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接近運氣

2020年08月06日 03時37分

評論的展演: 接近

接近運氣

文/ 翁子健
翻譯/ 金振寧

藝術家希望我們看到什麼?走進《接近》,出於習慣,我們去找觀看的焦點,卻遍尋不獲。

或許,藝術家就是想讓我們什麼都沒看到?「沒有」,確是二十世紀藝術的顯要主題。它是一場還原論的思辨的結果,其最終目的在於試圖觸及藝術(及萬事萬物)的本質,其風險是將一切價值都扯入虛無之中。在科學中,真空指的是沒有物質的空間狀態,那是一個甚具建設性的課題。藝術中的「沒有」不是科學的真空。藝術語境中被探求的「沒有」,不一定指把所有物質排除掉的狀態(雖然有「去物化」一說);真正被力求消除的,是藝術中任何不是藝術的東西。但這顯然是一個自相矛盾、有違科學的想法。藝術的「沒有」只是一種參照物,或者一個反射面,藝術家最終還是希望在「沒有」中找到一點什麼,而這一點什麼極因人而異。藝術家丹尼爾・史波利 (Daniel Spoerri)說得好:每個人的「所有」都不一樣,每個人的「沒有」也不一樣。

在《接近》中,我們應該看到什麼?要思考這個問題,不妨先想像一個完全相反的情景,這個情景很可能同樣在美術館內發生:一幅名畫在展出,一羣人圍着它,爭搶要看,甚至排起長長的隊伍。這幅名畫,本來不過一件物件,卻因被人們觀看的慾望烘托得有若神明。看它的機會是多麼的難得一遇,不乘機去看看它,似乎要大吃一虧。問題是,到底看到又如何?與它這種視線上的交流,到底會帶來什麼好處?相信大部份人看過以後,對此仍然不明所以。這個問題最圓滿的解答只有一個:可以拍一張照。

生活在城市,如何消磨閒餘的時間是個緊要問題。人們普遍認為,在假日什麼都不做是一種罪過,應該把握難得的閒餘時間,去做點有意義的事。而到美術館去似乎是一個合格的閒餘活動。去美術館的人們,押上寶貴的閒逸時間,期待看到比日常生活中看到的美更美的、值回票價的東西。可惜,他們大多數都將失望而回。

對於絕大部份人來說,觀看藝術是毫無意義的。在美術館內看到的藝術品,絕大都多數都是過眼雲煙。儘管如此,社會仍然被要求加大投入,以滿足大眾對藝術的「需求」,或以藝術教育大眾的義務。從這個觀點看,藝術的確是一場全社會全方位的資源浪費。

對萬事萬物的商品化,是當代世界之創造性的最大驅動力。在信息時代,視覺快感已被開發成一種暴利商品,觀看的慾望往往會帶來消費的代價。二十世紀藝術留下了一個非常實用的警告:對那些取悅眼睛的事物,要有所警惕。藝術的智慧抵抗不了時代的洪流,但至少,藝術本身應該疏遠視覺的快感。可是,這或許只是一場無休止的逃亡。在1964年一次座談會上,馬塞爾・杜尚(Marcel Duchamp)談到他的現成物:他會事先安排好日程,預定在某些日子需要去做作品。在這些日子,他會去到一間工具店,選一件看上去最沒感覺、並預想自己會一直對它沒有感覺的東西,這件東西就會成為他的現成物。阿爾弗雷德・巴爾(Alfred Barr)便問他:「馬塞爾,但是啊,為什麼它們今天看來這麼美?」杜尚回答道:「Nobody’s perfect.(完美難求啊。)」

杜尚用一種幾近滑稽的方式去否定美,他的這個否定已經成為了美術史上的著名事件,可事實是他的否定最終也難逃被吞併、被納入美的標準內。杜尚很可能早已料到這個結果,只是那個鏟子、那個酒瓶架居然最終也被覺得「美」,無論如何都是一件妙趣橫生的事。假如,我們是要說杜尚對美的標準的否定是失敗了的話,那是因為他的否定依然是以現存的美的標準為依據的──現在人們並不覺得此物美,不覺得此物與藝術有任何關係,我便偏偏把它命名為藝術。我們可以相信杜尚並不真的認為現成物是比繪畫「更好」的藝術,他只是說,這些東西也可以是藝術。就這個層面來說,他可算成功證明了這一點:標準可以隨便變化,現存的主流標準終將可能接納你的標準,不管你的標準有多荒唐。

