云南当代艺术座谈暨罗菲新书《从艺术出发》发布会

to start from art 400

云南当代艺术座谈暨罗菲新书《从艺术出发》发布会

TCG诺地卡画廊总监、策展人罗菲先生新书《从艺术出发》由上海三联书店正式出版,本书以中国云南近十年来的当代艺术状况为例,呈现艺术与思想的第一现场。作者作为活跃的青年策展人兼艺术家,将判断艺术的直觉与知识、价值维度、社会状况以及艺术家的个人故事构建在一起,呈现出鲜活而具有锐度的艺术现场。全书被翻译为英文,为西方读者了解中国社会及艺术近十年来的状况,提供了重要文献。
TCG诺地卡将于2014年10月10日晚上7点30分举办专题座谈,讨论2001年昆明创库之后的云南当代艺术状况,同时举办新书发布会和签售活动,活动将以中英文双语方式进行。我们诚挚地邀请大家前来参与讨论与分享,感谢!

时间:2014年10月10日 19:30
地点:昆明西坝路101号创库艺术区,TCG诺地卡画廊
特邀主持:薛滔
主办:TCG诺地卡画廊
鸣谢:上海三联书店、大象书店、菠萝蜜艺术小组、昆明日报、掌上春城、艺术个案、彩龙社区人文云南板块、生活新报、都市时报、云南信息报、春城晚报、精品消费报、云南周刊、昆明电视台盛世典藏栏目

内容简介
本书以中国云南近十年来的当代艺术状况为例,呈现艺术与思想的第一现场。本书分作五个单元:转变中的风景、作为先知的艺术家、过去与现在、本土实验、以艺术筑桥。分别讨论风景艺术在当代的可能性、艺术家的身份与使命、现实变迁对艺术家的影响、中国云南本土艺术状况以及两个国际交流项目的工作日志。作者作为活跃的青年策展人兼艺术家,将判断艺术的直觉与知识、价值维度、社会状况以及艺术家的个人故事构建在一起,呈现出鲜活而具有锐度的艺术现场。全书被翻译为英文,为西方读者了解中国社会及艺术近十年来的状况,提供了重要文献。

作者简介
罗菲:策展人,艺术评论家,艺术家。1982年生于重庆,目前生活和工作于昆明。2004年毕业于云南艺术学院美术学院版画系。2002年至今主要从事以行为艺术、录像等形式为主的观念艺术创作,作品在国内外展出。2005年发起并策划“江湖”艺术项目,该项目获得较大关注。2007年至今在昆明TCG诺地卡文化中心担任画廊总监,从事策划展览和众多国际跨文化交流项目。同时写作艺术评论、艺术家访谈,在各类媒体平台上发表。罗菲在艺术界致力于发展地方性当代艺术的独特性,关注当代艺术中的精神性内涵,为中国当代艺术在全球化环境中的协作与对话搭建桥梁。

出版信息
书名 / 从艺术出发——中国当代艺术随笔与访谈
著者 / 罗 菲 (www.luofei.org)
翻译 / 吕元兮(美)、谢飞(美)、马睿奇(美)、肖笛鸣、周巧、李建波、熊文靖
出版策划 / TCG诺地卡文化中心 (www.tcgnordica.com)
出版发行 / 上海三联书店
责任编辑 / 钱震华
设计 / TCG诺地卡文化中心
印刷 / 上海迷尔印务有限公司
版次 / 2014年8月第1版
印次 / 2014年8月第1次印刷
开本 / 700×1000 1/16
字数 / 280千字
印张 / 32
书号 / ISBN 9787542648624
定价 / 78.00元

推荐语
在这本双语的《从艺术出发》中,罗菲体悟圣言、重建艺术伦理、聆听良知关于艺术与艺术家的感动,将中外艺术家的故事熔铸在其先知般的角色认定与艺术现象的批评直觉中。该书记录了中国云南近十年来的当代艺术的发生,是一部在全球化视野下的地方艺术史,有文献,有思想,更有立场,还有一幕幕展览、创作的现场的原初叙述。如果一年当中只读一部微艺术史,你就应当《从艺术出发》。
——查常平博士(批评家、圣经学者,《人文艺术》主编,成都)

通过他自己的作品以及在TCG诺地卡的工作,罗菲成为了一个重要的建桥者,联通了不同的艺术家,也连接了艺术和社会,他为我们展开了对艺术、信仰和社会的关注与反思。
——杨富雷博士(哥德堡大学汉学副教授,瑞典汉学博士)

在艺术界,已经有很多人和画廊对艺术品的各类价格了然于胸,然而对其价值却毫无所知。罗菲等艺术家开辟了一种区别于资本主导模式或国家主导模式的可能性,这被侯瀚如称作为“第三条道路”。
——安德士•古斯塔夫松(TCG诺地卡前任项目总监,瑞典)

“To Start from Art” Book Release at TCG Nordica

TCG Nordica gallery curator Luo Fei’s new book “To Start from Art” has released by Shanghai Joint Publishing. This book uses examples from the past decade of contemporary art in Yunnan Province to demonstrate developments in Chinese art and ideas. An active young curator and artist, the author weaves together assessments of the artistic value of various works, descriptions of their social context, and artists’ personal stories to paint a portrait of a vibrant and fresh art scene. The book has been translated in its entirety into English, making it an important resource for Western readers seeking a deeper understanding of Chinese society and arts over the past ten years.

