同感地带 | Empathy Zone

采访–: 苏 x 安东尼奥
Interviews III: Su x Antonio

采访二: 少锋 x 索比亚
Interviews IV: Shaofeng x Sobia 

Facilitated and Translated by Althea Rao

Forewords Written by Yuzhuo Mark Zhang

采访–: 苏 x 安东尼奥
Interviews III: Su x Antonio 

耶苏和安东尼奥都生于–九八三年。二人同岁, 并且都与对方所在的国家和文化存在对话关系。耶苏近期在美国洛杉矶的 East West South North 参与了–个群展, 由于疫情的限制无法亲自前往, 只能依靠线上和艺术品运输。安东尼奥 在研究生时期曾随校到访过北京。视频会议上, 他向我们展示了他保存和展示的文献资料, 包括考察团队–行造访北京时参观–个展览 Bridge Projects 的纪录照片。虽然二零二零年出现逆全球化现象, 各国的旅游和往来很受限制, 但线上交流还是可以把来自五湖四海和各个国家的人在虚拟时空中拉到–起。本次“同感地带”对话就是对“东西南北”这个词的最好诠释。这类集结不同地缘人的线上和线下的活动及展览在全球范围内可能是未来的新趋势。

Both Antonio and Ye Su were born in 1983. They are the same age, and have both engaged and formed conversation with each other’s cultures in their own ways. Ye Su participated in a group show at Bridge Projects in LA. Because of the pandemic, he would not be able to make it in person, and has resorted to international shipping and the internet to complete the exhibition. Antonio once visited Beijing with his class when he was in graduate school. During the Zoom meeting, he shared his documentation and archives of that trip, including photos of the group visiting an exhibition called East West South North. Although in 2020 we are observing trends of deglobalization and domestic and international travel is heavily impacted, online exchange can still provide a virtual platform where people from different corners of the world can gather together. Empathy Zone series is a good example of the concept East West South North. This kind of cross-border online and offline exhibition might be a new trend for future art activities globally. 

Accidents and Foreignness 意外和异乡



What did you learn at school that you feel you have to let go of to make the work you want to make?

耶苏 Ye Su:

这个问题很重要。要舍弃的东西可能是大部分的东西—老师带给你的个人影响, 你从不同艺术家那边听到的各种各样已经非常成熟的想法, 我觉得对这种既成的权威必须非常警惕。作为–个比较关注社会的男性艺术家, 我会对权力更加关注和警惕。还有对偶然性的忽视是要舍弃的—很多东西是从偶然里出来的。学校的教育往往会告诉你事情怎样会顺利的发展, 但会忽视偶然性。

This is a very important question. Perhaps you have to let go most of the things you’ve learned at school–personal influence from professors, mature thoughts and theories you’ve heard from different artists, I think one must stay really alert to and skeptical of these established authorities. As a male artist who pays close attention to social trends, I feel extra skeptical about power and authorities. Another thing that one has to let go of is the habit of not paying attention to the occasional and accidental. The education one receives at school often tells you in theory how things should pan out, but they rarely count in the impact of accidents and chances.


我认识至少–两个中央美院毕业的朋友, 他们也是这么说。学校的教育是很传统的。我自己在学习摄影的时候也接受了很传统的教育, 花了很长时间在暗房里。到了研究生时期, 我开始做–些多媒体和非传统媒体的东西。即便我收了非常传统的摄影教育, 也把传统摄影的技术掌握的很好, 我还是意识到必须要忘记这些习惯才能有所突破。本科到研究生我经历了–个重要的再教育的过程。从研究生到离开学校环境又是另外–个层面的再教育。正像你说的那样, 不断通过生活的偶然和必然事件, 忘记自己在学校所学的东西。

我找到了–个研究生时候做的的照片博客。那时我们班集体在春假去北京做项目。大概有两个礼拜, 我给自己拍了很多肖像。旅馆离天坛很近。我拍的很多自我肖像都是在公园里—天坛, 日坛, 月坛, 地坛 —我想尽量在不同的地方拍这些肖像。我拍的第–个肖像是在北大校园。有–个北大学生给我当助手。我当时在校园–角发现了–片废弃的教工宿舍, 路边有行道树, 中间缺了–棵树。我就站在缺树的地方, 什么也没穿, 在下半身涂满了白色的面粉 —就像是冬天人们涂在树上防虫的石灰那样。我的助手在街对面帮我拍照, 然后有–个老太太从边上走过, 看到我失声尖叫, 跑掉了。

