三岔口上説「中國行為藝術」，談何容易？ / To Speak of Chinese Performance Art at the Crossroads Is Easier Said Than Done
at 10:38pm on 23rd September 2013
1. 2004年原名「秀客現場藝術節」更名為「第二屆大道現藝術節」，發起人舒陽於北京建外Soho舉行的藝術節中展演作品。In 2004, the ‘Shocker Live Art Festival’ was renamed to ‘2nd DaDao Live Art Festival.’ Artist-organizer Shu Yang presented his work during the festival in Jianwai SOHO, Beijing.
2. 參與「OPEN」十週年第六週的國內外藝術家聚首一堂。Artists in the Week 6 programme of the OPEN 10 festival (2009).
3. 第一屆「廣州·現場」（2010），越南藝術家Tran Luong在作品中邀請觀眾用紅領巾鞭刷去其身上的一個虛構的島嶼，然後可取走漂在水池上的同名蛋糕。惟在展演途中被策展人干預，終止了作品。In the first edition of ‘Guangzhou Live’ in 2010, Vietnamese artist Tran Luong presented his signature performance and invited audience to lash off one of the imaginary island painted on his body by flogging the red scarf and then take a piece of cake floating on a pool. However, he was interrupted by the curator in the middle of his performance.
4. 澳門藝術博物館舉行的第三屆「以身觀身——中國行為藝術文獻展」，開幕後的研討會上大家侃侃而談「中國行為藝術」的狀況。A symposium was organized on the occasion of the third ‘Inward Gazes: Documentaries of Chinese Performance Art’ at Macao Museum of Art (2012) regarding the present state of Chinese performance art.
5. 行為藝術如何在藝術史中佔一席位？倫敦泰特現代美術館展示歷史上不同藝術運動的源流。Where does performance art stand in art history? Tate Modern in London traces performance art among other art movements in its display.
All Photos by wen yau
(英文版請往下看 Please scroll down to read the English version.)
如果十多年前說「中國行為藝術」，不少人都會拿出「吃嬰兒」等驚俗駭世的爭議性例子。然而，從前不是已經有「廈門達達」在展覽後焚燒畫作（1986）、肖魯與唐宋在《中國現代藝術展》的「槍擊事件」 （1989）、北京東村藝術家《為無名山增高一米》（1994）等作品／事件了嗎？藝術家身體力行，透過自身為媒介呈現作品，挑戰既有的藝術或社會規範，「行為藝術」（Performance Art）這稱謂也早從八十年代自西方移植到中國的土壤上。而隨著中國藝術在國際市場上瞬間走紅，朱昱《食人》（2000）這類作品引起極大的輿論關注，「行為藝術不是藝術」、「行為藝術是譁眾取寵」等説法不脛而走，行為藝術一下子被打壓得只能從邊緣的位置走到更邊緣。
