You are Just a Piece of Meat 你就是一块肉
You are Just a Piece of Meat
Power and Misunderstanding, Desire and Hope in the Work of Zhou Xiaohu
David Elliott, 2016
I. Word Games
Chimera, the title of Zhou Xiaohu’s latest exhibition, is the name of a Greek re- breathing female monster, epitomised by a lion’s head, goat’s body and a serpent’s tail, that is also applied to animal hybrids that occur in other world mythologies. 1 Yet, over time, this chilling word-image has evolved into a gure of speech that expresses a less horrifying, but equally perplexing, idea: simply, it is ‘a thing that is hoped or wished for but is, in fact, illusory or impossible to achieve’. 2 Since its mythological birth in ancient Greece, the ‘chimera’ has journeyed across the globe and, during this time, a lively element of creative misunderstanding has both leavened and transformed this powerful, terrifying creature into an absurd object – an illusory figment of either fantasy or hope.
The malign pro igacy of misplaced dreams, false utopias, human follies, vain desires and abuse of power has surfaced regularly throughout the whole of Zhou Xiaohu’s work. Within the theatrical structure of Chimera such incidences appear poetically, obliquely, humorously and sardonically as Zhou depicts a journey between the mythic and the real world while also demanding that his visitors embark on a journey themselves. He mediates this, almost breathlessly, through puppetry, animation, assemblage, video, photography, projection, installation and performance, and animates it by employing his own unique imagination to mash together such diverse images as Hieronymus Bosch’s masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights (1490 – 1510), classical Chinese paintings, folk art and myth, and contemporary industrial and rural landscapes. In spite of many historical references, cumulatively, the various works that comprise this exhibition all depict the present in terms of the spiritual delights of heaven, the eshly torments of hell, or the vast hinterland of purgatory in between. Yet, like clinging weeds in the midst of concrete, human feelings and hope survive, but precariously, in the midst of these grinding metaphysical plates.
Making their way through a Shan shui labyrinth of mountains, deserts, lakes, hydro- electric plants, mines and commercial districts, visitors, rather like monks or sages in ancient times, find themselves accompanied by companions – in this case by outlandish doppelgänger animal hybrids in the form of human-sized marionettes, actual and lmed. This surreal zodiac of creatures comprises Ciceronian gures with heads of parrots, goats or hawks, followed by green three-headed sprites sporting ‘forest’ torsos, and a giraffe penetrated by the body of a sh, while an inverted headless wraith bounces and walks on its hands. Meanwhile, robotic, black, ‘worker drones’ scramble desperately through mines or push heavy cardboard cartons up endless slopes. Together, they negotiate unpredictable, estranged, yet also familiar, topographies with a succession of conflicting emotions: surprise, wonderment, horror, melancholy and delight. At a later stage in this journey, in To View Objects in Terms of Objects, seemingly haphazard assemblages of objects become shockingly transmuted into words when their inverted shadows magically reveal texts on the walls behind. Matter thus becomes poetry, and images turn into parables, in a similar manner to when, in The
Present Has Become the Past, time, like the eeting life of a butter y, has a brief moment of febrile beauty before falling into oblivion: in a large, darkened space, ten robotic marionettes move jerkily to and fro, ironically evoking the exquisite melancholy of the Book of Songs, the most ancient compilation of Chinese poetry. 3
Words matter to Zhou, yet he realises they are slippery when it comes to approaching realisations of truth. In his choice of them, and awareness of their multiple significations, he has dedicated himself to the kind of deductive reasoning that the 4th century BCE Chinese sage Zhuang Zhou (Chuang Tzu), in his famous allegory on consciousness, reality and dream, described as ‘transformation.’ This passage, that has had a considerable in uence on Zhou Xiaohu’s work, appears in the Zhuangzi, Zhuang’s collection of philosophical writings, and provides a starting point for the ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’, the new two-channel video projection that lies at the core of Chimera: ‘Once upon a time, I dreamt that I was butter y, itting around and enjoying myself. I had no idea I was Chuang Tzu. Then suddenly I woke up and was Chuang Tzu again. But I could not tell, had I been Chuang Tzu dreaming I was a butter y, or a butter y dreaming I was now Chuang Tzu? However, there must be some sort of difference between Chuang Tzu and a butter y! We call this the transformation of things.’ 4
Zhou made this video in collaboration with the puppet Theatre of Tai Shun and dialogues from the Zhuangzi act as both counterpoint to, and illumination of, the actions of the characters as they float and wander randomly across a rapidly transforming landscape. Through his choice of dialogues from this, Zhou plays with absurdity by implying that transformation, existence, consciousness - even life itself - are both permitted by and created out of a void. Yet, the uid synapses that connect society, politics, ontology and philosophic speculation in these ancient texts also take on here the role of a Duchampian ‘ready-made’ that, together with Zhou’s images and narratives, de ne the moral compass of this as well as his earlier works. Here, he reduces these ideas into a single de ating utterance: ‘You are just a piece of meat’.
Zhou recalls that, even before he had fully realised that he wanted to become an artist, Zhuang Zhou, and the modern French novelist Marguerite Yourcenar, were his favourite writers. 5 A surprising juxtaposition as, ostensibly, they could not have been more different in their era, geography or sensibility. But what appealed to him was their common awareness of the imprecision of language and of the ‘difficulty’ of using it to approach any sense of truth for the simple fact that its concepts and means of expression are pre-ordained by culture. He was also impressed by their shared determination to search for freedom and wisdom in societies they felt restricted them. 6
Zhou himself has always relished such ‘difficulties’ and constantly presents unusual, surprising, and telling, juxtapositions in his work as ‘solutions’ to them, either through a process of morphing one form into another or by the judicious use of montage in which one image collides with another to create a third, synthetic impression.7
Throughout Chimera, by moving rapidly between media, forms and times, he has choreographed a series of dynamic crashes between past, present and future that, from different perspectives, point towards a tender, beautiful, yet absurd and hopelessly fractured world. Although there can be no doubt about its vitality and energy, it is by no means clear whether it can ever be put right.
In Berlin, during autumn 2015, some people remarked that Scheisse·夏色 , the title of Zhou’s previous solo exhibition, was offensive because, in German, this word, both an oath and a noun, means ‘shit’.8 夏色 , its Chinese homonym, however, conjures up a completely opposite picture because it spells out ‘the colour of summer’. Setting aside the scatological humour of inter-linguistic wordplay, Zhou’s choice of title was purposefully ambiguous. He intended it neither as a provocation, nor as a hostage to fortune (in that it could be used to describe the exhibition’s contents), although neither of these options could be completely ruled out. He was more interested, rather, in creating a garishly metaphorical, and metonymic, exposition of labour, capital and value by encouraging his audience to re ect upon art in a completely open way, without direction or prejudice - not as an expensive, hermetically sealed commodity with no real worth or relevance to life, but as a ‘product’ of the social and political conditions within which it is produced.
The ideas behind this, and other works related to it, had developed out of the frenetic orchestration and quasi-military discipline evident in Zhou’s earlier video installations, such as Concentration Training Camp (2007), an immersive, multi-screen corporate parody, or Military Exercises Camp – Rescue Plan 10, 18 (2009) that referenced military reactions to terrorist attacks.9 He has regarded these works as parodies of the collective training activities in icted on some company employees and school groups in which fragile individual identities are metamorphosed into an aggressive, uni ed crowd mentality, but he also sees them as semi-humorous paradigms of the injection of western values into Chinese culture as well as an expression of the current chaotic remorselessness of the ‘geographic ow of global capital’.10
The working title for Scheisse·夏色 - that included three earlier videos, as well as a new site-speci c live performance/video installation with an interactive questionnaire - had been Das Kapital No.1 - Questionnaire Show; it was one of a series of projects that Zhou had developed during 2014-15 during his residency with the government-sponsored DAAD programme in Berlin. The new work evoked the worldwide commodi cation of both sex and labour by reference to sleazy peep shows, the sultry, inviting glances of Amsterdam ‘window girls’, and the seemingly boundless appetite for late night sex phone-in lines on the adult channels of German TV. But, for Zhou, his intention was far from making any social comment on the sex industry in itself. He had, rather, appropriated the language, colour, smell and ‘thrill’ of soft- core pornography as another ‘ready-made’ in order to create an unnerving aesthetic experience, and human interaction, that raises questions about labour, fetishisation (of both the body and commodities) and the meaning of value.11 In addition, he realised that any visitor would inevitably bring their own psychological and emotional baggage with them and that this would also play a decisive role in the interaction.
The earlier works in the exhibition were shown in the space surrounding the central installation and the whole gallery was made to resemble a red-light-district with ashing LEDs, a narrow alleyway, and a cramped booth where Selina Abromovic (aka Baby No. 1), the scantily-clad pseudonym of a performance artist with whom Zhou had collaborated to make this work, reclined behind the glass, telephone in hand on her ‘Sexy Hotline’ ready to ask questions....12
On entering the exhibition, visitors were given a clipboard with a questionnaire that they had to fill in after, singly, they had gone into the inner sanctum of the booth. To do this, they had to negotiate a narrow corridor and sit on a chair in front of the window, behind which Selina was situated. The phone rang and they either picked it up or left. Her restless movements, poses and progressive nakedness could not be avoided while, over the phone, she breathlessly paraphrased the questions on the form. Although the whole style of presentation mimicked live TV phone-ins, the questions themselves were incongruous ‘ready-mades’ about capitalism, communism, labour, and the state of the Chinese economy. Answers could be one of three options - yes, maybe or no – and, once the nal tick had been made, the visitor had to sign and date the form and leave the booth.
Using Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (1867) as a starting point, a text that has had a quasi-religious ideological impact across the world but of which Zhou admits only scant knowledge, he set out, as in earlier works, to parody the chaotic effects of global commodification within a universally recognisable, absurd framework. But he also sought here to link the vicarious compulsion of voyeurism with the capitalist necessity to constantly increase the implacable desire for consumption and, as an extension of this, to explore the different labour relationships upon which such exploitation was based. Regarding the whole exhibition as a paradigm of exploitation and consumption, Zhou absurdly extends Marx’s premise of surplus value by maintaining that ‘... the exploitation of the surplus value of Ms. Abromovic’s role’ as art was only a starting point because ‘everyone who sees the work is also an exploiter and they should “pay” for their visual consumption with their own labour by thinking critically about the performance, answering the questionnaire and leaving their signatures. These paradoxical labour relations coalesce into a sterile Möbius Strip in which all the parties are both exploiting and being exploited by each other.’ 13
Yet, in spite of his repeated reference to it, it would be misguided to regard Zhou’s work as only a critique of the global effects of capitalism. He is equally concerned to create new structures of intercultural apprehension and understanding by examining the limits of consciousness constructed by and imposed through language. As an extension of his interest in comparative semantics, Zhou has searched for linguistic analogies for perspective, form, randomness and meaning in art that, because of their imprecision, inevitably embellish the capacity for misunderstanding.
