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中華青年思想與行動的聚合地

艾未未《十二生肖》:一场神秘的记忆之旅

JONATHAN LANDRETH

2024年2月9日

As the Year of the Dragon dawns, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has released “Zodiac,” a “graphic memoir” of scenes from his career — both real (hanging with Allen Ginsberg, the O.G. of Beat poets, in 1980s Greenwich Village) and imagined (debating Xi Jinping, China’s paramount leader). Each chapter frames the artist’s take on traditional beliefs about the characteristics humans share with the 12 animals of the Chinese lunar calendar. Gianluca Costantini’s intricate line drawings pair with Elettra Stamboulis’s comic-bubble text to help expand Ai’s lifelong campaign for free expression to a new medium for a new generation. Ai spoke with Jonathan Landreth about parents and parenting, punk rock and the passage of time, all via video chat last week from Berlin.

龙年来临之际,中国艺术家艾未未发表了《十二生肖》,这是一部“图文回忆录”,记录了他职业生涯中的真实场景(在上世纪八十年代的格林威治村,与垮掉派元老诗人艾伦·金斯堡廝混)和想象场景(与中国最高领导人习近平辩论)。每一章都体现了这位艺术家如何理解传统观念——人类与中国农历十二生肖的共同特征。吉安卢卡·科斯坦蒂尼的复杂线描与埃莱特拉·斯坦布利斯的漫画泡泡文字相得益彰,将艾未未毕生追求自由表达的运动扩展到了新的媒介,面向新的一代。上周,艾未未在柏林与乔纳森·兰德雷斯用视频对话,谈论了父母、养育子女、朋克摇滚,还有时间的流逝。

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

由于篇幅所限以及为了文字的清晰,对话经过了编辑。

A zodiac cycle ago, in 2012, you were just out of jail and tired of Beijing trying to silence you. “Twitter is my city,” you told me. Now you live in Berlin, Cambridge and Portugal. Where’s your city today?

一轮生肖之前,也就是2012年,你刚刚出狱,厌倦了北京试图让你保持沉默的做法。你对我说,“Twitter是我的城”。现在你住在柏林、剑桥和葡萄牙。今天,你的城在哪?

Twitter was my city because it was the only place for my expression at that time. Since 2015, when I left China, conditions have changed. I was under such pressure in China. Suddenly, I came to the so-called free world and Twitter was not so important. It was just one of the tools.

Twitter曾经是我的城,因为它是我当时唯一可以表达的地方。2015年我离开中国后,情况发生了变化。我在中国承受着巨大的压力。突然之间,我来到了所谓的自由世界,Twitter变得不那么重要了。它只是一个工具。

I consider nowhere home. Not China and not outside China. It’s strange. I just came back from New York. I consider none of these cities home. Home means you close your eyes and imagine the street and recognize a few names you grew up with. None of these places have this.

我觉得哪里都算不上家。不是中国,也不是中国以外的地方。这很奇怪。我刚从纽约回来。我认为这些城市都不是我的家。家意味着你闭上眼睛,可以想象街道的样子,认出几个和你一起长大的人。这些地方都没有这种感觉。

In “Zodiac,” you teach your son, Ai Lao, the legend of the Jade Emperor creating the calendar. What did you learn by explaining time?

在《十二生肖》里,你给你的儿子艾老讲玉皇大帝创造历法的传说。你从解释时间这件事里学到了什么?

Some say time is only an illusion. The illusion can be painful, or it can be happy. Some live in the past, and some struggle in the present. Someone may have no future. It’s hard to explain what time is about. The new generation needs some kind of reference when we talk about time. I can talk about the years I lived in Xinjiang, or the time my father was dying so I moved back to China from New York. You really need events to illustrate time. My son will turn 15 soon, so his time will be in China, then Germany, then England. That’s how he’ll understand it.

有人说,时间只是一种幻觉。幻觉可以是痛苦的,也可以是快乐的。有的人活在过去,有的人挣扎在现在。有的人可能没有未来。时间是什么,很难说清楚。当我们谈论时间,新一代人需要某种参照。我可以谈我在新疆生活的那些年,也可以谈我父亲去世后,我从纽约搬回中国的日子。你真的需要事件来解释时间。我的儿子马上就要满15岁了,所以他的时间会是先在中国,然后在德国,最后在英国。他会这样理解。

《十二生肖》的每一章都体现了艾未未如何诠释传统观念——人类与中国农历十二生肖的共同特征。 via Ten Speed Graphic

In a few “Zodiac” illustrations we see your son speaking with an image of your father, the poet Ai Qing, at his grave. Do you speak to him too?

