“The Second Scene”——Basic Position on Event Art.
By Shi WanWan
In 2004, Cai Guojie started his imaginative “Land boundary selling plan”at the corner stores in Taipei. In the following ten years, Cai Guojie continued to sell his land all over the world: The boundary line between the two pieces of land, a ” Land without owner” hidden between various power spaces. As long as you like, you can buy the world’s borders from the artist. This later officially named “Half-Field plan”, which proposed an artist-style land reform: land reform in the power gap. This is a typical event art, also known as the art of creation in the ground.
Event art is not aimed at creating images, shapes and forms. Most of them occur in public environments or public issues. They are one-time creations, and works cannot leave the actual context and cannot be copied. The works can only present the “event process” through a comprehensive medium such as images, documents, sounds and physical evidence. Therefore, formalist artists do not like event art, first because event art cannot provide “formal aesthetics”, and this is precisely an aesthetic experience that is very important in art. In the eyes of modernist artists, the vividness of a work is done by form, and form is art. At the end of the 19th century, British art critic Clive Bell once said: “Art is a meaningful form.” Form is not a reproduction of meaning, the form itself is all. So we can see that many modernist works take form innovation as the most important goal, and the exhibition hall becomes the form of space scene, which is the “theatre” pointed out by Michael Fried.
In fact, we can now see that this “theatre” – the exhibition space is facing a trend of standardization and homogenization, due to the identity of the space, the exhibition hall is becoming the “space production”, which is pointed out by Henri Lefebvre: the space is constantly copied and reproduced under the circumstance of instrumental rationality and consumerism. For example, the Super Gallery, the New York showroom and the Hong Kong showroom are homogeneous in time and space. In this sense, space has wiped out time and space has lost its scene. Art needs to escape from the exhibition hall and find a new place where the “event” takes place – a scene that resists identity and space production, that is, grounded creation.
Second, when the event becomes art, the controversy is even more: Is the event a simple material for art production? Is the artist consuming the event? The potential implication is: Do you still need art in front of the event? The French philosopher Alain Badiou said: “Events are the way to the truth,” and events occur only in certain areas and under certain conditions. There are four such areas: art, science, love, and politics. “Events” cannot be in a constant place, only in unstable “situations”, and “the event itself cannot be (directly) represented”
In the year from 2016 to 2017, artist Ma Yujiang completed his 《How Heavy is the Night》by collecting the consumer credentials of the homeless in Hong Kong. These extremely short bills displayed in the works reveal the constraints on the living space of these bottom-level workers in Hong Kong. This work has displayed the highly developed capitalist in Hong Kong and its special side: on the one hand, the international urban space squeezes the living space of the bottom laborers; on the other hand, consumption and business become the most basic ethical logic of human-to-human interaction. Homeless people get the basic reason to stay overnight at McDonald’s through minimum spending, not just sympathy and charity help.
Alan Badiou believes that “there can be event field in the historical context.” In Ma Yujiang’s works, the survival needs of the homeless and the nighttime McDonald’s space game constitute the first scene (fact) of the event. The works created by the artist constitute the “appearance” of the “facts” – events. The ground-based scene and the exhibition hall constitute an important structural relationship: the facts in the historical scene (situation) and the events that are revealed, that is, the first scene and the second scene.
The basic attributes of the work are established, that is, the second scene of the event, the first scene can be complete, and the event is “historic.” On the other hand, there is no second scene, the first scene is only a general natural situation, a neutral situation. Alan Badiou believes that the occurrence of events is not the inevitable result of historical laws. The historical law (the so-called objective truth) is precisely the product of the retrospective construction of events. It is not overnight that McDonald’s can explain Ma Yujiang’《How Heavy is the Night》, but the work 《How Heavy is the Night》 makes ” Overnight at McDonald’s ” become understandable. The “artistic” of the work is to reveal the first scene to the greatest extent and to establish a path to “truth”. This is the basic standpoint of “event art” and “art in the ground” as the second scene, and the full meaning of the “truth” of art.
August 18, 2019.