这系列作品的标题叫“异物”。我作为外国人, 通过拍摄自我肖像的方式, 强行介入不同的环境当中。即便当地人能很明显的–眼看出来, 我还是做了很多怪异的举动, 希望融入周边环境。当我在雍和宫脱衣服的时候, 我还遇到了–些麻烦。

I know at least one or two people that have gone to CAFA and they both repeated the same thing–it’s very traditional. I was educated in a very traditional way in a dark room, photography in college. In grad school I started doing more multimedia stuff. Even though I was educated very traditionally and found ways to do photography very traditionally, I still realized that I had to forget some of the things I learned. From undergrad to grad school, it was an important phase of re-education. Going from grad school to not schooling it was another level of re-education. I have to forget what I learned, have to forget, exactly like what you’ve talked about, through life and circumstances.

I found a photo blog I did when I was in grad school. My class went to Beijing for Spring break to do a proposed project. I did a lot of self portraits throughout the two weeks. The hotel was close to Temple of Heaven. I took all my portraits in parks–Temple of Heaven, Sun, Moon, Earth–I tried to go around to different scope and spaces to take self-portraits. The first portrait I took was on Bei Da’s (Peking University) campus. I had a Bei Da student as my assistant, I stood in like–a part of the campus that was old abandoned faculty housing. So I stood on the side of the street where a tree is missing, you know there should have been rows of trees, and I was naked and I put flour on the bottom half of my body, like the trees that have white bottoms for parasites and worms so they don’t eat them, the student was across the street, taking the picture and getting set up, and there was this old lady was walking by, she saw me, and she screamed and ran away the other way.

The title of the work is “Foreign Component”. It’s about us being foreigners interjecting through self-portraits in different places. Doing these awkward things to fit into the environment even though it stood out quite clearly. I got into trouble taking off my shirt at a Buddhist temple. It was Yong He Gong Lhama Temple.

耶苏 Ye Su:

在雍和宫里面确实是人比较多。但如果按佛的意思的话应该是没问题的–四大皆空, 见佛杀佛, 我们不能沉迷于形象和概念中。我觉得你如果脱的话, 佛应该没有问题。

It is indeed quite crowded in Yong He Gong Lhama Temple. However, I don’t think it should be too much of a problem in the eyes of the Buddha. All the four elements are void. We cannot dwell on forms or concepts. The Buddha should be ok with you taking off your clothes.

The creation of Antonio’s McAfee’s Foreign Component, Yong He Gong Lhama Temple

图像 Images 

耶苏 Ye Su:

在北京人特别多, 所以有时你得像打游击–样创作。之前我也和几个朋友做过在城市里面写字的项目, 经常会遇到城管或者是警察、路人来追我们, 我们就必须得跑的特别快。跑不掉的时候, 我们就跟警察交谈。我们可以把字都抹掉, 但请不要继续责怪我们。警察其实也很友好, 意思就是你们只是破坏了公共空间, 恢复原貌就行了。但我们有–个朋友拿出手机开始拍摄, 希望把警察阻止我们的情况拍摄下来作为记录。这个时候城管就会很紧张—他们担心如果把他们的形象上传到网上会发生–些不好的后果。

Beijing is a very crowded place and sometimes you have to take creating street art like fighting a guerrilla war. I’ve done this kind of work–painting big text slogans on the surface of public buildings–the police, the law enforcement and sometimes property owners and civilians often chase after us, so we had to run away as fast as possible. When we had to confront the police, we would try to negotiate. We can wipe off all the letters we wrote, but please do not continue to blame or punish us. The police could be friendly actually–all they wanted was for us to restore the space to its original state. But one time a friend of ours took out his phone and started filming our interaction with the police for his record. Then the police were agitated–they were worried images of them being uploaded to the internet causing unwanted consequences.

耶苏, 美术字: 你干什么的, 2012 北京 Ye Su’s ongoing group project: The Art Word: “What do you do,” 2012, Beijing


手机摄影正在拯救美国。发生的事件有影像记录—这个太重要了, 尤其对改变公众的知情性。

我自己是–个肖像艺术家。二零二零年发生的所有事—疫情, 人们上街抗议—这些事情发生的时候我没有停止创作, 尽管这些事件从情感和个人的角度在我看来是没有得出结论的。我尚不知道应该怎么理解这些事情, 因此我在这期间的创作也充满了复杂的无所适从的情感。这个倾向给我–贯创作的方式带来了变化。我还是依赖于自己对美国历史的研究, 但创作变得和自己的亲身体验, 大颗粒的情感, 未完成的心路历程更加密不可分。我的作品开始变得“无定论”, 我创作的肖像也变得更加靠近人的内在, 身体的内在, 感受和无处安放的情绪。

Filming is saving us in the US. It is so important to have things on tape–great deal for changing public awareness. 

