视频:美术馆音乐2号/时间切片/元音乐2号 / 三个乐章的即兴

details of meta music no.2

Time Sections Q & A (《时间切片》问答,中文版在下面)

Luo Wanxiang (referred to as 1 in following text): You have curated “Musiklos” at Goethe Institute Beijing. Some audience commented that many pieces were not music but performance art. What do you think of this?

Yan Jun (referred to as y in following text): First of all, performance art is used as a negative term by many people to mean, “I don’t know what you are doing but I think you are making fool of yourself this is emperor’s new clothes and don’t give me that!” This is rather embarrassing. But I think performance art is in fact a technical term. It is not simply a Chinese translation of an English term. Rather, it is a China-specific expression, a violent artistic form, and a unique result of the combination of performance art, body art, and action art. It can be seen as the contribution some Chinese artists have made to pre-modern and modern art movement. Finally, the concert series I curated, including my own music performance, are all music. They are neither performance art nor theater. Music is not only about sound. Music is the presence of the performers, the participation of audience, as well as the air, background noise, and smell of the entire environment…

L: so… can music do without sound?
Y: music has been stored in every one’s mind. Before the invention of the audio recorder, music played in one’s mind while one read the notation. Even without any musical education, one can still sing quietly in one’s mind by memory. You can hear music while dreaming or release music from your mind under certain insinuation. They might not be a certain melody or concrete sounds, but a feeling of music.

L: Does John Cage’s 4’33’’ say the same thing?
Y: Definitely not. 4’33’’ is to switch one’s focus of attention. Cage asks people to listen to sounds of the environment, that is, he incorporates environment sound into music. The problem is this so-called silence is a clear object/thing. It is neither nihilism nor nothingness. Instead, it becomes a rather loud significance. From this angle, we can say that John Cage is later digested by the middle class, consumed, exactly because he objectifies silence and treats silence as a known object to be analyzed, purchased and consumed. This of course is the characteristic of the new age era Cage lived in.

L: It is the first time I heard such comments on Cage. So you are not asking us to listen to silence? Your music is often without any sounds?
Y: No sounds is no sound; this is different from silence. Silence is a target; only that it was not singled out before. Once it was identified, it becomes something wonderful and valuable. But if there is no sound there is no sound. It is nothing beautiful or ugly. Just like that. We have to stop imposing values to those without any value. I want to add that, when there is no sound, the performer is still present, so are the audience. They embody time. In time, there is this event, which occurs without any particular event happening.

L: We finally reach the topic of time. In your solo exhibition Time Sections in The Bunker, did you say something like this is not music, but an exhibition inspired by the concept of music? Are you going to invite people playing violin in the exhibition space?
Y: There is no violin. You know, I do not play any musical instrument. My own music also rarely uses instruments. Also, recently I tend to reduce my way of making music into very simply methods. For example, sunflower seeds, breathing, facial expressions, plastic bags… one reason is that electronic music performance requires good sound system and a good acoustic space. But many places do not meet the basic requirement. Also, I hope to be able to communicate with the audience more directly. Plastic bags are more direct than a violin, right?

L: why don’t you just gently gaze into your audience eyes? Isn’t that more direct?
Y: okay, this is not impossible. But I would prefer to gaze into my audience eyes neurotically. You will see a neurotic person from my eyes, not the artistic Yan. After all, I still need a concrete starting point, an anchor, a pivot. It might be the most feeble, simplistic or even cheapest music. It just doesn’t sound right to directly talk about the cosmos at the beginning.

L: Is this pivot to lever the cosmos? Time is such a big topic.
Y: Didn’t we agree that we do not talk about the cosmos… time is a very concrete thing for a musician. For example, you didn’t realize that you have played for one hour and thought you only played for twenty minutes when the organizer cut the electricity. Another example, the structure of set-up, development, confrontation and resolution in music is a time structure. If you don’t have this structure, you probably will confuse your audience. For example, within one hour you do not play anything or you just repeat one monotonous sound within five hours. By doing this, you can keep your audience focused; they will experience a kind of weightlessness, like floating, or a particularly kind of tactile feeling. This is experience, or feeling. Concept is instinct.