Since 2010, he has used the term Word Chains to describe a working process he had actually started in 2003 with a composite work Obsession – Century Celebration. Typically, these works are claymation videos shown alongside related clay models. As one stage of their production moves onto the next, as much as through a process of intuitive ‘Chinese whispers’ as through premeditated intention, forms rooted in what Zhou acknowledges as ‘concrete personal experience’ progress into ‘a shared psychological space’, eventually to be released into the public and social environment when they are exhibited.
Such progressions are important for Zhou and every stage of making the clay models, and their related videos, has a linguistic analogy: each basic form represents a letter, each frame of the video comprises a word, and each scene creates a sentence. Editing, for him therefore, is being able to link freely between these different elements, using the formal ‘languages’ of either montage or morphing to create carefully judged ‘misunderstandings’ that allow one form to grow into another. In this way, Zhou creates a new form of language that avoids ‘set definitions or logic’ and in which diverse use of materials and media play a similarly fluid role: ‘materials are not important; they are only tools, or words, or phrases. The function of words depends on how they are applied. The charm of a medium comes from the fact that it is given a new concept, precision and relevance by the work itself and not by its intrinsic properties.’14 For Zhou, the medium is de nitely not the message.15
In Chimera, the claymation models of Zhou’s earlier lms have been transformed into large puppets, but the same random methods of connection, flow, disjuncture and reconnection continue in the way he puts them together as video images, shadow projections, or as objects in space. His main aim has been to work directly with different materials, chosen intuitively and for tness for purpose, without storyboards or elaborate planning. As a result, he has been able ‘to maintain the freshness activated by unexpected paradox, ambiguity, inspiration and joy.’16
From the outset, Zhou had decided not to limit himself to Chinese culture but to confront world history in the present by bringing together different traditions, histories, languages and alphabets. As a result, misunderstandings, at complex levels, have become indispensable catalysts that have enabled him in his work to bypass regulatory, stultifying, established conventions. Ironical, inclusive and available to all, misunderstanding has made his work available to an ever-widening public.. His enthusiasm for it has been further reinforced by his acceptance that, in spite of many artists’, and government’s, belief to the contrary, understanding, or its opposite, are both impossible and futile to control. The consciousness and will of viewers cannot be regulated as has been recently testi ed by the increasing importance of spectatorship and reception theory for contemporary art.17 Following on from this, freedom, or the illusion of it, has become an essential condition in Zhou’s work and, therefore, concerns about power and control have become its inevitable corollaries.
II. Childhood and the Journey
Zhou Xiaohu was born in 1960 in the industrial city of Changzhou on the southern banks of the Yangtze River, Jiangsu province. A child during the Cultural Revolution, his memories are mixed. In retrospect he recalls having grown up with ‘machines of propaganda. Whoever gets hold of the loudspeaker also gets hold of the power to dictate thoughts.... Little by little people begin to believe hearsay as [if it were] the truth. The manipulator becomes simultaneously manipulated ... and everyone becomes a victim of untruth.’18 But, casting his mind back to what he was actually doing at this time, he remembers fondly that ‘my mother opened a window on culture for me by reading full-length stories all day long ... lying in bed in the holidays.’19 Playing with friends, he used to cut out cardboard models of Chinese theatres along with the heroes and villains who would act out the new revolutionary operas. All his mates ‘scrambled to play the role of the bad guys’. 20
Zhou also remembers The Story of Effendi, a puppet cartoon directed by Qu Jianfang for the Shanghai Animation Film Studio in 1979. Not only did he find it enjoyable and inspiring, but its use of puppets and other forms of animation unwittingly presaged his later development.21 He still remembers animatedly how the ‘protagonist [a wily Islamic philosopher] fought with landlords humorously and wisely’ and, full of compassion, tried to help the poor.22 But until this time, practical aptitude combined with manual dexterity, had made Zhou imagine that he would become an engineer, the seed of art had already been sown, however, and he was soon convinced that only ‘art suits my restless mentality ... and can let me live at ease.’23
Zhou still recalls two critical events from the time he became an art student: a visit to the Shanghai showing of the exhibition of masterpieces from the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Art in 1981 (the rst occasion since the 1930s that abstract or expressionist works, or a nude, had been seen in China);24 and the advent of ‘POP Art’, represented by the work of Robert Rauschenberg who, under the auspices of his Overseas Cultural Interchange (ROCI) programme, travelled and worked throughout China and held an exhibition of his new works at the National Museum of China (NAMOC), Beijing in 1985.
But the profound changes taking place within Chinese art itself during the mid- 1980s, such as the 1985 New Wave Movement or Xiamen Dada, seem largely to have passed Zhou by as his attention at this time was more xed on the history of Western European art.25 The Bubble Series, Zhou’s earliest surviving paintings, date from 1988 and 1989 and show nude, or semi-nude, gures encapsulated within a public or social space. The elongation of the gures is reminiscent of Giotto and other Italian medieval painters, but he also refers to Bosch, not only as a continuing in uence on his way of looking at the world but also, surprisingly, as ‘a dictionary of contemporary Chinese life’.26 The vulnerability and neurotic introspection of the figures in these paintings, however, as well as the close tones of their muted palettes, is more suggestive of German Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) painting from the late 1920s and early 1930s, although he could have had no chance of seeing examples other than in a book. But, in spite of historical references, conscious or otherwise, the ‘Bubble’ that Zhou was painting here undoubtedly refers to the severe tensions and strains of growth on contemporary Chinese society and politics during the latter 1980s that new possibilities for self-criticism and economic development had inevitably opened up.
Although Zhou was a relatively late developer in artistic terms, the 1990s he became aware of some of China’s most advanced art and then, largely through books and magazines, also of a wide range of Western Conceptual Art and New Media.27 The early systemic installations of German/American artist Hans Haacke certainly had a strong impact, but the fertile, discursive qualities of the Duchampian ‘ready-made’, with its countless possibilities for misunderstanding, became, and has remained, a continuing inspiration.28 During this time, Zhou also worked commercially as a designer and this gave him grounding in the new technologies of computer and gaming design.
In 1997, Zhou Xiaohu rst began to experiment with video animation, using computers also to develop interactive game works, such as 1min50sec (1998), a digital video, or B’s Diary (2000), a game that could be played by a number of people at the same time. Swimming in a Vase (1999), a multiscreen projection, was made in a relatively analogue way: video-recorded footage of two swimmers, a man and a woman, was played back on a television screen and then re- lmed through a clear glass ower vase to create a distorted, synchronised, sheye effect. This ‘feedback’ idea was continued in Talk Show, made in the same year, a single-channel, head and shoulders video self- portrait in which the artist’s sped up, distorted voice maniacally reads out idiomatic expressions that have numbers (from 1 to 10, then on to 10,000) as their rst words while he blows up a balloon. As the balloon slowly in ates and begins to obliterate his face, a distorted and shifting image of his face projected on it replaces his own image until, suddenly, it bursts and the whole process is repeated.
Zhou’s next major work was the ironically titled single-channel 3D digital animation Beautiful Cloud (2001), in which his attention moved away from the language and possibilities of the new medium towards a critical view of humanity as a whole. In this, masses of disturbingly cloned, puppet-like babies serve as mute witnesses to the horrors of the twentieth century as they are exposed to them directly through TV and film. The ‘cloud’ refers both to the innocence of childhood and, at the other extreme, to the Atomic mushroom cloud, and other man-made abominations, to which the presence of these creatures silently and uncomprehendingly attests.29
The Gooey Gentleman (2002) Zhou’s rst stop-motion animation and his next work, has a lighter approach, returning to the image and body of the artist not as a repetitive petit mort as in Talk Show, but as a witty burlesque of sexual desire that shimmies seamlessly between reality and art.30 It begins with a close-up of the artist’s actual
naked torso on which he proceeds to draw seductive images of a naked lady who then does a striptease in reverse before becoming an artist herself and making a drawing on Zhou’s body. She then executes a provocative pole dance in front of a roaring crowd of bald men, offers the artist a flower, which he takes in his hand, and kisses him passionately on the chest - at which point his whole body heaves before morphing into that of a woman on which the drawn, rather ridiculous, gure of a man appears to the sound of laughter. He tries to climb a ladder, falls off it, and walks away in a huff. The artist’s naked torso then re-appears, the girl is again drawn and he starts to abuse her in various ways: squashing her, erasing her, threatening her with a knife to which she retaliates with a knife of her own. A ‘fight’ ensues and the bodies, both actual and drawn, are obliterated by cut marks. The body convulses, the cuts ‘fall down’ and disappear, and the lm ends with a buzzing swarm of ies emerging out of the artist’s navel.31 Any distinction between what is real or drawn has been completely eroded.
III. Power Games
Through a succession of works, Zhou now began to concentrate on the structures and levers of control in society as well as on how power and propaganda manipulated people within it. He originally intended that Utopian Machine (2002), his rst single frame animation using clay gures (claymation), would be shown in Yan’an as part of an art project devoted to the re-creation of The Long March but although this project was curtailed, he still refers to it in this work.32 It begins with the incoherent gabble of a Chinese Central Television News Broadcast directed at an audience of identical babies that, as in Beautiful Cloud, project an aura of doubtful innocence onto the different kinds of insanity that ensue. Zhou regards this work as a portrait of our time ‘about information, news, summits, conferences and meetings (political and international), decisions made and the violence that erupts as a result...’.33 Moving between Chinese history and the international present, between the trivial and the cataclysmic, he presents a parody of the empty words of both propaganda and management speak. But, towards the end of the video, the real world intrudes when the sterile argument of an academic meeting is suddenly interrupted by the tragic news of 9/11. The atmosphere changes from one of pessimistic fantasy to survival. Although the utopian machine has obviously been broken, and children are seen falling into a swamp, not all is lost. The lm ends on a note of sceptical, guarded optimism: the children are rescued, no one has died.