但是,杜尚做到了這個程度之後,我們又會發現,這難道不是恰恰背叛了否定本來的意志嗎?否定本來的意志,原來不是要創造一種新的標準去取代現有的標準;需要被否定的不是這個或那個標準,而是標準的存在本身。為什麼這樣認為?或許因為「藝術」和「標準」是兩個從本質上就互不能並存的觀念。我們不同意藝術是什麼、美是什麼這個問題應該由一個大家同意的標準去決定。對藝術和美的定義,應該是每一個人的自由。雖然藝術的確是人類的共同事業,但共同進行的是一場討論,而不是一場審判。而藝術家的工作,也只是不斷進行屬於他自己的追尋,然後記下他追尋的線索,分享這些線索。藝術家不能提供絕對的結果。沒有人能給別人提供絕對的結果。

經過對他以往工作的觀察,我們或許可以假設上述觀點符合賴志盛對藝術的理解,而這個假設將使對《接近》的解釋變得順理成章:藝術家不製造觀看對象,不旨在征服人們的感性;對虛空或空間的再現都只是手段而非目的。藝術家只創造情景,但不創造情節,不指定感知的路線;他願意讓你從這裡出發,去往任何地方。他制定的只有節奏的緩衝,促使人對環境感知的敏感。他的創作方法可比俳句:只用最少量的詞,以便意象盡可能散發它們的內涵;一句似乎欲言又止的話,卻不是謎語,沒藏著秘密和象徵,一切呈現出來的樣子便是作品的全部內容。

相比起製造,省略及保留才是關鍵動作。對藝術家來說,創作是一場觀察及感知的鍛鍊,而作品則帶動觀眾參與這樣的鍛鍊。他使用的結構經常是這樣的:先有一個情景,在不改變這個情景的前提下,施加細微的變動,以提示出一些在日常中超越日常的可能性。《接近》的方法在某些前作如《邊境》和《穗花橋》中有跡可尋:藝術家在原有空間中建造一個臨時的維度,讓人與空間之間產生一個微妙的距離。此臨時的維度給予人們的是一個不穩不牢、甚至如臨險境的暗示──當然並不會有真正的危險,只是為了在一個已經完成的空間中重新喚起一種尚未完成的感覺。

《接近》中的這個臨時維度,即在臺北市立美術館三樓的迴廊空間,繞著樑柱的內外加建了幾處高低不一的平台。從美術館建築的傳統觀點看,展廳是建築的主角,其他成份如演講廳、活動室、辦公室,以至樓梯間、衣帽間、廁所等等,都是因展廳而衍生的配角。而美術館三樓的這個角落則連配角都不是。從建築功能性的觀點看,這個空間的角色十分尷尬:它是展廳和展廳之間的剩餘物,是幕間休息,觀眾隨時借之逃之夭夭;是建築的闌尾,先天而來卻又可有可無,還隨時發炎。言下之意,這片空間雖然位於建築的中心,事實上卻是建築的邊緣;《接近》的這些平台,雖然是建在中心的中心,事實上是邊沿上的邊沿。

這片空間似乎先天就帶有一種孤獨感,不被美術館觀眾所臨幸,而這個作品不是為了把它打扮得可愛一點,反而是要把它的孤獨感凝聚更甚。踏上這些平台,大概多少會有點孤高的感覺。它們提供的是一個俯視的視野,面向美術館大堂中空的空間,或許會讓我們聯想到身處山頂風景區觀景台上的感受。為什麼這種居高臨下的開闊視野是一種享受?中文表達中有「飽覽無遺」,意味著有一種觀看的飢餓;在被擠壓的生活環境中,只能終日埋首於眼前手中之物,似乎的確會造成一種生物意義上的營養不良,而調養之藥引即距離。道理其實顯淺:登高望向景觀之遠處,在記憶中重訪遙遠的過程,讓思想游往開闊的想像,當然都是有益健康之舉。

如此看來,距離似乎是這件作品之核心主題。問題是,我們暫時似乎只想到「遠」,但作品的題目明明叫「接近」。登上這個平台,我們離展廳遠了,離出口也遠了,離我們本來應該要做的各種事都遠了。到底什麼近了?當然,在這個地點,明顯變得更清晰的是光線和空氣的活動,但光線和空氣事實上並未變得更近,只是我們感覺更接近它們了。真正跟我們變得更接近的是我們的感覺。應該說,藝術家希望,在這個地點,人將漸漸更接近自己。

當然,這只是理解這件作品的諸多可能中的一種。但是,要是我們按照這個思路走到了這一程度,我們便會發現藝術家希望發生的事,其實並非一定要在《接近》這個特定現場中發生。這個現場的目的只是提示出一種意識,有了這種意識,每個人,在每時每刻,都有可能使之發生:在凌晨或黃昏出門,在回家的路上多走幾步,拐一個不尋常的彎,在哪怕再熟識的街道上抬頭一看……或許都能繳獲那種在日常中超越日常的感知。這種意識,這種美的可能性,即是賴志盛最希望實現的。

