李勇政一一潜翔于政治雷达之下 Li Yongzheng on flying underthe political radar 文/ Text: Michael Young 中国观念艺术家李勇政是否视自己为一位政治艺术家, 这是个有趣或有些争议的间题。 在其创作当中,无论是行为艺术、装置、影像或者长期互动性艺术作品,李勇政总是保持一种很清漸的角度,即一直保持对人权、 自由等等的支持。话虽如此,他从不表达对中国政府的任何明显的幻灭感, 也不会直接针对政治问题, 一般都以用较为含蓄的表达方式进行创作。 他实在是一个微妙的艺术家, 不会像诸多同道一样, 试图通过怀旧地回顾后文革时代来宣泄自己消极的艺术态度。 然而, 他的作品仍然充满了政治隐喻, 他继续暗自调査几个在中国最重要且棘手的问题, 包括人权和个人自由等, 是其一直特别关注的。 由于创作方式的含蓄及诗化, 尽管其作品涉及颇具争议性的主题, 仍未被中国政府视作敏感。 举个例子, 2015年10月, 李勇政从成都的家出发, 驶向西北3500公里外的新疆罗布泊, 这如今充满敌意的荒僻之地, 距离几个世纪以来連接亚洲和地中海的丝绸之路咫尺之遥。罗布泊曾是一片浩輸的内海,现在,它只不过是沼泽和盐碱地平原,与无情的塔克拉玛干沙漠的流动沙丘相峙而立。 无尽的天空下, 仅有灼目的阳光, 欺骗着双眼和感官,以任何标准来评价,如今的罗布泊都只能被冠以遥远,贫瘠和冷漠。 日间酷热,夜间气温陸降至零下, 使之成为粗心旅客的死亡陷阱, 无怪乎此地被俗称为死亡之海了 。 1964年至1996年间, 罗布泊作为中华人民共和国的核能、 氢能试验中心, 进行了共计64次核试验,留给了这片区域看不见的致命辐射,湿重如裏,素绕不去。如今,在其中心地带, 只留下来一所慢慢倾覆到沙地中的军事设施。 一块一米多高五米多长的红砖砌成的标语,矗立在旁,俯瞰遗址,上书“保家卫国”,这激昂而排外的语气,是60年代的时代特色。这里就是李勇政的目的地,到达后,他马上把40块旧清一一摘下来,在每一块砖上仔细写上编码, 再用随身带来的新砖, 把旧砖替换下来。 李勇政说: “对我来说, 这是在跟另外的这个荒凉世界的一种交换 。 ” 罗布泊之行孕育而来的艺术作品就是 “保家卫国” , 这个作品是装置、 行为以及经过剪辑长度十五分钟到半小时的四通道影像。 作品中嵌入了这位低调艺术家长期关心的问题。李勇政从2008年开始转入艺术,几年来,他艺术作品涵盖了:个人权力与公共利益、 个人在社会的作用以及如何在不削弱概念的前提下, 把艺术创作过程和内容顺利地合并起来。李勇政给我解释了“保家卫国”的思想。 “我很担心这种在社会和经济事务集中控制的政治制度。令老百姓保持排外的态度。在中国大陆,人民可以自由谈论,但是媒体不能。 媒体只能说 “我们必须成为一个强大, 有力量的国家! ” 保家卫国” 暗示地涉及中国政府过度霸权和民族主义思想, 强调言说以及行动的重要性, 是李勇政很有代表性作品, 也作为到目前为止艺术家自己的创作中最喜欢的。 李勇政1971年出生在四川省边远的小城巴中, 故乡到成都要坐10个小时的大巴 。 虽然中国农村一般很穷, 但他的家庭未曾受贫, 父亲在县城的小镇上粮食管理部门工作, 他随父亲生活在一起, 所以家里总是有米可吃。 文革末期, 7岁的李勇政随父亲搬到巴中城里, 并入读当地小学。 李勇政青少时对文学、 哲学以及奥地利神经学家、 精神分析学派创始人弗洛伊德很感兴趣,如果没成为艺术家的话,他也许会成为作家或者哲学家。他说: “当时,我到处找弗洛伊德著作的中文译本,买下每一本。”同时,李勇政也深受朦胧诗派的影响,北岛,顾城,杨炼,都是李勇政上一辈的老一代了。 他很佩服他们愿意批评文革束缚艺术的政策, 尤其是他们的含蓄表达方式, 即不直接坦白地攻击,而轻柔地描写。毛主席认为艺术应该为人民服务,而不是为个人服务。不作为个人的工具, 而作为人民的工具。 朦胧诗派的审美观是完全相反的, 即他们从个人自由出发,探讨艺术家在社会的作用,启蒙了李勇政的创作状态及审美观。他说: ““我最感兴趣的是, 虽然愿意批评政府的人挺少, 他们还是愿意, 但是他们是从含蓄、 微妙的角度出发,以用比喻的表达方式” 。 在1978年12月 , 北島、 芒克以及北京关心社会的活动家黄锐共同创办了短暂的地下文学杂志«今天» 。该杂志在1980年被査禁, 1989年天安门广场抗议过后,朦胧诗派的几位重要人士均被流放。 “我当时受到这些诗人的极大影响, 开始写诗, 因为写诗是可以表达艺术思想的方法。” 1988年开始学书法、 素描, 次年进入四川美术学院油画系进修 。 这是李勇政第一次考虑以艺术为生。父母一直很支持他的想法,未曾阻挠。1994年西师美术系毕业时,他并未成为一个全职艺术家, 而是在上海短居后, 回成都和朋友们一起开了家广告公司。 当时,他对西方哲学的兴趣日渐浓厚,尤其关注马丁·海德格尔(Martin Heidegger)有关个人自由、生活以及死亡的思想 生意的成功带给他经济的独立, 1999年, 他进入四川大学社会学系研修班学习 。 就在此时,他开始画油画, 1998年至2008年这十年间,他创作了80幅作品,却从未展出过。 李勇政说: “画画是我个人的秘密,只能在工作时间之外创作。”同时他继续创业,成功地又开了几个公司, 却也挤占了留给艺术的时间, 为此他曾故意疏离过艺术世界。 当时的他认为画画是一种私密的个人活动, 然而正是这段时间, 西良出了真正作为艺术家的意志。 后来, 在2009年, 他买下了五吨盐, 建造了雕塑性装置作品 «盐的同仁波齐山» 。 本作品涉及- 座西藏从来没人登上的山峰, 印度教徒和佛教徒之创世神话中都有这座山, 而该山就是朝圣之所。在创世神话中, 図仁波齐山作为宇宙中心轴, 能把天、地和宇宙中心融为一体。 «盐的同仁波齐山» 最出色的地方就是其意蕴丰富的简単形式。 盐山被加湿器喷出的水雾笼罩,因为喷了水外売变得坚硬,但一经碰触,即刻坍塌,如果时间足够长,盐山也会完全融化消失。 这对西藏的信仰如何面对威权政权的威胁, 留下了一种注释。 这是作为一位成熟的艺术家,能够深入浅出。 «盐的冈仁波齐山»很优秀,以含蓄表达方式问有关个人自由的问题, 质疑在专制政权下能否有实践自由意志。 五年之后的2014年,李勇政又做了一次«盐的同仁波齐山»,此次,艺术家在本已丰富的层次上又加入新的审美。 “在2009第一次用5吨盐堆成山, 加湿让它融化。 2014年再次做此题材, 因为西藏人说2014对同仁波齐是有纪念意义的一年 。 我从喜马拉雅地区买了2000块盐特 , 这些盐砖有着天然美丽的色彩, 从纯白色到號珀色, 他们堆起来成了一座山 。 ugg femme pas cher 展出时, 把每一块石考定价100元, 供出售, 这仅够覆盖它们的成本。 ”随着盐砖的售出, 这座山逐渐消失了, 尤其是在天津泰达美术馆一下买下了300砖的时候,山的消亡加剧尤甚 «被消费的盐与同仁波齐山» 中的比喻很简单, 换一种说法, 西藏生活中高不开盐, 同样也缺乏不了这座山,意味着西藏人的文化,他们离不开这座山,也离不开自己的文化。 李勇政也无法解答这个冲突性间题, 但是他认为艺术家的任务既是提出问题, 又应提供可以讨论问题的机会。 强调讨论、 对话的重要性在一个在这样的政权下缺乏话语权的人民中很不容易 。 李勇政坚持探讨有争议性的问题。在作品«送给你»中,他重印了一些1938年至1947年国统区发表的«新华日报»,在展览现场送给观众,意在引发看到党史的观众之反应, 让他们领悟到作品之内涵。 然而李勇政艺术作品的真意并不在于引发争议。 随着时间的推移, 他的艺术工具简化为盐、土、石头、水以及火,而艺术家拟把哲学原始因素从表征系统解开下来,由此其艺术作品开始具备佛教之气氛。 «看!看!»2013、 «湿润的碑»2013两个作品沉淀为沉默, 寂静与灵性的艺术创作, 让观众敏锐地意识到人类存在短暂性。 «看!