Site 9: Maotai, Guizhou Province

Long March- A Walking Visual Display

Time: Aug. 13 – Aug. 15, 2002


Curatorial Plan: Mao’s military genius and philosophical ideals – variations in the value placed on the individual and the collective among different cultural systems—Che Guevara/Jackson Pollockv

Route: Maotai, Guizhou Province

Time: 2002.8.13-8.15

August 13: Visiting Maotai

August 14: Jiangbin Restaurant and place where Mao crossed the river in Maotai town

The Survey on the Relationship between One’s Personality and Alcohol Intake

Wang Chuyu, Warmly Celebrate! ,Performance

Collective Creation of Pollock Style Abstract Abstract Paintings, Chairman Mao’s crossing point of Chishui River

Curatorial Plan:

Visiting Maotai

August 13

Lu Jie led the team to travel from Zunyi train station to Maotai. After the curatorial team investigating the site, the Maotai Number 1 Distillery, Lu Jie came up with an idea to modify the original plan of collaborating, exhibiting and interacting with amateur artists in the distillery. He decided upon carrying out a project involving the general public. The idea was to invite people from all walks of life to a lunch and drinking party, showing works by Che Guevara and Jackson Pollock, to examine the public’s understanding of alcohol, art, idealism, individualism and their relationship with collective ideology.

The Maotai stage of the Long March centered on the idea of the individual and its relation to society and a sub-theme was the idea of the “genius,” and its different articulations in communist and capitalist societies. At the sight of an act of military “genius” by Mao, crossing the Chishui river four times to outflank the Nationalist army, the afternoon’s activity would talk about communist genii like Zhou Enlai and also Che Guevara, whose “genius” has been commodified in a manner distinct from but parallel to that of Mao. The capitalist genius of the day was Jackson Pollock, a notorious alcoholic. Renowned for his individuality, the fruits of Pollock’s genius have been quite literally commodified, now selling for tens of millions of dollars. The activity would look at alcohol, a major strand in genius-creation discourse in both Western capitalist and Chinese traditional society.

The Survey on the Relationship between One’s Personality and Alcohol Intake

August 14

The local participants were initially wary of the activity. Lu Jie was the only marcher at the table with them, and he worked hard to explain how they should complete a survey form that had been prepared by the Long March team. The survey asked questions about the participants’ identities: their names, occupations, and ages. It also asked questions about their relationship to alcohol – how often they drink and their general thoughts about alcohol – as the spirits distilled here are at the core of the town’s collective identity. It was discovered that many people at the table rarely drank, and few believed that alcohol could make one a genius. Lu Jie tried hard to keep the conversation alive asking questions such as which famous Chinese leader could drink the most.

Wang Chuyu, Warmly Celebrate!, Performance

Wang Chuyu began his performance. In this work, initially performed in a bar in the Tongxian artists’ colony in eastern Beijing just after the PRC’s fiftieth anniversary celebration in 1999, Wang had tied his neck, hands, and one leg to the walls of a room with red cloth. He proceeded to clap and chant the words “Celebrate, celebrate, warmly celebrate!” Today, before the Long Marchers and a gathered group of fifty common folk, he managed to go for over forty minutes. The piece, which talks poignantly about the social restraints created by the government, stood in sharp contrast to the discussions of individuality and genius taking place by his side. Wang Chuyu’s chanting and clapping eventually faded into the background, as the waitress weaved her way through his red cloth each time she brought a new dish out from the kitchen, and the film crew moved around him to record the work. After a grueling forty minutes of clapping and screaming, Wang Chuyu brought his performance piece to an end.

Now it was time to show the film Pollock. The viewers were able to catch a few key scenes about Pollock’s alcoholism, and most importantly, the scenes that included spliced footage from original films of Pollock in the process of painting. Qiu Zhijie provided narration throughout the screening, giving a concise portrait of the historical Pollock and the place he and his works hold in American society.

Collective Creation of Pollock Style Abstract Abstract Paintings, Chairman Mao’s crossing point of Chishui River

At around 14:00, the group, which had now swollen to some sixty people, made its way to the riverside. The Long Marchers had laid out eleven sheets of paper and readied acrylic paints; originally thinking the participants would each create an individual drip painting. The afternoon’s first artistic surprise came when the participants immediately blurred the boundaries among the eleven “canvases,” engaging from the start in collective creation. Artistic highlights included a man in a sport-coat who seemed to be a natural abstract painter: in two minutes, he had taken a small brush and the pot of green paint, and begun to paint a line across the bottom of all eleven sheets. The edge of the canvas is a theme which many abstract painters after Pollock would spend years exploring. Also interesting was another man who immediately dunked his hands in blue paint and began to put his prints on two of the central canvases. This man at once took to heart the organizers’ direction to “paint in any style you choose,” and also participated in the Long March discourse of leaving traces, as his handprints now graced several of the works. Finally, many of the children participants, who one would think might be among the most original and experimental of all, spent most of their time painting so-called “children’s” images of houses, stick-people, and clouds. Their relentless clinging to these prefabricated, socially constructed images (eerily similar to children’s paintings elsewhere in the world) made an important point about individuality and the way in which a society works to counter it, beginning with its youngest members. After thirty minutes of such painting, the fifty or sixty viewers cleared out of the outdoor corridor, allowing the film crew to shoot the newly created artworks. Long March T-shirts bearing the Xu Bing logo were distributed to the twenty painting participants.

A townsman was hired to watch the paintings as they dried, and the curatorial team returned to the restaurant to do some work.