有一些藝術家追求掌控一切、萬無一失;另一些藝術家則知道要謙卑地接受,人們或許可以又或許不可以,在他的創造中遇到藝術的來臨,或更準確地說,再臨。他還是願意碰碰運氣。碰運氣是一件十分有趣的事。《接近》會讓我們知道,在每一天,每一刻,在每一個地點,我們都可以試試碰這運氣。

Closer to Luck

Anthony Yung

What does the artist want us to see? As we step into Closer, out of habit our eyes search for a focal point, but to no avail.

Could this be the artist’s intention, not letting us see anything? Nothingness is indeed a prominent subject matter in 20th century art. It originated from debates on Reductionism, where the final destination is to arrive at the essence of art (and a myriad of things), but risk pulling all values toward nihility. Vacuity is a rather constructive phenomenon in science, referring to a spatial condition in which no matters are present. The notion of Nothing in art, however, does not lend itself to the same meaning as in science or denote the riddance of all matters (although there exists the concept of de-objectification), but rather, the very thing an artist seeks to remove is everything that is not art. Needless to say this is self-contradictory and violates science. In art Nothing is simply a reference point, or a reflection, from which the artist hopes to find something in the end, though what that entails undoubtedly differs from person to person. Artist Daniel Spoerri puts it nicely, “Everyone’s Everything is different, and everyone’s Nothing is different.”

What are we supposed to see in Closer? To think about this question, let’s consider a completely reversed scenario that could also take place in an art museum: A famous painting is on view, and a big crowd of people scramble to catch a glimpse of it, even forming a long, winding queue. The famous painting is merely an object, but because of people’s burning desire to see it, it assumes a divine eminence likening to a deity. It is such a rare opportunity to see the painting, so if we don’t seize the chance we’d suffer a great loss. The question is, so what if we saw it? What’s the good of seeing the painting? I believe most people have no idea even after setting eyes on the work. There is only one satisfactory answer to that question, and that is: At least I get to take a photo.

A frequent anxiety for many city dwellers is finding ways to kill free time. People generally believe it is a sin not do anything on weekends, best if they can do something meaningful. Visiting an art museum appears to be a qualified pastime. Museum goers throw in their precious leisure time, expecting to see something extraordinary, something beautiful, something worthwhile. Unfortunately most of them walk away with disappointment.

Looking at art is a completely meaningless activity for the majority. Most artworks they see in a museum quickly vanish into oblivion. Even so, our society continues to be asked to invest large amount of resources to satisfy the public’s “demand” for art or fulfil the obligation to provide art education. Art is indeed an all-around waste of resources by the society at large in this regard.

The commoditization of everything is the greatest impetus for creativity in the contemporary world. Visual pleasure has been developed into a profiteering commodity in an age of information, even though the desire for visual experience often leads to consumption and expenditure. Twentieth century art leaves with us a practical warning: We must beware of those that please the eye. The wisdom of art cannot fight against the torrents of time, but art itself should at the least stay clear of visual pleasure. However, this could be a flight without end. Marcel Duchamp spoke about his readymades in a forum in 1964: He would plan his schedules in advance and decide on the days when he should make art. On those days, he would go to a hardware store, choose the dullest thing at which he would normally not cast a second glance, and that would be the object he turned into a readymade. Alfred Barr asked upon hearing this, “But Marcel, why do they look so beautiful today?” To that Duchamp responded, “Nobody’s perfect.”

Duchamp used an almost comical way to negate beauty. This negation has turned into a famous incident in art history, but the truth is it cannot escape the fate of being engulfed by and labeled a standard of beauty. Perhaps Duchamp anticipated the inevitability, that even his shovel, his wine rack would ultimately be considered “beautiful.” In any case it is truly ironic. If Duchamp failed to negate the standard of beauty, it is because his repudiation was nevertheless based on existing standard of beauty—people do not find the object beautiful nor do they think it has anything to do with art, well, by all means I shall call it art. We believe Duchamp did not really consider a readymade a “better” kind of art than painting, but rather was making a point by saying these objects can be art. In that sense he succeeded in showing that standard is fluid; the mainstream will eventually accept your standard no matter how absurd it is. 

