Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Transexperiences was a really interesting self-conducted interview of Chen Zhen by his alter ego, Zhu Xian. In the interview, he discusses his experience as an artists and a person from china who has expatriated to the West for long periods of time. He has the perspective from growing up in China and witnessing the effects of Mao and the Cultural Revolution on his culture. Coming from such destruction, eventually led to his leaving for a life in France. Chen Zhen has some really interesting ideas which he puts under the term of a self-coined word ‘transexperiences’. This word deals with the physical and metaphorical running away from what one knows to find a new place, bringing the knowledge one has but adapting to the changes. He stresses the importance of adjusting to circumstances in order to fit-in to the new situation. While he does represent a physical worldliness through travel, his meaning of transexperiences is more based on the internal state of being, to be spiritually and psychologically experienced and changing.
Another topic discussed that interests me is the idea of “inter-contextualization” regarding the displaying of art. Each work has its own meanings and context and connotations. If shown together with other works though there develops a unique relationship filled with new meanings because while each piece has its own story and history, together they can enhance the meaning of each other of even change it. This goes along with the transexperience idea of adapting to the new situation with understanding and knowledge of the past, an overlapping. It’s a really cool concept, how an art work is almost alive really, always changing because how one reads it will always change relative to their own experiences in life and the context in which it is shown, and what is happening in the world that shapes it all.
Chen points out the experience of Chinese artists in the world today and issues they face. On the one hand, some people don’t regard a Chinese artist working abroad as a ‘Chinese artist’ but he argues that this shouldn’t be so because having grown up in china, having been educated there and gone through the cultural revolution are things that cant be cast aside and forgotten. A person’s experiences are always with them, overlapping with each other. The Chinese experiences is connected to a way of round-about thinking which has a unique effect on the Chinese culture and the way the people view the world and problems and ideas. For an artist I think it would help with creativity, to discover ideas others would miss by going from point A to B in a straight line. The experience of someone from China today also holds the effects of modernization. Often people equate this modernization with westernization but its important to try to see China as its own entity with a growing economy and culture and while there undoubtedly are western influences, the result is definitely Chinese. Chen Zhen mentions his interest in the interactions involved with multiculturalism. Because really, each party involved gives and takes, and to witness this exchange is very telling of the culture and characteristics in general of a group of people. And with China and Chinese art we see right now how keen the world is on taking while China itself is taking elements from the world to adapt to its developing self.
Chen Zhen overall may come off as too idealistic in some respects but it is after all just an interview addressing his ideas and shouldn’t be read as necessarily literal. I think he raised some interesting questions. Especially, his understanding of what it means to be a Chinese artist in the world today, and how for him it is necessary to actually go out into the world to add those experiences to the Chinese ones he already possesses.

No comments: