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Posts tagged ‘行动主义 activism’

图片/image: Jeronimo Voss


19:00—> 2013年10月19日

继今年四月对空间模式的热烈讨论之后,家作坊现在推出下一个议题:艺术家在北京(但不仅限于北京) 组织自己的“工作-生活”的不同方式。

  • 生活工作在阿姆斯特丹的Maja Bekan 和 Angela Serino目前是北京IFP(Institute for Provocation)的驻地艺术家,她们的项目是“行动中的身体:文化工作者的未来会是怎样?”
    Maja Bekan是一名行为和视觉艺术家。她是艺术家鹿特丹艺术组织“论辩与艺术区”(ADA,Area for Debate and Art)的发起人与策划者。
    Angela Serino是生活工作在阿姆斯特丹的意大利策展人和作家,自2010年起出任荷兰艺术机构Kunsthuis SYB的项目策划委员会委员。
  • 方璐是一位生活和工作在北京的录像艺术家、录像局的发起人之一。录像局是设在北京和广州的独立录像档案资源库,主要致力于为录像艺术提供展览,组织和存档的平台。
  • 来自德国的访问艺术家Jeronimo Voss是艺术工作者联盟(Art Workers Coalition)的组织者之一。艺术工作者联盟主要研究职业艺术工作者的政治和组织可能性及其与其它社会运动之间更为广泛的联系,如他们的项目Philosophicum就以法兰克福住房短缺问题入手,向政府提议将一个废弃的大学校园建成住房合作社。
  • 在北京工作和生活的艺术家吴玉仁通过自己的装置与摄影作品阐释权力结构及其对个体的影响。2010年,吴先生参与组织了包括多名艺术家与当地民众在内的抵抗强拆活动。

Surviving Art

7:00 pm—> October 19th, 2013

In a followup to our lively discussion on different models of “spaces” in April, HomeShop hosts a discussion on the ways that artists organize their working lives, in Beijing and beyond.

In China (and elsewhere), while artistic work has often meant self-employment and being one’s own boss, it has not always translated as “self-determination.” We start this discussion from a common inquiry that unites a variety of positions: what structures can we create to endow our work with a little more stability?


  • Amsterdam based Maja Bekan and Angela Serino are currently in residence at IFP in Beijing working on the project “BODIES AT WORK: What is the future of the cultural worker?”
    Maja Bekan is a performance and visual artist. She is a co-founder and developer of the Rotterdam based artists’ initiative ADA, Area for Debate and Art.
    Angela Serino is an independent curator and writer based in Amsterdam (NL). She is member of the Programming Committee of Kunsthuis SYB, artists in residency devoted to research, experimentation and new collaboration, and co-initiator of noalanguageschool, icw artist M.Al Solh.
  • Fang Lu is a Beijing-based artist working primarily in video. She is co-founder of Video Bureau, an independent video archive resource in Beijing and Guangzhou that aims to provide a platform to exhibit, organize and archive video art.
  • Visiting from Frankfurt, Germany, artist Jeronimo Voss talks about his experiences with artist self organization in Frankfurt am Main. Jeronimo will talk about new urban development plans in Frankfurt, Germany as well as ways of dealing with it, both artistically and on a self-organized daily life basis.
  • Beijing-based artist Wu Yuren represents power structures and their effects on individuals in his installations and photography. In 2010 Wu and a group of artists and residents in northeastern Beijing were involved in resistance against evictions.
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As requested, please find above the full audio recording from the last meeting with Grant KESTER. While we did not adhere too closely to the text this time, several common interests/curiosities, those inevitable questions and quite a bit of editorial juxtaposed with self-reflection from an optimist, a “former” artist, a cynic and several foodies provided interesting insight into politicization as a viewing mechanism, “multiple art worlds”, “nomadic agents of critique”, “spontaneity (not) as stupidity” and the weakness of opposition, among other flows…

