographies are even better. Sometime an author of a biography makes up plots to attract readers, so you can find sentence like "at that time he was thinking...". How could the author know what the protagonist was thinking? Maybe the protagonist himself didn't know yet. The best-selling author Stephen Edwin King established a rock band with some of his writer friends in 90'. They often talked about works, but never asked each other where their inspiration came from, because "we knew we don't know".

I read biographies just like little Laizi said in the movie Farewell to My Concubine: "How could they become big roles? How many times were they beaten for this?" To read a biographical book is to see how many times they were beaten.

I'm not a big role, but at that moment it seemed like I found a best friend in books.

SCOPE: What kind of books or which one should we choose when we are facing so many books?

ZW: Pick up what you like.

SCOPE: Talking about reading, some people might ask: "Isn't it everyone knows how to read?" So, how to read a book?

ZW: The movie Back to 1942, based on a nonfiction written by Liu Zhenyun (the winner of Mao Dun Literature Prize), suffered a box-office failure. The director Feng Xiaogang accepted an interview with PEOPLE magazine at the beginning of this year, saying that he is pessimistic, because many evil things have been magnified today, and he thinks he has nothing to talk with the world. Also at the beginning of this year, New York University held a conversation between director Zhang Yimou and Ang Lee. As the conversation came to an end, Zhang Yimou could not help but leaned forward to ask his fellow director, “How do you put your Chinese world into your movies, if you’re making a movie for the world and you want the world to understand you?”

Here are two directors. One was angry at being left by the times, and the other was worried about being left by the world, both showing a creator's loneliness in a different way.

At the time of Lu Xun, "the sight of women's short sleeves at once makes them think of bare arms, of the naked body, the genitals, copulation, promiscuity, and bastards." Now things are different. Having seen "naked body", including "naked body" from abroad, it's hard for many young audiences to get excited only by the sight of short sleeves. They can understand Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, and Yasujirō Ozu's An Autumn Afternoon. They know what the coordinate of a serious movie is in a bigger x-y plane of the world.

We read books to see the world. And then, we need to look back to the present China. The value of a work must be reviewed in the context of local characteristics.

SCOPE: Does your mood or outside environment have any effect on you when you are reading? What environment and what time do you prefer to read?

ZW: I cannot read in public. I prefer to read on bed or toilet.

SCOPE: Could you please recommend some books you have read? And what's the reason you recommend them?

ZW: To Live, a novel by Yu Hua.
Although many people have read this novel, it's worth mentioning again.
Through a pair of sympathetic eyes, this novel was written in a tone of absurd. The son of a rich landlord who had been tainted with bad habits of frequenting brothels, gambling and drinking, once lost all his family's fortune in a gamble, and caused his father's death in indignation. Since then he became a totally poor man at the bottom of the society. However, because of the same reason, he saved his life in the later revolution. This story is very absurd and realistic at the same time. Black sheep of the family is not rare, but when it happened in specific times, it accomplished a profound story.
Both the story and language are good in this fiction. The language is a consistent style of Yu Hua's, which is precise and enthusiastic. An obviously miserable tragedy was written in a style of festive and orgiastic, which is traditional and can be found in classical fictions like All Men Are Brothers or and The Scholars, but Yu Hua takes it to the extreme. (V.S. Naipaul used it in his Miguel Street, which is a collection of short stories.) The best comedy is a tragedy, and the best tragedy is a comedy.
Unfortunately the Nobel Committee for Literature cannot read Chinese, or understand China, probably. Because Yu Hua is a real writer, who doesn't know how to curry favor with somebody important, or to find a appropriate translator.

Albert Camus   The Stranger
A strange narrative method was used in this novel. The tone of its narrative was insensitive until right before the ending, as if the protagonist didn't have feelings like normal people, but at the end, everything which had been repressed suddenly broke out, showing a perfect human nature and rich personality, and giving us a great shock.
When we read back, we are surprised that what the protagonist said and did was unexpectedly rational, and we understand: the protagonist lived a life spun off all illusions or beautifications, and because everyone else never lived in this way, the protagonist became a truly stranger.

V. S. Naipaul   Miguel Street
This is a typical tragedy written in a joyful way. The characters in the book were in Trinidad, but it seems like they are living in the street we have grown up. Being impoverished, closed, numb and ignorant were normal state among these people, but occasionally, there was a golden moment fleeting. These moments existed and then disappeared, which makes us sigh.

Gabriel García Márquez   One Hundred Years of Solitude
I have no much to say. It has become a representative of Latin America.

