On Total Art
Translated by: Jennifer Dorothy Lee (NYU), with Rebecca E. Karl (NYU)
If we wish to be free, we must relinquish all ‘control'. Once we have done so, “the inner meaning of objects will come to light” and we will be able to transcend our inborn limitations. Only then can we truly become “human.”
In 2003, I arrived to teach at the Total Art Studio Workshop of the China Academy of Fine Arts. In my first lecture I addressed the students as follows: “The purpose of life is to attain happiness. There is only one path leading to happiness: that is, to utilize and realize your powers of imagination.”
I have always considered all discussions of art to be inseparable, in the end, from discussions of life—that is, the possibility of happiness. We must open up imagination in order to solve the problems of life and art. We must engage in a protracted struggle against long-held prejudices and established views. We need to believe that anything can provide a reasonable and alternative resolution, even if it is not part of the most understood or conventional methods. Anything and anyone can be deployed in some alternate manner. We must not hastily conclude that these possibilities, of which we are merely unaware, do not exist. We must first acknowledge our own ignorance.
As we reveal the potentials in ourselves, we reveal the possibilities of the world; as we reveal the potentials in things, we reveal the wonder of creation. This is called “heaven and earth founded in the xin (heart-mind),” where the xin denotes the greatest possibility of the growth and germination of all things. That is to say, xin is ‘the best use of any thing' as well as ‘the best development of the talents of any one'.
One type of art as a verb
Whenever we think of a bridge, our most immediate imagining is of a straight line extending between this shore and another. But in fact, a right angle turned nine times around a drawn line exists as a possibility in the world. Building such a bridge with nine turns can reveal the hidden possibility within the straight line of our world. Such a bridge with nine turns, possessing a hidden linear orbit, already exists in the space above a given river.
You turn a blind eye to the arcing line that extends between you and the window pane. If a honey bee were to fly from the window opening on to your desk, this line would be ‘realized'. Or if this were a firefly, and if we happened to have a camera set on long exposure, before our very eyes it would fly across these eight graphemes of the arcing line and be recorded on the photographic plate. The line would then be ‘revealed'.
We might say the eight graphemes of the arcing line within this space already existed without the firefly flying through it, that this line was a latent presence within the space. If our camera had not been turned on, or if we never caught sight of it in the first place, this line could never have revealed itself. A firefly flying through is a stroke of luck, which makes this latent line ‘apparent'. Becoming conscious of this line will bring us a step further toward realizing how the intersecting lines shared by the corners of the wall and ceiling become real. It is because of some lucky chance; once this chance has been exhausted, these few lines cannot be restored.
Now let us return to the connotation of the term ‘xianshi' [reality/realization]. ‘Xian' was originally a verb meaning to allow something that was not visible to become visible. Originally it lay dormant, now it is apparent. From dormancy to appearance: we might call ‘realization' the process wherein those things which might appear are turned into things which have appeared. In this way they are established.
As this corresponds to art, it constitutes one type of art as a verb.
One form is selected from amidst countless latent possibilities to effect this becoming real, this obtaining of appearance.
Our behaviors are compelled by a situation, not from the force of necessity. We know that a situation in the world of possibilities can have a variety of responses. We select the best of them and employ it. This is certainly not some kind of ‘imperative' act. On the contrary, we are well aware that no situation is inevitable. Precisely because there is no necessary or decisive relationship between situations and actions taken, our will and choices are therefore significant.
How to become ignoramuses
We live among quotidian systems of concepts, expressions, visual customs as well as habits of thought; we are always in the midst of their latent or apparent effects. The domination over human beings of this sort of habituation is sometimes very apparent. People within it might feel its effective and thus they speak as if unknowingly, as if in an outer-body experience. Other times people haven't the faintest idea they are being controlled by the power of these systems. They consider certain things to be ‘a matter of course' or certain methods to be ‘right and proper'. Habituation, custom, and belief encourage people to not think, so that they mistakenly deem these cultural instantiations inevitable instead of man-made.
Becoming habituated to things and forgetting that truth can be different; becoming habituated to things and then affirming that which is considered a matter of course: everyday life becomes a trap. To break out of the trap, you must first become aware of these limitations; to become aware of these limitations, you must carefully observe with a self-critical eye and never doubt your suspicions. This process of self-critical observation has become a trendy term known as cultural studies. Hence art that labors to break out of the trap has no choice but to treat cultural studies as its starting point.
Every ruler wishes to tell us, “My ruling power is absolute and just, granted by God.” Or at least, “It emanates from the determination of historical tides—thus my rule is born of historical inevitability.” Every system tends to become rigid. Any language or culture tends towards being employed without affect by people belonging to its linguistic and cultural realms. This successfully creates a misconception, allowing you to believe that it could only be this way, that it has always been this way. Systems seek the pretense of natural law.
This tricks us into abandoning choice, into merely complying and following. However, art as a verb intends to detoxify this anesthetizing force, allowing us to cast off the habit of falling into bad habits. Only then can return anew to a dynamic state of affairs; only then can we again become humans with potential.
This questioning attitude toward common sense is the attitude of the ‘ignoramus'. As an ignoramus, you want to believe there are other ways of resolving matters. The vast majority of people handle matters in the manner to which they are accustomed. The formation of this habit isn't really unfounded. It is usually the most effective, rational, and obvious form of resolution. We respect such schemes, but we must use experience to explore new schemes of things.
Proposing a new way is based then the critique of habit. It is a disruption of everyday life and of all power, authority, and order that purports to be unquestioningly extant.
In order to become ignoramuses, we must launch training into how to err: relating at random, opening up genealogies, Zen, post-perception… etc.
Total art is a tool for assisting the evolution of human beings and the world
Art is not a commodity. Rather, it is a state of objects, people, and events. This state is what we can call art.
The production of art exhibits many differences from mainstream ideology, and it relies on this diversity to disarm the latter's anesthetizing force and to offer an alternative model. This rethinking and alternative have a certain expiration date. Once that period has passed, they become new components of mainstream ideology. Consequently, the production of art is the self-negating mechanism of ideology.
The production of art for total art is founded upon the basis of cultural studies. Its mission is to become, by way of cultural studies, a knower, and at the same time to become, by way of trial and error in experience, an ignoramus. Its mission is to discover a possible world that is even more vast than the real world. The emergence of a possible world, the realization of a possible society: these are in fact society's evolutionary processes.
Because it possesses an expiration date—one moment of freshness; and because it inhabits a specific historical time-space that produces and maintains its artistic state, hence, art production is historical. At the same time, effective art production is also a form of historical critique.
Because it emerges from within the system, its ultimate aim is to return to the system, to change it. Thus it has a social character. Effective art creation is at the same time a form of social critique. As its aim is to transform the system, it must be interwoven with everyday life even as art is other than everyday life. Art must transform life.
Because [art] is a cultural production, artists themselves are also a kind of cultural product. And since the creative process itself is a process of transforming reality, it is also a process of transforming the self. Art production must transform the artist. Art must become a process of moral self-cultivation. Total art education, hence, invariably becomes an education for survival. It is the means by which we confront oppression, loneliness, and death.
Through the transformation of art, language is simultaneously transformed. Through the transformation of language, the self is transformed, as is the entire world. From the point of view of total art, every object, every person, and every event is intimately tied to the entirety of the world, as a mutual constitution. Consequently, this is called total art. Ultimately, total art is the means by which human beings and the world evolve.
5.1 Going to the grassroots as our homework in the everyday
When observing things, we are already so loaded down with existing traditional conceptual baggage that our methods of observation have already become meticulously controlled. The ‘observation' that is controlled is merely a ‘preconception' (a ready-made point of view), a ‘set view' (a determined point of view), or a ‘prejudice' (a narrow point of view).
