黄： 我曾看到一位日本艺术家小泉明郎以盲人表演盲人的录像作品《视觉缺陷》（Defect in Vision），他从哲学和物理上探测"盲"性。场景设置在二战期间，是与历史赎罪相关以及涉及现实的叙事，即在过去的历史上演与现实状况的关系，即将发生的灾难征兆又与福岛核灾难相关。但您的作品似乎摒弃了任何叙事，更显理性，让作品理念回到视觉与非视觉的错位关系中。这是不是您追求的艺术本体的关键？
The Deficiency and Its Meaning: Interview with Fan Bo
Huang Du (Huang in the following parts): Your solo exhibition this time in ARTASTE is completely different from your past ones, since you used to focus more on the expansion of medium featuring collage and mixture in the post-modern context. However, this time is more of a "parallel" structure, and to visualize the non-visualized (the blind's reading material), so as to construct a new art language by the way of "reversing". How did you develop that idea?
Fan Bo (Fan in the following parts): Exploring the possibility of medium is only the first phase of the turn of my artistic creation. And in this phase I primarily explored the relationships between language, meaning, and sphere in the post-modern context and it was done with a strong experimental nature. However, my real focus is the mind and it requires longstanding work, continuous practice and exhibitions of each stage to approach the answer. From the sense of completeness of expression, I could apparently move closer to the intended core exploration zone through the solo exhibition this time.
In the current philosophy sphere, perception is a concept of crucial significance that was rediscovered. According to phenomenology, perception is the base for thinking, and thinking itself. Perception shapes mind. Modern society is a visual society in nature. Everything we are accustomed to, including thinking, concept, action, and result, is based on visual perception. As a visual artist, I intended to propose the following concept in this exhibition: if the socialized visual perception has no more power on individual's mind, what are the other possibilities of a world that human beings' perceive?
I like the idea about "parallel" vs "reversing" you just mentioned. People's mind is trained by visual sense while the blind's mind is trained by other non-visual senses, such as hearing and touching. The training is the price human pay to integrate into the normal social system, however, the two perception systems never cross with each other. So I tried to apply the "reversing" way, as you put it, and bound these two systems, in order to see if there would be any new possibilities.
Huang: You obviously are fond of Merleau-Ponty's idea that the organic life and its environment are constructed simultaneously. Could you explain how this idea blended into and was demonstrated in your work?
Fan: Since Descartes, rationalism has brought human being to a lonely state of mind. "Cogito ergo sum." It seems that the mind is the generator of the world. When this idea is adopted in an artwork, preset concepts tend to manipulate the form of the work. This problem is popular in both paintings and contemporary arts.
I am fond of Merleau-Ponty's exisitentialism because he developed Nietzsche's idea that body is the primary, which is against Descartes's idea, and proposed the hypothesis on "motor intentionality" and "body schema", giving a more grounded explanation for the relationships among mind, body, and world. According to Merleau-Ponty, body and world cannot be separated because the world is my body's projection, and my body is a point of view of the world. The world realizes itself through my body and I am the world's expression myself. There is a primitive collusive relationship between me and the world. This is the meaning of the idea that the organic life and its environment are constructed simultaneously. This perception consolidated my belief in discussing the differences between blind people and normal people's perception world. In this series of works, the key to appreciating is the audience's "body's view", to use visual or haptic sense to perceive the work. I don't give any preset concept, and I don't send my views, either. All I do is to set a place where the two worlds tangle with each other. Maybe this is what you may call the penetration of Merleau-Ponty's idea.
Huang: From my point of view, your work actually goes against itself. Though they are the blind's possessions and resist being read as images, your non-visual approach eventually is demonstrated in a visual form. They only cause trouble and reading barrier to people with normal visual sense because only symbols, which are purely visual structures, are shown. Is this the purity of language that you are looking for and want to achieve?
