The Radiance of Baroque– On the First Key to Shi Jinsong's Creation
Source:Artintern Author:Fu Xiaodong Date: 2008-01-08 Size:
 Shi Jinsong, "Halong- Kellong" "Baroque” is a French word, coming from the Portuguese “barroco,” meaning pearls in shapes other than round. In particular, it points to the seventeenth century European aesthetics of fantasticality, exaggeration, pomposity and

 Shi Jinsong, "Halong- Kellong"

"Baroque” is a French word, coming from the Portuguese “barroco,” meaning pearls in shapes other than round. In particular, it points to the seventeenth century European aesthetics of fantasticality, exaggeration, pomposity and flamboyance. For Shi Jinsong, it is mixed with over-redundant details, marvelous but useless manual work, extra fittings with no function, reflections of blades made of cold metal, exaggerated violence, and contracted rhetoric and moral …

In 2003, I accidentally stumbled into Landscape under the Table in an empty run-down house at Huigugen Garden. It is an old square table that every family owns. Under the table are sailor moons, dinosaurs, robots and other toys, some sticking out from the table legs. The work, with the mismatch of outside and inside, represents the characteristics of the 70s generation – they look traditional and dated, but are trendy and rebellious in their bones. The collision of values, the inconsistency of morals and the split of personality are omnipresent. Just like being suggested in his works, Shi Jinsong tears himself into two parts, one of which – the garishness, luxuriance, spookiness, and absurdity under the table – emitting the radiance of Baroque.

The Violent Aesthetics of Stainless Steel

Shi Jinsong uses smooth, clear, sharp, noble and cold stainless steal to make his works. Reflective stainless steel has the shine from its metal fiber and is able to absorb and reflect the light from its surroundings – it is a neutral material. The gaze of a person is also reflected or blocked – communicate and shield – when you are looking at a piece of work you are also torn. It symbolizes the state of being frozen and ushers objects, such as small weapon, armor, cradle, rocking horse, Christmas tree and locomotive, into an icy atmosphere. At the same time, it has the logic of modern surrealist science, indicating its potential of coldness and harmfulness. In the work Ne Zha it appears in the disguise of being protective, consoling and decorative, but its details betray its true function of weapon. It indicates the highest degree of ambiguity in one’s temperament. It presents and represents. It invites and refuses.

Laser cuts the edges of stainless steel into fluent and perfect arches, as sharp as a knife, stretching out and pointing to viewers. It can be seen, but not touched. In the series of Young Na Zha, refined chromeplate chains connect stainless cones into rolls of perfectly lined up tassels. Sometimes they are woven into delicate scarf or baby clothes. In Christmas Tree, they are enwind into a starry sky of silver neon, and no doubt the shinning and appealing snow flakes are no less fatal. Shi Jinsong told me that once when installing seven Christmas trees of different sizes, the edge of a leaf cut the foot of his assistance. Blood gushed out and splat onto the wall. Shi Jingsong consistently uses the same material to reconstruct a cozy family life. He attempts to push danger to its limit while at the same time looks for a way to create sensuality of immediacy.

“Violent aesthetics” is the COOL of low-key-ness and zero emotion, perfected by the American director Quentin Tarantino. In his films, violence is completely overthrown and transformed into a joke, an ordinary life, and a beautiful but cruel mirror-image. The existence of violence is filled with the entertainment of cynicism, without any meaning. It seduces the desire buried deep in one’s heart, the admiration of violence and aggressiveness, as well as the naïveté, transcendence and fear of bloodiness and death. Shi Jinsong can be seen as a representative of this interest. For example in Secret Book of Cool Weapons, a sharp machete is the logo of Nike, a bola is the logo of Motorola, and a dart is that of Mercedes-Benz – brand names become unique and dangerous weapons of consumer culture. Instrument of Torture changes ordinary body-building machines and computers into an automatic self-mutilation machine – if being touched, it will start to cut off its arms, legs, and dismembering other parts. However, none of them does not possess an elegant shape, an ostentatious texture, or a three-D effect picture-like stylishness. It reminds people that the standardized life style, brought by modern automatic machinery and streamline operation system, in fact damages and demolishes the nature of human being – it is realized in the beautiful dream of changing one’s life.

Functionless Fetishism

For any machine with altered function, as long as it has lost a tangible function, its focus can be shifted to something spiritual or subconscious. In his mechanical installations of fakely-functionary, Shi Jinsong conceals multiple hidden meanings in details, just like the traditional patch-and-repair work of Baroque imagination.