Our view is unplanned, fragmentary, unmotivated. Often, such a view can only arrive at a certain sensuality; it cannot create feeling; even less does it possess any significance.
If you wish to transform this passive viewing into a motivated viewing, the first step is to have a plan and become an active viewer. The self-cultivation of total art begins with effective observation. Establishing a suitable environment for the task of observation is the first step of undertaking observation with a goal and a plan in mind.
The second step of active observation is to have a method. To see the interests and beliefs that lurk behind visual appearance is to achieve more profundity; to see the position and surrounding relationships is to see more widely, more comprehensively; to see structural relations and concrete influences on people's lives is to see still more minutely; and to see transformations is to see farther into the future.
Let us observe through a framework of space and time.
Reaction Political affairs
Emotion Individual Core Problem Sociality Educational reasons
Experience Cultural psychology
Expansion of form
In order to see extensively, we gaze across the horizontal axis towards the social dimension. Crossing the horizontal axis in the opposite direction we gaze within the individual in order to see minutely. From the origin of the axis, we see into the future; while gazing from the angle of expanded form, we see vividly. We can see the far-reaching and painstaking totality with the vivid life-like possibility of producing movement.
In this way a basic textual project allows our everyday life to yield some degree of interest and sustenance. In fact, it will become the honing stone we carry with us in our repeated encounters with friends. The existence of such a project enables the observer to become a sustained practitioner of investigative inquiry: for the one who creates, it becomes the core of concern.
As the foundation, long-term observation becomes a safeguard against the act of creation having a lack of themes, materials, or space in which to circulate; it is a guarantee that brainstorming behind the closed doors of our workshops will be transcended. So long as there exists a long-term core of concern, the artist will not be reduced to a speculator caught within the systemic bustle of contemporary art, but rather, will become a calm, centered, and active participant.
5.2 Taking real causes as the point of departure
We are already in the midst of a social reality; each of our connections is intimately interwoven with social reality. In this extreme sense, one could say that there is no art that does not intervene or participate [in social reality], thus I will not discuss intervention or participation.
We are referring here to a piece of artwork that intends to exert influence over a clear-cut use of social space, which concerns current issues in society and bears a subjective relationship to the social multitudes. Total art does not consider that artistic self-discipline exists independently of historical questions; nor does it consider that the inner world of the individual is an interlocutor that can be sealed off from social discourse. For this reason, the general orientation of total art tends to seek a certain broad sociality. We merely propose vigilance against vulgar sociological tendencies, and, when discussing the efficacy of art, we warn against falling into theories of morality, imagism, or instrumentalism.
For a long time now the art world has vacillated between the left and the right. Every few years, people burst out of the woodwork saying that the contemporary art world is trapped in the ivory tower, that it is making mountains out of molehills, as a result of which, discussion turns towards intervention and interruption. And then the next generation will again join the fray: art, having been reduced to a tool, will now be the defended as a bastion of independence equated to the defense of human dignity. Several years later, yet another generation will leap in to argue for intervention. This kind of pendulum-like movement has even become a feature of the curatorial discourse of international exhibitions. The last biennial exhibition was entirely [composed of] social dossiers and radical social movements. That show was no doubt the product of the artist's charisma…
One of the missions proposed by total art is to overcome these pendulum-like swings. It proposes social responsibility and the simultaneous transcendence and completion of the individual.
We are merely starting from reality. Reality is the point of departure. But we do not stop at the real.
Without undergoing an internal filtering and tempering, the fresh and lively materials of reality are merely undigested materials; these materials return to furnish to reality that which can be found anywhere. If the artist could ascend to a symbolic level in concrete social affairs – at the same time an activist in the field of the historical as well as one who has an experimental attitude towards the historical -- he could truly play a role in historical progress. The material reality of water undergoes an internal transformation to ferment into wine or medicine; it can become a kind of cure for reality.
5.3 Historical materials
There exist historical materials. Before they become materials for our use, they already possess an identity in real life. Many times they still possess a master as well as leaving a trace. Hence, they have memory; they have political, economic, and class cultural attributes. When we utilize the materials of history we in effect take these memories and order them anew. Our materials are in actuality the lives, stories, vestiges of people.
