保卫祖国—蓝庆伟对话李勇政

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保卫祖国—蓝庆伟对话李勇政

 

蓝庆伟:  在从成都出发的时候是否已经知道在罗布泊存在“保卫祖国”四个用砖拼的字?

 

李勇政:我一个朋友是探险爱好者,之前去过罗布泊腹地,在浏览他的探险照片时,看到了这几个字,在一座巨大的建筑废墟前,听他介绍,这个地方叫新开屏机场,是罗布泊核试验基地联系外部的枢纽。罗布泊,中国从上世纪60年代开始,核武器试验都在这区域进行的,包括第一次原子弹爆炸和氢弹爆炸。

 

蓝庆伟:能否描述一下在现场看到砖拼出来的且带有时间象征的残破的“保卫祖国”四个字的想法与感受?

 

李勇政:那天是一大早从34团(新疆建设兵团34团团部所在地)进入无人区的,在下午6点半快7点的时候,到了这几个字的前面,置身在夕阳下巨大的军事废墟中,感受冷酷、孤独、悲哀,世界末日的景象不过如此。在之后路途中,见到更多废弃的军事基地,更多的口号,这些口号基本都是关于世界与人类解放的。

 

蓝庆伟:为什么只选了口号“保卫祖国”四个字,而没有选择其他的?

 

李勇政:这几个字或许更能和当下喧嚣的现实联系起来。

 

蓝庆伟:能否具体描述一下当时现场置换的过程与方式?为什么采用“置换”的方式?

 

李勇政:我从成都带上数量一致新的砖块,在现场与助手一起,用新的砖块置换了旧的砖块。我将所有旧的砖块按照原来的排列方式进行了编号。之所以要置换,是我认为不能随便拿走这些砖块,虽然这里没有人看管,得讲些规则。交换,是我找到的拿走这些砖的理由。

 

蓝庆伟:“置换”这种方式在你的创作中已经不是第一次,这里面存在着一种主体性的转换,暨你更愿意让更多的成为作品的参与主体,而你更像是躲在一边不断观察的人,使用这一创作方式的想法是什么?是否更能够表达自己的创作?

 

李勇政:这次置换对于我来讲,是取走这些砖的理由,这些行为只是敞开一个门而已,至于,观众看到这个置换的过程,看到了什么,想到了什么,是否有所引申,不是我特别关注的。那些我没有想到的,这正是我所需要的。

 

蓝庆伟:你很多作品都注重交换,甚至拿自己的作品交换别人的故事。正如你刚才所说,你这里提到的“这正是我所需要的”是在作品创作方式上的需要还是指什么?

 

李勇政:我很少解释自己的创作意图,希望自己的作品只是一个起点,我不想设置什么边界,也不能给出一个具体的答案,它是开放的,能引发一些可能性的感受与思考就OK,它所有的意义是在与观众交流中产生的。

 

蓝庆伟:“保卫祖国”四个字在展览的时候为什么要将砖块放置在金属板上?

 

李勇政:这些字风化得很严重,很脆弱,有些砖块都已经断成很多小块了,用这样加固方式,利于展示与运输。或我想让这些字“永垂不朽”呢。

 

蓝庆伟:在《保卫祖国》的录像中,观众可以通过视频看到罗布泊的自然残酷,而这种残酷是否也通过作品在美术馆的展示中的得以让观众体会到?你是否在现场的布置上有这一方面的考虑?又做了哪些工作?

 

李勇政:是的,我想让大家看到罗布泊,毕竟去的人很少,虽然有很多关于那里传说,在极其恶劣的环境中巨大的军事基地,毁灭性的超级武器,曾经投入过的惊人物力,多少人曾经在这里生存,有着每天的喜怒哀乐,然后一切死寂,这很超现实。我做了4到5个影像,根据不同的展示空间,用不同的呈现方式,让观众从不同的角度的去观看这次行为。

 

蓝庆伟:罗布泊既是一个自然残酷的地方,更像是一个被遗弃的无人区,《保卫祖国》所呈现出来的则是一种极具反差的生命性——不论是被赋予的还是自身存在的,能否就这件作品所呈现的历史、政治、时间、生命等关键词展开描述?