Fan: I quite agree with you on this point. Although I shield the meaning of the work meant to convey, since that part is for the audience to complete. However, as an artist, I am still responsible for the language and form of my work. I think through the form. Then how can I demonstrate the content of two worlds in the purest and most efficient way? How should I bring them together? It took me a lot of time and efforts to do the clarification.
1 The World?. The materials are ready-made articles. During the tracking investigations on several blind people's households, we found that they recorded their daily life, recipes, lyrics, addresses, phone numbers, religions and poems in Braille on papers which were advertisements, magazines, pictures, political texts, property pamphlets from different times. The prints themselves showing the process of urbanization in the local area, and the Braille on them, however, belong to the other world and has nothing to do with them. But the important thing is that the two worlds meet each other here.
For me, the image beyond the language and the language beyond the image are the stretching part of my creation track, but the creator is delicately invisible. Presenting the print-outs full of Braille on the wall of 6.25 meters in width and 2.85 meters in height, audience with and without visual sense can read two separated worlds of information respectively. And the two worlds are separated again through the interpretation process.
2. Slices. I wrote and painted on 24 pieces of paper with dreams written on in Braille, and produced the scrawled drafts after scribbling repeatedly on it. The disruption of the information on the paper caused difficulties for the audience. And the effects of water, colours, and the force of the strokes would wear the dots of Braille out gradually so that the messages carried by Braille were also incomplete. By making the information incomplete for both the blind and people with normal visual sense, the two groups divided by visual sense are equal to a certain extent.
3 B2. The exhibition hall demonstrated 32 letters of repentance in Braille in the handscroll form. The minimal form allows the work integrate into the space. Normal people cannot understand Braille only by watching. However, neither do the blind because each of the letter is the size of 100cm x 60cm and the Braille were magnified and composed by B2 vitamin tablets. The work created double dilemma of uninterpretable. From the sense of symbol, the content of each letter of repentance is genuine, but the interpreting by hands or body cannot work anymore, and the letters become meaningless.
Huang: In B2, you used 32 letters of repentance and arranged them in the handscroll form. Each letter is the size of 100cmX60cm, and the vitamin B2 tablets represent the magnified raised dots in Braille, however, meaningless. Why did you choose tablets as the medium? What's the point of it?
Fan: Medication is a drug or other substance used to adjust physiology and has its indication, functions and effects and dosage.
I chose tablets as the substitute of magnified raised dots firstly for the reason of the suitable size. The tablets in the work are obscure, secret and shielded. If the meaning has to be explained, I would say that when the tablets are serving as a medium in an artwork, they are also suggesting that art itself is an active material that keeps the society healthy, though taking a small proportion but indispensable.
Huang: The exhibition consisted of only three series of your work, The World?, Slices, and B2, which are all about Braille. What is the structural and logical relationship link them three as a whole?
Fan: I have mentioned that the exhibition was trying to bind the two sense systems and see what are the new possibilities lie in human's inside world. These three series of works gradually present the crossing process of the two systems, from irrelevant, to resisting against each other, and to the final state of new-born harmony. The progressive relationship here is obvious.
The World?. "3" here represents cube, and means that "through symbol, each perception experience of mind can be another expression of a common theme." In other words, when two or multiple worlds cross, countless worlds emerge. In this case, normal people see the colorful printed words while the blind feel the raised dots. The two worlds co-exist, though irrelevant to each other. As the first presented work, it set a steppingstone for the following process of "information transfer-rebuild". Also, it may, hopefully, relate to former works. For example, it suggested the yet-to-be-born Image beyond Language.