在几幅《十二生肖》插图里,我们看到你的儿子在你的父亲、诗人艾青的墓前与他交谈。你也会这样和他说话吗?

It was an awkward situation. Ai Lao is a very independent boy. Perhaps it’s due to his experiences. He has his own perspective and independent way of thinking. Sometimes we tried not to let him voice his feelings, but he bowed to my father’s image, which we never do — head down to the ground. We never had that education and we never taught him to do that. How could a child do that? This surprised me. But it was natural, to show this kind of respect.

这是个有点尴尬的事。艾老是一个非常独立的男孩。也许与他的经历有关。他有自己的观点和独立的思考方式。有时我们试着不让他说出自己的感受,但他会向我父亲的照片磕头,头磕到地上,而我们从来没有这样做过。我们从未受过这样的教育,也没有教他这样做。一个孩子怎么会这样做呢?这让我很惊讶。但这是自然而然的,是为了表现出尊敬。

I don’t communicate with my father anymore. Not before he passed and not after. I regret I never asked him a solid question — what did he think about China or his time? I should have and it’s too late. Each generation bears the same situation. I wouldn’t want Ai Lao to ask me those questions. [But] his world will not be the same as mine. Probably my father never tried to pass his experience to me because he realized there was not much of a lesson to give to the next generation. That’s tragic. There’s a strong sense of loss that carries more value than any material life. It’s like being cut off from the most intimate relationship.

我不和父亲交流。他去世前没有,去世后也没有。我很遗憾我从来没有问过他一个有份量的问题——他对中国或他所处的时代有什么看法?我应该问的,但已经晚了。每一代人都承受着同样的处境。我不希望艾老问我这些问题。(但)他的世界不会和我的一样。可能我父亲从来没有试图把他的经验传授给我,因为他意识到没有什么教训可以教给下一代。这很悲哀。有一种强烈的失落感,比任何物质生活都更有价值。就像被切断了最亲密的关系。

07ai zodiac book4 lczm jumbo
艾未未的儿子艾老参观艾未未父亲艾青的骨灰堂。 via Ten Speed Graphic

Some of “Zodiac” looks drawn from photographs, and some seems to depict dreams. Describe the process and why you chose the graphic medium for the sequel to your 2021 prose memoir.

《十二生肖》中的一些内容看起来是根据照片绘制的,还有一些似乎描绘的是梦境。请描述一下创作过程,以及你为什么选择用图形媒介来创作您的2021年散文回忆录的续集。

Gianluca, the illustrator, and his wife, Elettra, and I sat together. The idea was to gather things from my memory, like a timeline, and offer mystical stories from China’s past. I explained it as a mix of memory and mythology. We thought this would relate not just my experience but general knowledge for whoever was interested. It’s a story with so much related to my situation that the publisher called it a memoir, but it’s not. Memory is subjective. We choose some things to remember and lots to forget.

我和插画家吉安卢卡还有他的妻子埃莱特拉坐在一起。我们的想法是,从我的记忆里收集东西,就像一个时间轴,并提供来自中国历史上的神秘故事。我把它解释为记忆和神话的混合。我们认为这不仅和我的经历有关,还能为感兴趣的人提供知识。这是一个和我的处境密切相关的故事,出版商把它叫做回忆录,其实不是。记忆是主观的。我们选择记住一些事情,同时忘记很多事情。

Most images in the book are related to photos because I post all my images on Instagram. They did the research. They asked questions and I answered. I never wrote a sentence but I did edit. All the dialogue in the book is based on my interviews.

书里大部分图片都和照片有关,因为我把所有照片都发到Instagram上。他们做了研究。他们提问,我回答。我没有写过一个句子,但我做了编辑工作。书里所有对话都是基于我的采访。

So it’s a collection of things you’ve said?

所以,这是把你说过的话集合起来?

Yes. It’s almost like an A.I. work.

是的。几乎就像一个人工智能作品。

Each animal represents a different characteristic. The mouse is a trickster and the ox is loyal. Does birth year determine personality and compatibility?

每种动物代表不同的特征。老鼠老奸巨猾,牛忠诚。出生年份能决定性格和相处吗?