In Obsession – Century Celebration (2003), a claymation video and large related model, Zhou focuses on the instruments rather than the levers of power by depicting the vast symmetrical deployment of a ceremonial military march-past across an imaginary Tiananmen Square. History is telescoped as, in complex geometrical formations, soldiers, robots and dinosaurs flank weapons of many different kinds and eras. Composed of 2,000 gures, set alongside both hand-made and commercially produced toys, the installation from above looks like a vast chequerboard on which the god-like visitor could almost play. In the video, however, Zhou adopts a propagandistic style that removes all sense of scale. From ground level, the individual figures look massive, yet when seen en masse from a bird’s eye view they seem minuscule, teeming, endless and invincible.
In Peak Meeting (2003), and The Crowd Around (2003-04), Zhou extends his claymation videos, and the sculptural models related to them, into more complex critical narratives that switch between miniature and massive scales while relating to the conventions of popular cinema. In the rst, a pyramid at the centre of the space serves as a four-sided triangular screen on which animations of different kinds of summit meeting are projected. Against each wall, facing the screens, a related model is shown. In the projected images, portentous clichés of political power are ampli ed, only to be fragmented and reduced to cinematic genres by their means of projection while, through the miniature scale of the clay models, the pretension and machinery of power are made to appear toy-like and literally cut down to size. The Crowd Around adopts a similar structure, but each section is devoted to a different story in which the ability of clay to morph from one form into another plays an important role while, at the same time, adding a jerky, child-like clunkiness to what the soundtrack suggests could be a documentary or fiction film. In one story, a champion boxer is knocked down and literally crushed out of existence during a title ght; in another, a politician caught in agrante in a police raid on a brothel disappears literally into the wall. The drama of 9/11 is also re-enacted in clay, the animated ‘dust’ of the collapsed towers billowing out heavily behind the survivors, as safely behind glass an audience of babies looks on in anticipation. The scene then winds back and the whole process is repeatedly recycled.
In Utopian Theatre Sculpture (2006), previous relationships of scale between film, image and sculpture are reversed because, in this case, the clay model dwarfs the video and incorporates the small screens into its infrastructure. For Zhou, this work is a re ection of how the ‘news machine’ is balanced between truth and lies and manufactures both reality and everyday life by turning both into a kind of theatre.
Zhou extends this idea in Against Montage – Intolerance (2011), an overpowering video-installation-sculpture, where he brings together claymation versions of the climactic moments of D. W. Griffith’s epic silent film Intolerance (1916) with a central core of stacked boxes, each containing a sculptural scene from the videos cast in white resin. The work is shaped like a large metal umbrella with the sculptures, slightly askew, on top of each other in the middle, and eight video screens, facing inwards, around the edge of the ‘cover’. The videos respect the structure of Griffith’s lm with its four parallel storylines: The Fall of Babylon, The Mission and Cruci xion of Christ, The Saint Bartholomew Day’s Massacre and a stereotypical Modern American melodrama of crime and redemption in which factory owners crush workers and suffer retaliation. But in the original lm, Griffith cut between one period and another in an early form of montage that manipulated the audience’s vision and emotions. Zhou re ects this here not only by the random stacking of the sculptures,
but also by the simultaneous projection of the climaxes of the four stories so that his audience is not subjected to a single, broken, intercut narrative but can make up their own by sampling different parts of the work as they move around it.
For Zhou, montage in this respect is symptomatic of mind control and he regards the ‘tolerance,’ advocated in Griffith’s lm by the forced contemplation of atrocities, as, in fact, its awed opposite: a sentimental elaboration of the hypocrisy of the Great American Dream that had been propagated by Hollywood and the US both internally and across the whole world.34 Zhou’s ‘anti-montage’ here cuts against this; he regards the ‘restrictive tolerance’ that ‘allows only those voices that fall within its framework’ as ‘a normalisation of thought into an unconscious collective paradigm’ that he provocatively describes as a ‘Concentration Training Camp’.35
Yet not all of Zhou’s works at this time were concerned with the connected languages of control, lm and sculpture. New China Town Plan (2005), produced as a site- speci c work for Chinatown in Den Haag, Netherlands, was a scaled down version of Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ (OMA) design for the China Central Television (CCTV) Building in Beijing. Zhou’s work was made out of rubbish con ned in a steel frame and the importance of this ‘homecoming’ for him lay in its idea and gesture, rather than its form as, at the moment of its ‘opening’, it was to be destroyed by a bulldozer. The irony is razor sharp: not only is the owner of this building the controlling source of all television news in China, but also the choice of Koolhaas, a foreign architect, to design its agship had never been embraced by the people of Beijing who derogatorily referred to its cantilevered structure as ‘the big underpants’ ( 大 裤 衩 ) as well as by many other, more scatological, names.36 Zhou, however, was not so concerned with the local reaction to this building but with how, through misunderstanding and pretentiousness on both sides, it had become emblematic of an exploitative neo- colonial relationship in which power again conspired against those who were ‘colonised’. The final sting, though, in Zhou’s provocation was that Koolhaas’s design was repatriated to the Netherlands in order for it to be destroyed.
In an unrelated group of works, that included the interactive installation, performance and projection Waistcoat (2006) and the animated video Self Defence (2007), Zhou began to explore the uses and abuses of power theatrically through the use of masks and puppets. In the former, two volunteers, disguised by a mask and boxing gloves, were suspended horizontally from the ceiling by a mechanical ‘waistcoat’ that could be raised and lowered by a winch while projections of their image from different angles were shown on all sides. This figure, therefore, becomes like a puppet, moved by the will of different visitors who are prepared to operate the winch. On the oor below a large screen shows his reversed image with which he tries to ‘box’ whenever he is lowered close enough, yet this hardly happens, the temptation to winch him up higher is ever present.
The life-sized puppets in Self Defence create an even more uncanny impression than that of the somnambulant masked gure in Waistcoat. This video begins with a shot of the crowds in the Shanghai Metro: a man on a train approaches a life-size female puppet that he then starts to molest; ‘she’ retaliates, stepping backwards and elbowing him to the face, knocking him over. The scene cuts to a ‘woman’ typing in an office, her boss gets over-friendly and in a slow motion kung fu sequence ‘she’ throws and kicks him in the groin until he loses consciousness. In the next scene another ‘woman’ is using a public lavatory and applying make-up in mirror when a man attacks her from behind. Her revenge is swift and violent. As well as making a parody of kung fu lms, Zhou is also referring here to the rarely discussed phenomenon of widespread violence against women, yet he does not approach this on the level of social propaganda but on a more pertinent scale. The imagery and structure of the video acknowledge that ‘consumerism and entertainment have overtaken the political nature of the body,’ notions that Zhou violently and sardonically subverts here in order to allow the (puppet) body to reclaim its political dimension.37
During 2007 and 2008, Zhou embarked on a satirical series of multiple, large-scale video projections that, by echoing the single-minded hysteria of mass demonstrations within a climate of rampant capitalism, examined the relationships between manipulation of knowledge, group dynamics and power. Concentration Training Camp, the rst of these, depicted Chinese employees from the Amway Company in China enthusiastically participating in demented training exercises by standing on their heads. (Later editing makes it look as if they may be the right way up, although uncomfortable). Such literal estrangement was continued in Military Exercises Camp – Rescue Plan 10, 18 (2009), a darkly humorous, interactive, ‘maze,’ imprisoning the visitor, in which all actions, images and remedies reference terrorism and hostage-taking, as well as in, more zanily, Crazy English Camp (2010) in which a Chinese instructor energetically teaches the new subject of ‘Crazy English’ to students who have English as their native language (all wearing uniform red tee shirts) at a live event at Tate Modern in London.
The same ludic spirit surfaces, but with a shot of German melancholy, in Woundplast. A Collective Training Action Project, that took place in Hamburg in 2014.38 Here, 14 participants of different heights were schooled to jump upwards to the same level. Each had a yellow stripe of uniform thickness pinned to their tops that, if they all jumped at the same time to the right height, would create a long straight line to join up with another stripe stuck to the wall behind them. In this way, by repeated jumping, a succession of random yellow lines momentarily coalesces to stretch uniformly across the whole space.39 Zhou followed up this idea during 2015, echoing the dénouement of Bertolt Brecht’s parable play The Good Person of Szechuan (the impossibility of the good receiving their just reward in an unfair world) by getting eight people to jump to the same height so that the markings on their clothes spelled out this title in Chinese script.40
Inspired by the theories of Wang Guowei, the section of Chimera entitled To View Objects in Terms of Objects contains assemblages of different groups of ‘ready- mades’ uni ed by common themes. Toy birds, plastic owers and branches together make a bizarre ensemble, but the shadow they cast on the wall behind them spells out another non-material ‘object’: the Chinese script for “The breeze while shaking”, a famous passage from a Han Dynasty poem. In the same way, a motley collection of hand tools denotes “Extreme surprise”, while a grouping of casts of bones and body parts proclaims darkly “You are just a piece of meat”. Such absurd, word-object games, dependent on the poetic estrangement of objects and ideas from their contexts to highlight the ludicrousness of this action, are typical of the whole of Zhou’s work. But, as we have a seen, such strategies also have a philosophical purpose in that they alienate and shock the observer into a realisation that appearances, as well the psychological structures through which we recognise them, are often misleading, and that truth, however it may be recognised, may lie in another direction.
Not all had been lost, however: ‘although the Chinese view of artistic creation, based on learning from the ancients and relying on different rules, was conservative, far more important was the possibility of learning from nature because it incorporated an attitude of both engagement and withdrawal that relied on an independent artistic sense and knowledge of the universe. The scattered point perspectives in classical Chinese painting, for example, reflect the literati’s attitude towards life as well as their concept of time and space. They emphasize an ideal state known as the “law of lawlessness” to compensate for the dissatisfactions and regrets of life.’
Zhou set out to integrate these traditional ‘scattered point’ perspectives within his designs for Chimera, using montage to emphasise its multi-spatial representation, by cutting and remaking classical paintings as ‘readymades’. A new series of graphic works has also been based on this.