 

李勇政:罗布泊位于中国新疆维吾尔族自治区,被认为是“死亡之海”,方圆近十万平方公里没有人烟,就这样一个地方,从大饥荒时期50年代末开始建设,到80年代末,陆续有几十万军人投入到这个核试验场的建设中。到90年代后,国家不再进行核试验,这些军营被废弃。这地方曾经水草丰茂,历史上有着辉煌的文明,现在还能看到3000多年前的太阳墓地、小河墓地、1500年前的楼兰国的遗址,这里也是古丝绸之路的重要路线。我不太清楚怎么去清晰的描叙这里的过去与现状,文字往往缺乏想象力,容易成为一个个没有情感的符号,这里更如幽灵一般,曾经有那么多蓬勃的生命,向我显现着他们的存在,而不是那些大而化之的口号,这些口号如原子弹、氢弹一样只是呈现着恐惧与绝望。

 

蓝庆伟:对于这件作品的展示方式是否还有其他的思考?比如类似于现场场景还原偏向立体角度的展示。另外有什么样的场景让你记忆深刻?

 

李勇政:根据不同的展览空间会有不同的展示方式,主要是在影像放映形式上的变化。在这些影像中,有一个视频描叙的是:车缓慢行驶在像刀一样竖立,被盐侵蚀的泥土上,无边无际,记得在那段路上行驶了近5小小时,车胎被划破了两次,在接近天黑的时候,看到一个大坝从地平线上升起,大坝很高,两边看不见头,车到大坝下然后向右转,远处有孤灯在闪耀。这个大坝在罗布泊的边缘,大坝内是150平方公里大的人造盐湖,从地下抽上来的盐卤水,有着翠绿的颜色,靠岸边是冰一样的白。这是那么的不真实,如在世界的尽头,冷酷仙境。这里是政府管理的的中国最大的钾盐基地。

 

蓝庆伟:在作品实施过程中,有没有遇到过法律等方面的麻烦?

 

李勇政:罗布泊区域归军队管理,进入的路口有“军事管理区,禁止通行”或“重污染区,擅自进入危及生命”的路牌标示,在罗布泊的边缘,我们遇到过军队的巡逻检查,还好,我是跟随一家需要做产品测试的军工企业进入的。另外,如果要进去的话,需要熟悉那里地形的向导,几台越野车协同,那里有很多的地理陷阱,需要专业的装备与经验。

 

蓝庆伟:你过往的作品大多简洁有力,像一个小孔成像的装置,你想呈现的东西很复杂,但观众看到的东西很简单,只是一个形体、一条线索或者一个动作,他们观看之后投射到自己心境中的解读又是多方面的。这次的作品在你的审美里面,形式算不算复杂?

 

李勇政:是的,走进这件作品,需要对罗布泊背景有一些了解,并对当下中国的现实语境有所感受,比如,南海问题,主流舆论中的国家意志、爱国主义以及高涨的民族情绪等等。我想尽可能简单一些,或许这些话题有些敏感、沉重而难以言说。

 

蓝庆伟:在你这件作品中,我们可以说砖是材料,“保卫祖国”是材料,“置换”的手法也是一种材料,而这三者的直接相加,就呈现出了艺术的结果。这个公式成立的关键点在哪里?在于环境(从罗布泊到美术馆)的改变吗?

 

李勇政:这一切能成为作品,主要是在于我们的现实,到美术馆只是强化了这个现实,作品只是现实的标本。

 

蓝庆伟:这次展览结束后,这批砖会如何处理?永久陈列于某处还是拆散收藏?甚至用于又一次置换?

 

李勇政:不知道,未来事情那里能确定呢,需要看以后触发它再生的契机了。

  2016年3月

(译)康书雅

 

Defend Our Nation—A Conversation Between Lan Qingwei and Li Yongzheng

Translated by Sophia Kidd

 

Lan Qingwei (LQW): When you headed out from Chengdu to Lop Nor, did you know when you got there, that you’d would find the words “Defend Our Nation” spelled out in bricks?

