HU ZHIYING The Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales (1), 2016, Instalation, Mixed Media, New York Museum of Modern Art
HU ZHIYING Century Remorse II, 2003, Instalation, Mixed Media, Guangzhou Silk and Linen Factory
HU ZHIYING Century Remorse IV, 2003, Instalation, Mixed Media, Guangzhou Canning Factory
HU ZHIYING Neo-Kant (04), 2012, Instalation, Mixed Media, Longdong in Guangzhou
HU ZHIYING The Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales (5), 2016, Instalation, Mixed Media, New York Museum of Modern Art
HU ZHIYING The Negative Dialectics, 2013, Instalation, Mixed Media, at Night on the Ship in Guangzhou Pearl River
Interview: Hu Zhiying’s Installation Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales Displayed in MoMA
Venue: Museum of Modern Art
Time: April 18th, 2016
Character: Mr. Hu Zhiying, Marketing Communication of Art
HU ZHIYING The Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales (6), 2016, Instalation, Mixed Media, New York Museum of Modern Art
Marketing Communication of Art (hereinafter referred to as “MCA”): As we can see, Mr. Hu, your installation art exhibition Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales was on a large scale. Could you tell us how you conceived and installed the whole series?
Hu Zhiying (hereinafter referred to as “Hu”): We started to install the work on February 12th, 2016, and displayed it during the period from February 19th to April 18th, 2016. My installation Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales took up the whole main hall on the second floor of Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which was consisted by various kinds of objects and media - different shapes of sofas, piece goods, cranes, hoists, scaffolds, wooden case, cable wires, plastic films, waste tank, etc. Each of them might seem to be isolated, but from a certain perspective, they formed an integral whole. It’s a special form that we could neither say it’s a serious nor a single work since spectators sometimes see the amount of it while sometimes feel it as nothing. Being always in a dynamic and active state was a unique feature of my installation Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales. During the exhibition, I repeatedly withdrew the clothes on the sofa randomly and then optionally replaced it with another piece of cloth. Every time I put different clothes there to replace the former one. Besides, the position of the sofa had been changed over and over again, so did the machine. There would definitely be different feelings towards the same object in different time and different positions. So, in fact, the spotlight was constantly changing its positions to create the different visual effect (you could compare the first part and the fourth part on the spot.)
HU ZHIYING Neo-Kant (09, Supper-Kant), 2012, Instalation, Mixed Media, Longdong in Guangzhou
There’s not any starting points or ending points for the whole work, and it’s not simply repeating. Instead, it’s fluctuating and transforming. Therefore, objects could be moved and their quantity could be changed. We could see different scenes on different days. And that’s why it was presenting spontaneously, totally different from what we expected in the concept of “artwork”. In addition, I did this also to echo my former installation works Century Remorse in Guangzhou Factory of Silk and Linen (outdoor) and Canning Factory (indoor), Neo-Kant in Longdong, Guangzhou (outdoor), Ownerless Hammer in South China Botanical Garden (indoor), and Negative Dialectics in the ship sailing in Pearl River at night (outdoor).
HU ZHIYING View 1 Seen Through the Pseudo-Telescope , 1992, Instalation, stainless steel, length 130 cm, diameter 6.6 cm
MCA: As we know, most of your former installation artworks were displayed in abandoned factories with large-scale machines, debris, clothes and other wastes so as to caution the common people to protect themselves from the sequel caused by industrial civilization. As per the large device in MoMA this time, objects are closely related to materials. Would you please give us an introduction of differences between the two factors both internally and externally?
