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The Conscientious Dimension and Historical Awareness

点击: 51 次  来源:http://www.sib-law.com 时间:2019-11-22

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In The Use and Abuse of History, Nietzsche writes, The truth is that, in the process by which the human being, in thinking, reflecting, comparing, separating, and combining, first limits that unhistorical elementonly then, through the power of using the past for living and making history again out of what has happened, does a person first become a person.


In the same text, Nietzsche describes animals thusly: It does not know what yesterday or today is. It springs around, eats, rests, digests, jumps up again, and so from morning to night and from day to day, with its likes and dislikes closely tied to the peg of the moment.


It would appear that for Nietzsche, historical awareness is the fundamental difference between man and animal. Nietzsches view of history is based on the prerequisite that living requires the service of history. In terms of our relationships to history, Nietzsche sees three possible approaches, the monumental, the antiquarian and the critical.



《山之情》 178x52x49cm 2009

As a sculptor, and particularly as an elder sculptor with a conscience, Tian Shixin has a powerful awareness of history, an awareness that he needs to externalize and exchange with othersthis is artistic expression. Looking back across Tian Shixins career, we see many artworks with historical themes, such as sculptures of the historic figures Lao Tzu, Qu Yuan, Sima Qian, Yan Zhenqing, Lu Xun, Tan Sitong, Qiu Jin, Qi Baishi and the Han River Goddess. Some of these figures and themes, particularly Lao Tzu, Qu Yuan and Lu Xun, are ones to which he has returned time and again. Anyone familiar with these names will notice that this is a rather selective list, one marked by a particular sense of history. If we approach this list from Nietzsches three types of historical relationships, then these themes clearly belong in the categories of the monumental and the antiquarian. Meanwhile, in the aesthetic and sculptural artistic expressions from the above list, we find affirmation of the ways in which history belongs to the living person: It belongs to him as an active and striving person; it belongs to him as a person who preserves and reveres; it belongs to him as a suffering person in need of emancipation.


Tian Shixins historical sculptures reveal his unique talent for drawing on his unique historical perception (that intuitional grasp which is the exclusive purview of the artist) to express historical subjects and figures, a talent which is quite rare among sculptors of his generation. Though this is a sense or intuitional grasp of history marked by individual traits, todays viewer can find within these works an affinity for a certain aspect of history, as well as faithful images of said history. In these historical images, the artists grasp of history, aesthetic opinions and emotional judgments are fused together quite convincingly, and even though his works clearly bear the traits of our times and individual characteristics, these are expressions of a sense of history rather than a recreation of history, and this is what makes his work stand out above the rest.




The sculpture series The King is Tian Shixins most recent tour-de-force. In terms of subject matter and perspective, this is a rational extension of the sense of history found throughout his oeuvre, but in spirit and form, it marks a great leap, a revolutionary leap even. This leap has placed him firmly in the realm of the contemporary. The King brings together the monumental, antiquarian and critical approaches into a single body of work. Here, Tian Shixin has brought his art into the realm of grand structure and rich subject matter. The theme of this series is derived from Mao Zedongs famous poem Snow. This poem, which enjoyed particularly broad dissemination due to political factors, is said to have been written while Mao Zedong was on a plane to Chongqing to meet with his rival Chiang Kai-shek for peace talks. At the time, Mao was determined to defeat his rival and take control of China. The poem expresses Maos great ambitions through the medium of the great kings and emperors of history. This poem caused quite a stir among Chinese intellectuals when it was leaked during the peace talks. It attracted many admirers, but also fierce critics, who said it was evidence of Maos despotic intentions.


Drawing from Maos poem, Tian Shixin created a series of sculptures depicting the great leaders of Chinese history with contemporary expressive methods, the six kings who had the most profound historical, spiritual and cultural impact on China. These figures are Emperor Qin Shihuang, the founder of the Qin dynasty, Emperor Wudi of the Han dynasty, Emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty, Emperor Taizu of the Song dynasty, and Genghis Khan, all mentioned in Maos poem, as well as Mao Zedong himself.