The book release event will be hold at 19:30 on Oct 10 at TCG Nordica Gallery. Related to the release event, TCG Nordica will arrange a discussion about how contemporary art has developed in Yunnan since 2000 when Chuangku and TCG Nordica were established in town. The whole event will be in Chinese and English.
Opportunity for book signing.

Time: 19:30, Oct 10th 2014
Venue: TCG Nordica, xibalu 101, Kunming
Guest host: Xue Tao

To Start from Art Essays and Interviews on Chinese Contemporary Art

Author: Luo Fei
Translated by Becky Davis(US), Jeff Crosby(US), R. Orion Martin(US), Xiao Diming(CN), Zhou Qiao(CN), Li Jianbo(CN), Xiong Wenjing(CN)
Publication Planning TCG Nordica Culture Center (www.tcgnordica.com)
Published by Shanghai Joint Publishing Co.Ltd
Executive Editor: Qian Zhenhua
Book Design: TCG Nordica Culture Center
Copyright: Authors (texts) and artists (pictures)
ISBN: 9787542648624
Price: 78RMB (oversea purchase please contact with info@tcgnordica.com)

About Author
Luo Fei is a curator, art critic and artist born in 1982 in Chongqing who currently lives and works in Kunming. He graduated in 2004 from the Fine Arts College of Yunnan Arts University, where he majored in printmaking. Since 2002, he has been primarily engaged in the creation of performance art, video works, and other forms of conceptual art, exhibiting both within China and abroad. In 2005, he planned and initiated the art project “Jianghu,” which received much national attention. Luo Fei has been Gallery Director of TCG Nordica Cultural Center in Kunming since 2007, where he curates and organizes numerous international exhibitions and cross-cultural projects. He also contributes art reviews and artist interviews to various media platforms. Paying particular attention to the spiritual connotations of works, Luo Fei has dedicated himself to the description of what makes local Chinese contemporary art scenes unique within international greater art landscape, building bridges for dialogue and collaboration in the Chinese contemporary art field in an increasingly globalized world.

Book Introduction
This book uses examples from the past decade of contemporary art in Yunnan Province to demonstrate developments in Chinese art and ideas. It is divided into five sections: “Landscape in Transition”, “Artist as Prophet”, “Past and Present”, “Local Experiments” and “Using Art to Build Bridges”. Topics for each section include, respectively, discussions of the possibility of landscape art in the contemporary era, the mission and identity of the artist, the impact of changing real life circumstances on artists, the local Yunnan art scene, and daily chronicles of two international exchange programs. An active young curator and artist, the author weaves together assessments of the artistic value of various works, descriptions of their social context, and artists’ personal stories to paint a portrait of a vibrant and fresh art scene. The book has been translated in its entirety into English, making it an important resource for Western readers seeking a deeper understanding of Chinese society and arts over the past ten years.

“In this bilingual book To Start from Art, Luo Fei grasps the Word, rebuilds artistic morals, and listens to his conscience about what moves art and artists, forging the stories of Chinese and international artists into his view of the artist’s prophetic role and his critical insight into artistic phenomena. The book records the contemporary art events of Yunnan over the past decade, and stands as a local art history with global vision, complete with documents, ideas, views and original accounts of many exhibitions and scenes of creation. If you only read one art micro-history this year, it should be To Start from Art.”
——Dr. Zha Changping
Critic, Biblical Scholar, Chief-editor of Journal for Humanities and Art, Chengdu

“Through his own work and his work with TCG Nordica, Luo Fei is an important bridge builder between artists, between art and society, opening up for reflection on art, faith and social concerns.”
——Fredrik Fällman
Associate Professor of Chinese Studies; University of Gothenburg, Sweden

“The art scene already has so many people and galleries that know the price of everything, but the value of nothing. Luo Fei is one of those artists who opens up a space of what Hou Hanru would call a ‘third way’ — something different from the capitalist-dominated or state-dominated models.”
——Anders Gustafsson
Former Program Director of TCG Nordica Gallery, Sweden

Yunnan Contemporary Art within Relational Aesthetics

zhachangpingYunnan Contemporary Art within Relational Aesthetics
–Foreword to Luo Fei’s To Start from Art

Dr. ZhaChangping (Critic, Biblical Scholar, Chief-editor of Journal for Humanities and Art)

