believe there are much more exciting part that had been cut off due to
limit of length. For instance, the Interpal piece must be more exciting
if we can see more details of how the Russian guy destroyed the work &
response from the organization side, etc.
i do appreciate your insights about this. it is not only the limit of
time for my video document. as matter of fact, the whole thing hapened
was like this: the russian artist began his performance as a rock-in-roll
drumer was playing a drum while he paid so much attention to my presence
during the opening. i knew something would hapen. i was video taping his
action till i went out to receive my german friends. just about a few
minutes i went in with my friends. the whole situation was already a chaos.
he pull down the most of my hair panels and immediately left the scene
(i have video footage about his action at all). then the other russian
artist was still playing as a naked dog to bite the audience. my assistants
who assisted the fabrication of my work were crying...all of the audience
came around me. soon 6 police cars arrived and they catched the “naked
dog”. all media reporters were all jamed in the space. i asked a
national conference for the next day. however, the discussion went on
for more than a year in sweden and spread to all of the art world. one
year later a swedish artist told me in nyc, my name is bigger than a rock-in-roll
star in swenden that moment. a half year later, i accedentally met this
russian artist in west village in nyc, and i invited him for a coffee.
i think i did a very strong thing as a silent and powerful statement.
i’m sure he cant face me regard what he did to me.
I have a question for you. The work you made
seems very aesthetic (wei2 mei3) in terms of form. The "beautiful"
appearance, instead of the message of cultural exchange, conflict &
confrontation, etc. seems to have drawn more attention. I'm not questioning
you, but just wondering. I heard many times of comments from audience,
such as "beautiful", "pretty". I feel it's beautiful
it is a complicated issue. i hope i have a time to explain to you thoroughly.
may better when we get together.
#1, you have to know the aesthetical and visual finalization
is the spirit of a piece of art creation. that is why the most of conceptualists
verbally or their writings describe their works well, but the actual works
will not convey their solid and clear and precise concepts if without
their words. i always believe that is the predicament of conceptual art.
for me, a great idea without a aesthetic solution is not enough. you can
see from my “enigma of blood” to “enigma
beyond joy and sin”, both works have stricking and opposites:
extremely challenging material and concept and beatutil format.
the video documentation i mailed you has no work before
1993, simply i didn't have video footage yet. so after my travelling solo
exhibiton in usa will produce dvds from this video document, plus all
slide images of my works before 1993.
#2, you have to know the whole journey of my “united
nations” project since 1993. now the most important art history
books included my “un” as symbolic and important
work of art during our post-modern and post-colonial internationalism.
but when it began most of audience were mostly shocked when they just
hear using hair as the material of art. i had one experience at moma san
francisco. some audience went in front of this huge tower installation
from the sky light to the lobby (un-babel
of the millennium), first they reacted as seeing a paper hanging;
second they are totally surprised it all made of human hair. third, they
were totally astonished when they read the lable: the hair is collected
from all of the world. they cant imagine what bad looking and the association
with death in their minds about cut off hiar are now was a transcendental
beauty in front of them. a good work will have those three steps to catch
#3, the silent subversion and the beautiful chalenge
are in my works all the way. you can view the newest national monument
of “un” serise “united
nations- australia monument” now showing at national gallery
of australia. this work has extreme beauty of power. but you know what
hapened to this work conceptually yet. the work had an article on the
front section of “the canberra times”. traditionally the art
show is only reviewed in the art section. why? this work hits the heart
of australian. on the installation, there are two phrases: “genetically
british”, “geographically pacific”. that is the center
of australians’ mind conflict. they were prisoners to pushed to
australia from britain, but today they still pride of being british and
refuse their reality which is where they live in. the original title of
this work ends with a created word by sythesize two words of english+pacific.
the museum omited this word without telling me. the designer of my exhibition
at national gallery of australia is french. he told me that museum people
were shocked when this designer opened up the attached file of the design
of this work in the computer. you dont see this fact when you saw the
image of the work i sent to you.
#4, as for the
forest of stone steles, you cant indeed to feel the power of
the work from a photo. my works are mostly monumental in size. when the
audience actually presence in the stone installation. it is so dramatically
silent you down. the peacefulness, and weight of the stones are so efective
on your psychology. then you can read all the retranslation for a half
#5, the genetic
ink project for me is like a bom for chinese traditional treasure-ink.
Zhou Yan: Can you tell me more about the book?
