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Q: In November 2023, during Shanghai's bustling art week, you held a special exhibition at the Blunt Society. Right from its name, the exhibition itself exuded a playful jesting aura — it mimicked the Shanghai ART021 Contemporary Art Fair, being named "Shanghai ART023 Contemporary Art Fair." The press release for the media followed the format of announcing a new art fair, disguising yourself as the fair's chief planner and concealing your identity as an artist and curator. This form of parody seems quite interesting and appears to be a departure from your previous exhibitions. Do you think that it achieved the effect you anticipated?


A: Indeed, it was an extraordinary exhibition, perhaps the most unique project in my career so far. We spent a lot of time planning and creating a seemingly plausible atmosphere before the exhibition opened. This included the press release, posters, sponsors, and more, all revolving around the concept of a new "art fair." In the end, we truly deceived many people and achieved the bewildering effect we aimed for.

Q: So, was the element of deception part of the artwork?


A: Yes, the entire exhibition showcased nearly 300 pieces, but the exhibition itself was also a work of art. From that perspective, it wasn't just about traditional mediums like painting, installations, sculptures, photography; it was more of a piece of conceptual art with performative characteristics.

Q: I'm curious, when did the idea of "ART023" emerge?


A: In 2020, a sudden global pandemic disrupted all plans. In March of that year, the ART BASEL art fair, which was supposed to celebrate its 50th anniversary, was abruptly canceled. Subsequently, a WeChat mini-program was hastily developed for the transition to an online format. Afterwards, I painted a piece called White Art Fair, which depicted a fictional art fair scene. By 2021, art fairs and physical art spaces worldwide were practically at a standstill, and our engagement with art relied heavily on online platforms. It was during that time that I gradually developed the idea of creating a fictional art fair. All the works were created in dimensions tailored for electronic devices, primarily for viewing on mobile phone screens and social media platforms.

Q: So, this plan had been brewing for two years.


A: Yes, but shortly after, I was invited to hold a large-scale exhibition at the He Art Museum in Shunde, China, scheduled for 2022. As a result, the plan for this micro art fair was put on hold for a year. Interestingly, in 2022, during my solo exhibition at the He Art Museum, I showcased around 200 artworks in an exhibition hall of nearly 8,000 square meters, making it the most extensive retrospective and review of my career. In contrast, this year's "ART023" at the Blunt Society featured more artworks but is currently my most compact solo exhibition.

Q: Why did you choose to name the exhibition "ART023"?


A: Firstly, it was to parody ART021, as it is a renowned local art fair brand in Shanghai. Additionally, it serves as a record of the year this exhibition took place. For me, this exhibition itself is an artwork, so including the year in the title is a commemoration.

Q: For most Chinese people, 2023 marked the tail end of a depressing, chaotic, and protracted era of the pandemic, a sudden turning point. Is this the topic that the exhibition "ART023" aims to discuss? How does it approach this topic?


A: In my creative work over the past four years, I have never avoided the theme of the "pandemic," but the core of the artwork is not limited to exploring this particular epidemic. What I am more concerned about are the changes in the state of survival and lifestyle triggered by the global outbreak of the pandemic and the reflections that people have during forced isolation. It involves some ultimate questions, such as life and death, desires of possession and abandonment, living environments, and lifestyles, among others. During this period, I created many works related to private living spaces, especially the bedroom. Many of the compositions drew inspiration from the bedroom space in medieval religious paintings, which are dim, rough, and even barren, representing the most basic nest for people. Significantly, the medieval period coincided with major outbreaks of epidemics. Additionally, "ART023" also contains many photographs reflecting on the unique circumstances of the past four years, although these reflections are subtle.


However, for the "ART023" exhibition, the pandemic is not the main theme that constitutes the entire "fair." The pandemic merely serves as a catalyst for our contemplation of reality and fiction. For example, without the pandemic, perhaps online fairs and virtual exhibitions would not have emerged, and collectors would only have been limited to purchasing artworks solely through online shopping.

