Yang Xiaobin, another poet’s photography

 

Poet, critic, scholar Yang Xiaobin, now on the faculty at Academia Sinica in Taiwan, has in recent years joined the group of contemporary Chinese poets working in photography (Bei Dao, Mo Mo, Li Li among others). Yang is certainly the one whose engagement is most fully explicated in his own theoretical manner on his website. The textual companion

關鍵詞

 

is constructed in the manner of “keywords”, including “quotidian,” “badness,” “ready-made,” “subjectivity,” “other,” “garbage,” “trace [Derrida],” “automatism,” “abstract/figural,” and so forth. His photographic images, meanwhile, were originally material objects (flat surfaces such as walls, doorways, pavement) at such acutely close-up range as to render them visually unintelligible. Since then he has moved on to something different, more tactile, and readable. Long explication of his “post-photography-ism” is Palimpsest and Trace: Post-Photographism. Sample images from the exhibition site:

 

pic1

 

More, and I think better, works available on his blog:

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As for Yang’s poetry, it is often described as being difficult, or at least challenging. Here, for instance, in a translation produced by Karla Kelsey, John Gery and the poet himself, is the second of three short poems, this entitled “Bread”

 

BREAD

You sliced the loaf of bread with a comb,

finding inside it hairs of the dead, a squamish voice,

and dry, warmed-over love.

the bread darkened and darkened, its crumbs

more and more seared and shriveled:

Before you could wash and dress, you face, too, was burnt:

its features, not easy to swallow,

burgeon with a hunger for beauty.

面包

你用梳子切开面包。那里

有死者的发丝,娇嗔

烤热的爱。

面包越来越黑,碎屑

越来越理不清:

梳洗之前,你的脸已烧焦。

难以下咽的五官

带着美的饥饿。

*translation appears in Another Kind of Nation: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Poetry edited by Zhang Er and Chen Dongdong (Talisman House, 2007), 290.

Poetic Survivors (诗意的幸存者) exhibition

We Are Ourselves History 我们自己就是历史 

the “poetic survivors”

POET-ARTISTS at it again.

Laying vigorous claim to the hopelessly untranslatable  诗意 (“poeticalness”?–or shall we just say ‘poetic’), the poets of the Misty generation, led again by Yan Li and friends, are taking the stage as “painter-poets,” full of nostalgia for the days of old (26 years, to be precise), but also with an eye to the future of Chinese painting and poetry. In this forward-looking respect I find the most promise for such endeavors, a slow moving “movement,” to be sure, but the conjoined media endeavor of painting (and photography) and poetry have two things going for it: a robust tradition and unfadable modernity, the latter residing in the former, curiously enough.

This exhibition, title The Poetic Survivors 诗意的幸存者 , is on a larger scale than many iterations past, with some new members in the line-up. In particular is the calligraphy of Tang Xiaodu 唐晓渡, long-time critic and cultural figure whose visual art I had never seen before this collection emerged. Also notable is the preface to the exhibition written by Yang Lian, who is not often so closely engaged with goings-on inside China. The funding will carry this exhibition through numerous cities over the next 12 months, among them and besides Shanghai where the operation kicked off in November, will be Beijing, Shenyang, and Dalian.

The seven-person lineup this time rather different from previous “Poets Group” (诗派) of painters, with only Mang Ke 芒克, and Yan Li 严力 the constant members. They are here joined by Tang Xiaodu 唐晓渡, as mentioned, but also You You 友友, Guo Changhong 郭长虹, Li Li 李笠 and  Jie Wei 解危.

 

As to the contents, the photographic images by Li Li, are surely arresting. For instance:

 

Li Li photo

Morning Mirror 晨镜

 

 

and:

 

Li Li Photo

Coming Home #1 回家之一

 

 

But nonetheless I’m most impressed by Mang Ke’s painting, which evolves in slow but also deliberate and oddly self-assured steps. The earlier work was completely abstract, seeming landscapes with only faint hints of representation such as:

Mang Ke

2013-18 98x78cm


Gradually, the landscapes acquire more acute dimensionality, and often water banks, hills and other discernable features of the phenomenal world. In this case, a bank of trees by the water:

 

Mang Ke

2014-15 118x75cm

 

 

Nonetheless, Mang’s titles are still rigorously abstract: “2014-15”. The words he reserves for poetic work, which is not represented anywhere in this particular volume.

Chinese reporting on the exhibition below:

 

 

http://culture.ifeng.com/a/20141216/42730221_0.shtml

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凤凰网文化讯 2014年12月14日下午2时,“诗意的幸存者”–中国当代诗人“视觉艺术展”,在位于上海浦东三林老街的中道(上海)艺术馆启幕。

此次巡展由作家高晖担任总策展人,诗人杨炼为艺术总监,并由上海德重文化艺术有限公司、辽宁衡德投资公司联袂主办。上海站策展人由江旭担纲。参展人有中国朦胧诗的代表人物芒克、唐晓渡、严力,有作家兼画家友友、诗人摄影家李笠,还有诗人学者郭长虹、诗人画家解危等七人组成。

除上述参展诗人艺术家外,还有文学批评家、诗歌批评家、美术批评家、诗人、画家、上海各界代表及瑞典国驻上海总领事馆官员等共计110余人参加了此次活动。

著名诗歌评论家唐晓渡现场发言

策展人高晖说,此次展出的诗人视觉艺术品,关乎诗人个人心灵史也就是1980年代中国朦胧诗歌史的补充和延续。从这些视觉艺术作品里,总能看到那种灵动、奇异而温暖的东西,这种东西就是我们常说的诗意。当下,中国专业书画界乱象丛生,恢复中国视觉艺术作品精神本体性成为当务之急,呼唤心灵参加创作,其实,一个创作者的油彩、笔墨、线条、焦点,就是自身内在生命状态的透析。谁能与心灵一并还乡、谁愿意和历史一起成长、谁能拥有绵长的诗意,谁就是当然的“诗意幸存者”。

