Archives Interview | forget art

Archives 'Interview'

2 十一月

作者: 申舶良
来自:ARTINFO
日期: 2010年11月1日, 星期一

http://cn.artinfo.com/2010/11/01/interview-ma-yongfeng-forget-art-ect

马永峰在“地点:龙泉洗浴”现场演示艺术家吴迪的作品,北京,2010

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ARTINFO:请谈谈创立“forget art”的缘起。


马永峰:我个人见证了中国当代艺术的起步,泡沫在两年内一下子上升到最高端,然后又一下子跌下来的过程。06年时我在纽约,之前大家都是零散地卖一些作品,06年苏富比举办了一次中国当代艺术拍卖,07年将其炒到一个高峰。08年我也在纽约,3月时艾未未在Mary Boone画廊做了一个红色的大吊灯倒在地上,我感到有种“帝国”覆灭、经济崩溃的象征意义,当时全球金融危机就要爆发了。这都发生在短短两年内,中国当代艺术以前不为人知,到对西方买家而言又仅仅等同于金钱。《纽约时报》曾指责这种盲目投机和一拥而上的心理,我觉得很准确,但这在中国一直都存在。另一方面,90年代西方当代艺术中开始流行“双年展文化”,创建一种旅游产业,带动一整座城市,邀请的都是一些制造庞大的“视觉盛宴”的艺术家,充满庞大的装置和影像作品。当时令人感到震撼,但经过十几年的发展,这个模式愈发让人感到没有价值,这体现着西方的线性发展观。中国艺术家也学习这一点,在当下喜欢创作一些假大空的东西。西方艺术界也在反思这种情况,反思“双年展体制”,这个体制没有推动任何艺术家,只是带来名利场式的视觉盛宴,或是泡在福尔马林中的时尚标本。大家开始回顾60年代的“贫穷艺术”,日本的“物派”,以及“极少主义”。09年蓬皮杜中心举办了一场展览名为“空(Void)”,其中展示的一些艺术作品如伊夫·克莱因的空房间或约翰·凯奇的4’33’’。这展览令人觉得花费几百万制作的一件豪华作品可能还不如一件现成品有价值。07年后我就在思考该如何呈现艺术,或是艺术到底重不重要都是个问题。有一次我带着我女儿去看画展,她问我:“这儿为什么要挂一幅画?”我当时就觉得这个空间其实挂不挂画都不重要,让我通过另外一种方式来思考真正与这空间有联系的是什么。去年我提出了“forget art”这个机构的设想,以上算是历史背景吧。现在也是一个艺术的转折期,很多人都在反思艺术到底重不重要。

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ARTINFO:“forget art”的第一个作品是怎样的?


马永峰:第一个作品是09年在方家胡同46号北京现代舞团的院子中做的“游击剧场”,5位国际艺术家在户外做的一场新媒体艺术展览,都与剧场有关。50年代波兰导演耶日·格洛托夫斯基提出“贫困戏剧”的概念,以反对当时华丽的舞台设计,体现演员最纯朴的精神状态。他后来到意大利影响力意大利的“贫困艺术”,产生了一些非常好的作品,比如把15匹马牵到画廊里,这是65年的作品。“游击剧场”的5件投影作品分布在院子的不同部位,舞团在室内演出正规戏剧,作品则在室外以游击的形式体现戏剧的概念。

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ARTINFO:“forget art”的第二个项目应该是今年9月的“地点:龙泉洗浴”,这个项目反响非常好,之前筹备了多长时间?


马永峰:大约3、4个月,提前和艺术家打招呼让他们准备作品,但每个艺术家的情况都不太一样,我还是希望每个人都能够认真的去做。之前国内也有艺术家做过特定地点的作品,比如徐震在超市中做的项目,整个超市完全被艺术家控制,也很有趣。但我不想把一个空间完全占据,只提倡一种极少主义的干预,而不是一种侵略式的干扰。“干预”处于一种中间状态,让这个空间本身还是原来的空间,或是空间之后的空间。这个项目筹备了很长时间也是由于很多艺术家不了解这个概念,还是愿意将作品做大,让人感到印象强烈。我不停地与他们沟通我的概念,请他们尽量用微弱的形式与空间建立某种联系——一个人一个人的谈,谈了30多人,很累。年轻艺术家的接受能力都很强,觉得这样也挺好玩儿。首先,大家对地点都感兴趣,很多年轻艺术家毕业后直接进入商业画廊,从没玩过这种好玩儿的项目,这带动了大家的积极性。自己的作品在画廊卖钱可能一开始是件令人兴奋的事,但随后便失落了,而这个项目让好多年轻艺术家感到非常兴奋,不停给我打电话,报方案,改方案,很晚也给我打,有创作的激情,而其实现在很多年轻艺术家都非常懒散,我觉得态度是最重要的。地点只是形式,另外一个更重要的概念是我对大家提的一个要求:当观众进入环境后,尽量不要让观众看出“这是一件作品”,要融入环境之中。澡堂本来就很乱,硬要做一个作品挂在墙上那是显得很突出,但和环境没什么关系。所以我希望观众进入后感到好像什么事都没发生,但其实在暗中发生着,就像生活中很多事是隐藏的——你只能知道两三个朋友的事,但不可能知道所有人的私事,这种局限性让人思考到底什么是艺术,何时该自我限制。从史前到现在人过的都是部落式的生活,不会因为全球化就真的和全球建立联系,那些联系都是虚拟的,就像波德里亚说“伊拉克战争从来没有发生过”,因为和他没有关系。根据他的《喻体与拟像》,所有反映的真实可能都不是真实。所以,你到底要哪一种真实感?可能你真正做一件作品其实并不是真实的,当你把一个空间还给这个空间,可能会产生一种新的意义,或是“空间之后的空间”。这就像《盗梦空间》,第一层是一个澡堂,通过“微干预”则到达另一个层次,在这个层次上的某种思考或许还能通向另一个层次,一个非常危险的层次,可能你就不去了,只是想象你在那儿做一个东西,至于做不做则没人和你计较。艺术家们做的作品大部分都达到了这个效果,所以我是比较满意的。