To date, the developmental history of Chinese contemporary art has gone through at least three phases. In 1993, the inclusion of thirteen Chinese artists in the Venice Biennale implied a shift in the circumstances of Chinese contemporary art from the passive reception of the West to active presentation. Meanwhile, five southwestern Chinese artists held the “China Experience” exhibition in Chengdu, marking the collective emergence of the inner, individual explorations of Chinese contemporary artists, subjectively bringing to an end the trend of imitating the artistic styles of the West from the fall of impressionism through modernism and postmodernism that had defined Chinese art since the ’85 New Wave①. In 1997, the pioneering artists in Chengdu were engaging in artistic creation in public spaces such as streets, alleys and libraries, using the forms of performance art, installation art and new media, culminating in the “Origin-Life” exhibition held at the historic Dujiangyan site. We have come to define this exhibition as the key point for Chinese contemporary art, because it was the first time that the state media organization CCTV covered an artistic event involving such forms as performance and installation art. In that same year, Wang Lin curated the “Urban Character Group Exhibition,” inviting artists from all over the country to take part in their own cities, with many of them choosing to use installation and performance art to express the problems on the minds of urban residents. In 2000, the emergence of the Loft Artist Community in Kunming and the 798 Artist Community in Beijing integrated independent artist studios with galleries and other exhibition spaces. These places would eventually develop into cultural communities that combined artistic creation, production, exhibition, dissemination and tourism. The third Shanghai Biennale opened with the title “Shanghai Spirit – A Special Modernity.” The government had officially accepted the “biennale” as a platform for the exhibition of avant-garde art. Since Chinese society as a whole is still in a period of transition from the age of power politics to the age of the capital economy, most of the biennales that have emerged across China still have the feel of the old “National Fine Arts Exhibition.” The artworks, heavily filtered for ideology, lack social critical content, and performance art, because of its uncontrollable spontaneity, has been shut out. In the essay Chinese Contemporary Art in a Transitional Era Luo Fei sums up the situation thusly, in 1990s “artists changed their focus from national thinking to individual experience, from revolutionary aesthetics to daily aesthetics. Their mission also turned from promoting truth, kindness and beauty to addressing social problems. From singing the praise of political figures to gazing intently at ordinary people. From the ‘Public Square’ to the home. From a political event to an unintended yawn. From the vague and general cultural sayings to a practical exploration of the possibilities of varied media.”②

So what, then, makes a true artist?

“Artists are essentially those individuals in the minority of the human race who never stop chasing the sun/the ideal, many of whom are eventually melted by the sun or perish of thirst on the road. The staff that they hold in their hands is art itself, which turns into a guidepost that encourages those that come behind them to continue their pursuit of the ideal.” He continues, “True artists live in this world, and don’t belong among the people of the world that the rest of us live in. They are caretakers who wander in all directions searching for dangers to the human spirit; they are destined to drift.”③

Rooted in the relationship between man and God, Luo Fei has compared the role of the artist to that of the prophet: “The artist begins to dig deeply where he stands, seeking out the root of his role.” Then, he says, “The prophet is interested in speaking the words of God; the artist would rather speak the words of art.” Moreover, “When artists use their works as a way to participate in public discourse, my duty is to enter into these works in a responsible manner. For example, I have to consider whether creating this work is in line with the rest of my artistic vision. I’ll say it again, artists should return to their role as priests. The priest is that person who stands between man and his fellow man, and between man and God.”④

He believes that there are four dimensions to the artist’s duties: “The artist as formal experimenter, the artist as guardian of the heart, the artist as one who cares about culture, the artist who gives voice to the people. These four dimensions form the core of contemporary art, with formal experimentation as the core within the core, in that it sets the artworks of one artist apart from those of other artists and other times, and bestows the other three dimensions with lasting vitality in time and space.”⑤

Luo Fei has such penetrating insights into the identity and duty of the artist because he himself is a true artist. He stirs “Dull roots with spring rain.”⑥

Even more, his book also contains narrative commentary on the “Jianghu” exhibition scene, but it is more of an allegory for the “jianghu nature” of Chinese contemporary art groups—he encourages artists to create original schemas of their own, but he is against artists diminishing their creativity in mechanical reproduction. He is not only a curator with a sharp eye, he is a critic with a strong sense of justice as well. Through Looking at the “Art Whore” Performance and Other Problems through the Lens of Art, Ethics and Faith, he points out that “When Cheng Li tore down ethics and created the possibility of keeping one’s distance from the divine, he in fact gave up on the possibility of faith, on the knowing of the Word, on his confidence in the Holy Spirit and on the meaning itself of freedom in artistic creation.”

In this bilingual book To Start from Art, Luo Fei grasps the Word, rebuilds artistic morals, and listens to his conscience about what moves art and artists, forging the stories of Chinese and international artists into his view of the artist’s prophetic role and his critical insight into artistic phenomena. The book records the contemporary art events of Yunnan over the past decade, and stands as a local art history with global vision, complete with documents, ideas, views and original accounts of many exhibitions and scenes of creation. If you only read one art micro-history this year, it should be To Start from Art.