We’ll continue with the fallout of relational/dialogical practices with a reading suggested by Michael EDDY—Claire BISHOP’s latest book entitled Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. Chapter 8, “Delegated Performance: Outsourcing Authenticity”, was suggested, but seeing as this book has been in wide circuit since its publishing and given our tendency to stray, perhaps another experiment could be attempted for each participant to read a chapter of interest and then introduce it to the rest of the group, as once attempted during the also relevant meeting “Modes of Activism“. What do you think? If you are interested to join this session of Happy Friends, to be held on

Sunday, 2 December 2012
18:00 at HomeShop

please send us an e-mail or leave a comment to this post in order to receive a copy of the reading, and let us know which of the following chapters floats your boat:

  1. The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents, p 11
  2. Artificial Hells: The Historic Avant-garde, p 41
  3. Je participe, tu participes, il participe . . . , p 77
  4. Social Sadism Made Explicit, p 105
  5. The Social Under Socialism, p 129
  6. Incidental People: APG and Community Arts, p 163
  7. Former West: Art as Project in the Early 1990s, p 193
  8. Delegated Performance: Outsourcing Authenticity, p 219
  9. Pedagogic Projects: ‘How do you bring a classroom to life as if it were a work of art?’, p 241

北京都市农耕联盟 启动会:8月11日,16:00 @家作坊
Beijing Urban Farming Union kickoff meeting: August 11, 16:00 @ HomeShop

诚邀您来家作坊参加这次有关都市农耕交流,来认识志同道合的朋友,了解关于都市农耕的实际情况和DIY自己动手的技术,与其他朋友分享自己的知识和经验。 从哪弄土壤和肥料? 从哪获得种子? 用什么容器? 在哪种? 该如何共同努力才能把都市农耕变得更容易更有趣呢? 为了解答这些问题,我们将组织参观家作坊的实地小农场、堆肥实验及种子交换库,对小型的民间及社区农耕行动进行介绍,探讨连接不同的农耕群体(包括潜在的农耕者)并促进他们的合作的可能途径。 我们应该在城市里种植更多的粮食和蔬菜! 这次交流会就是为了邀请大家参与进来!

Please join us for a gathering at HomeShop to exchange on urban farming in Beijing. It’s an opportunity to meet likeminded people, learn some facts and d.i.y. techniques, and share knowledge and experiences. How can we access soil and fertilizer? Where can we get seeds? What materials can we use for containers, and where can we put them? How can we work together to make it easier and more fun?

To address these questions, on the agenda will be a tour of HomeShop’s on-site small farm and composting experiments and Seed Exchange Bank, presentations on small civil-society and community initiatives into agriculture in Beijing, and envisioning possible ways of linking up and cooperating among diverse groups of growers (and potential growers).

We should grow more food in the cities! This meeting is an invitation to get involved.

Co-organized by HomeShop and Jonas Nakonz 

在家门口种上一株黄瓜,即刻你就被转移到一个包含所有下列事物的宇宙:全球政治,复杂生态系统,社会变化,减缓气候变化,DIY技术,大大提高的生活质量和关注自然之美带来的精神上感悟。 民以食为天,但是平常你吃的食物可能带来生物多样性破坏,全球气候变化,土壤和水的污染。
数据: 在中国,农业一个部门排放的温室气体是整个工业部门的将近两倍。每年中国使用约有5千万吨化学肥料,但只有17%被作物吸收,其余的则都流失到了环境中。更不用说,每年喷洒在你食物上的150万吨农药,还有在生产这些农药过程中使用的煤炭能源。而在中国,马路上30%的耗油大卡车实际上是在运送粮食。如果你能闻到饭菜里的燃油气味,肯定吃不下饭!
中国的城市化带来了人类历史上最大规模的人口迁移,也创造了大约1万平方公里的可使用的屋顶面积,这些空间给有机种植者提供了一个庞大的舞台来解决前面提到的问题。此外,大量的有机质以厨余垃圾的形式被浪费。北京每天就填埋处理8千吨,焚烧处理2千吨厨余垃圾,而这些厨余垃圾完全经过堆肥处理制成有机肥来供都市农耕使用。 在市区,“桶园艺”令人耳目一新,尤其在中老年人中很流行。但都市农耕的潜力远远不止于此。技术琳琅满目,从利用回收的瓶子完成自灌的简易系统到由传感器控制的自动化农场,非常有意思。任何空间和环境都有其用武之地。都市农耕能把灰暗压抑的水泥空间变成令人耳目一新的的放松与聊天场所。它创新社区、交流网络、以及教育和能力建设的平台。不要再等政府来帮忙解决我们这个星球的问题。如果你种下那棵黄瓜,那么你就为一项伟大的事业贡献了一份力量!

