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2013-01-11

热度 13已有 574 次阅读2013-1-11 12:09

 For an artist to conclude a stage in her creative work usually means that her passion and energy toward the theme has found release, and she realizes that to continue would lead to nothing but self-replication of a certain few pieces. A better reason might be that her iconic pieces had already been produced, and the artist’s desire for expression had been gratified. If she ever resumes this theme sometime in the future, it would mean that broader understanding and experience will have shown her new possibilities of self-overcoming. Xiang Jing’s present achievements in sculpture give ample proof of her singular strength within a certain thematic range. The works that best represent the level she has reached are “Your Body”(2005) and “Are A Hundred Playing You? Or Only One?
”(2007)
Xiang Jing often claims that this work was done “in the first person.” The idea of first person here emphasizes her fully subjective standpoint for executing the work. In other words, this is womanhood as she conceives and feels it to be, a woman created by a woman, focusing on expression of female power. A figure thus produced occupies the opposite pole from male aesthetic expectations of women. Based on the feminist analysis, the supposed pleasure of viewing in our gender-imbalanced world has been split into active/male and passive/female sides. The determining male gaze projects its fantasies onto the female body, and style is determined accordingly. In her traditional role as exhibit, the female is put on display and gazed at. Since her appearance is supposed to have visually enticing impact, we can say that she signifies “being seen.” In this sculpture, “being seen” is retained as a formal shell, but it is cleverly turned around as a weapon. We see a fully formed woman, yet do not sense a wisp of desire on her part…The creative stroke here is that psychic contention is given form on the visual surface. Shrinking back and partially covering the (female) body is necessary—perhaps central—to a man’s viewing. To watch a woman peel off layer after layer of disguise until she gives up the last line of defense—this is a male pleasure that combines sexual desire and lust for power. But in this sculpture the woman gives up any “passive” stance of screening or evasion; her paradoxical nakedness effectively undermines sexual consumption by the male. Its power lies in the way it spurns the sexual gaze and revels in its self-sufficiency. As a physical shape, its effectiveness is due to its sexual “zero-state”—its neutral tendency. It is like the newly created female from an ancient myth not yet wrapped up in the realities of gender. She is without consciousness and experience of sex. She is merely a living thing, holding onto her unknowing state. Yet her unusual body size is imposing—like a revelation of original female life force. With perhaps a touch of maleness to augment its physicality, this figure of ambiguous sexual characteristics enacts a “dissolution of male subjectivity by the female.”
  In this work we do not see gender serving as a basis for sharp-edged critique. Instead, the piece brings genuine female presence and female emotions to the fore. This yin quality gives a surface impression of vulnerability, meekness, and inner wounds that inspire pity. But this is not the “submissive beauty” of the second sex. It is the archetype of a realm that has gotten away from desire and tumult as it moves toward dreams and stillness, like the “anima” that Carl Jung wrote about. Like the “animus” it corresponds to, it exists deep in the makeup of a living thing. If we say that the animus symbolizes yang qualities, or pragmatism and action, or will to power and ambition, then anima symbolizes serenity and dreams, silence and nurturance. As the critic Gaston Bachelard wrote in his Poetics of Reverie, “Any man or woman who walks down and still further down the ‘slope of dreams’ will find the serenity of his anima deep within. He finds it by walking downward, not by plunging downward. This indefinite deep place is the haven of feminine serenity. In that serenity free from worries, ambitions and schemes, we find peace that is suited to us, and our entire being finds rest.”
   This yin-natured serenity is alluded to in Xiang Jing’s piece by the invisible image of water. Water is undoubtedly a paradigmatic symbol of yin polarity. It laps against our desires and anxieties; its existence is a life-fostering wellspring. In ancient Chinese philosophy, it furthermore symbolized the highest good (“Utmost goodness resembles water,” Laozi); the passage of time (“Transitory things are like this water, flowing past day and night,” The Analects); and a force that overcomes all things (“Nothing under heaven is milder than water, yet nothing can rival it for wearing down rigid things,” Laozi). The foot-basin placed in the middle, like the rim of a well, symbolizes the existence of water. In fact the formal tension in this piece lies in the confusion between daily life and a spiritual ceremony. Like a not-yet-focused camera shot, we slip between the two and ascribe the traits of one to the other: daily life is accorded the dignity of a ceremony, and the ceremony is accorded a quotidian concreteness. We can feel a circulation of psychic energy at this site, which bespeaks the breaking down of boundaries between the transcendent and the experiential. The two are superimposed here, merging into one.
   However, the boundary here is being broken down within a world that is still female. The circle in this piece is the visible rendering of a magical spell, a classic structure of psychic self-closure. Yet the “self” here has been expanded from a female individual to collective femininity. Communication is now possible among these individuals, yet in this tableau of figures, each with her back toward the viewer, Xiang Jing once again—and perhaps for the last time—emphasizes the statement she has tried to make thus far.