Q: Art fairs have faced varying degrees of criticism during the past two to three decades. An exhibition like "ART023," which parodies an art fair, could be seen as a critique of art fairs. However, the fact is that galleries and artists rely on art fairs, and collectors also rely on art fairs. As an artist and a collector yourself, how do you view art fairs?


A: When I started my artistic career, I i actually had a resistance towards participating in art fairs. I was more inclined to create new works for serious exhibitions. For me, exhibitions were a more formal way of presenting artwork. However, over time and with a change in my role, I began to understand the important value of art fairs in terms of information gathering and promotion. Therefore, my attitude became neutral. Although as an artist, I still prefer not to create new works specifically for art fairs. But in today's era, we can no longer ignore the influence of art fairs. It is difficult to say who in the entire art industry can completely distance themselves from it. This reminds me of the influence of 19th-century salons on European art. Although we, as those who came later, may question the authority and value orientation of the salons at that time, the European artists of that era, whether they were favorites of the salon or rejected outsiders, were essentially within the framework of this reference system. In fact, modern and contemporary European salon culture has had a profound impact on the development of contemporary art. Duchamp, for example, created Fountain out of frustration after being rejected by the salon.

Q: Speaking of Duchamp, in his later years, he created a series of "portable museum" (Boîte-en-Valise) works, which selected, replicated, and reorganized his important works in miniature form.


A: Yes, earlier I mentioned Duchamp's relationship with the salons of the time, and in our current era, the authority of European salons has long dissipated, replaced by the phenomenon of international art fairs in the context of global economic integration. Therefore, "ART023" is a playful tribute to Duchamp's "portable museum."

Q: Let's return to the topic of this exhibition. I noticed that you made significant modifications to the Blunt Society space for this exhibition.


A: Yes, as I mentioned earlier, I consider the entire "ART023" as a single artwork, and the transformation of the space becomes part of this artwork. The original Blunt Society space is an old Western-style house with residential functions. Although it is not large, it has a complex layout, with corridors, fireplaces, a kitchen, a terrace, and different rooms. For this reason, I specifically invited two architects who remeasured the Blunt Society’s floor, and we raised the original ground level by twenty centimeters, designing and constructing a pathway platform that runs through the entire space. When the audience enters through the door, they enter the pathway we designed to view the exhibition.


It can be said that the transformed Blunt Society space is the ideal space for this project. The originally "complex layout" is perfect for hiding the miniature works of this exhibition, and it has a theatrical "stage-like" atmosphere. It's like playing hide-and-seek. Moreover, these are all unexpected experiences for the audience when they arrive on-site. They might have thought they were coming to see a 'mini art fair' or one of my regular new solo exhibitions. The artworks' unique sizes and the unconventional way they were displayed broke the audience's usual viewing experience, even altering their viewing behavior. Some pieces were hidden in special corners, requiring viewers to crouch down or stand on tiptoes to see them clearly.

Q: Your works often fall into two extremes: large-scale works like The Last Sunset and miniature works like the "Galaxy Project." And now you have even created an exhibition entirely composed of miniature works. Why are you particularly interested in the "micro-scale"?


A: I started the "Galaxy Project" series in 2008, and I have been continuously creating for sixteen years now. During these sixteen years, I have personally experienced the creation of miniature works. It not only challenges the technical aspects and craftsmanship but also brings about unique actions due to its special working method. For example, in the "Galaxy Project," the contrasting process of "smashing" and "painting" is a complete performance art.


In "ART023," the diversity of dimensions, mediums, and themes presents challenges I have never encountered before. Globally, there hasn't been a project of a similar scale. The miniature adaptation of my previous large-scale works already introduces new difficulties at the technical level. For example, controlling water in water washing painting when scaled down, material conversion and tool issues in sculptural installations, problems with installation and framing forms, and so on. When adapting the works of other art masters, I also try to adhere as much as possible to their techniques and language, adding further challenges to the creation. For example, each artist such as Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Rothko, Cy Twombly, and David Hockney has a distinct painting language and technique. When painting abstract works in the style of Gerhard Richter, I need to use miniature scrapers to imitate the artist's creative methods.

