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永远质疑:对话凯伦·史密斯|Interview with Ms. Karen Smith

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 Interview with Ms. Karen Smith  


原文标题:

只有时间能告诉我们艺术真正的价值:对话凯伦•史密斯女士     

It is only time that tells the true value of art: Interview with Ms. Karen Smith     


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对话马芝安:“这不是武汉的问题,这是世界的问题。” | Interview with Meg Maggio


从二十世纪九十年代初开始定居中国的英国艺术评论家和策展人凯伦·史密斯女士,是最早一批记述中国当代艺术历程、发掘中国当代艺术家并向国际推介中国当代艺术创作的西方人之一。她以独立客观的视角严谨地呈现了对中国当代艺术不同发展阶段与变化的理解和研究,自2006年出版的《九条命:新中国先锋艺术的诞生》Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant-Garde Art in New China,斯卡罗2006年版,八艺区出版社2008年版)到2012年开始启动的《发光体》As Seen)系列中国当代艺术编年考,她一直笔耕不辍,勤于思考。与此同时,凯伦·史密斯女士还自2012年起担任OCAT西安馆执行馆长并自2015年起担任上海摄影艺术中心的主策展人。自2020年初突如其来的新冠状病毒肺炎带来的巨大影响,使大家突然不得不“慢下来”,借此机会艺讯网也特别采访了凯伦·史密斯女士,从她自身的经验出发谈谈当下的顿悟和启发。


Ms. Karen Smith, a British art critic and curator who has been settled in China since the 1990s, is one of the earliest group of Westerners to chronicle contemporary Chinese art, discover and promote contemporary Chinese artists and their creations to the world. From an independent and objective perspective, she presents her rigorous understanding and research on developments of contemporary Chinese art at various stages. From Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant-Garde Art in New China to As Seen series, she has been working and thinking hard. Meanwhile, Ms. Karen Smith has also worked as the Executive Director of OCAT Xi’an and Chief Curator of Shanghai Center of Photography(SCôP). The sudden impact of COVID-19 pandemic since the beginning of 2020 has suddenly made everyone “slow down.” Taking this opportunity, CAFA ART INFO has conducted a special interview with Ms. Karen Smith to talk about her epiphany and inspiration for the time being from her experience.


凯伦·史密斯女士

Ms. Karen Smith



受访人:凯伦·史密斯女士

Interviewee: Ms. Karen Smith

采访人& 编辑:Sue Wang  

Interviewer & Editor: Sue Wang  

采访时间:2020年3月17日

Interview Date: March 17, 2020


艺讯网:您从2012年7月开始担任OCAT西安馆执行馆长,至今已经进入第八年,由于您的努力,更多的当代艺术展览得以介入西安的传统文化环境,作为执行馆长,您觉得这些工作中最大的收获是什么?同时又有什么让您觉得遗憾?


CAFA ART INFO: You have been the Executive Director of OCAT Xi'an since August 2012 and 2020 is the eighth year that you have worked there. Thanks to your endeavors, more contemporary art exhibitions can now get involved in the traditional cultural environment of Xi'an. What do you think is your biggest achievement during your time there? Do you have any regrets?

凯伦·史密斯女士:所得到的收获就是使西安因当代艺术而广为人知了。想要使这种现实延续下去还有很长的路要走。西安的艺术圈很小,大多数有抱负并且能养活自己的艺术家都会离开西安,去北京、上海或者深圳定居。他们觉得在大的城市里面发展自己的事业可能性更多,因为(在西安)日常生活中与其他艺术家、策展人、机构与藏家的互动并不充分,并且没有太多的观展机会。


从2013年到2018年,OCAT西安馆创建了一个原点,围绕着它为核心其他空间陆续成形。在西安的那些年里,我们看到了一些项目空间、独立展览和沙龙展,收藏活动的势头强劲。我们呈现的展览以及围绕它们的讨论,充分肯定了当代艺术的价值,而这价值观也被严肃艺术圈所分享认可。这些年来我们一直在西安迎接着来自全中国以及海外的机构和画廊的大量访客,还有独立艺术家、策展人和学者们,这些也证明了这社群存在的意义。这对于OCAT西安馆的肯定以及发展是非常重要的。


Ms. Karen Smith: What was achieved was to put Xi'an on the map for contemporary art. There is still a long way to go to make that a sustainable fact. The community in Xi'an is small – most artists with ambition and the means to support themselves would leave Xi'an to settle in Beijing, Shanghai, even Shenzhen. They feel they need to do this to develop their career because there is not enough interaction with artists, curators, institutions and collectors in their daily lives. There are few opportunities to see exhibitions.


