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Artist interview: Li Juchuan

Artist interview: Li Juchuan.
What’s really important in the project is the right to know and speak, the opportunity to get your voice heard. Even on the Internet, discussion of the incident wasn’t allowed. People had opinions but couldn’t find a way to express themselves. Therefore, we tried to provide the opportunities to speak by organizing an art project. Just like I mentioned earlier, we use art to open up a space for discussing public affairs. We also hoped to raise public awareness of a broader range of related issues. To the common people, we can’t describe the problem in an academic language. We can only say that people have the right to access the lake and enjoy it.
“Enjoy” is a word frequently used by the real estate companies. But the common people also have the right to enjoy the lake.
In the project we called ourselves “initiators.” Actually, we are also participants; in other words, we just proposed an idea. “Li Yu and I will create artworks by East Lake. Is there anyone else coming?” It was such a suggestion. We encouraged people to create artworks by the lake during a certain period of time. Then we could display all the works on a website. It was actually organized in such a way. It was different from a project with a central curator. You are right that in this case people were not passive participants. With no doubt, they were independent creators. They needed to make complete decisions, including the site, time, and risk assessment of the activity. In this way we also disclaimed responsibility.
Everyone acted on their own account, at their own risk. Many people, especially those from the art world, thought that Li Yu and I would launch a large-scale event. There would be a lot of participants while they were merely components or materials of the single artwork. Definitely we were not doing that kind of thing. In fact, the participants actively shaped our project as it is today. We had no idea what it would look like at the very beginning.
BMX Lake Jumping by Liu Zhenyu was the most unexpected. It was extremely interesting. As what I mentioned in an interview earlier, it’s just like creating their own space in the city, and redefining the nature of the space. The cyclists were particularly sensitive to the place. They have to pay a lot of attention to the terrain, don’t they? When hanging around in the city, they observe the terrain. They were looking for a place that is suitable for jumping and building a platform. It was the very place they were seeking to build a platform for riding the bike into the lake. They were particularly sensitive and imaginative about space and place.
The urban space we are living in is decided by grand powers such as political and economic powers. Our space is produced by them. The problem for every individual is how to survive in the space; how to live one’s way with a kind of imagination and how to create a space to survive in the grand system. At the same time, to feel cheerful and free in the space, as Liu Zhenyu put it. The practice is meaningful in this sense.
The significance of art to reality is a long-term and gradual influence. For example, the other day, a journal in Wuhan praised our project on Weibo. We didn’t have such a big impact as they said. They also had a misrepresentation of the facts. But they were correct in that the project had an impact on people’s mind. Above all, it had an impact on the participants. At least they will have a new perspective on the incident. They’ll reflect on the process of modernization that we’re undergoing. They’ll have more to think about. It’s the only impact that art can have, I think.

We interviewed Li Juchuan in the summer of 2014 on the shore of East Lake. In this excerpt, we asked him four questions:

  • What’s the primary concern of this project?
  • How does he see different roles: initiators, participants, and audiences?
  • Which artwork impressed him most?
  • How does he think about “effectiveness”?
  • This article is from the free online

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