1999年，曾到日本及歐洲各地交流的馬六明邀請了日本國際行為藝術節（Nippon International Performance Art Festival，簡稱 NIPAF）創辦人及著名行為藝術家霜田誠二到北京作交流展演，啟發了陳進、朱冥及舒陽於 2000 年在北京市郊（懷柔四渡河）創辦了第一屆「OPEN行為藝術節」，邀請了內地及國外的藝術家參與。行為藝術節一般是為期數天或一兩周的活動，藝術家透過密集的創作及作品呈示互相觀摩、切磋。而把這模式大肆引入亞洲的正是霜田誠二，他憑作品《在桌上》（On the Table）於九十年代初在歐美等地備受注目，除了劇場形式的巡迴演出外，一次在波蘭參與藝術節的經驗啟發了他在1993年創辦了影響深遠的NIPAF。其後不少亞洲藝術家參與了NIPAF後回國紛紛籌辦了類似的活動，千禧年後行為藝術節就如雨後春筍，耳濡目染的蔓延開去。而中國大陸也是在這樣的背景下展開了這種藝術家自發的活動形式，行為藝術不再只是傳統展覽中展示的物品（artefact），也不是展覽開幕的穿鑿附會，而是自成一格的繁衍生息。
當藝術家籌劃的年度國際行為藝術節漸見寂靜，瑞典策展人喬納斯·斯坦普（Jonas Stampe）自2010年起在廣州籌辦的每年一度的「廣州．現場」卻以另一種文化想像介入中國行為藝術的場域。三年來策展人廣邀歐洲藝術家到中國參與藝術節，而中國藝術家卻只佔少數；而以策展為中心的模式套用到疏宕不拘、自主性強的行為藝術上，作品呈現以至自我審查亦往往成了策展人與藝術家之間的拉鋸點。如第一屆的「廣州·現場」就發生了越南藝術家Tran Luong在展演作品途中被策展人干預終止的情況，而其他參與藝術家也被提示不能展現政治性作品。當中不只涉及本土與作客者的文化差異與政治，也觸碰到行為藝術在中國大陸的一道底線。作品應否受審查？由誰審查？如何審查？這些都是回到藝術的廣泛爭議，而強調現場展演、自主意識的行為藝術，要不繼續在野草叢生中自成一格而孤芳自賞，要不連接或溶合到當代藝術的運作模式裏，或是在當中隱晦地往還，路是如何走下去？
先不談以「比賽」形式徵集及評審這種著重即場展示的藝術本體問題，多年來的爭議還是在於「中國」這概念－－展覽徵件把參加者定位作「兩岸四地」或甚是「中國公民」、「海外華人」 (1)，然而從現代歷史來看「中國」這觀念卻是千絲萬縷，所謂「兩岸四地」對「中國」的想像也不盡相同，更遑論各區域或城市在不同社會文化背景下發展特色迥異的行為藝術。有些台灣藝術家會因政治考慮及身份認同問題而拒絕參賽，而另立門戶的香港藝術家也在「中國行為藝術」這名字外徘徊觀望 (2)。
不少行為藝術家都抗拒把行為藝術放諸於制度內，斷然拒絕建制資助或市場化或能保衛反叛的一爿天，但能讓偏鋒的連接到既有體制內卻不見得一定是忘本投誠。歐美各地已有大專院校把行為藝術納入課程之內，亦早已有為行為藝術而建立的組織，如美國的富蘭克林熔爐文獻庫（Franklin Furnace Archive）自70年代中已是前衛藝術的實驗 (3)，不少如今已赫赫有名的藝術家如約翰．凱吉（John Cage）、蘿瑞．安德森（Laurie Anderson）、維托．艾肯西（Vito Acconci）等當年也在那兒嶄露頭角，一直以「讓前衛藝術安然立足」（making the world safe for avant-garde art）為旨命，不正是以在野的姿態向主流不卑不亢地示範了安身立命的據點？又如英國的現場藝術發展社（Live Art Development Agency） (4)，自1999年成立以來積極推廣「現場藝術」（Live Art）作為開放包容的概念包羅多元的展演性實踐，透過扶助專業發展、研究出版、藏書庫、文化交流等為項目，給這種不易定性的實驗藝術修橋補路，透過基礎建設為其創造論述，未嘗亦是另一種與主流共存的策略。