As a practitioner of relational aesthetic criticism and as a young curator at the TCG Nordica Gallery in Kunming’s Loft Artist Community, Luo Fei uses his editorial approach to present us with his understanding of the four relationships in the world-picture: human-thing relationships (Chapter 1: “Landscape in Transition”), human-human and human-divine relationships (Chapter 2: “Artist as Prophet” and Chapter 5: “Using Art to Build Bridges”), and human-temporal relationships (Chapter 3: “Past and Present”). The fourth chapter of this book is titled “Local Experiments,” which looks at the exhibition as the focal event of artistic phenomena, placing it in the research category of “event aesthetics.”
As a theory of contemporary art criticism, relational aesthetics is based on an ontology rooted in the logic of the world-picture, with its teleology aimed at the people behind event aesthetics. Its methodology includes the ascertainment of the relational dimensions of artistic phenomena, the discovery of original schemas and the interpretation of emotional culture. According to the logic of the world-picture, the world in which we live comprises seven forming factors, being language, time, the individual person, the natural world, society, history and God. As individual lives, we form seven types of relationships with these factors, being human-linguistic relationships, human-temporal relationships, human-self relationships, human-thing relationships, human-human relationships, human-history relationships and human-divine relationships. But when a person uses his own beliefs and concepts as the impetus for existence, he lives within a supposed world-picture logic, and his relationships with the seven forming factors are supposed as well; when a person uses his instinctual awareness and habits as the impetus for existence, he lives in an actual world-picture logic, and his relationships with the seven forming factors are as they truly are. Thus, people have different destinies defined by their personalities. The first half of most people’s lives is marked by the former, while the latter half of their lives is often marked by the latter. A small number of people may live in a constant state of struggle and wavering between the two, living within a supposed world-picture while yearning for a real one or vice versa. An even smaller number of people examine and transcend their actual relational world-picture from the perspective of their supposed relational world-picture. The philosophers, artists and religious adherents among the human community are such people, and contemporary art critics and curators should be as well. On the other hand, most people try to make the supposed world-picture subject to the actual one, dismantling and forgetting the supposed world-picture within the actual one. This is the life of the mediocre individual, as well as the state of existence for many so called artists who strive so hard for fame and fortune.

But when a person uses his own faith as the impetus for existence, the supposed world-picture logic of his life, and his supposed relationships with the seven forming factors of the world are determined by the object of his faith. The object of his faith determines the supposed content of his world-picture logic and guides his encounters with others of the same faith, as we see in different religious groups and artistic groups. The latter is the “jianghu” phenomenon in the Chinese contemporary art scene.

In fact, the aim of contemporary art is to open up the sky of supposition within an actual world.

Luo Fei uses the phenomena of Yunnan contemporary art as a window to lead us to the world, to lead us as far as the nations of Scandinavia, to encounter the poet Tomas Tranströmer: “Poetry is the experience of things; a dream, not the recognition of reality… The most important task of poetry is to recreate our spiritual life and reveal its mysteries.”⑦ He calls us to return to ourselves, to return to the depths of our sacred creator to examine the authenticity of human nature. He “Holds firm to the bottom line of the era among the weeds.”⑧

October 5, 2013, from Aoshen Old Town.

Annotation
① ’85 New Wave’, also called ‘85 Thought’, refers to a kind of Chinese artistic thought that arose in the mid-1980s. The young people of that time were not satisfied with the conservative art guidelines. They grew tired of Russian artistic patterns and some of the values of traditional culture. They tried to seek new elements From Western modern art and generated new artistic thinking in the whole country.
② Luo Fei, To Start from Art. All Luo Fei quotes below derive from this book.
③ Luo Fei, The Man from The Wilderness: He Libin’s “Wilderness” Painting Series.
④ Luo Fei, Digging Where You Stand: An Interview With Josef Mellergård
⑤ Luo Fei, The Dimensions Of The Contemporary Artist’s Duty: Reflections on Lei Yan’s Art
⑥ T.S. Eliot, Wasteland.
⑦ Luo Fei, The “Bridges” Project Journal II and “Happiness, A Five-Year Plan” Project (Sweden)
⑧ Yu Xinqiao, Selected Poems of Yu Xinqiao, Wuhan: Yangtze River Arts and Literature Press, 2013, p. 21.

Fredrik Fällman: Foreword to Luo Fei collection of writings

Fredrik FällmanForeword to Luo Fei collection of writings

Fredrik Fällman①
Associate Professor of Chinese Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

The theme for the 18th biennial conference of the European Association of Chinese Studies (第十八届欧洲汉学学会双年会议) in Riga, Latvia, in 2010, was “Culture is Crowded Bridge” (文化:一座拥挤的桥梁). This theme may sound peculiar, but also tells something more than just the imagery intended on the surface. I think it is applicable to this collection of Luo Fei’s writings. Culture can be a bridge, art can be a bridge, and both the artistic and curatorial work of Luo Fei, alone and through TCG Nordica, is such a bridge. However, it is not only a bridge between cultures and countries, between China and Sweden or other Nordic countries. Art can be a bridge between areas or spheres within societies, and open our eyes for what is truly important, for truths and expressions of feelings, ideas and emotions we cannot express otherwise.

