Defne Ayas in conversation with Song Tao at Marienbad in Shanghai over
coffee an cigarettes.
Defne Ayas(DA): Song Tao, can you expand on the work you produced for the Intervention a bit?
Song Tao(ST): I've got a call from Biljana while I was shopping, and she told me about her project, so I said sure I'll do. That is really the background. (laughter)
DA: I've seen only partial documentation of your work, can you maybe explain a bit more about the context and how you went about creating it?
ST: I've come up to the idea in the café, just after five hours after I heard about the project. It was a cold day like today, and I walked a long way here, so I had the idea of making something related to
temperature. I remember the first thing I said to Biljana was that I sure could do something warm, so I could give urban pedestrians some feeling of coziness. I put a heating lamp at a bus station, and there were always people waiting for bus. If you are lucky enough to be waiting there, you would be enjoying a moment of warmth.
DA: Did the municipality notice the work do you think?
ST: There ain't any, since the lamp seemed to be a municipal facility itself.
DA: Were you present there with the lamp at site? How did the passerbys perceive the work at the end?
ST: I live across the street from the bus-stop and was there just for set up the recording how people receive the work. Most of the time I wasn't there.
DA: Does documentation have more implication for your work or the action of putting the heating lamp at the bus stop?
ST: I would say the action of putting the heating lamp there, which actually stayed there more than 24 hours, until the gas burnt out. I've never thought about public interventions before Biljana invited me to, but it seemed fun. If she has similar project I would be happy to think about it, but I don't see how public interventions really related to my work.
DA: Doesn't your video though work usually tackles urban fabric of Shanghai?
ST: Yes, but I'm more used to a long term work. The Intervention program is a flash, low-cost, online one, different from my normal way of working
DA: How I feel about Interventions in a way is redefinition of the notion of public art? Public art is usually perceived to consist of public sculptures. Maybe interventions can be perceived and reformulated as a new way of looking at public art?
ST: I graduated as a sculpture major. Maybe.
DA: Have you then thought of treating Interventions in a conceptual way, so your can be perceived as a "public sculpture"? What I mean is that Interventions actually can be seen as a new direction for public sculpture.... Aren't there are rumours that Shanghai will have thousands of sculptures commissioned by 2010, maybe this could be a new and exciting direction.
ST: Sure we could be, but we are more flexible... I am not sure. It is hard to reply to this question...
DA: Ok, let's back-track. You graduated with a sculpture degree but switched to video, how did this leap come about? Do you think your education had an effect on the way you treat video?
ST: I didn't think about this before. I don't feel the impact is visible or has not come out yet. It is to be expected that it would emerge in the future, since I have would love to do many experiments, but I am not able to them yet.
DA: You mean you would like to experiment with a variety of tools as well? How about use of media or other available technologies for your possible/future interventions?
ST: When we were doing the whole project we had been considering the public, including the cyberspace, as it could not be ignored anymore. We still use the Internet as a way of communication and archive, but have not used it myself in my work.
DA: Let's go back for a minute to your work for Intervention. Didn't then the documentation of the act become eventually your work? Also, how people perceive the work, how did they react?
ST: We were talking about this just now, before you arrived. I uploaded a work different than the other artists participating in this project. My video has been edited too well, too smooth and with music, too. I was wondering if this was a problem… People's first reaction was doubt, as I observed this from a distance. Then, they looked at the details of the lamp which lasted for 4-5 min, then the enjoyment went for another for 3-4 min, but after that the bus came, and they had to leave.
DA: How visible is doubt in your documentation? How do you analyze the doubt that you have noticed in people?
ST: Do I have to?
DA: No, but how do you explain it, that is in your view? Isn't this a basic human psychology to react as such?
ST: That's true. It can not be avoided in this work. I've always hoped that the smooth enjoyment could still be felt 10 days after.Just now we've mentioned doubt, but actually I've been trying to remove the feeling of doubt. As an artist, I wish one day this doubt vanishes, that people and passerby enjoy things without thinking or doubt. This is where I am unsatisfied. I thought my work lacks in something more natural and fluent from my perspective.
Interventions in project curated by Biljana Ciric
Al artists work documentation and dialogue could be seen on art.mofile.com
Defne Ayas is Associate Curator/ PERFORMA, new visual art performance.