From 2013 to 2018, OCAT Xi'an created a focal point, a nucleus around which other spaces could take shape. During those years in Xi'an, we have seen a number of project spaces, and independent exhibitions, salons, and collecting activity gain momentum. Our exhibitions, as well as the discussions that were generated around them, provided an affirmation of the value of contemporary art, and of that value being shared by a serious community. Evidenced of this community was demonstrated by the number of visitors we welcomed to Xi'an from institutions, galleries, and as individual artists, curators and scholars from across China and overseas during these years. That was very important for OCAT Xi'an's success.


OCAT西安馆五周年展览对谈

  OCAT Xi'an Fifth anniversary exhibition talk

OCAT西安馆五周年展览表演现场

OCAT Xi'an Fifth anniversary exhibition performance

OCAT西安馆五周年团队合影

OCAT Xi'an team at fifth anniversary


主要让我感到遗憾的是,我们不得不在2019年的春季停下来,当时我们失去了自OCAT西安馆建馆以来就赖以为家的建筑。我们不得不完全取消了一两个项目,这真是令人遗憾。但我坚信将来还会有其他机会。如果这世界从新冠状病毒的影响中复苏地顺利的话,我们今年会有一个新家。


我还希望能做的更多,以期能在西安之外的地方看到一些西安的艺术家和策展人。我们目前已经实现了部分目标,帮助策展人王檬檬和杨西在其他城市深圳和安仁举办了展览。我觉得我们在帮助艺术家方面应该可以做的更多一些。


Mainly, what I regret is that we had to pause so suddenly in the spring of 2019, when we lost the building that had been home to OCAT Xi'an since it started. We had one or two projects that had to be cancelled entirely which was a shame. But there will be other opportunities in future I'm sure. And we have one coming up this year – if all goes well in the world’s recovery from the Coronavirus.


I also hoped to do more to see some of Xi'an's artists and curators have opportunities to be seen outside of Xi'an. We achieve this in part – helping curators Wang Mengmeng and Yang Xi to have exhibitions in other cities, like Shenzhen and Anren. I feel we were less successful in helping the artists.


西安策展人王檬檬策展展览现场

OCAT Xi'an exhibition Secrets, curator Wang Mengmeng

西安策展人杨西策展展览海报

OCAT Xi'an exhibition poster (curated by Yang Xi)


艺讯网:自1998年开始您成为独立策展人,是最早一批活跃在中国的当代艺术国际策展人之一,以您的经验而谈,您如何鉴别当代艺术创作的艺术价值、收藏价值和市场价值?


CAFA ART INFO: Since 1998, you have become an independent curator and one of the earliest international curators of contemporary art who has been active in China. Based on your experience, how do you identify the artistic value, collection value and market value of contemporary art creations?

凯伦·史密斯女士:1998年与现在仿佛相距了一个世界。从很多方面来看,物质上、经济上和社会行为上而言,中国的大众能够通过互联网获取文化信息或者了解世界文化,在1998年的中国还是个新现象。

 

对我而言当时最重要的是,作为居住在北京的外国人,我正在寻找一种手段来呈现,来讨论中国的艺术界正在发生着什么。这是什么意思呢?当时的出版物很少,而且当时存在的出版物则是在有限的表达框架下运作。那么结果是有很多的理论研究但是关于艺术本身的讨论却很少。长期以来,这在艺评家中形成了一种习惯,他们并不是真正地与艺术家互动或者访问艺术家的工作室看作品,而是仅仅满足于以理论来进行批评。这一代早期的艺评家和展览组织者还不能说很多英语沟通,这就意味着他们进行国际对话的机会很有限。通常这意味着他们对中国艺术界中许多最具活力的特质,创造艺术过程中的推动力、叙事性和“语境”并不是太感兴趣。伴随着更年轻化更全球化的作家、艺评家和策展人群体的出现,这种情况也发生了翻天覆地的变化。


在1998年时我并没有打算成为独立策展人,也没有担任任何其他职务,但是我决心去寻找方法打开讨论和理解的渠道。这种源动力也凸显了我从1998年至2012年(当我正式加入OCAT准备推出OCAT西安馆时)之间所做的大部分努力。


凯伦·史密斯女士

Ms. Karen Smith


Ms. Karen Smith: Nineteen-ninety-eight seems a world away from today. In many ways it is – materially, economically, socially, and in terms of the culture available to the public in China, or of the world that could be accessed via the internet, which in 1998 was still a new phenomenon in China.


What seemed most important to me then, as a foreign national living in Beijing was finding the means to present, to have, a better discussion about what was happening in art in China. What did this mean? At that time there were limited publications, and those that existed operated under a limited framework for expression. There was, as a result, a lot of theory but less discussion about the art itself. For a long time, this created a habit among critics of not really engaging with artists or looking at their studios, their works, but being content to work only with theory. This early generation of critics and exhibition organisers did not yet speak very much English, which meant that they had limited opportunities to engage in international dialogue. Mostly, it meant that a lot of the most dynamic qualities of the art scene in China, the impulses, narratives and “context” within which art was created, was not quite appreciated. That has changed greatly today with the emergence of a younger and much more global group of writers, critics and curators.


