KUNSTENAAR / ARTIST

Ji Yu  (1965)

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Over de kunstenaar
Yu Ji: A Game of Simultaneous Void and Fullness
by Qiu Zhijie

In the mid to late nineties, Yu Ji was known as representative of the
performance artists from Chengdu. Compared to those in Beijing whose
main focus was on the body, and whose emphasis was on performance art
characterized by the stimulation of extreme experience, the
performance art around Chengdu often relied on a special location to
show the reason for the action. The history and cultural attributes of
this location were often forcefully explicated; in fact, it determined
the artworks´ function of cultural evaluation. Even though they were
also often based on bodily performance, these performances were more
allusive and they tried to achieve a balance between intellectual
pleasure and excitement for the senses. Even though it became
fashionable at the time to represent the body´s sense of resistance
and impediment, there was always in the end an attempt to resort to
language-not simply being satisfied with the stimulation that could be
derived from contemporary myths. That is to say, the artworks could
also be spoken about. Therefore, the titles of their works often
derived from poetry or idioms. This was a distinct difference in
comparison with the use of numbers for the titles of artworks in
Beijing.

In these circumstances, Yu Ji obviously could not completely avoid a
degree of vulgarity. His earlier performances consisted of a type of
repetitious dialogue; they became a platform for mutual referral built
on the state of the body and issues gathered from popular culture.
Their Chengdu flavor was most apparent in the use of harmonizing
characters, the use of idioms, pre-designed theatrical process, etc.
Pre-designing a theatrical process does not mean that the designer has
absolute control - these performances are directly presented to the
audience, they are not an experience revealed only with the help of
media. Therefore, in terms of the predictable design of theatrical
change during the performance, even though there were tones of
subjective physical experience, it would be presented as the
performance of that experience.

These features were all clearly exhibited in Yu Ji´s earlier
performances, including "Playing Qin to Water" and "Kiss from an
Outstanding Person". In one of Yu Ji´s performances, he imitated a
soldier crawling forward-as often seen in the revolutionary war
films-allowing threads hanging from his clothes to be slowly ripped
off until he became nude. This use of insinuated motion was, like the
playing of the qin, a type of cultural "classic use". In these
predictable moments, the combination of classic motions and the nude
body-the most basically allusive body-became the trigger for
theatricality. "The Kiss of an Outstanding Person" gained fame as a
representative of the aesthetics of violence in the late nineties. It
was a union of the significance of psychological and cultural allusion
with physical suicide. It´s tones of violence were mainly from the
repetitive triggering of this theatricality. During the progress of
the play, this trigger became predictable, thus becoming preconceived
facts that the viewer had to bear. This rashly put the viewer in the
position of an accomplice; it became an unbearable crime for the
viewer.

What´s worth noticing is this: the characteristic of pre-planning
slowly oriented Yu Ji to a pursuit of location, and this eventually
distanced him from the type of performance art that build on a certain
viewpoint. Yu Ji thus slowly distanced himself from Chengdu artistic
trends, and entered the sort of experimentation that was mainly taking
place in Beijing.

When he participated in the group exhibition of a 24-hour performance
titled "On Scene Collaboration", his body for the first time left the
stage. He began to build the space of theatrical possibility through
his manipulation of elements involved in designing the event and
dispatching of uncontrollable ones. In such a performance, theatrical
planning could only be carried in rough approximation. However, the
various uncontrollable elements that floated around in the artwork
guaranteed the imminent arrival of theatricality. In this instance,
the dancer set amongst wooden structures built by carpenters was
increasingly restricted by the densely placed wooden frames until it
became difficult to move. The carpenters´ work and that of the dancers
progressed simultaneously; at this moment, the dance and the carpentry
were genuine motions of their own rather than allusions to a cultural
reality. However, folding the two together created a foreshadowing of
the final moment of explosion. As the exhausted dancers and carpenters
exploded simultaneously, and dismantled all the frames, the two
identities were elevated, producing a shocking and dizzying experience
of climax. Moreover, the ritualistic elements in his early performance
art made an entrance at this instant.