But in making use of them we must avoid merely relying upon the existing interpretative frameworks of their bygone lives. By contrast, we should to make use of the information they carry to subvert their original identities. Let them, because of our own emergence, complete a sort of transformation.
Every kind of material in fact has a past; it is only because of the crudeness of the marketplace that this past is concealed. We make detailed investigations of a bag of sand that came from some riverbed, or of the base of a steel pipe that came from some mine: this kind of inquiry broadens the basic material by robbing it of simplicity. This allows us to recalibrate significantly the historical relations between materials and ourselves.
5.4 Conceptual systems as materials
5.5 Turning events and their repercussions into materials
5.6 Let works of art form a system of mutual support
…by piling bricks high it is indeed quick and easy to build a high tower: the contemporary system of the art marketplace leads artists to piling bricks with the greatest of ease. From a relatively large building frame a pyramid is constructed, which requires even greater amounts of labor. An artist in actuality seems to regard his entire life as a creative work in progress.
…The modern system of art also carries the symptoms of an interpretive violence. The more fragmentary and independent the completed piece, the easier it is to be coercively defined in interpretive discourse. If a work is from the beginning part of an organic system, it can avoid being fragmented by interpretation. Interpretation invariably can never conceal a work of art in its entirety.
Your system of art works has already been established. People might find that they wish to take one piece out of this system, to hold it up and pull at its many threads. Your piece taken alone might have its very own cellular wall; but once it is placed with others, they will adhere to each other to become an organism possessed of a formidable power to reproduce itself.
In the system of modern exhibitions, in order to readily adapt to certain circumstances, artists all too easily tend toward opportunistic agreeability. In fact, the more intelligent the artist, the more agreeable: he becomes a wondrous example of an eclectic and passive receptor. The artist who has built a self-supporting and self-reproducing organic system is able to refrain from becoming so agreeable.
In fact, not only is one artist's lifework an organism, but each community and each generation of artists also constitute an organism. Once they band together, every individual stem can die, but the forest will remain. Where my work ends, yours begins. As far as Chinese people are concerned, more formidable even than ‘immortality' is ‘endurance'.
5.7 Creativity that stems from labor
Without doubt, we are entering an “era of pan-creativity”.
The creative activities and productive processes of contemporary artists today can be divided into two phases. On the one hand, the artist's productive capacity is amplified, allowing us to cope with huge gallery spaces and increasingly dense invitations to different exhibitions that do not want repetition. On the other hand, there is the phase that allows us to become increasingly distant from the labor process of making works of art, to act as pure designers, forced into the high position project managers. Sometimes, we are even exploiters. We are full of schemes and plans, becoming more and more cautious.
Artists must become laborers again.
Apart from the considerable efforts to create the new for the sake of newness, creativity has an even more profound resource: that which flows naturally from selfless physical labor. It is like drinking that last mouthful, being aware of being drunk yet not knowing with which glass the drunkenness began. In this sort of creative frenzy, you can write Chinese characters without inhibition and produce transcendent calligraphy; you can mangle the dance steps and yet produce a transcendent dance: this is the deepening of the intrinsic bodily experience of the laborer. The more familiar you are with the object and tools of the work, the more profoundly you understand the intertwined secrets of the world and life. Craftsmanship is cultivation. The spiritual realm of humankind rises along with the mastery of handicrafts. A deft hand molds its own wisdom.
In this way, we won't pass meaningless time, and we will no longer have to painstakingly map out the hours or idle away under the eyes of an overseer.
Repeatedly discussing the expression, “The advancement of skill leads to the Way,” is not merely for the sake of saving art through labor, but more important, to save labor through art.