Ying Ruocheng   Voices Carry: Behind Bars and Backstage During China's Revolution and Reform
Ying Ruocheng was former Vice Minister of the Ministry of culture. His grandfather Ying Lianzhi was the founder of the prominent newspaper "Ta Kung Pao", and instrumental in founding the Catholic Fujen University of Peking. His father Ying Qianli helped to reestablish the Fujen University in Taiwan. Ying Ruocheng came from a well educated intellectual family. To write about the family is to write a book.
Ying Ruocheng played the part of Liu Mazi and little Liu Mazi whom everybody hates in the famous drama Teahouse, he played the Fourth Master Liu in movie Camel Xiangzi, he played Willy Loman in Authur Miller's Death of A Salesman, and the warden in the movie The Last Emperor, and Lama Norbu in Little Buddha. To write about his career is to write a book.
But Ying's memoir Voices Carry: Behind Bars and Backstage During China's Revolution and Reform started from his life in jail in 1968, since that was the most bizarre thing happened on him. "The time I spent in jail let me understand China deeper than what I've learned in my entire life, which is gratifying." Ying had an optimistic spirit.
Ying told us many experiences in jails in this book. It will be interesting to compare this part with Yan Geling's best work Inmate Lu Yanshi.

Wang Shuo   Wild Beast
It's good, while when it came out it was subversive.

Duan Chengshi   Miscellanies Morsels from Youyang
A collection of legendary novels in Tang dynasty. It's energetic, which shows Tang dynasty was a dynasty full of energy.

Zhong Acheng   The King of Chess
This fiction is unusual because it described the life of Sent-down youth in an unusually gallant and ancient style.

Dostoyevsky   Crime and Punishment
If you can bare Dostoevsky's nervous style, this fiction is profound.

George Orwell   1984
Modern horror predictive fiction.

Sigmund Freud   A Young Girl's Diary
An introduction to psychology.

Hannah Arendt   The Origins of Totalitarianism
See the title of the book.

Ruth Benedict   The Chrysanthemum and the Sword
It is said to be the best book to understand our neighbor.

Akira koshizawa   Manchuria Capital Planning
As can be seen in the book, even the number of sewer well covers, the officer prostitutes, the unlicensed prostitutes were all clearly counted by Japanese rulers in Manchukuo.

Dominic Streatfeild    The Secret History of Mind Control
An introduction to psychology.

SCOPE: Do you have the habit of collecting books?

ZW: Yes. Now I have about 11 thousands books.

I have written essays for art magazines for many years, and published an essay collection last year. For this reason a foundation invited me to write a book, from the point of view of an artist to write the history of Chinese contemporary art criticism. That is to say, it's a history of critics written by an artist. The perspective is very new. With profound respect and humility, I started to search for documents and books related to art criticisms. And if you have any, please let me know.

 

 

 

 

《艺术客》二零一四年十一月

艺术家与读书

编者按:艺术家是一群制造图像资源的人,阅读文本之于艺术家的意义是什么?在今天,答案似乎是明朗的,许多历史和思想及传统精髓留在了书籍之中,对这些知识文本的选择阅读,构成了艺术家个人知识系统的最初结构,当代艺术对艺术家的挑战越来越在于个人知识系统的编织、重组、以及对知识的再造。但图像与文本,谁也无法取代谁,《艺术客》与朱伟的对话,期望以朱伟的图像个案,讨论一下在朱伟的个人图像系统中,图像与文本的互文关系。

SCOPE:你爱看书吗?读书能够给你带来什么?

ZW:我从小不太爱读书。不管印没印成铅字,也可以说书籍对我来说权威感很弱。当然这和我小时候的时代背景有关。那时候经常能看到“团结、紧张、严肃、活泼”这几个字,我老也想不明白,一个人怎么能够既团结又紧张,既严肃又活泼,这怎么可能做得到?谁有权利如此要求他人,这是居高临下的要求,是大人对孩子的要求,是长官对士兵的要求,是统治者对顺民的要求,是缺乏做人的基本常识的要求。

现在不一样了,有常识的书多了起来,有常识的人也多了起来。我也变得比较爱看书了,可惜童子功没练好,看书的速度比一般人要慢,改不过来。好处是看了就不容易忘。

我有几个系列的作品名称直接来源于书名。如九十年代年创作的水墨《二刻拍案惊奇》和二零零四年和新加坡泰勒版画研究院合作的版画《新二刻拍案惊奇》,用的是明末凌濛初编写的话本小说的书名。一九九六年创作的《在少女们身旁》,取的是马塞尔·普鲁斯特的《追忆似水年华》中第二卷的卷名《在少女们身旁》。近些年的有二零一零年的《帷幕》,是米兰·昆德拉一本随笔集的书名。还有二零一二年的《隔江山色》,原本是高居翰写元代绘画的一本艺术史。这些书的内容与我当时创作的心境和社会变化都比较契合。

SCOPE:都爱读哪些类型的书籍,书籍分类的构成比例是怎样的?

