去西安一带实地调查之后，我改变了主意，把综合电子游戏动画技于传统皮影的想法推迟。《皮里春秋》（Donkey_ment）会是一个三频道的视频装置，将从舞台的三个方向取景：正面、背面和左面。三台投影机同步放映以重现舞台的三维空间，带给观众从未体 验过的原始皮影观看经验。此刻我认为一个翔实的纪录远比一个新（New media）的创意更加迫切和有意义，尤其是这很可能是两位皮影表演大师同台表演的最后一次机会。他们是潘京乐先生（89岁）和李世杰先生（72岁）。
Donkey_ment: A Story behind the Piying Scene
On September 1, 1987—the first day of my study at the Central Academy of Fine Arts— a Piying show (Chinese shadow puppets) was presented for us in the academy’s theatre. Some people recall that I made some lively drawings of the puppets, but unfortunately I have misplaced them.
Academics believe Piying could be one of the influences on today’s films. As recorded in Chinese history, piying was founded during the Han Dynasty. The story goes that as emperor Han Wu Di (B. C. 156-87) mourned his dead concubine Li Fu Ren, Shao Weng said he could bring Li’s soul back. In the night Shao Weng used screens and candles to make a shadow puppet of Li, and emperor Han was moved.
The first time I saw a Piying play, I was totally captivated by this unique style of art. This is not just because I grew up before TV—which is quite similar to Piying technology—with revolutionary slide shows and because its raw soundtrack is so strong. The Piying group that night was from Hua Xian, a small county near Xi’an, which was China’s capital for thousands years. Originally, the combination of musical instruments and singing was called wan wan qiang, which is similar to qin qiang (big play)—but much more raw and powerful—and Piying was nicknamed xiao xi (small play). Compared to qin qiang, Piying was cheaper and easier to setup, and mostly for country people who could not afford the cost of staging qin qiang. A standard piying group is usually made up of five people: the qian sheng (vocal/singer); qian shou (puppet operator); ban hu (two-string bow player); er xian (also a two-string instrument but played by plucking); and hou tai (helper of the qian sheng). The traditional stage was formed by a few pieces of wood with a silk or cotton screen, and a light made of a bowl of cooking oil with a cotton wick. The stage could be set up in a few minutes, usually in the open air, or in a temple, or in the house of a local landlord who might have hosted the play as entertainment for a birth day party or a burial.
The title of my work Donkey_ment was created in early 2005. The original idea was to make a double-channel movie installation, using computer date projection instead of the normal electronic lighting used for today’s Piying play. I planned to make a 3D animation using a video game enging that can play in real time, to give the traditional piying a 3D motion background instead of its stable empty background, make the scenes three-dimensional, enlarge the space, combine some today’s animation technology, and to try to enrich the meaning of the original plays.
I have carried out a lot of research over the last two years, including reading and watching actual Piying plays and talking with people. I made several detailed proposals, and a few pictures finally caught my imagination; in particular the play You Di Yu or You Yin Cao (A Tour of Hell). Since I have worked with the video game as medium since the early 1990s, I am familiar with and interested in these kinds of horrifying and violent scenes, so it is natural for me to decide to focus on the idea of hell as the last and main part of my work. I asked some professionals and a piying collector, but no one had ever seen a full set of puppets from the“A Tour of Hell” play. I was lucky to find a 16-piece set of “hell” puppets early this year, which was verified by a professional as being made during the Qing Dynasty. Most of them were in very good condition and, although not a full set, with the help of piying product master Whang Tianwen, I ordered more than ten new pieces, which is enough in order to stage a play.
After my field research in Xi’an early this year, I changed my idea. I’m putting off to a further project the edea of combining an original Piying play with a computer animation of game technology. Now Donkey-ment will be a tree-channel movie installation, which will film the stage from three directions: frontal, from behind, and from the left side. Three projectors will play back the action on stage in three dimensions, which will bring the audience a never- before-had experience of a raw piying play. I think it si very important to make this work as a rich documentary rather than to show an artistic idea in the form of a media work, especially as it maybe the last chance to have the two piying master performers on the same stage: Pan Jing Le is 89 years old and Li Shijie is 72 years old.
With the kind assistance of Yu Tian She, the only professional piying performance business company in Xi’an, I finally selectd three fine plays to be shot with three HDV cameras: Xiang Huo Long (Drop a Fire Dragon Down); Jie Shui (Borrowing Water); and You Yin Cao. The last one has not been performed on stage since 1949. Li Shijie played it in his early years with his father, and, as I asked him, he rewrote the play by combining his memories and a few other screenplays with reference the piying puppets I had found.
The actual filming was unforgettable. The two masters, pan Jingle and Li Shijie, and the whole group gave a brilliant performance. By using a traditional hand-made cooking-oil light, we successfully created raw scenses with low, beautiful lighting. However, this generated very heavy smoke in the room, which was completely closed to allow a good sound recording, and everybody almost suffocated in the last few minutes. We were all cooking in hell but luckily we all returned to earth, although with smoking black faces!
In my childhood, going to the theatre and cinema was a luxury. But during every summer holidays, there was a garden party organized by our elementary school (Chunjiang Elementary School of Dongcheng District, Beijing). In the garden party, my favorite part was to see the slides in the huge tent. At that time, the form of slides was a main tool for the propaganda. Not only the official government released the slides but also the administrative units produced their homemade programs. The techniques of slides had been developed into the extreme: double frame cycle animation altered from Biplane Push; depth of focus made created by lens; starry sky made by the swirling can with nail drillings; fire or smoke, etc. The rich content varied from politics to scientific education; from the quotations to “Zhang San, your mom is looking for you!”. I don’t know why the deepest impression the slide made on me was the word “SILENCE” on the blue screen after the red curtain had rolled up. The word appeared when the light suddenly dimmed down in the buzzing crowd. My heart calmed down the light, flying above the audience and witnessing the start of a miracle. In 2001, I was invited by New York Dia Art Center to do a solo exhibition where I staged my three Shockwave slides named Phantom Story. The subtitle was “A Piece of Silver, Three Bars of Stone and Slide Techniques.” Slide is a work of rearrangement of my collection of slides, using multiple projectors, film discs and drums to tell the story of a man.
Donkey_ment, 2007, China Welcome You… Desires, Struggles, New Identities, Kunsthaus Graz, Austria
Piying artist Li Shijie, 2006
A Tour of Hell, Piying film, color on Donkey leather
Piying artist Pan Jingle, 2006
Piying craftsman made cow leather, 2006
Slide, Opening show, 2014