We observe two types of labor. Some labor has the opportunity to rise to become art and thus carries with it a sense of happiness. Some labor is merely a substitute for machinery and will ultimately be replaced by machinery. In this day and age, how to allow labor its dignity, a sense of value and happiness, remains a serious political problem. Only when contemporary art receives nourishment from labor will it not be reduced to shallow creativity. Only when labor leads smoothly to art will it not have come to an end. We should allow art and labor to rescue one another.
When the creativity of labor becomes moral cultivation, creation and living in the world form an organic whole. This is total art.
5.8 Pondering the essence from the outside, starting at the crucial point
5.9 Weaving art into daily life
…Although exhibition halls continue to be at the forefront of our symbolic realm, the work within their walls should become the experimental branches that reach out into everyday life. A tree, if genuine, will be the mainstay of the walls. Without exploring in depth the root system outside the walls, the tree leaves within the walls are mere decoration.
The site of history is the relation between artists and authentic social space; it is the relation between artists and authentic social events. It might occur between particular individuals, yet it can be woven around our public events and media.
…In the interweaving of art and everyday life, the significance of artistic cultivation becomes clear: On the one hand, works of art in themselves possess endurance as well as complexity. On the other hand, continuously having artistic work in everyday life makes a cliché of the latter. The mainstream ideological domination of our everyday life returns.
When works of art are interwoven into everyday life, the boundary between art and non-art is blurred, just as the bond between creative and non-creative time is obscured. Everyday life art must recapture the creativity of life from the very system of modern time.
For this reason, total art workers must have their own everyday life art projects, even projects of an entire lifetime.
5.10 From the masses, to the masses
Deploy core concerns so that they become enduring ethical tools and, beginning from the causality of the real, deploy intrinsic sublimation to transcend the real. Consider the totality of the social system, and from within its systemic logic discover the crux. One can step in from outside the crux. These are the conceptual characteristics of total art.
That which happens in the space of everyday life; that which progresses in the time of everyday life. Complete creation with vigorous labor, build an organic creativity, bring the natural resources of the masses into play: this is the working style of total art.
The concept of total art takes root in ontology of art as a verb: it emphasizes effect while opposing psychologism; it emphasizes experimentation while opposing intuition. At the same time, it advances a non-partisan critique of the tendencies of vulgar sociology and private language.
A method naturally derives from this ontology. Using this method as a point of departure, from within creative practice emerges a series of social researches, of real activities, of everyday life, of skill refinement, of new public spaces and so on.
We thereby also build our own series of problematics: a critique of the landscaping of our everyday lives, a critique of middle-class ideology, problems in education, art and therapy, the study of poverty and labor, rural construction and reflections on modernization, micro-histories and micro-politics, time systems and concepts of the body, a critique of the system of art, the experience of post-humanity, etc.
The word ‘total' of total art is also the root of totalitarianism. Totalitarian rulers were often extreme idealists, as well. Totalitarianism was brought about through the ideal of remolding every layer of life and, since moral introspection did not come into play, this expanded into the violence of an unassailable domination. The similarity of these usages does not appear so very glorious. What we need is actually an art that is related to free choice and the possibilities afforded by opening [to the world]. Total art would then be art without controls, or, that is to say, open art. Its objective is to connect individual practice with social responsibility; to link unrestrained fantasy with reality, to link labor with creation, and to connect everyday life with the barriers to art. Thus an even more accurate phrase would be:
6 The Way of Connection
6.1 Recognizing the void has presence
Buddhists say, “observe the void.” Everything that exists goes back to emptiness. Similarly we say that the first responsibility of artists is to “observe the void.” Once we are able to do so, we will see that this table was originally the void, that the timber might very well not have been a table. Might it not just as well have been a room? Or why not a dog? In that case, why not attach a leash to the table and pull it outside for a walk on the lawn?
But to be an artist, it is insufficient merely to observe the void. By observing the void, how can we learn to look beyond the reality of today to see another reality? We recognize its emptiness, and we are eager to build a new ‘presence' to fill it. The aim of knowing emptiness is to put something there, a presence that is fresh and pure, which is the most eloquent evidence of emptiness.