When we were growing up as communists we didn’t have these superstitions. Gradually I realized through my zodiac artwork the profound meaning of this mythology to help understand individuals and society. It’s very different from the West, where you turn to the stars for meaning. Chinese relate to the animals around them. Only one of them is mystical, the dragon. This year, the Year of the Dragon, is supposed to be the most uneasy, uncertain, or dramatic year, which might be true. Us Chinese, we all believe in these animals, which, strangely enough, have often turned out to be more reliable about personal character, about who to associate with. It’s friendly knowledge, but the ones who believe in it really believe.

我们从小受共产主义教育,不讲这些迷信。渐渐地,通过我的生肖艺术作品,我意识到这个神话对于理解个人和社会的深刻意义。这和西方非常不一样,西方人向星星寻求意义。中国人和他们周围的动物息息相关。其中只有一种动物是神秘的,那就是龙。今年是龙年,被认为是最不安、最不确定或者最戏剧性的一年,这可能是真的。我们中国人都相信这些动物,奇怪的是,事实证明,这些动物在判断人的性格、判断和谁交往这些方面,往往更可靠。这是一种友好的知识,但是相信它的人真的很相信。

07ai zodiac book2 mlwg jumbo
在恶魔岛上展出的纸扎的龙风筝,这是装置作品《随风》(2014年)。 via Ten Speed Graphic
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艾未未与一个男子想象中的对话,艾未未说,这个男人“看起来很面熟”。 via Ten Speed Graphic

You’re a rooster who left China, which now is led by Xi Jinping, a snake — a rooster’s natural friend on the compatibility chart.

你属鸡,你离开了中国,现在中国由习近平领导,而习近平属蛇——按照属相表,蛇和鸡应该是天然的朋友。

We’re supposed to be friends but we’ve had no chance to meet yet. There are 100 million roosters and 100 million snakes in China.

我们应该是朋友,但我们还没有机会见面。中国有一亿人属鸡,一亿人属蛇。

Am I mistaken, or is there in “Zodiac” an imagining of you debating the snake?

我没记错的话,《十二生肖》里有你和那条蛇辩论的想象画面?

It’s a drawing by Gianluca. I think that face looks familiar to me. He is such a good illustrator. He can use simple lines to really capture the character.

是吉安卢卡画的。我觉得那张面孔很眼熟。他是一个出色的插图画家。他可以用简单的线条来捕捉人物。

If you met the snake, what would you say?

如果你遇到那条蛇,你会说什么?

“Be a nice snake.” In Chinese, every animal is not good or bad. They all can be nice.

“做一条好的蛇。”在汉语中,每种动物都没有好坏之分。它们都可以是好的。

As an example of a tiger, you name the Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died in 2017 after his release from prison. Who are today’s courageous tigers?

作为属虎的例子,你提到了诺贝尔和平奖得主刘晓波,他在2017年出狱后去世。谁是当今勇敢的老虎呢?

Internationally, the U.S. is still the tiger, but it’s a pretty old tiger. We have a Chinese idiom, “Even a dead tiger still has power”— because it has that look, that skin. The U.S. is still alive, still dominates and affects the global situation. In China, the Communist Party is the tiger. The Party has existed for 103 years and reached almost 100 million people. No other party can be this big for this long and still function very well, even with tremendous internal problems. It’s a system which is not just a political structure but has inherited a fatalistic society from the Qin Dynasty 2,000 years ago. Now, under the so-called opening up, they have survived and are catching up in every aspect with a kind of state capitalism. They don’t have the disadvantages of classic capitalism. They have a longer strategy, a bigger plan. They can play the game differently.

在国际上,美国仍然是那只老虎,但它是一只相当老的老虎。我们有一个中国俗语,“虎死不倒威”——因为它余威仍在,还有那张皮。美国仍然存在,仍然主导和影响着全球局势。在中国,共产党是老虎。中国共产党已经存在了103年,有近一亿党员。没有任何一个政党能够以这么大的规模,维持这么长的时间,并且在存在巨大内部问题的情况下仍然运转良好。这种制度不仅是一种政治结构,而且继承了2000年前秦朝的天命社会。现在,在所谓的对外开放之下,他们生存下来,并且在各个方面都在用一种国家资本主义的方式追上来。他们没有传统资本主义的弊端。他们有更长远的战略,更宏大的计划。他们可以用不一样的方式来玩游戏。

But who are the individual tigers with courage to speak out like Liu Xiaobo?

但是,作为个人,像刘晓波这样有勇气发声的老虎是谁呢?

There’s no such person in China. Cats and tigers look the same, but China doesn’t even have cats.