看!»是一个半米边长的不锈钢立方体,顶部开放,盛满了水,水平面微微鼓起, 而容器的四壁与外部被打磨成了镜面般光滑, 观者如观镜, 只会被一个偶尔升起又消失的气泡打断。 «看!看!»这件作品的直线形式又在«湿润的碑»中出现,后者是将来自四川的黄砂岩, 做成了一个高1米8的直立体, 然后将黄砂岩内部挖空, 装满水, 随着时间的推移, 水会从石头的内部渗透出来, 可喻为里程碑亦可喻为死亡象征。 doudoune canada goose 两件作品都意味着人类存在之短暂性, 以毫无顾忌的唯美作为生存忧虑的载体。 两件作品都具有佛教之维度,尤其是«看!看!»,标题即出自佛经。虽然他与佛教信仰在一程度上保持距离, 但很直率地承认借用了一些佛教思想。 他说: “我对佛经和哲学思想都感兴趣, 但这仅是我感兴趣的很多东西中的一种 。 对于任何一个关心社会或者具备政治嗅觉的中国艺术家来说, 自 由意志和民主的抬头是自然而然的事情, 2011年9月在中国南部的鸟坎村,当地村官未经事先协商或给予合理补偿, 便将土地出售用于房地产开发, 由此引发了数百名村民举行示威抗议 。 在几天内抗议发展成不可控的骚乱并导致年底村民在警察的拘押中丧命。 虽然全球媒体报道了事情的原委, 而中国本土百姓仅能从为数不多的微博中得知事情的一二。回应鸟坎事件,李勇政创作出«传递一块砖» (2012年一至今)这件互动性艺术作品是艺术家首次把创作过程当成作品本身。 李勇政把乌坎村的土制成两块砖。 一块放在乌坎图书馆里, 另一块送给参与其作品志愿者, 参与此砖传递的志愿者在社交媒体上发表评论, 相关评论均被艺术家收集作为作品文献。 据李勇政统计, 这块砖已经走过中国大部分地方, 在微博上阅读量已经超过数百万次 。 李勇政说: “每天都会有很悲伤的事情发生, 人们在微博上相谈甚快, 以至于没有时间来消化悲剧。 我并不认为鸟坎是中国民主政治的开始, 但我相信, 它将帮助人们开始关注发生在普通人身上的事情, 和他们实现自我管理的意图。 传递一块特的时间, 延长了人们对此事的消化时间 。 砖还在传递中, 通过一百多人的手慢慢走遍中国。 最近的传递者, 来自北京的艺术家高氏兄弟在他们自已的工作中继续挑战权威。 每一个传递者都能在与作品的对话中成为一名艺术家,这正是李勇政的意图。 “人人都是艺术家,很多传递者在传递过程中,展现惊人的创造力, 每个人都是民主进程的一环, 都将成为最终成果的一部分。 我相信这块砖有属于它自己的命运,我的工作是记录它在这世界的旅程,并传递信息。此砖在旅途中已多次被送入展览, 包括在2013年第55届威尼斯双年展平行展, 和一次在北京UCCA展。 李勇政坚持认为, 创作过程本身和创作出的结果同样重要, 这在其2014年 «交換秘密» 互动性作品中亦有所体现。 艺术家将自己1998年至2008年间创作的80幅油画, 每一幅切割成为9片。 他以一种弗洛伊德式的姿态, 他在新浪微博与微信公布: “任何人都可以给我发一封300字内的电子邮件, 讲述一个自己的故事, 甚至可以匿名, 就会得到我的画。” 一个月内,他收到231封电子邮件,得知诸多各种各样的,各个国家的人的秘密,接着如数把作品寄过去。 “每件寄出的油画,我都留着一个残片,因此,即使这幅画的所有残片被搜集起来, 也还是会缺一部分, 就是我留下的那个部分。 这件如同心理医生的沙发一般的作品, 是一个可供人们倾吐真正内心的平台。 该作品在去年由于李勇政时间的不足而停止。他说: “微博是一个庞大的社交媒介,但我感觉很难通过微博实现与人深入交流。 有时我们更喜欢把事情忘掉或是装进心底, 而通过匿名交流的方式, 却可以发现真正的内心。” 李勇政认为, 艺术家的角色不是要提供这些难题的答案, 不如找好资料, 选出最能够表达作品的概念前提。对李勇政来说,最好的材料就是生活中原始因素,即土、气、火以及水。艺术家以这四个因素流入观众思想, 以渗透静心方式吸引观众, 而非粗暴地冲击观众的感官。 寂静与安宁在李勇政的每一件艺术作品中都占据中心地位, 以一种完美的平衡创造出一刻暂停的时间、 一瞬静止的世界。 尽管哲学思想在李勇政的创作渗透颇多, 但由于其智慧地1立 用形式感强烈的视觉语言和人文关怀, 一切都在控制之中, 最终得以成为精美的作品。 他的社会关注和他对人权的热情为创作增加了一个挑」畔性的层面, 继续低调地游弋在政府的 中查下 。 参与李勇政的艺术创作很神奇,看似简单,却让自己投入到作品中的宁静气氛中,艺术与单纯的人的表达融为一体 。 他说: “我相信我们来到这个世界时身无一物, 离开时也必如此。佛教让我们不怕面对任何难事, 一定要充满激情地生活。” 生涯走到现在,李勇政已经抵达内心平静的阶段。他说: “艺术家应该有自由意志, 以艺术方式表达个人的观点, 尽情展现这样的无畏吧。 ” 不错, 一位保持纯粹审美, 继续在社会有所贡献的艺术家, 这样生活, 这样说是不错的。 无怪乎李勇政可以站在中国观念艺术的前列! Mlchael Young, 悉尼艺术批评家. 曽在Art Asia Pacific、 Asian Art Newspaper 及 Artist Profile发表文章. （译）康书雅 Whether Chinese conceptual artist Li Yongzheng (b1971) sees himself as a political artist is an interesting ifsomewhat moot point. ln his work which ranges from performance to installation to video and open-ended participatory projects he adopts a definite political standpoint predicated on a belief in human rights, personal freedoms and_. bottes timberland pas cher But at the same time he does not express any obvious disillusionment with the Chinese government and certainly there is no radical and critical outpouring as such, no hysterical proclamatory barbs. He is far too subtle an artist for that. Nor is there any nostalgiclooking back to post Cultural Revolution times which so many artists seem to want to do these days as a vehicle for their angst ridden art. Yet Yongzheng’s work remains rife with political allusions as he continues to examine – albeit covertly- several of the China’s most critical and thorny issues, human rights and personal freedom included, tropes that are neverfarfrom his thinking and which form the core of his practice. However his way of tackling these issues through oblique allusion rather than through head-on