Plant a cucumber at your doorstep and you’re instantly beamed into a universe of global politics, complex ecosystems, social change, climate change mitigation, d.i.y. technology, massively improved quality of life and spiritual enlightenment contemplating the beauty of nature. Food sustains life; but eating your average food can contribute to the destruction of biodiversity, global warming and poisoning of soils and water.
Some figures: Chinese agriculture emits almost twice as much greenhouse gas than its entire industrial sector. Of the yearly 50 Million tons of inorganic fertilizer poured onto Chinese soil, only 17% is taken up by crops. The rest is “lost to the environment”. Not to mention the yearly dose of 1.5 million tons of toxic pesticides sprayed on your food, and the coal-burning energy to produce that stuff. What is more, 30% of all fuel guzzling trucks on Chinese roads are actually transporting food – if you could smell the carbon in your dish you’d choke.
Chinese urbanization – the largest migration in human history – has led to the creation of an estimated 10,000 km2 of unused rooftop area in China; that’s a big playground for organic gardeners to counter these problems. There’s tons of wasted organic matter; Beijing alone sends 8000 tons of food waste to the landfills every day and burns another 2000 tons. All of that could be put into compost bins and provide clean nutrients for your food. In Chinese cities, bucket gardening is refreshingly popular, particularly among the elderly. But the potential of urban farming goes far beyond. There are fascinating technologies, ranging from easy self-watering systems from recycled bottles to sensor-controlled automated farms. There is something smart for every space and condition. Urban farming can transform gray concrete into spaces of relaxation and dialogue. It creates community, networks of exchange, a platform for education and empowerment. Don’t wait until governments solve the problems of this planet. If you plant that cucumber, you’re part of a big thing!

Following our last meeting on grassroots activism in China, we find the term “activist” returning back to some concerns (the object or the relation?) related to the discussion of 2 meetings ago, on “speculative reason,” by way of a detour.* 

We will be reading from “Semblance and Event,” a recent book by Brian Massumi, philosopher and translator of “1000 Plateaux” by GIlles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. We will take a look at the introductory text to the book.

Also addressed will be “千高原” (Chinese version of “1000 Plateaux,”) as the English text is a bit long for our Chinese-speaking Friends. The introduction was suggested as a good resource for our inevitable wanderings off the straight and narrow. 

The next meeting is planned for Sunday June 24th, 6pm at HomeShop.

If you are interested in receiving the text, please inquire.

*(The detour has to do with 开封 河南 Kaifeng, Henan, and a bilious conflict between OOO-ists [object-oriented ontology] and the POO-ists [process-oriented ontology]… will explain to those interested at the meeting.)

For the next meeting of Happy Friends Reading Club we will shift to an alternative procedure, discussing a number of papers collected at the CONFERENCE ON MODES OF ACTIVISM AND ENGAGEMENT IN THE CHINESE PUBLIC SPHERE (26-27 APRIL 2012 at the National University of Singapore). 

Although the 5 texts chosen from the 5 panels at the conference will be made available to those interested, we will ask several among the Happy Friends to read carefully with a view to presenting the basic points of the papers at the meeting. This method is chosen to get a cross-section of the discussions at the conference, and perhaps of some sort of “current state” of activist practices in China. 

There will also be a brief discussion reviewing the art and activist positions at East Asia Multitudes Meeting held at Occupy Central in Hong Kong, where two members of HomeShop had been present.

The meeting is scheduled for 6pm on May 27th, 2012 at HomeShop. 