6.2 Creating ‘the real'
Knowing the course of things in itself builds the course of things. Understanding the course of the world in itself rebuilds the world, and at the same time, it also brings the process of life to completion. The inquiry into knowledge and for self-cultivation: therein lies the process of division from one to two and back again to unity.
6.3 Using things to their utmost
The things we see are merely a temporary manifestation that is granted us, but in fact our understanding of this manifestation is far from comprehensive. It is only in retrospect and unthinkingly that the user of things places undue emphasis on the aspect that is already visible, gradually allowing people to forget that there are vast other aspects to the thingness of things, gradually substituting the xin [mind-heart] for the thing itself. Conversely, supposing we should try to impose an everyday definition on the object beyond its actual use, we would not be taking its original thing-y nature into account; and so the object would serve as a substitute for the xin [mind-heart]. In this case, the xin still tyrannizes the object. Even if the object were to meet with violence, the xin [mind-heart] itself would neither be deepened nor opened.
The use-value of an object leaves us far from any true understanding. We must discover its potential meaning in the course of realizing its use-value; this is using things to their utmost. Only in using things to their utmost is it possible to intrinsically connect the creation of things to the universe.
Once we are able to recognize emptiness, the multiplicity of uses of an object can become boundless.
We might say that, with regard to the multiplicity of an object's use, we need to have a kind of usage that is an alternative use beyond everyday use; yet, depending upon the aspects of the object that have been abandoned in everyday definition, the complete nature of the object can be developed. This kind of alternate usage, located outside of everyday use but within the possible parameters of the nature of the object itself, is the transcendence of everyday use through the development of the utmost in the object's nature. Only this can be called using things to the utmost. In the process of using things to the utmost, the enrichment of xin [mind-heart], intellect, and sensibilities all at once break fresh ground.
6.4 Using talent to the utmost
We can make the following analogy between the concepts of ‘I' and ‘the real': as we must observe the void in facing reality, ‘I' becomes a kind of reality while at the same time “I” also view the void.
We can pose another view of creation: We create so as to negate our innate character, to develop a newer character than the prior one. First, I must proceed to ‘recognize the void' in face of my individuality and my self; after a time, I will be able to rely upon all the possibilities I have observed to establish a ‘presence,' and then I will have created.
This is the difference between the past me and the new me, as well as the difference between the young me and the adult me. If your freedom of choice is full of creativity, you are bound to deepen and open up the world and yourself. At this moment, the ‘I' of this possible world is the new me; it is the real me, the adult me.
6.5 Cultivation and purification; walk toward innocence
The body is not born ready to govern a country or establish peace on earth. Such an office can only be assumed by training and cultivating the body. The ancient meaning of ‘cultivating the self' is using the standards of the sages to make demands on ordinary people. Cultivating the self is thus purifying one's character. To know the truth of the self is to recognize one's own freedom.
Innocence is for realizing the ample potentiality that heaven has bestowed upon you. When you have fully realized this potentiality, you will have achieved your innocence.
6.6 Fill the universe with xin [mind-heart]; participate in the world's evolution
The xin [mind-heart] of heaven and earth is the possibility and opening to the utmost of all beings and things. Every object, including every person, can be the best they can be, can become the best they can become. The new arenas and worlds made by great artists and scientists exhibit the wonders of creation and of human ingenuity. Because of these kinds of potential realities, the possibilities inherent in the universe can be called filling the universe with xin [mind-heart].
The mission of the ‘human being' is to allow the inherent hidden possibility of the world to become real and, by realizing the possibility of the world, to realize the self. The self-fulfillment and self-development of human being is, at the same time, the perfection and development of the world. Furthermore, it is most obvious and radical evolution in the world.
