• Fallen

    Date posted: October 17, 2008 Author: jolanta
    Xie Su-Zhen: As an architect, why are you spending so much time and energy making art?
    Cheng Da-Peng: For fun! I have to do it!
    Xie: Can you talk about why you engage in “sculptural projects?” Is this an act of criticism on reality or an act of reflection?
    Cheng: A sculptural project reminds me of a kind of superficial prosperity that belongs to city establishment. Living in a city, seeing this prosperity, I feel busy or I feel the illusion of an ideal life.
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    Cheng Da-Peng, interviewed by Xie Su-Zhen, executive director of Museum of CAFA

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    Cheng Da-Peng, Falling, April 2008. Polyurethane and hydrogen, length: 90 meters. Flying height: 30-100 meters. Location: Beijing. Courtesy of the artist.


    Xie Su-Zhen: As an architect, why are you spending so much time and energy making art?

    Cheng Da-Peng: For fun! I have to do it!

    Xie: Can you talk about why you engage in “sculptural projects?” Is this an act of criticism on reality or an act of reflection?

    Cheng: A sculptural project reminds me of a kind of superficial prosperity that belongs to city establishment. Living in a city, seeing this prosperity, I feel busy or I feel the illusion of an ideal life. This feather and glorified ideals, however, represent the city of Beijing, which is undergoing some serious negative reconstruction, like a wounded beast.

    Xie: You said that you think it’s a beast, a wounded one.

    Cheng: The feather stands for ideals, something beautiful. It’s why birds can fly. But this bird is hurt.

    Xie: Is this criticism on Beijing?

    Cheng: Yes.

    Xie: As an architect, you are actually participating in this destruction of the city.

    Cheng: Yes, of course.

    Xie: So, you are criticizing your own work?

    Cheng: Yes.

    Xie: Do you think this is a conscientious reflection of an intellectual?

    Cheng: This is one’s life. Everyone lives in this age, where there is a lot of contradiction.

    Xie: You once said that this phase is a phase of happiness. Is this phase of the same nature as your sarcasm or ridicule of the city?

    Cheng: Part of it is sarcasm, but more of it is happiness. This feather should be a representation that is sentimental, sad, ugly, awful, decadent, and negative. It was perfect that the day we launched the feather there was a sand storm. I think that was totally suitable for this project. It’s even better than what I had in mind, which was a feather against a blue sky and white clouds.

    Xie: Why didn’t you make the feather go all the way up to the sky?

    Cheng: I wanted to show a sculpture that is absurd, pathetic, and not pretty.

    Xie: If the venue was at 798 Art District, would you do the same?

    Cheng: I would never show the feather! I would choose the virus sculpture. The feather is too pretty. I think a feather, just like a city, is visually striking, but in fact, conceals a lot of contradiction and conflicts. A lot of things, once broken, will never be restored. New architecture destroys the only thing this ancient city (Beijing) is proud of.

    Xie: The feather, from some angles, looks like a mother ship taking off?

    Cheng: When it was taking off, many people dragged it so it wouldn’t fly high. … It was a spectacle to watch. When it was on the ground, it seemed like it was part of something bigger.

    Xie: But now we look at it, it’s just balloons.

    Cheng: When I was there, there were so many giant balloons. We took a lot of shots. It was part of the beast. … No one knew what it was then. No one knew it was a feather.

    Xie: You had to stand far enough to tell it was a feather.

    Cheng: Yes, you had to.

    Xie: How many people were there in the working crew?

    Cheng: About 40 people. When it was half in the air, there were so many people dragging it so it wouldn’t fly away. I was worried it would just blow away. The shots we took that day are all bad, because of the sand storm.

    Xie: Do you think sand storm fits Beijing?

    Cheng: Yes, awfully. Beijing should be pure white on the outside. The feather was filled with hydrogen. But it was flying too high, so we had to cut the latter part, which was more than ten meters long. I was worried it would float too high.

    Xie: When it actually flew, was it what you had pictured?

    Cheng: Before I started, it was unimaginable. A feather turning into a beast—I think it’s a great process.

    Xie: Because how crazy the presentation was, it seemed like it’s computer generated. No one would spend so much time on a project like this. The background seemed so fake.

    Cheng: But I videotaped it.

    Xie: It’s like looking at Beijing—everything seems fake, a city of absurdity, but it actually exists.

    Cheng: Yes. It actually is surreal to the bone.

    Xie: I think absurdity, ludicrousness, ridicule, criticism, or indignity, these literary words don’t quite express how your generation feels about China and its environment. I can’t find a suitable word. You said it’s a phase of happiness. But I feel “happiness” is too young a word to use. The literal meaning can’t represent the grief and depression underneath. This is a work of serious connotation. It seems light, but heavy. 

     

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