Seminar: Ravings of No Life, No Death
Guest: Li Xingqiang, Wang Wenjuan, Wang Wenbin, Sha Xin, Liu Jutao, Lv Nixuan, Sun Peng，and Do Guanghui
Artist: Fu Wenjun
Time: June 14, 2011
Place: Independent Image Art Space
Jiang Cui：Dear guests, welcome to this seminar. We hold this seminar to discuss Mr Fu’s exhibition, Ravings of No Life, No Death. His works have been praised by many famous critics and now you are invited to give your valuable comments. As Mr. Fu requires that everyone here had better raise critical questions against his works. So every piece of idea is encouraged. For a better knowledge of Mr. Fu’s style, we have a slide show.
(Jiang Cui shows the audience a slide show to review Mr. Fu’s art creation in the past.)
Jiang Cui: The exhibition consists of three groups of chronological works: Thought Thinking, No Realms, and Illusory Metamorphoses. Now we first invite Li Xingqiang, editor-in-chief of Chongqing News to share his ideas on these works. He is now engaged with modern art.
Li Xingqiang: Last year I visited Mr Fu’s all conceptual photography exhibitions, from Beijing,Shanghai, and then back toChongqing. The exhibition was first named Leaving the Stage, and then it’s named Story of Double Parks. In fact, Mr Fu’s exhibition consists of three groups of works: Thought Thinking, No Realms, and Illusory Metamorphoses. Now I go straight to this creation.
Firstly, Mr. Fu thought deeply on what he’s going to create. Yet it is a little pitiful that his thoughts haven’t been fully expressed through his photos. When we are talking about painting and photography, I find he has a broad vision of art, his works bear profound cultural meanings and that he has a unique understanding of Buddhism, human culture, and social responsibility. He made notes of every bit of understanding. However, to our surprise, some information is lost in his works. Therefore it is not easy for many people, especially those who have little knowledge of art to connect the doctrines of Buddhism, humanistic care, and social responsibility with Mr. Fu’s works. On one hand, I quite appreciate Mr. Fu’s thinking on art, culture and society. On the other hand, I think he needs to adopt more techniques to fully express his ideas in his works.
Secondly, Mr Fu juxtaposed the image of grotto statuary with that of human bones, added some post-production work, and finally fulfilled his masterpiece. Yet his expression of idea is so abstract that it isn’t easily acceptable, let alone popular. His works, through vivid depiction of human nature and religion outlook, reflect modern are quite unrealistic and materialistic, while his ideas, through the juxtaposition of grotto statuary and human bones, are expressed so abstractly that people need much time to accept it.
Thirdly, images in Mr. Fu’s works go directly to the theme, making the audience feel these works plain. As we have noted that Mr. Fu’s works are pregnant in meaning, yet the artistic language used to express it is rather simple. In contrast, works of Mr. Wang Qingsong and Miao Xiaochun are intuitive to our sense, clear in meaning, shocking in visual images, with the authors’ ideas sometimes involved in the works. Another example is Mr. Cui Xiuwen’s works, in which simple images produce great visual shocking effect. Therefore, on one hand, I quite appreciate Mr. Fu for his works have maintained much traditional cultural elements. On the other hand, these works are not intense enough in visual shocks. I wish these suggestions can help Mr. Fu in his further art creation.
In the fourth place, I want to say some words of praise to Mr. Fu. He still insists only those photos taken by the camera can be the real material of photography. As a first-level photographer, it is a break-through in creation inspiration for him to shift from old way of creation to the focus of social problems. When other photographers are still using scientific technology to do art creation, Mr. Fu is making change. He involves his ideas in his works. He adds some post-production and subjective elements. Indeed, it is a bold attempt. In the second place, I find Mr. Fu a meticulous artist from his works. For first-hand material, he has tried every possible effort to collect X-ray photos. He even went to the hospital for these X-ray photos. Finally, he got more than 500 pieces. Actually, it’s time-consuming and effort-demanding to select these photos as some of them are not clear enough to match the real bones. When artists are not calm in art creation, it becomes even more respectable when Mr. Fu can still do creation in such a meticulous way. Lastly, we thank Mr. Fu for his invitation. Our young people are invited to make comments on his works. He looks forward to our sincere advice and suggestions, other than simple flattering words.
