画须添龙


a Fat Bird performance-installation at the Guan Shanyue Museum of Fine Arts, June 22 through July 22, 2007

The organizing committee of the tenth anniversary celebration of the founding of the Guan Shanyue Museum of Fine Arts commissioned Fat Bird to create an original performance installation for the event, "Open Water Colors: An Exhibition of Contemporary Works".  Fat Bird created "Draw Whiskers, Add Dragon", on display at the Museum from June 22 through July 22, 2007.

画须添龙式的诠释

 

深圳市胖鸟剧团此次呈现的水墨观念剧场作品,有一个费解的名字叫《画须添龙》。这要从65年前在英国的一座美术馆里发生的事情讲起.

 

1942年在战时英国首都伦敦的华莱士美术馆,一个来自中国的记者、作家和翻译家萧乾先生做过一次演讲,演讲的题目叫《龙须与蓝图》。在演讲中他把世界舞台比喻为一个课堂,而中国是一个迟来的学生。他留着辫子和四寸长的指甲。最为与众不同的是,有“祖传”的一手绝活——他用“如椽的毛笔几下就能画出那云中的龙须”,这是无人会做的。但是“那不能让他拿到文凭”,他必须“刻意学会画排水道的图,尽管他不认为那比画龙须更容易做到。”当大家发现他已经差不多变成像他们一样的人的时候,就开始为他惋惜:“当初你的龙须画的多么奇妙啊!你现在画这些粗糙的蓝图不觉得无聊吗?……”而他“只是朝他们苦笑,同时喃喃地说:‘不必担心我那龙须。那时我祖传的,丢不了。可我得先拿到文凭。然后,我也许让你们全来画龙须呢。’”萧乾先生用“龙须”象征中国的古老文化,用蓝图象征工业化和现代化。他认为中国当时不能满足于祖先那份遗产,必须现代化。否则,连这份遗产也不能保住。

 

“龙须”——萧乾先生创造的这个词,以其玲珑的意象把水墨的技艺和神髓完美的表达了出来。而用水墨来象征中国的古老文化,或许比四大发明,比长城等那些实物更恰当、更传神。正如本次展览的宗旨所阐发的那样,水墨不可否认地具有对传统文脉的联想,或民族身份认同的暗示法力。问题是用它象征当今中国是否依然贴切?换句话说,水墨是否能作为现成的文化符号用来沟通传统和当代,而不是显现两者分裂?这显然是很值得深思的问题。但是我们的作品并不想做这个文化探索,而是要提出另一个视野这就是“趣味”。“传统文脉”和“民族认同”也许正是一种时兴的趣味,在艺术已经是商品的背景下,“趣味”的优势已经越来越明显地主宰了艺术品的生产,而且,越来越和内容无关。现实似乎是,实际的“龙须”在不在其实没关系,重要的是对她的渴望,而在这个渴望能够把它“创造”出来。这也许才是值得玩味的。

 

今天回过头来看,中国处处都是完成的蓝图,所以就需要有人画须(虚),而为了让须有个徽章(相当于名牌商标)就需要添龙,至于是点睛还是蛇足,那就见仁见智了。



A Draw Whiskers, Add Dragon Style Explanation

 

    The title of Fat Bird's Chinese watercolor inspired performance piece, "Draw Whiskers, Add Dragon" comes from a talk given over 65 years ago in a Brittish Museum.

    In 1942, the Chinese journalist, writer, and translator, Xiao Qian gave a talk titled, "Dragon Whiskers or Blueprints?" at the Wallace Museum in London.  In this talk, Xiao Qian likened the world to a classroom and China to a student late for class.  This student had a queue and four inch fingernails.   What truly distinguished him from his classmates, however, was his "cultural heritage," the ability to use a calligraphy brush as thick as a beam to draw fine dragon's whiskers in the clouds.  Noone else could do this.  But this skill wasn't enough "to earn a diplomna".  He needed to "force himself to learn to draw drainpipe plans, even if he didn't think it was easier than drawing dragon whiskers."  When everyone realized he had become just like them, they started to express regret, "In the beginning you dragon whiskers were so unique!  Don't you think it's boring to draw this blueprints?"  All the student could do was look at them coldly and laugh bitterly, but he said, "Don't worry about my dragon whiskers.  They came from my ancestors  and can't be lost.  But the first thing I have to do is earn a diplomma.  After that, maybe I'll teach you to draw dragon's whiskers."  Xiao Qian used "dragon's whiskers" to symbolize China's traditional culture, and "blueprints" to symbolize industrialization and modernization.  He believed that China couldn't remain satisfied with past accomplishments, but rather needed to modernize.  Otherwise, China might not be able to preserve that heritage. 

    "Dragon's whiskers"-----Xiao Qian created this word, using its delicate imagery to express the essence and beauty of Chinese ink painting.  And ink painting itself is the most appropriate symbol of China's past, perhaps more than any of the four great inventions, even more than the great wall.  As stated in the guiding principles of this exhibition, ink painting can't deny a direct link to either traditional culture or Chinese people's sence of identity.  The question, however, is whether or not  ink painting can represent contemporary China?  In other words, does ink painting connect contemporary China to the past, or does it instatiate the distance between the two?  This is a question clearly worth thinking.  However, our piece is not an investigation of culture, but rather raises a different question, the question of "taste".  "Cutlural heritage" and "cultural identity" may perhaps be a question of taste.  In a world where art is already commodified, the advantages of "taste" increasingly dominated artistic production.  Moreover, they have less and less to do with content.  What may be ultimately true is that the existence or extinction of actual "Dragon's whiskers" doesn't matter anymore.  What matters is the desire for them, and it is this desire that is creating them.  This may worth taking up.

    In retrospect, fully realized blueprints are everywhere in China, so what is needed is someone to draw whiskers (a word in Mandarin that puns the character for "emptiness").  In order for the whiskers to be recognized (something like a brand), we have to add a dragon.  Whether this dragon is necessary or superfluous is in the eye of the beholder.