另邊廂，行為藝術也逐漸被美術館熱情招手。最顯著的例子莫如美國現代美術館（Museum of Modern Art, 簡稱 MoMA）已從媒體藝術擴展至行為藝術 (5)，2010年為殿堂級行為藝術家瑪莉娜．阿伯拉莫維奇（Marina Abramović）舉行回顧展「The Artist is Present」，阿伯拉莫維奇在兩個多月的展覽期間進行了合共七百多小時與觀眾一對一凝望的現場展演，除了頓成紐約城中熱話，也創造了五十萬人次造訪的佳話；而當代藝壇也突然間對行為藝術趨之若鶩，甚至刮目相看。藝術家在現場展演與觀眾互動產生直接、發自內心的美感經驗，美術館亦乘著行為藝術的開放性，把拘束慘白的建制空間塑造成讓社群參與的公共空間。去年，倫敦的泰特現代美術館（Tate Modern）也以一連串的展演性作品展覽及現場演出，為剛擴充的油庫館（The Tanks）新翼作揭幕。回到亞洲，曾禁絕資助行為藝術達十年的新加坡 (6)，亦把這藝術形式招攬到官方建制旗下，新加坡美術館（Singapore Art Museum，簡稱SAM）這兩年來相繼舉行了活躍於行為藝術的本地藝術家王良吟（Amenda Heng） 和李文（Lee Wen）的個人回顧展覽。如何把顛覆性的藝術安置到現成的殿堂內也許已是泛泛之談，兩者間如何相互調適吸納，在當代語境裏產生意義和動力？這或許比單向的壁壘分明更能排解當中錯綜複雜的文化角力。
主流與偏鋒或許只是簡化的二元分類，但若看行為藝術在既有系統裏試圖另闢蹊徑，在歐美國家已漸見它發展出一套自外生成的系統，於隙縫中綻放出奇葩異卉。就是説紀錄行為藝術也已超越了純粹整理資料的基本功，嘗試透過重演（re-enactment）而活化舊有作品，自省行為藝術瞬間即逝的性質。而跨學科的表演研究（performance studies）逐漸興旺，也把行為藝術拉闊到更大的文化、社會和政治場景。 其實這些年來行為藝術在不同省市也以自發形式舉行不同的活動，近年不少國內外的年青學者研究「中國行為藝術」 (7)，去年起四川美術學院新媒體藝術系也把行為藝術納入了課程，新一代又會發放怎樣的能量？當國際大氣候日漸熾熱的討論藝術、政治與社會參與的話題，當中國藝術從市場泡沫裏退守下來，「中國行為藝術」在單打獨鬥或走向體制間，在本土與地域、國際間進退維谷，如何從其獨特的背景走下去？在三岔口上還是要拭目以待。
(1) 2005年第一屆徵件歡迎「中國內地、香港、澳門及台灣兩岸四地之華人藝術家」參加；2008年第二屆只註明是「兩岸四地之華人藝術家」；2012年第三屆則是「 兩岸四地中國公民及海外華人」。（參見三屆「以身觀身——中國行為藝術文獻展」作品徵集單張）
(2) 本文談及的「中國行為藝術」主要泛指在中國內地的相關活動，有關香港及台灣的行為藝術發展，可參考：姚瑞中《台灣行為藝術檔案 1978-2004》，遠流出版，2005、魂游〈香港行為藝術：靜聽紛沓聲中的樂譜〉，當代藝術與投資，總第41期，2010年5月。
(3) Franklin Furnace: http://www.franklinfurnace.org/
(4) Live Art Development Agency: http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/
(5) 2009年MoMA把行為藝術加入媒體藝術部，亦名為「媒體及行為藝術部」（Department of Media and Performance Art）
(6) 1993年12月，吳承祖（Josef Ng）及其他藝術家展演了涉及飲尿、剪陰毛及同性戀的行為藝術作品後，新加坡政府於數週後頒佈停止資助行為藝術及論壇劇場，因其無劇本及即興讓觀眾參與會「對公共秩序及安全構成危險」，也會「宣掦對社會及宗教的異常訊息，或造成顛覆」。直至2003年才解除有關禁令。
(7) 近年出版有關行為藝術的學術論文包括：蔡青《行為藝術與心靈治愈》，北京：世界圖書， 2012；霍少霞《中國行為藝術: 身體與場域》，台北：藝術家出版社，2010；湯偉鋒《Performance Art in China》，Timezone 8，2006；其他論文包括：Adele Tan, Looking for Ethics and Eros: Theorising Performance Art in China from 1979, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, UK in 2009；Tong Pui-yin, Account of the Development of Performance Art in the People's Republic of China, Central Saint Martins, University of Arts, London, UK, 2013.
