革命浪漫主义考古与迷彩的隐喻

革命浪漫主义考古与迷彩的隐喻
——读雷燕近作有感

在解读雷燕的近期两组作品《冰冻系列》和《迷彩布造》之前,需要了解有两个相关背景知识,一是雷燕作为有着30年从军生涯的女兵(1970—2001),退伍之后进驻昆明当代艺术社区“创库”建立其工作室,她经历了从传统美术手法创作部队题材转入使用图片、装置、录像等媒材进行当代艺术创作的过程,而军旅生涯里的任何物品和事件都足以构成她当下创作的主要素材。二是,中国当代艺术家对毛泽东时代(主要指上个世纪50—70年代)的追忆与反思从未停息,毛及其时代的符号与形象在每个时期都会在艺术家的述说方式中出现,这既是在信仰缺席的年代艺术家无法回避的“激情燃烧的岁月”史实,也是一种对未来的追问。在了解了这些背景之后,我们便可以展开对雷燕近作的解读。

雷燕,冰冻青春系列,2007

《冰冻系列》:革命浪漫主义考古

雷燕的《冰冻系列》是把一些部队物品以及毛时代的典型物件冰冻起来,如袖徽、领袖像、红宝书、红卫兵肩章、军装、红旗、女兵照片等,然后给冰下隐约可见的上述物品拍照。艺术家通过对特殊年代典型符号与物件的冰冻封存,在若隐若现的距离中凝视历史样本,流露出淡淡的忧伤,以此勾起人们对那段岁月的追忆与反思。

在《冰冻系列》里有两条线索我们可以看到,一条是《冰冻红色》系列,以毛时代典型物件与部队物品等素材作为叙述主体,就是那些袖徽、领袖像、红宝书、红卫兵标附、军装、红旗等等,它们不仅是一些标识或配饰,也是那个年代的精神素材,作为在共产主义信念下有理想有激情、以集体荣誉感为个人价值观的人,手里必须具备这些素材与文本,它们是那个年代人们政治生活的一个缩影,一个激情燃烧岁月的缩影,也是雷燕30年军旅生涯的一个缩影。然而这些物件在雷燕所搁置的冰体之中,由于折射、距离,还有温度,呈现出十分陌生的历史质感与形态,局部的变形扭曲、模糊黯淡,在冰层的隔离下寒冷而不可触摸,仿佛前世的信物,还有在冰下封存所带来考古般地联想,这一切都营造出一种对革命激情年代的伤感,还有对精神光辉远逝的缅怀。

另一组是《冰冻青春》,叙述主体是一些女兵照片,其中有个人肖像、半身像,有的是雷燕自己,大多是她的战友,那些正值青春的少女们,个个含情脉脉,有的显得稍沉郁,有的只是茫茫然,有的则站着那个年代的经典姿势,肩上挎着布包或手握机枪,昂首挺胸,一腔热血的面孔,站在柳树底下英姿飒爽。其中也有几张是部队集体合影,那些清纯的眸子里都流露着青春女性的理想和憧憬,微微笑,脉脉含情,对未来没有半点迟疑,典型的革命浪漫主义表情。而这些各色的表情与精神状态,还有经典的姿势,都被凝固在冷峻的冰块里,被强制降温,同样寒冷而不可触摸,满腔激情与清纯的理想在冷酷的冰块中骤然远去,它们俨然是一批毛时代的考古样本展示在世人面前。

上述被冰冻的物件都是雷燕在军旅生涯里存留下来的,大多保存完好,这些物件和照片于我们大多数人而言只是某个时期概念化的图象记忆,而那些具体的面孔和温度,更像外婆床底下某个箱子里的家当,是母亲为女儿存下来的。当这些物件和照片以冰冻的方式呈现的时候,它们被赋予了新的观念,那就是从一个女兵的私人记忆与情愫里展开了对公共图象和历史的记忆,以及对这片土地上的信念、精神光辉等终极问题的缅怀。