Jiang Cui: Just now Mr. Xingqiang has made his comments from the artist’s thoughts, creation techniques, influence of works, and acceptance from the audience. Now, let’s invite Wang Wenbin to share his comments.
Wang Wenbin: I have a few pieces of comments. Firstly, I am interested in documentary photography, partly because it is closely related to my profession. So I pay little attention to other forms of photography. At present, the atmosphere of our photography creation is not good. For example, the prize winner at such great photography festival as Pingyao Photo Festival was even lost in plagiarism and counterfeit. So it is a must to regulate the order of our photography circle.
In the second place, it was in 2009 that I first got to know Mr’s works through several articles on Mr.s Fu’s works issued on Ku Art Magazine, written by Wang Wenjuan. I find Twelve Chinese Zodiac Signs most touching, so I am concerned about its acceptance. Though I have not any communication with Mr Fu, I feel his work is inspired by Guardian auction. On the very day of auction, I wrote a report on the event, and my idea coincides with some ideas in Mr’s Fu’ works. Therefore, I insist the most moving and touching work should go along with the time, be historically meaningful and combine history and human civilization.
At sight of Mr. Fu’s works on religion, I come up with a gossip among my friends. InBeijingthose artists in Buddhism lives better than those in Taoism. If we think it over carefully, it proves to be true. Artists with belief in Buddhism live rather comfortably. Of course, we don’t know whether they really believe in Buddhism or not. I am wondering who the audience of these works on religion is, and how they shall react when reading these works. If the audience receives no sudden enlightenment, then what is the meaning of these works? As Mr. Li Xiangqiang has just now noted, there are many ways to handle these images. Yet the most effective one is the way that can best express the ideas of the audience. So here lies my last concern: how can humanistic care be expressed in the photography and how it echoes with ideas of the audience and the world?
Jiang Cui: Let’s invite Sha Xin to share his opinions.
The core technique of Mr’s Fu’s photography is choice and juxtaposition. It originates from post-modernistic art, which consists of many techniques, such as borrowing, collage, irony, joking, juxtaposition and etc. they enrich and broaden the scope of art creation and all objects home and aboard, in the past or at the present can be made full use of in art, without any regulation or limit. You can use any thing that you can imagine. Choice and juxtaposition is the most frequent used technique for post-modern artists. For example, Andy Warhol chose Marilyn Monroe and US dollar; Claes Oldenburg juxtaposed knife and rock and baseball bat. Quite similarly, Fu Wenjun made careful choice among photos. Every image is decided by the “self”, which is similar to the choice of goods in a supermarket. It is identical with Pop artists, either in the choice of image or of context. Three episodes in Ravings of No Life, No Death, namely, Illusory Metamorphoses, No Realms andThought Thinking are finely selected from the broad doctrines of Buddhism. There are thousands of stone images and Buddha statues among Dazu Rock Carvings, yet only dozens of them are borrowed to be exhibited in art exhibition by Mr. Fu.
However, when we read Mr. Fu’s works carefully, we find he, though with the same techniques as the Pop artists do, goes against the grain. Pop artists choose varied images to present their audience pop culture and consumer culture, while Fu Wenjun focuses on local culture, and presents the audience the clash and the compromise between multi-culture and histories of various periods. The way sought by Mr. Fu to achieve it is to juxtapose images of different time and space. For example, at the 1993 Venice Biennial, Hans Haacke, a famous German installation artist, has used this method in his exhibited work, Germanic, to present time, space and history. His work was exhibited inGermanMuseum, renovated in 1938, which was one of the few Nazi-built buildings that hadn’t been removed. At the entrance to the building was hanging a photo of Hitler inspecting the museum. Haacke broke the floor of the exhibition hall, played loudly the marching steps of Nazi troops and exhibited his work Germanic on the white wall opposite to the entrance. With such plain, yet powerful technique, the author not only juxtaposed the history and the present, but also produced a context for the audience to think over the history. Actually, Haacke selected the scenes actively, namely, the history and the space of the Nazi-built building.
Here Mr’s Fu’s Twelve Chinese Zodiac Signs came to my mind, as it is following the same logic. It has selected two spaces and juxtaposed images of these two spaces. Bronze head statue of animals were at first placed in theSummerPalace, the most beautiful and noblest palace inChina. The fate of these bronze head statues is closely associated with the Palace. When the Palace was looted, these statues were lost. As image of the past, these head statues should be placed in the oldSummerPalace. When they were juxtaposed, with the aid of a computer, with photos of the Palace, the historical context was changed.
