Zhang Qiang + Lia Wei
ZHANG Qiang (China) + Lia WEI (Belgium)
Born in 1962, Shandong province, China.
Residing in Beijing Qiaozi Art Commune/ Chongqing Huangjueping Art District/ Brussels
Prof. in Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Dir. of Chongqing research center on contemporary art
Born in 1986, Alatri, Italy.
Residing in Beijing Qiaozi Art Commune/ Chongqing Huangjueping Art District/ Brussels
Independent scholar, China Min.of Education research project "Great Vacuity Buddha-King"
"Reply to 'Asia'-Contemporary Art Exhibition in Central China" Henan Art Museum (sept 2008)
"2008 Sunshine International Annual Art Exhibition" Beijing Sunshine Art Center (sept 2008)
"Fushan International Calligraphy Biennale" Fushan, Korea (jan 2009)
"Ink Painting Mode and Space" Beijing Songzhuang East District Art Center (jun 2010)
"Writing/Unwriting- Hangzhou Modern Calligraphy Biennale" China Acad. of Fine Arts (jul 2010)
"Self Awareness- Contemporary Art Exhibition" Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts (jul 2010)
"From the Mother Language- Contemporary Ink Painting group exhibition" Guangdong Dongguan Art Museum (jun 2011)
"The 3rd Yangebo Int. festival of arts" Yangebo village, Weichang county, Hebei prov. (aug 2011)
Personal exhibitions and installations:
"Qilin/ Ying Te Na Xiong Nai Er- Peinture de paysages" and " a litterati's studio (in the occasion of Europalia China)" Brussels Sablon, Belgium (oct 2009)
" Open Scroll - Palais de Justice" Brussels, Belgium (nov 2009)
" Open Scroll - Chi gu zang" Xijiang Miao village, Guizhou province (oct 2010)
" Open Scroll - Ideographic Altar" Bishan Temple of Culture, Chongqing (nov 2010)
" Open Scroll - Buttes-Chaumont" Paris, France (mar 2011)
" Fine Arts Literature " magazine (jun 2006)
" Art Time" magazine (apr 2011)
"Art Tip-Top" magazine (aug 2011)
Qiaozi Art Commune (Beijing city, Huairou district, Shayukou village)
Sichuan Fine Arts Institute (Chongqing city, Shapingba district, Huxi university city)
35 Rue Henri Marichal 1050 Bruxelles
email@example.com (only chinese language)
Genius loci/ Open scrolls
Zhang Qiang + Lia Wei
We have set our last installation works in two fields that may be viewed as ruins. The first of them happened in Bishan city's Temple of Culture, now part of Chongqing agglomeration enlarged periphery, while the lattest was located in Xijiang, the biggest Miao village in Guizhou province Qiandongnan region.
These two sites both preserved integral traditional architectures through their reconversion into public spaces (teahouse, theater and local calligraphers associations have replaced the previous ritual and formalized activities of the temple ) or touristic attractions (an entry fee is required at the miao village).
Catching an ephemeral occasion, we participated in these mutating situations.
In Bishan county small city center, stands this Qing dynasty Temple of Culture (literally Temple of Wen: civilization, script, ideogram), a confucean institution centered on annual sacrifices to the master and his disciples effigies. After cults and rites being washed off by chinese cultural revolution, the empty monumental wooden structure has been preserved by the local culture bureau: it is open everyday as a teahouse to the daily poker playing commoner, and hosts local sichuan theater troups every week-end. Their impoverished performance, without make-up or peculiar dress, is sang by actors in blue mao suit sitting behind a table set on a naked podium.
Xijiang, the 'thousand families miao village' is a model ethnic minority village. More than a thousand wooden familial residence nest in a concave valley, densely fitted in between the river on the bottom and the mountain summit on top. The whole organic mass forms a spectacular view for the tourist, which has lead the local authorities to enclose the complex, and build a few open squares with newly assembled features of the local totemic religion.
Chiguzang ( literally: eat the drum concealed/interior) is each miao lineage most important religious feast. The totemic animal of the lineage is celebrated on his venue, on every twelve years zodiacal cycle. Every family is expected to sacrifice one ox per capita, which means a few thousand victims for a whole village. The habit has been restored in the eighties, after the cultural revolution years, while oxes have been replaced by pigs.
Facing these traditional spaces and 'ruins of rituals', we fell encouraged in participating in them. On the other hand, we wanted to limit our participations to an abstract behaviour. The inhabitant themselves, the local authorities, the passing-by tourist... Their role was concrete and permanently having a transformative action the sites.
We felt as the places had some preexisting connection with calligraphy, we looked for it, as a precedent to our act.