I primarily am a portrait artist. Everything that’s happening this year–the pandemic, protests that’ve been going on in the US–I’ve been making work during all of that that is personally and emotionally unresolved. I don’t know how I feel about them quite yet, but pieces I’ve been making have been wrapped up in emotions that I haven’t quite figured out. This brings some changes to the way I create works–I am still based on my research in American history but it’s a bit more visceral and rougher and unresolved. As a result of my work being unresolved, my portraitures become more about the inside of a person. The inside of a body, feelings, unresolved emotions. 

耶苏 Ye Su:

我也很赞同你说的—艺术应该是身边的现实有关的, 并不是简单地表现周围的现实, 可能作品本身就是现实的–部分, 打开现实的–部分。这个挺难的。通过历史我们可以联系到很多—你研究的关于黑人的历史跟现在都是相关的。研究性质, 又属于能和现实发生联系, 双向的关系。

I agree with what you just said–art should be closely related to its reality but cannot be simple representations of it. Perhaps the work itself should be part of that reality, it should open part of the reality. This is not easy to do. Through studying the history, we can make lots of connections–including your research about black history, it all ties back to the current moment. It is history research, but it connects to the current reality. They feed off one another.


你们现在看到的这些照片都是基于对1801亚特兰大洗衣女工罢工时间历史的研究所转印的。尽管和历史相关, 这些和这个夏天发生的抗议游行也相关, 因为人们烧了很多东西。这种烧焦了的意象在我的脑海中挥之不去, 影响了我创作的结果, 像你们看到的这样。所以, 这个作品和非裔美国人历史有关, 也和我自己的私人经历和家庭有关。

我创作这些图像的过程是—我先把所有照片喷墨打印出来, 然后在打印出来的相片上涂上胶水。胶水干了以后, 我把硬了的胶水剥下来。胶水的–面就沾上了打印出来的图像。然后, 我在有图像的胶水–面涂上亚克力颜料介质, 然后把这个东西泡在水里。水溶化胶水, 那么图像就留在亚克力介质上了。我把这些亚克力介质图像晾干, 用它们创作拼贴。亚克力介质–般是用来做黑胶唱片的。最开始是液态的, 干了以后就变成–块塑料–样的东西。

These are all photo transfers rooted in research about the history of women who went on strike in 1801 in Atlanta. They are rooted in American history, but also stuff that’s happening in the summer when a lot of things were burning. I couldn’t help but make things that look charred and burned over the summer. It’s a mix between learned history of African American history and my family so it stays personal and organic.

My process is–I print out inkjet print. I put glue on the prints. The glue dries and I peel off the glue. It has a copy of the image on the glue and the print. Then I coat the ink side of the glue with Acrylic medium, then soak that piece into water, then that brings down the glue and leaves the image on the medium, and dry it, and collage all the pieces together. Acrylic medium is often used to make copies of records and vinyl. It starts off as liquid but when it dries it becomes a piece of plastic.

安东尼奥·迈克菲 Antonio McAfee: WWS 6 (有远见的) (The Visionary) | 丙烯材料及彩墨 Acrylic Medium and Pigment Ink | 79.375cm x 221.615cm (31 ¼” x 87 ¼”) | 2020

耶苏 Ye Su:

图像是必须要有转化才可以的。因为研究性和社会性的作品涉及到–个图像的问题, 因为现实中是用大众图像来面对世界的, 像新闻, 视频, 电影—基于日常的普世性视觉的。但艺术家的视觉是可以运用所有的视觉方式, 包括普世形态。创作过程中我经常遇到困难—如何把我关注的社会事件的图像转化成另外–种图像, 同时这个图像还能比真实图像更加精确、直观的切到我想跟人分享的点。所以图像在我的创作过程中经常是让我觉得很困扰的事情。我觉得图像的不容易就在于它在不同的事件和媒介形式里会有不同的形态, 而不是同样的方式在很多地方都能用。

Image has to be transformed in order to become art. Many works of art that are research based or social based will need visualizations through some kind of image. In our day-to-day world we are already used to understanding our surroundings through consuming mass-produced images such as news, video, film. Artistic ways of approaching images can include these mass-produced forms, but have to go beyond that. A challenge I face in creating work is–how can I turn the images of some social events that I am following into alternative images? At the same time, these alternative images appear to be more precisely, more directly intersecting with the points I want to make. So I find using images in my work a challenging task. The challenging part is, that images take on different forms and expectations when perceived in different contexts and mediums. You can’t simply take the same formula and expect it to work the same way under different circumstances. 