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ARTINFO:在筹备过程中你会不会直接否定他们的方案?


马永峰:有啊,有的人还吵起来。我说:“要不你就别参加”,后来这人也同意了。艺术家都希望做一个让人能够记住的作品,这是可以理解的。但基于一个理念推出的集体项目必须要顾及集体感。这不是那种文革式的集体感,而是一种可以忽略的美学观,劝你思考得更加深入:为什么你的作品要做那么大而空洞?你和周围环境的关系,以及你怎样利用空间。其实“创作”一件东西是可笑的,套用米兰·昆德拉的话说,艺术家们一创作,上帝就发笑。自然中的奇迹比艺术家的想象更丰富,最重要的是发现其中的美或关系。艺术史上重大的改变都是观念的改变,而创造一个“物”其实并不重要。

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ARTINFO:筹备这个项目是否开过集体会议,还是单独沟通?


马永峰:都是单独沟通,人的交往范围有限,一对一或一对二的交流才有效,这就是为何研讨会试图讨论一个问题从来都没有结果,每个人思考的半径都不一样,永远触不到问题的实质。

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ARTINFO:在艺术家的选择上有没有什么标准?


马永峰:主要就是年轻艺术家。以前创作过什么作品我不考虑,也许有些艺术家对自己以前的作品不满意,通过这个项目正好能够“forget”自己那部分,在一个新的环境中重新激发自己的潜能。其实是不是艺术家都无所谓。这是一个整体项目,每个艺术家在里面都是一个细胞,或是一个细菌、病毒,是肉眼看不见的,但影响着你的生命。我希望未来的艺术从细微处着手,而不是作为“宏观狂人”,想着要驾驭全球化。我觉得现在是个体化和多元化的时代,你需要把自己的东西思考透彻。

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ARTINFO:这个项目中有没有什么遗憾的地方?


马永峰:也有,比如一个艺术家的作品是将一只猫打上麻醉剂,有很多人投诉这件作品虐待动物。当时我们沟通的是将猫打了麻醉剂放在角落里,但他放在床上,还安排了摄像机拍摄,这就不是微干预了,而是非常强烈的干预。后来我也和这位艺术家谈过,这种方式可能不太好。这也不可避免,每个艺术家都想借助平台做些自己的事。但总体上讲还是挺满意的,达到了预想的效果。

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ARTINFO:“Forget art”接下来有些什么计划?


马永峰:明年要做一个跑步的项目。我对白色立方空间中的展览没有什么兴趣了,这种展览人人都可以策划。我明年准备策划的项目邀请15-25名艺术家跑1万米,这对所有的艺术家都是体力考验。艺术家都很懒,每天睡到12点。这个项目要求参与者在跑之前想一个方案或作品,然后开始跑,可能跑到一半根本就不想任何事了,跑到最后体力耗尽,任何想法都没有了,只想要一杯水,这时我要看看你还能做什么。这个项目可能就叫“跑过1万米后你还能做什么?”,最后会通过一个记录片制作团队制作一部极简的电影,进入电影的渠道,而不是通过展览。跑之后会立刻给你来一个访谈,可能你的回答与跑之前的想法完全不同。艺术家可以选择自己跑的地点,在商场、山上、树林、鸟巢、高速公路或是自己家里。

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ARTINFO:我在北京搬过很多次家,要是我去跑就把每个住过的地方都路过一遍。


马永峰:这个想法很观念!我也考虑在每个参与者衔接的时候也有个创作的过程,也就是如何传递这种观念,一个艺术家跑完1万米,会把自己的某个东西传给下一个艺术家。“传递”也是很有意思的观念。现在只有个大致的架构,具体细节我还在思考。

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ARTINFO:本来下一个问题是想问项目做久了之后会不会形成对空间“微干预”的固定模式或惯性,但听到跑步这个计划,这个问题也没必要问了。


马永峰:“Forget art”的每个项目和前一个都完全不同,你永远不会预料到我们接下来做什么。我们倡导一种流动性和游击性。“干预”不局限于对空间的干预,可能是对情境,或是对事件,一种可扩展、可持续的模式,而不是现在那种剥夺式的发展模式。我们不是一个固定的团体,没有固定的人员,没有固定的空间,也没有固定的思路。我只是一个协调人。

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ARTINFO:“Forget art”的资金来源是怎样的?