In my opinion, the 24-hour performance acts as a significant turning
point in Yu Ji´s artistic life. This work expanded the energetic
pre-planning in his early performance art, removing other adjectives
used in cultural allusions, adopting a framework to contain rituals
and daily behaviors. This framework became a place of negotiation
between the logic and theatricality of everyday behavior.

For this reason, as we look at the photographs of "Reeky View", "Once
over" and the installation of "So so Bazooka", we once again perceive
a re-organization of everyday life which, to reiterate, obviously
replaces the representation of cultural allusions. In fact, these
images themselves should be considered the residue of theatrical
scenes. I was at the set where Yu Ji took these photographs-when the
smoke suddenly filled the room, the usual objects acquired a new
appearance, and this brought about the same experience of excitement
as a theatrical climax. The power of the scene formed an extremely
complete theatricality. It is only that Yu Ji has chosen to make
theatricality occur in the space of daily lives, this is not something
that we have been able to see in the theatres. Yu Ji could only
condense his scenes into photographs.

Yu Ji´s works have always had a uniquely empty position. "Playing Qin
to Water" uses the emptiness of water to replace the physicality of
the listener. The kiss in "Kiss of an Outstanding Person" is defined
as a pause of breathing/life - for the actor it was a short pause, for
the chicks it was an eternal emptiness. In a performance on breathing,
Yu Ji once asked others to layer wet paper on his nose, to make his
breathing gradually more difficult-this is perhaps the most vivid
experience of emptiness in Yu Ji´s performance series. Yu Ji often
uses microphones to produce discontinuous, non-linguistic sounds, a
pause of language. Stuttering creates a type of frustration, it
inserts a doubt into smooth exchange: Can we really communicate? As we
advance triumphantly in our everyday lives, the practical rationale of
self-confidence insists that we never pause or vacillate. However Yu
Ji is incessantly creating unharmonious sounds and rest notes for this
marching rhythm. He seems to treat the display of vacillation as a
type of introspection. Again, among these images smoke is a type of
emptiness. Smoke permeates into our everyday spaces and redefines the
attributes of these spaces. Because of smoke, these spaces become the
stage on which reality becomes fantastic.

Yu Ji´s photograph "Reeky View" was done in the artists´ own studios.
In these famous artists´ studios there are classical images familiar
in the field of contemporary Chinese art, they construct the reality
closest to us. The studios are often thought of as fields of strong
personal will, all who enter will be rolled into this type of field.
Therefore, in my opinion, Yu Ji has chosen a rather challenging
task-if he would have chosen to shoot even more common types of
spaces, the artwork would have been more lucid and comprehensible. The
facts prove Yu Ji´s tendency to avoid the easy path for the hard and
the profundity of his intentions. With the installation of smoke and
the presence of partly visible actors, such imagery becomes a type of
text, a new visual experience is recorded into these texts, they
become image-like. The photography becomes a type of drawing.

Precisely because we are, to a certain extent, familiar with images
done by these artists, Yu Ji´s use of smoke creates a sense of
distance that is imbued with a concept of time. Despite being
symbolic, they will gradually wear down the fixed meanings. The smoke
surging in seems to be a prophecy. In order to truly understand what
we are doing, we must take further consideration of time. Thus, Yu
Ji´s smoke is not only a type of pause. The smoke defines everything
it surrounds as things that will pass - all Chinese people would agree
with this judgement.


2006.7.22

De volgende instellingen bieden werk aan en organiseren exposities:
Willem Kerseboom Gallery, Bergen

Werken Toon afbeeldingen in apart venster


no 4 Ephemeral as Smoke and Clouds, 2006, 120 x 180 cm
Willem Kerseboom Gallery


Fang and Fangs Nephew, 120 x 120 cm
Willem Kerseboom Gallery


no 3 Ephemeral as Smoke and Clouds, 120 x 160 cm
Willem Kerseboom Gallery