“Ideal Building Standards” - Textual Aesthetic Beauty
Architecture is undoubtedly one of the most direct and three-dimensional manifestations of the state of a country’s socio-culture. The architecture I refer to is not a school of knowledge; rather it represents a sociological concept and primarily covers the ecological conditions of residential architecture.
The concept of “residential” architecture is, in a narrow sense, a typically utilitarian one.
Throughout the 1900s our city evolved from the Roman pillars and Gothic doors and windows and imposing eaves of the 1930s, to the Soviet architecture of the 50s, to the amber-yellow glass, yellow ceramic tiles, blue glass and white ceramic tile matchbox architecture to green glass, granite, extruded aluminum to today’s...stylish outer garments. From these clues, we can discover that our architecture, like our culture, underwent a most rapid and active westernization, while our culture remained in a state of feudal reform and the inferior position of mimicking Western practical culture. We lack a smooth evolutionary process from the ancient to the modern, and from a perspective of cultural power, if a culture dies out within a society, that society will lose its rational constraining supports, resulting in the functions of these supports being taken over by political and commercial interests.
The lessons of history require deep reflection within intellectual circles, and present conditions also require that such cliques use culture as a means of strategic intervention.
Regarding the ecology of historical culture, as the transfer of Chinese social power has always been won through war, culture (as a neutral element of society) has great difficulty in making that integrated transition which would successfully preserve its essence. In the threads of our culture, the phrase “cultural hardware” has lost its charm and as far as cultural memory and historical cultural education are concerned, we are now in a textual state. Nowadays, historical culture might be suspected of becoming a cultural farce. We are aware of our illustrious cultural heritage but are unable to witness the ecology of our history. Only a small proportion have been made into tourism resources for financial purposes, and these have been arbitrarily converted. This nihilistic attitude toward history has rendered it impossible to establish even a rudimentary framework for the preservation of public cultural icons through research and education, with museums at the heart. This is because the existence of textualism is diametrically opposed to it. Architecture and environmental art also lack a fundamental commonality and all that has been accomplished in this direction is to make private clubhouses and private gardens larger and more commonplace.
In respect to the ecology of residential architecture, our city is presently caught up in a swift transformation, growing larger, newer and more exciting. This expansion has given us greater desires, and at the same time the community base has become relatively ambiguous. Constructing the 21st Century standard of “a beautiful home” has become a resonant slogan, but “beautiful” is not a fixed concept, rather it is a vague notion. It has become a commercial farce to be put at the front of construction, and this farce bears the weight of the nation’s dreams, civic glory and expectations of the common people.
Particularly since the development of computer applications in the mid-90s, the composition of graphic designs and diagrams has become extraordinarily cheap - the realizability of computer graphics and textual transformation of commercial “ideal spaces” has made it all possible. Take a look at any subject of the omnipresent real estate advertising. They are all canisters (projects surrounded by walls to make independent little circles), European style, verdant grasslands, pavilions and pagodas; among fashionable homes and refined communities, “beautiful” has become a sharp and commercial sword sweeping away the common people.
Our cities are presently dominated by the continual legitimization of this commercially driven “beauty” as a commercial farce control by textualism - longing for a “happy homestead”, the common people too are caught up in their constant surprise, desire, loss, apathy, firm and sunken depression.
Taking a look at our real homes, since we left the era of paint and entered the epoch of interior decoration - our visual “standards” have been re-established on the continual renewal of surface materials from the early ash, white rafters, beech and cherry trees; our decorations have all been dictated by these standards. Entering any home, it is apparent that materials have become the only standard - identical boarding, identical decorative methods - these standards have been disseminated by us and have begun to lead our lives through textualism to become our standard of living. Opening up one of the ubiquitous building sales brochures, our homes are all the same shape with the same restrictions on space and the same distinction between the higher and lower, master and servant. This phenomenon created on the concept of “Happy lives” against the backdrop of standardization of cultural hardware represents a new injury to contemporary people who advocate character as the cultural farce.
I have my cultural reasons for using the pen to relate the visualized representations of my complex and perhaps slightly wounded mentality brought by the current situation of hopelessness regarding this farce of beauty and textual narration to successfully achieve legitimacy.
Firstly, contemporary art should participate in contemporary cultural development and discussion. Contemporary art, once having reached this point, must not indulge in personal sophistry and amelioration but rather should enter into contemporary social life, move into contemporary socio-cultural construction and liquidation toward the realization of a functional fountainhead of avant-garde art.
Secondly, contemporary artists have the responsibility to observe and record contemporary socio-cultural life, as well as participating and converting and raising the alarm for the progress of contemporary culture.
Essay by Yang Mian