Pet’s Bone, Para-curve, and Kara OK
---- A Self-sufficient Elaboration of Recent Works by Shi Yong
If I was still happy to talk about the particular expression on artistic reality in my works before 2002, I have thereafter turned to be more interested in repetitive use in the works of such sensual words as “desire”, “illusion”, “hallucinogenic”, “gravitation”, “expression” and “Kara OK”. They basically formed the complete expressed themes of my works since 2002. It may be certain of course that they are still based on practical reasons, and are another elaboration of another layer of reality on the background of the so-called globalization: an illusive world successively increasing driven by practical desires. And they are still full of biting irony. The difference is that they are no longer clamorous or aggressive, but full of sleeping talks and whimsical ideas.
In the first place, I did not clearly realize the change of this tendency. Now I recall that it may have been noticed in A Date ---- Our Love Formula, an interactive network work in 2002. I expressed it in that work with the help of a narrative of a love story. I found that, in the narrative structure on the one hand, they correspond surprisingly with the life and reality which I kept looking for as a “New Image”, on the other hand, they are opposed to each other in the inner corresponding relations: where the former is impulsive and real and the latter intentional and false. Therefore, I was particularly interested in inducing a certain illusive tension existing in reality by employing externally the narrative structure of a love story and changing internally its contents: beautiful traps are better than hurts. Thereafter I secretly expose a reality of “New Image” involved in successive creation of desires and of illusions. Strangely enough, I was not consciously and actively pushing the tendency forward in full length. Although after that there were some intermittent appearances of similar tendency in my works, such as Basic Tone: 70% Red, 20% Yellow and 10% Blue, a digital compound series photo pictures produced in 2001, Scene Corridor No. 1 ---- There Is Moon Tonight, and Scene Corridor No. 2 ---- Forever, digital compound series photo pictures produced in the earlier period of 2002, basically I had not consciously formed a clear and particular concept of it. It was by chance only that this potential tendency in my works was hinted and activated in its true sense, and became a clear and conscious concept.
One day, I noticed in the small garden near my home a hostess raising a pet dog, who, wishing to call her pet back, waived a pet’s bone at the dog, and that dog at play, seeing this, ran toward the bone desperately. I was amazed at the scene, because I clearly realized that illusion might cause a surprising charm: the charm in how an illusion produced from “desires” is satisfied by desires again. I suddenly realized that was an outstanding and complete representation of an angle which I had always potentially intended to express but did not have a clear picture of. Thus, a pet’s bone became a critical turning point for the change in my recent works. The true beginning of such change was the sculpture equipment produced in the middle period of 2002 ---- Attractive Moonlight. Before such change, as I have said in the beginning of this essay, my works are more of the particular directiveness of the art political word of “body image” in the “communicative reality” (the “New Image of Shanghai Today” as nominated by selection via Internet). I was at that time interested in connecting with “communicative reality” by particular investigation into “body image”. Therefore, body has never been neutral. They (either male or female) are an inevitable metaphor in the process of social organization, and the image carrier of the combination of multiple words such as politics, economics, culture, power and interest, both complicated and hazy.
So after that period, the successive expression of the “New Image” in my works as the practical and particular directiveness was natural to me. I was, however, during the continuous creation of works, confused by the power of absurdity as time passed, because in such “communicative reality”, you will have a deep feeling of being pushed continuously by a certain strange power, an inevitable fact: there is no person who is innocent except complice, no matter what you have wished. As Koolhaas says: “We are one element of this ‘forced change.’ ” They are being wrapped up by increasing illusions, layer by layer. They may look very beautiful. Then I unconsciously came to the idea of trying to retreat from the particularity of such “communicative reality”, because I gradually became interested in the power of absurdity that drives this fact: there is something that has never been touched or expressed. That perhaps was why in that period some works appeared to be astray from the right angles. I did not have a specific intention, but now, what was faintly required to be touched or expressed was something regarding “desire” and “illusion”, and they are the fundamental motif for the tendency change in my recent works.