如果说政治波普艺术是“借助西方消费文化在中国产生的冲击波,把毛时代的‘神圣式政治’变成大众化的反讽式的政治思潮”(栗宪庭语),并且在今天政治波普艺术在商业中媚态化地走向末路的时候,那么像雷燕这样的艺术家对毛时代进行个体化的诗学情境叙述则是回到艺术与心灵的起点:让个人真实的感动以个性化的语言叙述出来,而非追随既定的群体风格,这是对政治波普风格的回应与超越。

雷燕,迷彩布造,2007

《迷彩布造》:有关迷彩的隐喻

如果说《冰冻系列》是对过去毛时代及其精神光辉的缅怀与伤感,那么《迷彩布造》则是对当下日常情境的具体干预。雷燕同样继续采用部队物品作为素材,这些素材对于一个有着30年从军生涯的人来说再熟悉不过了。只是在这个系列里对部队素材的使用显然与《冰冻系列》有所区别,部队素材在《冰冻系列》中属于挪用的范畴,直接把现成品镶入冰块中使其产生观念语境和视觉质感上的变化,而《迷彩布造》则是对部队迷彩军服图案的转化与延伸。

这个系列雷燕采用迷彩布料手工缝纫一些物件和场景,物件如:相机、电脑、茶壶、花瓶、杯子、托盘、电话、高跟鞋、五角星等等,只是身边信手拈来之物,通过比较概括的体块归纳出物体的基本造型,缝纫出来的物体可塑性较强,有一定的伸缩度,由于手工缝纫与塑型等工序,这组作品近似于手工艺品与雕塑之间。加之迷彩图案本身所具备的符号性特征,使得那些被重新塑造之后的日常物品像是被迷彩附体,具备了攻击性与迷惑性的观念特征。

而在一组迷彩场景中,有关迷彩观念的隐喻则更加突出。雷燕在迷彩布面上用迷彩布料缝纫出一幅普通家庭场景:一张方桌、板凳、花瓶、相框里模糊的两个人、一只趴着的猫。另外一幅是梳妆台的场景。这两幅画面塑造得近似于浮雕,这些场景只是我们平凡日子里的任何一天,并没有戏剧性的瞬间。人/物/景,都被迷彩附体,在迷彩图案背景下,被塑造的人/物/景完全融入迷彩之中,它们也因此赋予迷彩本身的含义和隐喻,所有人/物/景的形象边缘线都被迷彩图案干扰、消解、诱导,它们变得不易识别、没有特征、没有个性、没有话语权……于此可以展开一场有关迷彩的隐喻,有关女性身份与家庭以及自怜情结的隐喻。女性在繁琐冗杂的家庭事务中如何活出自身的独特生命力?女性如何脱离闺阁更开放地走向社会?这是雷燕有关《迷彩布造》的隐喻和思考。

迷彩作为符号性极强的军事图案被女性艺术家纳入观念艺术素材,如果不是雷燕自身对其军旅生涯的深刻体验,她是无法产生如此深刻的观念性反思的。正是由于这样的经历,我们在《迷彩布造》中看到那些被塑造物体消失在迷彩环境中所产生的双重隐喻,除了上述外部力量对其干扰和消解以外,也指向了被塑主体的内部危机:一个人,被赋予迷彩的含义,她(他)在具备迷惑性与防守性的同时,也在某种程度上具备了被异化的风险,极易丧失自我个性和独特生命力,这或许是雷燕对军人身份以及人性伪装行为的思考。而作为女性艺术家的雷燕,并未在这场异化力量中被消解,反而从中获得独特视野和创造力,在和雷燕的交谈中她说到:“无论我们在哪里,我们都要为自己心灵留一扇窗户,朝着内心最真实的地方,以便自己与心灵对话,守住心里那份清纯与激情”。而她所经历过的革命激情岁月对精神光辉的仰望,和军旅生涯里对集体及他人的关注,不仅成为她艺术创作的素材和观念泉源,也拓展了她的生命体验,她并没有停留在那些素材和手工缝纫情结之中,而在是艺术体验里创造出更加深邃的世界。

