Wang Yuyang, or Infighting of Brother of Prometheus

1 Gecko’s Tail, or Prehistory
Wang Yuyang, born in 1979, was the youngest member of “Post-sense Sensibility”. According to his own words, “I am a little tail of Post-Sense Sensibility”. First of all, “tail” here is a verb, and then is a noun. The meaning of the former is to follow, trail, stalk or follow suit blindly; the latter makes use of the part, tail to illustrate one’s own historical position in the experimental art trend of “Post-Sense Sensibility”.

During the three years since Wang Yuyang started as a volunteer (2001) to become a full member (2003, “Inside Story” Exhibition), “Post-Sense Sensibility” art theory and practice, which had come into being in 1999, entered into the most active, mature and independent period, after 2004, with the gradual establishment of the triple system of market, museum and biennale, its activities were gradually absorbed and internalized by the system. It is also effected by the trans-century “artistic rebellion” where the color of youth movement was ultimately disintegrated. Undoubtedly, it greatly shocked Wang Yuyang at that time when he was still a student of the Central Academy of Drama, because he was still a high school student who was depressed for not knowing how to paint just a few years ago. But he was a young man who witnessed and experienced the most important change in Chinese contemporary art after 1989 when he graduated from the Central Academy of Drama in 2004.

But obviously, Wang Yuyang did not imitate the experience to begin with. On the one hand, it certainly relates to the changes in life (the extremely laborious work in People’s Art Theatre left him little time and few opportunities to participate in the increasingly bustling contemporary art activities). What really worried him was that he understood that he would find his own way only after transforming and re-understanding the practical experience of post-sense sensibility, which first of all, needs some kind of moderate distance, concentration and even blankness. On the other hand, he also saw clearly that not only he himself was the little tail of post-sense sensibility, but also the “Post-Sense Sensibility” itself was becoming another gecko’s tail, it was left by the initiators and participants of post-sense sensibility to art history, while the body of the gecko had already arrived safely at another destination.

2. Re-education, Encounter.
Despite of the heavy work and pressure, the two or three years of work in People’s Art Theatre had actually become the pre-education before Wang Yuyang was admitted to Experimental Art Department of Central Academy of Fine Arts to receive further education. 

Firstly, he took the opportunity to practice and revise his knowledge on stage art learnt in the Central Academy of Drama; again he confirmed that stage art was not his lifework. This was consistent with his idea when he decided to learn stage art. It was merely because at that time, he had doubts about painting after decade learning of it (started from learning under artist Zheng Yi when he was nine) and decided to learn something foreign and complex, and stage art just barely met the expectation. However, the work of stage art gave him the opportunity to observe and experience the ever-neglected mechanical world behind the gorgeous setting; those gears, sliding shafts, tracks and lighting that dictate the set constituted a more subtle and critical world: Materials. — We may say that Wang Yuyang acquired most of his cognition and passion for materials behind the stages of People’s Art Theatre. The most important thing was, this made him to begin thinking about the material world behind the meanings world. If we are to give Materials a stage, will they also arouse clamour? 

After fermentation and fusion, these practices and the earlier participation of post-sense sensibility enabled Wang Yuyang to have a small but complete objective view, rather than being just another simple receptor in the system of art education when he again returned to school. In the past few years, the creative impulse, which had been rushing about in his body, had settled and condensed based on academic rationality. The sporadic inspiration and imagination, as well as the methodology constructed in practices, understanding and thinking together, constituted a space in Wang Yuyang’s art, in which Wang was able to re-organize the past experience and the current experience to start new experiments.

3. Breathe, Breathe, Until Suffocation.
If the performance installation Sneeze which was exhibited in “Post-sense Sensibility – Inside Story” exhibition in 2003 still see certain echoing color and was the artist’s attempt to express a personal concern inside the powerful post sense sensibility system, then 3 years later, his Breath –TV Set appeared in the First Academy Documentary of Experimental Art indicated that Wang Yuyang had already found his own way into the world. In this work, the performance and drama factors which were floating, now found a real channel in the formal relationship between works and meaning; moreover, science, art, imagination and reality – which were tending to separation and confrontation under different distractive forces before – now begin to integrate and gradually generate a world and landscape of reality full of both futuristic feeling and original chaos.