——Excerpt from Within a Magic Spell  By Zhu Zhu
For Xiang Jing in the past, selfhood was ensconced in a contemplated figure: through her quiet, solicitous gaze, she entered into the figure’s painful condition. Now she seems to have deliberately put aside her genius for empathy. Like the director of a dance drama, she manipulates a structured whole. In other words, her fabricated acrobats and animals tend to be treated as image-forms which contribute to a spatial whole rather than as stand-alone works. Meanwhile, allowance has been made for the perceptions and physical presence of viewers, for their lingering movement through the exhibition space as they search for metaphors applicable to their own predicaments. In her studio I saw the layout board for her exhibition proposal. Aside from pieces distributed through the various showrooms, there is also a huge drop curtain hanging along the wall, with a winding staircase…together these evoke a stage-like ambience, a “synoptic field of view” laid out by the artist herself.
In fact, her intention is focused on the exhibition as creative work, not just on a number of single pieces. I surmise that her conception was influenced right from the start by the proposed exhibition site. She repeatedly weighed and revolved the museum’s layout in her mind until it became a piece of “private territory” or secret kingdom. As a result she decided to combine several roles in her own person: as artist, she would create the pieces; as curator she would showcase these pieces and exert a “cur-ative” effect by means of the space; and finally, as commentator on her own exhibition, she would draw viewers into a certain dimension of thought. By taking on this final role, she perhaps reveals her anxiety over the possible rift she senses between the works and her expressive intention.
The existence of acrobatics, in and of itself, implies performance, just as animal existence implies being looked at. Her work on these two series did not unfold around such a focus, but their on-site positioning could perhaps serve to strengthen this aspect. But even now what I find truly compelling has to do with the empathetic talent and emotional perceptiveness that her works have always displayed. One could say that her intention is to make this exhibition an allegorical diorama, yet to a large extent it ends up presenting a fairytale realm, or one could say that it constitutes an uneasy negotiation between fairytale and allegory.
Perhaps these flaws in her creative work are apprehensible to us. However, without such a painful process, an artist could no get a feel for what elements are lacking that would allow for fuller self-expansion. What is more, she would not know how her familiar sphere of experience could become the basis or support for even broader discourse. “Will Things Ever Get Better?” The title of this exhibition comes from a heart-wrenching dialogue between the philosopher Liang Shuming and his father Liang Ji. Elsewhere Liang Shuming wrote the following passage:
Life partakes of the mind; it is the expression of mind over matter; it is the struggle of mind with matter. History (cosmic history) has always been mind’s struggle with matter. History is enacted on one occasion after another, taking one step after another, as mind overcomes matter and rests upon matter and makes use of matter. Only by entering deeply into oneself, by understanding oneself and finding ways to confront oneself, can one avoid and go beyond un-wisdom and unworthiness. This is learning that comes from the abyss; it is the highest-reaching and most admirable accomplishment.
    For an artist, one’s past self is tantamount to matter, but even ambitions of self-transcendence may turn out to be a kind of objectification. However, arduous creative work that actively heightens one’s own “mind-matter struggle” offers at least one advantage—a chance to attain what Buddhists call “right views.” By proceeding in this direction one can gain contemplative insight into one’s own being. Once one is freed from dread of losing direction in the short term, then the most pristine part of oneself—the part which has power to move others—will be preserved. Like the “busun” [Invulnerable beast, literally “no-loss”] which Xiang Jing sculpted according to a legend in the Classic of Mountains and Rivers (this creature’s flesh is impervious to sharp blades, since it regenerates what is chopped away), her being in its wholeness will someday regenerate a more trenchant, far-reaching expression of spirit.
——Excerpt from  Mind Versus Matter: Fairytale or Allegory?  By Zhu Zhu
Zhu Zhu:  Curator and art critic, born Sept. 1969. His works have been translated into English, French, Italian, Japanese, and other languages. His awards include the 2001 Poetry Award from Shanghai Literature and the 2nd Ann Gao Poetry Award. In 2003 and 2004 he was twice invited to “Poets’ Spring” as part of the Val de Marne Poetry Festival in France. His poetry collections include Cruising to another Planet (1994), Salt on Withered Grass (2000), Wisp of Smoke (2004), and Leather Suitcase (2005). His essay collections are Vertigo (2000); Empty City Strategem (familiar essays on art) (2005); Case Studies: Artists through the Eyes of a Critic (2008, republished and expanded as The Birth of a Painting, 2010); Thirty Years of Chinese Art (2010, co-authored with Lü Peng and Gao Qianhui). Main exhibitions he has curated include “Origin Point: The Star Star Painting Group”(2007); “Case Studies: Artists through the Eyes of a Critic” (2008); “Remaking History: New Chinese Art 2000-2009” (2010, co-curated with Lü Peng and Gao Qianhui)

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