We find the same juxtaposition technique in Ravings of No Life, No Death. Mr. Fu juxtaposed photos of modern radiography and images of ancient Buddhism statues, making a matching point in both time and space. The internal association between these two groups of images lies in the fact that Buddhism statues are for the spiritual redemption of human beings. These statues can give some spiritual suggestions when people feel lost in life and the future. However, this happened in the past, while X-ray photos belong to the modern age. They can clearly show when our body is in disorder and where the sick parts lie. Images of statues and photos of radiography are put together to show people’s sought for better life and personal redemption, although people lived in different times. Here is my question: we see the juxtaposition in time and space, yet these images are so general that whether there is a need to involve a practical topic or theme in the selection of images.
Therefore, the first problem is how to define clearly the theme ofRavings of No Life, No Death. Early works of Mr. Fu, like Echo,Leaving the Stage, and Warning Line have one thing in common. They all have a definite theme when selecting images, which should be sensitive and be related to the hot event, such as the deserted plants, used machines, national emblem, make-shift houses, bronze head statue of animals and theSummerPalace. These sensitive images should be selected carefully as they take along deep historical and cultural meanings. These works are the timely and artistic reflection of hot, bit events in modern world. Moreover, the reflection process is the key to deeper exploration of these hot, bit events. In contrast, images in Ravings of No Life, No Death are not sensitive enough, lack of sharp shocking effect when reflecting modern problems and lack of proper perspective for the audience to accept this artistic way to think over modern problems. In fact, each audience shall have his understanding when they are reading this work, yet his understanding, without any specific directions, can lead to vague expression effect of the artistic work itself. Therefore, when we are creating art works we should associate them with modern issues, producing a potential “selling point” which is the most direct, powerful, the newest and the most sensitive expression of modern issues. Mr. Fu’s Story of the Expo Parks is a good example, in that it powerfully and skillfully brings problems in national politics, historic events and the culture clash to the audience. It’s easy to accept it, as it gives the audience a specific theme to think over, other than letting the audience to wonder wildly on what the work is trying to say.
In all, conceptual won’t necessarily give us the answer to a question, yet it should exhibit directly and powerfully the problem. It is important that modern art should be question-oriented, give up seeking of forms, and abandon casual or superficial usage of cultural images.
Jiang Cui: I have noticed Sha Xin repeated “selection” in his comments and it interests me a lot. I am afraid I don’t agree with Sha Xin. He believes selection of images in Twelve Chinese Zodiac Signs and Story of Expo Parks is in a way better than that inThought Thinking, No Realms, and Illusory Metamorphoses, as the selected elements in the former group of works are more sensitive. However, I believe the value of art creation lies in the difficulty in the creation process. We see many superficial and utilitarian borrowing of traditional cultural elements. So it becomes even more important for the artist to produce works with critic visual images. Only in this way can the artist produce prominent works, different form popular culture and consumer-oriented culture. We quite appreciate Mr. Fu’s efforts in thinking the relation between religion and consumption, between belief and technology, and between life and death. We look forward to his further works.
Now let’s go back to the topic of selection. The artist firstly selected CT photos and traditional Buddhism statues. In Thought Thinking, he selected X-ray photos of brain bones, and then juxtaposed them with Buddhism statues to implicate some meanings, some cultural meanings, as Buddhism is closely related to belief and imagination. When in No Realms and Illusory Metamorphoses, the artist selected X-ray photos of hipbone. So my question is why he selected in that way. Is it for beauty in forms? For example, in Lose an Opportunity Close at Hand, image of hipbone is matched with the statue of Thousand-Hand Kwan-yin, making a beautiful form. However, the meaning of hipbone image is suspended, and my suggestion is that the artist should add more thoughts inCT-photos and cultural statues.
Fu Wenjun: Firstly, thanks very much for your comments. Actually,Thought Thinking was finished in 2009. At that time, I was making trials in this way, so my creation is withholding in theme and forms. As Wang Wenbin mentioned just now, my creation was not bold enough, partly because I still believed then that photography should be loyal and objective to the original facts. Therefore, we can find the brain bone is with skin in Thought Thinking. And I name it Thought Thinking to mean the highest state that I know what is on your mind. However, it takes a long time to achieve this state, as photos cannot fully express what we want to say. For example, Chinese suggestive paintings only involve in a basic sense feelings of inner heart in the painting. I name one of my work No Realms, not to mean it is isolated from my former works, but to show it still contains its provoking ideas and it is coherent withThought Thinking, which is less abstract, though.