马永峰:有时候会有项目赞助,“游击剧场”有聚敞艺术中心提供了投影仪和小画册的资助。“龙泉洗浴”不需要太多资金,3、4千块钱就可以了,我不想打任何一个画廊的名义在里面,做得非常独立,没要任何赞助。大声展上的“物体吞吐机”有一些交通费等方面的基本赞助。

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ARTINFO:你觉得艺术对生活有用吗?


马永峰:确切讲没有任何价值。英国艺术家马丁·克瑞德曾说:“整个世界+作品=整个世界”,这样说的话,“整个生活+作品=整个生活”。艺术与生活是完全联系在一起的,人们看到的不是作品,而应该是你整套的生活价值观,迥异于别人的价值观是你有魅力的地方。所以艺术有时并不重要,艺术背后的东西很重要。我的态度也经历了很大改变,以前我还是想创作一件好作品,但现在我会想为什么要创作一件好作品?创作一件好作品的观念是这个艺术界灌输给你的,你想的其实是能不能被艺术界承认,作品卖出去几件,价值观都树立好了。这可能是一个艺术的阴谋或陷阱。真正的艺术家要随时有这种警惕感,将自己与这陷阱隔离,沿着自己本质的思路去思考。

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ARTINFO:你个人的创作与“forget art”的关系是怎样的?


马永峰:有千丝万缕的关系。我的作品现在基本上是三个方面混合在一起。一个方面的微干预。还有一个方面可称作“以情境为基础的创作”,我曾做过一个作品是在街上与一个陌生人谈话,谈了5、6分钟,用摄像机偷拍下来。过了一年我找到这个人,请他吃饭,问他还记得和我在街上说过一段话吗,他早就忘了。我说这些话我都打印出来了,我们能不能在吃饭前在相同的地点、那个时间,把这些话再重复一遍?后来他费了很大劲把这一两页的“台词”记住,两个人在街上像戏剧排练一样把这些话又说了一遍。都是些没什么意义的话,比如“修水管”、“去哪儿”一类的,这人也不是艺术家,具体是个干嘛的我也搞不清,我们就是在一个村儿住着。我通过这作品探讨一个情境的问题、时间和记忆的关系的问题。还有一个方面就是极少主义的创作,比如这次在大声展的“物体吞吐机”中展出的就是向极少主义致敬的作品。其中有反射,这个霓虹灯半圆是真实的,另一个是虚假的,就像齐泽克用“欢迎来到真实的沙漠”来阐释《骇客帝国》。这个“反射圆”是不是真实的?人们感到很奇妙,钻进这个“圆”之后感到更奇妙:一个圈围绕着你,中间断了一点,这个断点在提示你去思考这是真实还是虚拟。整个作品很极简,但让你感到其中有很多东西,目前我倾向于创作这种作品,尽量不去说太多东西。

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ARTINFO:你早期的影像作品给人很深刻的印象,现在还做影像吗?


马永峰:做啊。我最早的影像作品是将6条金鱼放在洗衣机里,在纽约P.S.1展过,在德国也展过,每次都会上报纸头条。那是我进入艺术圈的第一个作品,算是强势进入。但后来我反思觉得这作品太过了。我当时生活在深圳,环境就是那样,我想用这表达我的生活状态,很直接。也有动物保护主义者反对这件作品,但西方人解读认为这是政治,后来以色列双年展还采用了这件作品,以色列人觉得耶路撒冷就是这样的地方,在一个耶路撒冷的老监狱中做了一个展览,以前是最早的关押犹太人的地方,现在变成了一个监狱博物馆。

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ARTINFO:你现在每天创作吗?


马永峰:没法说是创作,其实所有创作都是生活的副作用。就像吃药产生的副作用,治疗的作用不是创作,治疗的作用太功能性了,而艺术不是功能性的,是副作用。所以创作不能先入为主,认为“我在创作”。我想做那个跑步项目,是因为生活太懒散。晚上工作到3、4点,中午11、12点起床。需要重整旗鼓,好好锻炼身体。

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ARTINFO:“工作”指的就是创作作品?


