Contemporary Chinese Art as a Commodity

“Contemporary Chinese art” is termed by the international marketing mechanism to describe all art currently made in Chinese-speaking regions, as the pervasive global capitalism systematically transforms natural values into commodities, including art production and cultural identity (Comaroff and Comaroff 2009; Baudrillard 1968).[1] The cultural value combining with the commercial mechanism helps to boost local economy. According to Baudrillard, commodities are subordinated into systems that are relevant to each other, just as language is understood only within a network of relationships that constitute meaning. In order to become an object of consumption, the object must become a sign; we consume the sign. In this sense, labeling a group of artists’ works as “contemporary Chinese art” is constructing a sign for the international art market to consume. Baudrillard also demystifies the “need” of consumption because the “need” is inspired by the denial of pleasure. The utility of a commodity is created not only by the producers (the artist) but also advertisements (the art market mechanism). For example, to persuade a female customer to buy facial products involves reminding her of her lack of fairer skin. The advertisement constructs a fantasy to compensate this lack by owning the promotional beauty product in order to achieve the dream. Consumers imagine that owning this product will transform them to achieve some dreams: more attractive or more successful. We believe in a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes with the magic social power, and the numbers of the stock market reflect our success. Similarly, in the art marketing system, the value of an artwork is enhanced by gallerists, art critics, collectors, and the connection among these agents. Collecting the newly emerged “contemporary Chinese art” helps the collectors to compensate their curiosity about Chinese art that is not merely traditional but up to date.

In today’s global capitalism, ethnicity can become a sign for marketing purpose. The term “Contemporary Chinese art” hints “Chineseness” that helps to create a branding image. Ethnicity can be packaged as a new form of cultural product as in Comaroff and Comaroff’s research explored. In the art world, more and more artifacts from around the world are no longer considered as primitive, but recognized as the objets d’art. One example is that native American artifacts displayed in the museum, such making “indigenous” part of the modernist art project relates to the ideology of nation-building.[2] In the case of “contemporary Chinese art” being popular in the international art market, firstly supported by western collectors’ fascination of China’s avant-garde art movements – this will be further elaborated in Chapter Three – and then promoted by growing numbers of Chinese collectors since 1990s. “Contemporary Chinese art” has become a category in the art scene. Not only with many international exhibitions featuring artworks made from Chinese-speaking regions since the 1990s, but also the renowned Artforum magazine starts its Chinese webpage (artforum.com.cn) since 2000 that signifies the increasing volume of contemporary art produced in the Chinese-speaking regions. Moreover, Chinese government’s changing attitude, from restrained avant-garde art movements to adopt them for national soft power strategy, also contributes to the popularity of “contemporary Chinese art” in the global cultural economy. The Chinese art market takes a huge share of the global market and is promoted by the emerging, new generation of Chinese collectors.[3] An updated auction record shows that three contemporary Chinese artists’ works on the top thirty pricey list, and marks China a significant spot on the map of contemporary art market, in addition to the US and the UK.[4] The top thirty most expensive artworks are not only sold by familiar auction houses (Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Philip’s), but also include non-western auction houses – Poly Beijing and China Guardian, both located in China– joining the game.  Contemporary Chinese artists are now second to American artists who continually make record-breaking sales in the global art market (The Contemporary Art Market Report 2019).


[1] Cultural anthropologists Comaroff and Comaroff’s research explores that ethnicity can be packaged as a new form of cultural product. Through fieldwork research, they exemplify many cultural activities commoditized local traditions and cultural identities: such as Bafokeng Enterprise, the Zulu ethnic-theme park, Maori in New Zealand, Cajuns in Louisiana, Native Americans in the southeastern US, Scotland’s efforts to brand its own culture, to name a few. “[cultural] identity is increasingly claimed as property by its living heirs” (Comaroff and Comaroff 2009: 29).

[2] “Native American Treasures Head to the Met, This Time as American Art.” Randy Kennedy. New York Times, 2017 April 6th.

[3] The collection of contemporary art is essentially focused on four major cities: New York, London, Hong Kong and Beijing. These four cities alone account for 83% of global contemporary art auction turnover. (The Contemporary Art Market Report 2017)

[4] The record-breaking Chinese artists include: Liu Xiaodong’s Computer Leader, sold $6,659,000, top 21; Leng Jun’s View of the World No.3, sold $6,330,000, top 25; Zhou Chunya’s Chinese Landscape, sold $6,142,500, top 26. See < https://www.artprice.com/artprice-reports/the-contemporary-art-market-report-2019/top-100-contemporary-artworks/>

東/西方的前衛美學

The aesthetic value system of contemporary Chinese art practice is very different from the Western model. “Conceptual art” was translated in Chinese as “guanian yishu,” meaning “idea art.” The “guanian yishu” artists in Chinese-speaking regions have gone through different innovative experiences than their western counterparts. (Gao 2011) In fact, throughout Chinese art history, the literati artists have always been creating water-ink paintings and calligraphy as “art for art’s sake” practice; There is no need to create the aesthetic autonomy as Peter Burger theorized in the western art history. Therefore, Chinese modern and contemporary art evolve in a different path than the western historical progression and aesthetic avant-gardism. The term “modernity” to Chinese artists is not about a new aesthetic as to western artists, but related to political connotation; that is related to constructing a new nation-state since 1911 the fall of the aristocracy in the Qing dynasty.