The unfinished wooden structure which we chose in Xijiang was to host a family soon, and the carpenter who accepted our intervention was the pater familias himself. Completion of the house by the highest beam, which is to receive the future roof main weight, is the occasion to consecrate the house and assure its protection. An expert shall be invited then to write the propitiatory formula on a long stripe of cloth, which is to be hung on the main beam.
Bishan Temple was dedicated to culture and the ideogram, its pillars and beams still beared hooks and frames were monumental calligraphic titles and emblems carved on wooden panels once hung.
We thus aimed at inscribing our act in a deeper way into these sites, or the other way around: these preexisting situations were to shape our intervention, which was to appear more as a juxtaposed 'commentary'.to what is evolving there indifferently anyway.
Our academic research, which departed from han cliff tombs funerary space and medieval buddhist monumental epigraphy is recently centering more and more on considering the construction of daoist ritual field as a starting point. Its open-air spatial model involves the use of flags and silken scrolls bearing ideographic, pictorial or talismanic content, which unfolding and folding again mark the ceremony's process from beginning to end. The daoist ritual thus generates its own ephemeral space-time continuum.
The same occurs in funerary sites, which are also aimed at constructing an abstract, parallel or metaphoric otherworld. Recurrent pair of holes in our ten to thirty meters long corridors suggested the hanging of successive layers of cloth, probably bearing diagrams or mythical designs, leading to the tomb most inner wall and its half-opened false door.
These parallels were indeed exciting to us, since the impulse of opening our calligraphic experiments in open-air was at first a more concrete reflexion about questions of scale and context.
Actually, framing our act in Xijiang and Bishan traditional wooden architecture, was for us a way to materialize our understanding of these structures. The other way around: the interventions could become our conceptualizing tools, they could help us grasp the important quality of chinese traditional wooden assemblage.
Not to rest on walls, which offer only one face and surface. Free-standing, autonomous frame. Generously tracing emptiness, offering pure space to the senses, expanding in the four directions. Transparence, as the 间 ideogram says: light filtering through an half-opened door. Permeating environment, harmonized by a well-chosen orientation.
Xijiang pine wood structures literally grow on the mountain slope, enclosed in light material it looked as monumental outdoor furniture, consciously facing three main summits across the valley.
Bishan temple leans on a small hill where fragments of microlocal spirits from the surrounding countryside have been reassembled in a contrasting pantheon. The platform on which they stand corresponds to an interstitial empty stripe that runs all around the temple's roof, letting the inside breathe and the outside wind blow in, a characteristic of those south-western wet and warm climates. Symmetrically placed on each extremity of the highest beam, which bears a central Taiji diagram, two circular openings stand for the moon and sun.
During our early fieldwork in Han cliff necropolis of the former Ba Shu kingdom, we always found ourselves facing the wall carvings, until we fell on that incredible central pillar. We immediately sensed it as a concrete model of han times spatial world: a free-standing pyramidal trunk supporting a symmetrical, curved beam, then expanding in the four directions.
It could easily be connected to a processional feature often represented on han funerary carvings: 建鼓, a free-standing pillar supporting a double-sided drum on its middle, and a four-sided flag on its top, the whole structure mounted on a a tiger or some other animal. A pair of drummers stand aside, letting us uncertain if to be regarded as two separate, rigorously symmetrical entities, or as the projection in space of a single drummer.
From this mobile structure, a ritual tool, to our funerary abstract central pillar, we felt the association shift to concrete pillar and beam structures of traditional houses and temples.
Closer to our own performance of double-sided writing process, the neutral point where our two brushes meet, is also the point form where one calligraphic stroke will expand in space. Only by hanging it through spatial frames like those we have chosen to exhibit in, can our work be read at it was meant to be, in the way it was written.
Our aim, through this writing process, and through its unfolding in such situations, is to open an abstract alternative for the calligraphic act.
First, through a chain of immediate response to a still-to-be-formulated sign, to abandon one's responsibility in writing, this almost contractual threat set on any signifying act.
Then, through a ephemeral version of our own temple, to conceive a simulacre for the literati's powerful rite and attitude to the written medium.
Finally, through the display of an abstract colophon where a readable one was expected, to deceive the commoners belief in efficacious consecrated formulas.
Escaping our responsibilities in such situations is our attempt on awakening deeper shapes of the calligraphic act, which existed or could have existed before its complete hardening into fixed rules, or elsewhere.
If our intervention was ignored enough by the poker players to be allowed to mingle in their own lively movement, hesitating hands choosing, hopefully smashing unreadable cards on the square bamboo tables, to sit among the crowdy divinators club playing with destiny all day long.
Actually, such expanding of the calligraphic stroke hopes to involve also what has been left on its own, in a raw state, or other chains of interactions that share our basic binary calligraphy, or simple movement that we like better because of their intact force, and spontaneity. At the risk of contributing ourselves in immortalizing those soft realities.
Paris Rive de Notre-Dame, 10th of April 2011