Decode the History with Art-- Comments on Chen zhiguang’s Ancient Stage
Chen zhiguang, a sculptor who is famous for animal sculpture especially ants sculpture, surprisingly created a piece of fine art named Ancient Stage which attracted many peoples attention. It surprised the people because of the large span from ants to the ancient stage. And it has become the attention focus because there are few artists like Chen zhiguang who made a huge investment and worked so hard on it for a long time to turn a 7.8 -meter- high ancient stage into a stainless steel one and showed it to the public as a piece of handmade art. Most important of all, if we regard Chens ants as the works of art that somewhat fit for traditional sculpture concept, Ancient Stage has broken away from traditional sculptural category and it could be categorized as modern art. From the aspect of art methodology, at least Ancient Stage reminded us of American Pop artist Claes Oldenburgs works. On the one hand, unlike Oldenburgs works which merely amplified and reproduced the normal things to convey the surprising effect, Chens Ancient Stage contains more philosophy of life and society that helped people to think. On the other hand, Chens Ancient Stage crossed the border of sculpture, which indicated that modern art focuses on the conveying content after modern formalism. Then, for Chens Ancient Stage, we should firstly ask ourselves: What on earth does it express?
The direct answer to this question is that Chen zhiguang showed us an Ancient Stage an unique place which existed for a long period of time in history and had ever brought the audience happiness and aesthetic appreciation. In other words, an ancient stage that is hardly used today can be treated as a historical relic. It survived toughly and isolatedly up till today because it is beyond the lives of the actors who had ever performed on it and the audience who had ever watched the performance under it. So, in my opinion, Chen firstly expressed the historical significance of the ancient stage, indicating that it brought what had ever happened in the past to today in a nihility way. In fact, whether we agree on this or not, when we are standing in front of Chens Ancient Stage, we cant help thinking of the era that needed stages to lubricate the operation of social machine; we cant help thinking of the working people and their lives at that time. On the other hand, when the ancient stage was used as an object and a tool for performance, the actors were the attention focus and the stage was only a passive and noteless existence. But Chens Ancient Stage changed such kind of relationship and turned the ancient stage into a performer, an actor and the audience attention focus. Symbolizing a significant art image of the objective ancient stage, the ancient stage which has ever been regarded as a tool for performance has now turned itself into a form of spirit and a vivid historical text. Based on this significance, I think Chens Ancient Stage is meaningful and thought-provoking because it contains the depth of life philosophy and the extent of history.
Another characteristic of Chen zhiguangs Ancient Stage is that it is completely made of modern stainless steel. In term of the difficulty of the handiwork, it is not worse than traditional sculptural skills. But strictly speaking, it is not Chens concerning focus. The elaborately handled stainless steel material was used to emphasize the performance, existence, presence of the ancient stage by Chen zhiguang. As a matter of fact, Chen zhiguang let a stage without any performers become an actor , which also makes the audience on the stainless steel stage become performers. And further more, history will continue in such a new form of art.
Chen zhiguangs Ancient Stage can be categorized as concept art from the aspect of art methodology. For the artists thoughts and free will merely embodied on the behavior and concept of selecting an object and material, nevertheless, the significance of the works completely broke away from the artists control and was decided by the mutuality of the property of the object (the stage) and the material ( the stainless steel). The significance of this art formation maximally guaranteed the independence and objectivity of works, which combined the artists personality and feelings with his works and then kept this relationship at almost a zero level. It is obvious that, for such a work like Ancient Stage, its significance lies in cultural sense and humanistic value carried out separately in history or at present. Maybe this is the unique power of decoding history with art.
2006-11-12 in Wangjing Garden