永遠不能用西方標準來判斷 中國1911年至今的文明進程. 首先, 現代化本來就不是西化. 就藝術來說, 中國文化早就有了“觀念藝術” 的實踐 (如: 文人山水畫 或草書 的抽象表現), 不像西方藝術到20世紀後才高喊 “觀念藝術” 並把抽象表現主義(abstract expressionism) 當作進步前衛的視覺表現. 而文化藝術的進展 通常反映一個社會的leading position. 先看看數千年累積的東方價值觀, 再看看 美國領袖們對只有200年的立國價值觀 感到的強烈不確定, 他們的現在慌亂也就可想而知了. (Text © Gwen Kuan-ying Kuo)

圖: 溥儒 (溥心畬) 的作品:寧 靜 高 遠 的意境. Picture©Puru.

From Noise to Sound Art: Taiwan’s Cultural Strategy in Post-martial Law Era

© Updated the original text published in the UC Merced Newsletter Spring 2020, by Gwen Kuan-ying Kuo.

How would the underground “noise” performers, in less than a decade, transform themselves to sophisticated digital artists frequently showing in international exhibitions? To understand contemporary Taiwanese art scene, we have to look into the post-1989 Taiwan, an island undergone oppressive martial law for nearly four decades, the longest record in the world before 1987 when it was lifted. My research examines Taiwan’s “noise” subculture emerged from underground to institutions, along with the state’s cultural policy and soft power strategy, and the changing U.S.-China relation constantly plays in affecting Taiwan’s cultural formation.[1]

In a humid afternoon in September 1994, a group of youths slowly gathered under a bridge by Taipei’s Gung guan river band, a vast abandoned field adjacent to the border of this capital city with several colleges nearby. A simple stage casually installed only a few hours ago, barely anything else in the field hinted an art event besides of the crowds and their words of mouth.[2] A skinny figure hassled around the stage with a hammer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, occasionally greeting with acquaintances in the crowds; this bohemian hobo is Wu Zhong-Wei, a well-respected artist also known as “the father of Taiwan’s underground art fairs.”

The 1994 Taipei Broken Life Festival flier draw by Wu Zhong-Wei. Image courtesy of © Wu Zhong-Wei.

This scene opened up the 1994 Taipei Broken Life Festival. Audiences were excited and shouted with the gigs of underground music bands, the LTK Commune and the ZSLO that proudly claimed themselves playing noise. The event went along with various activities not originally scheduled: intuitive theatrical performances, experimental film screening, self-published fanzine exchanging, overnight bon-fire dancing, and people camping on the field. This event has been scandalously reported by local news, and yet the media attention soon shifted to continually social upheavals and protests in Taiwan.

Why the influx? The youths needed an outlet, both physically and mentally; everything around them seems to be disordered and disoriented after the 38-year-long martial law abolished. What the law constrained was not only people’s body, but the mind, since 1947 when Chiang Kai-shek was defeated by Mao Zedong’s communist troops and flee to Taiwan as a dictator.

The lifting of martial law in 1987 brought out populist power, unforeseen street movements, and a series of political reformation. Remarkably, the 1990 student movement assembled nearly 6,000 students taking on the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall square, later renamed as the Liberty Square. With upheaval social movements opened up a space pushing the boundaries, the youths were motivated to “do something,” but in such chaotic social circumstances they asked, “what else could we do?”[3]

This energetic yet nihilist vibe gave the birth of Taiwan’s underground noise scene. A group of National Taiwan University students formed the LTK Commune, a name hinted local identity by pronouncing the longest river in Taiwanese, the Lo-tsui-ke: LTK river, not in Mandarin Chinese. Another group of four students from Fu-Jen Catholic University formed an underground band, the ZSLO (short for “Zero & Sound Liberation Organization”). Both groups shared a loyal fan-base, or precisely, “crowd-base” that grew out of Taiwan transitioning from a totalitarian state to a democratic one. With seemingly unrestrained possibilities and do-it-yourself energy, the crowds wanted something new or provocative, and so they avidly participated in artist Wu Zhong-Wei’s grass-root events.

The cover of ZSLO’s fanzine. ©Image courtesy of © ZSLO, the Zero & Sound Liberation Organization.

Initiated by Wu and Lin Chiwei (a ZSLO member), with great efforts by Yeh Hui-wen and numerous supportive friends, the 1995 Post-industrial Art Festival took in shape with increasing local and international groups,[4] and even received governmental sponsorship.[5] This revolutionary cooperation between underground artists with a newly emerged political party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), in fact, served to empower both sides despite the outrageous performance frustrated government staff. To expand the voter-base in Taiwan’s intensified bi-party competition, the state has adopted a strategy to include, if not intervene, the emerging cultural activity with some funding to boost the “party’s” image [rhyme intended].

