Deconstructing the Deconstructivists

(Southern Metropolis Daily)  By Tao Hongling (陶红灵).  October 12, 2006.

[in translation]

Recently, a Super Girl monument featuring 2005 Super Girl national winner Li Yuchun and runner-up Zhou Bichang was exhibited at the Songzhuang Cultural Festival in Tongzhou, Beijing.  The tourist photographs of the monument were posted on the Internet, and caused a stir.  Many people condemned the Super Girl statue as "unthinkable," "silly" and "vulgar."  They believed that monuments should be dedicated to "true heroes and martyrs" while the "Super Girl" phenomenon should not be eulogized by a monument because of the negative influences on young people.  There are others who speculated that the artists were actually trying to caution people.

So why did the artists create the monument for the Super Girls?  Where will the statue go next?  We interviewed one of the two artists -- Sun Zhenhua, director of the Shenzhen Academy of Sculpture.  He said: the Super Girl Monument is a conceptual work of art not intended to be a real monument.  It was not created to commemorate the Super Girls, but its aim was to motivate people to think about the Super Girl phenomenon.

Q: When did you start paying attention to the Super Girl phenomenon?  When did you think about doing a sculpture of the Super Girls?

A: I am usually very busy with work and I rarely watch television or Super Girl.  It was by accident that I first encountered the Super Girl program.  I was having dinner with a friend who likes the program, so we watched it together.  That was the final show of the 2005 Grand Final and that was how I got to know Li Yuchun, Zhou Bichang, Zhang Liangying and other Super Girls.  After the watching the final, I felt that the Super Girl phenomenon deserves some attention because of its scope and influence.  Hundreds of millions of people were watching this program.  When everybody around you talk about the Super Girl phenomenon, you are behind the times if you don't try to understand it.  This is an unavoidable cultural phenomenon.  We can try to understand it in many ways, of which sculpture is one way.


Q: Many netizens say that Li Yuchun and Zhou Bichang are styled as martyrs in an exaggerated form in your statues.  How did you stylize them?  Why did you only choose these two Super Girls?

A: Actually, I was thinking at first about the top three finishers in the 2005 Super Girl competition.  The winner was Li Yuchun, the runner-up was Zhou Bichang and the second runner-up was Zhang Liangying.  But I thought that it would be messy to arrange three people, and so we ended up with two instead.  The work is inspired by the Soviet Russian sculpture "Workers at the collectivized farm."  There were two people in that memorial, and this is very classical.

Q: In the monument, we see Li Yuchun holding up a corncob and wearing earphones while Zhou Bichang is holding a microphone in her right hand and making a V sign with her left hand.  They each have one foot forward.  What do these actions and poses intend to communicate to the spectators?

A: I want to tell the spectators that the Super Girls represent the millions of grassroots people out there.  On the stage, they represent a force that came from the people.  The Super Girls are ordinary people, but they became stars through their own hard work and the support of the people.

Q: Actually, you do not need to have a monument format to present the Super Girls.  Many people think that this is lacking in seriousness, because monuments are supposed to be used to commemorate deceased heroes and martyrs.

A: What is a hero?  What is lofty heroism?  I feel that as the times change, these matters have to re-considered and re-defined.  The Super Girls can get on the stage and win the attention and adulation of millions when they realized their musical dreams.  That is heroic!  They are the heroes of the people and the heroes in entertainment.  But I thought that using a more entertaining approach creates a fresher and lighter effect with new ideas.

Q: The Super Girl monument has led to vigorous debate on the Internet.  Some people speculate that "the artists aim to satirize the Super Girls and the monument is used as a caution."  Other people say, "Super Girl is a pageant type of program.  The monument has bad social influence, especially for the younger generation."  How do you look at these criticisms?

A: (roaring laughter)  I might agree that there is a bit of satire.  But Super Girl is ultimately an entertainment program that is supposed to delight people.  The melding of this fashionable format with the serious traditional themes leads to a strong contrast that has the effect of satirical art.  As to the impact on the next generation, this kind of thinking is behind the times.  The times are changing non-stop, and society should provide more space for young people to develop.

Q: After seeing your work, some people are not relaxed.  Instead, they are angry because they feel that this is an insult and sacrilege against culture.  They ask, By what right do the Super Girls get a memorial?  What do you think?

A: (Shock)  What?  That is how they react?  I find it incomprehensible.  I feel that everybody has their own interpretation of history.  Take, for example, Lei Feng -- he is a hero, but we also found out that he had romance in his life!  That was a likeable aspect!  We cannot all be removed from the human world.  Some Internet folks must think that I am trying to make a name for myself?  Do I need to?  This work was created by using steel glass.  Excluding labor and transportation, the costs were more than 20,000 RMB of my own money already . My purpose of creating this is to show my opinion of something.  In the end, this is just a conceptual monument, a work of art that reflects my personal thinking and it is not a real memorial monument in the traditional sense.

(Southern Metropolis Daily)  October 18, 2006.

[in translation]

Two artists sculpted a monument of the Super Girls in order to deconstruct and satirize the Super Girl phenomenon.  But after this was reported in the media, many people thought that they were making a tribute or eulogy to the Super Girls.  That caused quite a huge stir as everybody piled on with their own agenda -- some angry young people are incensed, some esteemed elder artists want more tributes to the working class instead and the Super Girls' management company wants to sue the artists for intellectual copyright violation.  Frankly, I think that this was an interesting piece of artwork, but the reaction is even more interesting -- the deconstrutivists got deconstructed and the satirists got satirized.

Meanwhile, poet Zhao Lihua encountered s similar situation.  Her Pear Blossom poetry was originally motivated by deconstructing and imitating the classics, but her work became deconstructed and satirized instead.  This has now even been elevated to an existential question for modern poetry.  On one hand, netizens are spoofing her work and denouncing modern poetry.  On the other hand, another group of poets have appeared to seriously discuss and defeat the soul of their art.  They even organized a poetry-reading session, but the solemn and holy atmosphere was interrupted and deconstructed by a nude poet.

Although I have been talking about deconstruction, I actually don't understand the meaning of deconstruction.  The novel "Cantor's Dilemma" explained that deconstruction means the "revelation of the hidden or suppressed meanings behind the words that a speaker employs."  My understanding is this: a stupid idiot did something nonsensical.  In order to tell him that this is nonsense, you can use his idiotic logic and push it to the extreme; in fact, so extreme that everybody can see that it is stupid.  Then you can demonstrate the nature of the problem from the other direction.

For example, Furong Jiejie (Sister Hibiscus) is very narcissistic, but you cannot try to persuade her not to narcissistic.  So you go to the other extreme and promote her so hard that she can form a Hibiscus cult.  You elevate her to such an absurd position so that even she cannot take it.

This is about game play, and it requires a little wisdom as well as humor.  Yet, the Chinese people are too serious and easily angered.  If this becomes serious at the end, then it is not fun anymore.  When a friend first heard about Furong Jiejie, he thought that this was fun.  So he obtained her QQ number and they chatted.  In the end, my friend said: "My language system broke down, because she took it seriously."

As Chairman Mao said, it is worrisome when things get serious.

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