In the case of Slices, the participation of the artist's actions (the graffiti drawing) make it impossible to fully interpret the visual target anymore while the haptic target for the blind is incomplete. The visual contents include different human organs (some are even pathological), and correspondingly, the wave lines, figures on inspection sheets, (English) name, molecular structure and chemical equation of the medicine. The English contents are mainly about the functions of the organs and their relations with the blind (hearing, smelling, tasting and touching). The haptic part in the work is Braille describing the blind's dreams I collected beforehand. The crossing and overlapping of the expression symbols from two sense systems suggest multiple characters in humanity, such as thoughts, flavor, voice, poetry, religion, death, living, hope, fear, happiness, sensitivity, temptation, agony, greed, vulnerability, etc. The offset and transfer between these symbols and their meanings make it possible that the two groups divided by vision are equal and open to conversation, at a certain metaphysical level, due to the fact that either seeing or touching alone cannot lead to the complete interpretation of this work.
B2 manifests an even distribution of the haptic and visual worlds after clashing and dispersing. It is a harmony state and possibly, a brand new sense world as well. The title of B2 came from the material, and the point of it is to erase the original identity of the work-the raised dots of Braille, so that other social groups would directly enter the stage of "devisualised observation and interpretation" instead of putting themselves into the blind's shoes because of the title and load the work with too much moral meanings. However, for now, the world remains uninterpretable for both normal people and the blind, and we can only enjoy it from the aesthetic perspective. Maybe only art can present the world proposed by philosophy.
Huang: I understand your intention, which is to let both normal people and the blind's interpretation of the work miss some part, so that the two groups divided by visual sense are equal to some extent. However, is this visual-reproduction too ideal?
Fan: Equality in the sense of social and moral level is not the theme of my work. I said that the focus on mind is the theme of my creation. "You are not the fish, and how do you understand his happiness?" How do human minds perceive an object and what's the difference between different people's perception? I could not answer these questions at one blow so I stepped back and looked for the two groups of people in the society, who have the least in common in the way of perceiving, normal ones and the blind. I compared and presented them, in order to explore the possibilities of discussing the issues of mind. This is the aim of my creation. As for being ideal, I guess I set a crossing point between these two groups and this is the most ideal scenario. As for the question that if these two groups of people are equal in the society, I don't think this is a question that can be solved by art.
Huang: I have seen a Japanese artist Meiro Koizumi's video work Defect in Vision, in which the blind were playing the role of blind people. He tested blindness from the perspective of both philosophy and physics. The scene was set in the WW2, and was about redemption and history-involved narrative. The story was set in the history but about current reality. The omen of forthcoming disaster also related to Fukushima catastrophe. However, your works seem to abandon narration completely and are more rational, bringing back the idea to the mismatched relation between visual and non-visual parts. Is this the key to art itself that you are pursuing for?
Fan: I am completely a visual artist. I can never get tired doing my work, research and creation in my area. I am not a story-teller, which is litterateur's job; and I don't comment on the society since we have intellectuals and social elites to take the responsibilities. And I don't advocate rationality, because for a piece of work, things that cannot be explained by rationality are usually more important.
Huang: The tablets are representing the meaning that cannot be interpreted, it seems to me that the objectiveness is subjectively expressed. In other word, the subjective idea intervenes the objective articles' form so that the connotation and denotation both shift. Is that true?
Fan: Using tablets as the carrier of this work was actually by chance. I chose tablets due to its suitable shape. As for the meaning, especially the meaning of putting "tablets" into a specific context and culture sphere, I would like to leave some poetic space to it and let the audience have their own answers.
Huang: What form or type of art do you think your works belong to?
Fan: I believe that the generation of art has its reasons, results and fate. But I don't believe that art would be willingly disciplined by the current art forms. From paintings in the history to today, there have been collages, video installations and conceptual works. For the appearance part, I probably used some forms that can be recognized or distinguished. However, for the inside part, the exploration of mind, I think the forms are irrelevant. The complexity of mind is far beyond our imagination.
Huang: Could you talk about what idea you will stick to in the future after this series of works?
Fan: This is a both easy and difficult question. My exploration into mind will never change, however, the way the idea is presented or the progress I make will depend on the unknown power.
Translated by: HU Tianxiu