Even before becoming a bridge between minds, ideas and entities, art and other cultural expressions are important parts of our societies. As a sinologist, my own research has primarily dealt with contemporary Chinese intellectuals and their religious faith, but also the more general discussion of “a threefold crisis of faith” (三信问题,即信心、信任、信仰), as well as religious and ethnic policies in China. To my mind, “ultimate concerns” (终极关怀) and faith are very basic starting points for any human being, no matter what decision one is about to take, for work or personal reasons. When economists, political scientists, politicians and different analysts make macro level analyses about the World or specific countries or areas, they often tend to neglect art, faith and other less “tangible” phenomena. Facts and numbers are very important to understand a situation, but if no consideration is taken to the underlying human emotions, faith and artistic expressions, much is lost.

As someone working with academic research in humanities (人文学), one often becomes involved in discussion of the meaning of humanities. In recent years the debate in the Nordic countries (北欧国家) has focused on how to make humanities more “useful” for society. But how to measure such a thing? And what is useful? The question as such makes me think of the futility sometimes expressed in some of Luo Fei’s art works, e.g. “Let’s blow this piece of paper” (让我们吹起这纸), which is seemingly pointless or sisyphean (西西弗斯式), but also very playful. This playful attitude paired with a serious reflection on self, life, art and faith is something often lacking in academia. Such “cross-fertilization” between academia (学术界) and art on questions of life, faith and art would not least benefit academia, maybe also art circles. Luo Fei and some of the artists he is involved with are consciously and unconsciously doing such things all the time. This is very encouraging and inspiring!

In my research I have also looked in to the issue of modernity and what alternative forms it may take in the Chinese context. I have specifically looked at the phenomenon of “Cultural Christians” (文化基督徒)② from the 1980s, and while they may have lost their role today, their perspective of creating a modernity (现代性) on different grounds, with room for faith and free cultural expression, is still highly relevant and equally valid. However, the focus of such a perspective in contemporary China has shifted from established academia to independent scholars, writers and artists. Today they are those in the “avant-garde” for investigating such fundamental issues, and what Luo Fei and those around him are doing is part of this perspective. In my opinion, they will play a role in dealing with the “three-fold crisis of faith”, possibly of more substantial value than other official efforts.

Our societies, Western, North European or Chinese, need this other perspective, from the side, from below, from inside, and we get some reflections of this “other other” (其他的他者) in what Luo Fei is doing and writing. The expression jianghu (江湖) often has connotations that would be considered mostly negative, such as “fake” (假的) or “shrewd” (狡猾), but I find that its inherent notion of itinerancy or vagrancy, as well as free moving, is most appropriate in this context, not least since Luo Fei was involved in the art project called Jianghu in 2005-06. One could also relate it to the free spirit of the artist, even the Daoist concept of xiaoyao (逍遥). In the context of Luo Fei, Nordica and Yunnan, I see Luo Fei’s and his colleagues involvement in the Jianghu art project as symbolic for involvement, for crossing boundaries, and turning peripheral and marginalized things into focus points, and turning things upside down, provoking our thoughts. Through his own work, his work with TCG Nordica, Luo Fei, is an important bridge builder between artists, between art and society, opening up for reflection on art, faith and social concerns, and also inspiring us in far away Nordic countries to think differently and engage with China outside the more clearly defined fields of academia or business. Let us hope for an even more “crowded bridge” in the years to come, that many more can meet and experience together, and be inspired to express and share, in art and through art. Luo Fei is a good guide to get us on to that “crowded” bridge.

① Fredrik Fällman(杨富雷) is also Board Member, Institute of Sino-Christian Studies, Hong Kong and Board Member, Areopagos Foundation, Norway.
② Cultural Christian as a phenomenon appeared in the 1980’s, with Liu Xiaofeng being the major influence. They were those young and middle-aged intellectuals who sought the “ultimate concern” or who interpret faith from the perspective of philosophy, literature and theology. They renounced the ceremony, fellowship and some doctrines of Christianity, and they simply called themselves “Christians”, not “Christian believers”. Very few of them were baptized. This had been particularly stressed by the institutionalized church, mostly attributed to Bishop Ding Guangxun introducing the term “cultural Christians”. Here “culture” could be (ought to be) the important component of faith and the process of redemption, and Christ could be the “Savior of Cultures”. This idea was influenced by the American theologian, Richard Niebuhr.

Climbing the ladder with your feet on the ground

Anders-GustafssonClimbing the ladder with your feet on the ground
Luo Fei seen through his work ‘The Black Spot’

Anders Gustafsson
Former Programs Director at TCG Nordica.