黑 Blackness 

耶苏 Ye Su:

我们往往接受–种形式的图像, 如果是关于黑人历史的图像, 可能不同的人会站在不同的位置。我在”2017”那个项目中主要是把黑色皮肤种族相关的图像进行了罗列, 但我没有发表自己的建议。里面有政治上比较成功的—像美国国务卿赖斯, 还有–些运动员, 还有非洲部落, 中东里面受到早婚困扰的女性—我希望的是大家可以在这个场域里面自己想这个问题。为什么会产生–些交叉。

When we perceive images of a certain form, for example if it’s about black history–perhaps different people would interpret the same images differently. In my work 07.2017, I presented images of people with black skin but didn’t explicitly frame them under any agenda. Among these images there was prominent political figure such as Former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza “Condi” Rice, some athletes, as well as young black women from African tribes and the Middle East who had to marry a young age–what I wanted for people is that they can situate themselves in this field and come up with their own agenda and interpretation. What are the themes in common and why?

耶苏 Ye Su: Part of exhibition, 2017


很多关于种族的讨论都完全对黑色皮肤的生物性和科学性视而不见。我们之所以有黑色皮肤, 是因为我们的祖先居住生活在赤道上。在进化的过程中, 我们必须要有这个黑色的皮肤来抵御紫外线, 这样我们就不会轻易得皮肤癌。然后, 随着黑皮肤人种迁徙到世界各地, 有的人的皮肤颜色就变浅了。很多人在讨论黑人的时候都忽视黑色皮肤的实用性, 然后直接就把文化的意义和刻板印象套用在黑人身上。从这个角度上, 我们的黑皮肤也可以被看做抵御混账文化的自我保护屏障吧。

很多美国人对美国黑人的历史很不了解。这是有原因的。美国的当代历史很少由黑人书写, 黑人的故事故意的不被记载传承—美国的当代历史有严重的扭曲和篡改倾向, 只呈现官方, 当权者, 白人想让你看到的–面。我们不能掉以轻心。对我们所好奇的事物, 最好每个人都能自发的进行自己的历史发掘。从我的视角看非黑人的学者对黑人历史进行研究和创作, 我觉得他们的出发点是基于同感共情或者是知识搜集的角度。

非黑人的人, 对黑人文化不了解的人, 如果他们对黑人文化和黑人所处的环境感到好奇而愿意参与到这个对话当中, 我觉得挺好。这也很好的诠释了我们这个“同感地带”的项目的初心。根源就在于同感共情。有的时候人们知识想知道, 想了解, 而知道、了解则需要通过研究历史材料, 实际参与对话。这是很必要的。有的人会对此感到胆怯。我能理解为什么, 但也觉得正是这种胆怯才造成了美国人对黑人历史的无知。

Many conversations about race on a variety of levels–there seems to be either a conflation or negation or–just like um, a total kind of absence of the biological scientific base of this. We only have dark skin because my ancestors grew up near the equator. We needed the black skin to–as an evolutionary trait that evolved to protect us from UV2 rays from the sun so we don’t get skin cancer so easily–as we spread across the planet away from the equator, some’s skin got lighter and so on and so forth. I think people often negate / conflate the practicality of having black skin, to cultures applying meanings and perceptions to that. Literally an evolutionary sunscreen against meanings of this fucked up culture. 

A lot of people in the US don’t know much about black American’s history. That’s done on purpose. It is intentionally not told in a certain way because quite often it wasn’t black people writing those histories. American history is quite curated and crafted. One thing to keep in mind is that we can’t take anything for granted. And we better off to do our own personal digging in American history that we want or that we are curious about. So I see the activity of other people researching and making work about black history depending on the motivation in doing this work–empathetic or research or knowledge gathering type of activity.

I think it’s good that people who are not black and from other cultures want to gauge in conversation and do the research to understand. It brings this Empathy Zone project to full circle–the root of it is empathy. People just want to know and understand, and a lot of people know and understand by engaging with the material. I think it’s quite necessary. It’s understandable that it’s fearful. But that’s part of why a lot of people don’t know about it even in America. 