After the 1995 Post-industrial Art Festival, however, the “noise” scene appeared quieter without controversial event as previous ones. The performers continued under new buzz words “experimental sound,” “electronic sound,” “techno-,” “digital,” and “sound art” on their fliers acutely substituted the transgressive term “noise.”[6] The name-changing not only corresponds to the society gradually stabilized as a pro-democratic system formed, but because Taiwan’s cultural policy encourages art production combining digital technology and promotes international events with state-sponsorship. This is Taiwan’s soft power strategy7 to gain international recognition to confront against China’s rising economy and global influence, particularly Taiwan is the only democratic country that the U.S. does not recognize due to China’s coercion.

Taiwan’s vibrant noise scene flourished thanks to these passionate participators growing with the mass movements in Taiwan’s early post-martial law years. The surge of Taiwanese youths supporting these grass-root art events, critically, corresponded to their frustration and anger toward China’s military intimidation in 1996. Also known as the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, China conducted several missile tests and planned People’s Liberation Army (PLA) live-fire exercises in the waters surrounding Taiwan with an intention to influence the first direct presidential election in Taiwan.  However, the Taiwan Strait Crisis added fuel on fire that incited Taiwanese youths’ nation-state consciousness and local cultural identity. The result of the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis ironically backfired against Beijing’s efforts to coerce Taiwanese presidential election. Lee Teng-hui, the candidate that Beijing disapproved for Lee’s pro-Taiwan independent was triumphantly got elected by Taiwanese majority’s vote. Historian estimated that China’s military threat conversely gave Lee a 5% boost in the election.[7]

Meanwhile, the accelerated political parties’ competition in Taiwan have adopted a PR formula to incorporate, if not intervene, new genre art groups for dazzling exhibitions with sponsorship to refreshing each political party’s image and to attract populace votes. The first party alternation in Taiwan took place in Millennium with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the majority votes and came into power. Advocate Taiwaneseness, DDP refutes the long-monopolistic Grand-China ideology that its opponent, the longest governing Chinese Nationalist Party (also known as KMT, the Kuomingtang Party) hold. The rising DPP, however, started to change its cultural policy from attracting grass-root populace to a broader middle-class voter base that is in favor of stabilized social order and artistic choice over the subversive counter-cultural elements. The increasing state-sponsored sound art events, on the flip side, contributed to quiet-down the noise scene. Incorporating and patronizing “noise” in the institution of fine art, paradoxically silenced and reduced the original noise spirit. From “noise” to “sound art,” the name-changing inevitably goes hand in hand with changing the aesthetic domain and altered its original characteristics. The aesthetic recognition jumping to rear-garde from avant-garde is no short-cut but demands decades to centuries of evaluation and legitimization. Such evaluation depends on the temporal power shifts in the social structure, an intensely social process of valorization. (Bourdieu 1984; Becker 1982)

In other words, artistic genius is socially constructed. Reviewing the “noise” movement, music critic Jeph Lo posits the movement as a youth’s counter-cultural event in the earlier post-Martial Law years, and alerts that Taiwan’s stabilized social order could be one of the factors result in the quiet down noise scene.[8] Artist Lin Chiwei further contributed the aesthetic achievements of the Post-industrial Art Festival and cultural movements to all participants’ dedication, while the artists were simply parts of the crowds.[9]

[1] Responding to ShiPu Wang’s research about the complex relation between U.S. Cold War cultural diplomacy and Taiwan’s postcolonial identity-formation in the post-WWII decades, my research investigates Taiwan’s cultural formation in the post-martial law era. See ShiPu Wang, “The Brush of Swords: U.S. Cold War Cultural Diplomacy, American Art, and Taiwan’s Postcolonial Visuality” Book Proposal, the Terra Foundation for American Art, UC Merced’s Senate 2019.

[2] I participated in Taiwan’s “noise” movement as a co-editor for Noise-Taiwan fanzine and helped releasing handmade tapes, and wrote essays (in Chinese) for Taiwan’s noise and sound art scene. See Kuo, (Gwen) Kuan-ying. Cult A/V Alchemy. Taipei: Tangshan Publisher, 2000.

[3] See Jeph Lo, “From Student Movements to the Institution: A Brief Review Taiwan’s Sound Art.” ArtCo Magazine. 2007 March.

[4] In addition to the LTK Commune and the ZSLO, Taiwanese local bands joined in the Post-Industrial Art Festival included Dino, XJ Bitch and Dog; the international groups were Ouchi Apt. Fever (Japan), Basshaham (Japan), C.C.C.C. (Japan), Schimfluch (Switserland), Con-Dom (UK).

[5] The Post-Industrial Art Festival was sponsored by Taipei County Cultural Center, which was led by Democratic Progressive Party in 1997.

[6] After 2000s, Taiwan’s experimental sound events include: Static Riot (2001), Electroacoustic Combat (2002), Taiwan’s International Digital Art Forum (2002), Weather in My Brain Sound-Image Festival (2003), Bias Sound Art Festival (2003), Sounding Taipei (2004), the 2nd Weather in My Brain Sound-Image Festival (2004), the 2nd Bias Sound Art Festival (2005), the 3rd Weather in My Brain Sound-Image Festival (2005), to name a few.

