“Invisible? – Zhan Wang’s “The Light of Beyond”
In an open, closed, quiet, and dark hall, there is a strong beam of light of 20 cm diameter, through the darkness, projecting to the round hole of the opposite wall. In this beam of light, uneasily detecting the dust that is clearly visible, exposed. This is Zhan Wang’s “Form of the Formless” (2012) [“Form of the Formless” Zhan Wang’s Solo Exhibition was helped in the Long March Space].
Invisible doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, airborne particulates may not be able to be observed, but exist everywhere, affecting our lives at anytime, sharing our living space, as the pm2.5 has already existed in the air, while we start to learn about it during recent years, and so know the harm to our bodies, so that we can’t ignore its existence. “All things are shaped, or present in the form of shape. For shape, it presents whether you think about it or not, like one could never collect his/ her desire. The vanished, silence, hermitage, quiescence, ethereal, cannot completely eliminate the presence of shape. Anything ever present is the form of the formless. [See the dynamic column in Zhan Wang’s website, http://zhanwang.artron.net.] Zhan Wang said. Themed on time and space, nature and culture, Zhan Wang has completed a series of exploration of both the macro and micro, visible and invisible things. In the “Suyuan Machine to Make Stone – One Hour is One Billion Year” (2010), Zhan Wang used modern cutting technology to produce a rockery which was worshiped by the literati, simulation of the material transformation by the natural phenomena, compression of the length of time which was in need of traditional cultural accumulation. In “My Universe” (2011), with the use of six high-speed cameras to record the explosion of a rock from six angles, and replicating the exploding moment into stainless steel, together with three minutes of a slow playback of explosion, so that the audience feels like it is in the center of the universe. It not only demonstrates the simple Taoist philosophical logic that one generates two, two generates three, three generates many (“ten thousand”) manifestations, meanwhile showing the spiritual experience of integration of the thing and self. Through remodelling and destruction of the stones, the artist crushed the misconceptions and myths of the “thing”, to highlight the value of “thing” itself and people’s own sense of presence.
“Form of the formless” is another way for the presentation of the natural, social and cultural thinking by the artist. When a beam of light goes through the gallery, it extinguishes human’s perception, constructing a very simplified “dead”. It seemed that there was nothing in the beam of light, instead, it is filled with myriad of dust. In this beam of light, the dust used to be overlooked by the protagonists, they floated, gathered and scattered in a free and occasional speed. The dust in the beam of light is like all the things and stars created by the Big Bang.
Relative to the endless darkness, the place reached by lights is nothing but an island in the ocean, which lights up everything that we can perceive. Visible or invisible existing thing that won’t disappear at the time previewed by us. Just like us, we present without care of the outside system, as an individual, we might be as weak as dust, however, our existence makes up the entire world. Foucault has proposed a concept of “micropolitical”, he found: The power was not collected by a small number of people or institution as seen on the surface, instead, scattered throughout the community, not only restricted by the external strength, but also restricted by our personal thoughts and behaviors. [Foucault, “Two Lectures” in C. Gordon (Ed.), Power / Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977). New York: Pantheon Books.1980, 101] Therefore, the “micropolitical” is an important form of change. If power relies on us, acting on us, as the individual existence, all of us are important, we might use a micro change of ourselves to adjust and even change the social power structure.
Transforming formless into form, “Form of the Formless” revealed the things hidden in the darkness. We were the spectators, instead of outsiders, we were unconsciously placed in it, had we seen “the true color yet?” Are our visions merely glimpses? Can we independently select the information we see in such an advanced network of information today? If not, who is monitoring us as the “big brother” [About the centralized system and big brother, to see George Orwell (UK), “1984” (written in 1949), translation: Dong Leshan / Fu Wei-Tzu, Shanghai Translation Publishing House, 2004.]?
I see – have seen
Sehgal, Sui Jianguo, and Zhan Wang have respectively presented the issues of “see” and “been seen”, “visible” and “invisible”, from their own perspectives. They neither escape nor criticize, but communicate with the audience through works, creating a sense of presence, to get rid of the illusion of perception, to pursue the freedom of individual sight, feeling, to expose the truth of “see” and “been seen”, demonstrating the variations of light and darkness.