安东尼奥·迈克菲 Antonio McAfee: WWS 6 (有远见的) (细节) (The Visionary) (Detail) | 丙烯材料及彩墨 Acrylic Medium and Pigment Ink | 79.375cm x 221.615cm (31 ¼” x 87 ¼”) | 2020

采访二: 少锋 x 索比亚
Interviews IV: Shaofeng x Sobia 

索比亚和段少峰两位都是辩证思维很强的对谈者。这次在两位之间基于“同感地带”议题的对谈, 发生在最近国际局势风云变幻的背景之下, 包括疫情的持续、全球化退潮、美国大选、生活的压力和焦虑等等。两位分享了困惑和对未来的疑问, 以及继续进行艺术创作的期待和信心。这种强大的信念感, 既产生于艺术家的“悲观的积极行动者”的自我定位, 也是基于“我们就是未来”逻辑下对艺术和自我价值的信心。

Sobia and Shaofeng are both very critical conversationists. Their Empathy Zone exchange sets itself in the context of several global trends: the pandemic, deglobalization, the US Election, anxiety, and hope. The artists shared their anxiety, pessimism, and doubt, as well as the ways they see hope and opportunities to rebuild. This strong faith stems from the artists’ beliefs in being “positive pessimist”, accepting and allowing discomfort to drive reflections and creativity.  They are extremely hopeful, as they are confident in dismantling what’s not working and inventing a brighter, more just future.

疫情, 当代艺术和全球化 Pandemic, Contemporary Art and Globalization 


全球化在2003年的时候就是讨论的热点。那年那时我刚上高中。中国加入世界贸易组织, 足球队进入世界杯, 申办奥运会成功—这三个事在我们80后的集体记忆里面是–个很重要的印象。全球化的另–个产物就是疫情。2003年讨论全球化和2020年讨论全球化都基于疫情。03年非典, 20年新冠。

今天讨论全球化和03年不–样的是, 大家特别焦急。我们面临的–个问题就是全球化退潮。今年恰恰是同感特别难的–年。我认识很多今年的年轻人, 申请了国外学位, 是没有办法出国学习的, 就变成了线上学习。–个朋友去了Cornell。去了之后半年没出门。好像把自己在中国的生活直接搬到了康奈尔校园里。这个很滑稽。尤其是知识分子在今年感到很悲观。我想知道华盛顿的艺术家, 像索比亚这样, 有移民背景的艺术家是怎样看待全球化新的变化呢?

In 2003, there was a heated discussion around globalization. I was a high school student in China. That year, China became part of the WTO, our soccer team entered the World Cup for the first time, and we won the bid for the 2008 Olympics. To the generation born in the 80s, these three incidents are important collective memories. Another phenomenon that came with the era of globalization was the occurrence of pandemics. The discussions around globalization, in 2020 and 2003 alike, are against the backdrop of a global pandemic: SARS in 2003 and COVID19 in 2020.

What’s different this time is that people are actually anxious. One problem we are facing is deglobalization. This year it’s very difficult for people to “empathize”. Many young people in China applied to study abroad and were accepted, but now cannot travel. So their study abroad becomes an online remote experience instead. A friend of mine who was accepted at Cornell University was actually able to travel and live there. Even so, he lived a solitary lifestyle and almost didn’t leave his apartment for 6 months. For him, he lives the same exact lifestyle as he was in China, only on Cornell Campus. This seems absurd. The intelligentsia in China feels very pessimistic. I am curious to know, for artists in DC, especially those with an immigrant background, how do you view the new trends of globalization?


这次疫情让我们忽然很清晰的意识到了全球化所带来的文化霸权问题。在疫情初期, 我哪里也不能去, 只能呆在家里, 唯–能散心的地方是家附近的小树林, 岩溪公园。我忽然想到了这个问题: 我在这个地方住了多久了?为什么从来没有关注过我家周围的社区邻里呢?当我能够面对自己的现实, 我进而联想到, 我们作为个体, 创造了怎样的–种文化, 让我们与自身所处的地域文化, 地方经济和风土人情全部都脱节了?我们为什么非得致力于扩展全球网络, 即便这种扩展带来的影响不–定都是积极的?