I once watched a man climbing a ladder. It was my friend Luo Fei, the artist.

It was during a performance at TCG Nordica called ‘The Black Spot’. He was balancing a piece of paper on his face, nose up, using his tongue to keep it still. He aimed towards the ceiling, towards a strong spotlight. The paper looked like a thin veil between him and the blinding light. The paper would repeatedly fall off his face, down on the floor, and he would have to start all over again. A seemingly pointless exercise.
Finally he managed to reach the spotlight. On the floor there was another paper where he kept on writing the Chinese character ‘guang’ (光light). Suddenly his performance seemed intriguing, like a novel with an open end.

I once watched a man climbing a ladder. It was my friend Luo Fei, the thinker.

‘The Black Spot’ can be seen as a metaphor for mankind’s search for knowledge, for enlightenment and assurance. A task I can easily identify with Luo Fei. When I first went to China in 2005, I hoped I would find a friend among Chinese intellectuals. I wanted to learn more about the art, culture and history.
In Luo Fei I found him.
There’s a story about when he participated in an internet discussion forum, debating topics like art and different aspects of contemporary society. After a while, the group decided to meet face-to-face. People laughed when they saw Luo Fei: ¨’We thought you were at least 50!’
After leaving a discussion with Luo Fei, this has often been my thought as well. His knowledge reaches over contemporary art, philosophy, history, technology. With ease he moves between Dali and Dalí; he is as familiar with 20th century European history as he is with Chinese dynasties.
In the interview with Jonathan Aumen, Luo Fei quotes an unnamed Chinese art critic stating that if you are a religious artist, you end up being either a bad religious person or a bad artist. I do agree there is an inherent problem. Some religious people tend to preach about a certain ‘truth’ with well-defined boundaries which you are not supposed to cross; contemporary artists tend to explore, often exactly by crossing boundaries. Few succeed in making these two worlds fit together.
But the avant-garde have always been dealing head on with challenges of contemporary society. Why not religion then? Is this not at the very center of societal debate on a global scale?
You can find several prominent Chinese contemporary artists that deal with religion. Two cases in point are the Gao brothers’ ‘The Execution of Christ’ and Wang Qingsong’s use of Buddhist imagery, both examples have recently been thoroughly explored in ‘Yishu — Journal of contemporary Chinese art’.
With ‘The Black Spot’ I see Luo Fei working in a similar tradition. Using the seemingly obvious as an entrance to ask difficult questions, he is revealing that these very topics are in fact multilayered and complex.

I once watched a man climbing a ladder. It was my friend Luo Fei, the joker.

‘The Black Spot’ had a worrying sense of humor. The artist seemingly invited us to laugh, because the whole exercise had a comic touch to it. At first there was a sense of ridicule. I then choked on my own laughter when I realized that the performance reminded me of my own life.

I once watched a man climbing a ladder. It was my friend Luo Fei, the ‘main-garde’ idealist.
In the autumn of 2012, I sent a link from Arts Asia Pacific. Hou Hanru (侯瀚如) wrote about the need to develop a ‘third way’: A system ‘between the state-dominated model of the previous century and the capitalist-dominated model of today’.
In the interview with him in this book, Xue Tao proposes the term ‘non-stream’ about some Yunnan artists, who he says are neither mainstream, nor non-mainstream. I would like to propose the term ‘main-garde’ as they are neither mainstream, nor avant-garde. For Yunnan, being in the geographical and economical margins of China opens up a space for being main-garde. Apart from playing with words, think of the closeness to main ‘guard’. Guarding against what?
Remember that the self-acclaimed avant-garde was born among artists and writers in 19th century Paris, that felt rejected or neglected by the established Salons and art institutions. Similar to The Stars Group in Beijing in 1979, one might add. Avant-garde was by definition an outsider’s perspective.
Some art historians even say that the concept of avant-garde has been co-opted by the market up to the point where it is meaningless to still use the term. The German art historian Benjamin Buchloh talked about ‘developing new strategies to counteract and develop resistance’ to the controlling orthodoxies of the culture industry.
There is a space open for small, non-profit art spaces and art communities to present something different. It might not be avant-garde, but main-garde. Not guarding against buying and selling art works; also artists need to make a living. But against rampant commercialism and mindless imitation. It is in this context I place the Jianghu project that you can read about in this book; it is in the same context I place TCG Nordica and Luo Fei.
The art scene already have so many people and galleries who know the price of everything, but the value of nothing. I think this main-garde could be one example of Hou Hanru’s ‘third way’.

I once watched a man climbing a ladder. It was my friend Luo Fei, the humble.