罗菲
2007年10月

雷燕,冰冻红色系列,2006

An Archaeological Tour of Revolutionary Romanticism and the Metaphor of Camouflage
— My views on Ms. Lei Yan’s latest works

text: Luo Fei

Before the interpretations of the two groups of recent works by Ms. Lei Yan – “Frozen Series” and “Camouflage Cloth-making”, we should know of two relevant background factors. One is that she was a female soldier in the army for 30 years (1970-2001); after retiring from the army, she joined the Kunming contemporary art community “Chuangku” to set up her own studio. Lei Yan has experienced a transformation from the traditional art practices of creation of military art subjects to the use of pictures, equipment, video and other mediums for the creation of contemporary art works; each article and event could sufficiently constitute the main raw material for her current artwork. Secondly, the retrospection and reflection on the Mao Zedong era (from the 1950s-1970s) by Chinese contemporary artists has never ceased. In each period, Mao and his era’s symbols and images appeared in these artists’ narrating methods, which not only is the historical fact of the” Passion Burning Years” that the artists cannot be avoided when the faith got lost, but also a kind of inquiry about the future. After knowing about this background, we can better understand the interpretations of the latest works by Lei Yan.

“Frozen Series”: An Archaeological Tour of Revolutionary Romanticism

In Lei Yan’s “Frozen Series,” the artist has literally frozen some typical military articles and items of the Mao era, such as sleeve emblems, leader badges, Little Red Books, Red Guards shoulder badges, military uniforms, red flags, and female soldiers’ photographs. These items have been photographed and can be seen dimly under the ice. By freezing the typical symbols and items of those special years, the artist is staring at the historical samples from a nebulous distance with a tinge of desolation, and arousing people’s retrospection and reflection on that period of time.

As we can see, there are two main ideas in the “Frozen Series.” One is the “Frozen Reds,” which uses military articles and items typical of the Mao era as the narrating subjects (I would delete that list because you just spelled it out in the previous paragraph). These items are not only merely logos or decorations, but also the faith of that era. As someone who was filled with ideals and passions collective honors as his/her own values under the belief in communism, he/she had to possess these materials and contents, which represent a miniature of the people’s political life in that period of time, a miniature of the “Passion Burning Years”, and also a miniature of Lei Yan’s 30 years of military life. However, because of the factors of refraction, distance, and temperature, the items, which were frozen in ice by Lei Yan, display a learner of historical texture and shape. The partial deformation and distortion, blurring and dimness, chilliness and isolation caused by the ice layer, the seeming keepsakes from preexistence, and the archaeological-like association of ideas inspired by the sealing under ice, all have built a sort of longing for the time of revolutionary passions, and a reminiscence of the vanished spirits and resplendency.

The other is “Frozen Youth,” whose narrating subjects are photographs of female soldiers including personal portraits and busts. Some are of Lei Yan herself, but most of them are her comrades-in-arms. These tender girls of youthful spirit exude different emotions, from depression to loneliness. Some stand in a pose that was typical during that period of time, with a bag on shoulder or a machine gun in hand, head held high and standing erect; their faces show a passion of soldier. Among these photographs are several of military groups, showing pure eyes filled with the young girls’ ideals and longings, smiles with tenderness and without the slightest hesitation for the future. This was the typical expression of revolutionary romanticism. However, all of these various expressions and spirit states, with the addition of the classic pose, have been frozen into the cold ice and forced to drop temperature down, cold as well as out-of-reach, the high enthusiasm and innocent ideals are suddenly disappearing far away in the cold ice, which contains the memories of Mao era.

Most of the above-mentioned frozen objects, which were collected during Lei Yan’s military career, were well kept by her. To most of us, these items and photographs are merely conceptualized images, memories of a certain period, but those specific faces and that temperature are more like family belongings in some box underneath grandmother’s bed, which are kept by a mother for her daughter. When these objects and photographs are displayed in this way, frozen in ice, they have been endowed with new conceptions: the memory of the public images, the history belonging to a female soldier from her private memory and feelings, and the reminiscence of ultimate issues such as faith to the land, spirits and resplendency.