 

Li Yongzheng (LYZ): I have an adventurer friend who’s been to the heartland of Lop Nor. One time, he was exploring and taking pictures when he found this sign, right in front of an old abandoned site. He said that area was named Xin Kaiping Airport, connecting the frontier Lop Nor nuclear testing site with the rest of China. Lop Nor had been a nuclear and hydrogen testing site since the 1960’s, even China’s first atomic explosion went off at that site.

 

LQW: How did you feel when you first saw the bricks? How was it to see them laid out like that, after so much time had passed?

 

LYZ: When I set out that day from the army corps 34th regiment base and headed into no man’s land, it took until six or seven o’clock in the late afternoon until I finally saw those four Chinese words. There I was, in the setting sun, standing in front of this huge defunct and desolate military installation. It was such a cold feeling, lonely and tragic, as if I’d arrived at the end of the world, as if I were in the midst of the apocalypse, itself. After that, I came upon other defunct military areas with other billboard slogans, mostly having to do with world and human liberation.

 

LQW: So why did you fixate on “Defend Our Nation”, and not on other slogans?

 

 

LYZ: I felt like these specific words resonate well with what’s going on today.

 

LQW: Can you talk more specifically about the process of replacing the old bricks with new ones you’d brought with you? Why this “replacement”?

 

 

LYZ: I brought a slew of brand new bricks to the site and with my assistant set to work replacing all the old bricks. I also marked each of the old bricks with a code number denoting their original placement. My main reason for replacing them was that I didn’t feel comfortable just carrying bricks away. Not that anybody would ever notice or mind, but it was the principle of the thing. Replacement was how I rationalized taking those bricks.

 

 

LQW: This is not the first time you’ve used replacement in your works. It seems to be a thematic transformation of sorts, as if you are attempting to allow various elements to compose your artwork, as if you were hidden on the side lines, a witness of sorts. What’s your thinking behind this? Can you talk more about your creative process?

 

 

LYZ: In this case, replacement was a rationalization for taking the bricks away, my way of making it right. As for my audience and how they think about this replacement, what they see in it, what they think, and what they bring to the artwork; these are things I can’t control. What I haven’t anticipated is what I need most.

 

LQW: You’ve utilized exchange a lot in your practise, even exchanging artworks for other peoples’ personal stories. You said just now, “They’re what I need most.” What is this, really, that you need most?

 

 

LYZ: I rarely explain the thinking behind my creative process. I want my artwork be a mere starting point, toward infinity. I can’t give you any definite answer. As long as my artworks initiate open-ended lines of inquiry, open up possibilities and trajectories of thought, I’m OK. The entire meaning inheres with interaction between my audience and artwork.

 

 

LQW: When exhibiting “Defend Our Nation”, why did you choose to display them on a metal plate?

 

 

LYZ: These bricks have taken quite a beating, weathered for years and years, and they’re brittle. Some have already broken into a number of small fragments. This was a way to set the bricks, making them easier to exhibit and transport. Or maybe it was a way to “set them in stone”.

 

 

LQW: In the video made of Defend Our Nation, your audience witnesses a natural devastation of the original site. Is this something you wanted exhibition audiences to realize? Did you think about that while filming? What steps did you take ?

 

 

LYZ: Yes, I wanted people to see Lop Nor, this place where very few people have ever been, but have heard about. It’s a military installation in the harshest of environments, with weapons of mass destruction, huge investment of physical resources. How many people have lived there, experiencing joy and pain, anger and sadness? But now, the deathly stillness, well, it’s surreal. I made four or five videos, situating them differently per exhibition space, to give audiences to get a sense of place, changing angle and perspectives.

 

LQW: Lop Nor is a naturally difficult place, but it’s also an abandoned space. What Defend Our Nation conveys is a sense of contrast. Whether originally there or constructed since, can you tell me more about the historical, political, temporal, and living expression in this artwork?