I find some common traits among the best interviewers. Knowledge is important, but it is not enough. Among journalists, at least in the West, you sometimes find their ego obscuring the person or the topic they want to portray or explore. You need humility. Luo Fei has that. You will find he has been a contributor to art books, exhibition texts, articles and so on. But he always takes the back seat. Very often this humility has helped him in bringing forward the persons he is writing about.
Which brings us back to the performance ‘The Black Spot’. In my interpretation ‘The Black Spot’ ends with humility and with a warning. The character for light, ‘guang’, that Luo Fei wrote after having reached the spotlight, finally covered the whole paper black. As if saying: Even though you think you’ve found the light — or exactly because of it — you may end up fumbling in the dark. Either blinded by the light, or by your own ego, or by something else. This is your black spot.
In spite of these hazards, man’s duty is to carry on climbing. Luo Fei is contributing in his own way, by climbing the ladder with both his feet kept firmly on the ground.

To Start from Art, Author’s Preface, Acknowledgments and Postscript

to start from art 400To Start from Art, Author’s Preface

Luo Fei (TCG Nordica Gallery Director & Curator)

Beginning in 2002, I started to engage in artistic creation, focusing on performance art, video and conceptual art. I planed an exhibition – “Blow-Up” – in 2013 for the first time. It was a kind of Avant-garde experimental art scene. The “Jianghu” series project① drew a great attention from the art communities in Yunnan as well as the whole China between 2005 and 2006, where I served as the project director and curator . Meanwhile, I’ve been writing to introduce Yunnan’s experimental arts to people of other places.

After 2007, I started to work in TCG Nordica cultural center, beginning the job as a permanent curator in an international cultural exchange center: administration, communication, meeting artists, organizing exhibitions, introducing works to the audiences, arrange exhibits, closure, assisting international artists, and contacting the media etc.

Later, because of the job and my family, both the time and space for my own art have gradually reduced, leaving me depressed. It’s as if a window was suddenly closed. However, as I continuously cooperate with other artists, which has been a challenging and enjoyable experience, I realize that being a curator may be another door opening for me. Being a curator allows me to review my own arts, and to have in-depth observation of the art state of a region, and to reflect – what is art, and what is art for? These are the most fundamental yet the most difficult and challenging problems. Of course, I’ve very much enjoyed, and had the opportunity to witness how various artists achieve their achievements at different stages of their lives.

For curators, one of the ways to introduce arts to the public is to write. Writing also introduces me to another way of working, and urges me to build relationships with the artists, to have in-depth communication and interviews with them, and to write prefaces for the exhibitions. Often, I would document the processes of some exhibitions or projects, what happened before, during or after, as well as my own thoughts along the way. So, writing has trained my artistic intuition, and required me to read more, to improve knowledge and to establish my own judgment system.

A publisher once said that the editor’s job is to judge and decide, to discover and present. I believe that’s what curators should be doing for the most part of their jobs, i.e. to discover the artists and their works, and to find some kind of intrinsic relationships between numerous works and artists. To decide which are suitable for an exhibition, what works should be on this wall, or on that wall, it’s the curator’s job to bring out the dialog between the works. Therefore, the curator is working with the intuition, knowledge, ideas, experiences, spaces, and even under the framework of relations to bring meaning for the artists’ hard work.

Most of the articles in this book were written for exhibitions, some have been included in relevant picture books or have been published in magazines. There were some that just posted on the walls briefly for the visitors to the gallery. Still there were some personal articles that have been posted on my blog or the website of TCG Nordica. A few of them were written lately and published here for the first time. I have revised every article, even those that have been published before, some more others less. This is due to my consideration for the text quality as well as the result of developments in my thinking processes.

These articles are all about certain cases of specific artists, most of them are from Yunnan, and there are also a few of international artists visiting Yunnan from Nordica’s artist-in-residence program. This is the artistic condition that sets Yunnan apart from other Chinese cities, international exchanges have become normal here because of such an organization as TCG Nordica.

These articles are about the scenes I experienced since 2005, covering a lot of artists and projects over a period of 10 years. In China, both the society and its people are witnessing a significant transformation, and a decade has made a piece of history and an entire “NEW” generation. To a certain extent, what these articles record serves as an epitome of Yunnan’s version of Chinese contemporary art and the history of Sino-western communication in this province. I put all these pieces together in this book, fitting them in 5 parts. It’s like how I would arrange a bunch of individual paintings for an exhibition, and they are put into five different spaces.

They are as follows: Landscape in Transition, Artist as Prophet, Past and Present, the Local Experiments, and Using Art to Build Bridges.
Landscape in Transition: landscape art in Yunnan has a special tradition which has continued to this day. The landscape art is also the most convenient one for people to learn about the environment, and the spiritual outlooks of the artists. At the same time, I am also interested in whether the classic landscape art can regain the vitality in contemporary artistic languages, which I am eager to see.

Artist as Prophet: This part discusses the identity of the artists from a religious dimension. This is an experimental proposal. Are there prophetic artists? What are the prophetic elements in arts? They are the artists who directly express in their works the criticism for social injustice, and have indeed a passion for truth and love. Of course, it does not mean all artists in this part are prophets, a few being quite extreme.