马永峰:并不是创作作品,只是生活过程,上网,干其他事儿,找资料,上微博,或是画些草图。真正创作的作品都是很偶然的,比如在散步或者和别人聊天的过程中想出来的。创作的过程不用太长时间,真正重要的是生活的过程。

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ARTINFO:能否谈谈对你影响较大的艺术家和哲学家?


马永峰:先说哲学家吧,我读的比较少,西方的理论过于艰涩,我读不下去。我觉得对我影响比较大的有《金刚经》和禅宗的一些书,还有法国哲学家波德里亚提出关于真实和虚拟的概念我觉得挺重要的。相比西方的哲学我更喜欢东方的思想方式。我也喜欢读《庄子》,可能是一小部分吧,关于“逍遥”的状态的一些东西。至于艺术家,我喜欢的也很多都是受东方影响的艺术家,比如马丁·克瑞德,冈萨雷斯,曼佐尼,伊夫·克莱因等人。我不太喜欢和社会挂钩的艺术家,比如博伊斯,当然也好,能够推动社会运动,艾未未也是这种艺术家,但我倾向于个人内心体验的艺术。

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ARTINFO:但你是否觉得博伊斯在卡塞尔号召人们种下7000棵橡树也是一种干预?这与你的艺术理念是否有相似之处?


马永峰:相似之处不在这里,博伊斯这件作品是与德国历史有关的。博伊斯曾是纳粹空军,这作品有纳粹思想在背后,7000课橡树与希特勒的某种计划有关,那种宏大的德意志计划,具体的我忘了,你回去查一下就知道了。他的干预很大,在卡塞尔的美术馆前,属于一种国家意志的干预。而我倾向于一种完全个人式的干预,而不是卷进一些党派或意识形态的冲突。而是杜尚、曼佐尼、伊夫·克莱因这种艺术家对东方思想的提炼及与西方的结合。毕竟我们的思考方式和西方的线性发展是不一样的,我们想问题可能是直觉式的、体验式的,西方人可能是逻辑式的、直线式的。我们则是多点,蜘蛛网似的、迷宫似的思考。

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ARTINFO:对你而言“信息”重要吗?


马永峰:信息其实一点都不重要,网络信息越发达,你所得到的信息越少,每个人要建立自己的防火墙,屏蔽没用的信息。当然我是反对那种国家式的屏蔽的,网络应该是完全的自由状态。但一个人面对的信息空间是有限的,你一定要建立某种信息差,让自己的信息越来越少,这就是为什么Google有Reader或RSS功能,这是最重要的功能,形成你所感兴趣的Group、信息群或信息社区,把和你无关的信息都屏蔽掉,虽然它是自由的状态。在Twitter,Facebook或Web 2.0里面,你要建立自己的信息圈,信息足够你用就行了。我4、5年来不看报纸、杂志、电视、新闻也不看,它们是不真实的,就像波德里亚所说,都是和我没有关系的。我唯一的信息来源就是偶尔上网,门户网我也不去看。艺术圈的新闻也是这样,新展览我也不怎么关注。

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ARTINFO:阅读呢?


马永峰:阅读会像杠杆一样撬动你的新思路,但过度的阅读也会导致对世界的体验越来越微弱。每年读两三本书就可以了。过度的阅读会导致人知识分子化,你感觉获得了很多知识,其实你失去了很多东西,一样的。我尽量把自己打入信息的原始时代,把自己放空,对信息流的摄入减到最低。或许让自己无所事事,将自己囚禁在信息牢房里面,不知道外面发生什么会更好,“不知有汉,无论魏晋”的状态我还蛮羡慕的。

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ARTINFO:而现在许多当代艺术家经常以社会事件为题材。


马永峰:这涉及到对社会事件的提炼,我也是有政治态度的,对自由、民主价值的普遍尊重。但每个艺术家呈现的方式不一样。艺术家必须通过自己的过滤将其转化成有意思的形式。不能说的太多,让人看了还是原来那个社会事件就没意思了。我并不关注社会事件,我觉得可能微小的运动更有意思。“微干预”是我从一本叫《微趋势(Microtrends)》的书中想出来的,这本书从很多社会发展的微趋势来看出未来的社会层次,比如婚姻,可能未来就没有婚姻了,婚姻是关于资本主义的财产观念,并不是关于个人自由的,现在很多人都选择不结婚,未来婚姻也可能呈现出很多人在一起的情况。我觉得社会应该允许多元模式存在,这只是一方面。


28 八月


20 八月

http://blog.escdotdot.com/2010/08/20/forget-art-interview-with-ma-yongfeng/

from i don’t know, Edward Sanderson’s blog

forget art_Interview with Ma Yongfeng PDF file download


forget art is a series of projects distinguished by their intangibility, influenced by Minimal and Conceptual practices. Although the group is fluid, Ma Yongfeng is perhaps the most visible organizer and I sat down with him recently to discuss what it meant to “forget art” and how their forthcoming show in a public bathroom in Caochangdi would manifest itself given their concern to leave no trace.


