视网膜的自由与虚无

作品不屈就于实物,它试图表现某种不可表现的东西;它不摹仿自然,它是一个赝像,一个幻影。
利奥塔


对于李姝睿的作品的潜在误解有两种,一是以为她的绘画只不过是光效应艺术(optical art)在中国的翻版,二是认为她的工作属于抽象艺术的一种。这两种误解彼此相关。对于第一种误解的回应并不难,事实上,李姝睿在开始这一系列工作的时候,并不知道光效应艺术的存在——实际上,整个中国当代艺术界对光效应艺术都不了解,因为在人们所习惯的社会学叙事中,像光效应艺术这种毫无社会性内容的东西,是几乎不会获得关注的。

整体而言,中国当代艺术界对西方当代艺术的接受是充满偏见的,只关心其社会题材、内容及背后社会思潮的转变,而有意无意地忽视了形式——更确切地说是感觉与思维的方式——这条线索。这无疑是片面的,当然,我的意思并不是非得对所谓的西方有着所谓“全面”地了解之后才能够进行艺术实践,而是在强调,人们对于西方当代艺术的片面接受实际上是在不断固化着已有的社会学叙事。对于波普艺术就是这样,中国当代艺术界对波普艺术的理解大多是基于其对流行符号的使用,以及其背后的社会文化思潮,如大众文化的兴起。在这种话语处理下,中国本土的“波普艳俗”与“卡通动漫”似乎就拥有了合法性,仿佛它们真的可以构成某种社会效果。但这样理解波普艺术是残缺的,因为在感觉与思维方式的层面上来看,波普艺术中的流行图像不是主题(theme)而是题材(subject),甚至不是题材而是媒材(medium),换句话说,安迪·沃霍所不断重复、复制的可乐瓶图像,与毕加索立体主义绘画中满幅蔓延的块面是一样的,因为它们都已不再是对现实的指涉。

西方艺术史中的光效应艺术即是对这种无指涉性的进一步推进,在这个意义上,光效应与极少主义的追求是一致的,后者把艺术的物性(thing-hood)推向顶端,而前者则是把视觉性推到了极致。optical即是指“光学的”也是指“视觉的”,实际上,光效应艺术也的确包含着这两个方面,光学与视觉心理学成为了艺术家们的动力,他们研究残像效应、似动现象以及色彩、色调与视觉认知之间的关系,他们的作品因而总是有着一种视觉技术实验的品性。

在这里,李姝睿与光效应艺术之间的真正差异就呈现出来了,她凭借的不是技术与知识,而是经验与直觉,她的作品所试图唤起的,也不只是一种纯粹的视神经反应,更包括观众对某种经验状态的领会,在这个意义上,可以把她的作品叫做“抒情的光效应艺术”。“抒情”不是指她在抒发某种主观的情感,而是说,她那些看似光效应绘画的作品,实际上来自对生活领域中的客体经验的呈现,而不是纯粹的图形与色彩设计。

正因为此,我们可以说她的工作与抽象画家们所做的事情是根本不同的。本文的篇幅不足以讨论抽象艺术的历史,但是如果我们可以把抽象艺术的追求归纳为试图找到一种精神的或媒介的纯粹性的话,那么李姝睿所试图达到则显然不是如此,相反,她搁置,甚至抵制着精神与媒介的在场,她不需要那种形而上性质的观念,也不需要任何一种绘画性,实际上,她并不希望观众的感觉是在看一张画,它们只是一些可视之物,这就够了。

她所处理的客体经验本身即是来自视觉之物,视觉之物指的是那些仅仅为了视觉而存在的东西,比如镜子、屏幕、灯(就这个时代而言还有什么东西不是视觉之物呢?),当然重点不在于物,而在于视觉本身,于是光被从这些事物上抽离了出来:破碎镜子上的反光、缝隙里衍射出来的光线、爆炸中的光斑,这些形成了她明确的光主题。

实际上,她几乎所有的作品都属于一个漫长的“光”系列,其中很大一部分是与LED显示屏有关的作品。她先拍摄下LED屏幕上炫目的光色斑点,再用喷枪与颜料把那种特有的色彩空间效果在画布上制作出来。在这个过程中,观看与空间的关系被反复强调,色点之间通过色彩的明度、纯度,以及边缘线的清楚与模糊等等处理获得了一种视错觉上的空间感,但这种空间感并不是那种——像塞尚的绘画那样的——具体的、序列的、可容纳物体的空间感,而是一片漂浮的虚无之物。这种空间让观众无从把握,使你在直观上感觉到空间感,但这种空间感却不依附于任何表象形式(空间在浮动),换句话说,这种毫无经验内容的空间几乎就是康德所说的空间的先验结构。而为了获得这种绝对性,意指必须被小心地控制,不能让它们露出而使得视觉成为他物的奴仆,于是形象(它们总是指向某物)、笔触(它们总是指向某人)乃至标题(它们总是指向某个含义)都得被尽可能地控制在最低限度上。但正在是在这种控制之下,主体的维度也被无限地压缩了,从身体到大脑,从本能到意志,所有这些主体性因素都被剔除,为了绝对的视觉性,她只保留了视网膜与视神经。

这是对视觉的解放还是对视觉的放纵?或者说,这是一种自由还是一种虚无?某种意义上,她所触及到的正是这个视觉时代的本质,她使我们不得不去面对的那种绝对的视觉性正是来自其生活领域,某种东西——像柏拉图所说的灵感一样——经过了她,使我们得以去观看。而她并没有去“创作”某物,或者说,“创作”这个太人性的词汇并不太适用于去描述她与作品之间的关系。实际上,绝对性无法被生产,而只能被遭遇,在利奥塔看来,绝对性即意味着对不可表征之物的表征,或者说,是表征失效之后的一种状况。这不是说李姝睿的工作是无效的,而是指对于这个视觉时代而言,沉浸其中与抽身离开其实是同一回事。

鲍栋
2010-3-30

Freedom and Nothingness: the Art of Li Shurui
Optical Lyricism: the Art of Li Shurui

The art-object no longer bends itself to models, but tries to present the fact that there is an unpresentable; it no longer imitates nature . . . . it is a false image, a phantom image.

