An Artist Who Only Participates in Group Exhibitions
Written in misty Rotterdam, 29 November 2022
Images from misty Chongqing, on the same day
I have an artist friend whose work cannot be exhibited in a solo show.
It is not a matter of seniority, volume, or politics.
It's because his work has to take place in a group exhibition in order to be valid.
As a child, you were given blank papers for the first time in art class.
You could do anything to it: tear it, draw it, fold it, knead it...
You could play games with it, folding paper planes.
They've been everywhere in your life ever since.
But they are always lying flat, hovering or trying to cover up and sneak around to avoid your eyesight and mine.
No matter how busy the world is, they seem to say "I'm just a supporting actor", unless night falls.
They are just a ghost in your life.
You wanted to masturbate as a child, you got a pen shoved in your hand, and you started learning to read and write.
You are an artist. You have to do something with the blank paper for it to become a work of art.
They seem to be forever unfinished, not works of art, yet they join almost every artistic process.
The sketch, the tracing, the display.
They are just a ghost in your art.
This time, you came to the Netherlands to become a so-called 'contemporary artist'.
You went through all the art scenes in Rotterdam, seeking the field of 'artistic value' as the highest truth.
You came back home and you couldn't write a word on a blank paper. You don't know what your heart is rejecting.
You wait, you are tired, you are exhausted, and you don't want to create.
Let's gaze at the blank paper for 1 minute...
Death, birth, fear, hope, peace, tension, familiarity, strangeness, calm, noise...
Futility, wordlessness... Does your rationality fear it?
Perhaps the fear forces impatience, and you cannot wait to write something...
In the calls with your parents, they said:
Please don't do anything radical because mum and dad are still in China.
In case you become famous abroad by then, mum and dad will be called in for questioning by the police and suffer.
Can't you do your artwork properly/normally/correctly?
Aren't you in the Netherlands already? Don't you already have liberty now?
What else do you have to struggle with? What else could possibly make you want to kill yourself?
我不知道... 精神分裂.. 我无所作为...
I don't know... Schizophrenia... Inaction...
You know it's not just a blank paper on which a million ghosts have accumulated.
For as long as you can remember, you have experienced the strict censorship of the Chinese Communist Party.
Your self-censorship has led you to reject almost all social platforms. You chose to remain silent.
Slowly, the words you had accumulated inside you became deformed and could no longer be expressed in any language.
In a darkened room, you decided to delete the sentence in front of you after thinking about it for a long time, although there was some hesitation.
The ghost of this sentence is then bred on the white paper in front of you. You don't have the courage to take these words out into the public.
Until... you are no longer able to write...
You opened Tinder.
Feminism, environmental protection, Black Lives Matter.
Japanese ramen, Vietnamese pho, coffee.
Sagittarius, INTP, cat-addict.
Your artistic writing has deceived everyone over the years, you lied to yourself from the beginning and you were quick to believe all the lies in your writing.
I was looking at some boring photographs in an exhibition and the presence of the paper itself caught my eye as I approached.
It was an indescribable visual experience and I was suddenly reminded of my artist friend who was only involved in group exhibitions.
He rarely spoke, but I knew he was raging inside.
He is in the exhibition brochures, he is in every print.
He is so ambitious that he can secretly use his work to cut up space and disturb the logic of the exhibition.
Blank papers always return. In fact, they never leave.
A napkin violently slides down the table, interrupting the entire party.
The poet descends along the vertical to reassume a formless horizontality under the table.
All borders are breaking down.
Blank paper both exists and ceases to, at the same time, and through this existing, it repeatedly questions the certainty of its existence.
When art is a form of capitalism, blank paper is... the proletariat.
The weapon is modest, but the possibility of action is close by and infinite.