Preface for Cai Qing’s The Potential of Performance Art in Psychotherapy and The Diary of Performance Art
Wu Hong(L) and Cai Qing(R) I don’t know Cai Qing that well. It is art, mostly his performance art, brings his name as well as he himself to me. Thus it comes to me that the intermittent connection between us is an achievement of his art activities – what has been emphasized
Wu Hong(L) and Cai Qing(R)
I don’t know Cai Qing that well. It is art, mostly his performance art, brings his name as well as he himself to me. Thus it comes to me that the intermittent connection between us is an achievement of his art activities – what has been emphasized in these two books is the interactivity of performance art, particularly among people. No interaction, no performance art; or to be rephrased as no interaction, only performance but art. As a development of the interaction between him and me, this preface will not be without Cai Qing.
Existence – China’s Contemporary Art Internal Study Exhibitionstarted our interaction. It was 1998. The exhibition was held in a newly-built compound called “Modern Art Studio”, which originally used as workshops and storehouses of a factory. It was located in Yaojiayuancun, 4.5 kilometres outside the third ring of Beijing Chaoyang District. It was a prominent one among those alternative art exhibitions during the flourishing period for Chinese contemporary art in the late-1990s. The feature of this exhibition is to explore the resonance between the era and the individual artist in a location which is a cross area for the urban and the rural. Two years later I introduced this exhibition that showed lots of brilliant works in my bookExhibiting Experimental Art in China. Cai Qing did his performance art work titledCultivationin the opening: he took a portion of land in the middle of the compound and tilled on it; then he scattered the furrows with a large number of coins – probably presenting an analogy to people who were commonly dreaming of being rich at that time. He was not only an artist but also the curator and contents compiler of the exhibition. Moreover, he was the establisher of the “Modern Art Studio”. Back at then he just returned from his 10-year German trip and hoped to build a professional art base to enhance the high-level contemporary art practice. As a matter of fact, he has not returned yet – two contact places of “Modern Art Studio” are Cologne and Paris and in which both the contact is Cai Qing himself.
Here I especially mentioned this exhibition because I have gradually learned Cai Qing’s distinguishing way of working – multiple locations and identities, traveling around the world and conducting things on platforms which are different from each other in characteristics but are interrelated. He graduated from Zhejiang Academy of Art (now China Academy of Art) in 1984, majored in graphic art. It was not only the high time for ZAA’s art theories, but also the time of the birth of the 85’s new generation. In 1989 he migrated to Germany and studied in Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design. He joined the performance art field in 1994 under the influence of European contemporary art. One of his early works including1+1: stacking and scattering materials made of supermarket package boxes with Chinese people’s faces printed on in European cities, fields and water areas. In his 1996 workDust and Sweeping, he dressed as a figure of terra cotta warrior, woke up gradually after the thousand year sleep. This work was performed during the intermission of an opera in a German opera house and created a subtle effect on the two “performances” – classical opera and modern performance art. After the 1998Existenceexhibition, I came across his installation art workIn Search of My Second Unclein theHome: Contemporary Artists Proposalexhibition planned by Wu Meichun and Qiu Zhijie. His second uncle was a mix identity of hero and maniac and could not live out of one of each personality. The second uncle fought in the war to resist US aggression and aid Korea as an army doctor and then constantly wrote to Chairman Mao to express his various great plans for building up the motherland. He was put into prison in 1989 and still wrote books about the present and the future of human life in countryside after release. By pushing this fanatic and twisted soul to the stage of reality, Cai Qing tried to reflect the distortion of human nature caused by ideal for the past decades.
All these early works have shown that besides those characteristics mentioned above, Cai Qing’s works have another inclination, which is the subject and its multidirectional point of views. His plans are just a continuation as well as an extension; instead, they travel though history, reality, culture, cities and nature in order to find opportunities for interaction. His working area expanded and the interaction points varied after his moving to New York in 2001. His performance art works have been performed in Beijing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Changsha, Guilin, Chongqing, Macau, Tainan, New York, London, Luxembourg, Paris, Trier of Germany, Vitoria-Gasteiz of Spain, Kassel, Bangkok, Manila, Singapore, Burma, Vietnam and Mekong River, etc. They had diverse contents and collaborators and focused on the interrelations among locations, spot and current affairs. Few years later, he encountered the change for his identity and career: now he has walked in the fields of academic instead of being just an individual artist and curator. He has been teaching in Nanyang Technological University’s School of Art, Design & Media since 2007. In there he gained the interest in academia and went back to his Alma Mater China Academy of Art for a doctoral degree which he actually received in 2011.The Potential of Performance Art in Psychotherapyis based on His dissertation; the companion volumeThe Diary of Performance Artis a documentary record of his experience in various performance art festivals in Southeast Asia and China he took part in as well as his executed and schemed plans for performance art since his teaching career has begun.
There is no exaggeration that these two books are the most mature and profound in performance art literary field that ever published in China. Particularly theThe Potential of Performance Art in Psychotherapy, it not only manages to combine the academic and the practical systematically in one book, but also brings up a unique theory for the effect of performance art. The introduction part gives objective background information for the definition and the history of performance art. The first chapter cites the core of performance art – ways of interaction by quoting true examples in the academic exposition way. The second chapter is the author’s theory on the utility of performance art on psychotherapy. The fundamental perspective is that the art can communicate with the soul of human beings; therefore the performance art that uses human body and actions as media is the direct cure for souls, which could calm and ease people’s heart. This theory has a close connection with the application of psychoanalysis on art and it can be considered as the application’s development in contemporary art. From my perspective, the value of the book is not just in the theory explanation, but also in the introduction and analysis of the many performance art works mentioned in the contents. Since the author himself is a practical performance artist, he has deep and personal understanding for this kind of art, also he made his analysis which involved in different concepts and views on a unite framework; thus the book will provide the readers with plenty of deep thoughts on the society and humanity, which made it different from those publications that just gave simple introduction to performance art. From this point of view, this book as well asThe Diary of Performance Artwould supply applicable materials and literatures for the study on the contemporary art in China and the rest of the world.
As anther point of view, from introduction part to the first chapter, and then from the second chapter to appendix, the author ofThe Potential of Performance Art in Psychotherapychanges his identity from an objective analyst to a subjective participant; his voice and point of views are also getting integral and critical as the pages go on, which gradually adds the interaction quality in the nature of the book. In the final part of the book, Cai Qing sent emails to some outstanding performance artists around the world in his own name to seek replies for two key questions put forward in the book. The two questions are: 1. How do these artists carry out the level of interaction in their works? 2. Do they agree the theory that performance art can communicate with souls and cure the wounded ones? The 40-page appendix includes all the replies. To me, he made a very experimental working plan – I have interacted with my readers before the final publication.
Chicago, March 2012