Huang Le: Let's start with the title. Why did you call this artwork Plant Republic?
SHI Qing: About this series, the thoughts of creation, the forms of the works and the choices of the themes are, shall we say, plant-derived. I prefer not to study from its name. Anyway, this work is a system related to "growing".
Huang Le: So, that means your developed concept of "wildness" does not only indicate certain forms in your artworks, but at the same time is your working method as well?
SHI Qing: That's right. It can be seen as a way of growing. It's not like there is a clear idea and you just operate according to the sketch. But rather you adjust and develop further during the work process itself. It resembles a slowly growing plant. Space, material etc., everything influences the "growth" of an artwork. The "wildness" possesses its own unique regularity. It is not at all that some possibilities are left on purpose, more or less completed in one space.
Huang Le: Why did you use these materials for Plant Republic?
SHI Qing: These materials can all be seen as the most everyday products and the most basic constructional material. Gypsum, wood etc, they don't have any meaning and memory.
Huang Le: Don't you think this gypsum column is highly indicative? Isn't a roman column related to a republic, to a classic historical meaning? Why would you choose exactly these materials? It surely can't just be a choice without reason.
SHI Qing: During the implementation, the details are mostly inspired through the perspectives of aesthetics and experience. Take this combination as an example (four roman columns supporting a box): The focus is on the top of the box, because I wanted to create a contrast. If you see roman column as a symbol, what I emphasize here is the misuse of such symbol. Clues are left in artworks and they can be linked by association, which, however, are not determined. These "arches", for example, also provide specific associations with other classical clues, such as religion, classics and revolution etc. But the arch structure in this artwork can also be regarded as a kind of "access", "permeability" or as the "leak" of certain things. "Symbols" should nowadays have expansibility. If you put them together with others with extended meanings, they will generate relationships. This kind of "significance" isn't appearing because of me, but grows itself, where the associations are left for the viewers. As for me, my work is just to plant "things" and to create a field of relations. I don't define them. But “the things” that enter such field of "relations" exist in my system, which also is a kind of natural choice.
Huang Le: So "everything" is a "vocabulary", generating different relationships when put into the system?
SHI Qing: Put like that, when artists produce artworks, they usually create "vocabulary". But what we want to create now are "sentences" where the work of linking the "vocabulary" is left to our audience. Every person can generate some diversity. I set up the bricks of "images" while the viewers build the bricks of "significance".
Huang Le: What is a republic?
SHI Qing: Any kind of organization formed by an individual is a "community" in my artworks. And it is a "community" of a temporary structure.
Huang Le: What does "labor (referring to the whole process of personal work completion and display)" mean in your understanding?
SHI Qing: The labor process is very important. If you give a scheme to other people and let them complete the artwork, the grown relationship between the artist and the artwork would just stop and is not able to generate new things. Related to the concept of growing in the context of certain phrase, labor is in fact like a living; the contingency and randomness during the process of labor are exactly the features of its "growing". If you compare this kind of creative work with garden planning, my plan is as follows: Let it grow freely in every direction. Only with the involvement with "labor", can ”overstepping" emerge from the process of development.
Huang Le: Do you have any stories related to the process of labor?
SHI Qing: I could make up stories. Unexpectedly for me, these on display are reminiscent of "navigation". Similar to a "navigation chart", there are routes, islands, reefs, cities, ruins and ancient buildings, implying packing and shipping boxes. The overall state of floating is just like "navigation" and quite vividly. The nautical explorations in history discovered a lot of unknown plant and animals. And during the process of classification and research, today's botany was formed.
Huang Le: Apart of the "wildness", you have also mentioned other concepts such as "parallel systems" and "community" etc. Were there any problems that you encountered in this context during experimenting?
SHI Qing: Of course there are. It's just like insects in a botanical ecosystem.