As the first work of the Breath series, the “TV Set” will be repeatedly recalled in the discussions about Wang Yuyang and his art without any doubt. The “TV Set”, molded from special silicone materials, undulates slightly because of the rotation of a motor inside. The undulating body movement on its surface fills us with wonder to a certain extent and also brings us uneasiness because of the literal association of Breath. We do not know whether this borrowed metaphor of vital function means sense and perception of any TV sets or other industrial products. If it does, whether the subjectobject attribute between man as the viewers or users and goods will be no longer so taken for granted therefore? In addition, as the different breathing rates of human or animals mean different mental and physical activities, whether the intenseness or gentleness of
it also means that it is making love or walking, or whether, as the object itself, it has perceived our desire on it and therefore also generates its own desire on us?

For the next few years, Wang Yuyang brought “Breath” to air conditioner, mobile phone, refrigerator, books and cuboid…and if possible, he would continue the “Breathe Movement” indefinitely, to give “life” to all the artifacts surrounding us. And it all seems like both the original creation and the final Judgment Day: “who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead”? (Revelation) – just because in the latter meaning, as man is the witness of the Creator, all the artifacts also must be the honest witness of human behavior and desire. 

Yet it’s absurd that Wang Yuyang’s Breath series began in 2006 seem to lead our (especially those who live in Beijing) attention to another realistic concern: even if it is half-jokingly, all of us cannot help but having tightness in our throats and feeling some kind of near-death hallucination caused by hypoxia when thinking about that industrial products which are in the same room with us and are also unceasingly inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide or other kinds of exhaust gas like human. – Isn’t it? For the space in which as long as there are artworks, there will inevitably be metaphor, anyone who strays into it would probably feel some kind of “suffocation” which is not necessarily more illusory with the increasingly “thin”, “foul” and “air”.

4. Narrating and Saying of Thing
In the work Speak (2010, acoustic installation), Wang Yuyang made a tape and recorded the whole sound during the process of production, and then played the sound with this tape. The same principle became the self-statement of paper in Narrative (2012, image installation), as the artist wants to reproduce the 1500 more frames composing the complete video recording the squeezing procedure in the paper making process on the papers produced in this process.

Normally speaking, the entity of tool is only mentioned when people are taken as metaphor of things while as to the tool itself as thing, only when functional failure happens, to a certain extent, will people think about whether there are entities in them or not. Precisely because this difference is noticed, Wang Yuyang attempted to reserve some positions for the entity of tools in his artworks from the very beginning; this finally might be no more than the empathy of the artist, yet there is also another possibility: such a position does exist. ——The questioning is a part of Wang Yuyang’s complicated semanteme in his “Breathe” series, yet in these two pieces of works titled Speak and Narrative, the question constituted his whole attempt.

For the ambitious plan of Wang Yuyang, the works mentioned above is merely a beginning; he hopes to take more things regarded as expression tool or media (such as film) in art, at a proper moment, as the ontological object to pay attention to in his own art. What he ultimately hopes is to separate tool from the meaning chains of art and language through these works, in order to take personal context rather than function as the purpose, and to construct some selfnarration of thing: for all the things utilized for some context or tasks and all remains regarded meaningless in the process producing meanings, he wants them not put into silence like being “nothing”.

This is nothing Materialism in any sense and even not making thing itself talk to us; it’s not uplifting thing to the height of being another individual amounts people, but rather, it’s the self-abstraction of thing itself and is making tools talking and murmuring endlessly. However, is it impossible?

5. Technique and Human: From Metaphysical Struggles to Close Combat or Foreplay
When thing has “breathe”, and starts to establish “self-narration”, does it mean that the material world interactively reviving with humanism world has become the state of Utopia of Wang Yuyang. The answer is not sure. Because all important works of Wang Yuyang are implying to us about how techniques and questioning of them are providing another spectacular landscape generation system for artists practically, and only if we go on with the questioning; This will definitely be in a transition state of being constantly evacuated and replaced, and when landscape is in an unceasing self-generation, any utopia is doomed to be infinitely delayed. 

