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A Conversation about the Creation of the “Third Front” -between Mr. Chen jiagang and Yang Zilang

Yang Zilang: as a historic event in China independent industrial revolution, the “Third- Front” is on its own the most complete and representative historical vision. In what political background and social situation was our industrial revolution achieved and accomplished? This stage bears significant meaning for the development in China, which is our topic. Then, the development in China is viewed from a historical perspective. Our focus is placed on the current status and the future development track.  It is precisely the process of the “Third Front” construction with a nature of industrial revolution that triggers the change of environment, the change of social structure as well as the change of the human nature brought about by the move of the industrial layout. This is the initial language and standpoint, and this standpoint is stretched and unfolded by means of a historical perspective of Chen Jiagang. We need to articulate our situation or speculation. We create our own historical new visual vocabulary through this kind of visual language. In it are our profound speculation as well as the self reflection and consciousness of humanity and the tolerance of modern intellectuals or artists. Tolerance doesn’t mean forgetting our growth; instead, it is necessary for the growth of the social operation. Through the four-year efforts, we have set up the logic of pictures, of vision as well as the entire ideology and formed a visual historical vocabulary. Compare the current situation with the whole situation of China’s industry, and this is history. Our previous political wisdom and limitations, social structure bearing capacity and the change of our humanity in that political space and the track of social ethics, complex, deep, sad, tolerant, shy, terrible, as well as the change of humanity can find corresponding state and description in our visions. Then we must ponder: what will become of us in the future? For example, of the several important symbolic pictures of yours, which of the “historical smoke” symbolic pictures and that “netsuke of wisdom”, like an alarm bell, seem to toll. And that strength is walking toward us. How will we understand it? It is not just the “Third Front”; it is the most important event for the country operation in the course of the 59-year development. Prior to the reform and opening up, we had once a major migration of industry, society, and family. We now still face a series of migrations of city, population, family and education, etc, even involving an interaction of migration. This is the symbol of the development level of that society.

Will that history reoccur to us now? This is the question raised in the “Third Front”. “Third Front” doesn’t intend to solve a problem, nor does it intend to criticize the historical responsibilities in this course, for history evolves this way. Each region, the system of each country, each culture and even a civilization doesn’t adhere to a balanced line. We should be tolerant, for history is thus. This is the visual cognition brought by the “Third Front”. Moreover, it is not like other documentaries that express and record history. He has no way to repair it. We should summarize and extract the presentable sentiments and contemplation---this is the historical and industrial narrative theme of the “Large Third Front”. It is not merely the development of an enterprise, but rather the running of a society and of a social structure. From enterprise to society to humanity, and to our concrete living environment, dormitory, ruins, rubbish, the wasted mine or the traumatic nature and even our smoke. The environment we human beings rely on has also posed a new subject to us, although we have a lot of improvements, you have to acknowledge that these environments still exist. This is where the problem lies in. Can this be solved? Can it be owed to the politics then? We cannot solve it or criticize it this way. This is the historical tolerance degree of the “Third Front” as I believe. Some brand-new vocabularies toward the understanding of history that can be realized through art are displayed through his visions. “Third Front” exhibits some subjective things with color and visual language.

Chen Jiagang: I remember that before the spring festival you suggested to me that “you should shoot ‘Third Front’.” Later, I discussed this matter with Ye Yongqing, who gave me a metaphor, through which he talked about what was the contemporary art. Contemporary art is like first placing properly the arrow then drawing the target centre; traditional art is to shoot the arrow directly. As a matter of fact, the act of our re-shooting the “Third Front” proper is a very contemporary thing. Ye Yongqing had also mentioned this matter from the perspective of language upgrading. To be sure, he joked: aesthetic fatigue. That we shoot the “Third Front”, be it in terms of technical means, or frame and ideas, has proven this point: our artistic methods are even more contemporary. We lock a thing before constantly digging the inner meaning of it.

Yang Zilang: I believe that those which have been primarily evaluated by art and thought highly of by the market can never be too perfect. There is no limit to art. Yet I can safely claim that “Large Third Front” reflects more speculations in terms of the overall artistic language and meanwhile, these visions are embodied more successfully. This is the essence of art---to talk about the historical problems reversely. You cannot have a very clear mathematical answer, for it is no simple question. This happens to imply the original purpose and speculation of our shooting the “Third Front”. We don't so much intend to solve a certain problem as pose the future problems through a historical reflection. We can dissect this problem for analysis.

Chen Jiagang: average people concern themselves with the present. A great many artists focus on the impact of the western commodities on us, as well as on urbanization. I feel that he only cares about the present feelings. Actually, art is not alone; the same is true of politics and economics. We don't talk about our modern history; by contrast, we talk about Qing Dynasty, Ming Dynasty and Tang Dynasty. They deliberately cut off those things which defy summary.

Yang Zilang: some people often complain to me: “what do you mean by putting so many females into it?” Females and males aren’t its vocabulary. As far as industry is concerned, she is the mainstream and foundation of the society. Female is more or less a symbol of humanity from the standpoint of literature and vision. It has no other indications. I believe when the characters enter into the visual language, we are inevitably misled by the old concepts in interpreting them, which is the understanding of doctrines, namely, to take body, humanity and sex as some skin-deep artistic notions. When it comes to visual language, wherever the vision reaches is internalized.  All these forms and materials of architecture are the subsidence of time and system. The change of environment and the track of that history are a symbol of political system and social civilization. One able to approach problems from the historical perspective is bound to elicit their deep speculations; while what humans display in different environments is the strength of humanity: grief, strangeness and hope. To bring into full play the tolerant spirit of humanity is what China has undergone throughout the history. That kind of logic of thinking is precisely what we Orientals have, for only China possesses this strength of humanity. 

Chen Jiagang: if we change this topic a little, for I just heard you mention a good phrase “unfamiliar smoke”. You can imagine, people from Hong Kong--a bustling city, come to Beijing and Shanghai. They believe it is China; in fact, this smoke is by itself history. Apart from history, there are also the problems of geography. They barely see things like this; in addition, they ignore and abandon their own history.

Yang Zilang: from the languages our characters speak, we are sure and have carefully meditated that characters, in this context, are capable of stimulating the reflection on humanity and life. This is the style of the “Large Third Front”: we are to reflect the historical side of humanity. This visual power and power of conceptual language constitute this visual style, which has created a new vocabulary of visual history. That I feel is the meaning of the “Large Third Front”. The artists suffering from pains and hardships during the shooting process are rewarded by history, as they had the opportunity to encounter history, to temper their mind and practice their body. We have run into history, meteorology as well as a range of complex regulations and systems of the society; meanwhile, we have experienced the warmth and care of the society and man. It is just because there are so many Chinese who expect something from history and understand each other via act rather than language that the final completion of “Large Third Front” is possible. Having walked across the snow, the mud and through the mist, what can we see? This is the future worth thinking about, and this future is that we can see nicer humanity and finer social operation, so that society can be more harmonious and humanity will be more extensively upheld. Humanity is beautiful. History is well worth reflecting on, for a nation, a society or an industry without history is lamentable. And it is even more lamentable without an understanding of history.

中文 / English