In this poem, Mao stands from the heights of his own historical period, appearing to smear each of these great drivers of history. This attitude and approach belongs entirely to the writer, and lacks any historical basis. It is a poetic and aesthetic criticism. Of course, such criticism is quite enchanting, but when people approach these criticisms from the perspective of historical materialism and through the dimension of a history written by the victors, they miss the entire point of the poem, overlooking Maos psychological and spiritual motivations. Even today, in an age of abundant and transparent information, some adorable people still attempt to approach Maos poetry with the methods of yesteryearthis poeticism and aesthetic are enchanting indeed.


This brings us to a rethinking of the spiritual history of the twentieth century.


Some thinkers have incisively declared the twentieth century to be an era of extremes. Two world wars, the atomic bomb, radical revolutions, genocide, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, radical change in Eastern Europe, these drastic changes have elicited extreme imaginings and perceptions within mankind. Man is driven to fervor by powerful emotions in pursuit of the sublime, to the point that human sentiments and emotions have been raised to a level of high value and truth through aesthetic form. At this point, philosophical thinking, practical reality, historical truth and logical verification all cease to exist as art has finally transcended its own boundaries, entering into life and coming to shape and guide it.


Chinas decade-long Cultural Revolution is the most absolute embodiment of this situationthe eight model operas, songs written from the Quotations of Chairman Mao, Maos poetry and Lenin in 1918 came to form the aesthetic feast of this tumultuous decade in China.


Tian Shixin perceived and experienced all of this, and welcomed the reform and opening that followed. In this process, his artistic creation entered into a period of great freedom. He also enjoyed the material benefits and creative conditions brought about by this era marked by the reform and opening, national unity and harmony. But as an artist with a human conscience and cultural character, the feelings of indignation towards suffering and unfairness that remained in his spirit continued to leave him unsettled about the state and meaning of contemporary existence. He saw the dangers hidden beneath the surface appearance of harmony and stability, and the moral and historical price that his people were paying for them. The mass of negative information flowing through reality also showed him that from the perspectives of social morality and spiritual cultural revival, from the expansion of humanism and freedom, from human dignity and value, this was not true stability and harmony. Such anxieties came to form the conscientious dimension of his art.


It was against this conceptual and spiritual backdrop that the sculpture series The King began to take form. This is perhaps a response to his own spirit, as well as an act of spiritual transcendence.


Through The King, Tian Shixin examined and reflected on history from the heights of modern politics and culture. The artists spirit and ideas are transcendent, and his language is understated and indirect, and yet, owing to the exhibition form, his intent is still clearly discernible. These artworks are actually an aesthetic rethinking of the deep rooted views on autocracy and legitimacy in Chinese culture. If one is to draw connections to the demons that exist within the Chinese psyche todaythe powerful collective unconscious dispensation towards obedience to autocracy, then the artists attempts to awaken the spirit of individuality and political freedom, the desire to join the global wave of democracy, to cast off the fetters of autocratic thinking so that the people of China can truly become the masters of this nation and its society, can be seen as a form of aesthetic redemption rooted in his artistic conscience.




Tian Shixin is a mature sculptor with a clear style, but he is not a formalist. In his art, formal language is always propped up by the flow of emotions and spirit. In this regard, he has always been lauded by his peers and art critics. This series and its exhibition mark a transition in the artists spiritual approach, a spiritual leap towards contemporary concepts. In terms of schemas and visual language, the artist has adopted the classical line depictions of ancient Chinese art and used lacquerware painting techniques to transform it into a contemporary conceptual language of sculpture. This is a logical development of the artists lifelong pursuit of Eastern artistic traits, but within these works, we can also see new results of linguistic expressionthe translation and recreation of classical schemaswhich is clearly the realm of the postmodern or the contemporary.




















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