罗菲:一份当代社会的临床报告

一份当代社会的临床报告——关于资佰的摄影

文:罗菲

在现代生产条件无所不在的社会里,生活本身展现为景观(spectacle)的庞大堆聚。直接存在的一切都转化为一个表象(representation)。——居伊·德波(Guy-Ernest Debord)

在当代社会,再也不存在孤立的风景,即便在最遥远的地方,也有令人扼腕的景象发生。比如前两天在北极发现,因为地球变暖海冰融化,导致北极熊被饿死,只剩下如毛毯一样的躯体。风景在当代已转变为自然、文化和社会三者交融的处境。在这个处境中,我们可以用法国思想家兼先锋电影导演德波的“景观”(spectacle)一词来描述我们所看到的一切。

在1967年德波出版的《景观社会》(the Society of the Spectacle)中,他创造了“景观(Spectacle)”这个概念,来解释日常生活中的公私领域在欧洲资本主义发展过程中所导致的精神衰弱的问题。他认为“景观社会”所确立的人与商品关系,取代了人与人的关系。因为在现代生产条件无所不在的社会里,生活本身展现为景观的庞大堆聚,这是一种秩序颠倒后的表象。这个表象在媒体时代成为最真实的存在,人们为这个表象而活。“景观社会”导致人们的生活变得贫瘠,缺乏真实性,人的批判性思维逐渐萎缩。

社会学意义上的“景观”(Spectacle)概念也影响到艺术家们对自然景观(landscape)的表达,被观看的对象不只是某种自然景色,更是人工营造的奇观。尤其自上世纪60年代后期以来,“景观”概念在摄影界扩展了风景摄影概念的内涵和外延,促使人们重新评估人与人、人与自然、人与城市的关系。

资佰的摄影正向我们呈现了这样一个虚拟却真实的风景,与德波所描述的庞大堆聚的景观社会遥相呼应。

资佰自2007年以来,在家乡西双版纳,后来在昆明上海等地的垃圾回收站拍摄了数量巨大的废品照片。他本人有在广告公司工作多年的经验,卓越的Photoshop改图绘图本领为他的创作提供了很好的技术支持。最终,在那些由上百幅素材拼合的摄影作品中,密集堆聚的庞大景观呈现出一个让人感到窒息的奇观景象。

在《城市系列01》中,昏黄的密云袭来,数以亿计的猩红色的罐头堆积在天安门广场上,仿佛文革年代云集在广场上热血沸腾的人民正在等候领袖出场。这里,人们欢呼崇拜的那位名叫“消费”,人们在齐呼:消费万岁!消费者大团结万岁!资佰营造了一个偶像崇拜的场景,一场酝酿着消费的狂喜与骚动的拜物教运动正在兴起。

《城市系列02》、《城市系列03》、《城市系列04》分别是关于上海东方明珠下满江的矿泉水瓶,美国自由女神脚下波涛汹涌的啤酒罐,和东南亚小岛周围堆聚如山的饮料罐子。在《山高人为峰》中,饮料瓶堆积如喜马拉雅山峰,同样让人叹为观止。资佰用这些带有标志性建筑的场景赋予垃圾以气势磅礴的震撼力,和风光摄影的伪浪漫品格。

《多?少?》系列是资佰以俯视扫描的视角拍摄了密集的饮料瓶盖、瓶身、罐子或针筒,它们看上去像是色彩艳丽的墙纸。其中两张照片是子弹和手雷,它们是越战期间,美国为阻断北越和中国对南越的物资支持,在神秘的胡志明小道投下的大量弹药。后来该地成为旅游景点,引来大量民众搜寻弹药,据说每年都有人为此丧命。资佰在2008年和2009年前往该地回收站拍摄了这些被废弃的弹药。《多?少?》系列最新的一组,是用拍摄珠宝的方式为废弃的矿泉水瓶、电池、针筒等物件拍摄肖像,一种分别为圣的处理手法为消费品赋予了神圣的光辉。