When I was making the third series Illusory Metamorphoses, I found myself more natural and skilled in thought expression, with broad images and crazy ideas. I selected more typical and bigger statues. As they cannot be reflected in brain bones, I selected hipbones, which can bear more images. For the sake of different forms, I selected carefully those hipbones of the old, the pregnant women, the man or even the children.
Jiang Cui: Let’s invite Liu Jutao to share his comments
Liu Jutao: I began to know Mr. Fu through his Echo series. He shifted the focus in his work to national emblem, making the whole work pregnant with meaning and humor. This series of works leave me amazed by the artist’s wisdom.
Recently I learned that Mr. Fu has finished new works. Before I come to comment on his new work, I feel it necessary to review his old works first, partly because it sets the basis for present discussion, and partly because it provides pre-context for analysis. To a great artist, his works are consistent with each other; the consistence lies in a coherent clue underneath. The first clue is the evolution of techniques and the artist’s consciousness in humanistic care. Techniques are the visual expression of the artist’s consciousness, while his consciousness is sought through various techniques. To an influential artist of conceptual photography, humanistic care is priority of our discussion.
I note the popular techniques in Mr. Fu’s recent works Twelve Chinese Zodiac Signs and the Story of Expo Parks are juxtaposition and collage. These two techniques are developed in recent works. Of course, juxtaposition is not identical in every piece of work. For example, in these works we are talking about just now, time and space are juxtaposed, or rather dislocated, as they are not synchronic. The artist’s awareness of history is deeply involved in these works. The historical events match with modern popular events, making the artist work complex in meaning. The juxtaposition presents to our audience the contrast between the present and the past, the west andChina, and between history and the contemporary.
Works exhibited in front of us also involve juxtaposition, which is obviously different from that involved in previous works. Here we see a juxtaposition of signs and images, while juxtaposition of time is weakened and that of space nearly disappears. Juxtaposition of two signs is inspired by their association, and images here do not exist for contrast or for aesthetic rhetoric. Juxtaposition seems familiar to us, yet the content and contextual meaning underneath are not connected closely. It shifts to conceptual expression and what the artist is seeking is more than some simple association of these images.
Works exhibited here invokes in me a desire for careful examination. When walking into the exhibition hall, the most touching fact lies in the painting-like quality of the work. The general image of these photos is the Buddhism statue, while the CT photos need our care observation. As the outer frame of these CT photos is fading, the whole work achieves suggestive and abstract sense.
Jiang Cui: Now is for Lv Nixuan
Lv Nixuan: Some suggestions have been mentioned just now, and here I want to share my understanding on this exhibition and his recent works.
My first impression is that Mr. Fu hasn’t made full use of the exhibition hall. We know the quality of a piece of work counts, yet the exhibition environment is also important. I note his works are of the same big size, which makes me feel monotonous in size. Moreover, works are not placed properly, so that it lost the chance to match the exhibition hall.
As Mr. Fu wishes, every one of us should have his individual understanding according to his personal experiences when reading the artist’s works. We know “One thousand readers have one thousand Hamlet.” If “Hamlet” is accepted in the same way, then the exhibition would be tiresome. When you are sharing with us about your ideas, motifs and the creation process, I find you have lots of ideas, deep and interesting. However, when you want to involve all your ideas in your works, it is so difficult. When art can clash with our thoughts and feelings, it can be touching. Great works can convey clear information, while plain works are tasteless. If a piece of art has no smooth way to bring clear information to the audience, it is a failure. The smooth way is paved by the artist. So how to bridge the art and the idea of the audience is a demanding question for us to answer, in order to let the audience communicate with the artist in a previously-constructed context.
Secondly, Mr Fu has used images of X-ray skull bones and those of various statues of Kwan-yin to show his understanding of human care, life circle of human being, death and medicine science. I really appreciate it. It is a plausible combination and it calls for the artist’s talent to generalize and express these elements clearly within the artist’s control.
