Secret of Standard Li Xu 2006 1、Some ideas associated with ‘Standard’ The birth of standard may come from desires and the demands for people to compare and evaluate. Furthermore, it may come from people’s being lazy to think and to evaluate. Since complex intelligence activities are not the easy games for everyone to participate, and then it is more realistic to draw up an easier or even somehow foolish way for everyone who could get into entrance without a doorsill. ‘Standard’ can never be ‘special’, nor ‘characteristic’. A man with standard height and weight must not be a basketball player or a dwarf. If you want to be a ‘standard’ person, you have to abandon your selfhood and personality, fading out every special demand, because what the standard tries to present is a middle state at a stable level. ‘Standard’ can never be ‘interesting’, nor ‘thought-provoking’, because what the standard tries to establish is a conclusion about value orientation. There’s nothing could be discussed, nor any emotion or intelligence be raised. One should accept everything simply and absorbedly without any doubts if he wants to pursue the standard. How many evaluation demands there are in the world, how many standards there will be. However, confliction would be produced when multiple standards being integrated. For a man, when being a son of parents, a husband of wife, a father of children, an employee to boss, a teacher to students and a taxpayer to tax department, he could not be that perfect when he has to play all the roles at the same time, then is he a good person? It seems that to establish standards is a perfect solution to such problems. However, the content that the standard provides is probably a goal that is hard or impossible for normal people to achieve. People’s desires changes all the time, so does the standard. Ironically, although standard provides all kinds of solutions to people’s confusions, people are doomed to be more confused by the standard. The fact is that people can not go further without standards, and however they don’t know how to go on with standards. The reasons might be two: In one hand, compared with the great number of objective standards; the items adaptive for individuals are limited. On the other hand, being the perfect work by the god, human have the original strong tendency against standardization. Beauty Standard’—Yang Mian’s Thoughts We can tell directly that Yang Mian is addicted to two themes from his art works: ‘Beauties’ and ‘New House’, or they could be described as ‘beautiful appearance’ and ‘good living place’. They are meanwhile the hottest themes for currant media. In Yang Mian’s art works, what he presents to the fullest is a kind of ‘standard beauty’.‘
It is a human nature to judge and pursue beauty. It can trace back to the time which has something to do with the leaves worn on Adam and Eva in Eden. However, ‘beauty’ and ‘standard’ is a couple of contrary concepts, different always or even incompatible sometimes. Currently, modern taste is overthrowing traditional aesthetics; western standards are dominating eastern judgments. In Yang Mian’s recent works, we see single aesthetics and the tendency to be a consistent standard. Originally, the ‘beauty’ ought not to be ‘standardized’, however Yang Mian use his special patience, showing the great numbers of standardized popular images persuasively in front of us. It shows seemingly that Yang Mian is singing the praise of the bright and brilliant consumption era by enlarging a great sensory enjoyment scene. However, when facing a large quantities of gorgeous, empty and neat house and smile, the visitors may smell a rat by their own hunch: should this be the final ending their peer unconsciousness is dying for? Yang Mian started to pay attention to the dissimilar contemporary aesthetics problem from the late 90’s. From the commercial advertisements’ taste for beauties to the new established residence zone with over-decorated shapes, he repeated his themes with greasy and tawdry colors tirelessly. However from quantitative changes to qualitative changes, his discuss about the ‘standard of beauty’ has been changed a lot for the recent 10 years. Those images with thousands of forms are now being covered with a same coloring mode. Those stars and big house are becoming tiring, ironical and doubtful attitude is emerging from the back of such gorgeous and bright surface. 3、The ‘Cultural Standard’ of Chinese Contemporary Art Being the largest developing country of the world, China is experiencing the unprecedented profound changes. The confusion and losing of all kinds of standard has become the most serious cultural problem at present. The internationalization of visual elements and the vulgarization of the standards for aesthetics are spreading around us. The disregard of identity and original creation makes the entertainment to replace culture in most social spaces. Moreover, the shameless activities of copying and plagiarizing become reasonable. Chinese contemporary art develops along with the Chinese reform and open policies. From early 1980s to now, corresponding thoughts and art works witness every important social change. Meanwhile, every movement on the international art stage directly or indirectly affects China. A big country is unnecessarily a strong country. The standard of being a strong country is not a pile of real golden, silver, firm boats and shape guns. In this one and a half centuries after the Opium War, Chinese started to abandon the illusion of ‘Central Empire’, learning all western standards earnestly to strengthen ourselves. However, such blind ‘bringing’ has made people lose their nation confidence and pride in their own culture. For now, most standards of ‘beauty’ that we see are directly from the west. Chinese contemporary art face the same problem that eastern standards collided with western ones. The attribute of culture on which Chinese people’s daily life reflects is so confusing that the artists have to define their art on daily experience in the position of “from life and lower than life” In such progress of seeming original creations, standards of judgment and rights for thinking have already been surrendered. Hence what we see in the reality is the lack of our own standards and the prosperity of such ‘international standards’. The ‘standard of beauty’ that Yang Mian’s works represents might be a drop in the ocean of great number of ‘standards’ in true life. However, such focusing representation on ‘Beauties’ and ‘Luxurious Houses’ shows a real state of all flourish and confusion being coexistent in this special time.
4. The Secret of ‘Standard’ Yang Mian doesn’t try to be a philosopher while in his visual art creation. However the movements trace of his theme convincingly states his tendency to culture criticism. He wears the fashion clothes to ridicule fashion itself, uses the prosperous appearance to question prosperity. He doesn’t often take what he presents at face value. The ‘beauties’ and ‘Luxurious Houses’ that seem to be bright, in fact are just dull pieces on the chessboard in this intelligence game. However, the attitude that Yang Mian has for the discussion of ‘standards’ is still complying with an excluding principle. He only represents the object to be satiric without trying to establish the content of standards he agrees. Though, what we could imagine is that after a decade or two, when piles of ‘out-of-date fashion’ images to be presented in front of the people again, everything will be clarified without a word. To establish a ‘Tatlin Monument’* against the common customs is not Yang Mian’s dream, what he tries to represent is the useless cost that we have paid for our nihility dreams. All standards will be gone with the wind as time goes by. The creed of one era will be completely forgotten in another era, or become an eternal joke. In a conclusion, the ‘standard’ is still a secret for human beings nowadays. The birth progress of an important standard is full of secrets, so is the test efforts to examine some standards. The original motive to establish a standard was hoping the standards could be eternal or even suitable for any occasion anywhere. Though in the end, it has become that the standard itself to be the most weak and changeable element. When the God finally found that every standard is unreliable after creating the human beings with his own standards, he drove the human beings out of Eden.
Feb 28, 2006 in Shanghai
Note: Vladimir Tatlin(1895—1956), the founder of Constructivism in Russia, his famous art work of ‘The Model of Communist International Monument’ imitated the Babel (a heaven-reaching tower) in the Bible.