Site 7: On the Train between Kunming and Zunyi

Long March- A Walking Visual Display

Time: Aug. 6, 2002


Curatorial Plan: The mass line as the guarantor of the Communist Party’s success/The Long March as planting machine, as propaganda brigade – Artist and the public/How to explain Marxism to the people through artworks and space/explaining art to rabbits

Route: On the Train between Kunming and Zunyi

Time: 2002.8.6

Curatorial Plan

As the long marchers advance toward Site 7, the quantity of marchers and luggage has increased. Moving from one site to another has become extremely hectic. The train for Zunyi is scheduled to depart at 12:38. The clock reads 10:30. Within two hours, the curatorial crew and its comrades must somehow manage a stop at the Tatlin Hotel in downtown Kunming for photo shoot on their way to the train station, not an easy task given the heavy traffic of this bustling city. This massive luxury hotel is built in the style of the “Monument to the Third International” designed by architect Vladimir Tatlin in the 1920s.
The curatorial team and comrades storm into five taxis. In a few seconds, the taxi carrying cameraman Shen Xiaomin falls out of sight. Commander-in-chief Lu Jie’s effort to locate him by calling his cell phone proves useless. It is half past 11. As they wait anxiously, his cab appears at last from the corner. They quickly take a group photo on the street leading up to the monument, with each revolutionary pointing up to the monument, expressing firm resolution. The sight of twenty Marchers abruptly pouring into the street, carrying the official red flag of the Long March, has drawn attention from passers-by and puzzled taxi drivers.

The marchers rush to the train station. The theme for this section of the march is “necessity and chance.” During the impending activity, the train passengers will unexpectedly become viewers of art. As the curatorial team has had no previous contact with the train authorities, the very question of whether and what kind of exhibition they can mount is a matter of chance. A spontaneous exhibition of this sort is a forum for asking questions about the role of premeditation in aesthetic experience, about the necessity for fixed exhibition venues and explicit curatorial plans. The team hopes that this chance encounter will prove beneficial for its as yet unknowing viewers.

After half an hour of loading luggage, the marchers have finally boarded the train headed for Zunyi. After two hours of rest, the curatorial team starts preparation for their next operation: converting the train’s dining car into an “Art Car.”

Commander-in-chief Lu Jie investigates the dining car, the planned battle site. The conductor of the dining car refuses Lu Jie’s request to carry out any Long March action. At last Lu Jie’s request to talk with the head conductor is met with success. Lu Jie shows him various media coverage the Long March has received while in Kunming. The head conductor is taken with Lu Jie’s introduction of the Long March project and gives his consent under the condition that they finish installing everything in an hour and that it will be reviewed by him before opening to the public. Thus, the original curatorial plan to show provocative video works by Yang Fudong and Yang Zhenzhong has to be modified.
The curatorial team decides to present images of traditional Chinese landscape paintings portraying various sites on the original Long March, together with still shots of Xu Zhen’s video work “Shout,” Song Dong’s work, and the Long March postcards. Even if the works are different than originally planned, the Long Marchers’ immediate goal of creating a site for an unexpected encounter with art will be realized. On this note, the curatorial team quickly begins to sort out the postcards so that some of the more provocative images will not be displayed. Outside the train window extends a barren mountainous field of red earth with patches of tobacco and corn fields scattered about.

In a team effort by the curatorial team and accompanying Chongqing comrades Li Chuan, Li Yong, and Ren Qian, images of the landscape paintings are taped on the windows of the dining car. The pictures are taped to the window with one side facing out and another facing in, so that they might be viewed by passengers on the train and by those standing outside. The curious passengers and train attendants watch the transformation from the corner. The train makes a first stop. Deputy Commander Qiu Zhijie immediately gets off the train to check the view and take pictures from the platform. At this time, Lu Jie feels that the situation may be safe enough to share all the postcards with the public and orders the comrades to fetch those that have been left behind. The postcards are also taped next to the paintings, and placed on every dining table for people to take freely.

Song Dong’s work has been taped up on the window next to the paintings. Qiu Zhijie writes the text of a message to be broadcast over the car’s sound system. After a while, the announcement is broadcast, and all of the passengers have been informed of the “Art Car” and the Long March. The marchers take a short break for lunch.

Zhao Bandi’s poster of “Panda Series” and a Long March T-shirt are presented to the head conductor in the “Art Car,” who accepts the gifts with great excitement. Meanwhile, back in compartment #16, Ma Han is preparing his book cart to begin his book lending service.

Lu Jie and Qiu Zhijie come back to compartment #16 for a brief rest. When a vendor comes down on the aisle, Qiu Zhijie does not miss the chance to stick a Long March sticker on one of bananas for sale, instantly producing the Long March brand banana.

Ma Han’s mobile book lending service begins. As his cart moves along the aisle, even those passengers resting on their beds rise to check what is going on. The first borrower is a tourist from France, visiting China for the first time. He takes a travelogue by Edgar Snow, experiencing a completely unexpected encounter with a great American witness of the Chinese revolution. The second lender takes a romance novel, “Deep Inside My Heart,” which seems to quickly take her deep into her own heart, as she is absorbed in the book. The book-lending cart moves on to the next compartment, stirring up a clamor everywhere it goes.

Ma Han takes the left over books and starts throwing them out the window into the fields. Some passengers, seeing the need for manpower, approach the artist and start throwing books together. The books fly in the air for a transient moment and soon disappear from our sight, leaving the realm of our control completely. It is a stirring commentary on knowledge, endeavor, and the limits of human power.

Wang Chuyu begins his first performance work on the Long March, going around the compartment, asking each passenger to read a favorite section from the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. The reading is an interesting reflection on identity and on the relationship between individual and society, as people of different, age, gender, and social position randomly pick different lines from the constitution to read aloud.

The curatorial team and fellow comrades congregate in the “Art Car” for a meal. More and more passengers have shown up, hearing news passed by word of mouth and various propaganda channels. During the activity, Wang Jinsong’s sound work “Dialect Broadcast” is aired in the car. Zhu Fadong’s “Urgent Notice” handbills are pasted inside and outside the train car.

The lights are turned off in the sleeping compartments, and most of the passengers/audience go to sleep. Still absorbed in the excitement of the day, the comrades stick around in the dining car for discussion.

The train reaches Guiyang.

The train rolls up to the platform in Zunyi. The hectic task of unloading the luggage follows. The marchers get the sense that they have reached a sacred revolutionary site when they find the local cigarette brand is called “Long March,” the logo written in the calligraphy of Mao Zedong.