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On Wei Guangqing's "Suicide Plan"

The History of Chinese Contemporary Art, 1979-1989 Author: Lu Peng / Yi Dan 2007

In 1988, the artist, Wei Guangqing, did a performance about the "One" experiencing a virtual suicide. In the event, Wei Guangqing clearly expressed his opinion about life: Suicide is a real game of death. In his Suicide Plan, he quotes Camus' words: "The only real serious philosophy problem is suicide." The following one is a long interpretation of "One":

"One is one, one is a singular, a symbol, a person, a man, a woman, a living, a deceased, a controller, a one being controlled, a philosopher, a writer, a critic, a dramatist, a painter, a director, a actor, a dresser, a psychopath, a psychiatrist, a nightwalker, a fantast, a loner, a strong man, a weak man, a lovelorn guy, a narcissist, a person of sexual repression, a masturbatory person, a murderer, a victim, a good man, a bad man, after all, who is he indeed? Oneness doesn't know, and the author of "suicide" doesn't know yet."

In fact, Wei Guangqing's works don't need such a long explanation. It might be the artist's academic pursuit to try and exert as much meaning from his work as possible. However, the audience probably cannot associate these words with the atmosphere of the work.

Suicide Plan was performed several times. The players were in white clothes, wearing a black over-sleeve on the left arm, and wrapping up their heads with white cloth. There was a piece of white cloth lying on the ground with a Red Cross printed on it. The players posed in all kinds of postures of ante-mortem struggles and the post-mortem postures. Otherwise, the means of suicide are different, drinking poison, laying on the tracks, killing oneself by daggers, jumping off buildings, drowning, all of them were stimulated in different locations, among which some were surrounded by audiences, and some were only done by the artist with the help of his friends.

The experiences of death and life are only realized if one is in great conflict. Suicide Plan, as a game of death, intended to show the neglected aspects of life in a manner of tragedy. As what the Greek poets of tragedy showed, the noble principal character always released emotions of great intensity and dread during times of ruin. The author of Suicide Plan stated his purpose in a brochure to explain the reason and the necessity of his work from the point of loneliness and the sex disillusion. Actually it gilded the lily. Death is a totally different experience to different people. Thus, it would be meaningless to press one's own idea of death onto others. However, the scene of Suicide Plan had an impact. He challenged the reality people were used to. The experience of death essentially couldn't be separated from that of life. Death is the extreme point of life. When we followed this work to experience the extreme of our life, we could rediscover the forgotten parts of our mundane life.

Suicide Plan is a unique and neural work of autonomy. It is different from the western work of nails driven into flesh, which was not the same kind of event as a suicide. As what Wei Guangqing emphasized repeatedly, it's a performance, a play, and a hesitating experience of suicide concealed in the form of a drama. In other words, the performer is same as the author. It was not actually the absolutely depressing situation as stated in the announcement, but it attempted to release his fear through acting as a desperate man. If the artist were in total despair, obviously he would choose a real suicide, and not a carefully rehearsed performance of suicide. In fact, most people in the reality are the same. They have the courage to observe, discuss, and experience another's death, but they have no courage to face their despair.

Edited by Lin Sophia Ma, September 2007

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