Jean-François Lyotard

There are two potential, and related, misreadings of Li Shurui’s work: one that her paintings merely represent a Chinese reproduction of “Optical Art,” the other that they are a form of abstract art. Responding to the first misreading is not hard at all—the fact is that at the time Li was beginning this series of work she did not know that such a thing as Op Art even existed, and the same goes really for the Chinese contemporary art scene as a whole. Something so devoid of social import as Op Art would never attract much attention in the sociological narratives to which Chinese artists subscribe.

On the whole, the Chinese contemporary art world is extremely biased in its borrowings from Western art, caring only for social themes and content and underlying social trends while, consciously or not, overlooking issues of form—or more precisely ways of feeling and thinking. Such an approach is clearly one-sided, though of course I do not mean to say that one must first have some sort of “complete” understanding of a monolithic West in order to make art. Rather, I wish to emphasize that one-sided adoption of Western contemporary art does in fact continuously reinforce existing sociological narratives. Pop art is a case in point; the Chinese contemporary art world’s understanding of Pop Art is largely based on the genre’s use of popular symbols and the cultural trends behind them, such as the rise of pop culture. In this discourse, China’s native “Gaudy Art” and “Political Pop,” along with its “Cartoon and Anime generations,” seemingly gain legitimacy, as if they could really produce some kind of effect on society. But such an understanding of Pop Art is incomplete; in terms of ways of feeling and thinking, the images in Pop Art are the subject rather than the theme, or even the medium rather than the subject. In other words, Andy Warhol’s endlessly duplicated Coke bottles are the same as the angled planes extending across the frames of Picasso’s Cubist paintings: neither refer to reality.

In Western art history, Op Art is a further step down this non-referential path. We can understand Op Art as pursuing the same goals as Minimalism—the latter pushes art’s “thing-hood” to its extreme, while the former places “visual-ness” foremost. “Optical” as a modifier means both “related to optics” and “visual,” and Op Art does indeed encompass both of these. Op artists are motivated by optics and visual psychology; they study the residual image and seen motion effects and the relationship between color, tone and visual cognition, and their artwork consequently takes on a technical character of visual experimentation.

This is where the real divergence between Li Shurui’s work and Op Art comes out; Li relies not on technique and knowledge but experience and intuition, and her work seeks to arouse not a pure reaction in the optic nerve but more the viewer’s grasp of a kind of experiential state. In this sense, we might call her work “Lyrical Op Art.” “Lyrical” does not refer to her expressing some kind of subjective emotion; instead, these pieces of hers, while they resemble Op Art, are in fact representations of objective experiences from life and not simply figures and color schemes.

For this reason, we can say that Li’s work is fundamentally different from that of abstract painters. While this article’s length does not permit discussion of the history of abstract art, if we sum up its goals as attempting to find a purity of spirit or medium, what Li seeks clearly falls outside this—quite the opposite, as she lays aside and even resists any presence of spirit or medium in her work. She has no use for metaphysical concepts or even “painterliness,” and in fact she does not want viewers to feel they are looking at a painting; her pieces are simply things to see, and that is enough.

The objective experience Li deals in arises from visual things, meaning things that exist in order to be viewed, such as mirrors, screens, and lights (what isn’t visual in our age?). The emphasis here of course is not on things but on vision itself, and so light has been abstracted away from these objects: light reflected in a broken mirror, light rays seeping out through a chink, solar flares, forming Li’s light motif.

Almost all of Li’s artworks comprise a long Light series, a large part of which involves LED displays. She first photographs the dazzling dots of light on LED screens and then recreates those color and spatial effects with an airbrush on canvas. In this process, the relationship between space and viewing is repeatedly emphasized. The brightness and purity of hue, as well as the relative clarity or blurriness of the marginal lines, achieve an illusory sense of space between the points of color. This sense of space is not that of Cézanne’s paintings—specific, ordered, space that holds substance—but rather an ethereal floating nothingness. This kind of space is difficult for viewers to grasp—while it is not attached to any representational form (the space is floating) one directly perceives it. In other words, this space, devoid of experiential content, is what Kant meant by an priori spatial structure. In order to achieve this absoluteness, the signifiers must be carefully controlled lest they reveal themselves and turn vision into a servant of other things. Thus images (always indicating something), brushstrokes (always indicating some person) and even titles (always indicating some meaning) are all controlled at their lowest possible limits. But with precisely such controls, the subjective is infinitely reduced—from body to mind, from instinct to will, all of these subjective factors are rejected. To achieve an absolute visual-ness, Li has left us with only the retina and the optic nerve.

Is this a liberation of vision or an indulgence of it? Is this freedom or nihilism? In some sense, Li touches on the essence of this visual age by making us face an absolute visual-ness born of it. Something—much like the inspiration of which Plato spoke—has passed through her so that we may then view it. Li has not created anything—“creation,” an overly humanized word, is not suitable for describing the relationship between the artist and her work. The absolute cannot in fact be created, it can only be experienced; as Lyotard saw it, the absolute itself implies the representation of the unrepresentable, a state that occurs when representation is no longer effective. This is not to say that Li’s work is useless but rather that immersing oneself in this visual age is quite the same thing as withdrawing from it.

Bao Dong
2010-3-30