ZW:其实我现在更爱看报刊杂志。报刊杂志的素材更贴近现实。一本书就像一栋房子。写书的人从地基打起,做结构,添砖加瓦,有时候还弄一层玻璃幕墙,直到最后完工,这些其实都是写书人的产品。书的好坏跟写书的人的观念、知识的渊博程度、深入浅出的通透程度有关。不管是虚构还是非虚构,任何书其实都是作者的一个假设,一场梦,一个谎言。它本身和现实的关系不如和作者的关系来得密切。

我看书一般还是看这本书在多大程度上反映了现实,以及有没有新东西。比如资中筠九十年代写的《冷眼向洋:百年风云启示录》是中国学者看世界的众多书籍中比较客观中肯的,没有那种弱者与生俱来的小家子气。吴晓波写的《激荡三十年》系列,是以一个新的角度来解读商人,把他们从传统“士农工商”的最底层拔高上来,而且不沾市面上流行的“成功学”那类投机取巧,是一本正经的史。黄仁宇的《万历十五年》,把万历十五年那一年当作中国数千年历史的缩影,引出中国人之所以过得不好,是因为缺乏“数目字管理”的结论。这比较像中国社会是人治而非法治社会的另一种表述,同时又有美国式的实证主义精神,给人一种只要愿意、改变指日可待的印象。章诒和《最后的贵族》写活了一个时代的背影。这都算有意思的书。

当然,我看的书还是以和艺术沾边的居多,就不一一举例了。其它的主要看是否和我关心的事相关。假如有一本书是讲马达加斯加蕨类植物研究的,观点新,说的也是大实话,总体说来我还是读不下去。

SCOPE:你认为每个人每天都要读书吗?长时间不读书会觉得精神空虚?

ZW:读书要趁早。这话不是鼓励三岁的孩子背弟子规,或者揣着本名人格言在饭桌上逮谁跟谁来。而是说一个人在三十岁之前,读的书对他还是有影响力的,过了三十岁,再好的书也会慢慢退化为注脚和花絮了。
但是注脚和花絮也非常重要。比如我提到过多次的高居翰,他的几部已经译成中文的艺术史著作,准确而有力的注脚能够帮助读者精准的完成判断和演绎,对我来说就很有启发性。

我不大依靠书籍来舒经活络,不过偶尔也有例外。传记类书籍就有这个功效。别人帮着写的传记不如自传,杜撰的成分居多,更有一些传记,写着写着就出现了“他当时就想啊”。他当时想什么你怎么会知道,他自己还不一定知道呢。畅销书作家斯蒂芬·金和他的几个作家朋友九十年代组了个摇滚乐团,团员们常聊天聊工作,但从不问彼此的写作灵感从何而来,因为“我们知道我们不知道”。

我看传记就像电影《霸王别姬》里小赖子说的那句,“他们怎么成的角儿,得挨多少打啊”。看的就是他们挨了多少打。

我不是角儿,不过那一刻我就像找到了一个知交好友。

SCOPE:面对书山书海,我们究竟首先要选取哪一种或哪一本书呢?

ZW:选你感兴趣的。

SCOPE:说到怎样读书,也许有的人会说:“谁不会读书呢?” 我们究竟应该如何读书?

ZW:茅盾奖的获得者,作家刘震云同名纪实文学改编的电影《一九四二》票房失利,今年初《人物》杂志对冯小刚导演有一个访谈,他说他很悲观,这个时代人内心很多恶毒的东西被放大,他觉得和这个世界没什么可聊的了。同样在今年年初,在纽约大学举办的张艺谋导演和李安导演的交流会上,讨论临近结束,张艺谋终于忍不住倾身问李安:“你是怎么让西方观众看懂你的电影的?”

两位导演,一位愤懑被时代抛下,一位担忧被世界抛下,以不同的方式不约而同地呈现了一个创作者的孤独。

鲁迅那个年代,“一见短袖子立刻想到白臂膊,立刻想到全裸体,立刻想到生殖器,立刻想到性交,立刻想到杂交,立刻想到私生子”,现在不同了,很多年轻观众都见过了“全裸体”,其中还包括不少外国“全裸体”,也就很难再为短袖子激动。他们能理解奥森·威尔逊的《公民凯恩》,能懂得小津安二郎的《秋刀鱼之味》,也知道一部有追求的电影在世界电影语系中大致处于一个什么样的位置。

然后,还需要回过头来,审视一部作品在目前中国这个特殊的语境下所具有的价值。 。

SCOPE:读书时的心境和环境对你来说有没有影响?喜欢在什么环境、什么时间段读书?