‘Traditional Chinese philosophical thinking was inclined towards poetic metaphors and metonymies and did not pay sufficient attention to systematic or logical proof. There’s no need to change culture. The subversion of an epistemology is as tricky as the creation of a methodology. The problems recently faced by contemporary Chinese artists are new in the sense that they are both regional and global. The only way for an artist to get round them is to open up new areas of enquiry – to create a new “law of lawlessness” with a constantly sceptical approach.’41
In Secret (2012), a double-channel video projection on a painted diptych, Zhou moves away from traditional representation to confront the dichotomies of recent western philosophy.42 Here he juxtaposes successive aphorisms about economy, society and art with the portraits of the leading male world gures who made them, only repeatedly to ‘assassinate’ or ‘reanimate’ both their words and images with the sound of a single gun shot.43 This motley crew of revolutionary thinkers – Karl Marx, Bertolt Brecht, Slavoj Žižek, Mao Zedong, Andy Warhol, Michael Foucault and Walter Benjamin – is ‘completed’ by the image of one woman: Sora Aoi, a famous Japanese porn star. In this nal touch, Zhou creates a framework that, in its levelling violence, is, to say the least, sardonic.
Ms. Aoi’s ‘secret’: ‘I took off all my clothes lying in front of the camera in order to survive. While you stand dressed in front of the camera, but only for desire and deception...’ stops dead in their tracks the neat pronouncements of the other ‘speakers’. It is an authoritative challenge on a different level, reinforced by the rough, crouched presence of her naked body. One could reflect that ‘it would have to be funny, if it were not so sad’ but, in Zhou’s world, in recognition that change is possible, it has to be both. He explains ‘I want to motivate people to question and rethink what such concepts mean ... questioning is actually an embodiment of conscience which enables us to face life in an honest way. I intend that the frameworks and structures that to a large extent characterise and “control” my work will, in fact, create something that is both boundless and beyond any control.’44
Zhou’s shadowy, bald statement “You are just a piece of meat”, neither ‘illusory nor impossible to achieve,’ is a classical distillation of his anti-chimerical approach.45 Whether understood as a memento mori, in a western sense, or, regionally, as a Chan Buddhist kōan, it places the fragile pretensions of human existence rmly into focus. According to cadence, these words may be regarded an exhortation against desire, or merely as an antidote to it, but, for Zhou, they are neither. They are, and will remain for him, a touchstone of two irreconcilable opposites: those human perceptions that constitute ‘reality’ - and desire.
1. Although the Chimera is a gure from Greek mythology, winged, hybrids, such as the Bixe (exorcist), Pixiu (protector) or Qilin (omen of prosperity or serenity) are found in ancient Chinese folklore. The mythologies of many other cultures also incorporate similar hybrids.2. Chimera: The New Oxford Dictionary of English, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1998.
3. The Book of Songs (also known as The Classic of Poetry) was written between the 11th and 7th centuries BCE. It comprises 305 works and is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry. Some are formal and elegiac while others are personal and more melancholic.4. Zhuang Zhou (Chuang Tzu) (c. 369–c. 286 BCE) is a Chinese philosopher associated with Taoism who is credited with writing, either whole or in part, the Zhuangzi, an eponymous collection of stories and re ections. His approach to the world is sceptical arguing that while life is limited, knowledge to be gained is not, and his stories often highlight the paradox that both cognition and language may actually be barriers rather than aids to understanding. Using humour to make serious points, he often propounds a relativistic approach to the world as in the story of ‘Chuang Tzu and the Butter y’ referred to here. Translated by Martin Palmer, The Book of Chuang Tzu, London, Penguin Books, 2006, p. 20.
5. During the late 1980s, Zhou was still a student at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chongqing. Zhou Xiaohu: email to the author 16 May 2016.6. These themes appear throughout the Zhuangzi as well as in Marguerite Yourcenar’s (1903–87) novels Mémoires d’Hadrien (1951) and L’Oeuvre au Noir (1968) (translated into English as The Abyss) and a number of her other works.
7. Although Zhou is also mistrustful of the way in which montage has often been used as an agent of propaganda, in a different context he regards it more constructively. See note 38.8. Scheisse: A Solo Exhibition by Zhou Xiaohu (ex. cat.), Berlin, MOMENTUM, 2015. It was curated by David Elliott. The single channel video The Gooey Gentleman (2002) and the video installation Secret (2012), both shown in Scheisse, are discussed at length in sections II and IV of this essay.
9. The same ideas were also present in the single-frame, animated, clay model, stop-motion videos (claymations) and related objects he had shown together since 2003. These works are discussed in III. Power Games later in this essay.10. Zhou Xiaohu, Interview prepared for Arte al Limite, Chile, Santiago, 2013, question 14. The full copy of this interview is in the artist’s archive.
11. Many of Duchamp’s major works, such as The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even [The Large Glass](1913/1915–23), Rrose Sélavy (1921) or Étant donnés (1946–1966) revolve around cryptically erotic wordplays and content.12. The catalogue for the exhibition had the same trashy production values; see note 9. The performance artist chose the name Selina Abromovic as a pseudonym as an obvious reference to Marina Abramović. 13. Zhou Xiaohu, ‘A Surprising Package! A conversation between David Elliott and Zhou Xiaohu about Art, Sex and Karl Marx’, Scheisse: A Solo Exhibition by Zhou Xiaohu, op. cit., p.11.
14. Zhou Xiaohu, Interview, 2008, question 3, document in the archive of the White Rabbit Contemporary Chinese Art Collection, Sydney.15. Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980) was a Canadian philosopher of communication theory popular in the 1960s who rst coined the term ‘the medium is the message’. He expanded this idea in his book The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967) which, closer to the spirit of Zhou’s work, examines the effects of each medium on the human sensorium.
16. Zhou Xiaohu, Arte al Limite, op. cit., question 16.17. During 2010 one of the ‘Word Chains’ series of composite works was entitled Misunderstanding of History and from, 2012 to 2014, Zhou gave the title A History of Misunderstanding to a series of paintings of famous art world gures and news photographs which had videos projected over them. Since the turn of the millennium, Zhou’s affection for and use of misunderstanding has been partially compounded by his inability to communicate uently in any other language than Chinese. He did not travel abroad until 2002, when he rst visited Germany, but since that time has travelled widely.18. Zhou Xiaohu, Interview, 2008, question 2, op. cit.19. Zhou Xiaohu: email to the author 16 May 2016.20. Ibid.21. This lm was based on Kuang Jinbi’s (1939–2010) children’s story The Magic Ox and Other Tales of the Effendi.22. Zhou Xiaohu: 16 May 2016.
23. From 1982 to 1985 Zhou attended the Polytechnic School in Suzhou, specialising in sculpture; he then moved to the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chonqing between 1987 and 1989 where he studied graphic design and oil painting. After graduation, he became a professor of design at the Changzhou Institute of Technology from 1989 until 2005. Ibid.
24. 58 works were exhibited in the Boston MFA show of which 12 were either abstract or expressionist. These included paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, Adolph Gottlieb, Hans Hoffmann, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock. The exhibition received six to eight thousand visitors a day. See Nancy Berliner, Not So Abstract: Reconsidering the 1981 Exhibition of Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Australian Centre on China in the World, 8 March 2013, www.thechinastory.org/contributor/ nancy-berliner/ [Last accessed 11 June 2016].
25. The 1985 New Wave Art Movement describes the many different groups of young artists who ourished in China during this time. It continued until the seminal China Avant-garde exhibition in Beijing in 1989 and the events of June 4 soon after. Xiamen Dada was a group of artists inspired by the connections between European Dada and Chan Buddhism from Xiamen in southern China that was active between 1983 and 1986. After an art burning event the group was banned from making further exhibitions.
26. Zhou Xiaohu: 16 May 2016. The vast majority of Zhou’s works from this time have been either lost or destroyed.27. Zhang Peili (b. 1957) originally trained as a painter but, from the late 1980s, experimented with video and became one of its leading protagonists in China. In such works as Water: Standard Edition from the Cihai Dictionary (1991), a famous television announcer reads out definitions from the Chinese dictionary as if it were the evening news; he also made a number of complex video works that examined the history of genre in lm. Qiu Zhijie (b.1969) also concentrated on social themes in his work particularly in relation to history and its continuing hold on Chinese society.
28. Zhou Xiaohu: 16 May 2016. A reference to Haacke’s early work can be most clearly seen in Zhou’s installation Container of Humidity (1995) as well as in his acknowledgement of the strong links between social, economic and political concerns and art. For a discussion of different aspects of Duchamp’s in uence on Zhou’s work, see also notes 5 and 12. The earliest works that Zhou chooses to illustrate on his web site are from 1995. See his website http://xiaohuzhou.tumblr.com.
29. A pop song by Zuoxiao Zuzhou, one of the pioneers of independent music in China, provides the soundtrack. Its rst line is ‘put your three pin plug in your mouth, my darling, you can nd my heart beat accelerating.’30. This was one of the works exhibited in Scheisse, Berlin 2015. See note 9.
31. Zuoxiao Zuzhou allowed his tune Art Chicken to be used as the soundtrack for this video.32. The Long March was the epic, nearly 10,000 km, retreat of the Chinese Communist Party and Red Army during 1934-35 from Southeastern China to Yan’an in the Northwest during which Mao Zedong became leader of the Communist Party. In 1942 at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art, Mao set out the future framework for the development of Chinese culture.33. Zhou Xiaohu quoted by Karen Smith in a short essay on his work, dated 2006, in the artist’s archive. 34. Zhou discusses the more open idea of ‘spatial montage’ in relation to the work of Karl Marx and the lm directors Sergei Eisenstein and Alexander Kluge in ‘A Surprising Package!...’ op. cit. p. 8.35. Zhou Xiaohu: http://xiaohuzhou.tumblr.com/2011/Intolerance. Concentration Training Camp is also the title of an immersive video installation from 2007.36. Although slated to be open in time for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the CCTV Building was not nished until 2012. A large part of the building caught re in February 2009. See Joel Martinsen, ‘Rem Koolhaas and CCTV Porn’, Danwei, 20 August, 2009, http://www.danwei.org/architecture [last accessed 12 June 2016].37. Zhou Xiaohu, http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/exhibition/real-thing-contemporary- art-china/real-thing-exhibition-guide-12 [last accessed 12 June 2016].38. The title Woundplast, neither German nor English, is an invention of the artist. In some way it suggests ‘healing’ as it brings together the words ‘wound’ and ‘plaster’. Perhaps, in this respect, it re ects obliquely the artists’ feelings about Germany and how, like China, it has experienced a tumultuous, violent, self-harming recent history.39. A video was made of this action but the existence of these single lines could only be veri ed by still photography.
40. ‘Eight participants will wear light-colored clothes. There will be black tapes sticking on their clothes which will become a part of the calligraphy. They will jump until the words The Good Person of Szechuan are aligned by trial and error. This project aims at capturing a perfect “Good Person”’. http:// momentumworldwide.org/exhibitions/works-on-paper-iii
41. Zhou Xiaohu, email to the author 12 June 2016.42. See note 45.43. This work was also exhibited in Scheisse. See note 9. 44. Zhou Xiaohu, ‘A Surprising Package!...’, op. cit., p. 18. 45. See note 2.