I did not set out to be an independent curator in 1998, nor to assume any other title in particular, but I was determined to find ways to open up the channel for discussion and understanding. This impulse underscores most of the things I did from 1998 through to 2012 when I joined OCAT officially to launch OCAT Xi'an.


在二十世纪九十年代初,我还花了大量的时间来撰写和筹备展览计划,并且为国外的艺术杂志撰写关于中国展览的文章。很少有展览项目可以落地实现。由于缺乏了解中国展览的背景,关于中国展览的文章也很难在国外发表出版。因此你也会被要求做艺术家的简介,这也没问题,但通常是在某种程度上“持不同政见”的艺术家们。我之所以拒绝是因为这完全是用一种“外国”的方式来看待中国正在发生的事情。 


2012年之后,我们渴望在中国的语境中寻找中国当代艺术呈现的形式,这体现在我们在西安所呈现的展览、讲座对谈、演出活动和电影/视频放映中。你可以说这种方式完全是关于如何寻找方法来识别和展现中国艺术家作品中的艺术价值。从这个意义而言,我大部分时间都在关注艺术价值,其他一切都是次要的。


我认为艺术价值是艺术家能够捕捉时代脉搏的方式,而艺术家通过拓展先前被理解为艺术或者艺术实践的方式来实现艺术价值。这里重要的一点是,评论家、策展人甚至观众也不必一定通过喜欢一件作品去看到和尊重艺术家所取得的成就。[现在“喜欢”似乎是比艺术价值更重要的判断标准来决定艺术品是否适合房屋的装饰或者主人的生活方式。]事实上,一些最杰出和最有影响力的艺术作品离美丽这个词保持着一定距离。我们甚至可能形容一些感觉丑陋,站在你可能会觉得适合装饰的艺术之对立面上。但是这才是重点——这里真正艺术家的兴趣并不是试图打动你,当然也不担心你是否不喜欢他们的艺术,他们只需要做到去表达。这些作品的格局超越了艺术家创作时的时空。这就是艺术之所以如此扣人心弦的原因,(艺术)使你与生活在同一个世界中艺术家们的思想产生了或多或少的互动,但却可凭借不同的方式来看待它。


除此之外,我不知道该如何回答关于收藏价值和市场价值的问题。我知道如果可以的话我会收藏什么样的作品。这是基于我认为是那些能捕捉体现时代脉搏的杰出作品,并且在一件非凡的作品中真正地表达了关于艺术家、时光和艺术的创作。


艺术家杨福东2017年在OCAT西安馆与凯伦·史密斯女士对谈

Yang Fudong at OCAT Xian 2017


In the earlier 1990s, I had also spent endless amounts of time writing and preparing exhibitions proposals and writing about exhibitions in China for art magazines abroad. Few exhibition projects came to fruition. It was also hard to get published abroad as there was so little context in which to understand the review of an exhibition in China. So you would be asked to do artist profiles, which was fine, but usually of artists who were “dissident” in some way. I resisted that because it was a wholly “foreign” way of looking at what was going on in China.


After 2012, the impulse to find form for China's contemporary art within its own context is encapsulated in the work we did in Xi'an from exhibitions, to talks to performance events and film/video screenings. You could say that this path has been entirely about finding ways to identify and present artistic value in the work of Chinese artists. In this sense, I spend most of my time looking at artistic value. Everything else is secondary to that.


I see artistic value as being the ways in which an artist is able to capture the pulse of the times, and where the artist does that by means that expand what was previously understood to be art, or artistic practice. An important point here is that the critic, curator, even the viewer, doesn't have to like an artwork to be able to see and respect what the artist has achieved. [“like” today seems to be much more of a value judgment about whether an artwork fits with the décor of a home, or the owner's lifestyle than the artistic value of the piece.] In fact, some of the most extraordinary and influential artworks are not close to being beautiful. We might even describe some as ugly; as the opposite of the art you might feel comfortable living with. But that is rather the point – the true artist here is not interested in trying to impress you, certainly not worried if you don't like their art. They just need to do it, express it. Such works have a magnitude that extends beyond the moment and place in which they were made. That is what is so compelling about art, and engaging with the minds' of artists who live in the same world you inhabit, more or less, but see it in such different ways.


Beyond this, I don't know how to answer the question about collection value and market value. I know what I would collect if I could. That is based on what I see as being those brilliant works that capture the pulse of the times, and really say something about the artist, the moment and art in one extraordinary piece.