confrontation has allowed him to fly under the radar of the authorities. They simplyleave him alone even though the nature of his work deals with these controversial themes.For example in October2015 Yongzheng set off from his home in Chengdu incentral Sichuan on a7000 kilometer round trip thatwould take him north to Xinjiang’s Lop Nor a hostile place close to the myriad silk roads thatfor centurieslinked Asia with the Mediterranean. Lop Nor had once been a vast inland sea. Today it islittle more than marsh and salt plains pressed hard against the shifting sand dunes of the unforgiving Taklamakan desert. By any standard Lop Nor is remote, barren and inhospitable, with infinite skies that dazzle the eyes and deceives the senses. Blisteringly hot temperatures by day and subzero ones by night make Lop Nor a death trap for the unwary traveler. Notfor nothing is it known colloquially as the Sea of Death. Between1964 and1996 Lop Norwas also the centre of the People’s Republic of China nuclear and hydrogen testing program where64 nuclear devices were tested that drenched thelandscape in alingering shroud of potentiallylethal radiation. Today near its epicenter is a disused military facility slowly crumbling into the sands. Overlooking the ruins is a two meter high Mandarin character sign constructed from soft clay bricks that spells out the declamatory and xenophobic statementfrom the1960s,’Defend Our Nation’. This was Yongzheng’s ultimate destination and once there he set about removing forty of the crumbling bricks, carefully numbering them and replacing them with new ones he had broughtwith him.“For me itwas just about exchange in a totally desolate and differentworld,” Yongzheng said. The art work that emerged from Lop Nor was Defend Our Nation, an installation,,performance piece and four-channel video that runs for tem minutes and that resonates with all the concerns that the artist has carried with him during a career that has followed a quiet yet determined trajectory since its inGeption in 2008; self determination, the conflict between personal empowerment and the common good, the role of the individual within society, and how to conflate the art making process and content without undermining the conceptual premise of the work. doudoune canada goose ln a conversation earlierthis yearYongzheng outlined his rationale behind Defend Our Nation.“l worry about a political system in which the state has substantial centralized control over social and economic affairs. The government is whipping up a feeling of xenophobia among the Chinese people with its island building in the South China Sea. ln mainland China people can freely talk about this but the press can’t.All the press does is tell us that we must become a powerful and strong nation,” he said. Defend Our Nation with its oblique reference to political hegemony and nationalism also perfectly exemplifies Yongzheng’s concern for words and actions a concept central to his practice. The work is he believes his most successful piece to date and certainly his favourite. Yongzheng was born in1971 in a remote village notfarfrom Ba Zhong a small city ten hours by bus from Chengdu. Even though most of rural China was poor his family never really suffered because his father worked in the office thatlooked after the distribution of local rice