Actually, the image of skull bone is not received inChinaas well as that was in the West. As an important part of the painting, the image of skull bones is fading into vague frame and some lines in these works. It corresponds to such Buddhism beliefs as invisible world, boundless realm, and no self, and leaves vast space for the audience to imagine. This change is great and more changes are encouraged to present the tension of works. If the artist can repeat elements, other than the form, then the whole work can be great. If works of a series are framed in the same mode, and only the content is different, then the curiosity of the audience can not be aroused, or the artist would be hurt in his creation.
Taine, a critic, once said, “A masterpiece should fully express the greatest ideas.” How to make a piece work great? Should it be social-problem-oriented or arouse visual shocking effect in the audience? Probably, the first thing for the artist is to get rid of the dull, simple frame of photos.
Jiang Cui: Now is for Sun Peng
Sun Peng: Early works of Mr.Fu, likeLiangshan Mountain, emphasize documentary record of local culture. In them Mr. Fu has noticed the disappearance of Cha’er wa, (a special cloak of the Yi nationality). They represent a special cultural phenomenon and shows humanistic care through grand narration. In the region of Yi nationality, cultural elements like Cha’er wa, folk clothing are inherited more smoothly and successively than those inherited in relatively modern regions. One reason is the Yi nationality region is isolated from outer world and the other reason is stable inheritance of social productivity from the old generation to the young generation. In this way, people of the Yi nationality have similar living experience and aesthetical standard, which are the basis for their collective identity. Recently, magazine Du Shu has published some articles on a century of Chinese history, the evolution of thoughts and culture, namely after the Revolution of 1911. Democracy, scientific ideas and modernization gradually break our social system based on traditional Chinese family bond, without establishing a new bond system for the public. It has caused universal cultural fragments, which is also brought about by globalization and the information age. Yet the phenomenon of cultural fragments is rather obvious inChina. Binary opposition and rational scientific analysis may be the ironic artistic way for more and more intellects to shift their focus to traditional Chinese culture and civilization. It is an artistic way to explore the mental state of the society, and recommends a perspective for Chinese people to do self-inspection in the history of cultural and ideological progress. It also involves in our discussion all kinds of crazy utilitarian activities, like religion. There is a heating gossip on the Internet that a certain temple has managed housing estates of more than RMB 6,000,000. When religion and the temple become the vanity fair of the society, it rightly shows how stupid and indifferent our Chinese people are.
When Wang Lin, a famous artistic critic, reviews Mr. Fu’s No Realms, he believes Fu’s work is a reflection on life and death, a criticism of the modern consumption culture and hedonism.
Actually, apart from religion, photography is also a way to examine life and death. Photo was once taken as the symbol of death. Roland Barthes once named photography as “a unique, irrational science”. He emphasized the distance between the observer of photos and the photographer. Through photo, we record the on-going death. Death of human being was once an important of life, and the death progress was once the collective spiritual memory of family members. Photography helps recording the process of death and the ceremony of funeral. However, when the increasingly developed science, especially medicine science treats death as a part of evolution of living organs, we lose our desire of awe and worship for death. People’s knowledge of the other world (where dead people live) and the religion becomes more rational. That is all I have on mind when I read Mr. Fu’s juxtaposition of medicine and religion. It isn’t reasonable enough, yet it is enlightening. Bendetto Croce (1866—1952), an Italian philosopher and historian, once declared “all history is contemporary”. Therefore, we need modern technology to awaken our history and we need photographers to awaken death in the inner heart of ourselves.
As technology of post-production is highly developed, traditional photography, based on shutters and quick record of facts, is drawing near to its death, as people often say the death of art is around the corner. Actually, it is all about shift of logic and the development of other media and concepts. Early works of Mr’s Fu show grand narration and great humanistic care, while works exhibited here returns to the sought for photography techniques. I think these works did not handle well in the color and form, so that the shocking effect of these works is weakened. Our host Jiang Cui just now has noted that Mr. Fu has tried techniques of various fields to finish his painting and photography. For example, Leaving the Stage is on industrialization process. We see a painting of thick lines and complete colors. As to its content, conceptual photography mocks and imitates the fact. Besides, extended meaning is used more often and it is metaphorically associated with related context, instead of with social reality. It gives birth to new meaning when clashing with other contexts. Direct involvement in social reality is achieved through social problem orientation. In this way, photography can have both powerful images and documentary scenes. A good example is The Warning Line. I find obvious evidence that the artist is exploring the media of photography and its possibility. We can find clues when the artist is simplifying and making CT photos abstract. Whereas, the exploration process of photography itself is not obvious enough. What an excellent work! The artist directs the actual images to the Buddha straightly, instead of bringing them into a clash. In this way, artistic techniques are hidden and the whole work presents more of a sense of oil painting. Photography should develop for itself in its own way, other than being the basis media for other forms of art. Only in this way can photography achieve fast development. As the history of art criticism witnessed Roger Fry, a well-known formalistic critic in the early 20th century, Greenberg, an American artist, Danto, a famous aesthetician, and Peter Btirger, a famous art critic, our photography should also allow various possible directions for self-development.