张健君展览海报

OCAT Xi'an exhibition poster 


我也知道如果我为博物馆或者机构建立收藏时应该收集什么样的作品。每间博物馆、机构和个人都必须制定自己收藏的日程安排。这对于在正确的时间做出正确的选择非常重要,这样无论是谁做出收藏决策,藏品都会随着时间的推移而保持其历史重要性。在这些情况下,总是有客观的标准可供选择。


但是我认为你的问题更多地涉及到最近个人收藏家的行为推动“艺术品市场”的现象。这里所说的价值要更加细微——这是由画廊的历史,画廊与所代理艺术家之间的协议和负责画廊艺术品销售的营销人员技巧之间的差异来决定的。


我手里,或我兜里从来没有太多钱,所以对我而言几乎所有的艺术品“现在”似乎都很昂贵——尽管事后看来,似乎“在当时”总是应该买得起。但是关于中国艺术品市场相对于第一世界的定位,我经常听大家说中国要赶上西方顶尖艺术家的价格水平还有很长的路要走。那么说也是对的,但与此同时,我认识很多现在在英国和欧洲的艺术家,他们对于自己创作、材料、工艺和理念的投入精神令人印象深刻,但是他们的作品并不能像最近中国艺术院校毕业生理所当然期望地那样价格合理。我发现,在中国创作的这类作品很多都过于装饰性——无法对中国艺术的发展产生太大影响,或者对艺术史没有太大的价值。


我仍然相信,只有时间能告诉我们艺术真正的价值。与判断艺术价值有关的重要问题之一在于,我们生活在一个万物已变得“即时”并“即刻”的世界中。我们没有耐心等待,这也使得人们无法判断任何事物的真正价值。


周范展览海报

OCAT Xi'an exhibition poster


I also know what I would collect if I were building a collection for a museum or institution. Each museum, institution, and individual must set their own agenda with a collection. That is essential for making the right choices at the right time so that the collection maintains its historic importance over time, no matter who is making those collecting decisions. There are always objective criteria that are defined for making choices in these situations.


But I think your question refers more to the very recent phenomenon of individual collector activities which drive “the art market”. Value here is far more nuanced – determined in the margins between the history of a gallery, what can be measured as a commitment to the artists they serve, and the marketing skills of the people who are tasked with selling the art – or the gallery that they work for.


I have never had much money so to me almost all art seems expensive “now” – although in hindsight it always seems as if it ought to have been affordable “then”. But in terms of how China's art market sits vis-à-vis the first world, I have often heard it said that China had a long way to go to catch up with the pricing levels of leading western artists. That may be true, but at the same time, I know a number of artists in the UK, in Europe, today, right now, who are impressive in their dedication to their work, the materials, the craft, the concept, but whose work cannot command anything like the prices that most recent graduates of China's academies expect as their right. I find a lot of this type of work being produced – manufactured in China – to be too decorative to have much influence upon the evolution of art in China, or to be of too much value to art history.


I continue to believe that it is only time that tells the true value of art. One of the main problems about that vis-à-vis the way art is valued is that we live in a world in which everything has become “instant”, “immediate”. We have no patience to wait, which clouds judgement about the real value of anything.


艺讯网:2020年中国春节期间,新冠状病毒肺炎突然在中国爆发并且目前也影响了亚洲和欧洲地区部分艺术活动与展览的进行。疫情发生时,您在哪里?疫情是否影响了您的生活?手头的工作如何进行?


CAFA ART INFO: During the Chinese New Year in 2020, the new coronavirus pneumonia suddenly broke out in China and currently it affects some art events and exhibitions in Asia and Europe. Where were you when the outbreak occurred? Has the epidemic affected your life? How does your work progress now?

凯伦·史密斯女士:当时我在泰国度假。我在中国春节刚过二月初就回到了上海,因为我们当时从未想过这种状况会持续这么长时间,并且还有筹备今年展览和活动的工作要做,从那之后我就一直待在上海。


生活已经变得内向宅。每天待在家里工作需要一定的习惯否则就会迷失在时间里。没有理由在几点起床,或者在几点吃饭或者睡觉……然而漂移太久就是失去了方向感,失去理解所有事物之间的联系;你的观点也变得失真了。话虽这么说,但与此同时,以前你奔波忙碌时候从未真正注意的事情也成为了人们关注的焦点——近几年一直都这么忙碌直到2020年1月病毒爆发时。在过去六周左右的时间里,我的日常工作开始变得简单、狭隘,每天都是围绕着同样几件事轮流进行,而且几乎没有什么地方可以去。我从来没有真正必须地在办公室朝九晚五地工作,但是发现自己感觉如此疏离和迷失也是非常奇怪的。


尽管如此,也可以说最近工作比较顺利,因为我正好在用这安静时刻在写一本书。这几年一直想做的事不过太忙没时间,而此前我却永远找不到合适的方式或者说恰当的表达。在这个必须“保持居家”的奇怪时刻,我似乎在风格和内容方面都达到了某种我认为是恰如其分的表达。


同时,其他一般的机构工作仍在进行中。我们还有一些展览可以组织和重新安排。我还发现与以前无情的跑步机保持一定距离是很有用的,在病毒爆发之前这也是我日常必需的活动。


王海洋展览海报

OCAT Xi'an exhibition poster 


Ms. Karen Smith: I was in Thailand on holiday. I returned to Shanghai at the beginning of February, immediately after the Chinese New Year, because we never thought that the situation would continue for so long, and there was work to do preparing for exhibitions and events scheduled for this year. I have been here since.


