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Hua Er , The Northwestern Univocality
Event #6 MCLAB, Beijing, MCLAB Room #6, Langyuan Vintage #6 Langjiayuan Jianguo, Chaoyang
Date: 01.12, 2022

Artist: YAN Bing 闫冰 |  ZHANG Ding 张鼎 | 


Admission: 7:00 - 7:30pm
Screening: 7:30 - 8:40pm
Talk: 8:40 - 9:10pm
Guests: Zhang Jiarong, Ga Rang, He Chi, Yan Bing, Zhang Ding (online)
Performance: 9:10pm - 1:00am
Performer: Ga Rang, Guo Longyao, He Chi,  Huang Jiayan, Lyu Zhi-Qiang, Sanyo, The Slow Blade

The Northwestern Univocality – Unregulated Clamor

We are acclimatized to listening to clichéd and "senseful" sound products in a commodified society. These sounds lull us into a pop fantasy, and their senses can be easily reproduced and replicated. It is as if a "nonsense" sound has to be created to prove that we can still think. How to extract sense from the clichés of sound? This is a philosophical question and a question that the works of four artists from Northwest China, Gajan, He Chi, Yan Bing, and Zhang Ding, ask together. Their artworks create what Deleuze calls the clamor of univocality - a sound of eternal return, or even an uncompromising noise - which calls for an unregulated state of life and a primitive impersonal clamor. It calls for an unregulated life form and a primal, impersonal clamor. One can grasp the sense of innovation or the return of the so-called "no fixed sense = single sense." This is related to the cultural diversity of Northwest China and its peculiar terrain, or, in other words, the univocal clamor of Northwest China resonates through the works of the four artists.

By singing "Hua'er" (a local song popular in the area where the Tibetan and Loess Plateaus meet), Gajan's "White Peony Order" presents the topographical sound between the plateaus. Although all commercialized sounds are centered around the individual or the performer to become salable objects, Gajan, on the contrary, does not sing as an "individual." In this sense, "Hua’er” reverberates univocally from the anonymous creator. The univocal nature of "Hua’er" manifests in its divorce from a specific persona instead of revealing the landscape's diversity and complexity. Therefore, instead of conveying the singer’s sense, "Hua'er" makes use of the "human voice" to express the clamor of the earth's crust. The geomorphology determines the communication between the multi-ethnic groups here; at the same time, "Hua'er" indicates their mobility and diversity. By doing so, Gajan is aware that the prerequisite for bringing back the univocality of "Hua'er" in different sites is to create noise in the present time and space. With the effect of electronics and noise, "Hua'er" is not a captive of any musical framework but thrives with restless energy. "Hua'er" can be grafted to any sound and embraces any sense.

If the univocality of "Hua'er" comes from the cultural diversity of the Northwest, He Chi's work "Phoenix" gives voice to the land of the Northwest. His homemade musical instrument, the "jiaojiao," is molded from the yellow earth of his childhood land that makes a bird-chirping sound. People's childhood creativity fades gradually in the commodity society, often because modern civilization has deliberately stripped "humanity" from "nature" (phusis in the ancient Greek sense). Hence the possibilities of developing our perceptions have been regulated and erased. In other words, the disconnect between materials and senses grows increasingly large. In this regard, "Phoenix" should be perceived as a sound and a noise engendered from the materials of the Northwest and long-lost childhood creativity. Therefore, this clamor embodies the forgotten univocality in the spirits of local materials, non-competitive and life-affirming of children's play. No wonder Nietzsche once stated that babies represent the highest level of spirituality; this piece symbolizes a child's embrace and creativity to all things. The yellow earth in the Northwest cries out through "Phoenix," allowing creativity inspired by "nature" to return. He Chi’s title while echoing the Tang poet Li He's verse, "The phoenix cries out from the broken jade of Kunshan," highlighting all creativity is inseparable from the relationship with the terrains and mountains.

Yan Bing's "Man in the Wind" reiterates the artist wanders through an ancient city in Gansu Corridor, who suddenly heard an old man's voice in the corner pier. The artist is seen in the video constantly searching for this audible source but somehow unable to locate it. It’s similar to the cat’s vanishing smile in "Alice in Wonderland." These unimaginable speculations are often regarded as "abnormal" nonsense because our highly disciplined mind has already excluded the belief of “animism.” However, if we look at the ruins of Wengcheng in the Gansu Corridor as a living scene, wouldn’t it possible that the voices of the establishment, exchange, and clash of civilizations of the past return like ghosts? This is similar to Deleuze’s saying, "It is not the capture of the Bastille that is commemorated by the Union Festival, but rather the capture of the Bastille that celebrates and repeats all the Union Festivals in advance." “Man in the Wind" forestages future scenarios in which the civilization engendered in the Gansu Corridor. By conveying the clamor of intermingling cultures in the Northwest, the artist reimagines the various scenes of interactions between its landscape and culture that its univocal addresses. These scenes are "senseless" and unproductive for a commodified society, but their historical impact may be more significant than any film.

After the clamor of cultural diversity, land, and civilization of Northwest China, the unique characters of "man" in Northwest China have fully embodied in Zhang Ding's work "Madman." In a small northwestern town square, the artist captures a "madman" who often stays there. When the "madman" notices the artist's camera, he performs various self-created songs and dances immediately. His fearless attitude towards any camera gaze or objectification is likely due to being "abnormal," who does not perceive the gaze or objectification as an offense. Moreover, the "non-sense" of the madness precisely reflects its non-productivity, as the "madman" does not aim for any exchange in his every action but only pursues pleasure and improvisation beyond social confines. Doesn’t it resonate with the characteristics of children's play? It is worth noting that the voice performance of "Madman" contains a lot of non-Chinese speech that indicates the cultural diversity of "people" in the Northwest. In fact, "Madman" constantly reveals a forgotten truth - the source of creativity comes from madness, as it might be the only thing beyond the control of sense.

It can be said that all four artists from the Northwest find the univocality of "non-sense" in their homeland. This land, featuring diverse landscapes and cultures, exhibits its complexity through clamors created by the artists. They defy discipline and keep returning in various forms of differentiation. Perhaps, only by letting go of the commodity and production framework would one grasp the significance of "non-sense" in these artworks.

Zhang  Jiarong

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