Do As You Wish
Source:Artintern Author:Ai Weiwei Date: 2008-05-08 Size:
When I was not yet on personal terms with Li Zhanyang I could only call to mind his early sculptures: they weren’t too large, most of them were colorful scenarios with plots and characters.


When I was not yet on personal terms with Li Zhanyang I could only call to mind his early sculptures: they weren’t too large, most of them were colorful scenarios with plots and characters. His later works were grand scenes filled with fearless gawkers; their colors and the textures were equally loud and bright.

These works reluctantly admit their relationship to reality; powerful technique and deft handling reveal interesting inclinations. A rich and colorful working style, nuanced details and lively scenes, the emotive nature of these stories, the supposition of events, and the folkloric narratives reenact the joys that humans seek, stories befallen with mishaps as well as the illusory hero . . .

In most circumstances, as observers we are aware that the thing in front of us is merely a pile of painted clay, although we are endowed with a god-like perspective to survey it and we employ our self-decency to nit pick over its finer points. These figures and scenes, their harmonious and non-harmonious optical variations, our appropriate and inappropriate admiration, and their provocative or decorative colors and forms, are truly influencing and stimulating our cerebral cortexes. The trap that the author has devised has seduced viewers into crossing the threshold into this awkward realm. Is our seducer falling for his own trap? This ominous feeling triggers a fascination with the bloody nature of greed.

Li Zhanyang has applied himself to the goings on of a corrupt and pornographic world, unequivocally publicizing sexuality and the entitlements of a debauched and shameful lifestyle. He is like a tour guide who has long been working in these rotten landscapes and who is fluent in the thick dialect of the market economy, obediently repeating its jargon as he pretends to be serious. There is always evil in ignorance, and luxury is always nestled within stupidity. He lectures earnestly, commits himself wholeheartedly.

These are historical stories and interpretations that have been repeated millions of times, they even sound ordinary and banal in the telling. But the lifelike power of these works is often unbelievable, the injury that is the veracity of truth has metamorphosized, it has already become a hallucination that refuses to disappear, an accessory to our subconscious, like a melody caught in your head that is impossible to eliminate, especially in that moment when you are more sober than anyone else.

The reality and the intrigues that Li Zhanyang is touching upon with his scenes and characters are always lucid and vivid. They clearly tolerate no suspicion––they seem even more conclusive than the facts themselves. Ultimately these panoramas compose Li Zhanyang’s sense of reality, his brilliant, half-obscene worldview unexpectedly becomes the decisive way in which we view the world. The mind thinks and the hands act, with cunning perspective and obvious technique, while over and over he calculates his personal affairs. This scenario is something like a Lohan in a dust-laden temple, leaving behind an image difficult for either the spirit of man or beast to forget. On this long journey it cautions them or gives some heart-warming wisdom.

Today, people have finally become accustomed to accept this simple consensus: you are what you see, and what you see and hear is a part of you, a very reliable part of you. Owing to this, you have a relationship difficult to imagine with the outside world. This relationship is much more significant, more eminent that in previous eras. This causes us to become easily an almost forgotten part of history, turns us into characters in a fantastic legend, becomes the reachable portion of a far-fetched fantasy. Everything begins its metamorphoses with you; we could say that everything begins with you. The interesting thing is, you belong to it, you become you in its eyes, become you in its eyes in your own eyes.

Looking at it this way, Li Zhanyang’s moral cultivation seems satisfactory; his moral virtue will accompany all peacefully living beings through the phantom mist that is this boundless universe.

[Editor] Mark Lee