Violence of Blinding Light


- Interpreting Jiang Zhi’s narrative on the Light series

By Zhu Dake

A brief history on the narration of light

 The eye, the world and the light that illuminates the world are the three fundamental elements for the birth of images. The ontological meaning of light, in other words the duality smof  between bright and dim, light and darkness are filtered into the canonical teachings of Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity to symbolize the eternal light, warmth, truth, righteousness and love.

 Light is not only a positive force, but also the core constituent for utopia. As it is clearlyed written in the Old Testament, “When God gives it light, there was light.” – a simple narrative at the wake of humanity. The spirit brought light to the land with a supreme love. ThereonTherein, the light became symbolic of the savior in its resistance toof the darkness of the world consistings of demons, miseries and painful memories. In the New Testament, God was the light. He was the origin of the supreme entity and theological ontology.

 Light is a key term in spiritual rhetoric. However in the antediluvian time and Neolithic times, light had always been teamwas associated with the sun and fire. The sun symbolizeding the origin of daylight, and fire as the origin of light at night, are two illuminations that shine upon our eyes and spirit through the cycle of these two ultimate phenomena.

 The positive narration of light governs the visual mode in the human axial age, it floated perpetually in Van Gogh’s eyes, transforming the sun, the stars, the field and steeple churches into steep raising flames. The last flame bearer in the Neolithic period was entangled inby the golden light and its reflections. However,  thatthis is not the artist’s envision of light, but the light’s chaotic burning on the human retina.

 This Neolithic narration of light was revised by Walter Benjamin in a poetic story on gas lamps. Benjamin reminded us of the dim mood on the dark streets of Paris – a scene rendered by gas lamps that embodies the dark quality of Europe as a whole. The city was concealed and became gradually ambiguous with somnolent illumination. Compared withto other timeses in the past, the Paris night in Paris is radiatesing athe most feverish passion. Even though all European urban areas are lit by new light sources, yet it had extended the romantic aura from Benjamin’s time. 

 The general topic on light is mostly absent in traditional Chinese painting. Literati painting of the countryside only focused on representing the eternal daylight andthat has shown a rare indifference to the representation of the sun and the flames. It is not only due to the idleness of ink paintings techniques to the narration of light, but also refers to thesorts to a kind of yin of Taoist philosophy. Such philosophy overlooks the illumination and warmth of the yang., Iinstead it promotes objects of the meek and  the dim. In Laozi’s Tao Te Ching, only one phrase consolidates the existence of light (all glares tempered);, its goal is to educate people in adjusted and weakened the functions of light. Laozi is a keeper of xuan (Night, black and darkness) as well as “trance” and “ignorance.”. Such conservative stance of an “era of before illumination” had been stubbornly supporteding the ancient beliefs of indigenous artists.

 The waves of modernization of the late twentieth century had completely transformed this ancient Chinese tradition. Responding closely to the late capitalism of the west, China under transformation was hurried into constructing a political legend of “heyday” and “the most powerful nation of the twenty- first century.”. The passionate nationalism, state-ism and populism had formed into a homogenous ideology that made an deafeningear numbing bang to the world. As we have already seen, most postings on the internet called on all corners of the world for the relay of the Olympic torch. The flame became the most captivating political symbol, andd has caught the attention of the world. To a certain extent, this is precisely an exciting narration on “the blinding light of the system.”.

 In most cases,  either traditional or contemporary art, art has omitted its their narrative on light as well as  their reflections on its history. The art of firecrackers, manipulated by Cai Guo-qiang, is a typical “light of the nation.” I, its praising grammar is applicable to all celebrations of nationalism that can be the vibrant laces decorating the heyday. Only a few are observant of the complex nature of light. Jiang Zhi’s narrative on the light provides evidence to this regard. In China’s indigenous cultural context, Jiang Zhi dared to state skeptically, “The light is omnipotent enough that it could definitely simulate a violent act,.” wWhich then led him to follow with the se questions, “Is what’s suddenly given true happiness? Or is that masked misery?” This is his profound statement on the logic of light and violence. I, in other words, it is a type of reversed knowledge that completely negates the meaning in the Bible in an attempt to reveal the omitted reality from the itBible. The unusual relationship between light and violence founds the beginning of Jiang Zhi’s work.