L: How does concept become instinct? Isn’t concept a kind of rationality and thinking?
Y: once a concept is expressed, or to put in another way, once a concept is reduced from aesthetic and cultural system, it will be experienced by people through visual, acoustic or linguistic pivots. It is short-circuited with one’s language system. It is the straightest distance.

L: so what is the concept of this exhibition? Is it something that only can be experienced?
Y: this question gives me the kind of dizziness related to classical conceptual art. It felt like going back to New York in the 1960s. I don’t think I am a classicist. Neither am I a disciple of philosophy of language. To put the concept of my work in words or to convert it into another material is not my reality. “Time” is not a word. Isn’t it often said that time is an illusion? We could only experience this concept in illusion; let the body become the maternal body for concept. Body is always the original interface for language. We have to return where language was born. This is reality. The pressure from the society and the confusion caused by sexual desires and my wallet command me to go inside of those spaces and try to stay a bit longer. I have to believe what I want to hear, every sentence, are there, including those I do not want to hear. People should believe in logic and instinct, right? Then doesn’t it make the two things the same thing?

L: This is getting confusing. Are you sure you know what you are talking about?
Y: I am sure at the beginning. But language makes orality free from its speaker. Once it was said, it no longer belongs to me. But I try to be responsible for it. Traveling between the original state and the social state is a rather big thing for a person. You cannot lose your way back. Recently, I become very interested in this independent mode. I am rehearsing for the Labor Sonor music festival in Berlin. It is a music piece with a solo dance, mainly consisting slow motions and shaking. Shaking is the shaking of time without progression. It is language shaking its own legs to the extent of losing control and losing the ability to go anywhere, but it is comfortable in a way.

L: so you seriously want to call these actions dance and then claim that it is actually music? And you move it to art space and say it is not music but an exhibition?
Y: yes. Every time when you move apartments, you re-experience what a home is. If you like, you can change “experience” to “think.”

translated by Adel Wang Jing


罗万象(以下 l ):你刚刚在歌德学院策划了“不是音乐会”,有的观众说,那里面很多作品都不是音乐,而是行为艺术,你怎么看?
颜峻(以下 y ):首先行为艺术这个词被很多人用来骂人,意思是“虽然不知道你想干嘛但是我想你是个傻逼这叫皇帝的新衣你少来这套”,这真的令人尴尬。其次我想行为艺术其实是一个术语,它并不只是某个外语单词的中译,而是一种只存在于中国的,激烈的艺术形式,它是表演艺术、身体艺术和行动艺术的一个独特的分支,是一些中国艺术家为前现代和现代艺术运动做出的贡献。然后,我策划的那个音乐会,还有我自己的一些音乐表演,都是音乐,不是行为艺术也不是戏剧。音乐并不只是声音,它是表演者的在场,是观众的参与,也包括整个环境的空气、杂音、味道……
y:当然不是,这件作品是让人转移焦点,去听环境声音,也就是说,他把环境声音纳入了音乐。问题在于,这种所谓的寂静,是一个明确的客体,它既不是空,也不是无,它变成了一个响亮的意义。从这个角度看,后来凯奇被中产阶级文化吞没、消解,就是因为他把寂静实体化,当做已知的对象,可以分析、获取、消费的对象。当然这也是他所处的 new age 文化的特点。
y:本来是确定的。但语言让话语独立了,一说出口,就不再属于我了。但我尽量对它负责吧。在生成状态和社会状态之间的旅行,是人的一件大事,你不能有去无回。最近,我对这种独立状态特别感兴趣。我正为柏林的 labor sonor 音乐节排一个作品,这是一个以独舞的形式出现的音乐作品,主要由慢动作和抖动构成。这种抖动就是时间的原地抖动,也是语言自己在抖腿,它失控了,哪里都不去了,而且还挺舒服的。