Site 10: Xichang Long March Satelite Station, Sichuan Province

Long March- A Walking Visual Display

Time: Aug. 16 – Aug. 21


Curatorial Plan: The Red Army’s handling of class struggle/ethnic antagonism – The functions of art and technology

Route: Xichang Satellite Launching Station, Sichuan Province

Time: 2002.8.16-8.21

August 19 Xichang Satellite Station

August 20  Xichang Satellite Station/Xichang Museum

Zhan Wang, The New Meteorite Project, sculpture/ performance, 2002

Liu Chengying, Thought Must Be Liberal, performance, 2002

Exhibition and Discussion, Material and Spirit

Curatorial Plan:

Site: Xichang Satellite Station

August 19

Liu Chengying arrived in Xichang just after 05:00 in the morning. Lu Jie and company arrived at 07:00. Zhan Wang and Qiu Zhijie moved toward the hotel. At lunch, they met Yang Jie.

A French girl Wang Qile came from Shanghai especially to check out the Long March. The whole team was separated into two tasks.

Lu Jie and Zhan Wang with camera crew went to the satellite station. Lu Jie persuaded the guards and gained access for himself, Zhan Wang, and Zhan Wang’s assistant Xiao Zou into the station but two cameramen, Li Li and Xiaomin, were not allowed as any filming was not allowed.

They met with the deputy director of the propaganda department for the satellite station and Lu Jie explained that they had come to exchange ideas about the interactive relationship between culture and technology with the artists of the station, to call on their artistic colleagues, to discuss the feasibility and significance of completing works of art. Continuing on, he introduced Zhan Wang’s proposal, entitled New Plan to Fill the Sky.

The assistant department chief called Department Chief Li, head of the propaganda department. Lu Jie, Zhan Wang and Department Chief Li discussed the meaning of Zhan Wang’s work, the peacemaking, constructive, and environmentally friendly aspects of the Chinese aerospace industry, and even the economic benefits the industry brings to the Chinese people. Department Chief Li shared his own understanding of the aerospace industry, giving the visitors a lesson in aerospace history. One round of conversation later, Department Chief Li stated that he supported Zhan Wang’s work mentally and objectively. But at present, such expensive technology as satellite launching must still be used only for economic development. Zhan Wang understood and said he would donate this fake meteorite to the satellite station, letting them wait until conditions were sufficient to launch it into space. The two propaganda department chiefs agreed to look into this.

Qiu Zhijie had met at eight that morning with the director of the on-site museum and vice-chairman of the artists’ association Cao Hui. Together they visited Zhu Diquan, chairman of the artists’ association. Shortly thereafter, Ah Ge arrived, he and Cao Hui both former students of Chairman Zhu. Zhu suggested to hold a Long March exhibition in the museum, moving the cultural artifacts for a moment and emptying out the cases and shelves inside. Ah Ge and Cao Hui at once accompanied Qiu Zhijie to visit the museum building which was in the original gate of Xichang’s former city walls. Qiu arranged with the manager and returned with Yang Jie that afternoon to install the exhibition. After hanging the paintings, they found a piece of red cloth in the conference room and made it into a banner bearing “Mind and Matter: Contemporary Art Exhibition and Conference” which was hung from the battlements of the city gate.

At nightfall, Wang Qile hurried away to catch the night train. Wang said that without coming to the scene, she never would have understood the Long March. This line actually startled Lu Jie, who thought back and realized that the Long March’s triplicate function as “manifesto, seeding-machine, and propaganda team” (as per Mao’s famous quote) was now out of balance.

Zhan Wang, The New Meteorite Project, sculpture/performance

August 20


At 3 p.m., the donation ceremony for New Plan to Fill the Sky began in the upstairs display room among all sizes of models of the Long March rocket launcher. Lu Jie read an explanation of the project, and Zhan Wang himself removed a sheet of dark red cloth from the meteorite. Chairman Zhang of the political department spoke on behalf of the base, expressing support and thanks for the Long March project and the creative work of Zhan Wang. Zhan Wang also presented a limited-edition silkscreen print that showed the meteorite being shot into outer space. Because some of the materials on display on the walls of the exhibition hall were secret, this was the first time it had been opened to contemporary art. Chairman Zhang also presented Zhan Wang with a formal certificate of collection, and affixed the official seal of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Zhang also gave him a set of commemorative coins and CDs. Zhang said the satellite station would include it in a room of the soon-to-open museum entitled “Spaceflight View” (this is a pun, as the Chinese for “view” is the same two characters as the artist’s name), along with a written explanation of his plan.

Later, the Long Marchers group went to the satellite launch station sixty kilometers away to realize Liu Chengying’s kite work before dark.

Liu Chengying, Thought Must Be Liberal, performance

At 18:00 they reached the satellite launch site, where a massive launching pad stood upright on a distant mountain ridge. They tested the wind in several different locations, and then decided to realize the work on a wide riverbank. Liu Chengying had refined his kite plan long before; he would use string, sticks of bamboo, and silk that he had prepared earlier. He worked to assemble these quickly, and in a short while, a kite inscribed ‘Thought Must Be Liberated’ appeared before everyone’s eyes.

Making a kite is easy; flying a kite depends on the sky. The day’s wind was insufficient, and after trying a few times, the kite fell from the sky. Liu Chengying adjusted the kite’s structure and center of gravity, the kite finally wobbled into the sky, and the seven characters for “Thought Must Be Liberated” floated through the interminable vastness of the twilight, the satellite launching pad hovering in the background. Romantic and poetic, it called up many more historical memories.

Exhibition and Discussion, Material and Spirit, at Datong Pavilion, co-organized with Xichang Artists’ Association

August 21

At 9:30, the directors and members of the Xichang Artists’ Association came to participate in the conference Spirit and Material at the Datong Building. Army painter Song Jundou also participated in the conference. This meeting site was also an exhibition hall, and on one wall had been posted ink paintings by Wang Jinsong and others. These used the traditional conventions of literati painting to render worthwhile phenomena from everyday life. On another wall were sketches for Cloning the Long March by Shu Congrong and Ma Limei, a couple of Chinese scientists studying biological engineering in Columbia. This work raised constructive doubts about the line between science and art. In another exhibition hall, two sets of materials were on display: one was reproductions of the different currencies used in the Chinese Soviets of the 20s and 30s; this showed the importance of basic needs, even during the revolution.

The second included images of works by contemporary artists that involve currency, for example Wang Qiang’s World Currency series and Sun Ping’s Stocks series. These works reveal the profound impact of economic life on contemporary visual culture. At the conference, Zhan Wang first showed an animated film about his New Plan to Fill the Sky, and introduced to the artists’ association his previous two days of work. He continued to introduce his own works and those of Song Jundou.

The curators introduced the ideas behind the several works on display at the Datong Building. Lu Jie introduced a large printed image of the Long March Gene by Yu Congrong and Ma Limei, explaining in detail the process and results of their research. This work uses a strict scientific method illustrated by scientific drawings to analyze how the Red Army’s victory over the Nationalist Army might be a result of genetic predisposition. The scientists created this pseudo-scientific work under an alias. Their question was at what level of economic development such lofty and conceptual creation might become a realistic option.

That afternoon, Xichang Satellite Launching Station committee sent Song Jundou to accompany the Marchers, along with a car that would take them and Zhan Wang into the base for a private tour. The group visited the control station, the launching pad, and the Long March Rocket Launcher. Yao Jui-chung continued his work Turning the World Upside Down.

Zhan Wang left for Beijing at 19:00; Liu Chengying had left at midnight the night before.