Narration on Rainbow 

In Jiang Zhi’s logical chronology of conceptual photography, the flame appears in the form of a flame – the ultimate form of a flame in the system of agricultural civilization. It consists of chemical formulas that transforms to vivid and exuberant flowers displayed and rises to the sky according to one’s physical will. On the snow- covered ground inof the winter, such a flame canould not be used for its warmth, but it is adequate to define insignificant lives, and draws the momentary contour of happiness. This is a narrative similar to Anderson’s Match Girl, by approaching the actual truth with satire. At the chilling location where the toys are curled up and lodged, the flame emits to myriads of fine rays with extended exposure,  and are curvinged due to the wind effect,, that wavinges into certain elegancet and softness expression.

 The bonfire in the snow is the weakest among all flames, not only because it is fragile in terms of time., Mmoreover, it does not produce emit enough any heat that would provide the necessary tenergy to those in need. Its only value resides in showing certain laughable hope. And this is the Chinese version of the “Anderson effect.”, Iit is the inception point of criticism in Jiang Zhi’s “Light Series.”, I it dances on the anonymous land covered with snow;, in other words, it dances on a completely fictional site, that formings the seamless  congruent logic of in the cruel reality – the  of the dark brick factory.  

 Compared to the flame, the rainbow seems to play a more important role in Jiang Zhi’s spectrum of lights. It is light itself, but also the effect of illumination, as well as being a decorative imagery that happens after the storm. As it is said in the Old Testament, it represents the merging of heaven and earth, yet has always been understood as a promise from the sky (spirit) by the masses, moreover, was often further extended to the glamorous symbol of utopia. The meaning of the rainbow is scattered;, it opened up a broad path for legendary narration on ideology.

 Jiang Zhi’s Post Rainbow is manifested in the ose monochromatic Old Photograph series, as well as in the video installation of the Worldly Rainbow in 2008. In those group photos taken during the Cultural Revolution expressing loyalty, there are curved, colorful lines of explanations that , they look like seem like certain kind of natural rainbows, which dislocates with the monochromatic history (of reality), implying the spiritual characteristics of the Chinese masses from the1960s to the 1970s. The people iin the photograph are placed in a two-dimensional monochromatic world of monotony, frugal attires, naïve expressions filled with hope, yearning into the empty sky. The rainbow Jiang Zhi added precisely filled the visual void of those photographed. They are the happy slaves of the Utopian rainbow captured by the legend in the sky that in turn, made them the young believers of political rhetoric. Even though both the legend and the rainbow eventually disappeared into oblivion, but the masses wereas not enlightened by it. They are doomed to be perpetually held up by other rainbows, flames, or blinding lights. In my view, Jiang Zhi has not purposefully constructeding the new utopia, but a restoration of the concept in totalitarianism. 

 Jiang Zhi’s Present Tense Rainbow has tampered with a completely different subject. They swoops over the skies of the metropolis that are metaphorsical of both the capitalist materialistic desire and emotional longings. They are It is an illusion of the consumption era overlapping on the blue print of this nation’s heyday. Those modernized communities and high rises are growing at large that are becoming the main visual focus of the urban landscape, whereas the rainbow is a political emblematic that hovers over  in the sky of the urban space andthat renders the contours of this new life. Contrastingly to Past Tense Rainbow, Present Tense Rainbow consists of mixing the bits and pieces of the cities’ neon lights (a kind of electronic rainbows)., Tthey are the mathematical square of the rainbow, and that doublyes the deciphersing of the cult of consumerism. How  we are we wrapped inwith the reality of materialistic civilization that seems to be more illusory than the Mao era?, Bbecause it is almost a reality within our reach.