Say, author's name, the whole title, etc.
wenda gu: aldous huxley published his shocking book, "brave new
world" in 1932 and in 1993 andrew kimbrell wrote "the
Human body shop". i guess you didnt have the correct books'
titles thus you didnt get it.
Zhou Yan: My record of your first menstrual art show is at Hatley
Martin Gallery, San Francisco, 1990. When you said that Mapplethorpe's
show was nearby, I checked the books on him, found he had two shows in
SF in 1990: 1. "The Indomitable Spirit" (travelling show), at
Fraenkel Gallery; 2. "Art in Bloom", at A.P. Giannini Gallery.
If your first was the one above, which one was Mapplethorpe show nearby?
Or if my record is not correct, what is your first menstrual art show
(date, place)? And what is Mapplethorpe's show nearby according to your
wenda gu: i didnt mean mapplethorpe's show was near by when my first show
of menstrual art project "2000 thousand natural deaths" (then
i changed the title ot "the enigma of blood"). i mean
i didnt know mapplethorpe's controversy when my menstrual project exhibition
opened. i didnt even know too much about those controversial issues and
political correctness was the main concerns of the major museums in america
when i started this project in 1988. it means that i was not particularly
interested in controversy or provocation over issues in amerian society.
i was generally in human body myth and the question how to deal with unusual
Zhou Yan: Why Oleg Kulik was detained? Under
what charge? Attack? Threaten lives? Damage property? Or simply because
of his "naked-dog" performance?
wenda gu: i never heared that oleg was detained. where did you learn of
this information? do you mean brener but not lulik?
Zhou Yan: Can you give a bit more details of how the European
press reacted to the event? You mentioned that the "Happening"
hit the headlines in the Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, French and British
press in your description of the event (in Chinese), can you tell me more
about it? Or do you have any photocopies of those reports, reviews or
wenda gu: there were so many articles and reviews about this incident.
i have some but i would never be able to get all of them at all. and also
mostly i couldnt read it due to different languages. basically i left
it behind me. i didnt involve it too. however, i have a general sense
that brener’s action of art with a theory of anti-west and america.
you can see his later destruction on malavich painting in amsterdam was
very obvious. he spraied paint with an american dollar sign on a malavich
painting a few months later after his action at “interpol”
in stockholm. then he was arrested and went to jail for a few months.
the european art writers and media was a mixed feel of it - it was a vendalism
or supportive to his anti-capitalism and anti-america.
Zhou Yan: The choice of word "Interpol"
for the show has no specific interpretation. Why is "Interpol"?
Something to do with international crime, or what?
wenda gu: “interpol” is the short form of international
police orgnization. it was literally chosen for the conflicts between
west and east europe. the took place right after the berlin wall pushed
over. all of sudden, the physical separation of west and east berlin is
goen. and the political, cultural and social differences are in obvious
confrontation. this had appeared in during the discussions between two
groups of artists - swedish and russian artists between a swedish curator
jan aman and the russian curator. i guess the title “interpol”
suggested that the directe confrontation between east and west europe.
it was like an alarming situation.
Zhou Yan: You had been selected by Russian artist Dmitry Gutov.
It's is a very important detail. Why did he choose you? You are something
in common, or he likes your art very much? How did he think about Brener's
action? Can you tell me more about the process of recruiting artists?
wenda gu: this exhibition was based upon two groups of artists: primariely
russian and swedish group. then they selected international participants.
yes, i was selected by dmitry gutov who i didnt know him before the exhibition.
we exchanged few conversations during the meeting and then during the
show. i remembered that he told me that my project was very powerful,
it refered to my “eodipus refound - enigma of blood”.
but I don't know other motivation why he selected my work. from very beginning,
the curators planed that each invited international artist would collaborate
with the artist who you were selected by. it means also the art works
within this show were all collective works. due to the conflicts, this
idea somehow didnt work out. so that almost all works were done by individule
artists. i felt that the russian artists acted like a group, especially
the russian artists such as brener, kulic and gutov. they all did the
performances with a gression. mr. gutov is a very sensitive and soft spoken
man. he did the work was titled “last supper” one
evening before the opening of the show. all participating artists and
curators are sit around for the “supper”. the dialogues were
very political regarding the differences. what i enterpreted this as a
signal of “last moment”. this can be read as “we split”
if you put gutov’s work within the contaxt of the actions of brener
and kulic. in my opinion, those three artists are strongly russian nationalistic.
the others were more collaborative and friendly with the west.