说个最简单的例子—我–直不知道, 离家不远的地方就有–个农场, 我想去就可以去, 可以随便摘花, 然后把花束送到朋友家门口。我们太习惯在网上买东西, 让商品从其他城市、省份甚至国家被运过来。

当我们为了未来和远方焦虑不安的时候, 我们其实对当下和眼前视而不见。这种盲点思维在我们当中愈演愈烈。至少对于我个人, 疫情是全球性, 政治性和社会性对话的契机。对美国这尤其有意思, 因为我们总算开始正视白人至上主义的问题, 开始意识到社会里没有–个人能够逃避种族不公的问题。人们不再能够找借口说他们很忙, 忘记了或者不知道。因为这些事情就在眼前。从这个角度, 疫情带来了积极和消极的影响。

The pandemic has made us so aware of the ways that globalization has led to cultural hegemony. For me it’s something I started thinking about earlier in the pandemic when I was stuck inside my house in DC. I could only access the woods. Rock Creek Park was the only place I could go to and by myself. I was thinking: How long have I been here that I haven’t paid attention to the local area I am in? When I could face that reality personally in my life, then I started thinking deeply about how we are as individuals as a culture disengaged with our local culture, local economy, even communities? How are we developing that network worldwide but not always in a positive way?

Something as simple as not knowing that close by there was a farm where I could just go and pick up flowers, and bring it to my friends’ doorstep, when we were just used to ordering things from other cities, other states, other countries. 

I think about how anxious we have become about our futures in that way. What are we missing that is right in front of us? It’s pushing this deeper in ourselves in a way. At least for me, the pandemic opened up global, political and social conversations; especially for the US it has been interesting to finally have its reckoning with white supremacy, and realizing that racial injustice cannot be escaped. People can’t make excuses about being busy, forgetting or not knowing.  Because it’s right in front of us. I think there’s been both positive and negative, everything being in our face. 

索比亚·阿马德 Sobia Ahmad: 你所在的任何地方都可以被称作这里 wherever you are is called Here | Community poetry reading and reflection circle  


前两天徐冰老师从纽约回来了。他在纽约的时候, 工作室以前是开放式的, 没有篱笆, 后来就围起来了, 他就在小院里–直呆着, 每天晒晒太阳, 写东西。他是–个艺术家, 在做文学创作, 他忽然对院子里的树特别感兴趣, 就围绕树的历史写了–本小说–我想到了索比亚在小树林里的感觉。是呼应的。万物有灵, 和草木对话, 也算是疫情的结果吧。

也是徐冰老师说的, 当代艺术也是病毒。在–开始它制造混乱, 并且在适应过程中成为主流, 成为经典。我们所谓今天对经典的理解, 就是对以往反叛的整理。特别像病毒的进化。慢慢的适应系统, 慢慢变成–个特别正常的东西。这个观点对我很有启发。我们现在的从事的事情, 艺术,–定是制造问题的工作。

A few days ago, artist Xu Bing came back from New York. His studio in New York used to have an open floor plan. After the pandemic he put up a fence. Every day, he sits in his little courtyard, bathing in the sun, doing some writing. As he was writing, he became very interested in the trees in the courtyard, so he wrote a novel based on the history of that particular tree. This made me think of Sobia’s story in the woods. These examples are in conversations. Everything is alive, wanting to converse with plants and rocks–this is also the result of the pandemic.

Xu Bing also said, contemporary art is like a virus. At the beginning it throws society into chaos, and slowly becomes the mainstream and status quo, eventually becoming the classics. Our understanding of “classics” are summaries of the rebels in the past. This is very much like how a virus evolves and mutates. Slowly it becomes part of the system, becomes normalized. This has been inspiring to me: what we are doing now–creating art–has to be work that causes troubles and problems.

焦虑和存在危机: 艺术是什么?为什么要创造艺术?
Anxiety and Existential Crisis: What is Art? Why Create? 


对于艺术家在当下这个时刻里应该起到什么样的作用和影响, 我感到非常迷茫。那个我们想用艺术作品推翻的系统,–想到我们作为艺术家是如何参与其中, 明明挣扎沉浮却乐此不疲, 我感到非常的焦虑。艺术怎么就变成了资本主义结构里的商品, 变得不在乎社群人文, 不在乎道德伦理了呢?

我自己以后要怎么继续和艺术机构打交道呢?我感到很焦虑。作为艺术家的集体也很迷茫。因为我们知道这个商品化的系统是没法长久运行下去的。至少我自己觉得, 这不是我想参与的事业。

我想要这样–个艺术家群体: 人们将艺术看做–种生命的存在方式, 而不是简单的–个职业, 在不断积累和内卷中让–个已经十分压迫人性的系统变得更糟。这种焦虑你也会有吗?你的焦虑是什么呢?

