The 2017 CAFA’s graduate Liu Yazhou, studies under the guidance of Zhan Wang. Having insisted on pursuing Sculpture as both his undergraduate and graduate speciality, Liu attempts to explore the relationship between space and object in his work, to reflect how he perceives life and to give insight to “the behavior of sculpture” based on what he sees.
Interview time: May 26th, 2017.
Interviewee: Liu Yazhou((hereafter referred to as Liu)
Copywriter: Lin Jiabin ((hereafter referred to as CAFA ART INFO)
Translated by Miao Yinan and Chen Peihua, edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO
CAFA ART INFO: I saw your work exhibited at Jinji Lake Museum last year, and I was really impressed by some of your work, such as “Floor-Wall Position”, which involves a lot of readymade pieces, timber and videos, etc, and is also shown at this exhibition. Could you elaborate on how these artworks were developed, and what was the concept? What was your inspiration?
Liu: My creation originated in the sudden unfamiliarity of our daily routines. What I found interesting is that, such unfamiliarity comes from people’s most unplanned organisation of their everyday life. I enjoy observing the state of such arrangements and the way they exist in space, by doing so I attempt to construct the relationship between sculpture and me. Those life “arrangements” that seem random tend to contain the possibility of sculpture. The three groups of artworks that are displayed on this year’s Graduation Works Exhibition, including “Floor-Wall Position”, “Joint”, and some video pieces “Javelin”, “Inertia”, “Runway”, were all completed during my graduate studies. It just happened to be at the moment of Graduation Works Exhibition, so I randomly selected a few pieces for the exhibition. None of them are made intentionally for this exhibition.
Speaking of these artworks, I think we could first talk about my previous work “Samsara”. Through this work, I discovered the possibility to connect sculpture with my daily life.
“Taken directly from the readymade around us, my artwork could be seen as a fiction I made out of our daily routine based on the rule of “balance”. I assumed their new ways of existence, and I reflected on the relationship between the objects and me. There is no glue or inlays used to consolidate the objects. All I did was place the objects very carefully to make them into a temporary structure. The video has recorded the process of this installation from sitting still to collapsing. The early part of the video looks like a photo, actually it was because the objects’ were shaking that they were too subtle to be perceived.”
“By exploring the resources of our bodies, and experiencing the weight, material, and shape of every object with my own hands, I was able to look for the most suitable location and method to place the object, which only lives in the fragments of time. Sometimes it can take me a lot of work to just make it still for few hours or even a few seconds. You never know. Once it collapsed it would be back to a pile of garbage, just like when they came into existence in the first place. I felt as if it was a samsara that would not come into existence if the object did not collapse. Instead, collapse established samsara.”
—Samsara, 2014-2015 Video Installation Digital micro jet. Size varies.
CAFA ART INFO: So, is this feeling what gave you inspiration to keep exploring such relationships?
Liu: “Floor-Wall Position” still focuses on the state of an object under gravity. The wall extends straight upwards and the floor spreads out onto a horizontal level. What’s between the wall and floor is a 90-degree right-angled space. My work attempts to explore the way objects are situated in such a space.
CAFA ART INFO: So you made a series of attempts along this way of thinking, What are the later works like? For example, “Floor-Wall Position” contains several groups of works, including “Work No.3”, which is relatively clear for us to see its association with your previous work as they share the state of teetering.
Liu: I think “Work No.1” is like anthropopathy, that’s what we experience when we were leaning against the wall. “Work No.3” is a piece of work that took the space of a corner. Though I used the previous method to explore, I intended to explain the relationship between objects and space, how one contains another.
CAFA ART INFO: Let’s talk about the use of a tripod, electric fan and plastic film in “Work No.2”, which is part of the “Floor-Wall Position”series. However, I feel this piece is a bit different in style and form from other works in the same series.
Liu: This artwork was inspired by a dinner at my friend’s house. We were outside and there was a disposable vinyl tablecloth on the table. The tablecloth did not really fit and it was blowing and making a noise in the wind. Interestingly, the wind was not strong enough to blow it away, and that’s what excited me. When I was back to my studio, I was thinking maybe I could start by looking at the relationship between wind and cloth. When I first started, I assumed that if I make the electric fan blow towards the wall, the plastic film will eventually stick to the wall as long as the wind is strong enough. However, I was not aware of the fact that the electric fan in my studio was broken, so it would not be able to blow consistently in a single direction. This unexpected situation really upset me. So I kept trying to fix it and I later found that this accident was actually a turning point for my project, because it turned an absolute suppression into a form of uncertainty. This oscillation, as an electric fan’s own mechanics, has made the relationship between wind and plastic film more subtle and suitable.
CAFA ART INFO: We can see that you’ve used a large amount of readymade materials to create your art pieces, for example, wooden sticks, wooden planks, a broom and ropes, etc. So what were your thoughts when you chose these materials for your work?
Liu: I did not look for my materials with a certain purpose. They were basically what I could find around me, the readymade materials are related to my life. Though sometimes I would make some slight modifications to them.
CAFA ART INFO: I have noticed that you studied under the department of Sculpture during both your undergraduate and graduate years. People always have this stereotype about sculpture and they see sculpture as a way objects are presented in space. Some of your works don’t seem to make people easily relate sculpture to such an impression.
Liu: Right. You’ve talked about people’s common impressions on sculpture, but not sculpture itself. I don’t think the process of art-making is necessarily about meeting a certain impression or stereotype. To me, what matters is that whether or not the issue has been discussed on a linguistic level. I could see a single act of mine as an extension of my sculpture, and my body too can be seen as part of the materials used for creation. Sometimes, my body has participated in some activities and it created artwork out of them. Sometimes, the activities themselves are artworks. Until now, Sculpture has not been a discipline that is no longer a concrete fetishism. The meaning of sculpture no longer solely belongs to the completed works. The meaning could be expressed through a temporary nature or a work in progress. Therefore, in cases where the finished works constantly wear down, the process of making itself could obtain meanings. So, maybe Sculpture could be treated as a sculptural behavior.
CAFA ART INFO: So, do the works shown in this exhibition relate to your concept of “sculptural behavior”?
Liu: That’s right.
CAFA ART INFO: When did you start thinking about recording videos for these art-making processes?
Liu: To treat the process as a piece of artwork, you will have to record it. This involves the way the work is presented and viewed. I decided to record videos after my work “Samsara”.
CAFA ART INFO: But your intention in “Samsara” seems more likely to emphasize the elements of “behavior”.
Liu: In my work, some behaviors are visible and some are not. Actually it took me a lot of work to create “Samsara”, however I chose to edit out the process of creation, not just its sound, because I was trying to emphasize the power of silence. “Floor-Wall Position” also includes all my behaviors, but I myself may be invisible. In these three videos (“Javelin”, “Runway”,“Inertia”), I used my body as a material for art-making and really felt as if it’s a material that connects to the outside world and participates in all kinds of activities. I see the activities themselves as artworks.
CAFA ART INFO: I can see pretty clearly how your creations came into being. You have kept developing your ideas and through this process I could feel that you are a person that constantly reflects yourself. You’ve widened my perspective of sculpture.
Liu: Actually, I’ve discussed with my friends about whether or not Sculpture has a boundary, as well as how it distinguishes itself from other forms of art. People traditionally view sculpture as a form that has to take up space and has to be a solid object with concrete materials. So, would a painting or a video ever become a sculpture? Could Sculpture be not static but flowing? Could Sculpture be expressed through an activity? Maybe it’s not much of a concrete object. In some degree, Sculpture should be a concept, would it be a noun or verb? Right now I may prefer it to be a verb, a verb in present progressive tense.