Curator to go x Xue Ruozhe
池内 | In the Pool
◯ 复数背影 | Plural Backs ◯
Xue Ruozhe has a perspective and theme that has been explored for six years — the Back. Later it was developed into double figures, the Plural series.
When an individual appears in the picture, we wonder what he/she is doing, what is happening, what he/she is thinking… There is no doubt that when someone’s back is turned to you, even just look at it for five seconds, the image is mesmerizing and captivating.
As soon as two people appear in the frame, the physical environment immediately fades and a psychological atmosphere takes its place in space. What’s happening to them?
At first glance, your paintings are naturally reminiscent of paintings by the Belgian painter Michael Borremans. In his back paintings, he has strengthened character relations and story narration, while you have weakened these, showing more a kind of empty or even absurd scene, which is placed in front of us like an objective object. Can you talk about the clue and creative logic of the Plurals?
I suspended Virtual Life series in early 2014. When I painted Insomnia, I realized that what I was interested in was not the 3D form, but the psychological state conveyed in the painting and the relationship between characters. The 3D image itself is too symbolic, which will limit the expression of this state.
At that time, I knew my direction, but I didn’t know exactly what to do. So I stopped painting for a while and began to make etching, the making process of which was completely different from that of oil painting, but could also depict figures. When I was planning the etching draft, I caught a glimpse of my roommate changing clothes in the lobby facing the wall. I found that scene very interesting. She was a girl with short hair, wearing a very masculine leather dress. Her image is very specific, but at the same time there are some ambiguities. I asked her to change to a place with better lighting, arranged it again, then made the copper. Later, I did some more experiments on the copper sheet. After RCA Secret ( project to raise funds for graduation show), I decided to go back to painting, also use the back as my subject, but did not think of this form of “plural”, and then on my sketchbook I made experiments, inadvertently found that when putting two figures together, an unexpected absurd feeling generated, then we have Two Visitors.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to call the plurals a series, although I sometimes call them the plurals series for the sake of argument. It is one of the motifs that I come back to quite often. I do not divide the stages of my painting development by project. This division does not apply to most paintings, and may be more suitable for projects done by other media, especially photography. Maybe future generations will see the difference in my works from one stage to another, but the change of stages is not necessarily subjective. or plan as an overall project. It is more likely to be the transition caused by a certain painting or a group of paintings, such as the transition from Virtual Life to the Plurals. In different stages, there is something that I pay special attention to. For example, in the 2017 solo exhibition the Metaphor for Existence, there was a lot of exploration on the spatial relationship of paintings. In the last year or two, I focused more on cultural misunderstanding and opposition, and the sense of being manipulated.
Why You and 50p?
A feeling, I am the most suitable model for this picture. The 50P is one of the few angular coins in the UK coin system, and it’s large enough to fit in the picture.
In an earlier painting, The White-painted Forest (2011), three girls who look like the same person (or not) are painting green leaves with white paint. The picture is about a purposeless act imposed on nature by human will, out of playfulness or curiosity. It is just an objective frame, but the attitude towards the event seems to have been hidden in the dense unsaturated tone of the picture.
Was this composition designed in advance? Is there an accident where the work goes beyond even the creator’s choreography and gives its own narrative?
The composition is, of course, pre-designed. The inspiration for this painting comes from my observation of life. At that time, I was wandering in the courtyard of a residential area near CAFA. Two children were absorbed in painting grass with discarded paint. I thought this scene was particularly interesting, and I didn’t think too much before memorizing the scene on my iPad. The plan was to use three models to unify trees with white paint wearing the same uniform. It seemed absurd to me. But at that time I could not find three models, so I used the same model, painted three times. I hid the faces of the two models on the left, making it hard to tell whether they were the same person or three different people. After a long time when I started painting the Plurals, until quite a while I realized how relevant White-painted Forest was to what I was doing then. Milly, my Tutor at RCA, when she saw White-painted Forest, said, “This is you.” This is my subconscious choice when constructing the picture. The seemingly random choice is inevitable.
I wanted the work to go beyond my script, to have a life of its own. The picture is a starting point of understanding. I can’t say that I fully understand my own work. Looking back at these works at different stages of life, I would feel different feelings when I think about why I made these decisions. Your interpretation of the human imposing on nature is interesting. It is boring that an artist holds the meaning of works in his own hands.