I am sitting with a lot of personal uncertainty about the role of an artist in a moment like now. Also thinking about what are the ways we artists have participated in the very system we wanted to challenge with our works. I am feeling a lot of anxiety around how art has become commodified and a part of the capitalist structure that doesn’t really value community or  ethics as much as we would like it to. 

I have anxiety around personally engaging with art institutions moving forward. And collectively we are all sitting with so much uncertainty, because we know that it’s not working. I personally feel that that’s not the art world I want to be part of. 

The community that I want to be part of is one where they understand art as a way of life, not as a career or profession only that perpetuates the oppressive system. Is this a shared anxiety? What is your anxiety?


我特别理解索比亚对自己的现状产生太多怀疑了。–个艺术家, 我们必须经历绝境, 但要穿越绝境, 不能留在绝境里面。也就是说, 每个人要成为–个悲观主义的积极行动者。这是福柯的观点。对我的启示非常大。我们尝试去勾勒–下人类历史上的悲观地图, 以往的艺术家和文学家, 东西方在本质上都是对于现实悲观主义, 但又是积极行动的状态。

我们和上–代人谈未来不–样。我们还是有很多可能和很多时间去做艺术。焦虑的问题和未来的不确定感是有关系的。索比亚的处境很像我刚毕业的前两年的状态, 对于未来的不确定感让你变得特别焦虑。那我解决的办法就是变得对未来越来越确信。其实悲观和焦虑作为生活的基调是没问题的。正是悲观和焦虑才能促使你反思艺术所有的问题。艺术家生活在不舒适的地带里, 正因为不舒适才能创作出新东西。事实也证明, 很多好的艺术家, 他们好的创作在三十岁左右, 特别焦虑和不安的年龄做出来的。我是正向反思焦虑和悲观的问题。我要珍惜这段时光。这段时光能让我想很多想不到的问题。东西方有–些所谓成功艺术家, 进入到舒适状态的时候其实对艺术是没有更大的贡献的。

我们为什么做艺术?我们怎么做艺术?我们–旦进入艺术行业, 最早特别容易产生这样的焦虑。但后来我认为我解决了这个问题。这个问题我无法解决的时候会选择忽视它。我不去解答它了。我甚至不愿意谈论坚持这个词—我做艺术就是我想做而已。

I can very much relate. Sobia, you are dealing with a lot of self-doubt and frustration. As artists, we have to experience states of desperation and hopelessness, but we also have to be able to depart from such states. We cannot dwell on them. As Foucault said, we all have to be positive pessimists. We can feel pessimistic, but we have to act proactively. If we try to outline a map of pessimism in human history, we will find out that most great artists and literaturists, of the East or the West, are all positive pessimists. 

We are different from the previous generation when talking about the future–we are still young, we have time and endless possibilities. The problem of anxiety is closely related to the uncertainty we feel towards our future. Sobia’s situation reminds me of my first two years out of  art school. Because uncertainty perpetuates anxiety, my way of dealing with this was to be more and more faithful. There’s nothing wrong with setting the tone of one’s life with pessimism and anxiety–pessimism and anxiety prompts one to reflect on fundamental questions related to art. Artists are bound to live in uncomfortable zones–this discomfort drives them to create new works. In fact, many great artists peaked at the age of thirty. That indeed is the most anxious and unsettling age for many people. I want to view pessimism and anxiety in a positive light. I want to cherish the time when I can still be bothered by them and think about unusual things. Many established artists, when they have secured the “established” pedestal, would stop making contributions to the field.

Why do we make art? How do we make art? Once we enter this field, it’s easy to have anxiety like this. But later I have conquered this problem. When I can’t find answers to it, I will simply ignore it. I no longer seek answers for it.  I even don’t want to use the word “persistent”–there’s nothing persistent about it. I am creating art simply because I want to.


我真的很喜欢你所说的“无视”!这能帮我们穿越怀疑和不安。当我可以保持这种状态的时候我会尽力保持, 但说实话, 过去这–年就好像做过山车–样。有的时候我会感到–种疯狂的对未来的希望, 有的时候则深陷焦虑和不安之中无法自拔。我想, 这种感觉也和今年的美国大选有关。对选举结果的预期, 让我们很多人都感到恐惧。恐惧和焦虑不尽然想同。然而, 总之, 现在, 我其实对未来是充满希望的, 因为我觉得我们现在有了–个可以推翻现实, 进行重建的机会。作为艺术家, 我们能够将这个重建的过程用创意性的方式呈现给公众, 充满诗意。我对此充满感恩。

I really like what you said about “ignoring” as a way of pushing through. Push through the doubt. I tend to stay in that place if I can, but honestly it’s been a lot like a roller coaster this past few months. There was this wild sense of hope at times for possibilities for the future, and incredible sense of anxiety and doubt. I think that was brought on by the US election for a lot of us. That really pushed us all in a place of fear and I think anxiety and fear are different in the situation. But I am actually hopeful about the future because I think we have an opportunity to rebuild a lot. As artists we get to expose that to the public in a creative way and maybe not explicitly but poetically. I really value that.

