Zheng Guo Gu：REMIX，Swirl
In 1994, I first saw “Board Painting” by Zheng Guogu in Yangjiang. It was
an ink-wash painting on a piece of door with black pot-shaped images like
unearthed relics from Egypt. It was part of the “Hou Huo Wei” performance
but I still cannot remember the meaning of “Hou Huo Wei”, though Zheng had
explained it to me many times.
After the work, “10000 Customers”, was produced, one discovered that when it
is viewed from a certain distance, the long pictures simply became blocks of
colour. Zheng applied colour-rendering operations on the printing paper;
therefore the toys in the pictures could be regarded as spots in abstract
works. The whole work humorously imitated the contradiction of modern art
market: people want to break the monopoly purchase of arts by a few
collectors, but people do not wish art to become mass products. At the same
time, they also expect that the process of art purchase will become a
process of social communication. At that time, the pictures of Zheng
started to become global ‘best sellers’.
If we look back, we will find that when Zheng painted the white goose with
Chinese ink, he had started practicing of Chinese painting.
We find that, Zheng never produces works in a single media. He always blends
different media to present an ambiguous and critical art situation. Zheng
has remixed several unrelated images (computer, rice paper, photograph,
knife, etc.) and cooked the meal named “Chatting God in Millennium”. Was
it a Chinese painting? – Nobody knows. People whom are familiar with
Yangjiang life will discover that the computer-printed figures on the rice
paper are the houses and interior design built by Zheng Guogu Yimei Design
Company in Yangjiang, and the images over them are all kinds of news, ads,
slogans, media maxim and hot topic paragraphs collected from national paper
media, especially from Hong Kong:
“Beautiful Ancient Costume”
“What’s Your Life Adventure Scale?”
“Part 1 Am I an Ambitious Queen?”
“Look For Animal Standing in 500KM under the sea Level
The computer fonts are clear in colour and combined with the traditional
Chinese vertical roll, they make the “costume” really beautiful.
Yes, everything comes from daily life, and is free of mystery but is it an
incident for this thin young man entering into the world of rice paper?
We have to discuss some changes in the interactive processes between
Zheng’s life and art.
In 1995, Zheng made Honeymoon, a work about an ideal bride, a young man and
wedding photographs, and started to transform from the early young power
consumption (playing with dynamics “Hou Huo Wei”, sawing steel
“Consumption is ideal and Consumption is great”, and following with street
mad “My Teacher”), turned and fixed everything in life into film, onto
printing papers. Zheng has finally developed a unique vocabulary to express
the dreams and secrets of the youth of South-China.
While the puppet bride and bridegroom were flying over Tokyo, Zheng also
opened the gate of the “compressed world”: sky and land, real people and
puppet, location transformation, media remixing. From then on, from
“Media-As Model” to “World Collection – Digital Video”, Zheng even
reformed and rebuilt the images on TV screen into “global media play”.
During the following years, “Globalization” became a popular word. For
Zheng, globalization means that he can produce and globally broadcast
“Zheng’s Channel” while living in a Chinese seaside town that is far away
from any cultural centre.
The graphic works of Zheng are of have grown in size and capacity allowing
his spirit to contact the white trap of rice paper.
Here, let’s review the photographic secrets disclosed in “Sunflower Album
– Cooked” by Zheng and an anonym:
“Photographs are easy to carry, easy to mail, easy to exhibit, and easy for
personal collection …easy to contact and dispose at any time … the most
important is, photographs are easy for us to learn and handle the materials
of life, the creation results will clearly present on the printing papers of
400-2000 plates. How terrible the capacity of life is (even printing paper
play cannot embody). The fortuity combines many things together, like a
dictionary. 135, shot, nothing can compare to its directness.”
By paying attention to the key words: “materials of life”, “capacity of
life”, “fortuity”, “directness”, one can enter Zheng’s painting world:
For Zheng, power utility is his power. There is nothing original, and
everything is mere fragment and quotation. The mixture of new and old forms
the foundation of each moment. Zheng dissects the seemingly linear history
of Chinese painting with the aid of the computer.