周啸虎最新个展“地上”的英文题目“Chimera”是古希腊神话里一种喷火雌性怪兽的 名字。该怪兽有着狮子的头，山羊的身体，蛇的尾巴，该组合在世界其他地区的 神话中也能找到 1。但随着时间流逝，这一令人毛骨悚然的词语 - 图像逐渐演化成 一个修辞语，表达一种不那么恐怖，但同样令人困惑的意思:简言之，就是“人们 希求或渴望，但实际却是虚幻或不可能得到的东西”2。自“Chimera”在古希腊神话 里诞生以来，它便踏上了走向世界之旅。在这期间，生动的创造性误读元素激活 了这一强大而恐怖的生物，同时也将其转变为一种荒诞之物—幻想或希望的虚构 体。
错位的梦想，虚假的乌托邦，人类的愚行，徒劳的欲望，权力的滥用——所有这 些元素的恶意挥霍在周啸虎的整体创作中反复出现。在“地上”的戏剧结构中，上 述元素以诗意、隐晦、幽默、讽刺的方式浮现，艺术家在描绘神话与真实世界之 间往返之旅的同时，也要求观众自己踏上追寻的旅程。借助木偶、动画、录像、 照片、投影、装置和表演，周啸虎以近乎末日狂欢的方式组合起所有元素，并运 用自己独特的想象力调动该整体，其中涉及到的图像如此多样:从希罗尼穆斯·博 斯的杰作《地上乐园》(1490-1510)、古典中国画，到民间艺术和传说，以及当 代工业与农村风景。尽管包含诸多历史指涉，组成此次展览的不同作品总体而言 都在描绘当下:天堂的精神愉悦，地狱的肉身折磨，或介于两者之间广阔的炼狱 世界。然而，如同在混凝土夹缝中顽强生长的野草，在这些令人不堪忍受的形而 上板块之间，人类的感情与希望依然岌岌可危地幸存。
穿行于山峦、湖泊、水电站、矿场和商业区组成的山水迷宫之间，观众就像古代 的行脚僧或圣人一样，会发现自己身边出现了同路人—怪异的兽头人身提线木偶 (实体或影像)。在这一超现实的生物群里，我们可以看到身体如同西塞罗时代 人物，脖子上却放着一颗鹦鹉、山羊或鹰头的木偶;他们身后跟着绿色的三头幽灵， 躯干里塞满树枝;旁边的长颈鹿身体被一条大鱼穿透，而另一个无头人偶双手撑 地，倒立着蹦跳行走。与此同时，行动机械的黑色“工蜂群”在矿场里绝望地爬行， 或者推着沉重的纸箱在无止境的坡道上前进。它们共同连接了一片无法预知、陌 生但也熟悉的地形与一系列相互矛盾的情感:讶异，恐惧，忧郁与欢乐。旅程接 近尾声时，乍看毫无秩序的物件拼接倒置的阴影投射在墙上，神奇地变成一行行 文字——《以物观物》系列装置让物质变成诗歌，图像变成寓言，就像在展览的 另一部分《现在已经远去》，时间，如同蝴蝶稍纵即逝的生命，在短暂的美丽绽 放之后落入死亡:在一个昏暗的空间里，十个机械提线木偶痉挛似地前后移动， 令人联想到中国最古老的诗歌集《诗经》中精致的忧郁。
对周啸虎而言，语言很重要，但他也知道，当涉及到真理认识的时候，语言往往 不可靠。在对语言的选择以及对其多重含义的意识中，他专注于被公元前 4 世纪 中国圣人庄子在其有关意识、现实与梦境的著名寓言中描述为“变化”的演绎思考 方式。这段选自《庄子》的故事对周啸虎的创作产生了重要影响，也为此次展览 的核心作品—双屏录像投影《地上乐园》提供了出发点:“昔者庄周梦为蝴蝶，栩 栩然蝴蝶也，自喻适志与，不知周也。俄然觉，则蘧蘧然周也。不知周之梦为蝴 蝶与，蝴蝶之梦为周与?周与蝴蝶则必有分矣。此之谓物化。”
在周啸虎跟浙江泰顺木偶剧团共同制作的这件录像作品中，剧中人物随意游荡于 一片快速变化的风景，而《庄子》里的对话既与之形成对照，也为其提供注解。 通过从《庄子》中选取的对话，周啸虎巧妙地玩儿了一把荒诞，暗示变化、存在、 意识—甚至生命本身—都以虚空作为前提和源头。然而，这些将社会、政治、本 体论与哲学思辨都流畅衔接为一体的古代文本在这里也起到了杜尚式“现成品”的 作用。它们与艺术家的图像和叙事一起决定了此次展览及其早期创作的道德指 针 3。此处，周啸虎把这些概念都浓缩为令人泄气的一句话:“你就是一块肉。”
周啸虎回忆说，早在他还没有完全意识到自己想做一名艺术家的时候，庄周和法 国现代小说家玛格丽特·尤瑟纳尔就是他的最爱 4。这一组合表面看来让人惊讶， 无论是生活的时代，还是地理位置或情感方式，两位作者都有天壤之别。但两人 同样让周啸虎着迷的一点是，他们对语言的不准确性有着共同意识，都知道用语 言去接近真理是一件多么“困难”的事，因为语言的概念和表达方式本身受文化预 先决定。此外，两人在一个感觉自己受到限制的社会里追寻自由和智慧的决心也 令周啸虎印象深刻。5
周啸虎自己一直喜欢玩味这种 “困难”，并在作品中不断创造非同寻常、令人惊异 且效果强烈的组合，作为对困难的 “解决”:有时是通过将一种形式转变成另一种， 有时是通过让一个图像与另一个碰撞，利用蒙太奇制造第三种合成效果 6。在整 个 “地上”展中，通过在不同媒介、形式和时代间快速移动，周啸虎在过去、现在 和未来之间制造了一系列充满张力的碰撞，从不同角度指向了一个温柔美丽但荒 诞破碎的世界。这个世界的活力与能量虽不容置疑，但它是否还可能恢复正常我 们却不得而知。
2015 年夏天，周啸虎在柏林的个展题目 “Scheisse·夏色” 引起部分人反感，因为 Scheisse 在德语里既是咒骂语，也是名词，意思是 “屎” 7。而其中文同音词“夏色” 则提示了截然相反的意象。除却两种语言之间文字游戏的秽语幽默，周啸虎在题 目的选择上故意表现得很暧昧。他既不想让它变成一种挑衅，也不想借此冒险“剧 透”(也就是说题目可能被用来描述展览内容)，尽管我们无法肯定上述两种意图 完全不存在。他更感兴趣的是以艳俗的手法创造一个有关劳动、资本和价值的隐 喻和转喻式说明，鼓励观众以一种不受指导，没有偏见，完全开放的方式去反思 艺术—不是把艺术当做一种没有真实价值或与生活无关的昂贵而隐晦的商品，而 是将其视为具体社会政治条件催生的“产品”。
及半军事化训练。这类作品包括调侃公司培训的沉浸式多屏录像装置《集训营》 (2007)以及模拟军事反恐行动的《军演营 -10.18 营救》(2009)8。在艺术家看来， 这些作品戏仿的是某些公司员工和学校团体经历的集体培训活动，脆弱的个体身 份在这一过程中被转化成富有攻击性，整齐划一的群体心理，但与此同时，它们 也以某种半幽默的方式勾勒了西方价值如何进入中国文化，表现了当下“全球资本
“Scheisse·夏色”展出了三件较早的录像作品，以及一件场域特定的现场表演 / 录 像装置新作，后者还包含一份互动问卷。展览原来的暂定题目为“资本论 No.1- 问卷秀”，也是周啸虎 2014 - 2015 年间在柏林参加德意志学术交流中心驻留计划时 所做的系列项目之一。通过指涉低俗的窥视秀，“橱窗女郎”充满感官诱惑的眼神， 以及德国成人频道深夜性爱热线的广大市场，这件新作品提示了性与劳动在世界 范围的商品化趋势。但周啸虎的目的绝对不在于对性产业本身做任何社会评论。 相反，软色情里的语言、色彩和 “刺激” 在他手里变成又一件可以挪用的 “现成品”， 被用来创造一种令人不安的美学体验和人际互动，就劳动(身体和商品)的物神化， 以及价值的含义提出疑问 10。除此以外，他也知道每位观众都不可避免地会带着 各自的心理和情感历史进入展览，而这一事实在互动中同样发挥着决定性的作用。
此次展览中的早期作品被放在核心装置的周围展出，而整间展厅被布置得如同红 灯区:闪烁的 LED 灯，狭窄的过道，逼仄的小隔间。与周啸虎合作创作该作品 的一名表演者化名为塞琳娜·阿布拉莫维奇(又名“一号宝贝”)，衣着性感地躺 在玻璃窗后，手里拿着“性感热线”的专线电话，随时准备向观众提问...... 11
一进展厅，观众会得到一份问卷，等他们挨个进入隔间的内室之后，问卷必须填完。 在这个过程当中，他们需要穿过一条狭窄的走道，再坐到玻璃窗前的一张椅子上， 窗户背后就是塞琳娜。这时电话铃响起，有人选择拿起电话，也有人选择直接离 开。当塞琳娜在电话那头气喘吁吁地解释问卷上的问题时，她不断变化的动作、 姿势和越来越大胆的裸露都让观众无处可躲。尽管整个布展风格都很像电视台观 众来电直播节目，但问卷上的问题本身却非常不协调地是一些有关资本主义、共 产主义、劳动和中国经济状况的“现成题目”。答案被设置成三类—是，也许，否— 只要勾完最后一个问题，观众就必须签上自己的名字和日期，离开小隔间。
卡尔·马克思 1867 年出版的《资本论》在全世界范围都产生了类宗教式的意识形 态影响，但周啸虎承认自己对这本书实际上并不十分了解。而在这件作品中，艺 术家以《资本论》作为出发点，像以前一样戏仿了在一个普遍可辨识的荒诞框架 下全球商品化所带来的混乱效果。但他同时也试图将窥视癖的冲动与需要不断制 造消费欲望的资本主义体系联系到一起，并沿着这条线索，去探讨支撑此类剥削 成立的不同劳动关系。在谈及整个展览如何呈现了一种剥削与消费的范式时，周 啸虎甚至把马克思的剩余价值理论做了进一步扩大，称“......剥削阿布拉莫维奇小 姐的剩余价值”，将其变成艺术只是一个起点，因为“所有观看这个作品的观众都 是剥削者，所以，在他们的视觉‘消费’中必须对此表演作出劳动，填写问卷书并 且签名。这些劳动关系构成一种奇怪的、矛盾的莫比乌斯带，其中所有人都既是 互相的剥削者，又必须被人他人剥削。”12