Mashipo  馬屎埔

It was a surprisingly cool mid-afternoon as our group finally reached what had once been the Mashipo wetlands, which used to cover the area from the river to well beyond the Fanling metro station. We lingered on the sidewalk looking over the densely grown bushes and jerry-rigged assemblages forming the boundary fencing of individual plots. On first inspection, it looked like a vital place: there was a hand-painted sign indicating an organic farmers market near a sheltered post-box unit, and an intermittent flow of pedestrians and cyclists of various ages maneuvered down the concrete paths that strayed into the lush interior, where well-kept houses of corrugated metal were guarded by zealous dogs. Finally our guide, a 60-something year old retired land surveyor (“Not for the developers!”) named Raymond, came out on one of these paths to meet us, and swiftly led us in along toward his land. It was late February but the plants we passed appeared to be in mid-growth (perhaps only notable if you consider the several months until the soil in Beijing takes on the appearance of anything but desiccated silt). Raymond halted briefly at a series of several quadrants where the ground was fastened with tiles and concrete. Here had once stood shacks housing families. Henderson, one of the largest real estate companies in Hong Kong, had been buying up such properties, piece by piece, and either flattening them or smashing them out like gaping lifeless examples in order to unsettle those who still remained.  Raymond’s eyes sparkled as he explained his plan (in perfect English, for my sake): to occupy one yard with festival tents or other makeshift shelters, and refuse to leave until the real estate company took them to court to force removal; then—gesturing gingerly with his arms—he would move the entire occupation a few meters over to the yard “next-door,” repeating the process whenever they received a new notice, and then start all over, therefore dragging any possible removal into some indeterminate future. I asked him whether he had tried this tactic before, and he smiled and said, not yet, but I think it should work.

Moving along, we stopped near an area of turned earth that had been sprinkled with a white powder. Raymond indicated that this would be where they would grow yellow ginger to sell at cost to the pregnant mothers of Hong Kong; without a profit, he stressed, so that the people will understand what our purpose is. And this was just the beginning of the plans for the lengthy strip of land on which we were standing. Raymond’s father-in-law had occupied this government-owned land as tenant in 1960, which was then, ironically, licensed to him by the government in 1970, when it was zoned for agriculture. In the last few years, as was mentioned above, the land has been leased (land can only be leased from the government in Hong Kong, as in PRC) in portions to Henderson to develop apartment high rises. Even if the area we were standing on did not itself become a construction site, development of the sections that had already been bought would basically render the area unfit for cultivation because of the shadows the buildings would cast. The consultancy period for the development of the area had been due to be completed in 2012, but already resistance to the plan had resulted in a delay to the project of 4 years. In the meanwhile, Raymond and his family, as well as a group of young activists and others, are planning a number of projects to further resist and delay the development of the area, involving as many parties as possible. 

As it stands, there are a number of others farming the land, not all of whom have necessarily signed on for the resistance to Henderson and the government. Some of these (apparently mainland Chinese) people come from the large complexes across the road and just want a spot to grow their own vegetables. But lacking knowledge of organic or traditional methods of growing or land management, they have no second thoughts about using pesticides or about lopping off the branches of a perfectly healthy lychee tree (that now had rubber boots inverted on the branch stubs). Such practices were all more self-evidently faulty to the people who had actually been living on the land next to the growing crops. And indeed, not many people actually live on the land anymore. This marks the endeavor of Raymond and his allies as somewhat different from other well-known examples of agriculture, activism and culture uniting in civil resistance against the loss of farm lands and traditional lives at the hands of government and developer collaboration. One of the most well-known of these struggles was the opposition to the Hong Kong–Shenzhen–Guangzhou express rail link, which caused the demolition of Choi Yuen Tsuen and displaced its villagers in a process spanning from 2009–2011. Though the loss of the village is long foregone by now, the resistance actions that included petitions, protests and artistic/activist cultural projects are still felt through a legacy of publications, documentaries, online discussions, and more importantly, through a lasting coalition of efforts that came together and carries over to other fields and new challenges. “There are hundreds of Choi Yuen Tsuens,” I was told, and some of the spirit of possibility carries over to Mashipo. The plan of Raymond and the others, however, is not only based on the injustice of displacement, but about proposing an alternative to the craze for destroying green and natural areas: “a showcase for traditional agriculture.”