在中国没有这样的人。猫和老虎样子很像,但在中国连猫都没有。

The rabbit represents immortality and art. With the time you have left will you, like the German artist Joseph Beuys, who is featured in “Zodiac,” plant trees that thrive outdoors in open, public spaces, for all to see, or will you continue to show indoors, at museums that charge admission and are subject to political pressures?

兔子代表不朽和艺术。在你剩下来的时间里,你会像在《十二生肖》里出现的德国艺术家约瑟夫·博伊斯那样,在户外的开放公共空间里种植茂盛的树木,让所有人都能看到,还是继续在那些要收门票,还要承受政治压力的室内博物馆里展出呢?

For artists today, there are so many possibilities to not repeat this old game, which has lost interest and doesn’t connect with our human experience any more. I used galleries, museums and art fairs only because I saw them as ready-made. They’re just platforms, but absolutely not necessary.

对于今天的艺术家来说,有很多可能性不再重复这样的老游戏,它已经不再有趣味,不再与我们的人类经验相联系。我使用画廊、博物馆和艺术博览会,只是因为我认为它们是现成的。它们只是平台,但绝对不是必需的。

After you posted a polarizing comment about the Israel-Hamas war, London’s Lisson Gallery delayed a show of your new art. (The tweet was deleted). When will the show open?

在你发表了一篇关于以色列和哈马斯战争的极化评论后,伦敦的里森画廊推迟了你的新艺术展。(该推文已被删除)。这个展览什么时候开始?

I have absolutely no sense. Show or no show, it doesn’t make any difference to me.

我完全不知道。展览或不展览,对我来说都无所谓。

07ai zodiac book6 tqck jumbo
“我的艺术其实并不表达对世界的不耐烦,”艾未未说。“实际上,世界是冷漠的,所以我的急切并没有什么意义。” Maria Sturm for The New York Times

You’ve long stuck your finger in the eye of authority and you remain committed to free speech. You arrived in New York in 1981 just before the British punk band the Clash stormed American radio with the song “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” That question appears in your chapter on the dragon, a symbol of individual freedom. Was that conscious?

长期以来,你一直在指责权威,始终坚持言论自由。你在1981年来到纽约,当时英国朋克乐队“冲撞”(Clash)的《我该留下还是该离开》(Should I Stay or Should I Go?)这首歌正在美国电台风靡一时。这个问题也出现在你关于龙的章节中,而龙又是个人自由的象征。这是刻意的吗?

It was a conscious choice by Elettra, who employed a lot of word play and verbal information.

这是埃莱特拉刻意选的,她运用了大量的文字游戏和语言信息。

How punk rock did you feel when you left China in 2015?

2015年离开中国的时候,你觉得自己很朋克吗?

I was a punk rock singer without a voice. I love that medium but I am the furthest I can be from being a musician.

我是一个不唱歌的朋克摇滚歌手。我喜欢这种媒介,但我远谈不上是音乐人。

Your art seems to express impatience with the world. Which artists in China share your impatience?

你的艺术似乎表达了对这个世界的不耐烦。哪些中国艺术家和你一样?

My art doesn’t actually express impatience with the world. In reality, the world is indifferent, so my impatience doesn’t hold much significance. Yet, there are frustrating moments in life, akin to a poorly written sentence that could be improved. My art is related to so-called contemporary practice, philosophy, or ethics. In China, almost nobody has experience with this kind of modernism or contemporary culture. They have good, meaningful, and skillful art, but it cannot be clearly discussed or interpreted. They are lost. The conversation is lost. It’s not good or bad. It’s just like the U.S.-China conversation, politically: also lost. They’re not talking on the same page.

我的艺术实际上并没有表达对世界的不耐烦。在现实中,世界是冷漠的,所以我的急切没有多大意义。然而,生活中也有令人沮丧的时刻,就像一个写得不好的句子,可以加以改进。我的艺术与所谓的当代实践、哲学或伦理有关。在中国,几乎没有人经历过这种现代主义或当代文化。他们有好的、有意义的、有技巧的艺术,但无法清晰地加以讨论或解释。他们迷失了。对话失去了意义。没有好坏之分。这就像中美之间的对话一样,在政治上也失败了。他们不是在同一个层面交流。


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        中国茉莉花革命网始创于2011年2月20日,受阿拉伯之春的感召,大家共同组织、发起了中国茉莉花革命。后由数名义工无偿坚持至今,并发展成为广受翻墙网民欢迎的新闻聚合网站并提供论坛服务。

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