6.7 Artistic creation and me, and my relations to history
6.8 The Way of Connection
We are in an era of fundamental division; our cultural values are fragmented. Our individual honor is divided from social obligation. Our labor is divided from creation. Our art is divided from life. Our radicalism is divided from compromise. Our cities are divided from the countryside. The self is divided from the other. These various predicaments are the symptoms of a grave spiritual illness. It is the peculiar psychosis of our times. We should first become conscious of and acknowledge the symptoms of our own schizophrenia and then begin to change this form of psychosis. Those who do not seek connections will not be connected. Those who do not seek unity will have no unity.
We hence raise once again the issue of total art for the sake of averting this divided state of affairs. We wish to use a unity of connections to digest the self-contradictions of our bodies; to treat ourselves the above-mentioned condition of our own psychosis. We wish to use action to connect life and art, to allow art to become a part of life anew, and to allow life once again to support art.
In Leonardo da Vinci, we see the linkage of knowledge and technique; how perceptive observation and rational study nourish one another, becoming cyclic. In Wagner, we see the how immersion-style domination of the senses and ideological symbolism unite to become one kind of design of spiritual life. In John Ruskin and William Morris, we find how critical socialist ideals emerge from the linking of utility and the everyday. In the Bauhaus, we go yet a step further to find the intimate integration of the ideal of an overall transformation of life and hand craftsmanship. From the rethinking of modernity that extended globally in the twentieth century, from Rudolph Steiner to Rabindranath Tagore, from the Black Mountain College to Joseph Beuys, we can see the strength of the efforts to construct art as life. Art is not a separate profession but rather is that which connects and transforms life; it is the ability to contemplate anew every nook and cranny of life. Then, from the weaving and pottery of the rural areas, from their songs to their festivals, from their clothing to their architecture, from their use of a chair to their writing of the alphabet: these can all be new points of departure. This is the powerful ideational schema of total art. Within this schema, the elite rises from the lowest rungs of labor; science, technology, aesthetics, and morality refuse to be severed from one another; work and play refuse to be opposed to one another. And one's job cannot become one's identity. This is seeking all-round development.
This attitude of total art actually has always existed in China , and in fact has always been very strong. Through the ages, one path toward self-cultivation has been through art. And internal cultivation has always been unified with external obligation. We believe that there is already an education that aspires towards [this kind of] “reason”.
The most internal cultivation and the most worldly intervention seek to become one, to form a cycle. We regard social activity as a form of self-cultivation, and are thus indifferent to failure or success; without worrying about failure or success we have no fear, and thus can our social activity remain vigorous. We regard spiritual cultivation as social activity, and trust that it will neither wither nor turn into chaos, but will be forever a breath of fresh air and dynamic.
The most dynamic creation and the most lonesome labor seek to become one, to form a cycle. We wish to allow our two hands to become the chief apparatus of thought. Allow creativity to leap out from skill rather than from the showy creations of exploited labor. The most unique individual creation and the most gigantic collective work seek to become one, to form a cycle. The boundary between my work and that of others should be redrawn. Authorship should be redefined.
The most quotidian ought to be regarded as the workshop of the most radical experimentation. Art and everyday life seek to become one, to form a cycle. The materials of artistic creation should come from everyday life; the space of artistic creation should return to the space of everyday life; the object of artistic creation ought to redound to the common people and not to the professionalized avant-garde audiences fostered by the art system. By the same token, we need to rediscover a new place for fantasy in every corner and on every level of everyday life. We should deploy the artistic permeation of the details of everyday life to resist the commoditization and beautification of the quotidian. Only if creative activity begins now can we dispel the boredom of life.
Life has already been beautified; economics already monopolized; politics already rendered into performance. Only art is can break down the ramparts so that we might possess life, politics, and economics anew. Only when each and every level and dimension of life and art are integrated do we have the possibility of returning to a peaceful and dynamic, strong and vigorous, dignified and benevolent, selfless and larger-than-self form of life. We have only freedom and liberation to become possible. Only when freedom and liberation become possible can reality become a possibility. In its wake, so shall happiness become possible.
Tr.: The author uses the female-radical “it” in this place; there is no way to reflect this usage in English, so I note it here.