Life has become focused inward. Staying at home to work every day requires a routine or you get lost in time. There is no reason to get up at XX time, or to eat or sleep at XX time… Yet to drift for too long is to lose a sense of direction, of how everything is connected; your perspective becomes distorted. Having said that, at the same time, other things fall into focus that you never really see when you're busy rushing around – as had been the case in recent years right up to January 2020 when the virus struck. In the last 6 weeks or so, my daily routine has been simple, narrow, rotating around the same few activities every day, and the very few places that it has been possible to be. I have never really had to work a 9-to-5 in an office, but it has been quite strange to find myself feeling so disconnected and disoriented.


Still, work goes well as I am using this opportunity to write a book, or rather to complete work on a book that I have been developing for years now, for which I could never find the right approach, or the right voice. Now in this strange moment of enforced “silence” I seem to have arrived at something in terms of style and content that I feel to be the right voice.


And, other general institutional work continues. We have exhibitions to organise, to reschedule. I have found it useful to have a distance from the previous relentless treadmill of tasks that was the usual day-in-my-life before the virus.


艺讯网:面对突如其来的疫情和灾难,是否触动了您的一些思考?您觉得艺术又会起到怎样的作用?


CAFA ART INFO: In the face of sudden epidemic and disasters, have they inspired your thinking? What role do you think art can play?

凯伦·史密斯女士:不幸的是,这是证明艺术无能为力的一种现实,或者说已经让人觉得没那么重要。艺术无法仅靠在微信上“活着”或“生存”。但是这种无能为力感也反映了近年来艺术发展的主流趋势——装饰性,易于使用的绘画类型可在一段时间之后与背景壁纸融合。这里我很高兴地看到艺术家们和摄影师们所进行的创作,例如OCAT西安馆微信公众号平台上有标题为“艺术家在做什么?”的系列推送;上海摄影中心微信公众号的系列推送“摄影师居家状态研究报告”。还有其他很多很好的例子,它们将艺术带回了人性体验。


Ms. Karen Smith: Unfortunately, this is one situation in which art has proven rather impotent. Or has been made to feel unimportant. Art cannot “live” or survive on WeChat alone. But this sense of impotence is also a reflection of the mainstream trend that has evolved in art in recent years – the decorative, the easy-to-live-with type of painting that blends in with the wallpaper after a while. This is where I have enjoyed seeing what artists and photographers have been doing, for example of the OCAT Xi’an WeChat platform with a series titled “What are artists up to?”; and the SCôP WeChat platform series “Home But Not Alone”. There are many other good examples too, which bring art back to human experience.


OCAT西安当代艺术中心“艺术家在做什么?”系列——郭海强

OCAT Xi’an WeChat platform series “What are artists up to?”—Guo Haiqiang

OCAT西安当代艺术中心“艺术家在做什么?”系列——贺天琪、任钊

OCAT Xi’an WeChat platform series “What are artists up to?”—He Tianqi and Ren Zhao

OCAT西安当代艺术中心“艺术家在做什么?”系列——邱瑞祥

OCAT Xi’an WeChat platform series “What are artists up to?”—Qiu Ruixiang


艺讯网:有些持悲观情绪的观察者认为2020年新冠状病毒肺炎的爆发将会造成下半年中国艺术市场与展事的低靡,您怎样看待这样的预测?OCAT西安馆会有哪些举措应对?


CAFA ART INFO: Some pessimistic observers believe that the outbreak of the new coronavirus pneumonia in 2020 will cause a sluggish period in the Chinese art market and exhibitions in the remaining months of 2020. What do you think of this prediction? What measures will OCAT Xi’an take to respond to it?

凯伦·史密斯女士:由于该病毒的影响以及人们正努力控制其传播的态势,整个世界正在经历一场经济危机,没有什么能置身事外。我们只需要遵循与该问题相关的所有政府指导政策,并且确保员工以及整个社群的健康与安全就好。没有健康我们就一无所有,所以现在这种情况将会使很多人对生活有新的认识。我们正在通过社交媒体平台作出回应。


Ms. Karen Smith: The whole world is experiencing an economic crisis due to the effects of the virus and the people’s attempts to control its spread. Nothing will be unaffected. We just have to follow government guidelines on all things related to this issue, and ensure the health and safety of staff as well as the wider community. Without our health we have nothing so the situation will put life into perspective for a lot of people. We are responding via social media platforms for the time-being.