然而，尽管周啸虎在作品里反复指涉，我们还是不能把他的创作仅仅视为一种对 资本主义全球效应的批判。通过审视由语言建构并规定的意识之局限，为文化间 理解创造新的结构是他同等关注的另一个主题。作为他对比较语义学的兴趣的延 伸，周啸虎在艺术中为视角、形式、随机性和意义寻找语言学比喻，因其缺乏准 确性，这些类比不可避免地会为误读添枝加叶。
自 2010 年起，周啸虎一直用“词语链”来形容他在 2003 年的作品《意乱情迷—百 年庆典》中开启的一系列工作程序。这类作品一般由陶土动画和相关陶土模型配 套组成。其制作过程的推进既像某种依靠直觉的“传话游戏”，又像是具有提前制
定好的意图脚本。随着制作从一个阶段进入下一个，扎根于“具体个人经历”(艺 术家语)的各种形式也逐渐进入“共享的心理空间”，最后在展出时被释放到公共 与社会环境中。
对周啸虎而言，这样的推进过程很重要，制作陶土模型及相关录像的每一个阶段 都有其语言学上的类比物:每种基本形式都是一个字母，每帧录像画面代表一个 单词，而每个场景写出一个句子。在他看来，剪辑就是指能够自由连接上述不同 元素，用蒙太奇或图像变换等形式“语言”来制造经过精心考量的“误读”，让一种 形式生长为另一种。通过这样的方式，周啸虎创造了一种不落入“固定定义或逻辑” 的新语言，材料和媒介的多样化使用在其中扮演着同等流动的角色:“材料不重要; 它们只是工具，或者说词语和语句。词语的作用取决于你的用法。媒介的魅力来 自于它们被作品本身赋予了新的概念，准确性和意义，而不是什么内在属性。”13 对他来说，媒介绝不就是讯息。 14
在 “地上” 展中，周啸虎早期影片里的陶土模型变成了大型木偶，但连接、流动、 断开、再连接的随机创作手法依然延续于艺术家对其影像、投影和实物形式在空 间里的组织方式当中。他的首要目标是直接处理不同的材料，按照直觉和适用性 做取舍，而不用梗概图或复杂的规划。这样，周啸虎得以“保持被意外的悖论、歧 义、灵感与快乐所激活的新鲜度” 15。
从一开始，周啸虎便决定不把自身局限于中国文化，而是通过将不同传统、历史、 语言和文字体系拉到一起，直面当下的世界史。这样一来，误读就在多种复杂层 面上成为他避开僵化常规的一种不可或缺的催化剂。误读在反讽的同时，也极具 包容性，对所有人开放，从而为周啸虎的作品赢得了越来越广泛的受众。除此以外， 艺术家对误读的热情还源于他的另一个信念:与很多艺术家和政府的想法相反， 周认为，人的认识或理解(无论正确与否)是不可能被控制的。近年来，观众问 题和接受理论在当代艺术中日益增长的重要性也证实了观众的意识和意愿不可能 被规定 16。从这里出发，自由，或者自由的幻觉，就变成周啸虎作品中的一个关 键条件，权力与控制的问题也因此成为其创作的必然归结点。
周啸虎 1960 年出生于江苏省长江南岸的一座工业城市常州。周啸虎对 “文化大革 命” 的儿时记忆充满矛盾。一方面，他回忆道自己如何跟 “宣传机器” 一起长大，“谁 拿到大喇叭，谁就有权力规定思想......渐渐地，人们开始把谣言当真理。操控者 同时也被人操控......所有人都变成谎言的牺牲品”17。但另一方面，回想自己当时 的生活，他又满心怀念:“母亲为我打开了一扇文化的窗口，假期我会一整天都躺 在床上听她整篇整篇地给我读故事。”18 当与小伙伴玩游戏的时候，他们用纸板剪 成戏台和人物，用来演绎革命样板戏里英雄与坏蛋的故事，小伙伴都“争先恐后地 给坏蛋配音”。19
1979 年曲建方为上海美术电影制片厂创作的木偶动画《阿凡提的故事》也给周啸 虎留下了深刻的印象。这部动画片不仅让他觉得有趣而且受到启发，片中对木偶 及其他动画形式的运用无意间还预示了他后来的创作方向 20。周啸虎仍然生动地记得“主人公(一位狡黠的伊斯兰贤者)如何机智幽默地跟巴依作斗争”，如何满 怀同情地帮助穷苦百姓 21。在这之前，实践的天赋和出色的动手能力一度让周啸 虎觉得自己将来要变成一名工程师，但艺术的种子已经种下，他很快便意识到只 有“艺术适合我躁动不安的心......能让我获得喜悦”22。
周啸虎回忆道，在求学期间，有两件事对他产生了关键性影响:1983 年在上海看 到波士顿美术馆收藏展里的大师作品(此次展览标志着自 1930 年代以来抽象或表 现主义作品，或者说裸体画第一次在中国与普通观众见面)23 ;以及“波普艺术” 的兴起，代表人物就是在 “劳森伯格海外文化交流组织” 策划下，来到中国工作旅 行，并于 1985 年在北京中国美术馆举办个展的美国艺术家罗伯特·劳森伯格。
但是，1980 年代中期中国艺术本身发生的重大变化(例如八五美术新潮或厦门达 达)似乎与周啸虎并没有产生太大交集，当时他的注意力更多集中西方艺术史上。 周啸虎现存最早的绘画作品《泡沫系列》完成于 1988 和 1989 年，描绘的则是被 囚禁在公共或社会空间内的裸体或半裸人像。人物拉长的身形令人联想到乔托以 及其他意大利中世纪画家，但他同时也参照了博斯，后者不仅对艺术家看待世界 的方式产生了持久影响，而且令人惊讶的是，周啸虎还将其作品视为“一本中国当 代生活辞典”24。不过，这些绘画作品中人物的脆弱性和神经质的内省气质，加上 沉静的柔和色调，更多暗示了 1920 年代末，30 年代初德国“新客观主义”绘画的特 征，尽管当时的周啸虎除了书本以外，不可能有任何其他渠道接触这些欧洲绘画。 但虽然有这些有意或无意的历史指涉，周啸虎在此处刻画的无疑还是 80 年代末中 国当代社会与政治内部严重的紧张关系，这种张力是新的自我批评的可能性与经 济增长必然带来的结果。
尽管周啸虎在艺术上算是相对后知后觉型的创作者，1990 年代他开始了解到当时 中国最前沿的艺术;借助书刊杂志，他获得了大量关于西方观念艺术和新媒体的 信息。德裔美国艺术家汉斯·哈克早期装置对他产生了强烈冲击，但杜尚式“现成 品”丰富的话语特质，以及其中蕴含的无数误读的可能性给他带来了最大的启发， 这种影响延续至今 25。当时的周啸虎也做商业设计，这为他之后利用电脑和游戏 设计等新技术进行创作奠定了基础。
1997 年开始，周啸虎首次尝试制作视频动画，也开始用电脑开发互动游戏:1998 年制作了数码融合录像《1 分 50 秒》，2000 年的作品《阿 B 日记》就可以供若干 玩家同时上线玩。多屏投影《水调歌头》(1999)的制作方式相对更接近模拟方 式:艺术家先用录像拍下一个男人和一个女人游泳的片段，然后接到电视上播放， 再透过一只透明的玻璃瓶重新拍摄电视上的画面，从而得出扭曲同步的鱼眼效果。 这种“反馈”概念在《脱口秀》(1999)里得到进一步延续:艺术家事先拍摄一个 自己朗读中国成语的头像(选择从数字“一”到“十”......到“万”开头成语)，然后再 拍摄使劲吹气球的录像，随着气球慢慢变大，朗读成语的头像被投影在气球上， 取代了他本人的影像，直到气球爆炸，整个过程又重新开始。
周啸虎接下来的一件主要作品是单频道 3D 数码动画录像《美丽云团》(2001)。 在这件题目颇为讽刺的录像作品中，周的注意力从语言和新媒介的可能性转移到 对于人类总体的批判视角上。片中，大群诡异的克隆婴儿人偶被直接暴露在电视
和电影图像前，成为二十世纪各种人间惨剧沉默的目击者。“云团”既象征童年的 天真无邪，在另一个极端也指涉了原子弹爆炸产生的蘑菇云以及其他人造灾难， 而这些婴儿人偶的在场就是对后者令人难以理解的无声见证。26
下一件作品《蜜糖先生》(2002)是周啸虎的首部定格动画，处理得也更加轻快， 艺术家本人的形象和身体再度回归，但并非作为类似《脱口秀》里无意义重复， 而是作为自由游走于现实与艺术之间的性喜剧的主角和舞台。27 片子开头的画面 是艺术家本人赤裸的躯干，接着，他开始在身上画出一系列充满诱惑的裸体女人 像，这位女士以颠倒的顺序表演了一场脱衣舞秀，最后变身为一名艺术家，开始 在周的身上画起画来。接着，女士又开始在一群蠢蠢欲动的男人面前表演极富挑 逗意味的钢管舞，递给艺术家一朵花，艺术家接过来拿在手里，女士开始激情四 射地亲吻他的胸膛——这时候，他的整个身子也开始起伏，最终变形成一具女人 的身体。伴随一阵笑声，这位女性赤裸的上半身上出现了一个外形滑稽的男人像。 他试图爬梯子，结果摔下来，恼怒地走开了。然后，艺术家本人的身体再度登场， 上面还是画着那个女孩。艺术家开始用各种方法折磨她:压扁她，擦掉她，用刀 威胁她，女孩儿也毫不示弱地拿出刀反击。在接下来的“斗争”中，两具身体(实 际的和画上去的)都被刀痕遮蔽。在一阵剧烈踌躇之后，刀痕纷纷“落下”，从艺 术家的身上消失，而影片也以从艺术家肚脐处飞出来的大群苍蝇的画面结束。28 真实图像与绘制图像之间的界线完全消失。