Winding our way along a path past a giant mulberry tree and the small house where Raymond’s 90-year old father lives, and through a field of blossoming dill, chamomile and other flowering vegetables, we came to a grove of banana trees and a thin corridor of tall grass on the edge of a stream hidden by undergrowth. Raymond described his plan to construct a mud and straw house in a traditional Guangdong style, his tone sounding urgent since this is best done in the winter. This house had to be built now, but so did the many other initiatives that would go nowhere if brought as proposals to the government first; the key was to simply start doing things. Other ideas included a fish pond, which would also demonstrate cultivation of aquatic flowers, a community kitchen and a composting process, and in the fields, an emphasis on local herbs and vegetables; in short an eco-system that would make good use of this fertile soil. One of the city-based organizers involved in the Mashipo project, Kim Ching, showed me their layout for an edible garden. I asked whether they were reaching out by organizing an allotment system for people to come and grow, or by holding farmers markets or some sort of experimental farming school. (Raymond kind of groaned when I mentioned the sign advertising the organic farmers market I had seen back by the road, explaining that he and others had started it but that now, run by different people, mostly cheap organic produce flooding in from from Mainland China is sold there.) But I was quickly corrected: “Not only a farming school—but everything, public gatherings—in fact, almost everything is related to farming.” 

The impetus behind Mashipo, then, is the construction of public space, in light of (or in spite of) its decimation by the CEOs of both Hong Kong’s administration and its corporations. This form of awareness and discourse was refreshing in a place that is effectively under control of the mainland Government, which also makes it seem fragile. As we looped back toward the street, the heavy evening sky darkened and fused with the curtain of mountains that form the backdrop for the skinny high rises clustering the New Territories. We turned around toward the north and Raymond pointed out some towers looming in the distance spelling out words with LEDs on their ostentatious surfaces. That’s Shenzhen right over there, he said. You can see how convenient it will be to drive down and stop here overnight before getting on the metro to your meetings in the morning, he mused rather reasonably. This observation betrayed no ignorance of the forces they are up against. And with my limited knowledge, I considered how unlikely this situation would be back in Beijing or elsewhere on the mainland: a 4-year delay because of complaints? Was this the patronizing local government appeasing environmentalist nostalgia for the sake of an appearance of validity, or what? (Could it actually be a soft-spot for democracy?) Setting aside doubts about the potency of the deputy authorities and their games, such a delay would certainly be grasped by the citizens of Hong Kong for its possibility to cultivate much more than a few feral papayas. Much more.

《革命将至 L’insurrection qui vient》, donated by 蔡凯 CAI Kai

Recent acquisitions inadvertently parallel other discussions we’ve been having lately, or trying to have, a discussion about the discussion. Sometimes things feel a bit removed, like translators talking about translation, and either we get so entrenched in our own discourses that we never reach consensus, or we play multimedia-like because we cannot escape certain distancing from ourselves.

The Anarchist Cookbook》, donated by 蔡凯 CAI Kai

After a long split, the anarchists find one another again in commiseration for their loneliness.

《香港投诉合唱团 Complaints Choir of Hong Kong》, donated by 麦巅 MAI Dian  (By coincidence, view the first mainland edition in the form of the “北京有机农夫市集吐槽歌会第一波 Beijing Organic Farmers’ Market Spitting Trough Singing Party“, premiering Saturday, 26 November)

There is a triangle here, let’s not call it love just yet, between art and language and activism—one moving each through another—but we have yet to place our subjectivities within them, even if we could say that it is our intention to implicate every stage of an aesthetico-political engagement. But here, in a system where all negotiations have been cut, “what kind of association is enough?” To 上访, to self-immolate or to break out in violence are not so much about negotiation as much as flailing demonstration, so it becomes difficult to see the usefulness of an explanation of the systemics at work, and how many people does the activist have to convince anyway before we could find ourselves on even ground?