Link for further information:
Video of Guangzhou Live 2010 @ Asia Art Archive
To Speak of Chinese Performance Art at the Crossroads Is Easier Said Than Done
Ten years ago, when we talked about Chinese performance art, people would typically refer to controversial actions like eating a fetus. However, one should not forget that there were also Xiamen Dada’s burning of artworks after exhibition (1986), Xiao Lu and Tang Song’s shooting incident at the “China Modern Art Exhibition” (1989), the Beijing East Village artists’ To Add One Meter to An Anonymous Mountain (1994), and so on. Artists use their bodies as an immediate medium to present works that challenge the artistic and social norms of their times. The term “performance art” was translated into the Chinese context in the early 1980s. With the dramatic rise of Chinese art in the international art market, works such as Zhu Yu’s Eating People (2000) in particular attracted much international and local debate. Suppressing views that performance art is not art, or that performance art is just antics, shunned.
While attention is given to misplaced ethical controversy, performance artists have quietly shifted to a new mode of production and presentation, finding connections to other realms of artistic form.
PERFORMANCE ART FESTIVALS: SELF-CURATED OR SELF-INDULGED?
In 1999, artist Ma Liuming invited Seiji Shimoda, artist and founder of Nippon International Performance Art Festival (NIPAF), to participate at an exchange event in Beijing. Shimoda’s visit in 1999 inspired Chen Jin, Zhu Ming, and Shu Yang to organize the first edition of OPEN Performance art festival in the Beijing suburb West Siduhe Village, Huairou. Participants included both local and international artists. Performance art festivals then usually ran for several days or one to two weeks, during which artists engaged in an intensive period of creating and presenting their work to one another. This model was enthusiastically introduced by Shimoda to Asia. His work On the Table had garnered much attention in Europe and America, and his experience at a Polish art festival had inspired him to launch the highly influential NIPAF in 1993. Many NIPAF participants had returned to their countries and organized similar events. This ripple effect reached China, too. Other than artist-led events, festivals provided performance a dedicated showcase, so that it is no longer merely an add-on event in gallery exhibitions, or mere artifacts on conventional display.
The growing live art scene in the UK propelled Shu Yang and his fellow artists to organize the first Dadao Live Festival in 2003, Beijing. In the following years, performance art festivals and events mushroomed in Xi’an, Chengdu, Changsha, and other cities in the mainland. These festivals and events departed from the conventional curatorial model as most of them were artist-run, determined by the artist-organizer’s aesthetic sense and personal social networks. Oftentimes artists would invite one another to participate in each other’s events. In recent years, the performance art festival fever has gradually gone, and the model of organization has shifted from collective work to one-person operation as artists often reached irreconcilable differences in opinions. The legacy of Dadao festival quietly ended in a gradual loss of vigor. OPEN also shifted towards organizing low-key, small-scale events after its climatic tenth anniversary in 2009 when OPEN 10 involved an eight-week marathon presentation of 300 local and international performance artists.
Unlike painting, sculpture, and other more conventional media, performance art does not easily circulate in the art market unless being displayed in or accompanied by forms of documentation. Its aesthetic exploration often comes with challenges to existing norms and taboos, and therefore the art form is often standing aside or being repelled by the establishment. For years, its underground and sometimes illegitimate status has made performance art festivals' resources scarce and the potential for sustainability slim.
Performance art emphasizes live experience; the work begins when the artist is present. This makes performance art a practice that stresses human experience and the embodiment of subjectivity. The enactment of a performance depends heavily on factors such as space and audience and therefore is often variable. As the artist summons forth his/her own body, the work often communicates strong personal visions of society and the world at large. The inexpensive use of body as a medium also makes performance art a readily available platform for independent and free experimentation, especially for artists working in developing countries. At the same time, the affecting interaction with the audience—which is always instantaneous and direct—makes performance art a useful tool for social and political activism. In mainland China, such challenging nature of performance art practices often attracts police attention and censorship. Presentations involving nudity and social or political content invite investigation and the crowd for performance art festivals has typically consisted of artists, art audiences, and undercover cops. Artists often present their work that contains political messages tacitly along the blurry baseline of censorship under police surveillance.