If political pop art is “using the shock waves made by the western consumption culture in China, and turning the ‘sacred politics’ of Mao era into a popular and ironic political idea”(Li Xianting), and current political pop art is walking downward to its dead end via commercial obsequiousness, then artists including Lei Yan are going back to the starting point for art and soul by using a personal and poetic feeling to narrate the Mao era: let the real impression be explained via personal language instead of following the established group’s style; it is a response to and surpassing of political pop art.

“Camouflage Cloth-making”: The Metaphors Related to Camouflage

If the “Frozen Series” is the reminiscence and sadness of the bygone Mao era and its spirits and resplendency, then “Camouflage Cloth-making” is the specific intervention to the current daily situation. Just like before, Lei Yan uses military goods as subjects, which are very familiar to a person who had a 30 year military career. However, the use of military goods in this series is different from the use in the “Frozen Series.” The military goods in the “Frozen Series” belong to the section of borrowing, directly embedding the goods into ice to bring out the changes of conception, context and visual texture, but “Camouflage Cloth-making” is the conversion and extension of military camouflage uniforms and patterns.

In this series, Lei Yan uses camouflage fabric to make hand-sewn items and scenes such as cameras, computers, teapots, vases, cups, trays, telephones, high heels, five-pointed stars and so on, reflecting daily materials at hand. Setting up the items’ basic models by using the more outlines, the sewn items have more plasticity and some flexibility. Considering of the procedures of hand-sewing and modeling, this series of works has features of both handicrafts and sculpture. What is more, the symbolic features owned by the camouflage patterns themselves, make the remodeled daily goods look more like attached by the camouflage with the features of aggression and delusion.

In one group of camouflage scenes, the metaphor related to the camouflage concept is more obvious. In the camouflage cloth, Lei Yan has sewn camouflage material into an ordinary family scene: a square table, a bench, a vase, two blurring persons in the picture frame and a crouching dog. Another one is the scene of a dressing table. These two scenes are modeled like reliefs, which merely present any day in our ordinary life without any dramatic moment. Persons, goods and scenes are attached to the camouflage; the persons, goods and scenes that are modeled have completely mixed into the camouflage, and therefore they are endowed with the meaning and metaphor of camouflage itself. The edge lines of all persons, goods and scenes are interfered, thawed and guided by camouflage patterns and become undistinguishable, characterless, without personality and liberty of speech… so a metaphor related to camouflage, related to women’s identity and family and self-pity, is begun. How should women live on their own unique vitality out of the trivial and various household affairs? How should women be more open from their bedrooms into the society? And this is the metaphor and reflection of “Camouflage Cloth-making” made by Lei Yan.

As a strong symbol of the military patterns, camouflage has been absorbed into the conception art materials by the female artist. Lei Yan would never had have such a profound reflection of concept if she hadn’t had her own deep experience in her military career. It is precisely because of this experience that we have seen the double metaphors generated from the modeled objects disappearing into the camouflage environment. In addition to the interfering and thawing from external forces, it also points at the internal crisis of the modeled object: a person, bestowed with the camouflage meaning, while she (he) has the delusive and defensive edges, in some extent she (he) also faces the risk of dissimilation, of being prone to lose her/his personality and unique vitality. Maybe that is Lei Yan’s pondering of the military status and the behaviors of human camouflage. However, as a female artist, Lei Yan has not been thawed by the power of dissimilation; on the contrary, she has gained a unique vision and creativity from these. During a talking with Lei Yan she said: “wherever we are, we should leave a window for our soul, facing the most real place of heart to talk with your own soul and hold on the innocence and passion under there.” And her experience during the years of revolutionary enthusiasm and the attention to the people around during her military career, not only becomes the source of material and concept for art creation, but also expands her life experience; she does not rest on the complex of these material and hand-sewing, but creates a more abstruse world in the art experience.

Luo Fei, 2007

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