About the title "Useful Life"?
Yang Fudong: at that time I found that the word "Useful Life" had a lot of beauty, it was a bit like a spiritual wave. It's me, Yang Zhenzhong and Xu Zhen who decided together [of the title]. For me, this word seemed to have some time-related character: it also reflected everyone's attitude at that time. When I say that this word was "beautiful", it's an image, when everyone started to do art they all shared this mood, as you think of it, it was really "beautiful", you would have been moved.
Yang Zhenzhong: the term "Useful Life" includes many meanings. For me, every meaning have an aim, which is valid for a certain period, a certain stage, or in response to a certain issue, then it expires after a certain date. In other words, each issue doesn't have a permanent solution. Death isn't a solution either.
Xu Zhen: The title "Useful Life" was a little bit ironic, it satirized artist's creating process, artist's time, of course it wasn't necessarily a satire, it was also a reference.
These last ten years, how did your creating concepts, working methods, interests, etc., change?
Yang Zhenzhong: before, perhaps there were some feelings of revolution, but this kind of feeling no matter when producing works or doing exhibitions is slowly disappearing. Now our revolution target is ourselves, we are competing with ourselves. One of the simplest example, we don't want to repeat ourselves. Each time we make something, we are struggling: we don't know whether the thing we're doing is good or not, what do I want to say, am I following my instinct or my feelings. My interests change unceasingly; I often abandon old things for new ones. A certain idea is only valid in a certain lapse of time. When I create works, I'm looking for some changes no matter if it is subject wise, material or content wise, which is equivalent to looking for some stimulations. Everything – exhibitions, collaborations, work – all respond to a certain environment, a certain time, you often have to change to maintain your validness.
Xu Zhen: in fact from Xu Zhen to MadeIn company, I'm the one who changed the least. Only the working method has changed, now it's based on contributions, for example I contribute some ideas to the company and colleagues do as well. It is more the working field and methods that changed therefore produced works are also different. Now, we are still too close to the art system, I'm not saying that we should leave it, but I think we should put some distance with the traditional, fixed art system. Establishing MadeIn company constituted a working way that until now fits me the best. For example, before we did an art center, organized artists exhibitions, communicated with artists, open websites and did some editing, etc. maybe I have a tendency to put everything together, not necessarily in an artwork. Before everything was scattered, not we gathered everything. This way, artists' complaints can be turned into a source of energy. Didn't we use before to struggle, think about life and death, money and glory? Dignifying these issues is in fact very tiring. Of course it doesn't mean that opening a company is a way to elude these issues, for me it is a way of facing them.
Yang Fudong: there aren't any big changes. Same old things, growing as years pass by, many things happen, but in fact, for example you have to like, things that you do, art, life, these attitudes, feelings, person's nature, things' texture, what shouldn't change didn't change. From my creation point of view, at that time I did a video installation called "Tonight's Moon". In fact, the video installation then was more about creating "video art", just as you said that at the time a lot of people made some experiments with video. The attitude then, to be a little bit cynical, was more like contemporary art's video art, this kind of feeling. Now when I'm doing things which have the same type of feeling, I think that the main change is that I won't emphasize it, you first think of what you want to do and then you decide whether you use cinema filming techniques or digital methods to create what you want to say, to build the thing you want to experiment, realize, and it's not about insisting on the fact that this is a video, or this is a film, it doesn't absolutely have to be categorized, they are only helping to think, to communicate, it is a way of moving forward. You just use a way that suits you the best to show it.
About the new works in "Useful Life 2010"?
Yang Zhenzhong: one of the works is a sculpture of a red star displayed in a corner, called "Red Venus Sitting in a Corner", this title is quite evasive, because I found out that at the very beginning this kind of five branches' star represented perfection, Venus; the other work is a series of photographs "Extras", featuring laughing people, happy, healthy and filled with energy. This work was inspired from the energetic attitude and realism of "happy people". During the photographing process, we spent a lot of time talking, chatting with the actors, this kind of process is actually very embarrassing, you have to face people in a dark room, under many lights, with all the cameras. It is quite close to the way of working in "I will die", the "requested gesture" was turned from a sentence into a "laugh"; the difference with "I will die", is that this time the actors were paid, so they were filling a task, working, and did their best to act the way we asked them to, basically we photographed them as we were chatting and laughing. It was an instantaneous time where the attitude and the muscles of the face are between being controlled and uncontrolled. No matter whether this happy attitude is true or not, whether it is controlled or not, they still have a contagious effect. Just as when media are everyday trying to emotionally move you.
Xu Zhen: the work this time is a continuation of "Spread". We have been thinking to develop comics' collages into an abstract language. This time, the colors of the works are quite bright, which has quite a good effect. What I mean by "abstract" is not an "abstract" form, but an idea of "beauty". At the beginning, our working methods was collecting and composing things. Now we are taking things out of it, transforming them, or looking for a real object that could replace them, gathering various comics' aesthetics, and not only making a composition. We consider that this can be a small series included in the "Spread" series. For example, there is a forest, in another comic there are some rainbows, then we find it good to put them together; the wave and the black sun, put together are very nice as well. These things, including the installations and sculptures we did in Long March Space turned into flat paintings, all have a strange ornamental effect. For example, small Baroque sculptures, a deer head hung on a wall: all have some historical feelings, but at the same time it is very superficial, it is only ornamental. The same for the two other paintings, they seem to have some content but in fact they don't really do.
Yang Fudong: "The Fifth Night" was shot with seven cameras, seven moving lenses forming one large screen. In 2008, "Dawn Mist, Separation Faith" was based on a simple concept, which was to take some elements from the shooting process as a turning point in film production. "Dawn Mist, Separation Faith" is focused on the NG in the film, in "The Fifth Night" the main creating element was to use various lenses shooting from different angles. Therefore, we rented seven cameras, using different scales, depths, moving ways to realize a seven screen's projection. As for "Dawn Mist, Separation Faith", we invented the word "Film Glimpsing", which means that when you enter in an exhibition room, nine screens are functioning at the same time, so as you glimpse your are also observing, that is what we call "Film Glimpsing". This time when we filmed, we used seven lenses that the viewers will be able to experiment; we called that "multiple eyes film", in some way it is the same as "Film Glimpsing". The new experiences we had when shooting was how to do something perfect when lenses are moving, are the random things in it beauty as well, but randomness can't be created; also when shooting, the cameraman's adjusting process of the machine, are there any beauty in those adjustments as well; actors never worked with seven cameras before, for example, the first lens shoots a room corner, slowly moving, actors walk in it, as they enter the second field, in the second monitor, half of the body will appear, at the third machine, the size of the person will be reduced, these kind of changes might be very strange for them as well. I thought of how to present the feeling of time in synchronized filming, I think this is related to the understanding of space; what would happen when seven cameras are moving? This randomness, is what I'm interested in. Randomness can't be predicted. Another series of photographs, is called "International Hotel". It was inspired from sport games, swimming competitions, the moment when the hand comes out from the water, the moment when they took their goggles off, turn their head and laugh, this kind of feelings of beauty!