ZW:我在公共场合没法看书。喜欢在床上、马桶上读。

SCOPE:为我们推荐一些你看过的书吧,推荐理由是什么?

ZW:余华 《活着》

这部小说应该很多人看过,但值得再提一提。

小说的基调是荒诞的,目光却是悲悯的。一个吃喝嫖赌浑身恶习的地主少爷,败光了家产,气死了父亲,沦落为社会底层,却因此在后来的革命中保住了性命。这个故事本身仿佛荒唐不经,却又现实无比。败家少爷自古就有,一不小心赶上了那个时代,厚重感就出来了。

不仅取材好,语言也搭得好。小说的语言秉持了余华一贯的风格,洗练,热烈。明明是惨绝人寰的事儿,在他笔下却有一种喜庆乃至狂欢的风格。这种以喜写悲的手法自古有之,《水浒传》用过,《儒林外史》用过,余华将它发挥到了极致。(奈保尔的《米格尔街》也用的类似的笔法,但那一个是短篇小说集。)最好的喜剧其实都是悲剧,最好的悲剧莫过于喜剧。

可惜诺贝尔文学奖评委不太懂中文,大约也不太了解中国,更因为余华是个彻头彻尾的作家,不会活动也不会找合适的人帮着翻译。

加缪 《局外人》

这部小说的叙事手法非常奇特,将近结尾之前的叙述一直都是麻木的,仿佛主人公不太具有常人的情感。到了末尾,所有压抑的东西突然一下爆发出来,呈现出那种健全的人性和饱满的人格,给人一个极大的震撼。

我们惊讶于主人公的所作所为竟然都行之有理,再回头看他之前的举动,才恍然明白:主人公过的是一种剥离了所有幻想和美化效果的生活,因为别人都不这么活,所以主人公就成了一个真正意义上的局外人。

奈保尔 《米格尔街》

这也是一个以喜写悲的典型。书中的人物虽然远在特立尼达,却好像生活在我们从小生活的这条街上。贫穷、闭塞、麻木、愚昧是这些人的常态,但又偶尔地,有金子般的时刻转瞬即逝。正因为这些时刻曾经存在过而后又消失,才更让人唏嘘不已。

加西亚·马尔克斯 《百年孤独》

这不多说了,它已经成了拉丁美洲的代言。

英若诚 《水流云在》

英若诚,前文化部副部长,他的祖父英敛之创办了《大公报》和辅仁大学,他的父亲英千里协助创办了台湾的辅仁大学,他来自于一个学养深厚的知识分子家庭。要写这个世家就够写一本书。

英若诚在话剧《茶馆》中扮演了人见人恨的刘麻子和小刘麻子,在《骆驼祥子》中扮演刘四爷,在阿瑟·米勒的《推销员之死》中扮演了威利·罗曼,在电影《末代皇帝》中扮演监狱长,《小活佛》中扮演诺布喇嘛。这个职业生涯也够写一本书了。

英若诚的自传《水流云在》却从一九六八年蹲监狱开始写起,因为那是他一生中发生过的最离奇的事。“在监狱的这段时间让我对中国当时情形的了解比我一辈子学的还多,这一点值得欣慰。”从中可见英老的乐观。

书中有许多英老的坐牢心得,这一段可以与严歌苓迄今为止最好的作品《陆犯焉识》对照着看。

王朔 《动物凶猛》

现在看着顺眼,当年算是颠覆性的。

段成式 《酉阳杂俎》

唐人志怪小说集。很有朝气,可以看出唐代是个有精神的朝代。

阿城 《棋王》

少见写知青的能写出豪侠的感觉,有古风。

陀思妥耶夫斯基 《罪与罚》

如果你能忍受陀思妥耶夫斯基的神经质的话,这本书挺深刻的。

奥威尔 《一九八四》

现代恐怖预言小说。

佛洛依德 《少女杜拉的故事》

心理学入门。

汉娜·阿伦特 《极权主义的起源》

如书名。

本尼迪克特 《菊花与刀》

据说是了解我们这位邻居的最佳著作。

越泽明 《伪满洲国首都规划》

书中可以看到,当年的日本人连每条街道的下水道井盖和官娼私娼数目都统计得一清二楚。

多米尼克·斯垂特菲尔德 《洗脑术——思想控制的荒唐史》

心理学入门。

SCOPE:您有藏书的习惯吗?

ZW:有,现在藏书约一万一千本。

因为我写了多年的专栏和艺术随笔,还出了一本文集,去年有一家基金会邀请我以一个艺术家的角度来写一本中国当代艺术批评史,也就是说,是由艺术家来给批评家写史。角度很新,我诚惶诚恐。因此从现在开始注意搜集和购买与艺术批评有关的文献和书籍。如果你们手里有,也可以给我介绍。