Past and Present: This is a rather general topic, yet an unavoidable situation in China, i.e. people’s perceptions of others, the world, and the arts are undergoing a rapid change. In particular, for China, this Oriental country with such a long history complex feelings for the West. How we look at the Occident has also changed. Such a change requires the artists, being the intellectuals, to respond.

The Local Experiments: This part includes articles about some Yunnan’s local collective exhibitions, as well as the reviews for TCG Nordica in the past ten years, the status of the Loft community and my reflections about China’s contemporary art.

Using Art to Build Bridges: This part is my work log and essays on the “Bridges” project and “Happiness, a Five-Year Plan” in both Kunming and Sweden in 2010 and 2012. It’s my hope to present the readers with lively and vivid scenes of cross-cultural exchanges.

I named the book To Start from Art. To me, whether as artists or curators, it’s about starting from the arts at and in our hands, continuously improving our own ideas, and sharing them with others. With efforts and understanding, we may be able to go to the origin of what art is all about. It is also possible that through arts we may have the opportunity to voice our concerns for the social issues in an imaginative way. We also learn to express how we have attentively listened to our own hearts. I believe art is not just a static room for us to wait in there quietly, of course it can also be so, but also an exercise of the heart that constantly speaks out and gives feedback. It is also like in a guerrilla war you are bound to change the mode of operation from time to time. However, no matter how it changes, I believe that behind the art, there is always some kind of subtle and penetrating impression. As for what that is, each artist and audience will give different answers. So there will be adventures and definitely more to be revealed behind the art.

August 15, 2013, Kunming
Translated by Xiao Diming

① “Jianghu” was how Yunnan’s young artists named their experimental art activities in 2005 – 2006. The project was supported by Lijiang Studio and ALAB Art Space, with Jay Brown, Mu Yumin, Xiang Weixing, Luo Fei, He Libin and Lin Shanwen being the main organizers. The project was nominated by the Long March Space in 2007 as the 2006 Best Exhibition in China.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to my father and mother who have worked so hard with my upbring.
It never came to my mind that those random thoughts of mine could end up being published as a book. However, I am truly grateful that they can be presented to the readers just as they are! This book, to a large extent, involves what I am doing as a curator. In all of my busy jobs and the hasty conversations I have with others, I’m always trying to look for the assurance of the real existence, the meaning of working on arts. I think writing is an effective approach to this. So this book portrays such processes, and how I am continuously making the effort to understand arts, to know the artists, and to identify myself.
In recent years there were increasingly more artists encouraging me to have these articles put together and published. This has been a great encouragement for my initial intention of publishing, so I would like to thank my artist peers. The exploration and reflection for arts you have made has also inspired me to explore and think more.
I confirmed the idea of publishing this book in the summer of 2012, and there were soon a lot of people showing their support. Ms Wu Yuerong, the manager and one of the founders of TCG Nordica, has given me tremendous support. It’s the trust she has placed in me that I could give full play to my ideas as a curator.
Thanks also go to Ms Anna Mellergård, another important founder of TCG Nordica, for her support. She is an important witness and promoter of Chinese contemporary art.
Thank those who worked so hard translating this book into English, they are Becky Davis, Jeff Crosby, Xiao Diming, Orion Martin, Zhou Qiao and Li Jianbo and others. Thank Judy Osborne, Hanne Nilsen Nygård and Knut Ove Nygård worked so diligently on the proofreading of the English texts.
I deeply appreciate Mr Zha Changpin, Mr Fredrik Fällman and Mr Anders Gustafsson for writing great prefaces for this collection.
Thank Shanghai Joint Publishing’s chief editor Mr Huang Tao and executive editor Mr Qian Zhenhua, because of their affirmation and help, we can see this book is available.
My sincere thanks go to Wang Yang, my wife, and our two daughters, and my parents-in-law. They took over so many of my family responsibilities as I was focusing on writing. They have shown understanding and huge support.
I am grateful for those unsung heroes – my friends. Thank you for your support and prayers, so that with faith I can go on running the race set before me.
Due to the limitation of my resources there are inevitable mistakes in the book. Please feel free to contact me should you have any comments, or feedback.
May you be blessed by this book.

Luo Fei
Sep 26, 2013 Kunming
Translated by Xiao Diming

Postscript

The international culture center, TCG Nordica, has throughout its history of thirteen years developed cooperation with many institutions as well as individuals. These include numerous Universities, Nordic Culture Institutions, Art Museums, Artist- in-Residence organizations and not-for-profit organizations. Also individual artists, poets, dancers and musicians are included in our large network. Indeed, many of our international exhibitions and culture projects would not have been possible to implement without the generously financial support from them. Depending on the character of the projects the following organizations have contributed, also financially: The Swedish Institute, Arts Council Norway, Swedish Arts Council, IASPIS, Nordic Culture Fund, Embassies and ArtsNordica1.
We want to thank everybody who believed in this book project and who contributed to make this publication possible.

Wu Yuerong and Anna Mellergård
Co-Founders of TCG Nordica