The Representation of Chinese Philosophy of Zen-Ding inContemporary Art
Yung-Hsien Chen research focuses on the Oriental idea of 'Zen-ding' in Chinese philosophy; a concept that encompasses body, meditation, the outward manifestation of achieving a higher state of being, and the artistic representations of all of those ideas. He is developing, in particular, his own film based on the idea of the senses - both in terms of the viewers' conception of the head, body and mind, and the senses experienced individually by those organs. By doing this, he aims to explore an aesthetic that differs from the traditional approach offered by the classical theorists of Chinese art (e.g. calligraphy, gardening,lacquer-work, painting, etc.) The following ideas will be included:
Is any medium of art a way of revealing anything other than a subjective truth? A word or picture or sound is equally capable of revealing a truth or misleading an audience. In this, video and film are no different to any other art form.
Looking back over the decades of change for individual film/videomakers, film and/or video became increasing available as an accessible and affordable medium for art during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It offered artists a new and alternative means by which to pursue their formal and conceptual interest in the process and duration of art and audience interaction. Equally important, film/video offered a potentially more direct and open form of communication with the spectator, whose presence and relationship to the work of art had become a fundamental concern.
I chose film/video as the appropriate medium for me because it actively engages the spectator. It provides a physical presence for the spectator, derived from its opposition to the modernist emphasis on the purely optical value of the work of art. Modernism had constructed the work of art as a unique, autonomous object whose meaning lay inherently within it. I think that meaning resides in the relationship between the work of art and the spectator. At the core of my approach to art is a desire to present a series of images and allow the viewer to analyse them. My videos are not the work of art, the work of art comes from the viewer looking at the videos and attempting to take something from them as they bridge the gap between their own experience and what is happening in front of them at that moment. Head on the Plate - In &Out, from the solo exhibition.
To some extent, this changed in the late 19th/early 20th centuries when Chinese artists came into contact with the West and there are examples of Oriental artists using oils to paint life models figuratively rather than symbolically. However, in these cases, most of the models were dancers who were already using their bodies in a public fashion, so there was not a major conflict with the Confuscian ideal.
Since the 1930s when Chinese artists began to have even greater contact with Western art forms and art schools, there has been a greater use of figurative depictions of the body and even nudity. Since the late 1960s, performance art is considered human body as an extreme art form in contemporary Chinese art. The Chinese translation of the Western term of "performance" is xingwei, namely "behavior". However, even today, nudity is still not something that is seen as a part of mainstream Chinese art.
Q3. What is the intention with these films? Am I intending a didactic experience? If I intend the audience to make their own way through the image, when do I know if I am not communicating?
For most of the Westerners who see my films, it is in part a didactic experience - but only if they decide they want to learn. I approach the making of films from two perspectives:
i) Satori (acquiring a new viewpoint)
The object of Zen discipline is to acquire a new viewpoint from which to look into the essence of things. This acquiring of a new viewpoint in Zen is called 'satori' (Wu in Chinese). Without it there is no Zen, because the life of Zen begins with the 'opening of satori. Satori may be defined as intuitive investigation, as opposed to intellectual and/or logical understanding of a situation or experience. In this way, satori means the unfolding of a new world hitherto unperceived in the confusion of a dualistic mind.
ii) The Koan (eg. Parable)
Koan literally means ' a public document' or 'authoritative statute' - a term that came into vogue towards the end of the T'ang dynasty (AD 618 to 906). It now denotes some anecdote of an ancient master, or a dialogue between a master and monks, or a statement or question put forward by a teacher, all of which are used as the means for opening one's mind to the truth of Zen. In the beginning, of course, there was no koan as we understand it now. It is a kind of artificial instrument devised out of the fullness of heart by later Zen masters, who by this means would force the evolution of Zen consciousness in the minds of their less endowed disciples.
The Koan is neither a riddle nor a witty remark. It has amost definite objective, the arousing of doubt and pushing it to its furthest limits. A statement built upon a logical basis is approachable through its rationality, whatever doubt or difficulty the disciple may have had about it dissolves itself by pursuing the natural flow of an idea.
In my films, I understand the rituals and spirituality I am exploring, but I do not expect the viewer to understand those points. The films are a means of satori. In watching them, the viewer potentially can achieve a different way of looking at the world, even if they are not actively searching for a different form of perception. If the viewer acquires an element of satori through seeing my work, then the work can be seen as a modern-day koan because it illustrates an aspect of Zen thought. Because of this, I do not start work from the point of wanting to communicate with the audience. The work stands as a form of communication on its own and it is up to the audience to decide whether or not they want to understand what is being said or even leave themselves open to the potential of communication. In this way, the films are not didactic. I am not seeking to instruct or persuade, I am merely putting the work in front of the audience and they can take it or leave it. If they take it, the process of trying to understand is the only instruction I am giving.