[7] See J. Michael Cole, “The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis: The Forgotten Showdown Between China and America,” Released March 10th 2017. <https://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-third-taiwan-strait-crisis-the-forgotten-showdown-19742>. Accessed Jan. 7th 2020.

[8] See Jeph Lo, “From Student Movement to the Institution: A Brief History of Taiwan’s Sound Art.” ArtCo Magazine. 2007 March. Original: 羅悅全, “解嚴後的青年反文化開端──噪音運動.” 典藏雜誌今藝術, 2007年3月出版.

[9] See Lin, Chiwei. Beyond Sound Art: The Avant-Garde, Sound Machines, and the Modernity of Hearing. Taipei: Artist Publishing. 2012. Original: 林其蔚, <<超越聲音藝術:前衛主義、聲音機器、聽覺現代性>>, 藝術家出版社, 2012年9月出版.

鄭明河:女性書寫的力量‧鏡子間的無盡反射 (Trinh T. Minh-ha)

原文增修自: 版權所有©國立台灣美術館數位藝術平台,  2013 年 7 月出版,  作者:  郭冠英 (Gwen Kuan-ying Kuo)

為避免主體和客體凍結成僵化的教條關係 (無法改變的主動-被動模式),因此不斷顛覆的敘事必須一直延展下去。」 ——鄭明河[1]

「路徑」(Nothing But Ways),鄭明河、琳‧柯比(Trinh T. Minh-ha and Lynn Marie Kirby),舊金山芳草地藝術中心,1999年. Picture© Trinh T. Minh-ha.

生於越南,目前於柏克萊加州大學任教的鄭明河教授,曾在越南、菲律賓、法國和美國受過作曲、文學和人類學訓練。深刻的異文化和跨學科的背景,豐富了她跨領域的視野,使得她的藝術創作自然而然無法受既定領域限制,鄭明河教授所提供的多重視角已對西方既定的認知系統產生挑戰。

鏡子間的反射是無止無盡的。鏡子的影像反映著另一面鏡子中的另一面鏡子中影像…… 這是鄭明河 (Trinh T. Minh-ha) 創作的主要觀念之一。

作為學者、多媒體藝術家、作家、作曲家、影像工作者,鄭明河是個擅長挑戰既定領域的文化實踐者。如同她在《女性‧土著‧他者》所述:「我對生命的態度並非只有一個中心,而是有多個中心。」透過影片、文字和聲音作品,她探究視覺再現背後的權力關係。 

早期鄭明河曾嘗試結合詩、作曲、敲擊和電子聲音的實驗音樂創作, 而於伊利諾大學發表「電子音樂四部」(Four Pieces for Electronic Music,1975)和「詩、作曲和敲擊樂全集」   (Poems. Composition for Percussion Ensemble, 1976)。雖然之後她對文字與藝術的興趣逐漸取代了實驗作曲,但她持續運用數位技術於藝術裝置,並以文字分析「數位化」對當代人文、日常生活的影響。對鄭明河而言,數位藝術不在於承載作品的數位技術,而在於數位技術所形成的傳送藝術訊息的通道。為此鄭明河撰寫了《數位通道》(D-PASSAGE: The Digital Way,2013)一書加以論述,她認為新科技不只是媒介、更是方法。

在作品「路徑」(Nothing But Ways, 1999)中,鄭明河與琳‧柯比(Lynn Marie Kirby)合作,在舊金山芳草地藝術中心裝置一個由層層電影布幕所架成、可互透的投影空間。這個大型多媒體裝置所重疊投射出的是十二位女性的詩作,這些字句由電子投射出來變成片段、重疊,卻更詩意且發人深省:「我是陰鬱的文字英雄主義者」(I am a bleak heroism of words. )「種族。消除。」(RACE. ERASES.)透過這件作品,鄭明河表現她的意念:數位工具作為一個過程,而非終點,而這數位過程就是鄭明河藝術的關鍵。

在「沙漠正在看」(The Desert Is Watching) 中,鄭明河和她柏克萊加大的同儕、同時也是長期合作的尚保羅‧勃狄耶(Jean Paul Bourdier)創造沙漠景觀,他們數位攝影猶他州的沙漠,並用兩台DVD投影機、兩架幻燈片投影機、一道藍光、一道綠光等設備,將影像投在拉長的棉布上。觀眾感知到相互對應、不同色層的沙漠有著彩繪的人。對不同文化背景的觀眾,特別是對身處在沒有沙漠的國家的觀眾(比如說日本),沙漠有著不同的意味。沙漠可暗含冒險、危險、或甚至空無的意思。這些不斷變化的影像將觀者領到他們各自概念中的沙漠裡。在這作品中沙漠是變動的,可說是沙漠在看觀眾。

「沙漠正在看」(The Desert Is Watching),鄭明河、尚保羅‧勃狄耶(Trinh T. Minh-ha and Jean Paul Bourdier),京都藝術雙年展, 2003年. Picture© Trinh T. Minh-ha.