通过一连串的作品，周啸虎现在开始把目光转向社会控制的结构和手段，以及权 力和宣传机器如何操控生活在其中的人们。他的第一部单帧陶土动画《乌托邦机 器》(2002)本来要作为重走长征路艺术项目的一部分，在延安展出，尽管该计 划最终未能实现，周啸虎还是在作品中表现了这部分内容。影片开头，一群在《美 丽云团》中也曾出现过的、外形一模一样的婴儿坐在电视机前，收看中国中央电 视台《新闻联播》两名主播用含混不清的语言播报新闻，他们的在场为接下来新 闻里各种疯狂事件罩上了一层可疑的天真光环。周啸虎将这件作品视为我们时代 的肖像:“有关信息，有关新闻，有关峰会、代表大会(政治的和国际的)，有关 决策及其诱发的暴力冲突......” 29。往返于中国历史与国际时事、日常琐碎与超级 灾难之间，周啸虎戏仿了宣传与管理机器空洞的语言。但在录像接近尾声处，真 实世界突然侵入，一场学术研讨会乏味的讨论被 9·11 悲剧性的新闻打断。整个 片子的氛围从悲观的幻想变成为了存活的斗争。尽管 “乌托邦机器”明显已经崩溃， 小孩儿一个个掉进沼泽，但并非一切均付诸泡影。影片在一种怀疑而警觉的乐观 情绪中结束:儿童都获救了，没有人死亡。
在由陶土动画与大规模配套模型组成的作品《意乱情迷—百年庆典》(2003)中， 周啸虎将关注重点从权力的手段转到其利用的工具上。在这场于想象的天安门广 场上进行的阅兵典礼中，历史被高度浓缩:士兵、机器人和恐龙护卫着各种不同 时代、不同种类的武器，组成复杂的几何方阵昂扬前进。整件装置包括了 2000 个 人物和大量手工制作或批量生产的玩具，从上方俯瞰宛如一只巨大的棋盘，站在 上帝视角的观众几乎可以拿起来随意玩耍。但在动画制作中，周啸虎采取了一种 去除一切比例感觉的宣传片风格。低角度拍摄的单个人物形象看上去硕大无比，但在高空视角拍摄的群像里，他们却微如蝼蚁，数量庞大，不可战胜。
在《峰会》(2003)和《围观》(2003-2004)中，周啸虎将他的陶土动画及其相 关雕塑模型进一步延伸为更加复杂的批判叙事，在微观与宏观规模之间自由切换 的同时，也指涉了流行电影的规则。在前者中，展厅中央的金字塔结构变成四面 三角形的屏幕，有关不同峰会的陶土动画分别投影在四个屏幕上。而周围的展墙 边，面对屏幕则放置着与动画相关的模型。动画影像放大了政治权力装腔作势的 陈词滥调，但投影的方式最终又将其打碎，并还原为电影类型。与此同时，陶土 模型的缩微尺寸也让权力的伪饰和运作机制变得如同玩具，名副其实地削减了其 规模。《围观》采用了同样的结构，但每部分都讲一个不同的故事。陶土形态变 换的能力在片中发挥了重要作用，也为听起来类似纪录片或剧情片的音轨添加了 一层孩子般的笨拙和不稳定感。在其中一个故事里，拳王在一场争霸战中被打倒 在地;另一个故事里的政治家在娱乐城遭遇警察扫黄运动，最后穿墙而逃。9·11 事件也在片中重演，双子大楼坍塌后的动画“尘土”在逃生者身后汹涌翻滚，而安 全坐在玻璃窗后的一群小孩儿带着预感静静观看着这一切。然后画面快退到开头， 整个过程重新开始。
在《乌托邦剧场》(2006)里，之前影像、图像和雕塑之间的尺寸关系被颠倒。此处， 陶土模型在尺寸上远远超过了录像视频，并且把若干小屏幕纳入到自身结构内部。 对周啸虎而言，这件作品反映了“新闻机器”如何在真实与谎言之间寻求平衡，并 通过将其转换成某种剧场而同时生产出现实和日常生活。
《反蒙太奇 - 党同伐异》(2011)延续了上述理念。在这件充满冲击力的录像 - 装置 - 雕塑中，周啸虎将 D·W·格里菲斯的经典默片《党同伐异》(1916)制作成陶 土动画，环绕在一根由若干两面开口的盒子堆叠而成中轴上方，每个盒子里都放 着用白色树脂制成、原型取自动画录像的场景雕塑。整件作品像一把金属大伞， 中轴线上是堆得稍微有些歪斜的雕塑，“伞盖”边缘上是八个朝内安装的录像屏幕。 周的录像尊重了格里菲斯原片的结构，一共分成四条平行的故事线索:巴比伦的 没落，耶稣基督的事迹及受难，法国圣巴托罗米宗教大屠杀，以及一起典型的美 国现代罪与罚的戏剧化事件(工厂主压迫工人，再遭到工人报复)。在格里菲斯 的原片中，导演运用早期蒙太奇剪辑手法，在几个时代之间跳转，引导观众的视 线和情绪。周啸虎对此的回应不仅体现在他对中轴雕塑随机的堆放顺序上，还包 括把四个故事的高潮部分同时播放，让观众不受制于由切割分散的转切镜头组成 的单一叙述，而能在围绕作品移动的过程中自行取样，构建属于自己的故事。
对周啸虎而言，蒙太奇在这个方面是思想控制的症候。他认为，格里菲斯片中通 过强制观众反思暴行而宣扬的“宽容”实际指向的是其反面:它以一种多愁善感的 方式诠释了美国和好莱坞多年以来在国内国外反复推广的 “伟大美国梦” 之虚伪不 实。30 周啸虎的 “反蒙太奇” 针对的正是这一点;他认为，那种 “只允许落在自己 框架以内的声音存在”的“有限宽容”其实相当于“是在把思想正常化为一种集体潜 意识范式”，他带有挑衅意味地称之为 “集训营”。31
在这件作品中，艺术家以荷兰建筑师雷姆·库哈斯为 CCTV 设计的新总部大楼为 原型，用钢铁框架和生活垃圾制造了一个缩微版模型。对于周啸虎而言，这次“回 省”的意义更多在于其理念与姿态，而非其形式:“开幕”仪式当天，整件作品都被 一台推土机摧毁。此处的讽刺异常尖锐:不仅大楼的主人是中国所有电视新闻的 控制源头，选择库哈斯这位外籍建筑师来设计新总部的决定也从来没有得到北京 当地居民的认可，“大裤衩”是当地人给这座巨型悬臂结构起的诨名，当然还有很 多其他充满淫秽意味的别称。但周啸虎主要关心的并非这座大楼在当地引起的反 响，而是双方的误解和虚张声势如何导致该建筑变成剥削性新殖民关系的象征， 权力在其中再度联合，试图压制“被殖民”的一方。不过，周啸虎此次挑衅的最后 一击还在于把库哈斯的设计送回荷兰，只为最终将其毁灭。
在另一系列包括由互动装置、表演、投影组成的《马甲》(2006)和动画录像《自卫术》 (2007)在内的作品中，周啸虎开始利用面具和木偶，以戏剧化的方式探讨权力 的行使与滥用。在《马甲》里，两名志愿者戴着面具和拳击手套，通过一件机械 “马 甲”被水平悬吊在天花板上，旁边有一台绞车可以控制悬吊高度，而两人不同角度 的影像则被投射在下方和背面的屏幕上。如此一来，这个戴着面具的人物就变成 了傀儡人偶，观众只要操纵绞车，就可以控制他的行动。正下方的大屏幕上是他 反转的影像，每次靠近屏幕时，他都会尝试跟自己的影像“打拳击”，但实际上很 少能成功，因为把他吊高的诱惑始终存在。
《自卫术》里真人大小的木偶比《马甲》中梦游症患者似的面具男更让人感觉毛 骨悚然。录像以上海地铁站拥挤的人潮开头:一名男子在地铁上骚扰一个真人大 小的女性木偶;“她”迅速反击，退后两步，用手肘回击男子面部，将他打倒。镜 头接着切换到一个正在办公室里打字的“女性”身上，她的老板显然表现得有点儿 过于友好，最后在一系列慢镜头动作中，“她”先是一个背摔，然后一脚踢在老板 裆部，直到把他踢晕为止。之后场景又转到一个公共厕所:某位“女性”上完厕所， 正在洗手台镜子前化妆时遭遇男子从背后袭击，“她”的反应迅疾而且暴力。除了 戏仿功夫电影桥段之外，周啸虎在此处还触及到了针对女性广泛存在的暴力这一 很少被人讨论的现象，但他对该问题的处理并不是从社会宣传的角度出发，而是 在一个更加切中要害的层面上进行。录像里的人物形象和结构表明“消费主义和娱 乐产业已经压倒了身体的政治属性”，而周啸虎在此处对其进行了暴力而讽刺的反 转，目的就是要让(傀儡的)身体重获政治维度。
2007 到 2008 年间，周啸虎开始制作一系列大型多屏录像投影，通过回应高速发 展的资本主义条件下一意孤行的集体狂热，审视了知识操控、群体动态和权力三 者之间的关系。作为该系列的第一件作品，《集训营》刻画了安利公司在中国的 员工培训场面，所有表演者都倒立着参与这场疯狂的培训项目(后期剪辑时画面 被倒过来，让他们看起来好像处于正常的直立状态，只不过感觉有点儿不舒服)。 此类直接的异化在 2009 年的作品《军演营 -10.18 营救》中得到了延续。观众被困 在这座黑色幽默的互动“迷宫” 内，里面所有行动、图像和应对方案都指涉了恐怖 主义与人质绑架事件。《疯狂英语营》(2010)以一种更加滑稽地方式处理了相 同的问题:在伦敦泰特现代美术馆的现场表演中，一名中国籍讲师激情四射地为 台下身穿红色制服的以英语为母语的学生讲授“疯狂英语”秘诀。
2014 年在汉堡完成的《创可贴》里也能见到类似的游戏精神，只不过还加入了一 丝德国式伤感。32 在这件作品中，14 名身高不等的参与者被训练跳到同一个高度。 他们每个人衣服上都贴着一根厚厚的黄色胶带，如果同时起跳，并且跳到正确的 高度，就会形成一条直线，与身后墙上的另一根黄线合二为一。这样，通过重复 跳跃，一连串随机组合的黄线短暂地在整个空间出现并蔓延。332015 年，周啸虎 继续探索上述理念，在回应布莱希特的寓言戏剧《四川好人》(在一个不公平的 世界里，好人不可能得到公正的回报)的新作中，邀请八位参与者一起跳高，如 果他们跳的高度相同，衣服上的记号就能拼成该剧的中文题目。34