Take “Invisible Sculpture” series as an example, when we are touched by the shapes of these “sculptures” visible on the retinas of human, and are almost trying to find the aesthetic echoes in our mind according to the images, we are told that these shapes are precisely calculated and designed as invisible thing out of radar technology and in the radar-ray as the distant extension of human vision, it’s completely virtual. On the contrary, when we are shocked by the majestic epic spirit in the series of video and photo in Dust is Dust, we even compare them to the myth or history of Genesis or Fall of Empire and have mustang and dust in our mind; but actually, we are merely observing a speck of dust 200 thousand times zoomed in… being visible or invisible becomes a suspicious field full of traps and misunderstanding mainly based on Epistemological failure, only if we question it slightly on the technical level.

On one side, it’s the symbolic system provided by the arrogance of common sense and foolishness of ideology; on the other side, it’s the abyss between technology and biological function of human; they had ever brought more vast imagination and space to modern art with certain hero taste injected with metaphysical conflicts. Yet in the post-modern landscape which we are in, the metaphysical opponency is never the main question in any aspect; the omnipresent approaching, overlapping or even copulating have already turned the vastness into darkness and breeding out countless almost incestuous imagination which makes people feel difficult to tell whether the couple embracing is in a close battle or
making love.

No matter it’s the gracefully “falling” 1680 pieces of lighting tubes (Light, Floating down Like a Feather, installation, 2012) displayed in Shanghai Biennale, the AA battery (Electricity, installation, 2009) transforming imagination in the unimplemented projects into bioelectricity and storing it in the “Wormhole” solo exhibition, or the huge wall paper (Picture and Character, painting installation, 2010) overlapping hand-painted image; two-dimension code and text like Chinese boxes on the wall of Taikang 51 m2 space, or even the formal logic and the position of viewers’ mindset/ artwork form in it in the latest solo show “LINER”, is all without exception just like the reproduction and portray of this sadomasochism like love.

6. Chronology of a Skeptic, land the moon and look up into the moon
Compared to most artworks by Wang Yuyang mentioned above or not, the The Moon Landing Program series (multi-media installation, 2007-2008) and Tonight I Will Consider Which I Am (installation, 2007), as well as Artificial Moon (installation, 2007), though were implemented one after another in different periods of time, but in terms of the chronology of works and logic relations, Wang Yuyang is always willing to arrange them in the first period when he was questioning and re-shaping history, knowledge as well as science and its attribute.

We are living in an era when knowledge of human is in an unprecedented expansion; along with such an expansion, is the discourse of our era determined by the constant withering and substitution of imagination, as well as the limits of technology and imagination of technology: this is the scientific truth, they are historical truth, and that is artistic imagination——all these separated and analyzed hedges, electric fences and caltrops are usually classifying the same object into different levels, looking up into the moon one might find more than melancholy, and nostalgia. 

Wang Yuyang is not willing to participate in the carnival of conspiracy theory about the American style fact of landing the moon, or to repeatedly relish the impulse of creation through his reproduction and simulation of Apollo 11 moon landing video and even the forging of moon as a visual object. In the former, he is actually taking a small and almost melancholic revenge on the human imagination and myth history; then, he hopes that the moon of scientism holders can at a point, recover their lover-like relationship with human being and become desirable again.

7. LINER, 000100111001000000000011000
LINER is more or less a surprising solo show in which, after a long period working on similar levels, Wang Yuyang turned his constant questioning and reversion on science and art in former projects in this new solo show to an almost subverted complex level; all possible and impossible texts, images, knowledge, technology and even ontology, became material of his artworks in a certain way and showed peculiar landscape in complete compliance with art and technological logic though complete inconceivability. 

To comment on this solo show, the most appropriate action is to borrow the free writing with binary code constituting his work 0111000100000000100000000010……then generate some text or word selected by program based on it as a conversion source. Of course, the comment generated by program must be associated and connected by each reader again; moreover, the acquired meaning will surely fail to be shared with any other people. 