The first work of consciousness was Attractive Moonlight, in which I begin to consciously abstract the body images from the original complete information, and change their identity into something doubtful and hazy. By only taking parts of a body and secretly replacing the concepts of hands and feet and enlarged scale, I put them under certain “gravity”, which you cannot avoid: you are both standing and lying prone, deeply attracted by a pink, glowing, man-made pet’s bone dropped on the ground. Inside that bone is playing a kind of sound like small debris and enigma, which you can only hear by keeping close to it (which I recorded on the spot of the dinner party of Shanghai Biennial Art Show this year). The tension is enough to express sufficiently the ideas and thought I have right now: they are particular and factual object, but also illusive object and virtual representative, very particular but unobtainable. On the one hand, it has a clear and new concept; on the other hand, it contains many metaphors.
I produced Could Fly Higher, another videotape situation equipment. The basic idea of this piece comes from the imagination of a para-curve: for example, a pet’s bone thrown afar falls along a rainbow-like curve line in the sky. For another example, a linear index flies from this end to another of the electronic screen along its flying curve like a supersonic plane, which is like imagination and hope may be repeated one time after another. I further extend this imagination to a curve of about six meters constituted by numerous medicine boxes and pink neon lights, which is hung from the ceiling, parallel to one another vertically. At the upper end is hung a mini-screen facing downward. The picture is comprised of a pair of hands like a pet hunting and racing for food and faintly overlapped flying “New Image”. It develops with the change of music and the exchange of slow scene and fast scene and slow-fast scenes. Under the effect of strong gravity (the invisible existence of the image of a pet), appears an illusive scene cased as of by hallucinogenic: carefully looking targets at a time and energetic and running like flying at another; full of fantasies at a time and crazy like a fly suddenly at another. On the ground, I place two red air beds, such that the viewers must lie before they see them. The arrangement of this way of viewing comes from the childhood experience when I lay on a long chair, getting cool air, looking up at the starry sky, full of various whimsical ideas. I think this piece is suitable for the way of viewing.
I created a videotape motion equipment with the title of QQ Fantasy, which I think is a quite satisfactory piece. I include QQ in the title because it origins from the humorous combination of two ideas. It is like the theme in the show in Beijing: combined reality. One of the two Qs represents the talk on the virtual internet, and the other Q is taken from Ah Q in the sake story by Lu Hsun. They together almost express in full the true intention of that piece.
In this piece, what is on the videotape has two parts. One is the partial body image continuously used in a reinforced manner like the position of a pet, and the other is the arch of the buildings thrusting directly to the sky with the starry light of desires in the city. They are put together among reciprocal connections in an implied manner. The detailed picture is completed by a series of action of the parts of bodies moving from slow to fast and from fast to flying and then stopping abruptly. Simultaneous with the actions, the clashing and breaking of utensils combine with attempted knocking, contemplated calculation, ambiguous fondling, wanton flirting, fatal destruction, fantasy of euphoria coming to a climax and sudden being thrown into consciousness. In the expressive method of equipment, I use the passage on the spot and have a white plastic membrane hung over it. The white plastic membrane and four low-frequency loud speakers hung down are stuck together, with the projected picture thrown on them. Sound is conveyed by frequency and low frequency loudspeaker, while the sound vibrates with the low frequency loud speaker and the force the membrane to shiver widely. Here, sound and motion, very detailed and simultaneous with the rhythm of actions, along with the virtual actions in the scene which are not connected with objects nor come from anything, are arranged together. If the image of parts of body in Could Fly Higher expresses in a sidelong manner the pursuit of illusive desires represented by running, the parts of body in this piece are arranged to face with viewers, which, in continuous actions, represent a kind of euphoria attained as in Kara OK, required to be satisfied by the sense of achievement through self-delusion. And that is both relevant and irrelevant to reality.
Written during the war between US and Iraq