Thursday, June 26, 2008

Action Art

You call me crazy, I call it art.

Hollywood's KongFu Panda is sweeping through China, and a Chinese artists' boycotting of the movie quickly becomes news. Zhao Bandi, who advocates the boycott by writing public letter to the authority and using his own blog as a fighting ground, is an action artist, or performance artist.

Because of his work of goofy performance arts, some wiser bunch suspects the boycotting itself is his form of action art, perhaps referring to many boycotts of french products and others following the Olympic Torch episode. However, he emphasizes he isn't performing and really means it when being interviewed. "Hollywood movies," he says "is representative of homogeneous American culture." And he wouldn't let his beloved panda, whose image appears in almost all his action arts, be used and demeaned.

Wow, he is serious!

But hold on. Who is to say his public denial about performing an action act isn't part of the whole scheme? isn't in itself part of the art? That's the beauty of permanence art - you are never sure which part of his action is art and which is not! So the thought goes, all the way to the deepest Chinese philosophical thinking.
More over, when you join the discussion, or join to criticize, ridicule him, as many media and blogs do, you become part of the action. Brilliant.

I'm not sure Zhao himself realize that. But looking from afar from my angle, China today is a giant stage of action art.

Just recently, a young writer, Hanhan, opens his usually boasting mouth again on TV, pronouncing many prominent literary figures in history - not only those acclaimed ones in the new republic but also many classical ones in dynastic history - overrate and not good at language. Fine, he is entitled to his own opinion, although his remarks are often of bad taste. The curious thing is that his remarks stirs an echo. His fans trumpet him as a hero, others reply serious arguing in favor of those classical writers, still others denounce him. The fact that Hanhan is just a character and likes to provoke seems escape everybody. Beijing Youth Daily even organizes a multi-page discussion of the topic!

Every society has its characters and oddballs. The more open a society is, the more chance of such oddities are, and the more tolerant the public of it. The uniqueness of China seems to be high the media attention and public participation of those. Energies are spent on trivial acts, as if all member of society are part of some action art. Westerners charge Chinese being "sensitive" and "overreact", but they don't know many Chinese create the same way to the trivial issues within.

Part of the reason, I speculate, is the unprecedented freedom of speech Chinese enjoy, and the same time the boundaries of free speech. Because of free speech, everyone has an opinion and seems excited to expressed, often in an extreme way to attract attention and being unique. And because of the limit of it, more energy is paid to seemingly trivial debates.

The slow unfolding transition, the so-called reform, also has a toll on people's nerves and culture. In a way, the Chinese are putting into a slow cooking furnace where every aspects of the society has a side of new and another of old,it challenges the norm of language and behavior contently. Looking outside of it, you see a giant stage of action art. Even the language is fluid. Maybe one day, Chinese will simply use mistress for mistress, in stead of the more colorful er nai, meaning second breast literally, a term that reflect the more innocent and righteous majority's contempt.

Art is not always easy to be understood, and sometimes has a thin line from strangeness. I'm more in anticipation of Wall-E.

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  1. After I actually see the movie, here's my impression:

    From an adult perspective, it's just an ok animation movie. It's formulary, cliched and wishy-washy. All plots are telegraphed well in advance. And most importantly, it's not that funny. To get a measurement, it's a lesser film than, say, Shrek.

    I speculate WallE and Pixar will win out, hands down.

  2. 笑了几次,但基本属于giggle, 不是LOL.

  3. from news:

    "The film's protagonist is China's national treasure and all the elements are Chinese, but why didn't we make such a film?" Wu Jiang, president of the China National Peking Opera Company, was cited as saying by Xinhua news agency on Saturday.

    An advisory body to the country's rubber-stamp parliament debated this week why a film like "Kung Fu Panda," produced by DreamWorks Animation, had not been made in China, Xinhua reported.

    My note to Chinese film makers: Chinese film making will mostly remain to be crappy if you can't recognize Kongfu Panda is a mediocre film, albeit a commercially successful one.

    As far as the clip I can see, the new Red Cliff (赤壁)is crappy also.

  4. 镜头中金大帅锅和梁老帅锅的脸一闪而过,偶还真雀跃了一小下。