Nonetheless after Duchamp achieved this milestone, we then realized that the outcome betrayed his very intention, which was not to create a new standard to replace the old one; what needed to be negated wasn’t a particular standard, but standard itself. Why so? Possibly it is because “art” and “standard” are essentially two concepts that do not mesh. What is art? What constitutes beauty? We do not agree there should be standards for people to agree on, as the definition of art and beauty should be open to free interpretation. To be sure, art is a common cause for mankind, but it arises from discourses instead of trials. An artist’s work is a personal journey, and a record and sharing of clues he finds along the way. Artists should not provide absolute conclusions. No one can.

In observing Lai Chih-Sheng’s practice, we can perhaps assume that the aforesaid viewpoint describes his understanding of art, and that this assumption makes perfect sense to explain Closer. The artist does not generate an object for our gaze, nor does he intend to conquer our sensibility. His renderings of the void or space is only a means and not an end, for the artist creates a circumstance but provides no plot or route for perception. He is willing to let you depart from here, heading anywhere. The only formulation he draws up is a zone to neutralize our pace, a prompter of acute sensibility to the environment around us. His method is similar to that of Haiku: Using minimal words to allow the imagery to radiate on its own. Words remain unsaid yet it is not a riddle, without secrets or hidden symbols. Everything about the work lies in plain sight.

Lai’s key actions are omission and preservation, as opposed to production. To the artist, art-making is a training exercise for observation and perception, whereas to the audience, artwork provides the training. The structure he employs is often this: First there is a condition, then without altering that condition, he makes a subtle change to hint at the possibility of transcending the mundane from ordinary life. Closer adopts an approach similar to those evident in previous works such as Border and Canton Flower Bridge, where he constructed a temporary dimension in an existing space, thereby creating a delicate distance between the audience and that space. This temporary dimension hints at something that is unsteady, even borderlines danger—but of course there is no real danger, except a sense of unfinishedness is reintroduced into the finished space. 

The temporary dimension in Closer entails a few uneven platforms that encircle the beams and columns in the corridor on the third floor of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Traditionally exhibition galleries are the primary constituent in a museum building, whereas the auditorium, event rooms, office areas and even stairways, cloakroom and restrooms play a secondary role. This particular corner on the third floor of the museum is all the more irrelevant than those elements. It is functionally an awkward architectural presence, a leftover between exhibition galleries, like an intermission where the audience is given the opportunity to make for the door without being rude; or an appendix given at birth but can do without for its tendency to be inflicted by inflammation. For that matter, this space is physically located at the heart of the building but in reality it is peripheral. Closer’s platforms, although in the center of the heart, are in the periphery of the periphery. 

Born to be lonely, this space will never be showered by the audience’s gaze. However, the artist does not intend to decorate it to increase its appeal, but to heighten that sense of loneliness to its extreme. A feeling of aloofness is likely to ensue as we set foot on these platforms and come face to face with the big void in the museum’s lobby from a bird’s eye view. Perhaps it makes us think of the experience when we stood on the observation deck on top of a mountain. Why do we find pleasure in looking out from a vantage point? In Chinese we say “in full view,” implying our craving to see. Too often we lower our heads, buried in the things in front of us, mired in the crammed living conditions. This can cause a biological malnutrition that can only be cured by having some distance. It makes perfect sense: Ascend and behold, we shall be able to revisit distant memories, allowing our thoughts to swim towards vast imagination. This is certainly beneficial to our well-being. 

In this way, distance appears to be the core theme of Closer. We can be quick to conjure up the notion of “farther,” but the title of the work is none other than “closer.” Climbing onto the platform, we are a step away from exhibition galleries and the exit. Everything that we are meant to engage in the museum now lie further beyond. What, then, becomes closer? Light and air flow become markedly lucid, but really they are not. We only feel closer to them. That said, it is our feelings that changed. In other words, what the artist hopes to occur here, is for people to grow a little closer to themselves.

Needless to say this is just one way to approach this work. But if we follow this train of thought and arrive at this given point, we will realize what the artist hopes to happen does not necessarily have to take place in the specific site of Closer. The purpose of Closer is to infer a kind of awareness that can occur to anyone, at any given moment. When we head out in the wee hours of the morning or at nightfall, when we walk the extra distance on our way home, when we take an unusual turn, or even if it is only looking up momentarily while walking down a familiar lane… perhaps we can all capture that sensibility to transcend the mundane in our daily life. This awareness, a possibility of beauty, is what Lai Chih-Sheng most hopes to bring about.

Some artists want to take total control with zero risk, while some artists know to humbly accept, that their audience may or may not encounter the arrival of art in their work. Or to put it more precisely, the re-arrival of art. But still, he is willing to try his luck, which is a fascinating thing. Closer would let us know, that every day, in any given moment, in any place, we can try our luck to encounter art. 

Translated by Jenning King

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