  Jiang Zhi’s “Rainbow over Tian’anmen” is the transcendental combination of the imperial architecture and people of the twenty- first century. In this work, entitled Rainbow No.3, the rainbow was embellished such that it raises from the topic of palace-like street lights, sweepsing over sharp staffs, hovering over the city gate  unsaillably in elegant hemispherical curves, as a seal of the spirit, proclaiming its grandeur, brightness and righteousness. TWhere the people looking up, cheers, photographs and murmurs among themselves. Remarkably, over the last century and a half, people haves always been the basis for this immanent utopia.

 The visual narrative ofn Tian’anmen had transgressed over the history of last hundred years. FromSince the patriotic march of the May Fourth Movement, to Mao Zedong’s meeting with the mass red guards, to the political reassessments in the ’80s, to conceptual photography of the twenty- first century, this chain of narratives will continue to extend. Time will not dispel the narrator’s infatuation withon this architecture. , iOn the contrary, as the system extends itself, new narratives will emerge.

 We have already witnessed, the crimson power of utopia has makde peace secretively with that capital iist Present Tense Rainbow. This is an unquestionable satirical phenomenon. These fragments were once marks of capitalist desires that haves now becoame a metaphor for new nationalism. TheyIt exemplifyies various intricate political transformations; , mmoreover, they underscores the duality in Chinese society -: on the one hand is trying to sustaining its effective post-totalitarianism and, on the other hand, to closely collaboratinged with the global capital, and b based on which compiling a kind of an unprecedented image of new-utopia. As for the vigilant and skeptical artists, this is nothing but an opportunity to unveil the truth through examining the intrinsic essence of this heyday.

Narration on Blinding Light

 In close response to the narrative of rainbow over Tian’anmen, Jiang Zhi is also reporting to us on the new “urban illumination.”. The illumination on the Bund in Shanghai produced an urban capitalist illusion, whereas Jiang Zhi’s narrative on light shiftsed from the rainbow to illuminating the night sky. On August 8, 2007, over hundreds of singers sang the theme song We Are Readydy, momentarily as, beams of light emittedting from the back of the gate of Tian’anmen; the , rendering a scene calls to mind a risings if the red sun is raising. According to news reports, the entire spectacle of light exhausted more than 4350 kilowatts of energy -, the annual energy provision for a enough for a small city of two hundred people population’s annual energy provision.

 As the “Beijing Olympics One Year Countdown” celebration performance proved to us, nationalism is indeed “ready” for this great light, they shine wantonly on the faces of the city, and wished to transform the latter into enticing windows of the world. The fan- shaped array of lights behind the gate of Tian’anmen is a stereotypical narrative of the sun, that is to direct imposing itse the haloo of the sun onto the architecture of Tian’anmen. Such creative ideas by the light engineers projects a type of historical replicates on the structure of Mao’s statue during the Cultural Revolution period. As it is revealed in the twenty first century in China, theyit seems to be a testimony of post-Cultural Revolution essence. Under this radiant symbolism, are hidden  with the cultural secrets of Maoism.

 What is fervently rendered by this blinding light is not only the immense architecture, but also the individual lives at insignificant positions. They are coerced into accepting the gospel of this light, and offer the necessary responsed to such gospel. In Jiang Zhi’s video work, Let T there Bbe L light, as the emphatic light strikes, people responded in various nameless emotions, such asamong them are rejections, fear, numbness and joy. Nevertheless, theseose multiple emotions arewere dispersed into disillusionment. Faces are melting away under the such radiation, and expressions becoame indistinct., Mmany details begian to vanish, leaving the viewers to use theirwith space for imaginations.

 Jiang Zhi’s video has also shown the effect of bouncing off in midair after once a blinding light is shone on a person is shone by a blinding light, as if being struck by a large bullet that, not only erodes his face would erode, often  and dismember the entire head. would began to dismember. Only the body maintained distinctive details – it remains standing or flying off, embodying the beautiful disposition of man. Moreover, it is precisely characterized as the body revels, as well as an analogy for the violence of this blinding radiance. (Thing Wwould T turn Uunbelievable Oonce I it Hhappens. Pphotographs, 2007)

 Under this totalitarian era, the violent philosophy of the blinding light has been completely exposed: on the one hand it wishes to re-sculpt the body, on the other hand, it obliterates the existence of the mind. Theseis is are the multiple metaphors for the Chinese circumstance. According to Jiang Zhi’s narrating images, it has first meltsed away the surface and appearances, then into the mindhead. The former is used for our distinction of distinction of different individuals, whereas the latter is whatthe actual evidence to determines their existence.