Jiang Cui: We have used art theory to make comments on art creation. Today we have a postgraduate of photography and let’s see his ideas on art creation. Perhaps he shall have a different perspective.
Dong Guanghui: Hello, Mr. Fu and dear guests. It is a good opportunity to talk with you. I always quickly review the exhibition first, and then go to read related posters and introductions. In this way, I can associate my first impression of the exhibition with the introduction on posters to understand how the artist does the creation. Mr. Fu has mentioned the medium to bear photography greatly affects the effect of the whole work. Yet till now I haven’t heard any comments from this point. The visual effect of a piece of work is largely subject to the medium that exhibits the work. That means different works of art need different ways to exhibit. Of course, art should be innovative, instead of being under the yoke of rules and regulations.
Just now, it is questioned if it is proper to combine images gained in various ways together with the aid of CT technology. We take Twelve Chinese Zodiac Signs for example. Its setting is the image of debris of theSummerPalace, while its center is a digital laptop with bronze head of animals. I am wondering many people may feel it improper. If the laptop is replaced by other objects, or theSummerPalaceis changed into other scenes, would the effect be better? Actually, they are trivial details. The artist leaves clues on his work, and these clues promote broad imagination in the audience. However, we find nothing through these clues. The reason is that we only appreciate the work from the audience’s perspective. We need to feel the work from its author, to see what he is trying to express. When Mr. Fu puts photos of Buddha statues in his work, our first impression would be this work is related to Buddhism. Then we need to go further to think over what Buddhism is, the relation between Buddhism and belief, or even think about the meaning of belief to human beings. However, we had better not go to the extreme. If we are determined to identify the true meaning underneath the work, the more we seek for the truth, the further we are from the true beauty of the work. This paradox is closely related to the cultural ideology of the East, which is sharply different from that of the West.
I have also noticed Buddhism is taken as a kind of sign. Is it proper? A sign only exists when it is a signifier or the signified. To some extent, western semiotics has badly weakened our Chinese cultural ideology of thousands of years. Furthermore, under the influence of western ideology, our Chinese people have lost some cultural traditions or part of our inner mind is taken over by western ideas. Pitifully, these lost traditions should be passed on from generation to generation. We may find it familiar when we sit in Macdonald’s or KFC to taste its fast food. Strictly speaking, we don’t exist as pure Chinese citizens at this moment. All these call for deep thinking.
Identity belongingness is more than what we read on these words. We should not ignore what the artist has found through his camera or his painting brushes. We had better both read works of art and search for the underlying meaning of these works.
I personally hold that in Mr. Fu’s works bone image implicates death and that statue of Buddha is home for human belief. Transient death and eternal human belief are the theme of Mr. Fu’s works. Perhaps, if he makes some changes, like more beautiful pictures and more sense of photography, his works would be better. The most important is the subjective understanding, namely, how the “self” views the world. So I wish Mr. Fu would continue his style and follow his faith to find his home of art.
Jiang Cui: Let’s invite Wang Wenjuan to share his comments on Mr. Fu’s works. She is among the first critics to read Fu’s paintings, so she has an overall understanding.
Wang Wenjuan: From his early works, Liangshan Mountain,Africa,Leaving the Stage, Neighbours- Documents of Human livings, to later works, Twelve Chinese Zodiac Signs and Story of Expo Parks,and Ravings of No Life, No Death, exhibited today, Mr. Fu has experienced much. When he shifts from documentary photography to conceptual photography, he bears questions on his mind, like social problems and cultural diversity.
In the second place, Mr. Fu often juxtaposes signs of two spaces, so it needs social, cultural and artistic context to fully understand his works. A quick view can only bring visual beauty to the audience.