Beating social darkness by the light of rationalism is the ideal of enlightenment. Enlightenment thinker Rousseau outlined a perfect “transparent society” without any shadow, which is “a society without any dark area … everyone, regardless of his/her status, are able to offer an insight into the entire community, people’s minds are bridged, and their visions are not hindered, while the public’s opinions are interactive. [Foucault, M. ‘The Eye of Power’ in Colin Gordon (ed.) Power / Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings. Pantheon Books, New York, 1980. P152.] Foucault not only saw the penetration of the light of rationalism in the social power system, but also noted the stabbing pain on the back of people, brought by the force of surveillance and a repulsive force. Foucault warned us: the light of rationalism may be exploited by totalitarian and authoritarian thinking, to be a tool to monitor the public, used to create a surveillance system of panopticon, so that we lose our privacy and freedom, to be imprisoned. We can only “be seen”, be forced to “see”, being watched, evaluated, accused of, and living in a uniform and consistent social standard, except for the freedom of “what to see”, “how to see”. [Foucult. “What is Enlightenment?” (“Qu’est-ce que les Lumières?”), in Rabinow ed., The Foucault Reader, New York: Pantheon Books, 1984, pp.32-50.]
If the transparent society remains an ideal blueprint for a democratic society, this kind of transparency refers to the bottom-up supervision, instead of a top-down monitor. It relies on the “subject visibility” called by Foucault, which is I see. [Foucault, M. ‘The Eye of Power’ in Colin Gordon (ed.) Power / Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980, p.154] I see, I am seen, I see I am seen, do I really see it? Do I see the panoramic view? Visibility is from knowledge; from spirituality; from the arts; from the freedom given by transparent society mechanisms. It is the spiritual light from the bottom of our minds, which makes us see more and a wider vision; it is the light of a transparent social mechanism, which doesn’t make the presence of the individual as tiny as an ignored piece of grass or dust. When lights arrive, nothing can escape; when lights arrive, there’s form of the formless.
(Original publication in the “Studies of Literature” Vol. 7, 2013)
1. M. Quinn ed., Writings on the Poor Laws: Volume II, Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2010, pp. 98-9, 105-6, 112-3, 352-3, 502-3.
2. Bentham, Jeremy, The Panopticon Writings. Ed. Miran Bozovic,: Verso, London, 1995, pp. 29-95
3. Semple, Janet (1993). Bentham’s Prison: a Study of the Panopticon Penitentiary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.p152.
4. See also Michel Foucault (translated by Alan Sheridan), Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.
5. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Vintage Books, New York, 1995, pp.195-210.
6. See also Thomas Allmer, Towards a Critical Theory of Surveillance in Informational Capitalism, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, 2012.
7. Anne Midgette, “You Can’t Hold It, but You Can Own It”, The New York Times, Nov 25, 2007.
8. Arthur Lubow, “Making Art Out of an Encounter New York Times”. January 15, 2010.
9. When the audience entered the room, the actress cried: ‘Tino Sehgal’, actor said “Kiss”. About an hour later, another couple entered the room to imitate the actions of the previous performers, while the former couple leaved one minute later, leaving the latter to continue the performances. This works exhibited eight hours a day, lasting six weeks.
10. Michel Foucault, “The Ethics of Care of the Self as a Practice of Freedom” (1984), in The Final Foucault, eds. James Bernauer and David Rasmussen, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988, p. 3.
11. Foucault, “What is Enlightenment,”? (“Qu’est-ce que les Lumières?”), In Rabinow ed., The Foucault Reader, New York: Pantheon Books, 1984, p. 49.
13. For “Action Sculptures” and body art, please see Shao Yiyang “Beyong Postmodern”, publisher: Peking University Press, page 65.
14. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Vintage Books, New York, 1995, 200.
15. Ibid .
16. “Form of the Formless” Zhan Wang’s Solo Exhibition was help in the Long March Space, on Oct 26 – Dec 2, 2012.
17. See the dynamic column in Zhan Wang’s website, http://zhanwang.artron.net.
18. Foucault, “Two Lectures” in C. Gordon (Ed.), Power / Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977). New York: Pantheon Books.1980, 101.
19. About the centralized system and big brother, to see George Orwell (UK), “1984” (written in 1949), translation: Dong Leshan / Fu Wei-Tzu, Shanghai Translation Publishing House, 2004.
20. Foucault, M. ‘The Eye of Power’ in Colin Gordon (ed.) Power / Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings. Pantheon Books, New York, 1980. P152.
21. Foucult. “What is Enlightenment?” (“Qu’est-ce que les Lumières?”), in Rabinow ed., The Foucault Reader, New York: Pantheon Books, 1984, pp.32-50.
22. Foucault, M. ‘The Eye of Power’ in Colin Gordon (ed.) Power / Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980, p.154
Translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO