Liu Xinyi: Art Shard Questionnaire
February 6, 2020
The outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic has brought with it numerous questions and concerns for people to think and talk about. As an artist, such a major event may impact and influence your practices and value systems. For instance, the AIDS epidemic began to spread in 1981 in the United States, many artists' creations and discussions were involved around such issues. In light of the current Covid-19 epidemic, and from the perspective of an artist, what are some of the aspects of the current Covid-19 has made you reflect on? Is there any work that resonant with you?
Based on my memory, there is nothing in sight that can compete with the Spring Festival in the first month of the lunar year. However, the outbreak of the epidemic coincided with the entire New Year holiday this year, its rapid development shocked everyone in society. The National Epidemic Prevention propaganda has repeatedly informed people that their celebration traditions are risk factors that will threaten their health. This increasingly serious atmosphere of the epidemic alters our perception of time during the holiday period, which was only existed outside of modernity and neglected in modern society.
Our two sets of calendars may seem overlapping with the two psychological times, in which all the Chinese have learned to convert and debug very early on so that there is no difference in switching between the two. Although the statutory Spring Festival holiday is seven public holidays, it is not difficult to notice that every year the whole society begins to enter a transitional period from two or three weeks in advance, and the process will be reversed after the holidays. These two processes of time are very similar to the fade-in and fade-out techniques that are commonly used in video editing, the thousands of lights represents a longing for family and staying at homes are embedded in the festival image, which is enough to reset our bodies and minds that were lost in the modernization. If one looks at the economic statistics, one can find an obvious cycle: China’s GDP in the past years has reached its peak at the fourth quarter in a year, and it has contracted to one-quarter of the previous quarter, and then gradually increases. Researches from the sociological perspectives have constantly reminded people that to maintain this cycle is already overworked, and the society needs to improve its psychological supports to maintain social security. In reality, what may help is to separate the physical body and the mental state for more than a month. So that preparing for the transitional break towards the end of the year becomes a consensus choice among people.
As an organization with large workforces and a centralized system, the civic government is difficult to stay out of this rhythm. It is not so hard to imagine a systemic burnout and slackness during this transitional stage between the two psychological times. However, at this time, they need to react and respond to a threat with limited understanding of the virus, the organization is either quite determined or quite confused, it is more likely to have both mental states clashed. Taking into account on maintain a political self-confidence, early decision-making is always to establish a fighting spirit, and then naturally self-doubt appeared. If such delay continuously occurs on a large scale, it may cause a vacuum period from the command level.
Ever since late January, the bad news has spread. When I think about the spread of the virus is relatively random, I started to worry about the gathering plan with my family during the holiday. Different from the previous years, I began to repost the information on the virus and its related social problems on social media to my elderly family members. I suppose when facing problems, whether or not the knowledge or the experience is more valued can be seen as a cultural issue. Because when I tried to use an intellectual and informative language to communicate with my parents' experiences system, I found out that when there is a force there is a reaction. From their perspectives, it is more important to consider the roles of the family during the Spring Festival, regardless of the situation, and whether it is urgent or not. It wasn’t until New Year’s Eve that their peers called and alerted them with their communicated languages that are based on experiences and emotions, then the atmosphere began to change: the elders lamented the tastelessness of the year, and the juniors also evacuated hastily with a silent New Year's Eve dinner.
The frustration of the generational gap reminds me of the growing order within each family, it may also be in parallel to the difficulties of social and cultural reformation. In our cultural consensus, there are only the differences between seniority and geographical origins to group people, it only encourages people to distinct each other and/or create the hierarchical rankings. The pursuit of equality and human rights only become the common value of the unique emergence of the online community. The “Moment” on WeChat, where friends share their posts are probably selected, and from highly educated backgrounds, they have aesthetically standards and are most likely to embrace an open contemporary society. Naturally, these friends will not agree with the logic and coercion of censorship, nor impost the strict measurements during the Lockdown. However, due to kinship, the elders within a family who are also members of the society do not perceive risks in this way. Because their traditions and experiences will drive them to act from another set of values and ideologies, for example, to consider that the easiest (and lowest cost) management method is the best.
When the elders gradually realized the seriousness of the situation, the psychological time whispered to me that it is time to return to the city. As soon as I raised this, a familiar voice triggered: "You cannot go out, we are responsible for your safety." No matter how quickly I evaluate the various consequences of the two options - moving vs. not moving - in my head, my impulse of reasoning stopped when encountering with the elders. In the face of the strengthened subject of responsibility in family relations, the corresponding role is to protect the child. This kind of decision must proceed with stability, and it is assumed that children recognize the many guarantees under this structure. If the management structure is universal, grounding may be a more socially conscious decision. Fortunately, at that time, the stock of new year's goods was relatively sufficient, and family members also needed to accompany each other during the extraordinary period. It seemed that they had to continue their New Year's life.
As for the world that makes me both aspire and nervous, the plague may be an ecological time. When millions of people, even hundreds of millions of people stay at home for weeks, our cities that hold their breath will show a long-lost appearance: the streets are quiet and the vehicles are scarce. The occasional pedestrian shuttle is also reserved. Some wild animals may get new spaces for activities... I recalled the night outside the Fifth Ring Road and roaming in Kangbashi. Perhaps those lifeless scenes allow me to imagine what an ideal society is.
Last night, the family received a notice from the community: From this morning, home isolation is a mandatory requirement, and each household can only send one person to purchase goods twice a week. However, I am still thinking about Ali's "urban brain" in various places. They must still be running, as usual, analyzing various monitoring data day and night, and the massive images taken by the camera. The epidemic that will not end soon makes this municipal governance closer and closer to art: because as long as the alarm is not lifted, those governance systems throughout the public space will lose their objects, their uses, and their meanings. And creates a sense of existentialist aesthetics, in which it is the disengagement brought by the groundedness that in parallel to modernity. No wonder my parents have repeatedly told me these days that they must learn the skills of not speaking, not thinking, not differentiating, not persisting. Under this unusual physical reality, they are supposed to resolve many of my problems.