As the tide of self-organized international performance art festivals subsided in China, Swedish curator Jonas Stampe has been organizing the annual festival Guangzhou Live since 2010, showing a new kind of cultural imaginary in the field. In the festivals during the past three years, more European artists are presented than Chinese performance artists. The curator-led model of organizing such an unfettered and subjective art form as performance art brings along issues about presentation and censorship with performance artists.
In the first edition of Guangzhou Live in 2010, Vietnamese artist Tran Luong was interrupted by the curator in the middle of his performance, whereas other participating artists were warned against involving politically-overt content in their work. This involves not only issues about subjectivity and objectivity, or cultural differences and cultural politics, but also the boundary of performance art practice in China. Should art be censored, and by whom? How to censor? These questions about art are particularly pertinent for performance art, which emphasizes autonomy and the live experience. Should performance art continue to uphold its self-contained and independent practice, seek ways to connect or adopt to the mainstream contemporary art system, or hover in between?
“CHINESE PERFORMANCE ART”?
This reminds me of the Macao Art Museum’s “Inward Gazes: Documentaries of Chinese Performance art,” of which the third edition presented last year organized a symposium regarding the present state of Chinese performance art. As a commentator, I felt compelled to retort, what exactly do we mean by “Chinese?”
The “Inward Gazes” has held an open call submission for Chinese performance art every three years. Artists submit documentation of past work, and the jury selects outstanding and awarded works that the museum will present in the triennial exhibition and acquire for their collection. So far, the first two editions of this competition named winners that were subsequently invited to participate in a festival in France and show their work at the Macao Pavilion in the Venice Biennale. “Inward Gazes” is the first formal presentation of performance art by an official museum in China. Its open call process proves an effective model of developing its museum collection of performance work on a periodic basis.
Besides the limitations of using the competition model to present performance art, a medium which stresses the live aspect, over the years controversy has revolved over the organizer’s definition of “China” in its invocation of “Chinese performance art.” The exhibition defines its participating artists by geography: “four cross-strait regions,” “Chinese citizen,” and “overseas Chinese.”(1) Yet from the perspective of modern history, there are countless and often contradictory ways of tracing the definition of China.
The general definition of “four cross-strait regions” involves a variety of cities and cultures that identify with Chineseness in different ways. Performance art from each region has via its own context developed in different ways. Taiwanese artists, for example, may refuse participation in this competition due to political considerations and problems of identity. Likewise, many Hong Kong artists waver in their uncertain relationship with “Chinese” performance art.(2)
For a long time, performance art as an ephemeral art form positioned itself at the periphery of the art system. Lacking critical discourses and substantial research, performance artists could easily fall into idiosyncratic language. The “Inward Gazes” opens up a new way of presenting “Chinese performance art”. Yet, how does it build the museum collection via open-call submission? How to compile these collected documentation as research and archival material? A monotonic notion of “Chinese performance art” is limited to generalize the development of an art form like performance art that resists norms and definition in various contexts. Given that how to document performance art is itself debatable, how can we explore the possibilities of assimilating the peripheral form into mainstream art infrastructures?
SURVIVING BETWEEN THE GAPS OF THE SYSTEM
To preserve a field of rebellious freedom, many performance artists refuse to enter the mainstream art system by rejecting sponsorship and market values. Strategic adoption of art-world structures may not necessarily mean trading away their critical position of freedom. Many universities in Europe and America now offer performance art courses, and there are dedicated institutions as well. Franklin Furnace Archive is an experimental platform active since the 1970s. Aimed to “make the world safe for avant-garde art,” Franklin Furnace has presented the work of many notable artists in their early career, including John Cage, Laurie Anderson, and Vito Acconci. The archive settles itself outside the mainstream system and shows its mission in a humble yet dignified way. (3)
Live Art Development Agency is another such example with an open attitude towards diverse art performances. Founded in 1999, the agency provides support for professional development, presents research projects and publications, and hosts a study room, cultural exchange programs, and so on. The agency offers institutional support to experimental performance practice by building sustainable infrastructure and developing its own discourse. (4) This may be another strategy for co-existing with the establishment.