I am not sure I know how to how politics,” the artist tells the poet. We lose ourselves in μετά. Translation and translation and translation, activism cannot escape its traps, art indulges. And yet, in commiseration for our loneliness, he mumbles quietly to me today, “我们的本地文化是什么?” Yes, we had lost ourselves over assertions, growing nations, a new space. So I’m wondering if we can go back to simple observations again, the concrete of “the good life”, another consideration of locality. Productivity (…art and language and activism…) is difficult amidst rough re-identification, but we’re thrown again, teenage angst, the revelation of freedom. The results are not external to good will, or the intention in aiming, but as the old saying goes: “Do what you must, come what may.”

木扇 wooden fan, donated by Fotini LAZARIDOU-HATZIGOGA

Even if you don’t understand my writing, the above pictured objects and less than 10,000 other items are available for lending from the HomeShop library/10,000 Item Treasury. Please drop by to browse the collection.

Michael EDDY (问题/questions) & 麦颠 MAI Dian (回复/responses)………[节选/excerpt

Does the way in which we live have to be visualized? Of course not; but it seems that visibility is an important part of both art and activism.

How do both art and activism approach a public?




即便是一种所谓的激进的政治艺术,大家也没有想过避免大众,相反,他们也在以自己的方式解释“为人民服务”, 比如戈达尔。东湖艺术计划的被发起的目的,是因为寻求在主流媒体与本地媒体被审查的新闻与事实,能够藉由另一种语言与信息通道—艺术的语言—从审查里挣脱出来。这个信息会发散到什么程度,不会有人保证,因为艺术毕竟在某种程度上“特殊的语言”。计划的发起人之一李巨川是戈达尔的爱好者,另外一个发起人李郁也是戈达尔的爱好者。李郁自己的摄影作品,是通过对新闻再现(news representation )的再现(representation of the news representation) 来试图反诘主流的媒体话语。他将类似的手法应用了东湖艺术作品中。对地图再现的再现(representation of map representation),不仅历史和媒体说谎,地图—-在某种程度上拥有科学的威严—同样也在说谎。那么,这种通过画面(照片+装置)展现出来的的艺术语言,会在哪些媒介上,被哪些人所接受?事实是,艺术媒体或者研讨会,讨论会。而接收者大多数是接受过专业艺术训练或者有所阅读的业余爱好者。艺术所能影响到的,可能只是一个“公众”集合中的少数人(甚至这些人具有某种专业主义倾向),更加无奈的现实是,艺术所关注的事件的直接“当事人”,比如,失地的农民,明确地告诉我们“看不懂”。





Do we need to produce things—models, discourses, trains of thought, if not outright objects—because of this program of visibility?


是否需要? 回想起过去的一些经验,我的问题可能不在于是否“需要”, 而是“如何”传递以及传递“什么”信息—-既然传递欲望是不可避免的,且现实中,我们也未曾“一概”避免。而且,这只是我们一厢情愿,从我们的角度来看这个问题。另一厢,Visibility/publicity本身也包括了其他的面向:visibility,除了所谓的亲密关系的范围,以及个人以DIY伦理自我表达,若是要面对所谓的大众媒体(无论是官方媒体还是商业媒体。中国并没有真正意义上的“公共媒体”—所以不便加以评论),那么它的“可见性/公共性”的生产机制是什么? 大众媒体出于什么动机要报道和传递“this program”? (某)艺术又如何籍此扩展其范围?其意义是如何发生外溢的?这个过程当中是一个“有选择的过程”,其结果是选择后有特定导向的结果吗?它是抱着“启蒙”的目的?或满足一种“满足与快感”的需求,还是其中包含着两者兼有的一种所谓的曲折的策略?也许,这需要细致且谨慎地考察媒体的话语生产。

那这所谓的visibility又是怎样出来的?是因为distinguishability?比如,我们这里所关注的“食物”,就其生产方面而言,它是否提供了一种对当前食物生产模式与安全危机的替代方式,甚至是现阶段一个可靠的an alternative to instead of capitalism for the future? 或者,它只是中产阶级的休闲方式,其意义和“农家餐馆”甚至“高尔夫球场”,旅游胜地并没有根本区别,它是新的fashion(就像记者总是以为的“时尚达人”,或者,通过“时尚达人”才能报道—-政治是要避免的)?