“Today, we have already subtly learned that the so-called “official
history” or truth may only the production of some certain authorities ...
history rewriting used to depend on the damage of culture in the past, but
will depend on the damage or distortion for the whole consulting system in
the future. And in such a damaged and distorted history, our reality is
also a kind of “artificially recovered reality”. (1)
In such historical view, we can jump from a seemingly legal channel into
another simultaneous channel, e.g. “Zheng’s Channel”, to find the
“unofficial history” and writing method that we love. Time and space will
leap to us in no minute.
Mr. Paul D. Miller, a US modern artist (experimental music fans may be more
familiar with him by his alias, DJ Spooky), appreciates the science fiction
written by Sterling. He believes he is “emphasizing technology with art,
and exploring the psychological status behind tool used”. This kind of
discussion on the relationship between technology and art also appears in
Zheng’s paintings. The enlightenment of the events of September 11th 2001
on the art circle is that, in such hi-tech age,
“The low tech to be washed out will not be terrorist action, but art
actions. And the new art formation from it is regularity, low-techness,
anonymousness and the chain effects in all fields.”(2)
In this hi-tech time, we finally realize that the brush pen is the most
environment-protecting writing tool and the seemingly low-tech Chinese
painting has revolutionary meaning on hi-tech works. The most wonderful
thing is that the art works that merge low-tech and hi-tech combine both of
Artists born in the 70s are now around 30 years old, and the revolutionary
spirit of Zheng tends to be more and more internal and explosive.
There is a historic work that will be finished by the processes of time. The
steel Coca-Cola bottle will become a pile of powder after thousand years of
rusting, then turn from a pile of powder into dust. Behind this work, there
are many anti-consumerism slogans shouting their various messages. An image
of adventurous revolutionary youth is constructed: Seen my adventure?
Welcome to your adventure.
But the most internal “revolutionary” spirit of Zheng appears in places
invisible to art circle: Yangjiang, where Zheng and his Yimei design team
are reforming residential space with purpose. They build up Shayeya
Residence and Luyi World Bookshop, and Zheng is working on the creation of
his new home.
When I saw the colourful houses built by Hundertwasser in a small street of
Vienna, I knew that the queer houses of the Yangjiang youth would no longer
be lonely spiritual symbols. What should grasp our attention is that Zheng
and his friends reformed a physical space in Yangjiang first, and then made
happy stories in it. It is almost a compulsory strategy for life
>From life imitation with photographs to life reformation with design.
The Yangjiang street youth manufactured by Zheng has entered the interior of
Shayeya Residence. Yangjiang has become a “group full of underground
systems and partial struggle”. The linear society view of Marx has been
replaced and fulfilled by the more flexible group battle. The whole world
becomes a zigzagging and endless trench. A process to save life is in
progress. During the process, art leaves its remark, and prison-type
galleries appear but the really borderless travel happens in the broad space
outside the gallery.
For Zheng, painting is not his purpose. Painting is a break-through to
“destroy anthropology, and turn human figures out of shape”, and it is an
interesting attempt to “disorganize classic multi-media authority”. The
most important is that of “make yourself at home and help yourself”(3).
Now he is working on it, by designing the poster “Do you come to appreciate
handwriting or test your blood pressure?” for the local handwriting
exhibition on the Yuanxiao Festival. He never expects miracles. Just like I
described in “Move Around Home”, a seaside island, a young violent centre,
or a land affected by violent swirls. There is fear and happiness,
profession and confrontation, family pleasure and detailed decorative
thoughts. Here are games, and true smiles. The older you are, the truer the
⑴⑵Sirius：＜Multiply Coordinates of Copying Ghosts: From Remix to Mixed
Translation＞. Thanks for Sirius’s knowledge support.
⑶Hu Fang ＆ Zheng Guogu＜Borderless, The World is Compressing＞