透過視覺和文字,鄭明河探究新科技的潛力和影響。她深究科技的潛力和影像、及其如何將我們傳輸到對事實的新感知,網際網路就是其中一例,將我們的感知在彈指之間達到地球另一端,這意味著感知到另一種不同的風土民情產生的文化(雖然只停留在虛擬空間)。網際網路對日常經驗產生一種極大的壓縮,數位成為承載資訊和意義的通路。如同鄭明河在「數位錄像事件」(The Digital Film Event,2005)一書中所說:「不斷在網際空間中穿梭的旅遊、虛擬實境和對無限制速度的夢想:這些都是科技改變我們對自我的感知。」而在她自己的創作中,她用文字 、聲音和視覺來探討身處在電腦主控的時代裡,人們傾聽和聽、觀看和了解的經驗。

在試著表達事情時,當她的聲音打破一牆的沉默,總是傾聽的女人、將自己聚焦成不透明的文字。寫作:是對語言的承諾。」 ——鄭明河[2]

在「他者散步」(L’Autre Marche/The Other Walk)裝置中,鄭明河拍攝亞洲、非洲、大洋洲和美國的景像,並將這些影像有節奏地投射在地上,用以對比布朗利河岸博物館(Musee du Quai Branly)本身以西方人類學觀點將不同種族的文物分門別類地陳列,她則創造了一個文化朝聖般的過道上讓觀者在上面走。如同鄭明河對這件作品的描述:「步行是無窮盡的經驗,每向前走一步,人得到開放而踏實的收穫,這是宇宙的賜予。」隨著觀者踏在投射的多元文化影像上,意義在步行中產生。這就是行旅的神聖儀式。

「重裝」(Reassemblage)影片,鄭明河拍攝於賽內加爾1982年. Picture© Trinh T. Minh-ha. Photo courtesy of  Bas Raijmakers PhD (RCA).

不論是影像或文字作品,鄭明河的敘事是非線性的。她挑戰既定的敘述中主體和客體的對應關係, 在既定的敘事結構裡,客體期待主體給予全知的、科學的聲音來引導故事。鄭明河則採用非線性敘述,她的非線性敘述可在影片「重裝」(Reassemblage)看得更清楚。該片拍攝於賽內加爾,原是她在柏克萊加大進行西非田野調查研究期間,在賽內加爾拍下她觀察到的女性影像,但鄭明河拒絕加入主導的聲音來解說影像或給予分類定義。

「重裝」呈現不斷改變的拍攝角度,鄭明河並沒有一直待在導演中立的立場上引導觀眾,而是用變動的角度創造讓她的觀者、讀者和她作品(圖像、影像或文字)之間的對話空間,因為沒有一個主導的、全知的聲音,鄭明河讓觀眾穿梭在她的動態影像和片段的聲音裡,同時卻在各自的思考中,就好像在他們自己的想法裡並釋放自己的夢想。

「姓越名南」(Surname Viet Given Name Nam,year), 影片照、裝置,鄭明河,於維也納「遁出」藝術空間(Secession)2001年. Picture© Trinh T. Minh-ha.Photo courtesy of Pez Hejduk.

鄭明河持續在作品中傳達女性的聲音。在「姓越名南」(Surname Viet Given Name Nam,year) 影片中,她訪問了五位當代越南婦女 ,並以分析而詩意的文句來反映這些受訪者的回答。2001年鄭明河在維也納的視覺藝術家協會「遁出」藝術空間(Secession)用裝置形式呈現「姓越名南」,並加上不同形式的文句表述。其中有一段文句顯示鄭明河對女性角色的關心和女性在今日社會面臨的挑戰:「我願意訴說,但你不能懷疑我的話。那是女人的影像,那是她的現實,有時候兩者並不能相容。」

在多產的的文字、視覺和多媒體藝術作品裡,鄭明河卻不試圖主導觀者以單一方式來了解她的作品。她敘事主體的消失,反而激發並激勵觀者發展自己的想法來呼應鄭明河作品所呈現的內容。鄭明河對性別、訊息科技、人類學以及她所引發、由觀者產生的各類回應和反響,都更深化潛藏在她作品的影像、文字和聲音中的意義。這就鄭明河所說的:「空鏡之間無盡的迴射」效果。這個鏡子就是觀者心靈的象徵,我們看的對象在看我們,我們思考的對象在思考我們。鄭明河不斷地跨越藝術界域地發掘新意義。在她不斷地跨領域實踐中,作者和觀者、主體和客體之間的對話必然會繼續。


[1] 鄭明河著, 《女性‧土著‧他者》, 印第安納大學出版社,1989年出版, 第40頁.  

[2] 鄭明河著, 《女性‧土著‧他者》, 印第安納大學出版社,1989年出版, 第79頁.

多重鏡像的妮基‧李: 數位時代中的自我扮演 (Nikki S. Lee)

版權所有©國立台灣美術館數位藝術平台,  2015 年5 月出版,  作者:  郭冠英 (Gwen Kuan-ying Kuo)

妮基‧李,<變裝皇后計畫>,1997年,富士相紙沖印. Picture© Nikki S. Lee.