那么,这个program是怎么样被看的(how is it seen by the others, including media?) 如果你拒绝开放你的园子,另当别论。但如果你开放,那么你的生活(或者说实验)会如何被他人所解读,所阐释?你的实验可能的结果,常常被他人输入另一套(或者多套)话语模式,是不是?怎么来处理这样一种局面—当误读(misrepresentation, 且不说ignorance)?当然,这里需要往前追溯一下,即,在出发点,你打算想将你的生活方式当作一个开放的艺术品,放弃意义的所有权,对所有人开放?还是打算我应该说出我自己所想的(因为你已经在做你自己想做的)?完全的开放,可能会有危险,即所谓的“收编”。比如,被一家以lifestyle为主的媒体将你并置在咖啡馆、购物广场、美食以及美甲店或者创业成功案例的页面之间时,你的感觉是怎样的?



Does the way in which we live have to be visualized? Of course not; but it seems that visibility is an important part of both art and activism.

How do both art and activism approach a public?

I believe the desire to transmit occurs in everyone. As regards activism, even the most individualistic anarchist or the individual preferring spiritual connection long for sympathy from others. This is reflected in self-expressive anarchist brochures and independent media, regardless how large its public sphere extends. Yet for other social movement actors, social propaganda is a crucial tool, as the participation and support of the public is important, correspondence with media likewise, and especially reports from the mass media.

Viewing petitioning as a form of “activism with Chinese characteristics,” we see how much these actions rely on media. To the degree that reporters and opinion-makers become the saving straw for petitioners, hoping reporting and giving-voice can form and inform social pressure. For them this is an exceptional way of transmitting their “grievances” to the uncorrupted political upper classes.

Meanwhile an art characterized by absolute auto-discourse doesn’t exist. An artist working with text, images, sound in own his or her studio can be viewed as one involved in an auto-discourse. But once the work leaves the studio then it must face the public, again, regardless of the number or extent reached, which is out of control. The work no longer belongs just to the artist. Court artists served the emperor, religious artists serve god, and the majority of Chinese artists now serve the market, or some dubious “consumer,” an abstract collective. The newest edition of News Weekly consequently featured art’s “contractual fulfillment” on its cover. In this process, not only does art shun the taboo of the mass, on the contrary, it tries with all its might to enslave the mass: the artification of the object and the objectification of art.  De-politicization and innovative industrializing.

Even in so-called radical political art, artists don’t think about avoiding the public/mass. On contrary, they are defining “serving the people” in their own ways, for example Godard. The purpose of East Lake Project was focused on the liberation of censored contents through a different language and information channel, namely the language of art. The extent to which this information will circulate, no one will know, because art to a certain degree is a special discourse. One of the East Lake Project initiators, LI Ju Quan is a Godard fan, as is the co-initiator LI Yu, whose own photo work involves the subversion of mainstream media discourses through “representation of the news representation.” Employing similar means for East Lake Project, concerning “representation of the map representation,” showing not only history and media are lying, but also the map, which assumes the authority of science. Therefore, this art language manifests through image: what kind of media/people will find this language acceptable? In this case, photo + installation. The fact is those who accept these are art media, symposiums, seminars, workshops, in other words circulating within its own sphere. The majority of recipients received professional art training or make up amateur art readerships. Interested population more likely limited to a minority of the public. These people might have an inclination to professionalism. More disheartening are the responses of the protagonists of those events that this kind of art concentrates on, for instance the farmers who lost their land, who unambiguously and emphatically tell us they don’t understand.

Of course art isn’t the only incomprehensible thing. The articles on “My Donghu” website [wmddh.net; currently inactive] are just as incomprehensible: trying to demonstrate irrationality of the project from different angles, to reveal barbarism, violence, antidemocratic tendencies within the area’s development. So the question how art + activism approach the public while facing a so-called communication barrier is not only a matter of discourse and language but also of the value standards, immediacy and difference intrinsic to people’s opinions concerning a compact issue. The farmers, they need direct language, and the simplest logic: land is taken away, compensation is needed, such compensation should be just (also in a peaceful manner).

Yet the focus of art and activism in the main is concerned with regulative democracy/environmental protection (ie. the bigger issues), and here exists a big gap with the farmers. Most of the latter do not want to keep farming, and preserving the land is only a means or way to bargain for more compensation. Those who commit to environmental protection want to preserve arable land/ fisheries/wetlands and therefore the problem of compensation is suspended. The debate concerning “public space” is focused on democracy, not on the question of what kind of space is the public: parks and wetlands, which one is more public? Therefore the problems for art to investigate are whether art itself has become a “fact” or whether it is just using a fact as evidence for a political view. Activism and art are to a certain degree open to the media; this is a crucial path to reach the public. Of course, many singular problems will multiply into a plethora in reality.

Do we need to produce things—models, discourses, trains of thought, if not outright objects—because of this program of visibility?

Do we need it? Let’s recollect past experiences. Our problem may not lie in whether such undertakings are needed, rather the how of transmission and its what. Since the desire of transmission is inevitable, in reality we have not altogether avoided it. Furthermore, this is just our wishful thinking. On the other hand, visibility, publicity themselves have other facets. Visibility—other than its so-called sphere of intimate relations and the self-expression through DIY—if they are to face so-called mass media, what would their production organism be? What would their visibility/publicity production mechanism be? (note: If they are to face so-called mass media, be it official or commercial, China does not have “public media” in a true sense, so we can’t comment much about that.) Out of what motive would mass media report and transmit “this program”? How can a certain art extend its sphere of influence through this, how can its significance exceed its boundaries? Of course, there is a process one could choose, yet the result is the outcome of specific channeling (manipulation). Does it possess a goal of enlightenment or satisfy a demand of fulfillment and pleasure, or maybe it is a roundabout strategy that incorporates both. Perhaps this demands a meticulous and conscious investigation of how media produces discourse. How does this visibility come about, is it because of distinguishability? For example, the food we are concerned with here, in terms of its production, has it produced an alternative for the prevalent mode of production and its consequent safety crisis? Or is it just a reliable alternative, or a form of recreation for the bourgeoisie—then its significance at bottom is not so different from “farmers’ restaurants,” and even golf courses, and other tourist sites. It is  the new fashion (which has little to do with politics).

How is it seen by others, including the media, if you refuse to open up your garden, is a different issue, but if you do, your life or experiment will be interpreted/defined by others. The result of the experiment will often be imported into another mode of discourse, no? How do you solve this state of misrepresentation let alone ignorance? Of course, we must backtrack a little, to the the point of departure, which is the question: do you want your lifestyle to be an open work of art? Thus relinquishing your authority over its meaning, or do you want to do just as you think (because you are already doing what you want to do). Absolute openness can be dangerous, danger lies in being subsumed/coopted. For example, when media who features lifestyle puts you side-by-side with coffee shops, shopping malls, cuisine and nail salons, and other cases of entrepreneurial undertakings, how does that make you feel?

According to structuralist logic, if you do not speak, then the social structure will speak for you.

“I’m Dark Matter! that’s what I am!”

For the next meeting of Happy Friends Reading Club, March 30th at 6pm, we will be discussing a chapter from Gregory Sholette’s 2011 book Dark Matter. Orianna explains:

“why did i pick it? because i think that sholette attempts the first critical history of political and activist art practice. as such the book covers critical art ensemble and also a lot of the territory brought up by brian holmes. however, i think that it is really good to think about in relation to the buchloh article as well, which heavily critiqued not only contemporary curation  but the art object as document. this critique is in stark contrast to our previous readings and to sholette’s arguments about activist practices. i wonder how the practices sholette cites work against or to expose dominant ideologies? but also how these works problematize buchloh’s instance on the autonomy of the art object and subsequently art history? i also wonder how these practices relate to the avant-garde in contemporary chinese art? is it possible to think through an activist art in china?”

You are welcome to join.