Just like text, to seek for a kind of objective or pseudo-objective comment in a usual sense can only take the second best undoubtedly and take an expedient measure under incompetence of articulation…the only thing that we can try to talk about might be the formal process of these works.

Artworks displayed in “LINER” can be classified generally into twodimensional plane and three-dimensional shape, namely “painting” and “sculpture”. While based on the generation process and form, they could be classified into two sections: the first section is transcoding texts randomly selected by the artist from past reading and then read and generate them through the script like 3d max or Painter, then finally and strictly according to the result generated in these scripts, the artist or the assistant will make or paint them into artworks. As for the second section, it’s also read and generated through computer process and also represented in the form of “painting” and “sculpture”, but rather than based on text, they are taking the randomly written 0 and 1 by the artist as the primary transcoding source. And in the titles of all these single pieces of works as well as the whole exhibition, named “Liner”, the former part is the automatically generated file name in the process of code
converting into image; while the latter part is the final word—— LINER——automatically generated in the word stock by the process
when the artist transformed a piece of exhibition statement into binary code.

The description of a formal process above cannot provide any pleasure or promise to contemporary art audiences who have long been used to feeling, cognition, association and self-interpretation towards artworks, but rather, it might even produce exactly the opposite results because description like a product introduction will hinder or even decrease the visual pleasure they already felt——but for another kind of viewers, such an introductory thing recomposed excerpts from the self-statement of the artist, can really excite them, because Cy Twombly (1928-2011), the abstract master who passed away not long ago, is reborn like a Titan on the technology and art land explored by Wang Yuyang; Twombly, the great artist who can never be reproduced and was never really understood, is getting renascence via the most unimaginable way in the ways of groups of binary codes, Sequence parameters, as well as reading and generator…

In fact, at least between the binary code 0 and 1 randomly written by Wang Yuyang and the most incredibly superb meaningless doodles, the consistency which might even be expected by the two artists exist. No matter the former or the latter showed large randomness and spiritual freedom in their writing/doodling both at the beginning and during the process; while what kind of image/meaning to be generated/produced, is something relying on where and when the writing stops—— yet wherever it stops, related image and meaning will be generated; Wang Yuyang’s freedom is limited in to be 0 or to be 1, while Twombly’s “meaningless” is limited in the directions of lines drawn under his purposelessness which goes forward, back, forward, forward, back and back...

In LINER, texts and codes written freely were transformed into the best two dimensional or three dimensional forms in the process logic and absolute purposiveness for binary code as primary conversion source; moreover, this “best” is so natural that not any critique or reshaping can be accepted: any material form of it points to itself directly. What you see is the most ambiguous, yet nothing ambiguous can be grasped and talked about. This again, also reminds us of Twombly, who painted with nothing ideographic and had also been so close to the tranquility and pureness in such kind of complicated mode.

The difference is that, Twombly’s art is almost a kind of Buddhist meditation; he stays calm and collects to reach his goal in one move, yet Wang Yuyang, on the contrary, with perfect meaningless modeling and relying on scientific and rational determination, he created Cy Twombly though he had no intention of this.

8 Conclusions, Shame: Epimetheus ‘Fault and Prometheus’ Amendment
In different philosophical systems by Bernard Stiegier and Gunther Anders, both Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus are topics of discussion on relations between human and history, science, technology, and as mythological prototype of philosophy. However, the former writer regarded Prometheus as a symbol of outdated human being and long-lasting shame in technique development, while in Gunther Anders’s view, it’s Epimetheus who was the creator of that shame and the one should be held accountable. Since in the ancient mythology, people don’t have the self-sense as a result of his neglect. His forgetfulness, carelessness and dullness led human race to a disaster: it’s because of Epimetheus that people’s selfattribute has become something to be invented. Nevertheless, that long journey brought no “self-attribute” but only numerous science and technologies.

Looking back, we can’t help asking ourselves: whether Prometheus and his brother as well as their ever-going squabble will continue to go on in Wang Yuyang’s art and find another battle field for their internal strife?

By He Wenzhao

He Wenzhao