Zhou Yan: The second Swedish-Russian-artists meeting in Moscow
is interesting, but I may need more details about it. Say, who (Russian)
did the performance of hugging the Swedish woman artist? Brener, Kulik,
or somebody else? Who was that Swedish woman artist?
wenda gu: i didnt go for the moscow meeting because i had other comitment.
but i was told by swedish artists that the meeting in moscow was intense.
for one incident, brener did an action during the meeting. he huged an
woman swedish artist so tight for so long till the other swedish artists
went up to stop the action. but i dont know who was the woman swedish
Zhou Yan: The last also the most important question regards to
your work. What was the initial plan/proposal? Seems to me it had no missile
and European Union flag in the beginning. If so, the missile and the flag
had been added one by one when the plan had been executed, right? I'm
interested in the whole process of development and execution of your plan?
How did it change? Why the change had been made? What were your thoughts
when you kept changing your plan? Is it true that in every step you predicted
something interesting and amazing would happen? However, you said you
didn't expect the event ended up with such a violent destruction, why
you didn't expect it? What was you expected?
wenda gu: the initial plan of my work was “united nations -
swedish and russian monument”. no, there was no contents of
missile and european union flag planed. yes, those objects were added
to my this project later on. because i was quietly reading what was going
on during the process of shapping the exhibition. the progress of my this
project was with the concept of my general idea of “united nations”
project. it means it is not only on the side of utopian ideology of man
kind unification. it is also refer to all possible conflicts we have in
the reality. to be honest with you, i tried to stay with more on the possitive
side. but unfortunately, the things within this show was going to a negative
direction which is more realistic in our reality. to use those symbolic
objects in this particular work of mine, i had a kind of idea to use military
force to colm down the cultural controntation. the process of the development
of my work went with the situations of this exhibition for sure. to the
last moment right before the opening, i felt the urgent that something
will hapen. but the work nature - a huge hair installation left me with
no possibility to protect this work of mine. but somehow, i didnt expect
it would be ended like this. it was a shock for me.
Zhou Yan: I attach the draft of "Prelude", wish to give
you a bit idea of how I starts my dissertation. As always, any suggestions,
opinions, and corrections are truly welcome.
wenda gu: i have no idea if this would be good for the beginning of your
dissertation, especially at this current global situation today. it is
Zhou Yan: Do you remember more details of your Xi-an solo show
in 1986? What I have is only a few brief reports. What I'm interested
in is like how many rooms you show occupied? How did they make it two
separate shows while one was not available to the public? Two parts were
far from each other or simply next door? How did they assign spaces for
Huang Qiuyuan's show and your two-part show? I haven't been in Xi'an Artists
Gallery, so have no idea of its space, plan and interior. For this part,
your information will be very helpful if it could be as detailed as possible.
wenda gu: the xian artists’ gallery was a wonderful space. my solo
exhibition was installed at the main space on the ground floor. it is
a realy high ceiling, wide and deep. huang qiuyuan’s exhibition
is on the second floor with also nice space of course with lower ceiling.
and his works are not as big as my works. my another show was on the third
floor. it is a room about 200sqm. this room showed my traditional ink
Zhou Yan: From when you started making installation?
The Xi'an show seems to be the first complete "installation."
However, I know you made Bi4 Gua4 (tapestry), and showed your ink pieces
as kind of 3-D manner in other circumstances before the Xi'an show. Could
you please tell me more about this? And it's important for me to know
the intention and motivation of transition from 2-D work and display to
wenda gu: there are 2 things: 1, 3-d is one and installation is another
catagory. i started to create oil paintings with ready made objects in
1981. i have the slides. but those works were not intended to be installations.
i was not informed about the catagory of installation in the biginning
of 80s. i will say all my intention to create installation was beginning
i did several performances within the installation of
my huge ink paintings. one performance was i hired 6 students of mine
to create a large ink painting. each one create a character of “quiet”
in different forms. then i splashed with large amount of water on it (special
ink technics i invented, later on become popular). then i used red colour
to make “cross” and “circle” on those six characters.
the tapestry works yes with full intention of creating
installations. that time they call it “ruan3 diao1 shu4”.
but this is only way i can create installations in the academy. mr. varbanov
loves my work and invited me to create huge pieces for the international
beinnale in swiss although i was not the member of tapestry studio in
zhejiang academy of art. he knew clearly that the creative power of my
work would deliver the work to the swiss biennale. it was the most important
goal for him and his tapestry stduio that the work will be selected by
the biennale. i got the first place to create those works varbanov’s
studio and got in the biennale. some people may not be happy during that
if you look at the tapestries of mine, the most important
part of the works are the large ink work mounted on the woven banboo.