細心打扮下,有著古銅健康膚色、染淡色的頭髮和桀傲不循的態度,妮基‧李是黑人饒舌歌手 Mobb Deep 最喜愛的黑女孩粉絲;而當她穿上皮衣皮褲、戴上頸鍊、黑色絲襪和銀色鼻環,妮基‧李成為不折不扣的龐克;她有時頂著一頭長捲髮、著運動上衣和拉丁裔同伴參加遊行;或者穿回刻板印象的東亞高中女生制服,和同學下課後握著手機聊男友談心事……這些都是妮基‧李的「自拍」,她自由隨興的扮裝自拍讓她順利地進入不同族群的文化景觀,她的影像受到藝術圈內外的成功回響,歸功於她的輕鬆不羈,跨越了敏感的種族議題;而網路數位時代人們隨手拍上傳社群網站分享「自拍」影像的文化,成了妮基手中方便的探索文化和自我認同的媒介。

妮基‧李,「嘻哈扮裝計畫」,2001年,顯色影像印刷,AP2版, 21 1/4 x 28吋. Picture© Nikki S. Lee, Edmund Hayes Fund, 2002.

她將自己置入各種文化, 包括嘻哈文化場景,也是一種宣示身體影像主權的做法。因此她的主體性並沒有被嘻哈文化的男性觀視 (male gaze)所掌控。」—德瑞克‧康科‧莫瑞 (Murray, Derek Conrad), 加州大學聖塔克魯斯分校教授.[1]

妮基‧李,「拉丁西班牙裔扮裝計畫」,1998年,顯色影像印刷,AP1/3版, 21 1/4 x 28 1/2吋. Picture© Nikki S. Lee, Edmund Hayes Fund, 1999.

作為她自己影像的導演,妮基掌握了 身為女性的她自己如何被觀看的角度。在嘻哈音樂瀰漫的男性氣魄和物化女性的視覺景觀中,妮基特意把自己扮成忠實粉絲, 並邀請 知名饒舌二人組 Mobb Deep 參與她創造的嘻哈影像,刻意呼應「保持真實」(keep it real) 的嘻哈精神,反轉影像主導權,並玩著挪用黑人文化的意義;然而事實上,Mobb Deep才是妮基‧李影像中的客人。除此之外,妮基的<扮裝計畫>系列 (1997-2001年) 順暢地介入拉丁族群、酷兒、龐克、舞孃、高中女生、白領上班族等各種文化和次文化的場域裡,永遠都會出現的妮基‧李在她創造的、有如紀錄真實景象的照片中,變成一種透明的載體,帶領觀眾的視線進出不同的文化景觀內不進行觀察。 

妮基‧李,「老年人扮裝計畫」,1999年,富士相紙沖印. Picture© Nikki S. Lee.

妮基‧李之所以看似無礙地轉進本質相異、甚至相衝突的文化場景中,在於她處理照片的隨意感,她用隨手拍或雇用業餘攝影者拍出自然的生活感,同時她刻意的照片場景有的故事感(嘻哈粉絲和偶像的互動、高中女生和同伴的友情、辦公室中正視而疏離的關係等)片斷定格的影像掌握了觀看者想窺視他人生活的好奇心,這也是自拍文化之所已盛行的原因。妮基挑戰了主流到次文化的界線,她的自拍的主角不是她自己,而是她在不同場景中的角色與其他人之間的關係,在於影像帶出觀者想像的文本和故事情節:社會角色、群體關係,甚至於文化認同…這些究竟是真實的? 是我們自己定義的? 或他人為我們所定義的?

妮基‧李,「高中女生扮裝計畫」,2000年,富士相紙沖印. Picture© Nikki S. Lee.

在這些照片中,妮基像是個後殖民時代的產物, 穿梭在不同文化的浪蕩子遊戲態度,瓦解了嚴肅的文化政治正確性,不論是主流或邊緣文化或彼此之間的意識形態差異,在妮基玩著、表演著隨手自拍 (或請他人拍) 的過程中,拍出一系列「在地」風情的生活照。妮基的藝術實踐呼應著當代生活方便的數位相機、手機照相的普及以及無線網路的無遠弗屆帶來即時上傳隨手拍的文化景觀。人人都在臉書、微信、LINE等社交網絡上展現他們的即時生活影像,好像我們真的存活在「動態訊息」上面。拍攝自己的生活已經成為一種考量觀者的「動作」,而不純粹只是為自己保留的「再現」回憶。

妮基‧李,「片段」系列,2002年,彩色印刷. Picture© Nikki S. Lee.

在妮基的<片段>系列中,她的形影一樣出現在相異特質的場景當中(花園、婚禮、游泳池、轎車裡、旅館中…等),但她的表現在照片中暗示一種浪漫的感情敘事。照片的邊框裁掉另一個正和妮基互動的人,從片段景象可以讀出那是一位男性,只剩一半的影像將特定的時刻凍住、變成一個回憶。裁掉另一半人影、只剩女主角自己,更加引發觀者好奇全部的故事到底為何,妮基自導自演的「片段」過去戀情的回憶,在她裁減、保留的殘餘影像中(只剩片段身體的男人的手,女主角的神情等)控制觀者可以看到的部分,挑動觀者想一探私密的好奇心與想像。

妮基‧李,「片段」系列,2003年,彩色印刷. Picture© Nikki S. Lee.

