丹麦籍艺术家傅丹近期于北京的林冠艺术基金会举办了在中国的首次个展“傅丹：我们人 民”。借其北京之行，《艺术界》与艺术家进行了独家专访，就傅丹的工作方法、个人身份与创作之间的关系，以及其作品背后的意识形态主张等议题进行了深入对 话，呈现这位年轻艺术家于媒体热衷话题所制造出的喧嚣之外的细密思考与独立判断。
傅丹 我的大部分展览其实是一种认知过程，而不是观点陈述。我做作品不想：“OK，它对这些人有什么含义。”不是那样。尤其是展出《我们人民》—它是我必须去经 历的一个过程。这也是我感兴趣在这里展出的原因，因为我认为中国不是最极端的个案。对于我这是一次极大的体验，所有这些意义投射的方方面面都呈现了出来： 到最后，它所涉及的不仅仅是我们通过自由这个词能实现什么，还与我们通过艺术能实现什么有关。此外，很多时候，地点也推动着作品—一种反向力。在某个点 上，对你的创作的感性认识会受到局限。观众自己会主观认为：“哦，艺术家干的就是这个事儿。”我的反应就是“OK，那我就玩点不一样的。”某种意义上它是 观念性的，因为我想看看这个项目的走向，它会给我带来什么。这样一个项目只能那样做。
傅 实话说是的。一开始在创作《我们人民》时我对铜并没有任何概念，之前从没接触过铜这种材料。我得去了解铜的意味以及它与青铜的区别。这就是为什么我一直强 调这件作品的概念性：它是追随一个想法。神奇的是，在这些碎片抵达展场之前我只看过其中几块而已。所以当我第一次站在那里看着它们时，感到极度隔膜。但某 种意义上这又意味着幸运：因为通常我觉得有意思的东西很可能最后却发现很差劲。
傅 从稍微偏一点的角度来回答这个问题：艺术家的内心思想是个人的，然而当被视作公共话题时它们的不可见性就减弱了。私密与公共之间的界线划分本来并不模糊。 比方说，作为一个同性恋者，假如我当街亲吻一个男人，大部分人会说我把私人生活带入了公共空间。但假如一个男人与一个女人在大街上接吻，我们甚至都不会注 意这件事。我认为应该去打破这些规定，因为它们不属于我们自身。
傅 身份是你始终无法回避的问题。我甚至可以说我将它带到了另一个层面：如果摆脱它是不可能的，那么我可以滥用它。滥用我的身份就是赋予我的身份以意义，因为 反正它的意义也是面目不清的。对我来说，艺术的美妙在于事物不一定要有意义。艺术的作用方式以及艺术世界的运作机制这些整体情形都让人们将一切捆绑在一起 的企图成为了问题。
傅 要是我能把这个方面从这件作品里去掉，那我随时都会这么做，可这是不可能的。与负责这个项目的瑞士公司合作的是中国人。在欧洲，制作雕塑的相关工艺技术是 十九世纪的—今天的欧洲公司主要做修复。但在中国，你们还做佛像。我总觉得像自由这样的概念已经阐释得足够充分了。在这个项目中，我不需要把我自己的声音 放进去，从来没有那样的打算。这个项目总体上更多的是如何去激发讨论，然而人们还是期待它是我对于自由的观点陈述。这种压力引发一种质疑事物的需要，而不 是作出定论，在我大部分作品中你都能看到这种倾向。自从三年前启动这个项目，我对待它的方式就像对待水一样，因为做如此庞大的事情还得从相反的方向着手。 否则，你就会堕入到做纪念碑的陷阱里去。
Interview with Danh Vo
by He Jing
Published on LEAP 27th Issue: http://leapleapleap.com/2014/07/danh-vo/
Danish artist Danh Vo is currently presenting his first solo exhibition in China, “Danh Vo: We the People,” at Faurschou Foundation in Beijing. On this occasion, LEAP conducted an exclusive interview with the artist that resulted in an in-depth dialogue revolving around Vo’s working methods, the relationship between his personal identity and his practice, the attitudes underlying his work, and other issues. Behind the hype surrounding this young artist, it became apparent, is a scrupulous and independent creative mind.
He Jing We The People contains themes of democracy, freedom, immigration, identity, and so forth—themes that resonate deeply with Western audiences. Yet these issues might have very difficult implications in the Chinese context. Did you consider this when bringing the work to China?