受王国维理论启发，“地上”展览有一个单元叫做“以物观物”，包括一系列由共同 主题统一起来的不同类型的“现成品”装置。35 工艺鸟、塑料花和树枝的组合看起 来形状怪异，但它们投射在墙上的阴影却拼出了另一种非物质的“物”:汉代班婕 妤的一句名诗——“动摇微风发” 36。同样，若干手用工具拼出的是“极度惊喜”四个 字，而各种医疗模型留下的则是阴森的一句:“你就是一块肉”。这种荒诞的词与 物的游戏把物品和概念从原有语境里拉出来，加以陌生化处理，以强调此类行动 的荒诞性，在周啸虎整体创作中极具代表性。但我们也可以看到，这类策略还有 某种哲学目的:让观众在异化与震惊中意识到，表象以及我们认知表象的心理结 构都常常具有误导性，而真相，无论以何种方式被理解，也许存在于别处。
周啸虎认为:“虽然传统中国的艺术创作观很保守，强调师法古人，强调规则，但 更重要的是它保留了向自然学习的可能，内含‘入世’和‘出世’的态度，这种态度依 赖于独立的艺术气质和对时间和空间认识。比如，中国传统绘画里的散点透视法 就反映了中国文人对生活的态度以及他们对时间和空间的理解。并且，他们强调 ‘无 法之法’的自由状态，以此弥补自己生活里的不如意和遗憾。”
在“地上”展览结构设计中，周啸虎称他融合了散点透视概念，以此尝试传统审美 中多视点并列的主体性表现特质。并且，他结合电影蒙太奇方式，切割和重新组 合移动视点中的传统绘画现成图像，成功地创作了一系列新的平面作品。
“而传统中国的哲学思考往往善于使用诗意的隐喻和转喻，而不太注意系统化或逻 辑的论证。我们无需改变文化，颠覆一种认识论跟创造一种方法论一样复杂。近 年来中国当代艺术家面临的问题是全新的，因为这些问题既有地域性，又有全球 性。艺术家处理这些问题的唯一办法就是开拓新的探索领域—用一种不断怀疑的 态度去创造新的‘无法之法’。”37
周啸虎于 2012 年创作了双联画上的双屏录像投影《秘密》。在该作品中，艺术家 直接面对近现代西方哲学二分法的问题。38 他把一连串有关经济、社会和艺术的 格言警句跟说这些话的各国男性名人肖像混到一起，最终用一声枪响 “谋杀”或者 “重新激活”他们的话语和图像。39 这群革命性思想家—卡尔·马克思、贝尔托·布 莱希特、斯拉沃热·齐泽克、毛泽东、安迪·霍沃尔、米歇尔·福柯、瓦尔特·本 雅明—轮番出场，但阵容的“完成”却要依靠一位女性形象:著名日本 AV 女优苍 井空。借用这最后一笔，周啸虎以极端的暴力形式创造了一个嘲弄的讽刺框架。
“我脱光衣服躺在镜头前是为了生存，而你衣冠楚楚的站在镜头前，却只是为了私 欲和欺骗......”——在苍井空的“秘密”面前，其他“发言人”漂亮的话语都戛然而止。 这是在一个不同层面上的对权威的挑战，她趴在地上的赤裸身体更加强化了这一 点。我们可以觉得这件作品“如果不那么悲伤，那么一定就得好玩儿”，但对周啸 虎而言，既然改变是可能的，就必须两者兼备。他解释道:“我想鼓励人们去质疑 并重新理解这类观念到底是什么意思......追问其实是一种让我们诚实面对生活的 意识。我希望我作品中一切可操控的结构，能够通过不可操控性得以扩展。”40
周啸虎用阴影书写的直白宣言“你就是一块肉”既不虚幻，也不意指任何不可能得 到的东西，绝妙地浓缩了艺术家反空想的途径。无论你是把它理解为西方传统下 的死亡象征，还是把它看成是一段禅宗公案，这句话牢牢捕捉到了自命不凡人类 存在的脆弱焦点。按照朗读重音位置的不同，这句话可以变成反对欲望的劝诫， 也可以变成其单纯的解毒剂，但在周啸虎看来，两种理解都不对。对他而言，这 些文字是而且始终是一块试金石，供他检验不可调和的两个对立面:那些人类认 知构成的“现实”和欲望。
注释: 1、尽管奇美拉是希腊神话里的形象，长翅膀的混生体(如辟邪、貔貅、麒麟)也存在于中国古代传 说中。在很多其他文化的神话里同样能找到类似的怪兽。
3、法裔美国艺术家马塞尔·杜尚(1887-1968)于 1913 到 1923 年间制作了他的首批“现成品艺术”。 关于杜尚对中国艺术家的影响，参见弗朗西斯· 瑙曼和唐冠科编撰，《杜尚与 / 或 / 在中国》，北 京尤伦斯当代艺术中心，2013 年。
4、上世纪八十年代末，周啸虎还是重庆四川美术学院的学生。周啸虎:2016 年 5 月 16 日致笔者的 电子邮件。
6、尽管周啸虎对作为宣传手段的蒙太奇抱有怀疑态度，但在另外的语境下他也从具建设性的角度讨 论过这一技法。参见注 31。
7、《夏色:周啸虎个展》(展览画册)，柏林，MOMENTUM，2015。展览由大卫·艾略特策划。 参展作品—单屏录像《蜜糖先生》(2002)和录像装置《秘密》(2012)均在本文第二和第四部分 有详细论述。
8、周啸虎从 2003 年起制作的一系列单帧定格陶土动画及相关模型也探讨了同样的概念。这批作品 在本文第三部分“权力游戏”中有详细论述。
9、周啸虎，为智利圣地亚哥《Arte Al Limite》所做的访谈，问题 14。访谈全文收录在艺术家文献库。
11、展览画册也采用了同样的低俗制作风格;参见注 7。参与表演的艺术家选择用塞琳娜·阿布拉 莫维奇作为化名，明显影射的是玛丽娜·阿布拉莫维奇。
12、周啸虎， “一个惊喜的套装!大卫·艾略特与周啸虎谈艺术、性和马克思”，《夏色:周啸虎个 展》，p 11。
14、马歇尔·麦克卢汉(1911-1980)是一位上世纪六十年代备受关注的加拿大传播理论家，第一个 提出 “媒介即讯息” 的说法。在《媒介即按摩:影响的清单》(1967)一书中，他进一步阐释了自己 的理念。与周啸虎作品的精神相近，该书考察了每种媒介在人类感觉领域产生的作用。
15、周啸虎，《Arte al Limite》，如前文引用，问题 16。
16、2010 年期间制作的“词语链”系列中有一件作品题目为“误解史”;2012 到 2014 年，周啸虎将录像 投影在一系列著名艺术家的油画肖像和新闻照片上，并将其命名为“误解史”。从进入新千年以来， 周对误解 / 误读的兴趣和使用部分意义上与他无法用中文以外的语言跟人流利交流这一事实有关。 2002 年访问德国之前，他都没有离开过中国，但从那以后便经常到世界各地旅行。
18、周啸虎:2016 年 5 月 16 日致笔者的电子邮件。
21、周啸虎:2016 年 5 月 16 日。
22、1982 到 1985 年间，周啸虎在苏州工艺美术学校学习雕塑;1987 到 1989 年间进入四川美院学习 平面设计与油画。毕业后，他在常州工学院担任设计专业讲师，直到 2005 年。
23、波士顿美术馆收藏展一共展出 58 件作品，其中 12 件为抽象或表现主义风格作品，海伦·弗兰 肯萨勒、阿道夫·戈特利布、汉斯·霍夫曼、弗朗茨·克莱因、杰克逊·波洛克的作品均在其列。 展览每天吸引观众 6000 到 8000 人次。参见南希·柏林勒，《不那么抽象:重考 1981 年波士顿美 术馆大师展》，中华全球研究中心，2013 年 3 月 8 日，www.thechinastory.org/contributor/nancy- berliner/(最近登录于 2016 年 6 月 11 日)
24、周啸虎:2016 年 5 月 16 日。周啸虎这一时期的大部分作品都已经散失或被销毁。
25、周啸虎:2016 年 5 月 16 日。装置《湿度容器》(1995)最明确地体现了对哈克早期作品的指涉， 此外，和哈克一样，周啸虎也承认社会、经济和政治问题与艺术之间的紧密联系。关于杜尚对周啸 虎影响的其他侧面，参见注 3 和注 10。周啸虎个人网站上能看到的最早的作品完成于 1995 年，参 见网站:http://xiaohuzhou.tumblr.com。
27、这件作品也在 2015 年柏林的“夏色”展上展出过，参见注 7。
29、凯伦·史密斯在一篇关于周啸虎作品的短文里引用了艺术家的这句话，文章完成于 2006 年，现 存于艺术家文献库。
30、周啸虎在 “一个惊喜的套装!......”中联系马克思和爱森斯坦，从更开放的角度讨论了“空间蒙太 奇”概念。如前文引用，p 8。
31、周啸虎:http://xiaohuzhou.tumblr.com/2011/Intolerance. “集训营”也是艺术家 2007 年完成的一 件沉浸式录像装置的作品题目。
32、Woundplas(t创可贴)这个题目既不是德语，也不是英语，是艺术家自己发明的一个词。某种意义上， 通过把 “伤口”(wound)和“石膏”(plaster)两个词拉到一起，它暗示了 “治愈”。从这方面看，这个 词间接反映了艺术家对德国的感情:与中国一样，这个国家也刚刚有过一段混乱、暴力、自我伤害 的历史。
34、 “八名参与者身穿浅色衣服，衣服上贴有合在一起可以拼出中文书法字的黑色胶带。他们一直 尝试同时起跳，直到高度一致，拼出‘四川好人’这个词。该项目的目标是捕捉到一个完美的‘好人’。” http://momentumworldwide.org/exhibitions/works-on-paper-iii
35、这部分展览旨在致敬作家 / 诗人王国维(1877-1927)提出的概念。王国维是第一位将西方哲学、 美学和文学理论用于分析中国历史、文学和艺术的中国学者。他从自己的研究中慢慢发展出了一套 以“境界说”为核心的文学艺术理论。
37、周啸虎:2016 年 6 月 12 日致笔者的电子邮件。