production so there was always plenty of rice. This was during the closing years of the Cultural Revolution. When he was7 the family moved to Ba Zhong, so he could attend primary school. Yonzheng could well have ended up a writer or a philosopherjudging by his interests through puberty and the dramatic growth of his cultural interests at the time which embraced literature, philosophy and the writings of Sigmund Freud the Austrian neurologistwho went on to become the father of psychoanalysis. “l looked everywhere fortranslations of his books and bought everythingl could by him,” he said.Atthe same time Yongzheng came underthe influenced of the poet Bei Dao, leadinglight of the so- called Misty Poets, a nebulous group a generation olderthan Yongzheng that included Gu Cheng, Shu Ting, He Dong and Yang Lian. He admired the way they were prepared to criticize the restrictions placed on art during the Cultural Revolution but in a way that was oblique and elusive rather than confrontational. Chairman Mao’s prevailing view of art was that it should serve the people rather than be concerned with the individual. The Misty Poets took a diametrically opposite view with poems that dealt with individual freedom and an artist’s commitment to society, concems that repeatedly surface in Yongzhengs work today. “What appealed to me at that time was that few people were prepared to criticize the government but these poets did so by using metaphor,” Yongzheng said. Bei Dao and fellow poet Mang Ke along with the activist and socially ooncerned Beijing based artist Huang Rui co-founded the short-lived underground literary magazine’Jintian’ (Today) in December1978. The magazine was banned in1980 and several of the founders of the Misty Poets including Bei Dao were eventually exiled after the1989 Tiananmen Square protests. “l was very influenced by these poets. l started to write poetry at this time because itwas fashionable to doso to give expression to artistic sensibility.” ln1988 Yongzheng startedlearning traditional calligraphy and sketching and the following yearenrolled at oil painting classes at the Sichuan FineArtslnstitute. This was the first time that the idea of becoming a full time artist entered Yongzheng’s mind. His parents were always supportive of the idea and never said anything negative. He graduated in1994 but choose not to become a full time artist. After a brief stay in Shanghai he returned to Chengdu where he opened an advertising agencywith friends and became increasingly interested in westem philosophy, reading Heidegger and exploring the philosophers’ ideas on personal freedom, life and death. Business success made him financially independent and in1994 he was able to enroll at Sichuan Universitywhere he studied sociology forfuryears. lt was atthis time that he started painting in oils again producing a body of 80 works over a ten year period 1998-2008thatwere neverexhibited. “Painting was my personal secretwhichl could only do in the evenings,· he said. Simultaneously Yongzheng was also building a number of successful businesses that leftlittle spare time forthe world of art which he deliberately kept at a distance. While painting was a private and personal activity what was developing within him was the idee fixe that manifested itself in2009 when he bought5 tons of salt and