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An Artist's Chain Work—on the Production of "Spring Story"

Author: Heike Kraemer 2006

One goal of the "What are they doing here?" series of projects is to foster a productive exchange between the business—related work of a ioint venture and the creative work of an artist.It is widely believed in the business world that an artist's process of creation lies some- where beyond the normaI order of common working life and'of course' the highly structured working processes in an enterprise shouId by no means be affected by the artist's activities.Therefore, organizing Yang Zhenzhong's work at the production plant and in the offices was perceived as a rather unknown challenge for SSMC.An email was sent out to inform the employees about the project, and a schedule was carefully prepared for the shooting of the video in the several parts of the company.

Yang Zhenzhong himself had diligently structured and carefully worked out a plan for the shooting.Deng Xiaoping's "Southern Campaign Speech" was divided into short phrases which everyone could quickly memorize and eassily recite in front of the camera without having to look at the written text.Assistants were hired to handle the large number of employees at SSMC and to help in the task of noting the employees' names while shooting the video.Easily pronounceable phrases were earmarked for foreign employees who do not speak Chinese.Printed Lists of the subdivided sentences and the names of the employees who had spoken them document the process of creation and form part of the finished artwork.

Rather than being in opposition to the production at SSMC'Yang's process of artistic work was'in fact'quite similar to it.It reflected in two ways the work which is done on the production line:chain production (i.e., one sentence after the other) and repetition(i.e., each sentence had to be repeated by several employees in such a way that although only one or two words per person would appear in the video'each word would nonetheless be spoken in the proper melody of the sentence).

Most of the employees readily agreed to deliver their part of the speech, although some of them were rather shy at first or were afraid that they might not be photogenic in front of a video camera.Some employees obviously had fun as they set about to convince their less extroverted colleagues to participate.The language and content of the"Southern Campaign Speeches"were familiar to everyone'except'of course'the foreign employees.What was special about this encounter with a familiar text was that the employees were confronted only with fragments excerpted from it.This might have resulted in a kind of alienation for the readers of sentences which did not clearly display their connection to the overall content of the speech.These "strange" fragments evoked a smile from some readers.While other readers recited earnestly and in the familiar rhetorical form of televised political speeches.

Heike Kraemer, sinologist, project assistant "What are they doing here?"


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