文/朱炯 Zhu Jiong
Meeting with the Ordinary People
The Temporary Performers depicts the most ordinary people. The aged faces and bodies were imprinted with life experience. We may meet them in streets, buses or subway trains. As long as you are willing to look at those around you, you may find a mid-aged woman, with a little female charm remained and the unavoidable worldliness radiating from the fat body wrapped up by laced dress. You may also find a man in military uniform, who has been acting as a hardliner in society for long, but unconsciously revealed some tiredness and helplessness in front of life and aging when looking directly into your eyes.
Virtual Portraits Showing Real Strength
ZHANG Wei, the creator of the images, honestly tells a truth: He created the portraits by re-combining digital images. These are not faces from real life, and their sense organs were transplanted, i.e. Zhang’s eyes and Li’s nose were moved to Wang’s face. The new faces were well made by ZHANG Wei, but he said technically, it is not demanding, only a little challenging when crafting the figures’ facial expressions. No audience has questioned the authenticity of the fake faces, because the serial photos touched us with the immediacy which we unconsciously avoid when facing others, or say the authenticity we want to erase. The figures demonstrate the ugliness and vulgarity we don’t want to see. Even so, they are still quietly looking at the camera, and showing straightly the ugliness of the ordinary, and the vulgarity of the bottom class. Their expressions and bodies are honest, and hiding their struggles for living. Everything in them is radiating the power of humanity. What ZHANG Wei seeks for is to powerfully visualize the invisible strength of reality. It is the power of reality that constantly pushes him to create the virtual figures.
Portrait, the Section of Destiny
Portrait is a section of an individual’s destiny, and a section of a whole society. In the clear and revealing images, the “temporary performers” cannot hide their sagged eye bags, red eyes and twisted faces. The rough faces look dull but distinct, and the eyes seem quiet but never penetrating. Their bodies are even more plain and simple than their faces, showing their true states. The uncared fat, thin, strong, weak, straight or bent bodies wrapped in seemingly stylish clothes are posing differently one from another. The aging bottom class is existing really and absurdly. Being helpless and powerless in the society, they have given up struggling against fate. But their spirits are still alive. Maybe their eyes no longer show any courage, but their bodies still disclose their secret struggles in life. They are human, but have lost something in human nature.
Deverbalization and Visual Spectacle
ZHANG Wei practices deverbalization in creating visual spectacles, and gradually developed it into his own style. The serial portraits are some flat front images, medium shot, front lit, light toned and whitish. The artist used the simplest visual language, or even tended to deverbalize the photography. The photography free from any skills usually creates the purest and most powerful images. When we couldn’t see any light, tone and even instaneous dynamic, we tend to directly face the portraits and feel the figures to the maximum, as if they are coming right towards you. The artist adopted the large format to show the smallest details. Thus the wrinkles of skin and the texture of cheap clothes are fully revealed in front of your eyes. The artist wanted to zoom the images out to an extraordinary scale, in order to fully present the appeals of the portraits. But after the sense organs were re-organized, the visually unpleasant feeling is intensified. The astronaut and the burned man together build the visual spectacle. The set of photos are consistent in color and style. In the light tone, the local lighting brings out the vividness, like the red lining of the old woman’s skirt, striking but evocative.
Temporary Identity and Dream
ZHANG Wei is a dream seeker who came study photography in Beijing from Shangluo, Shaanxi Province, and later settled in Songzhuang to practice photography. He employed some “temporary performers” waiting for jobs at the former site of Beijing Film Studio as his models. The fame and money dreamers accepted the costumes, props and make-ups provided by the photographer, and looked at the lens as the temporary performers.
The concept of “temporary performer” is defined by the artist as the role people cannot play in the fast-evolving society. In this sense, everybody is a temporary performer. ZHANG Wei, as a “temporary artist”, was working with the “temporary performers” to realize their dreams together in the week before the Spring Festival. Different social groups with different dreams share the same life experience.
A photo maker observed to choose his subjects, and expressed his own cognition with the subjects’ bodies. The temporary performers helped others to express their intentions. In the process, their self-awareness conflicted with others’ thoughts, which can be recognized here or there in the photos.
Reality is the Motive Power
ZHANG Wei selected some temporary performers for his photography. One reason was they could provide different images, and second was it was a highly feasible way. The Temporary Performers is not to tell the life of the “temporary performers”, but to analyze the artist’s own artistic exploration. He was recording himself, and providing a reference for people reflecting on their own roles in life with an image. “Reality” 不放。He intends to forcefully express his feeling in real life. By designing the performers’ costumes and facial expressions, he not only directed the shooting, but also changed and re-produced their actual faces later on. However, the reference and supreme goal are as powerful as the reality. The contradicting method adopted by ZHANG Wei raised a very good question for the contemporary photography: To what extent the image is possible to express the reality? What is the relationship between the virtual image and the real life? With the forged images, the Temporary Performers realized even more realistic and striking visual effects than the real images did. In the digital era, the visual images were developed as a tool. But where is the virtual reference coordinate positioned? In the photographic creation of ZHANG Wei, the reality is the reference coordinate of the virtual images, and the reality provides the motive power for him.
艺术家张巍，选择临时演员的群体来完成拍摄工作，是因为他们的形象丰富，是因为这样的可行性更高。《临时演员》系列，不是通过影像讲述那个“临时演员”群体的生活，而是在进行一个自我剖析的艺术影像探索。他在拍摄自己，以及给所有思考自己生活角色的人提供一个影像的参照。“真实”不放。 他希望能够将他对现实的感受真实有力地表现出来。他给演员设定服装，引导他们的表情， 他不仅导演了这些片子，还在后期进行了完全改变人物真实面貌的再创作。但是，他的参照对象和最高目标是如同现实一样有力。 张巍的这一矛盾手法，为当代影像提出了一个很好的问题。影像在真实的层面上有多大的表达可能性？虚拟的影像与现实的关系是什么？《临时演员》，假人的影像，获得了比真人影像更真实有力的视觉效果。在数字的时代，虚拟影像的手段被开拓出来，而虚拟的参照坐标定位在哪里呢？对于张巍的影像艺术创作，现实是虚拟的参照坐标，现实是原动力。