constructed the sculptural installation Salt at GanrenBoqi Mountain 2009 that referenced the sacred Tibetan mountain with its as yet unclimbed summit and which for centuries has been at the centre of Hindus and Buddhists creation myths alike as well as a place of pilgrimage. These ancient belief structures see GanrenBoqi as the axis mundi of creation, thelink between heaven and earth and the centre ofthe universe. What was so striking about Salt at GanrenBoqi Mountain2009 was its profound simplicity of form. Having been sprayed with water the salt had set firm even so the gentlest of human interventions would have brought the whole edifice crashing to the ground. lt was a wry commentary on the threat to Tibetan beliefstructures continually confronted by an authoritarian regime. Virtually overnight Yongzheng had emerged as a mature artist one capable of conveying complex ideas through simple forms. Salt at GanrenBoqi Mountain was a sophisticated and elegiac contemplation on personal freedoms that asks covertly, can mankind ever be a vehicle offree will while underthe yoke ofa totalitarian state? Five yearslater in2014 Yongzheng made a further iteration of the GanrenBoqi Mountain piece this time adding a further aesthetic dimension to what was already a multi-layered work.“The first2009 work was5 tons of normal salt andl created a mountain. A machine made it all very wet and it set hard. asics sneakers ln2014 l continued this project. Tibet people say that2014 was a special anniversary year for the mountain. l ordered2000 salt bricks from the Pakistan Himalayas. This salt has so many natural and beautiful colors from pure white to amber andl stacked the bricks in the shape of the mountain.As the exhibition proceededl sold each brick for100 yuan and this was just enough to cover the cost of the bricks,” he said. new balance 2018 Gradually the mountain began to disappearas the bricks were sold especially so when the Tinjian Teda Museum bought 300bricksinonego. Consumed Salt and Gangren Boqie Mountain is a simple aesthetic metaphorfor the fact that while people can barelylive without salt the Tibetan people cannotlive without GanrenBoqi Mountain or for that matter their culture which continues to be under threat. Yongzheng offers no answers to this problem and simply sees an artist’s role as highlighting such problems and creating a forum that encourages the audience to participate in an active pursuit of answers, an altogether altruistic rationale in a country where much of the population is excluded from participating in any form of debate critical of the government’s actions. Yongzheng continued his examination of such controversial issues. With Send For You he printed several facsimile editions of the Xinhua Daily newspaper from1938 to 1947 the period when it was the official mouthpiece of the communist party in Kuomingtang areas. His intention was to address the party’s historiography with the deliberate intention of provoking a reaction from the exhibition audience to whom he gave copies ofthe newspaper. But Yongzheng’s oeuvre is not only about raising eyebrows. Overtime his palette became pared down and minimalist as salt, earth, stone, water, and fire freed from their representational associations increasingly added an air of contemplative Buddhist silence to his practice. Works such as Look, Look2013 and Moist Stele2013seemed to resonate with silence, stillness and a benign spirituality that added a raw edge to our contemplation of human temporality. Look, Look2013 is a half meter square stainless steel open-topped cube filled with waterthat has a translucent drum tight meniscus that stretches from edge to edge and which is only disturbed when an air bubble rises to the surface. The precise rectilinear form of Look, Look is shared with Moist Stele2013, a great upright slab of moist yellow sandstone from Sichuan which is either a milestone or a memento mori, depending on the viewer’s frame of mind at any given time. Both artworks riff on the temporality of human existence and convey true existential angst dressed up in unashamed aestheticism. Both works possess a Buddhist dimension- Look, Look especially with its title drawn from a Buddhist’s texts- and Yongzheng will freely admit to appropriating certain Buddhist precepts while preferring to keep the Buddhist belief structure itself at a distance. “l am interested in Buddhisttext and philosophy as indeedl am interested in many things,” he said. For any socially minded or political aware artist working in China today it is inevitable that the twin bedfellows of free will and democracy will raise their heads as they did in September2011 in the southern Chinese village of Wukan when hundreds of locals demonstrated against the sale by village officials of land for real-estate development without prior consultation or proper compensation being offered. Overthe period of a few days protests developed into riots which culminated towards the end of the yearwith the death in police custodyof a villagerand the village being placed under siege. While global media reported what was going on the Chinese population could only glean a certain amount of information on what was happening through the Chinese microblogging site, Sina Weibo. ln response to the tense situation in Wukan Yongzheng made Brick Relay(2012 -ongoing) the first of his works that was to elevate the process of making the art into the work of art itself. Using clay from Wukan Yongzheng made two bricks, one of which he gave to a Wukanlibrary, and the other he mailed to volunteers on the proviso theyforwarded it to friends. Participants made comments through social media and these comments Yongzheng documented as partthe artwork which remains an open ended project. He estimates that overone million people have so far been touched by the brick’s journey which has reached most parts of China. “Everyday alot of sad things happen and people talk on WeChat so fast without having time to absorb the tragedy. l didn’t think that Wukan was the beginning of democracy in China butl do believe that it will help people pay attention to what is happened to ordinary people and their attempt to govern themselves. Brick Relay attempts to prolong the time that people can absorb this information,” Yongzhegn said. The earth brick is still slowly travelling through China and has already been through over100 people’s hands, thelatest being the Gao Brothers Beijing artists who themselves continue to challenge authority in theirwork. lt is Yongzheng’s intention that every time someone receives the brick they become an artist in dialogue with the work. “Everyone is an artist