Edward Sanderson: Can you start by explaining what forget art is and what your role in it is?

MYF: Actually, I think I’ll begin with the term “alternative”, I think this term has a long history. Some people use “independent”, some use “alternative”, but whatever they use it is because they think the museum space and gallery space cannot satisfy a demand for interesting projects. So I started with this idea for the project, because I think it is time to choose another way.

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I got my original inspiration from the Arte Povera movement in Italy, Fluxus in Germany, and the American Minimal Art movement, all of which happened around the 1970s, as well as some artists from the Gutai Group in Japan. These are some very interesting works, some very interesting artists, they were very influential with me.

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ES: And Mono-ha?

MYF: Yes, Mono-ha, but before Mono-Ha there is the Gutai Group after the 50’s. They were doing what they called “mobile art”.

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Looking at recent events, I’ve I found a very interesting thing. Since the mid-90s contemporary art in the West has been booming in America and Europe, and I think this is connected with the rise of the Biennales. So since the 90s there has been a tendency for people to make these big works and big installations, and film and video projections. So everything becomes luxurious, and huge, and spectacular – people want to make wonderful and fantastic visual effects.

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But I think my starting points and influences are very interesting in this context, because Arte Povera comes out of the restrictions after World War Two. My approach also gets inspiration from Jerzy Grotowski’s “Poor Theatre” – it’s like people thought: “Oh, [art] has too many symbols, there’s too much decoration in theatre and art, so we need to delete something. We need to be poor, to use simple materials like stone, trees or iron, the basics, materials from everyday life to make interesting statements.

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For me it’s a cycle, like in the fashion industry, every twenty or thirty years fashions come and go, and if everything gets bigger and bigger, then at some point everything will collapse. As Lao Zi said, “So it is that some things are increased by being diminished, and others are diminished by being increased.”[1]

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Maybe the Millennium served for people to rethink their approach. I found many young artists in Beijing, Berlin and New York starting to make smaller works. These small works are not very high profile but part of their life and their soul, and not just to make objects but to make small, simple things, from your heart.

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So last year we introduced and shared ideas about Arte Povera, Fluxus and Conceptual Art, Minimal Art from the 70s, with some friends. I think they are still provocative, still very strong ideas.

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ES: Do you think it has a particularly strong effect in China?

MYF: Yes, they understand it totally. Because the young artists can accept anything and have no memory of revolution, they have no memory of the Cultural Revolution. Even I am not interested in any kind of work about revolution. I just care about my life because I was born after the 70s.

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ES: You think you’re typical?

MYF: Yes. But I think it’s not just about bringing the ideas over or copying them, it’s the mixture. You see these kind of works, you get inspiration from them, and you have your life experience and art practice – because you come from China maybe you have some additional input from local philosophy, for instance Mono-ha was a mixture of Minimal Art and Zen philosophy. So we have this kind of tradition, from Laozi and Zhuangzi, the most important thing is not just to read their books but to mix their ideas with some interesting forms, that’s what artists should do. That’s the artists’ work.

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ES: Talking generally, not just about forget art, but about Beijing and alternative practices. Is there a lot going on at the moment? Do you think Beijing is particularly active right now?

MYF: I think Beijing and Shanghai are still the most important places for the contemporary art scene in China. You know, in China we have a long history of philosophy. It’s a kind of utilitarian methodology, very realistic. Confucianism told you to have respect for your parents, and to study very hard to get an official post (or maybe you can use bribery or something!). It’s very realistic, I would say. I think that 90% of people are very realistic in this way and over the 2000 years since the Spring and Autumn periods, we also have had a lot of philosophers, this has been a real cultural blooming for China, much like in the West with the Roman period, Plato, etc.

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But after the 2000 years up to the Qing Dynasty, since then there has been a totalitarian way of thinking. So people here now have a kind of ideology that they all use the same kind of things to think about the world. We call it a “herd mentality”, we think like we are in the herd, we think we are all in one boat, we share the same ideas, and we can’t have independence and personal experience. You have to belong to the collective; you have got this collective memory, much like during the Cultural Revolution. But now people have more and more freedom, and the young people—especially the young artists who were born in the 1980’s—are more free in their thinking, and have more personal experience in their works. I think it’s a good start.

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And also another point, from 2006 until now there has been a lot of “blind speculation” amongst the art people here. They think: “Oh, it’s a good time for art and we have to push things to the peak, so we can get more money”. There are no real non-profit groups or organisations here, not really. In Beijing, there was Universal Studios [now Boers-Li Gallery], and Platform China, Long March Space. 5 years ago they would call themselves non-profit organisations – they were doing some alternative projects as a result. But after two or three years they became more and more commercial. And that’s the situation, that’s the phenomenon, a very common phenomenon [in China], because there are no systems of foundations or rich people creating contemporary art funds to support this kind of art scene. So most of the galleries, the non-profit organisations, can’t afford to carry on, and have to sell some works. Say they want to do video or new media shows, but they have to support themselves by selling artworks.