Halong- Kellong, a gigantic but empty name, refers to a hand-tractor produced by the artist himself, only that it has the dazzling surface of polished stainless steel and immeasurable function. Besides being an agricultural tool, it also includes a Kara OK, a cooking station, a bar, a coffee maker and others. It is a luxurious legend that includes entertainment, food, and health maintenance. The complexity of its function and overloaded burden makes the whole system malfunction and out of balance, making it into some holy and unapproachable thing. The parasite function and busy decoration of cloud and fire patterns turn the value of a machine into a reflection of people’s consciousness of power, comfort and vanity. Despite the repeated improvement and transformation, it permanently remains in the stage of being a tractor, sealed in a conventional mode. In this decorative process of repairing and the wild imagination of luxury, civilization also stags at the stage of self-satisfaction and fallacy. Around the Caochangdi district, Shi Jinsong juxtaposes the shining tractor with men wearing muscle suits and sunglasses. They stand in the fields filled with wild grasses, and the absurdity is even more astringent, making it closer to a realistic description of the logic of Chinese civilization.

In the series of altered automobiles, he changes a 4.8 meters in length and 1.2 meters in diameter black tree trunk into a Model V motocycle with four gas tanks and twelve 750 CC valves. Its speed can reach 168 kilometers an hour. The work is called Speed 168 Kilometers. Speed symbolizes male desire, and this particular speed is close to that of a plane at the moment of taking off. Using its swift speed, the work will bring the driver to another sphere. Heart beats, pores open, and soul floats. It is like a slice of instinct, and freezes. White hare hair grows from the hollow part of lights and the braches of the tree trunk, creating an indescribable itchiness, shocking and enchanting. Just like adding layers of paint, Shi Jinsong uses the sensual and instantaneous experience – speed, extravagance, dissipation, joy and so on – to mix visual experiences into a tangible structural relationship of touch. He overlaps speed and sexual love. The black tree trunk, being the main body of the motorcycle, is transformed into a projection of desire, power and narcissism. He is shocked and startled by his own image. Like the role of masturbation, the motorcycle becomes the object of control, protection and seduction.

The Revived Children’s Armor

Armor is usually used as a kind of decoration, displayed in ancient and mysterious castles. However in science fictions, horror movies or Gothic style games, this lifeless object is always empowered with an unnamed curse. It starts to drip, shake, move or talk, with some kind of evil goal. This is a miraculously revived demon machine. It is “inhuman,” and depends on some other power to disguise itself into a terrifying shell deprived of its master. Inside armor – pieces of metal that have been worn for centuries, an immortal metal equipment – there may live the spirit of once heroic master.

Shi Jinsong created a complete set of furnishings for his armor spirit, as if it is indeed growing, breathing, and filled with life. For his battle god Ne Zha, he created stainless steel cradle, swaddle, and armor for a two-or-three-year-old – helmets of in the shape or a mouse or a boar (i.e., zodiac animals), elegant spurs, neck pieces with laces, bag straps, adjustable leg pieces, as well as dragon-shaped rocking horse and fire-wheeled bicycles jointed with gorgeous arched knives. They reveal a message: I know clearly that I am only ordinary, transient and fragile, but I long for a permanent existence and spirit. The same desire is told in traditional Chinese fable – the three-headed and six-armed Na Zha, created by the immortal Taiyi Zhenren, is just a “youth with no heart, lung, spleen, or liver. He is made of weapon and will never grow up. Weapon has no sex. Human is installed with designers’ operating commands by force, and has become a sexless weapon.”

At the same time, he expresses the overly paid attention to a child at each family – every object is gazed at forever. A fluid process of development is frozen, just like the metal crystals in front of our eyes. This is a unique moment of stagnation, a moment of exaggeration. The same idea is expressed in the work Blueprint. It is an imaginary school campus for the rich and privileged. Elegant young people stand gracefully on a green lawn. Their shadows cast on a mirror decorated with logs of Luis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent. The choice of every object is not just a reflection of a simple fact itself. On the contrary, it has a social purpose. What lies beyond the object is the focus of its value. It enters a communal pride and indulgence, and stands in a demarcating system of identity and class as well as cultural recognition. What it brings is the personalized joy created by the ideology of consumer culture.

A characteristics always exists in Shi Jinsong’s works: the work itself is like a sharp stainless steel blade, with its apathetic attitude, cutting into the inside of the chaotic society. He casts himself as a member of the system that is hysterical, filled with desire, and absurd, and thus pushes absurdity to its extreme until the system collapses. Behind the absurdity of Shi Jinsong’s Baroque works, one can always vaguely hear some laughs. The laughs can easily penetrate the puzzle and illusion of our era. Another key of his works proves this point even more clearly. It is the post-modern application of traditional aesthetics, surfaced from the power of memories buried deep down, and it makes the transcendence of this era becoming true …

[Editor] Zhang Shuo