Q: Creating miniature works is a significant challenge. Do you use any assistive tools?


A: Actually, I have never used a magnifying glass in my creations because it amplifies hand tremors along with the artwork, reducing sensitivity to delicate details. Therefore, I can only rely on my naked eye and complete these precise works while controlling my breathing and heart rate. Thus, the process of creating these works involves a deep connection with the body. If my physical condition is not good on a particular day, the creation becomes extremely difficult. I am fortunate that my vision and hands have not deteriorated in the 16 years from 2008 until now. After completing the "ART023" exhibition, I feel like I have fulfilled a wish, as it was a work that needed to be finished before presbyopia sets in.

Q: "ART023" showcases nearly 300 works, including different mediums and themes, including many "masterpieces." How do you plan and select these themes?


A: I choose masters from art history who interest me and also adapt the works of artists who are particularly active in the current commercial market and have commercial recognition. The art history involved in "ART023" is a "seemingly true but false" art history. Ultimately, each altered work becomes entirely new in terms of concept and theme, possibly transcending eras.


Furthermore, "ART023" includes a retrospective of past creations and implies experiments and previews of new creations in future plans. It can be said that "ART023" is a series of works that both carry on from the past and pave the way for the future.

Q: You mentioned earlier that all the artworks in "ART023" are based on the dimensions of viewing social media images on electronic devices such as smartphones. Why do you emphasize this?


A: Yes, after the outbreak of the pandemic, social media has become almost the only way for us to view art. But at the same time, I believe that the works in "ART023" are are based on social media yet against it.


Q: Against social media?


A: By "against social media," I mean the deliberate disparity in information between experiencing a work in person and viewing it on a screen. When a miniature work is photographed, it loses its unique dimensional characteristics, and exhibition photos lack sufficient information due to the small scale of the works. It can be said that without being present at the exhibition, it would be easy to misinterpret and misjudge the works. Therefore, we even deliberately avoid online sales and only accept collectors to come to the exhibition in person to select works.

Q: Although the possibility of visiting exhibitions has been reduced to screen viewing due to the pandemic, the habit of viewing art on social media and computers has been prevalent for a long time. Why discuss the contradiction between screens and the physical exhibition at this particular time?


A: It is because in the years following the outbreak of the pandemic, not only did offline art activities come to a halt, but social distancing between people also reached its limit. Screens, like air and food, seem to have become a necessity for modern life. However, I believe that in the post-pandemic era, we need to reflect on this issue.


Throughout my years of creation, I have always insisted on and encouraged the experience of being present at the exhibition and viewing the original works. I often intentionally incorporate a sense of "deception" into my creations, which is actually based on the absence of many people from art venues nowadays. During the pandemic, I started researching various brands of black pigments and created paintings using extremely subtle color differences between black and black. These works are almost impossible to capture in photographs and therefore lose their effectiveness on social media. I tried to detach this series from the era of social media and return to a time several hundred years ago when neither photography nor modern printing techniques were invented, when any artwork one saw in their lifetime could only be the original.

Q: Lastly, can you discuss the commercial and sales rules of "ART023"? I'm curious about how you approached this.


A: In the physical exhibition of "ART023," nearly 300 artworks are displayed, scattered throughout various corners of the space. In the center of the main exhibition hall, we have also created 21 miniature booths in proportion to the dimensions of the miniature works. Similar to typical art fairs, each booth has a unique construction and independent numbering.


Although each miniature work is priced individually, collectors cannot purchase a single artwork separately. Instead, they take on the role of "curators" or "gallery owners" and choose a set of works (including no less than two sculptures and two photographs) to fill a booth. Ultimately, collectors name their curated booths and acquire them as a miniature exhibition installations.


Q: This sounds like a game, where you are creating a whole new set of rules. It seems like the process of "sales" has also become a "performance."


A: Yes! From creating the artworks, project planning, seeking sponsorship, designing posters and merchandise, transforming the space, media promotion, opening ceremonies, VIP dinners, all the way to the involvement of collectors and the buying and selling process, they are all integral parts of the "ART023" project. This includes our current interview and the final completion of this book as well.

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