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And there are also some other things going on, like curators and writers setting up alternative spaces in China. Like the Arrow Factory – they use a street shop as a small space to do shows. I think it is very connected with local community – they need their context, and this is their concept. But I think it’s not really what the young artists want. I think we need things that are even more free. We don’t want any limits, sometimes we don’t even need a space. If you have got a space you have some limitations, and we don’t want that. You do get some interesting projects [in gallery spaces] but it’s still a very traditional way of working. I think that in the art world, people have to think about this, how to get rid of this burden. We think that normal life is art, but we try not to use that phrase, it’s a very old phrase – like the statement “trying to blur the boundary between art and life”. It’s such an old-fashioned sentiment. We just want life submerged into life, concept submerged into the concept. Things in things.

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ES: So they have a closer connection, or no division at all, you just try to bring them all together?

MYF: Yes. To give you an example, I think spitting here in China is very normal, so I spat in the street, but I have to wait for it to dry out – that’s a kind of responsibility I have taken. I have to wait for thirty-five minutes or so for when it becomes dry and then I leave. So I think people will ask “What’s the line between art and work?” We don’t call it “artwork”, we call it life itself. But we have to include that wait! Someone asked, why don’t you just piss in the street? [laughs] And wait for that to dry! But that’s too big for me! Because with forget art we try to do something like life itself – like normal things. People see what you are doing and they think, “oh, nothing happening!” Maybe the spitting is over in one second, but you have to spend 35 minutes waiting: one second and 35 minutes. You have to devote yourself, be responsible for this. Then people don’t say it’s a strange thing – because you are an artist it is expected that you do strange, weird, bizarre things, different from life – but we just want to be normal. We don’t transcend the forms of life, we use them as material, that’s all.

I know there are currently some artists in groups, like Company and some other new groups. They are totally different from the groups in the 80s like the New Measurement Group. The New Measurement Group is more like a group[2], they are doing something together. But now some artists initiate groups and they are very loosely connected. I mean sometimes they are doing something together, but sometimes they are doing very different work.

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ES: So there’s not a very distinct group or style?

MYF: Yes, there’s no “brand” like that. They can do group projects, but when one artist is doing a project individually they are working very differently, they have their own experience. So I think they are more open than the earlier groups. Sometimes they are doing projects but sometimes they are doing their works. That’s quite interesting.

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ES: What age group are they? Are they 90s generation? Are they very young?

MYF: 80s, most of them are born in the 80s. Like forget art, we are not really a “group”, this is our “orbit”. Maybe some artists enter into our orbit, to a point where we will do something together. Although it’s not a group or an organisation, sometimes I’m in charge of organisation – I’m the service man to do things! Because you have to have some people to manage, you can’t forget anything! That’s the issue, if you remember – do something about forget art! [laughs] And if you forget it, ok forget it! So that’s quite interesting.

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Because we’re not curators, or writers, or some art-world related people making an organisation. We are not doing something like Open House who rented a place and brought in video or set up an installation. I think this is still too much. Of course artists have different ideas but if I used that space then maybe there will be several artists doing something invisible and then we leave. So we want another option, not like a show or an alternative exhibition. I think in a gallery or a museum space you can do a show, that’s ok, everybody likes that. You add it to your CV, that’s good. But if we use another space, it’ll be in a “disastrous” way. But the disaster is not a criticism, we are very low profile, it’s another way of disaster, not a very visible disaster – not like an earthquake, but something from your heart. Say if you’ve separated from your girlfriend, maybe you will be heartbroken. Maybe you can’t see it, but it’s heartbroken. We don’t need a volcanic eruption, we need these heartbroken things, on the inside [laughs]. That’s the different way in which we think about the term “alternative”.

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ES: Do you see yourself as an organiser? A curator? How do you see yourself within forget art?

MYF: I’m basically an artist; I don’t see myself as a curator. Sometimes artists have a great concept about what they want to do, and the curator or the critic follows on from that. Or sometimes the curator is ahead of the artist. But most of the time they are about the theory and not about practice. But it is possible for artists to make works that combine the two.

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ES: How has forget art developed? Is it the same group of artists that you were talking to last year when you first mentioned the idea to me?

MYF: We are very open. I’m not going to use the word “organisation” because it’s not an organisation, so I call it an independent “orbit”. We have our independent activities. We are all different. Some people want to make artworks, some are maybe saying they don’t want to make artworks. I think we’re doing something different, but because the word “different” is so overused it’s difficult to use it.

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ES: Much like the word “alternative”?

