In the fall of 2015, I was in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, where I witnessed the captivating “Ayahuasca”. On that day, several of us were guided by some local people; we were wearing high boots and walking through the muddy, dangerous mountain path towards a sideward stone crack which you could not imagine was the entrance. On arriving at the entrance, we lay down and pushed forward into it one by one. After crawling through the very narrow, wet cave, we arrived at a wide arched space, with a feeling that we had crawled through the blood vessels to the heart of the mountain. There were lots of torches inside, and a shaman who carried the legendary Ayahuasca in his hands. He sang and talked in front of the fire, while he drank the liquid and sprayed it on the fire. It was said that Ayahuasca could raise the soul to heaven, encouraging people to communicate with elves and foresee the future… After the sacrificial ritual was finished, the shaman shared the ginger Ayahuasca with everyone. On drinking it, a burly local man, his face flushed with bean-like sweat rolling down, became paralyzed. The local escort told us, one should not eat meat before drinking Ayahuasca, or one would fall asleep for a week after drinking it. I was so scared that I did not try it, though I have regretted this. When I left the rainforest, I picked a Ayahuasca leaf and clipped it between pages of my book and brought it back home.
In 2016, I began to work on Ancient Prescriptions, and I consulted many traditional medical books, though it turned out that I did not have too much understanding of the efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine. Instead, I began to be interested in the names of ancient prescriptions and herbs, such as “Xiao Yao San”, “Yue Hua Wan”, “Si Jun Zi Tang”, “Qian Li Zhui Feng You”, like when the masters practise martial arts in Kung Fu films, presenting moves and tricks which seem to be elegant and unconventional, repulsed and released pains, romantic and transcendent. I have seen the attitude held by the ancients towards life: they are concerned with spiritual comforts and implications, rather than the partial treatment. From my first solo exhibition entitled “The Remedy”, I have been tagged with “healing”; actually I have produced quite a number of works centering around the theme of “remedy”. I also cannot help researching herbs related to the analgesic function in ancient prescriptions. and I found that pain medication often brings the patient pleasure and hallucination; Ayahuasca in Ecuador came to mind again, and thus I began to work on the Illusions series of hallucinogenic plants.
Feifei said, Faye Wong made a mistake when she sang that if you are happy, I feel happy. The truth is if I am happy, you will feel happy!
Under the sky, is the Ecstasy to be found or not? Are there any who can preserve their own lives?
In this world, no one can come and go of his own free will.
While I am typing, a small electrical charge is escaping my laptop: every time my arm touches it, I feel limp and numb. I look at the keystrokes of my fingers on the keyboard, the charging interface, while imagining the dense parts inside the laptop, which were mass produced and installed at certain locations. Perhaps when it is old, the inner workings of my laptop will be thrown into the furnace, and reincarnated into other parts, and installed again…
When I was a child, I listened to adult conversations; they talked about a guy that got married but he did not want to have any children, he said that as all of us would die, there’s no need to procreate at all. They thought he was crazy, so did I. And later it occurred to me, his words made sense. To some extent he tried to prevent the birth of a part. However, he passively had a child, and he said he did not think that a child would bring him much happiness.
Everyone should be happy, some people feel happy when they eat all kinds of costly foods, while some people feel this if they eat sesame cakes; some people feel love can bring them happiness while some feel happy when they play games or mahjong…there’s no hierarchy for the source of happiness, all of which stimulate the brain area through the neurotransmitter, to produce a happy feeling, that is pleasurable.
Neurobiologists have implanted an electrode into the brain of a mouse, and then given it a short electrical shock. But they found that the mouse did not escape after it received the shock but it returned to the place where it was stimulated and waited for another electrical shock. Even if it had endured many days of hunger, it was reluctant to enjoy food, but underwent all kinds of obstacles, or hardships to rush to accept the electrical stimulation on its front brain, which is the pleasure center.
Do those parts which have been constantly produced have their own logic? Do they have a central nervous system? Do they have life? At the moment of that electrical spark, in the place where eyes could not reach, is there an invisible big bang in their universe? Do electrical currents strike their pleasure center? Do they enjoy ecstasie when they receive an electric shock?
Cao Cao’s A Short-Song Ballad suddenly crossed my mind:
The wine, the song, life goes on,
But for how long?
It evaporates, to our dismay,
Like the morning dew, day after day.
About the exhibition
Dates: Nov 18, 2017 – Dec 28, 2017
Venue: Feefan’s Art
Courtesy of the artist and Feefan’s Art.