and everyone is part of an inclusive democratic process with a say in the work’s eventual outcome. l believe the brick has its own destiny and myjob is to record its path through theworld and relaythe information,” he said. The brick has already been exhibited in several places along the way; in2013 at a fringe event at the55th Venice Biennial, and in a group show at Beijing’s UCCA. Yongzheng’s adherence to the idea of an artwork’s process being as important as its outcome he also explored in Trading Secrets2014 a work that witnessed him cut each of the eighty oil paintings produced during the1998 – 2008 period into9 pieces. Wearing his Freudian psychoanalytical hat he post on Sina Weibo and WeChat the following statement, ‘Anyone who sends me an email to tell a story of his own experience, in300 words, even anonymously, will get a framed piece ofwork from me.”Within one month he received231 emails and many secrets from various people around the world and had posted out in return the equivalent number of painting fragments. ·l always kept one piece from each painting for myselfso if all the paintings were brought backtogether there would always be one piece missing, the piecel have. The work- somehow the equivalent of the psychoanalyst’s couch- stoppedlast year because of lack of time on Yongzheng’s part, is a platform for people to open up to talk about real things hiding inside.“Weibo blog is a huge social media site butl feel like it is very hard to get deep communication with anybody on it. Sometimes as we grow we prefer to forget things or keep them in our heart. By anonymous communication with somebody you can discover real internal truth,” he said. ForYongzheng the artist’s role is notto provide answers to these conundrums but to frame questions addressing the problems using whatever material best elucidate their conceptual premise which in Yongzheng’s case are the fundamental elements of life, earth, air, fire and waterallofwhich feature in his projects. To this quartet of elemental properties create works that seductively infiltraterather than bludgeon the viewer’s sensibilities, one could add a litany of otherproperties such as stillness and tranquility. Both occupy the core of every art work by Younzheng held in perfect equilibrium creating a sense of pause, a moment when reality becomes suspended. Philosophical conceits may be rife in his work but they are held in check by Yongzhen’s intelligent use of a strong formal visual language and his humanistic concerns allowing his to produce profoundly beautifully work. His social concerns and his passion for human rights add an inevitable provocative dimension to work that continues to fly under the under the radar of government scrutinywhich of course is no bad thing. To be physically engaged with works byYongzheng is to be transported by their deceptive simplicity to a world of stillness and silent contemplation, one where art is conflated with pure human expression.“l believe we come to the world with nothing and leave with nothing. Buddhism teaches you not to fear any difficult you are confronted by and to be passionately involved withlife,” he said. ln his career so farYongzheng has arrived at a moment of inner peace.“An artist should have free will and exhibit no fear in using art to express his personal views,” he said.