艺讯网:作为资深独立艺术评论人,您曾出版《发光体》等专著,对比当时写作时的艺术环境和艺术家群体,您觉得近几年的当代艺术环境和艺术家们发生了什么变化?您觉得有什么值得高兴和担忧的?


CAFA ART INFO: As a senior independent art critic, you have published monographs such as As Seen Series. Compared with the artistic environment and the artist group when you wrote the books, what changes do you think have happened in the contemporary art environment and artists in recent years? What has made you feel happy and worried?

凯伦·史密斯女士:与我开始写作《发光体》系列时相比,最大的变化是现在还有如此多的艺术动态在进行中。艺术家的数量增长如此迅速,以至于目前我很难跟上这增长的速度。但是画廊、经销商、艺术博览会和其他推广活动(与艺术家合作的品牌等)数量也有所增加。问题在于,这种增长在某些方面可以说是非常民主的。既没有中心叙事,也没有单一的艺术创作方式,整系列的平台都可以获得曝光度,但是情况也远非近于完美。

 

正如我们在整个社会中看到的那样,非常大型成功的国际画廊与他们所代理艺术家的销售额之间存在着越来越大的差距。这些画廊主导着艺术博览会、拍卖销售,以及默认情况下新藏家的收藏;而更具活力的新兴小型画廊为新锐年轻艺术家们提供了成长空间和人际关系拓展。但是现在,以项目空间或者小型画廊的形式已经不可能生存下去。因为艺术品市场世界的经济因素,他们现在很难生存。同样地,在少数有影响力的艺术权势人物控制下,这个世界的整体驱动力正在对可以被看到、可以被讨论、可以被收藏的艺术类型产生明显的影响。没有核心的叙事或者趋势,但是因为有那么多忙碌的收藏家依靠着少量可信赖的经纪人为他们提供艺术品,因为他们没有时间去做他们想做的研究,也没有足够的精力去记住每件艺术品的名字和细节等等。这意味着保存下来的艺术品和将会对未来世代而言代表着美术史的艺术品类型将会受到影响,受到限制——我并不想说“受到控制”。请别忘记过去博物馆不是直接购买在世艺术家的作品。当然也不会是很年轻艺术家的作品。


《发光体2》封面

As Seen 2 cover


问题也在于,在如此众多的艺术博览会和画廊活动中,人们对于呈现和“观看”艺术的繁琐任务已感到厌倦。通过一些大型画廊、私人博物馆和大笔收藏家资本控制支配着艺术界,几乎没有丝毫批评的空间。有那么一两本艺术杂志在寻求维护自己的自由度并坚持自己的信誉来评介自己认为最好的展览,但是却发现自己失去了刊物上宣传支持的广告收入。我们也可以说这是自然的,是市场力量的共同作用,但是获得高标准专业人士的赞誉并根据他们的独立见解作出判断,而不为收取广告费用作出妥协,才是更有意义和价值回报的方式。进行真正的探讨,获取发现新事物的渠道,发现真正有趣的新事物,才会获得更多的收获。

 

同时,对机构的赞助和支持也是非常必要的。那些运营这些机构的负责人往往害怕说出关于他们被迫采取策略方向的真相,或者是对所鼓励的艺术产生态度的转变,以免冒犯到客户并看到他们把钱花在其他的地方。

 

你可能会说,那又怎样?世界从来没有真正改变过,一直都是这种程度或那种程度以这样的方式运行。我觉得具有讽刺意味的是,现在与我最初发现艺术的时候相比,你可以在各种各样的时空中看到更多的东西,并且可以通过互联网等更便捷的方式找到关于艺术和艺术家的信息;然而,对话似乎越来越单一,人们的参与度也越来越低于当今艺术所依赖的社交能力。至少,我感觉在中国是这样,中国的艺术界和体系仍在逐步发展的感觉。


Ms. Karen Smith: The biggest change from the time that I started working on the “As Seen” series is that there is today so much more going on. The number of artists has increased rapidly and to the point that it is hard to keep up. But also, the number of galleries and dealers, art fairs and other promotional events – brands working with artists etc – has increased too. The issue is that this increase has been in some ways, arguably very democratic. There is no central narrative, no single way to make art and a whole range of platforms upon which to gain exposure. But the situation is far from perfect.


But as we see in society in general, there is a widening gap between the very large, successful, international galleries and the sales of the artists they represent, that dominate art fairs as well as auction sales and, by default, the collections of new collectors, and the more dynamic younger and smaller galleries that function as nurturing spaces and relationships for emerging and younger artists with the opportunities for exposure these galleries provide. Today it is almost impossible to survive as a project space, or a small gallery. Because the economics of the art-market-world, it is now very hard for them to survive. Also, the whole thrust of this world, as controlled by a small number of powerful figures, is having a demonstrable effect on the type of art being seen, being discussed and being collected. There is no central narrative or trend, but because there is so much busy collectors rely on a handful of trusted agents to provide them with art, because they don’t have the time to do all the research they would like, nor the mental bandwidth to remember every new name and detail of artwork etc. This means that the type of art that gets preserved and that will represent art history for future generations is being impacted, constrained – I hesitate to say “controlled”. Don’t forget that in the past, museums were not buying directly the work of living artists. Certainly not very young artists.