 

 

LYZ: Lop Nor is in the Uighur Autonomous region of Xinjiang, known as the Dead Sea. For a hundred thousand square kilometers around, there is not a single trace of humankind. But it’s in exactly this place that, from the time of the Great Famine in the 1950’s up through the end of the 1980’s, tens of thousands of military personnel came to invest their life and work in the building of China’s first atomic bomb. China stopped nuclear testing in the 90’s, and our military installation was forgotten about. This place used to be verdant, with growing grass and flowing water, giving rise to great civilizations. Today we can still see traces of 3000 year old sun cemeteries and river cemeteries, and ruins from Loulan, 1500 years ago an important site along the old Silk Road. It’s so hard to put into words, this feeling of place. Every word I try to use seems vapid, dead, useless in trying to describe the spectre that this place has become. What I see are the traces of the prospering and flourishing life that used to be here. I don’t see the slogans, they’re just like nuclear and hydrogen bombs, empty expressions of terror and hopelessness.

 

LQW: Have you considered additional ways of exhibiting this? For example, making it more of a free-standing structural work, adding to it in some meaningful way?

 

 

LYZ: I show this work differently depending on the exhibition space, especially its video component. One of the videos has this voiceover where it says, “We spent over five long hours slowly traversing a single extremely steep slope, through limitless salt marsh eroded through long years. Our tires were sliced twice, and when night had nearly fallen we saw at last a dam, so tall we could barely see the top. We drove up to it, taking a right, seeing a light flicker in the distance. This dam had been built at the edge of Lop Nor, creating a salt lake 150 square kilometers in area. Its salt water spurted up from the beneath, an emerald green turning white as ice along the lake edge. It was so surreal, such an unfeeling paradise at what seemed like the end of the earth. This was a government project site, harvesting potassium chloride.”

 

 

LQW: Did you encounter any trouble with authorities in making this artwork?

 

 

LYZ: Lop Nor is still under military command, and when you enter the region, road signs read, “Military Zone, Entry Forbidden” or “Heavy Contamination, Unauthorized Entry at One’s Own Risk”. We were met by a patrol at the edge of Lop Nor, but nothing really happened, and I entered alongside a goods inspection company. But also, driving into this area you needed a guide who was intimately familiar with the region’s topography, and you needed off-road vehicles with special equipment to deal with treacherous terrain.

 

 

LQW: Your artworks often operate on a level of simplicity, as if created through a pinhole. Your thinking is very complex, but audience sees something very simple, in some cases just a single shape, line or action. But what they perceive then refracts inwardly, giving them pause to realize in time the complexity you were alluding towards. In your eyes, would you say this artwork is relatively complicated, or not?

 

LYZ: It is. As you enter into this artwork, you have to know a bit about Lop Nor’s background, and you need contemporary China’s cultural context as well. For example, you need to be at least aware of the South China Seas situation, of popular opinion concerning the country’s intentions and the rising surge of Chinese peoples’ patriotism. I want to remain as simple as possible, this is a relatively sensitive topic. It’s heavy, serious and hard to talk about.

 

 

LQW: This artwork has three main components. Bricks are the first, “Defend Our Nation” is the second, and “replacement” is a third. You juxtapose these three elements and get your resulting artwork. Which would you say is the crucial and pivotal element? Would you say it was the change in environment from Lop Nor to a museum’s exhibition space?

 

 

LYZ: It’s all a part of the artwork. What’s real is what’s important. Bringing it into an exhibition space just magnifies a sense of what’s real. The artwork is merely a manifestation of this sense.

 

 

LQW: What will you do with these bricks after the exhibition? Will they be permanently displayed somewhere, or dispersed into collections? Or might they perhaps undergo another transformation, into another artwork?

 

 

LYZ: I’m not sure. Who can say anything definite about the future? We’ll have to see what spark sets off the next incarnation.                                                                                                                                                             

 
 


保卫祖国-Defend Our Nation

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