构图当然都是预先设计好的。这张画的灵感来自于我对生活的观察。当时我在美院小区里面闲逛，有两个小孩拿着扔掉的颜料盒在专心致志地涂草，我觉得这个场景特别有意思，也没有多想，回去赶紧用ipad记录下来。本来是计划用三个模特，她们穿上同样的类似于校服 (uniform) 的衣服，去做一件统一 (unifying) 树林的事情，我觉很荒诞。但当时没有找到满意的模特，所以就用了同一个模特画了三遍。我有意识地把左边的两个模特的面部隐藏了起来，让人说不清到底是同一个人还是三个不同的人。过了很久我开始画《复数》的时候，我才意识到这张画跟我现在的创作有多么强的关联，我在RCA的导师Milly一看到白画林就说：这就是你。这是我潜意识中对画面的选择，看似偶然的选择是有其必然性的。
When did the concern and thinking about the figure of the back originate?How to understand the “singular” in your painting, only one person’s back? In addition, comparing people and clothes, you have also painted one or more clothes, can you tell the difference between these two?
It was an accidental glimpse of my roommate changing her coat. The motivation can be contingent, but why I chose “back” is inevitable. In the 2D media, oil painting is a powerful material with a strong sense of materiality. The same theme is expressed by oil painting, photography and watercolor. Placed together, oil painting will advance while watercolor and photography will retreat, which is a “disadvantage”. I wanted to retain the painterly nature while eliminating the sense of progress. In the system of Central Academy of Fine Arts, tutors would say “oil painting should be bright and definite”, and encourage vigorous and thick painting. I have been distrusted by this methodology ever since high school. Why does painting have to be like this? I’ll paint it deliberately thin and grayish, with a flowing but careful brush. This is consistent with my character.
I am an introverted and quiet person, and the back is a very implicit subject, which can convey many subtle details, such as gesture, color, brush strokes, etc., and carry out a limited narrative, which is consistent with my painting method. I like this kind of limitation, which can activate people’s imagination. The face is too certain, too specific, and contains too much information. People instinctively collect anything that looks like a face in the picture, and when the face does appear in the picture, everything else becomes less important.
There is no need to draw two figures when a single person can fully express it. You can imagine those paintings which have only one figure, adding one more will be too much.
I don’t know if you have noticed that all the clothes I painted there were human inside, but the arms were removed, which was in pursuit of a sense of sculpture. It seemed to be static, but there was movement inside. For example, in Triumph V2 there is a forward movement. 1,2 has motion of rotation, and the numbers in the title also moves. Triumph V2 is inspired by the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Multiple clothes in 1,2 emphasize relationships: the relationship between clothes, the relationship between clothes and numbers.
◯ 当代虚拟 | Contemporary Virtuality ◯
At the end of the last century, people sat down in front of a desktop computer, plugged in an Internet connection, dialed a number and “connected” to the Internet. Surf the internet behind the strings of code.
A few years later, the virtual world will sometimes return to the real world like AI robots fighting humans in science fiction movies, making people confused about where the boundary between the two worlds is. Is this “contemporary virtuality”?
Talk about Virtual Life, a two-dimensional painting that feels like a 3D game. I saw two interesting points in your video, the environment and scene in the painting generated by “the implantation and abduction of the ideology of the middle class”, and the interaction and even the expression of the characters under the “collective unconscious reflection”. A few years ago we were playing a game imitating life, and a few years later we were playing life like games — a big step forward for reality, with technologies like VR and interaction. Can you talk about your understanding of the phenomenon of dimensional ambiguity and the conceptual refinement of creation in combination with your series of paintings? And this year’s OVR, VR and virtual exhibitions?
After the HTC VIVE came out, I bought a set and reconfigured a console to run smoothly. Actually, I feel a little disappointed when I use it. I don’t have that kind of immersive and fresh feeling, instead, I will have a kind of… The helplessness of being in a dark forest. Because helmets and headphones cut you off from everything around you, it’s impossible to know if someone is standing in the room. On the one hand, the eyes can see very detailed pictures and feel space, on the other hand on the body is connected to real space, VR technology declared total immersion experience but it is difficult to let people immerse inside, After losing sight and hearing and the sense of space, there is a huge uncontrollable feelings, User will mobilize all the other senses to cope with the physical space of possible obstacles and stumble. Using VR in the exhibition, you will also feel like your body is being watched. Compared with VR, I prefer using AR. Real space gives people a sense of security, and virtual and real interactions are more interesting. VR can’t surpass space, at the time of using VR, the first step is to set the size of the working area, the size must not exceed the room, the experience of using VR is not very good, you have to deal with a lot of cables, the industry may also have not seen too much of VR application scenarios, so VIVE, experienced the explosive growth of the first year, after the market enthusiasm, hardware and software progressed slowly in recent years. On the contrary, AR technology on the phone is more interesting.