 The erossionveness of the blinding light on the individual and individuality areis the optical metaphor for this totalitarian system that accurately portraysed the vulnerability of people under the violence of such blinding force. To endure the most scortching light is the most severe intellectual cruelty people need to confront. This blinding light is so bright that itwould not only causes blinding, but it would also crumbles people’s individual awareness and their souls. The blinding light is the physical symbol counterings utopia, and the metaphysical relationship between the sun and people is more or less as is.

Narration on Darkness 

We have already traced into the ultimate origin of the sacred light in the past. It comes from the most ancient religion that in the end evolved into the powerful weapons of totalitarianism and autocracy. It forced people to look at designated objects while preventinged them from reaching for objects of truth. At the same time, the objects light can on which light may shine on are also limited and preselected, and concealing the rest under darknessit only selects those that need illumination, and conceal others in the dark. This is the principle of light rhetoric and, also the nature of floodlighting. The light is not only used to distract our vision, but it also purposefully conceals objects beyond its illumination. These floodlights popular in China’s urban landscapes, have covered all ugly, old and impoverished matters while it flauntinged itself. Light is the most treacherous conspirator of darkness. 

Without a question, the most self-apparent objects under the light is would be dust. Those Llight weight, dustt floating builds into a fantastic yet undetermined phenomenon. Dust is the lowliest object, but receives the most majestic illumination. The most dignified light and the lowliest dust have reached an alliance of discourse – an unspeakable physical phenomenon. The current cultural reality can testify that the blinding light always shines first on the floating dust of culture provoked by society, and salutes to meaningless matters. This is the most shameless dialogue between light and dust. They have collaboratively toppleds the core value of the human axial era. 

However in another context, the philosophy of the violence of this blinding light exposes its own schizophrenia;. On the one hand, i produces violent instruments and, on the other hand it reveals themese instruments. This is entirely depends on the one who manipulates the power to emit the blinding light. Politicians can exercise tyranny with it, and artists canould also create spiritual revolt. From Jiang Zhi’s diaries, the act of photographing itself is a severe cultural bantering. The artist takes advantage of the darkness and the guard’s negligence, spots (prospect), designs, installs, waits, works and then escapes, in order to complete the entire process of conceptual photography – that seems to be a visual game between the mousice and the cat. Precisely based on the birth of such antagonistic images, China’s movement on maintaining legal rights and interests have just received a new visionual version. 

Jiang Zhi’s Things Wwould Tturn Nnails Oonce I t Hhappens is a work in his Light series. As a unique operation of the blinding light, it is not a repetition of violence, but an optical praise on resisting violence. Of course, it is also a momentary illumination on the darkness by choosing to become blind. In March 2007, when the law on property rights passed by the People’s Congress in, Chongqing harbored the “most courageous held out household” in Chinese history. , Tthe couple’s insistent resistance to the government’s relocation policy caught on the fervent the nation’s attention of the nation. Right bRight before the building was to be demolished, Jiang Zhi rushed to the scene, and set up powerful lighttings, projecting a beam of  proclaiming blinding light on the two- storieds red brick building sunkank into the pit, by which completed the absurd and quirky artistic illumination. 

       This is an illumination worthy of our re-interpretation because it has transcended the boundariesorder of conceptual photography. The contesting story of such light and darkness is the artist’s optical experiment in the dark reality.y, Mmoreover it is determined to be deciphered by sociologists as enhancing the maintenance of citizens’ rights and interests. The key to this situation also resides in the eternity of darkness, as well as the irreversibility of the corrosion by this blinding light. What the artist could achieve is theo search for the fragments of light at the center of darkness, and unravel certain annotations for it. Unlike writing or speaking, images offer the mostt direction enlightenment. Jumping over the visual barrier, it is screamsing  out the truth behind the darkness.