启幕仪式结束后,接续举行了“诗意的幸存者”–当代中国诗人视觉艺术研讨会暨诗歌朗诵会和中国当代诗人艺术档案馆(南馆)揭牌仪式。参展诗人纷纷登台朗读自己的代表诗作,场面感人。观众杨昕佳对记者说,我非常感动,这样的场面充满正能量,使我感觉又回到了1980年代。在研讨会上,与会的诗人艺术家、美术批评家,就此次巡展的诗歌与视觉艺术的关系、视觉艺术的精神出处、诗意在视觉艺术作品里的正确表达特别是此次巡展目的、意义、持续方式等方面进行了深入研讨。

诗人芒克与杨炼共同揭幕

最后,中国当代诗人艺术档案馆(南馆筹备处)由诗人芒克揭牌。该馆的建立,将成为保存中国当代朦胧诗歌史的现有文献的重要载体,将切实推进这段历史文献的搜集、整理及后续研究工作,为幸存的诗意提供一个“恒温箱”。策展人高晖认为,诗意总会被筛选而成为时代的精神高度,当我们丈量一部文学史的时候,其实主要是在翻拣那些诗意元素。这些视觉艺术作品,对于诗人个体而言,完全是诗歌的另外一种写法,而且几乎就是一首长诗的容量。

据了解,巡展启动后将开始不定期接续巡展,从明年3月上旬离开上海,将在北京、沈阳、大连、重庆、成都、济南、江西等地巡展。最后,相关作品和档案将分别保存中国当代诗人艺术档案馆的上海馆和沈阳馆。

美术批评家杨卫认为,此次巡展本身就是2014年的一个标志性文化事件。这次巡展,是中国当代诗人视觉艺术作品的首次集体亮相,充满着诗人艺术家对历史、人生、艺术的立体式反思与回顾,其本身就是一首不同寻常的“小长诗”。此次巡展将推动中国视觉艺术精神本体性的凸显,重新厘清视觉艺术创作者与自身内在生命状态的联系方式,进而指向其整体精神特质,从而拓宽当代文人视觉艺术作品的内含和外延。

杨炼撰写画展序言《诗意的幸存者》:

中国文人画,自元代始,其思想、美学特征,质言之,一曰民间性,汉族文人离弃对官方权力的依赖,由被迫而主动地深入民间生存处境,使艺术内涵愈加饱满。二曰文化性,汉文化的深厚资源,经由文人独立思考和重构,不仅没沦为粗疏,反而激发出超强能量,形成无数风骨、神采兼备的美学杰作。这民间、文化二元互补,彼此印证,转型至今,便是本人那句“独立思考为体,古今中外为用”。以此为根,我们的人生和创作,从未离开这个真传统、活传统。

上世纪八十年代初,华夏长梦初醒,“朦胧诗”并不朦胧,写诗爱诗若不知芒克、唐晓渡、严力诸君大名,简直不可思议。在京都,友友和我,出入诗人聚会,何止诗作青春四射?诗人和女友也个个英俊倜傥、美艳夺目。小字辈李笠本来就是帅哥,而那时尚未结识的郭长虹、解危,想来也均在他处驰骋。1988年“幸存者”诗人俱乐部,被同住北京劲松的芒克、晓渡和我们催生而出,一册油印诗刊、一百元外汇卷“巨款”赞助,掀起余震不断的社会海啸。那时我们谁能想到,二十六年后,会戴着另一圈迥然不同的画家光环,聚会到一起?二十六年啊,时间空间,如我们一样成了鬼魂,轮回在认不出的地方。中国,只剩几个老地名。“全球”,转眼扎进这土地每个角落。芒克诗题“今天是哪一天?”我出国前写过:“这儿是哪儿多远?”美貌不再,沧桑已至。我们自己就是历史。

但,多远?是否该改成:多近?潜入一行诗、一张画中的文人精神传统那么近!我们每个人的人生、历史、思想、艺术,本身就是一首小长诗。年轮兑换成了思想,而挑战威权话语的个性诗意不变。词语转型为笔墨、影像,而每一点、每条线、每一像素中蕴含的经典性,已如另一诗律,加入我们的艺术自律。一个姿态,与文化对决;而一种目标,却始终在创建文化。铆定的方向是:空话免谈,自我的深度必须印证于作品的深度。芒克的油画率性浓烈、晓渡的书札原生元气、严力的笔触优雅灵慧、友友的彩墨野艳奇崛、李笠的摄影自成玄学、长虹的心景嶙峋灵秀、解危的构图瑰异清冷。这里,万变不离其宗的,是每个艺术家创作中不断滋长的诗意。那原创的艺术属性,横溢的才华气质,永远比庞然大物的“过去”更大。民间性和文化性,铸成当代中国艺术的先天基因,由此幻化出我们种种艺术个性。为什么要否认?中国新视觉艺术,一定是还原了思想本义的新文人画:自觉承续、拓展那个贯穿千载的“雅艺术”精神传统——拒斥以任何方式流于空、俗、糙、贱,无论它们凭籍权力、市场的压力,或假借民众口味的名义。

正因为饱经沧桑,艺术才俊美永存。谁与心灵一并还乡、谁和历史一起成长,谁就是“幸存者”。我们生命的诗意,已将自己缔造成一个当代传统,并汇入了那个涵括一切时空的深邃无垠的传统中。