At present, most virtual exhibitions are only simulation of physical space, which is an emergency response when activities cannot be carried out in the middle of the entity. Virtual exhibitions should have the presentation logic and narrative mode of virtual exhibitions. I haven’t seen any virtual exhibitions that have impressed me so far. In a way, curating of virtual exhibitions is much more difficult because space is malleable rather than given. VR can make sculptures and installations in a more economical and environmentally friendly way. You’ll also get a better feel when browsing virtual exhibitions.
Without games, we can’t do anything. Games have incredible importance. It’s equally profound and serious. In modern society, due to the development of television networks, they have replaced personal experience and become the main source of information, while information becomes trivial and fragmented due to the intervention and transmission of networks and television. All events occur in the “next…” television context has become entertainment. After discussing serious topics, the following advertisement will make the discussion absurd. viewers watch the live broadcast of war, as if watching a video game, the general presses a button in the war room, then there is a missile bombing thousands of miles away, like a large real-time strategy game.
In such a context, our life becomes gaming, everything in life can be imitated by game, the SIMS by EA is one of the typical. This little game with millions of fans around the world, you can control the residents’ lives in the games. Their happiness, success or failure are in your hands; Building decoration, consumption, sense of achievement, voyeurism, motherhood… A variety of personal interests and desires can also be satisfied. Even a tiny Barbie doll can take the world, let alone the ever-changing SIMS.
HTC VIVE出来之后我光速买了一套，为了能流畅运行我还重新配置了一台主机。实际用下来却略感失望，我并没有那种沉浸式的新鲜的感受，反而会有一种…那种置身于黑暗森林般的无助感。因为头盔、耳机将你和周围的一切都切断掉，如果有个人站在房间里，也是浑然不晓的。一方面眼睛能看到很具体的画面和空间感受，另一方面身体上又在盲人摸象，彻底的沉浸式体验反而很难让人沉浸其中，人失去了视力和听力， 也就失去了对空间状态的判断，会有巨大的不可控的感受，然后调动起来所有感官来应对实体空间可能出现的障碍和磕绊。在展览现场用VR，还会有种身体被注视的感觉。相比VR我更愿意使用AR，真实的空间给人安全感，虚拟和真实交互起来才更有意思。VR也不能超越空间，在使用VR的时候，第一个步骤是设定工作区域的大小，这个大小不能超过房间，当下使用VR的体验还不是特别好， 始终要和一大堆线缆打交道，业界可能也还没有看到太多的VR应用场景，所以VIVE出来，经历了第一年的爆发式增长， 市场热情过了之后，这几年软硬件都进展缓慢。反而手机AR更有意思。
When the SIMS had millions of gamers, it was an undisputed mass medium. On the one hand, it allows its audience to conduct multi-level information transmission and interaction; on the other hand, it integrates text, image, audio, video and other rich forms of media symbols, with a strong narrative ability, conveying information, meaning and even ideology, reflecting the bizarre world in which we live. New technology brings new media, and new media brings new possibilities, which may lead to the danger that people will be alienated and enslaved without knowing it.
In Ideological Analysis and Television, the left-wing thinker Mimi White said that computer games are also “produced by and for specific social groups in particular historical contexts” and “reflect enact specific scales of values, beliefs and ideas”. Cultural hegemony is accepted and plays a role in these subtle influences.
“The characters in the SIMS, at our ‘free’ command, seem to be living the most normal middle-class lives, pragmatic, free and self-reliant. In fact, what really dominates them is the ideological system in the game: in the SIMS, consumerism becomes the basic ideology: the richer you are, the bigger the house, the more virtual friends you have, the more social success you achieve in the game. The SIMS: Superstar reflects the interaction between capitalist society, economy, media and the masses as the players strive to become entertainment superstars. In many other games, we learn that “more money, better equipment, and more money… This is success “, or “The easiest or only solution is to kill those who stand in your way”. With this ideology, we as players don’t have much choice.