在<片段>系列中,妮基持續各種不同的打扮、扮演相異的人格角色以契合各式場景,如和男友逛著中國城的女孩、或嫁給猶太家庭的亞裔新娘、或在泳池和男友開心交談的女孩、或在不愉快感情中的女子。以 2002 年<片段>系列 一張照片為例,女主角僵硬的表情看向窗外,似乎不情願在這段關係中,而男子延伸的手臂碰觸她的肩膀更加強影像的曖昧性。其他的<片段>影像都環繞在一段感情的留影(手牽手逛街、在花園中微笑、在床上等待…) 被切了一半,切割這影像的主人明顯地想從回憶中除去另一個身影。而創作這些<片段>的妮基則試圖在僅存的一半殘像中創造懸疑的故事,如同<計劃>系列她自己的身影再度成為可穿梭的載體,探討女主角和影像中人的關係。 

妮基‧李,「片段」系列,2002年,彩色印刷. Picture©Nikki S. Lee.

在妮基的作品中她始終現身,以演員的姿態、同時也是個鏡頭後的導演,如同千面女郎一般在自撰的腳本中。但是,真正的妮基‧李究竟在哪裡?2006年妮基拍攝一部紀錄片<妮基‧李>,如同她的照片,這部紀錄片也是以她為主角來再現「現實」。如她在訪談中敘述:「這部紀錄片是有關於我扮演『妮基‧李』,由他人來拍攝我的記錄片、而我來拍攝『妮基‧李』的記錄片,這種想法既重疊混淆又很有趣……這都是在探索現實與非現實,探索演出與非演出之間的界線。」 妮基的照片有著電影的表演特質,同時她的記錄片又似乎更接近她的真實自我,但仍然是一場表演。妮基控制著她所在的場景和自己在其中的意涵。在記錄她自己影像的同時,在充斥數位自拍的文化裏,妮基‧李 進一步地掌控並模糊, 隱藏了她真正身為導演, 真為藝術家的真實面貌。


[1] 德瑞克‧康科‧莫瑞,加州大學聖塔克魯斯分校教授著 <嘻哈文化與高藝術> 《藝術學術期刊》15頁. Murray, Derek Conrad. “Hip-hop vs. high art: Notes on race as spectacle.” Art Journal 63, no. 2 (2004): 4-19.

西琶.古塔:打破不可視的疆界 (Shilpa Gupta)

版權所有©國立台灣美術館數位藝術平台,  2013 年4月出版,  作者:  郭冠英 (Gwen Kuan-ying Kuo)

西琶‧古塔,「我不斷落向你」,上千個麥克風與多聲道,2010年,3分12秒回播,149x51x79英吋. Picture© Shilpa Gupta.

當印度和中國經濟快速成長帶動了亞洲在全球的影響力,亞洲當代藝術也受國際矚目,西琶‧古塔(Shilpa Gupta)是其中一位重要的印度女藝術家。她居住於印度孟買,活躍於國際大展如ZKM、歐奎‧恩威佐策畫的光州雙年展、侯瀚如策展的里昂雙年展…等。她運用聲音裝置、數位、科技等媒材,不只探討印度、女性自身,她更是從日常觀點來探究一般人在生活中受到快速全球化的影響,她的敘事方式是深刻而普世共感的。

聲音與人聲在西琶‧古塔的作品占有核心地位。以最近(2012年3月展到今年1月)她在ZKM的「聲音藝術」(Sound Art: Sound as a Medium of Art)展的裝置「我不斷落向你」(I keep falling at you),是她將無數個麥克風由天花板上垂掛下來,既像葡萄又像蜂巢一樣,科技的素材在她女性的探索中擬像成自然的形狀,就像另一件作品 (Singing Cloud) 眾多麥克風擺得像一團雲朵。Gupta 的聲音作品用聽覺更勝,「我不斷落向你」的聲音藝術內涵不輸其視覺意象。從眾多麥克風傳出的聲音重覆誦念:「我不斷落向你。但是我不斷落向你…」「你的花園在我身上長出,我將一併帶走。」這些語詞暗示著殖民宰制的隱喻,而由多聲道麥克風播送,給觀眾帶來不舒服感,卻也直接衝擊我們幾乎無法避免的全球化對日常生活的脅迫。 

西琶‧古塔亦提出女性多重角色和自主的質疑。在「無題」(2008年)這件互動錄影裝置的螢幕中,她讓七位女性隔著一定的間隔站立著,她們相異的穿著有如不同職業角色,她們隨著觀眾的螢幕指令而動作,幾乎是一口令一動作地跑、跳、停住不動,僵硬的動作使得女子身影看來怪,好像沒有生命的玩偶或機械。

西琶‧古塔,「會說話的牆面」,動態感應器、磚塊、LCD螢幕、耳機,2010年. Picture© Shilpa Gupta.

