《FENG YU PIAO YAO AI GUO SHI ─ art response to June 4th 20th anniversary》curatorial notes
“Feng Yu Piao Yao Ai Guo Shi” (Patriotism in the storms) is an irony which pretended to be serious. During the 1989 democratic movement, great inflation and serious corruption among government officials placed China into a turmoil. Patriotic students kneeled, begged and launched a hunger strike to crave for a chance of conversation. Twenty years have passed and the same piece of land has changed – censorship on expression persists, but the regime has sugared the pill by propagandizing a mirage of a prosperous society. Our mainland counterparts were born and bred in concealments. To some of them, memorial to June 4 is probably an unpatriotic gossip. Discussing June 4 may help us to meditate on the meaning of patriotism.
Their June 4?
To commemorate June 4 is in fact not so directly bonded to firsthand memory and experience. The individual exposure of the artists may act as the trigger for understanding their intentions and starting points. What really matters is how June 4 has subliminally incorporated itself into our sense of meaning and how it constructs its own linkage to our mind and form part of our story. Such linkage may be bonded to our conversations with our teachers and parents, or to one of our favourite movies, songs or articles. This trigger provides the momentum for the artists to start their zealous search for truth or transmission to later generations. The artists extracted this very part of their own history or mentality and voiced out. Their works may represent a new perspective in / throw some light on interpreting June 4 in a more powerful (or interesting) way of discussing the issue in their own sense.
Some of them respond deeply to the call of the incident. Some reflect that there was a need to pass on as June 4 lingers and fades. Some secretly keep their concern and a “never-forget-always-remember” pose for the issue. (But how can we forget it if we have no firsthand memory at all?) But most of them have been absent from history and internal feelings, finding themselves ambiguous. (Memory in mosaic?) In a nutshell, it’s hard to claim June 4 as a nostalgia or retrospect. Without such nostalgic retrospect, the tank doesn’t look gigantic and fail to trigger a conditional reflex, and can be transformed into a candle in remembrance of June 4, or even a Lego cleaning the Goddess of Liberty. That’s how they exemplify a serious attitude in June 4 discourse with amusements, tricks and black humour.
Do we need floating group of June 4?
We do not need to be overwhelmingly calm, withdrawn or objective in discussing June 4. Yet, we should accept blurriness, which situates in between passion and indifference. A lot of people feel uninvolved and don’t feel like voicing out. They inconspicuously care about the issue. But they don’t take an active role nor oppose a small stray.
Does (political) art need to be “floating”?
It is easy to conceal one’s stance in art, owing to its abstractness and openness. But when I was standing in front of a painting, I was touched. It was not a feeling of “either this or that”, nor could it be replaced by an organized analysis or discourse.
Binarism tends to speak but fails to talk and discuss. But good works of art always invite us to sit down and chat.
Time and space of patriotism
They might be sharing the same genes with the students twenty years ago. Or both groups show little discrepancy on their concern for social development. What marks their difference is their distinctive ways of engaging in the issue. In response and parallel to the direct confrontation, they mocked and expressed their resentment metaphorically. They don’t need to fight for a chance of expression in public forums. They can voice out in their personal blogs.
But does this reflect their inability to take part in politics? Are we just to voice out, but not to overthrow a tyranny or political system? Or are we successful in creating a wave of temporary criticisms, but which are not meant to accumulate and sustain?
Regardless of the year of birth, the thoughts of the 20s are always cherished by society.
Although they might be the final generation with scattered pieces of memory of June 4, or the ones bred under the shadow of Sino-British struggles and the once imminent handover, with a negative image of the PRC, probably, they are the last ones kept “alert” to and distanced themselves from the Chinese identity.
The news clippings of the exhibition
If the exhibited works are recording how younger generations today understand June 4, the series of news clippings and magazine 20 years ago exhibited simultaneously must be an exact mirror image. They invited audience to go back to the past and immerse in the atmosphere at that time.