Interview with Wang Jiangwei: Part 2

(Continued from part 1)

Q: At the Guggenheim, you put on a whole show about the perception of time. (“Time Temple”) How do you perceive time and what does it mean to you? 

In the essay I wrote for the catalogue for Guggenheim, I mentioned six points regarding the idea of time. The first point is the idea of “rehearsal” that I talked about earlier. At the time, when I was writing this essay for Guggenheim, it was April. I knew that the show was opening in the September of the same year. So the "rehearsal" was to recognize the time gap between April and September. 

The second is the idea of the present, as in the time we are passing right now. The idea comes from The Yellow Signal, the exhibition I did a while ago at the Ullens (Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, UCCA).  A lot of people, when they look at that show [filled with installations], thinks its about“space”- but how can you have space without time? 

I’m interested in exploring "potential." When you are describing a person, you would say that this person has “a lot of potential”, but why wouldn’t you say that this person has a lot of “abilities,” as in abilities he has now? I wonder if this goes the same for all things, that whatever object that we see right now- however exists- is only part of something more, and I wonder if there is a potential, or even something beyond its potential. This is what I am interested in. 

Q: What are you inspired by?

Artist don’t have inspirations. My “inspirations” come from my wondering about ways to escape from the world of what we already know and are familiar with. 

Q: Is that similar what you meant when you said in one of your published interviews, that your “biggest enemy is certainty”?

Yes- what I want to see is beyond the realm of what we already know.

Q: How do you create your installation pieces? I am interested in particular the installation of thousand basketballs and basketball hoops displayed in the Yellow Signal show, called “We Know What We Are Doing…”.

Today’s artists’ process differs a lot from those of the past, in that artworks are not completely handmade, but not completely outsourced. Now it’s about the right balance between the two. 

For example, in the past, the main challenges for multimedia or video artists was to figure out what they do not already know in terms of technology and techniques. Their challenges were quite easy to solve. 

To give a more personal example, when I put on a video production in the past, I had a team of 30 to 40 people including actors, actresses, cameraman, make up staff and assistants. The role I played there was the director. But after the whole filming process was done, I did all the editing by myself. From 3 minute to 3 hour long videos, I edited everything on (pointing at the desktop computer on his desk) that computer, including the 8 pieces displayed at the Ullens show. If a video work is not edited by the artist himself, then it is basically a fully commercial film. This is an example that shows the type of relationship I have with my video works, but the process is very similar with my installations and theater pieces. 

I didn’t make the basketballs in “We Know What We Are Doing…”, of course. My job was to decide how many basketballs and basketball hoops to use and how to lay them out. 13 people helped me organize and lay out the basketballs on the floor. Everyday during that exhibition, there was someone from UCCA, from my studio and from the audience who decided what to do with those basketballs. This continued for 21 days, so I called the installation the "21 day theater."

Q: Interesting!

The thing about contemporary art is that the dynamic between the technological aspects of the work and the artist and the studio changes a lot during the process of creation. And I think this is very interesting.  

If you are going to study art history in university, there are three things that you cannot ignore. One is philosophy, one is politics, and the last one- that not many people talk about yet- is the artist’s working process, the sociology of an artist’s studio. I believe that this topic will change a lot of Greenbergian principles.

Q: Thank you so much! 

After interviewing Mr. Wang Jiangwei, I realize that much of the meanings or ideas behind an artwork could remain a mystery in the first sight and can only be uncovered by directly talking to the artist and trying to understand his way of thinking. 

The interview with the artist was truly eyeopening. The funny thing was that I understood his ideas as much as I found them confusing. His ideas were very complex, scientific, philosophical and hard to understand, but at the same time, seeing his works and listening to his answers made very clear the logic behind each of his seemingly complex works. 

After this interview, I am even more excited to pursue Art administration and/or history in college and gain more knowledge about artists and art movements in the past in order to understand artists in the present better. I want to continue learning about art and directly ask artists questions whenever I have the opportunity to and expand my own perspective. 

One thing that stuck with me during the interview was towards the end of the interview, when Mr. Wang stated that when and if I step into the art world in the future, I will become "the guardian of his grave," as an artist. I cannot explain exactly what this means...but weirdly, it feels like I understand. The job as a person working in the art industry in the future will be to preserve the artist's works as well as his ideas and thoughts behind it, and to prolong the beauty of art even after the artist stops creating.