“SANJIE” is a composite art work created with three methods - oil painting, photograph, and video. The subject is the same: a young Chinese girl, wearing red scarf (symbol of a member of Young Pioneer Group), playing the thirteen figures of the Last Supper. It took me nearly a year to complete the work, but the deliberation process took years before that. The oil painting was completed the first. During the Chinese new year of 2003, I took quite a lot of pictures and stayed at home doing the painting. When the painting was done, SARS had come an epidemic. Ignoring the warnings, I went out frequently and finally completed the photograph and video part of the production in September 2003. Red scarf, white shirt, they signify the period from the 1950s all the way to 1970s. Indeed, the symbols remain powerful to this day.
To me, red scarf represents a period in my memory, a mark of belonging to a certain generation, the desire to gain honor, the exciting and yet unsettling sentiment of being urged on by the martyrs who created the People’s Republic, and even more so, the doubt and quest to identify the relationship between individual and group. The white shirt was always so white, white even in dreams, and yet it also created the pressure that was not exactly so white and pure. The color of history is fading, people age, memory becomes vague and unreliable. In the Last Supper, people always ask which one is Judas. I believe that Judas is each and everyone of us. As I grow older, I know more clearly that people can be naïve and simple as they can be, and as complicated as they can be.
Now I go back to the innocence of the youth as the source. Erase the whole process of growing up. Let the girl bear the consequence of history. Let her balance herself in the process of breaking up, converging, evolving, and duplicating.
“One Day in 2004” picks up some of the elements in Sanjie, both in external form and internal psyche. The difference is that “One Day in 2004” is even harder to describe in words. She, the young girl, is now more introverted, more private, more spiritual. She continues to bear our memory, like a replay of historical images. It is as if that everything had been left to memory, but at the same time hovering around us nearby. She seems to be changing and growing up around us, yet we are unaware. She is abstract and yet real. My relationship with her is unified and yet separate. Watching her grow up, I am often lost in the logical relationship between me and her – her in me and me in her. My senses about her and my relationship with her have become elongated like an abstract memory. These are two threads, two paths of life, both in my memory and the girl’s.
Red wall, white shirt, read scarf, blue-checkered skirt. They occasionally bring up a particular kind of memory and sentiment. Red Wall might be big enough to bear a nation’s history, and small enough for one person’s sentiment. During different period of my life, it has different meanings. Sometimes it stands strong and tall. Sometimes it is weak and fragile. The Gate of Tiananmen, it is merely an ancient building in our nation’s long history. Why can we just look at it like any other ancient building?