MYF: Well we do use that word, but actually we’re not an alternative organisation because there are no real group members. Every time, we cooperate with different artists, we have no space to show in, we are doing things in any kind of space or location. I mean, sometimes we do things in the street – street intervention work, sometimes we are working in special spaces, like the public bathrooms we are using for the next show, maybe after that we do something in a museum space? If people ask, “how can you use a museum space?” we don’t say something like “oh, we’ll try to redefine the attributes of the original space” – we will actually try to keep these. For example, MOMA is a museum space. They show Andy Warhol there – for instance famous works like the Brillo Boxes. Maybe we’d doing something to “reverse” the Brillo Box, about the Brillo Box form but paint it white, so it looks like a very Minimal box. I’ll bring that box and put it in the MOMA space (but of course security will stop me). So we’re trying to use this action as a conversation, a dialogue, with Andy Warhol. But we’re not trying to resist Pop Art or consumerism, we’re not interested in anything about demonstration or resistance. We’re just like a filter, or transformer. We accept anything – Pop Art goes through our filter, and becomes Minimalism!

ES: You talk about “Urban Nomadic Tactics” on the forget art website, an idea of movement in your activity, which seems to be similar to a “guerrilla” attitude as you alluded to when you talked about the Brillo Boxes.

MYF: Yes, we’re not so much about setting up in one place. In society, there is a long history of nomadism and there are a lot of people living this kind of nomadic life in China, moving from one city to another. So people have this form of life. That’s also why we don’t need any space – because we “forget art”, why do we need any space to do this? You don’t need that, you can “forget art” in any kind of location!

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We are free. We are in a situation, or a time after time, and a space after space. We have time to do this. We don’t need space to show works, we don’t rely on the traditional institutional space – we should get rid of this kind of thing.

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And these are not “events”. We use terms like “situation”. An “object” is just this thing [indicates a cup], but if we draw a circle around it, it’s an expanded object, developed, and it becomes a situation. But we don’t want it to become bigger and bigger, we’re just in the middle, in-between. We want this kind of in-between situation – like the act of talking with people.

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ES: Right, there’s a piece where you are talking to someone, and then coming back again a year later to the same place.

MYF: Yes. Because that’s about my experience, but it’s also everybody’s experience.

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People have this kind of experience, but they forget it, so last year I made a piece about this kind of situation. It’s not a performance – it’s not meant to be very intentional, or pretentious, it’s just a talk in the street with a stranger. Because I know nothing about him I talk about something I’ve broken – where can I repair it? The conversation is about three minutes long, and I recorded it (although he doesn’t know that). After one year, I call and ask him: “Do you remember we had a conversation on this day last year?” He can’t remember, of course. I say, “OK, come here again and I will get you dinner.” So he is interested in the dinner and will come. I give him the words on a piece of paper and tell him we have to remember the event, we have to do something like a rehearsal (an idea from Poor Theatre), and then we do it very seriously! We speak it again at the same time, the same moment, in the same location.

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I think it is interesting because nobody cares about it, they think, “oh, it’s just two people talking in the street, it’s a very normal thing”, but I think the most important thing is that time has changed something.

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ES: On the website you talk about “sometimes you switch between art and non-art”? How do you see that working?

MYF: You know, we don’t want to stay in art, it’s a bit boring to do that. Those artists that want to make “good” works and attend the big Biennales, or some show in UCCA – that’s quite wearying! The people who set up the exhibitions like that are people who make big things, these big nothings. Now there are the Yes Men and Wild Boys doing some crazy things, and the young artists in China like them very much.

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ES: Do you think Chinese artists, Asian artists, are particularly interested in these sorts of things now?

MYF: Yes, some artists like the Shuang Fei group from Hangzhou, they are doing something like this.

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But forget art is not trying to do that. We want an aesthetic of the low profile, or the aesthetic of the “ignore us”. With forget art we are still in the context of art, but we need that contradiction, that confrontation – confrontation with the art world and the artworks. For example, once I brought a battery charger into a museum space. I found the walls there all hung with big paintings and I thought maybe I can do something with this situation? So I brought my video camera charger and put it amongst the art – and people didn’t notice it. After one week, people come back and the charger is still there – they don’t care about that, maybe they think it’s some staff working in that area. I think it’s kind of an ignorance—or it’s nothing—but I do think it’s connected to that space, although you can’t see it, there’s some energy in there, some transmission inside. Maybe it will consume several volts of electricity, but people won’t notice that.

I don’t think I had seen Ceal Floyer’s work before I made this work, but when I saw her till receipt, I thought it was so subtle and minimal and has this reference to Robert Ryman – I thought it was beautiful, very beautiful. But people who see the receipt at first can’t understand it fully, but it develops.

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ES: I know you also like Martin Creed. For instance his lights turned on and off, those kind of pieces that he does – really, really subtle, to the point of disappearing.