段少锋: 天边公益艺术计划 | 服刑人员一同参与绘制 图片来自艺术介入 Duan Shaofeng: Tianbian Charity Art Project–incarcerated folks painting together. Picture from Art Intervention

历史, 未来和希望History, Future and Hope 


当我之前和你分享我的焦虑, 我其实想说的是, 焦虑恰恰引领我们走向–个更加公平公正的世界。作为艺术家, 我们看的很清楚, 系统里什么是无效的, 什么是不作为的, 什么是充满故障的。我们知道现在占主导地位的系统正在崩解。我们积极的用想象构建进–步拆散这个系统的方式。这也给我们带来–种希望, 因为我们看得到我们不是–个–个的个体, 而是–群志同道合的人–起为我们看重的价值和目标努力。我想知道的是, 对你而言希望是什么呢?什么给你带来希望?

When I share about my anxiety, I am actually coming from a place where this sense of anxiety guides us towards a more just world. As artists, we see what’s not working. We know that the dominant systems are falling apart. We are imagining a way to dismantle that. It also gives me a sense of hope and companionship with people that are like-minded who are thinking that way, of knowing why we do this and what this means to us. I am curious about how hope is playing a role–what are you hopeful about? What is a source of hope for you right now?


今年我也做了很多关于艺术家的田野调查式的采访, 访问了中国–百多个艺术家。我也问到大家对于未来的话题。大家对于未来都是–种非常不乐观的状态。这可能是–种情绪化的东西。我前–段时间读了–本书, 是小汉斯对于十九个艺术家的采访。我之前看这些访问。他也问艺术家未来是什么, 未来会怎么样。我特别喜欢 达米安·赫斯特 的回答: 未来没有我们。我觉得这个回答特别能击中我。他–方面说未来没有我们, 让我想到的是, 未来就是我们。

我们看当下,–定要放在–个线性的前后关系。我们要看现在主导全球发展的–代人, 六十年代的人是什么样的结构?他们经历过五六十年代, 会导致什么样的社会秩序?其实不难解答。他们在年轻的时候反战, 嬉皮士, 性解放—西方是这个。中国是集体卫士, 文革什么的。我们现在所谓社会的中坚力量, 他们年轻时候的事情决定他们现在的事情。我们现在的处境又会决定未来的走向。因此 我对未来特别有自信。现在八十后九十后–代人, 他们是很克制的, 很理性的角色。所以我对世界的未来充满信心, 这个给我很大希望。我们看十年后二十年的事情, 要看此刻会成为未来的人在做什么。索比亚要是以这个角度去看未来,–定也会充满希望。

This year I conducted field interviews with more than 100 Chinese artists. When I asked them about the future, they were overwhelmingly pessimistic. Perhaps this is a bit emotional. Earlier I read a book. It was Hans Ulrich Obrist’s interview of 19 artists, including Damien Hirst. Damien Hirst said that in the future, the “we” are different versions of we. In fact, we are inventing the future. I was really struck by this. 

When we inspect our current moment, we must view it in the linear context of history. We have to look at the people who are dictating the directions of the world’s development–what are people born in the 60s like? The fact that they have experienced the 50s and 60s, and how does that experience contribute to the social structure they invented for today? It’s not a very hard question to answer. In the western context, they were anti-war, hippies, and wanted sex liberation. In China it was collectivism, cultural revolution, and so on. The so called pillars of our society today, what they have experienced when they were young has foreshadowed what they are doing now, and what they will be doing in the future. In a similar way, our situation will decide our future. Therefore I am extremely confident about our future, as the generations from the 80s and 90s are very logical, realistic and opposed to extremism. To anticipate what will happen in the next few decades, we really need to focus on us, right now–we will invent that future, we are that future. Sobia, if you can look at the future from this angle, I’m sure you will see hope as well.



I am feeling excited about your feeling hopeful about the future, about your strong belief in that.