她對女性角色的探討並不會限制她對家國議題的關心,這家國議題在全球化的今天已變成流動的疆界,甚至是看不見的疆界。在2009年侯瀚如策劃的里昂雙年展文件作品,西琶‧古塔做了一個鐵門,鐵門上有著尖刺,暗喻著不歡迎的訊息。當感應器感應到觀眾走進作品,門就會自動關起來,並發出刺耳的尖聲,隨著觀眾的來來去去,門不斷地開開關關、用力敲向展場牆壁,最後使得牆面受損。

戰爭、人因國家疆界或宗教界線引起的暴力衝突,所造成的不安是西琶‧古塔所探索的。在她較早作品「責怪」(Blame, 2002)創作當年,正好發生谷加拉特屠殺事件而造成上千名回教徒的死亡。她在孟買的車站內外放置無數瓶裝滿類似血漿的紅色罐子,罐子下方寫著:「責怪你讓我的感覺良好,所以我責怪你你無法控制的事實:你的宗教、你的國籍。」西琶‧古塔藉由藝術挑戰著戰爭的疆界和人性極限。 

在「半寡婦」(Half Wife, 2006)中,西琶‧古塔在天花板架了攝影機,錄製一個身穿白衣、孤寂的女人身影在白色地面上焦躁不安地徘徊,神經質地喃喃自語:「他說過他愛我」、「他愛我」、「他回來了」。她的語句帶有不同的時態,彷彿思緒由過去的回憶飄到現在、又飄回過去,她幻想著因戰爭而離家的丈夫仍活著,她既像對他說話、又像祈禱,然而自身精神狀態是不安的。她自身的狀態被丈夫生死未卜的憂慮所佔據。  

西琶‧古塔常在作品中裝設隱藏攝影機捕捉觀眾的身影動線以和作品互動。「在我們的時代」( In Our Times, 2008)她架了兩個麥克風,麥克風像槓桿一樣隨著觀眾的感應而左右搖擺。麥克風兩邊各播放著1947年印度和巴基斯坦獨立的演說,兩側麥克風各放出兩種不同的聲響,就像兩種意見的辯論或對話一般。因為互動裝置,這件作品也成了觀眾創造的經驗。

在「會說話的牆面」(Speaking Wall, 2010),西琶‧古塔在地上列了一排朝向牆面的磚塊,提示觀眾站立於磚塊上欣賞作品。像往常一樣她在牆壁中預設感應器可知觀眾與牆面的距離,而發出指示,告訴觀眾往前、往後移動、或者停住不動。「往前、再往前…但你還是看不到我。這個距離是方便的。」「再往前一步。可以了。我再也不需要你的身分,不需要知道你的名字、你的宗教、你的性別、你的出身。」最後牆壁宣布:「我再也無法回到自己的家。」這個話語一出,宣示了觀眾正面對一個絕對的疆界。

西琶‧古塔巡迴個展「我們能否做夠標識」於加拿大達玲鑄廠展出一景. Picture© Shilpa Gupta and Darling Foundry. Photo credit: Guy L’Heureux)

作為活躍當代藝壇、野心勃勃的非西方世界女性藝術家,西琶‧古塔提出她個人看世界的主動觀點,她目前最新計劃為繼續個人的跨國巡迴展:「我們能否做夠標識」(Will We Ever Be Able to Mark Enough)。此個展已在加拿大(2011)、比利時(2012)展出,2013年5至7月將在奧地利展覽。在此個展的眾多作品裡,其中的「籠子」(cages)和「威脅」(threat)更引人深思。西琶‧古塔用生鏽鐵片做了層層互包的三個鐵籠,小籠子關在大籠子裡。生鏽鐵籠本身的意象就已暗示著不自由、關住、囚禁的氛圍。雖然觀眾是站在外邊看著,但籠子本身的詭異影子產生了幽閉恐懼的不安感。另一件作品「威脅」則是用棕色肥皂築起的牆,每塊肥皂上有著threat字樣。不同於一般展覽中,展出作品可以販售給藝術愛好者,「威脅」這件作品只送不賣。觀眾被鼓勵取走一塊「威脅」肥皂回家,在使用肥皂的過程中「威脅」也逐漸消除了。藉由這樣的行動,西琶‧古塔不但挑戰了藝術市場的生產—販售過程,同時也誘引觀眾從觀看到親身參與,以日常行為消除「威脅」的藝術行動。 

西琶‧古塔的作品檢視各種各樣的疆界,不只是全球化議題本身,更是全球化對一般人日常生活的影響。她揭露了憂懼和安全的兩個極端,也把觀眾的參與和反應包括在藝術行動中。她的作品是活性的,她引發觀眾的參與互動是直覺的,更常挑戰參與者的回應,激起受眾對不安 / 安全感的認知。也因此,她的作品探討全球化、女性的觀點、人權、軍事、消費文化的意義直接觸及觀眾的個人生活經驗。她模糊藝術家和觀眾的角色,兩者流動的互動使彼此都成為作品的創造者,藝術行動的意義生產者。