Thirdly, Mr. Fu keeps trying to make his photography different from ordinary photography, namely, to explore what photography is. He wishes his audience can read more from his photography. So he never stops his attempts in trying new media of photography.
Fourthly, Mr. Fu has used documentary photography, posing photography, and then post-production, i.e. deconstruction of ready-made photos to finish his works. Here we find it interesting that the artist is not necessarily the photographer. It is a break-through. Photo is not the product of the photographer, but it is his inspiration material.
That is all the most meaningful points that I find in Mr. Fu’s works. He wishes to pose questions to the audience and invites them to think. It is feasible, yet I think it is more acceptable to involve a concrete topic in the work, as the topic posed by Mr. Fu is so big. It contains so much to interpret. The bigger the topic is, the harder the exploration would be. So I suggest the artist narrow down the topic and involve more personal ideas. Then we can have a deeper understanding of a certain big topic.
Wang Wenbin: Please let me continue. Just now, Mr. Fu gave an explanation in an opposite perspective. After its birth, Buddhism has developed through several stages. Puzzled by true Buddha or counterfeit Buddha, people need new insights. They often find no clear direction to seek for their belief in Buddhism. In the meanwhile, they find modern medicine science can not cure all diseases. So people often lives in a dilemma that they are sick in both spirit and body, yet without any definite way for self-redemption. Therefore, Mr’s Fu’s works are ironic when putting these two images together.
Mr Fu: Wang Wenbin’s words coincide with some of my ideas. Yet I am afraid you may lose something. When people feel spiritual vacant, they are more inclined to ask Buddha for help. It is ultimate concern of human beings. This is rich in ideas, which can not be read simply.
Jiang Cui: There is some time left and here I wish to share my ideas. There is no need for me to repeat the value of Mr. Fu’s works. When Sha Xin is talking about the choice of images, I share some of my ideas and Mr. Fu has given an answer to this question indirectly. In my opinion, CT photos are not the carrier of the image of statues. The reason why conceptual photography becomes conceptual is that it involves critical choice of images. Your works are based on documentary photography, so how to present the theme becomes more important.
Then I want to talk about artistic techniques. We can easily find Mr. Fu has used aesthetical techniques of painting in his works. It differs from pictorial photography, which takes photos of settings and furnishings to imitate painting. Pictorial photography seems to try to include photography into the scope of art, as photography is not taken as art for a long time, due to its techniques and close association with scientific technology. In the contrast, Mr Fu involves elements of painting in his works, not making intentional imitations. I find some of Mr. Fu’s works are made on canvas, or even Xuan Paper. Either photography or painting is subject greatly to the choice of media, as a piece of fine art is based on an excellent medium. The involvement of media naturally needs elements of objects in painting. Mr. Fu has done well in the choice of proper media. If we need an example where painting techniques are used in photography and various forms of painting are taken into consideration, I recommend Neighbors.
Fu Wenjun: Thank you for coming to this debate and I appreciate your comments very much. Your comments, positive or negative, are inspirational for my future works. I benefit a lot from this discussion and you are bold in ideas and insightful in thoughts. I learn much from you.
Lastly, I wish to add more. It takes me about two years to finish these works. Two years ago I started Thought Thinking. As we all know religion is a general ideology and the ultimate concern of human beings. It affects our values, helps construct one’s mentality and becomes a kind of necessary culture in our life. However, culture of consumption, utilitarianism and money-worship keep corrupting the true value of Buddhism. The nature of Buddhism is now distorted or even changed, with some of its rituals simplified. It’s on my mind when I was making Thought Thinking. As Li Xingqiang and Lv Nixuan have just now noted, I often do lots of thinking before starting art creation. However, no artist is rational when doing art creation. So the serious thinking functions as a clue, instead of a definite direction at the moment the artist his creation. I know it is impossible to fully express my ideas in my works to the audience. And whether the audience accepts my works or not does not affect my understanding on art and its creation. So it is my wish and dream to make a full expression of my understanding.
Secondly, my initial plan in Leaving the Stage and Ravings of No Life, No death is that I want to, from my personal perspective, illustrate and criticize problems of culture history that modern society are facing. I don’t care whether my images are political or cultural.
Jiang Cui: Thanks all for your ideas and comments, and thank Mr. Fu for your patient attention and kind acceptance of comments of these young critics and artists.