The problem too is that with so many art fairs and gallery events that people are weary of the mundane tasks of presenting and “seeing” art. Via a handful of mega galleries, private museums and big collector money dominates the art scene such that there is almost no room for even the slightest criticality. The one or two art magazines that hold out for their credibility in seeking to preserve the freedom to review what they see as the best exhibitions find themselves losing advertising revenue to publications that offer better support of the advertisers' activities. We can say that this is natural, the common effect of market forces, but it's so much more rewarding to receive praise from people who have high standards and judge by what they see rather than as a trade-off for taking fees for advertising. More rewarding still to have a genuine discussion, a channel by which new things can be discovered, new things that are genuinely interesting.


At the same time, there is so much need for sponsorship and support for institutions. Those responsible for running the institutions often end up fearful of speaking truths about the direction they are forced to take, or the shifting attitudes towards the arts that this encourages, for fear of offending patrons and seeing them take their money elsewhere.


You might say, so what? The world never really changes, it's always been this way to one degree or another. I just find it ironic that today, in comparison to the time in which I discovered art, you can see more, in a far wider variety of places and spaces, and have far greater access to information about art and artists via the internet etc, yet the conversation seems less and less varied, and the general population less engaged beyond the sociability upon which art pivots today. At least, that is how it feels in China, where the art world and its system are still evolving.


艺讯网:曾经有评论和报道把您称为中国当代艺术的“观察者”、“记录者”和“推手”,您如何看待这些称谓?您又是如何定位自己的立场和方向的?


CAFA ART INFO: There have been comments and reports that referred to you as the “observer”, “recorder” and “promoter” of contemporary Chinese art. What do you think of these titles? How do you position yourself and decide your direction?

凯伦·史密斯女士2019年在土耳其佩拉美术馆策划的展览《Out of Ink》海报

19. 2019 Out of Ink, Pera Museum, curated by Karen


凯伦·史密斯女士:我从来没有真正考虑过这些称谓——当其他人无法完全理解你的工作时,便会在你身上固定些标签。尽管我确实意识到在中国这里,一个人如果被加上关于工作的一些称谓通常是赞誉,所以我领会这也是件严肃的事。

 

同时,我也确实从未考虑过太多。我很幸运能够追随我所得到的一系列机会,通常新一个机会是前一个机会带来的结果。我从来没有人生计划,没有明确的目标和实现目标的基准。你可以说我的生活态度有点不负责任,但是也总有可能对自己说,那个感觉挺有意思的,为什么不试试,看看下一步会怎样。

 

但是当然我也有着我正在追寻着的潜在路径。正如我一开始所说的,我一直都感兴趣并致力于看到很棒的艺术家们能够进入良性的职业轨道,并且让更多的人能够亲自去发现在中国正在创作的和曾经最棒的艺术形式。我喜欢写作,从来没有比为艺术家策划和举办展览能让我更感到高兴的事。我更喜欢在幕后而不是在聚光灯下工作;成为观察者而不演员。但是我确实想让展览能够现实发生——像OCAT西安馆,像国外的展览(我在2019年3月时在伊斯坦布尔做过一次展览,真是很荣幸。向那些期待完全不同的观众们展示来自中国的艺术,但是很惊讶地发现他们更喜欢所看到的展览。)头衔称谓无法给你带来这样的感受。它们也许是个起点;会使得人们愿意给你五分钟的时间来听你说说并赢得他们的兴趣和支持。


我确实很荣幸能够到达今天的位置,让我可以选择自己想做的工作。我并不想重复——不管是展览风格、内容、主题还是写作方法。《发光体》是我在特定的时刻所做的特定的项目(其想法是记录我在中国十八个月之内的时间里,在画廊或者博物馆的公共空间中所见的中国艺术家们的最佳作品)。但是那个时刻已经过去——因为我再也无法真正地看到90%的展览能进行。那么我该如何诚实地去说“在公开展示中的最佳作品”呢?

 

凯伦·史密斯女士2019年在土耳其佩拉美术馆策划的展览《Out of Ink》开幕

 2019 Out of Ink, Pera Museum, curated by Ms. Karen Smith, opening

凯伦·史密斯女士2019年在土耳其佩拉美术馆策划的展览《Out of Ink》布展现场

2019 Out of Ink, Pera Museum, curated by Ms. Karen Smith, installation


Mr. Karen Smith: I don't really think about titles – they are something that other people need to pin on you when they can't quite get what you do. Although I do recognize that here in China, a person is often only as good as the job title they have, so I appreciate this is a serious issue.