MYF: Yes, I like him very much. But you know, although it’s a Western artist’s work, from England, I think it’s referring to Eastern thought and philosophy, especially the Jingangjing (The Diamond Sutra) – a very famous Buddhist text. In this text the Buddha (the Buddhist sutra) talks about the Void and Emptiness, how you can feel the Void and Emptiness in everyday life. If you see this Void you won’t see anything, but just the name of this thing that you see. When you first read this book you may be confused – if you see it, actually you will not see it, it’s just the name that you see. There are a lot of conversations like that in the text. So – well it makes me very confused! This way to see the world, I think is an alternative way. Three thousand years ago there is this wisdom about the world, but people still don’t understand it today. So that’s an idea behind forget art, that all the artists will make something to deal with this kind of concept.

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In 2008 I was staying in Vermont on a residency with several other artists. The organisers wanted us to do some work for an open studio. Because the place where we stayed was very high in the mountains, there was a lot of snow. So I didn’t want to do any works I just want to play! But they say “Tomorrow we are going to have an open studio. What kind of thing are you doing?” I haven’t got any idea! But that pushed me to think about what I do. I want to play with snow, so why don’t I make some snow toilet paper? So I use a can and push some snow inside and make it very solid. After one night, the snow shrinks slightly and can drop out of the can and then I cut a hole through it. So it’s like a toilet paper roll, almost the same size. I put it on the table and when people come to see me, they ask “Well, where are your things?” “That’s it!” I say to them, “you can use it!” and they laugh! So I think that was clever and humorous – people liked it and that’s good, some kids liked it and that’s also good. I think with good works kids and old people like it.

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ES: And then this piece melts away eventually?

MYF: Yes, after four hours it melts, and becomes nothing, it becomes emptiness. So it’s a contrast between the inside and the outside. The snow and the form, and after several hours it will disappear.

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My point is I have to do something with nothing. I don’t want people to buy my things, because many things you can’t buy in life. Like love! I mean love needs time – to know a girl and have that feeling, maybe over one year, maybe two years. And you can’t buy that. Actually Capitalism tries to make everything become a commodity, that’s not acceptable to me, it’s unfair to the work. That’s also an idea behind forget art.

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ES: How do you see forget art developing? Will you carry on doing situations? Will you do more shows, like the one coming up? Or is it a thing which is very open?

MYF: Yes, it’s very open. We cooperate with different artists. Every time maybe we put a lot of energy into the intangible works, like the situations. The situation is intangible, like those of the artist Tino Sehgal, it’s just a situation. We can’t call it a performance, because a performance is a traditional work. ”Live work” is ok, but situation is better. It’s like a film still from a film, from cinema, of people talking or people doing something, or falling in love, or people doing an exhibition – this is all material for us.

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Because we try to “forget” art we use every detail of this institution – like curatorial practice, the art fair, art gallery, arts management. We can use everything as material to do something related to art, or unrelated to art. As an example, one of my friends is trying to see some show, a big show in a museum – he calls this the work. Every afternoon he goes there to see a big painting for two hours, and he says, “I’m doing the work to see the work”. That’s ok, I think it’s no problem. He did another work where he pays for three months of traditional Chinese music lessons, on the erhu. And then he performs in the gallery space for the visitors. That’s involving several layers of social experience. Yes, I think with these situation-based works, and you have to use a lot of time to do them.

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ES: You now have a situation, a show coming up. Why have you now chosen to somehow formalise forget art, to have a proper show?

MYF: I think if you want to do something new, it’s difficult, probably people have done that. But I think if we just make a new start it’s ok. A new start means we choose a place, in this case it’s a public bathroom in the village, not very clean or tidy, just a specific environment that’s perhaps not very popular, and we just use it for one day. We don’t try and change anything about this environment. We have six or seven different spaces, female rooms, male rooms. I told all the artists: don’t try to change anything about the space, just the details or some part of it, and do some small interventions. When the audience come into this place maybe they can’t see any works, we just want the public bathroom to still be the bathroom, we don’t want to change a lot. We think if you want to do that, use a gallery space, use a museum, you can do fantastic things! You can use projections, you can do big installations. But here, we don’t want to change anything. We just use very small ideas to change something inside and people may not notice at all! That’s our motivation.

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ES: So the changes may look completely normal? But there’s still changes taking place?

MYF: Right now, I can’t say that 100% of the things are like that, but I think if we have 70% or 80% it will be ok, because everything is not so progressed yet. You also have to compromise with the artists. With some artists you have to have a long talk with them, to help them get the theme.

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ES: So, who are these artists?

MYF: Most of them are young artists, born after the 80’s, very young, very active and very dynamic – they have many good ideas. They want to try the new things and new forms, new ideas. Sometimes they really surprise you. So I like to cooperate with them.

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ES: And when is the show?

MYF: September 6.

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Ma Yongfeng was interviewed by Edward Sanderson (CPU:PRO) at the The Cave Café, 798 Art District, Beijing, on 29 July 2010. Interview edited by Edward Sanderson.

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[1] From Chapter 42, Tao Te Ching of Lao Zi.

[2] Xin Kedu 1989–95