On the other hand, performance art is slowly being included in museum programs. In 2009, MOMA expanded its Media Art Department to include performance art.(5) In 2010, the museum presented Marina Abramović’s “The Artist is Present,” for which over a two-month period the artist sat motionless for more than 700 hours, inviting audience members to sit across from her one at a time. This event became the talk of the town while the museum celebrated a record attendance of 500,000 visitors. “The Artist is Present” offered a direct and sensual experience that transformed the white cube into a participatory public space. The contemporary art world was suddenly again impressed by performance art. Last year, Tate Modern also hosted a series of performance art events and exhibitions to launch its new wing, The Tanks. In Asia, the Singapore government lifted its ten-year ban against government sponsorship of performance art in 2003.(6) Performance art seems to be more institutionalized, as the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) organized two consecutive solo exhibitions of local artists Amenda Heng and Lee Wen, who actively practise performance art, in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Questions about how to canonize a subversive art form within institutional settings may seem cliché. However, it would be complicating when critical art practices and institutional practices relate and adapt to each other, generating meaning and dynamics in contemporary contexts. Such complication may be more useful than using a binary views to understand the complexity of cultural negotiation.
The notion of alternative vis-à-vis the mainstream may sound too simplistic. Given that performance art is said to have sought alternative ways of presentation within established art systems, America and Europe have flourished self-contained platforms specifically for performance art to fill the gaps between the alternative and the mainstream. Further to the fundamental goals of keeping and compiling historical information in archiving performance art, artists also explore ways of revitalizing historical works through re-enactment of such ephemeral work as performance in a critical way. Meanwhile, the emergence of performance studies has brought the subject into a wider cultural, social, and political context in cross-disciplinary approaches. In recent years young academicians have successively completed or published PhD theses on “Chinese performance art.”(7) The New Media Department of the Sichuan Art Academy has also formally introduced a course specifically on performance art since last year. How will these changes affect the younger generation of artists? While global art discourse continues its interest in politically and socially engaged practice, and Chinese art market is retreating from its bubble years, where will Chinese performance art go within its specific contexts? At the crossroads of being independent or institutionalized, as well as going local, regional or international, Chinese performance art is speculated to find its own way, and it is always easier said than done.
(1) The first open call competition in 2005 invited “Four Cross-Strait Chinese artists residing in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan”; the second open call in 2008 invited “Four Cross-Strait Chinese artists”; and the third in 2012, “Four Cross-Strait Chinese citizens and overseas Chinese.”
(2) In this article, “Chinese performance art” refers generally to performance art practice in Mainland China.
(3) Franklin Furnace: http://www.franklinfurnace.org/
(4) Live Art Development Agency: http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/
(5) In 2009, MoMA renamed its Media Arts Department the Department of Media and Performance Art.
(6) In December 1993, Josef Ng and other artists engaged in a performance of drinking urine, trimming pubic hair, and displaying homosexual behavior. The Singaporean government subsequently terminated its sponsorship of performance art and related theatre and discussion, claiming that the unscripted and spontaneous acts will endanger public order and security, and promote abnormal information regarding society and religions.
(7) Recently published theses on performance art in China include: Cai Qing, The Potential of Performance Art in Psychotherapy, World Publishing Corporation, Beijing, 2012; Silvia Fok, Performance Art in China: Site and the Body, Artist Publishing, Taipei, 2010; Thomas J Berghuis, Performance Art in China, Timezone 8, 2006. Other theses include: Adele Tan, Looking for Ethics and Eros: Theorising Performance Art in China from 1979, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, UK in 2009; Tong Pui-yin, Account of the Development of Performance Art in the People's Republic of China, Central Saint Martins, University of Arts, London, UK, 2013.
Link for further information:
Video of Guangzhou Live 2010 @ Asia Art Archive
An edition of this article was published in LEAP magazine, Issue 146, June 2013.