Hu: In fact, I used the concept of “Natural Aesthetics”, which had always been said to be a consistent tendency of aesthetics since the 1990s, in the installation Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales. And in my word “natural” I didn’t mean only the natural tradition (including modern art), but also my natural instinct and professional art intuition. The crucial part was not the doubts about industrial civilization (although spectator might think so), but the natural existence - a combination of self-statement and paraphrase that had been made natural through artificial evolution, and a mixture of both self-presentation and expression. That is to say, the installation had presented a real “nature” state that I infiltrated in advance. So we can see that not any of the linkage of machines, a lot of sofas or the clothes without any endpoints were traditionally “natural” under the circumstance of industrial civilization. Although we are living in that atmosphere, we are still unable to figure out whether they are articles of a factory, or layouts of a residence, or abandoned materials in the wild, or actually a work of art because they are everywhere. Maybe it’s some illusions that are existed in real life, which was generated between intuitiveness and existence and made the modern civilization a fair tale world by both sharing and isolating.
HU ZHIYING The Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales (4), 2016, Instalation, Mixed Media, New York Museum of Modern Art
MCA: Why did you name this large-scale installation exhibition in MoMA as “Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales”? Did it have something to do with the fairy tales, with children, or with the imagination of children?
Hu: If you think there is not any communication among these objects that seem to be irrelevant, you’re wrong. As a matter of fact, they’re living their own characters and at the same time influencing others. And the offish aura they emit confused us by creating illusions so that we won’t be able to clarify the reality and finally become deliriants, just like the ways living in fairy tales. Stories in Andersen's Fairy Tales are actually good representatives of the fairy tale world, and that was why I named the exhibition like this. But my installation Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales didn’t particularly correspondent to anyone of the fairy tales. Instead, what it did was to present a delirious state of that wonderful world. I used to feel something indifferent when listening to children’s songs, and maybe that was because children are actually like fairy tales - both their imaginations have the ability to separate themselves from the reality. Nevertheless, it’s a natural evolution.
HU ZHIYING The Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales (2), 2016, Instalation, Mixed Media, New York Museum of Modern Art
MCA: As an International city of art, New York always has the force to gather great artists from all over the world, and in fact, it’s also a city of desire for those who want to display talent. So we can say it is rooted in America and affecting the whole world. Since your exhibition was held in MoMA, could you tell us how it worked on the scene?
Hu: It’s meaningful that the apathy of spectators had once again reflected the apathy of the installation. We can see from the photos on the spot that there were very few people watching Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales while it was crowded before other artworks - as you know, it’s usual to see so many people in MoMA. Therefore, the rail in front of the work had also become a part of it, gradually losing its original function. All that was because people were disregarding these artificial things that they thought “shouldn’t be artworks” while in fact, they keen on making them themselves. Do you still remember my former works Pseudo-Telescope, Century Remorse, Neo-Kant and Negative Dialectics? They were forgotten and silently staying in the factory, in the wild, and even in the lake. And Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales was just like them. This time in MoMA, such a solemn place, my installation didn’t distinctly make itself independent from other artworks. Instead, it was naturally spreading the feeling of solitude no matter the spectators cared or not and no matter how many people were there. It was just there, naturally, like people’s routine.
The shape of Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales was not familiar to spectators since it chose to ignore them, which inevitably resulted in the ignorance of the spectators. The work and the people were departing from each other, or we can say, they see each other as a thing that was non-existent. Hence, both of them didn’t care any memories or states of each other. And that’s why it’s hard for people to truly feel and know my work. But I’ve got used to it - being unacknowledged and doing no communication. But I’m free, and I could just go away. I don’t care.
HU ZHIYING in New York Museum of Modern Art in 2016
MCA: Do you think art should be meaningful or meaningless? Or could it be between the former and the latter? And which kind of meaning your work Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales belong to?
Hu: I don’t know whether Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales has surpassed the holy word of art that “Art is a meaningful pattern” or not, and I wouldn’t say its meaning lies on the ambition of art stating. Because I think it is a drop in the ocean that symbolizes the natural evolution. I firmly believe that human has a heaven-born gift that doesn't tell the boundary between truth and hypocrisy, and between art and non-art, even the artists. And I would say it is an iron law in the past, at present, and in the future.
published in Marketing Communication of Art, 2016
published in Gallery, 2017, No. 9