At the same time, I really never thought about it. I have been fortunate to be able to follow a sequence of opportunities that came to me, often one as the result of another. I never had a plan for my life, a clear goal and benchmarks to achieving it. You can say mine has been a slightly irresponsible attitude towards life, but it was always possible to say to myself, that seems interesting, why not give it a try, see where that takes me.


But of course there is an underlying pathway I was definitely pursuing. As I said at the beginning, I have always been only interested in seeing great artists find their way into good career tracks and for more people to be able to discover for themselves what is great about the best art being made in China today, and from yesterday. I like writing; I am never happier than when curating and installing an exhibition for and with an artist. I prefer to work behind the scenes rather than in a spotlight; to be an observer rather than an actor. But I do like to make things happen – like OCAT Xi'an, and like exhibitions abroad (I did one in Istanbul in March 2019 which was a real pleasure to do. To show something of China to an audience that was expecting something else entirely, but were surprised to find they liked what they saw even more.) Titles can't give you this. They are a starting point perhaps; that make people willing to give you five minutes of their time to say something and win their interest and support.


I do feel privileged to have reached a position which allows me to choose what I do. I don't like to repeat – be that exhibition styles, content, themes, or approaches to writing. As Seen was a special project that worked in a particular moment (the idea being to record the best or what I was seeing of art by Chinese artists in exhibitions in public spaces be that gallery or museum, in China within 18 month of time). But that moment passed – because I could no longer truly see 90% of the exhibitions taking place. So who was I then to say honestly “the best of works on public display”?


艺讯网:2020年即将展开的艺术活动中,您最期待看到哪些?为什么?您又有哪些新想法和工作计划可以与大家分享的?


CAFA ART INFO: What are you most looking forward to seeing in upcoming art activities in 2020? Why? What new ideas and work plans can you share with us?

上海摄影艺术中心即将举办美国摄影师埃里克·索斯个展海报

2020 SCôP exhibition poster Alec Soth


凯伦·史密斯女士:我只希望病毒消退并且生活恢复正常。而且我能够成功地完成我的著作。早该结束完成了。

 

此外,我们还有一个声音装置项目计划今天夏季进行,来自伦敦的女艺术家将在中国驻留。作品将在这里创作,然后将在上海、西安、深圳并且希望也能在北京展出。

 

上海摄影艺术中心今年五周年纪念。我正在协助举办几个重要的展览——其中之一是美国摄影师埃里克·索斯的个展;还有一个是关于拍立得摄影的创意。原计划在4月京都国际摄影节上进行的夏永康个展项目也改期在9月进行了。

 

我也很高兴能为北京艺术家史国伟筹划个展,但那是2021年的计划了。

 

我最想做的是更多地去探访艺术家工作室或者发现艺术家。


京都国际摄影节夏永康个展项目海报

2020 Kyotographie Wing Shya poster


Ms. Karen Smith: Only my hope that the virus subsides and life gets back to normal. And that I am able to successfully complete work on my book. That's been long overdue.


Also, we have a sound installation project scheduled to take place in the summer for a London-based woman artist who will be doing a residency in China. The work will be produced here and then shown in Shanghai, Xi'an, Shenzhen and, hopefully, Beijing too.


SCôP has its fifth anniversary this year. I am assisting with several major exhibitions there – one a solo for Alec Soth; one on the creativity of Polaroid photography. Also a solo project for Wing Shya at Kyotographie that was planned for April but is now rescheduled for September.


I am also happy to be working on a solo exhibition for Beijing-based artist Shi Guowei but that's for 2021.


Mostly, I'd like to get back to doing more studio visits, or discovering artists.    


艺讯网:您曾在其他报道中说过,“2000年左右,学校开始扩大招生了,一个班里有50个学生,能够成为艺术家的不到5个……”,您如何看待现在中国的艺术教育?您又有什么建议?


CAFA ART INFO: You once said in a report that, “Around the year 2000, art schools began to increase enrollment. There are 50 students in a class and less than 5 can become artists…”, what do you think of the current art education in China? Do you have any suggestions?

凯伦·史密斯女士:在学校生活中多花点时间!不要间接地生活在社交媒体观念中的虚假世界里。永远不要把你现在所拥有的视为理所当然。永远质疑。保持好奇心。


Ms. Karen Smith: Spend more time in the school of life! Stop living vicariously in the false world of social media opinion. Never take what you have now for granted. Always question. Be curious.


图片由受访者本人提供,致谢受访者和相关机构。

Photo Courtesy of the Interviewee and Related Organizations.


注:本文仅代表受访者本人观点,不代表中央美术学院艺术资讯网机构立场。

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CAFA ART INFO and its employees.




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