DANH VO Most of the exhibitions I’ve been doing amount to a sort of learning process. It’s not like a statement. It’s not like I make work and think, “OK, this means something for these people.” This is especially true of exhibiting We the People—it’s a process that I have to experience. That’s also why it was interesting for me to exhibit here, because I don’t think China is the most extreme example. For me it has been a tremendous experience, seeing these facets of projections: in the end, it’s not only about what we can achieve with the term “freedom,” but also with art.
Also, in many situations, the places drove the piece as well—a kind of reversal. At a certain point, the perception of what you do is confined. People will make their own projections, saying “Oh, this is what the artist is doing.” My reaction is, “OK, I want to do something that’s at the other end of this game.” It was in a way conceptual, because I wanted to see where the project would lead, what it would bring me. This is the only way to do such a project.
HJ The materials in your work—thin copper sheeting or cardboard, and so on—seem to be not only metaphors of solid conviction and its fragile reality, but also to refer to some kind of melancholic trauma. What is the position of material in your creation? Does it approach an animist perspective?
DV To be honest? Yes. First of , with We the People, I didn’t even know there was copper; I didn’t even know what copper was. When I started, I had to learn what copper means, and how it’s different from bronze. This is why I always refer to the work as conceptual: it’s about an idea that you follow. What is amazing is that I didn’t see many of the pieces until they arrived at the space. When I stood in front of them for the first time, I felt totally estranged. In a way, I was lucky: what was interesting for me could have turned out really badly.
Before, I had never been to the Statue of Liberty at all. When I did go, I discovered it is actually not that big, that the surface was only two millimeters thick. That discovery creates possibilities. Because it’s not what you thought it was. It’s actually something else. As for the technique of making the copper—how they did it was just beautiful. It was like hammering out the image of a deity.
HJ Your personal experiences seem rather legendary. Do you think the connection between individual life and creation may lead your work to depend largely on “chance”?
DV To approach the question from a slightly different perspective: the artist’s inner thoughts are personal, but because we see them as a public issue they become less invisible. There should be a clearer delineation between what is private and what is public. Like as a gay person, if I kiss a guy on the street, most people would say I am bringing the private into the public. But if a man and a woman kiss on the street, we don’t even notice. I don’t think we should follow those rules, because those rules are not ours.
When I started We the People, it wasn’t about making a shift in scale; I was so tired of people referring to my work as personal that it occurred to me to take an icon that everybody has an image and idea of, and twist it a little bit. People will still talk about the inclusion of “blah blah blah,” but I really don’t care. Because it’s out of my control, it’s not my problem.
HJ Contemporary art is a field where people inevitably pay a lot of attention to your identity. As your works often refer to the question of cultural or ideological identity, do you think your identity is a part of your work?
DV Identity is something you always have to accept. I would even say that I take it to another level: if I cannot get rid of it, then I can abuse it. Abusing my identity is to make sense of my identity, because it doesn’t make sense anymore anyway. For me, what is beautiful with art is that things don’t necessarily make sense. But the big picture, of how art works and how the art world functions, problematizes people’s efforts to tie everything together.
HJ Many Western critics have been keen to mention that We The People was produced in Shanghai, a fact which of course adds another layer of interpretation. But you deny the necessity of this particular interpretation.
DV If I could erase that aspect of the work, I would do it anytime. But it’s just not possible. It was a Swiss company that took on the project and collaborated with Chinese. In Europe, the relevant technologies and methods of building sculpture is a thing of the nineteenth century—today, European companies are doing mostly restoration. But in China, you still build Buddhist sculptures.
I always felt that there have been enough interpretations of concepts like freedom. In the case of this project, I didn’t need to put my own voice in there. I never wanted to. Overall, the project was more about how we can activate a discussion. But the expectations are still that I make statements about freedom. This pressure activates a need to question things instead of claiming them, a tendency you see in most of my work. Since I started the project three years ago, I have approached it as if it were water, because if you do something that big, you also have to do it in reverse. Otherwise, you fall into the trap of making monuments.
HJ We often talk about the transformation you have made, that of the Statue of Liberty to “abstract sculpture.” The more fragmented the pieces, the more life they have—perhaps the act of cutting and reshaping them contributes to this. Is there a performative aspect in your sculpture?
DV Absolutely. This is rooted in the idea that there is movement between things; they aren’t just black and white. I think this is probably the biggest achievement of the piece, and also why I talk about conceptual ideas. Let us consider the passport: it’s this one document that prevents so many millions of people from moving about freely. Performance is equal to a passport, and allows for this beautiful idea of reversing things. (Transcribed by Emily Feng)