左翼思想家米米·怀特在《意识形态分析与电视》中说，电脑游戏同样是“在特殊的历史语境下由某些特殊的社会群体所产生并为他们服务的”，并且“体现与规定 (enact) 着特殊范围的价值、信仰和观念”。文化霸权恰是在潜移默化中被接受和起作用。
Not only in a game, it is the same in real life. We are given the right to choose, but there is no such possibility. We are controlled by many invisible hands: ideology, customs, thinking habits, etc., through television, computers and other media of ubiquitous manipulating our habits of thinking, behavior. For example, we get angry, but the way we express our anger may come from the behavior of a star on a TV show. The eyes are our own, but the way we see things are not. The way we see comes from photographs and moving images.
I want to visualize this omnipresent sense of manipulation on the screen, so I have the idea of presenting real life with the 3D technique from games.
When I was making the Virtual Life series, I was still simulating real-world social rules in a virtual way. Now the popularity of intelligent terminals has made the virtual and real world deeply mixed. Intelligent devices have influenced our living habits and integrated the world again. You have the illusion that you can make all the choices and dominate everything. In fact, all the options are given to you by AI. The algorithm is snooping on everything and deciding everything, letting us live in information cocoons and reshaping our work and life patterns.
Instead of liberating people, technology has increased the sense of being manipulated and monitored. So in 2019 I did the Transparent Wall project. PLATEshowcase is a project space located in the WeWork shared office space in Longfu Temple area. Inside The WeWork, everything is transparent, and although the space can be locked, everything inside is still in view. I loved this space the first time I saw it. I arranged the space into a real office, added “personalized” gadgets and furnishings, and restored it to its original spatial attributes. I also suggested the virtual nature of the physical space through a dummy Sophie who acted as a white-collar. In the computer monitor watched by the dummy, my mother’s monitoring in the real office is shown in real time, so as to complete the interchange between the virtual space inside the screen and the physical space outside the screen, which is also a kind of dimensional ambiguity.
科技的发展并没有解放人，反而被操控感和被监视感更加强烈了。于是在2019年做了《透明的墙》这个项目。PLATEshowcase 是位于隆福寺WeWork共享办公空间中的一个项目空间，在WeWork里面，一切都是透明的， 虽然空间可以上锁，但里面的一切还是一览无余。第一次看到这个空间我就特别喜欢。我将空间布置成真正的办公室，加上“个性化”的小玩意儿，摆件，还原成其原本的空间属性，并通过一个扮演成白领的假人Sophie来提示这个实体空间的虚拟性。而在假人观看的电脑显示器中，实时放映的是我母亲真实的办公室中的监控，并以此来完成屏幕内的虚拟空间与屏幕外的实体空间在意义上的互换，这也是一种维度的模糊。
“The work is intended to mock current workplace culture by mimicking standardized office spaces and white-collar images. In this physically and meaningfully transparent space in the workplace, employees look at and peer at others in interpersonal relationships while they are also watched. This transparency is reinforced by the existence of real-time monitoring. In the overall environment of the shared office where the project space is located, each transparent cubicle wall also becomes part of the concept of the work. (Cao Yani, Curator)
◯ 镜子或墙 | Mirror or Wall ◯
The mirror, as a special wall, replaces the function of blocking the space with a reflection of the “image” of the person facing himself, an image that is exposed and breaks all illusions.
Although the wall is a material entity, when you face the wall, your imagination and mood are relatively free and even private. No one knows what is behind the wall, just like no one knows your expression at the moment.
You’ve painted a lot of walls, and you’ve done “breaking walls” with vague dimensions. Talk about the Transparent Wall, or think about the relationship between painting and ideas and forms of expression.
Transparent Wall is more of a continuation of the Virtual Life Series, my constant switching between the virtual and the real to express an observation about society, which is subjective, full of prejudice and ridicule. Although I no longer present the relationship between the virtual and the real in the form of painting, this element is always in my painting.
There was a time when I felt that figurative painting was not important, but just one of many media to choose from. I am a conceptual artist. But I came to realize that painting was my mother tongue. The way of thinking, understanding and grasping the world in figurative painting have deeply influenced me. I spent a lot of time learning about painting.
From this work, I made a decision to let the painting solve the painting business. Painting can have ideas, but the ideas it can carry are very limited, too strong concepts will harm painting. I’m finding that delicate balance now. Ideas can be expressed in more powerful ways. Ideas have their own way. Ideas seek out materials. Of course, there are materials that collide with each other to create ideas. But painting is not such a material, painting has its logic. It is an image, also a material which involves action.
池外 | Beyond the Pool