Zhang Wei: Low-Degree Reality and Second-Hand Myth
Through the adoption of digital combination and encoding of materials, Zhang Wei manufactures these bizarre, grotesquely-conceived images in his Artificial Theater.
This series is based on images which are built on stilts from photographic reality, demonstrating schema that derive from our daily accumulative consumption. The materials for these pictures were obtained from ordinary people including workers in Beijing, the “the ant tribe” and migrant laborers. From the very beginning of shooting, he purposefully weakened the anxiety felt by those zero-language groups for their social statuses when they faced the camera, because he only needed the looks of those extra actors. As the generation growing up in popular culture, both Zhang and his models are living in an age when the country’s ideology is having dramatic changes and public figures emerge one after another to become the spiritual pillars of civilians. Currently, idol culture is not new for them any longer. As pure encoding materials, generating from the most real natural person, those unadjusted faces only serve the purpose of constituting the ultimate wonder, but the materials providers never imagined they could stand in front of the audience by such exaggerated images, though not so real and vivid; neither did it occur to them that those materials in Artificial Theater represent the most evaded pain and most real signifier.
As myth, Artificial Theater indicates an incomplete result. But when we view the virtual images presented by Zhang, we never feel uncomfortable or anxious in any way, even though they are no more than virtual images made-up from truth.
Such artificially made images only intensify the sympathy of viewers, just as they are not created by accident. Zhang excluded any elements of fortuity or instantaneity, but mythical images have persuasion which can penetrate consciousness. Trapped long enough in the retrospection of the history, dim by the wide gap between concrete images and real objects, we feel lack of sureness to interpret the representation as what we see before our eyes. Agreement is what we choose to express our confirmation of the value of things, while such a freedom of choice is a metonymy of his criticism against industrial production awareness. As a producer, he made a passage of anxiety straight to our inner.Only when public images constitute our familiar signals with real words and phrases, can those pictures invisible in the representation become indisputable truth. While the ultimate pictures at the opposite position are fabricated by Zhang, such a language-related establishment requires the viewer’s recognition of consumerism itself — though we deny it. Try to imagine that if we identify the outcome using sensuous logics such as “vividness” and “likeness” while criticizing consumption, those images deriving from that and our judgments would arrive at a ridiculous conclusion.
This is exactly because Zhang and viewers, by establishing mutual connection, created such second-handed myth in a post-product age. Such a way of intervention allows viewers to enjoy and suffer. The general public found it hard to form identification of the age between each other or themselves with their language conditions, but they can look for non-transcendent or transcendent hopes from these mythical images and pray for low-degree reality. Sadly, it won’t bring any hallucinogenic excitement to them.
The consumption age exposes our innermost anxiety to ambitions and wishes, which are reflected in the speed and degree of myth fabrication in a concentrated way. When Artificial Theater created, without exception, those classics, views are confirmative of the images, but the delight from watching these myths actually represent the distorted ideology generated in the post-industrial age. If we allow ourselves to react readily to those superficial exteriors and ignore the inner structure and importance of context, we’ll end up compromising on low-degree reality.
Innovated monuments one after another become the windows of this series, but upon investigation, only unrecognizable encoding configuration was found; numerous identity reorganizations and collaging make such a second-hand myth. While the former owners of these organs make up an intangible world of language. Zero-language in a more low-degree real space is the last phenomenon we’d like to mention, but Zhang showed all of it in his Artificial Theater. It is a piece of work to be completed by its viewers, as well as the war of language and political manner of his own selection.