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The Fragility of Matter—Lu Xiao & Kuang Jun Joint Exhibition

The Fragility of Matter: Lu Xiao & Kuang Jun Joint Exhibition

 

    As Hegel put it, “Being self-conscious is being conscious.” Reflections on self-consciousness are based on the external other, and self-consciousness is the reflection of consciousness, the knowledge about oneself, which is different from the knowledge of objects. Self-consciousness is self- determination, and recognition, but this determination is based on the other. Ignored the external world, it is the determination of pure egotism, falling into psychological narcissism and leading to an abnormal mental state. If the ego is never recognized from without, the ego cannot form its own self-consciousness, losing its raison d’etre, but may lead to schizophrenia. Hegelian reason is faced with a great risk - an abnormal environment would cast a huge psychological shadow over self-consciousness so that it is difficult to form self-determination. The ego becomes a conscious self-deception. One definitely knows this is “the ego”, but regards not it as “the ego”; however, regarding “the ego” as an object, one thinks of it as “the ego”. Consciousness contradictorily accepts this self-deception structure. According to Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory, the subject can enter into the symbolic order only by The Other’s naming and becomes the subject of language and of meaning. In the face of The Other with changeable, capricious, collapsed values of the external world, the loss of a definite reference system, the determination and construction of the individual faces a natural predicament.

    In the rejuvenation of terrorists in Europe, it can be seen that participants are experiencing a lack of external identification and a sense of internal deprivation. The claim by Mohamed Mera that you love life and I love death has become a motto of terrorism. These young people cannot find their own identities and positions in a society; they would rather get a social position through suicide and murder, becoming a martyr, indeed a “hero” in their community. They would rather choose to die than continue to live in “emptiness”. In Lacan’s theory, if one cannot find the meaning of his existence in his speech and cannot be the subject of the speech, and if the speech cannot give him the meaning of existence and the meaning is excluded from his existence, the significance which is absent from his speech will return to reality until it appears in the death of the subject. In our time, that the meanings are excluded means they cannot enter into the symbolic order of neoliberalism and capitalism.

With the value system in China rapidly changing, covering, and superimposing, the younger generation that has grown up has become the most flexible one, who can give up and adjust their values at any time. That “All that is solid melts into air - Marxism and modernization” is not only a theory but also a symbol and slogan of the era. Whether the landscape of changing values, or the clumsy fertility policy, from political ideals to commercial worship and to scientific and technological beliefs, the subjectivity of mankind in a capitalist and neoliberal society consists in the materialized subject - what success or self-esteem is is defined in terms of how much the subject possesses in the mainstream social material form. Neoliberalism built on the structures of exclusive narcissism overemphasizes individual freedom and identity, distancing one from others and hence resulting in a scattered society of atomization. The sick expression of love in the neoliberal is that by returning itself with loving others, and it is a narcissistic love, unable to love others. The individual is closer to the “narcissistic subject” and captured by his narcissistic passion. His freedom is also largely limited by his self-image. The only way to break away from his self-image and narcissism is language, because it is a third party relative to the subject and the self-image, which can separate them and hence gives the subject freedom. You can use your language to change your relationship to the past and free yourself. We are trapped in narratives of our own and family history, but they are actually alienated by meaning. It is probable that we can detach from this alienation, as Heidegger put it, “language is the home of existence.”

Kuang Jun has fallen in love with the cathedral glass from the beginning of learning sculpture. He once stood in the front of the original works in the V&A museum for a long time in 2013. What attracted him were not the religious attributes of those works but the characteristics of that kind of form and content that brought him peace and deep spiritual pleasure, which were abstracted from religious teachings. Over the years Kuang has been exploring the relationship that glass could be with him. Glass, a kind of hard and fragile material that reflects its own reflections, has complex production technology with which he has a particular feeling - “There are lots of tiny cracks on a piece of knocked glass, and it will be nervous and fear when I see them. After handling, there still be this kind of emotion. The potential emotion attached to this material makes him addicted to it.

The window frame used in Decorative Metaphor - Atonement 8 is that left by the modernization during the 1970s-80s. After decades of turbulence, it was abandoned in the new round of urban construction. Just as the song Little Swallow represented the optimism and enthusiasm of the generation of the 1970s, who was full of enthusiasm and hope for the construction of New China, all of this seems like an abandoned iron window, unsettling. People of the 1970s carried the burden of collectivism when talking about “our generation”. At that time, this kind of things was really true, and they really believed in the future and devoted their lifelong enthusiasm to the rounds of construction.

His Broken Glass seems to be fragile, but when it becomes a symbol, it allows people to recognize and accept this vulnerability and brings about power. Wind could blow out the candle, and also make it burn more. Kuang accepts his own fragility - the fragility of his generation. He sincerely confronts the inner, truthfully expresses emotions, and calmly faces audiences. “Fragility” and “powerfulness” seem to be opposite but symbiotic. It is because of weakness that they will produce armor. Joy without bearing pain is just like morning dew, and belief that has not experienced the hardship is hard to resist erosion.

    Lu Xiao’s inspiration comes from ways: people and things experienced in life or daily-accumulated reading. She digs into the things she feels, and indulges in the fun of “forms”. Seeing broken sculptures, she feels that she is particularly fit for her life, so she creates the series of Container. She says, “As we live, we feel the cracks more and more in our lives. It is difficult to be perfect. In various relationships and cognition, changes have become the only constant thing. But people have a primitive impulse, the feeling of wanting to protect the beautiful things, just like that of glass that Kuang describes.” Her Container is a broken sculpture but still makes us feel a solid connection with the sense of eternity that you could find in Greco-Roman sculptures. Lu believes that our body itself is a container, fragile but not give in easily. This generation suffers from trauma, fragile but still tenacious, different from the strength of rigid and mighty, this power is quite soft and tenacious. Human nature indeed is fragile. Although imperfect, it retains the “truth”. She says, “I choose the Greco-Roman sculpture because it is closer to people than Chinese sculpture. Just as something is not so strongly directed, I can fill with my own life, that is, a strong kind of knowledge. Cut by the time, sculptures were broken, only a few limbs left, but the more it is the more we can feel the spirit in it.”

A Room is a purely sensual work. There is no specific story but a description of personal states. That is a bearer of emotional memory and has also been influenced by the great times. But the Container is coming out, out of dependence - the urgency to find something to fill. Now Lu transforms through painting, and look back on herself retrospectively, showing this vulnerability to call for strength. This transformation may involve Lu’s being a mother. The meaning of the fragility in a girl is completely different from that in a mother. “Woman is weak in herself, but a mother is strong.” Lu’s works have a unique and sad aesthetic appeal, fragile but full of hope. Freud said that psychoanalysis couldn’t tell what a woman is but how a little girl becomes a woman. Women have completed a specific social role in the construction of society and in the expectations of others. Lu tries to show that women are not the objects of male’s imagination; rather, women have their own identity and their own body recognition, integrating their physical consciousness into the struggle with the male. Feminism attempts to get rid of the male-made social image of women and refuses to accept some settings imposed on the female by the male.

    Fragility is both a social landscape and an individual phenomenon. Regardless of how the world and society are, we all need to be responsible for the choice of our own lifestyle and subjectivity. With values fallen apart in the neoliberal contemporary capitalism, how to re-use language to define and build ourselves, and how to tell our desires from the construction of The Other? Turning towards desire or deviating from it? At this point, we are still the subjects of free choice.

 


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