在美学上,资佰倾向于向人们展示华丽、震撼和细腻的一面。在一定距离观赏下,它们往往令人感到愉悦。但在诱人的表象背后,是残酷的现实,是数以亿计的垃圾,和马路上被碾压的动物尸体(《逝山水》系列)。它们构成了人类贪婪、虚妄,以及人类作为地球管家角色渎职的图证。

据近期住建部的一项调查数据表明,目前中国有三分之一以上的城市被垃圾包围,并且蔓延到了农村。“垃圾围城”也导致越来越多癌症村的出现。

资佰对社会状况的批判,在某种程度上运用了近似临床分析的手法。社会在他眼里仿佛一头失去理智的巨兽,它的需求量和排泄量惊人。为了确诊这头巨兽的病情,资佰去到那些排泄物中仔细查考、拍摄,其摄影作品就是这头巨兽的化验单:一份当代社会的临床报告。他让我们开始注意到自己手中的饮料瓶、塑料袋,和我们的消费观念,正在共同堆砌城市周围日益扩张的垃圾景观。

艺术,作为这个世代的图证,叫人看见现实表象下的真实图景,和人心的贪婪。艺术作为这个世代的预言,叫人看见,如果我们在消费观念、垃圾处理方式等方面不作出任何改变,这便是末世的景象。艺术作为人类精神样式的表达,在数以亿计饮料瓶子的背后,是数以亿计人类干涸的喉咙和灵魂。这是我从资佰提供的当代社会临床报告单上看到的,触目惊心的景观社会。

2013年8月11日

A Clinical Report on Contemporary Society – On Zi Bai’s photo

By Luo Fei

In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.
-Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

In modern society, there are no longer any isolated landscapes. Even in the most remote places, one comes across distressing scenes like the one that occurred just a few days ago in the Artic, where the melting of sea ice due to global warming caused a number of polar bears to starve to death, leaving behind a scattering of blanket-like bodies. All natural spaces in the modern era have been transformed into sites of interchange between the natural, cultural and social spheres. Given this situation, we can use French theorist and film director Guy Debord’s term of “spectacle” to describe all that we see.

In his 1967 work “Society of the Spectacle,” Debord uses the concept of “spectacle” to explain that both the public and private domains of daily life have experienced a sort of existential crisis due to the development of capitalism in Europe. He believes that in the “society of the spectacle,” relationships between people and commodities have replaced those between people. Because in societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles – a perversion of what ought to be the case. In a mediatized age, mere appearances become our most authentic reality – people come to live for them. The “society of the spectacle” makes people’s lives barren and devoid of authenticity; it gradually causes people’s critical thinking abilities to wither away.

This more sociological conception of “spectacle” (景观) has also affected the way artists have come to think and speak about landscapes (which in Chinese are now even referred to with the same term, 景观). The idea of “landscape” has come to include not just natural scenery, but also man-made wonders. Particularly since the 1960s, this understanding of “景观 (spectacle/landscape)” has expanded the range of techniques and subject matter used by landscape photographers by prompting artists to reconsider their views on the way man relates to nature, to the urban environment, and to his fellow man.

Zi Bai’s photography presents us with just such a virtual yet nonetheless real landscape, echoing the society consisting of an immense accumulation of spectacles described by Debord.

Since 2007, Zi Bai has taken a great number of photos of the refuse in garbage collecting stations, first in his hometown of Xishuangbanna and later in Kunming, Shanghai and other cities. He worked for many years in an advertising agency, and his outstanding Photoshop design and editing skills provide an excellent technical background for his creative works. In these hundreds of photographs of collected materials, impressive, nearly suffocating scenes emerge from the densely piled accumulations of our spectacular society.

In his “City Series 01,” under a dim sweep of thick clouds, billions of scarlet cans are heaped upon Tiananmen Square like the passionate masses that swarmed there during the Cultural Revolution era, waiting for their leader to appear. Here, what people cheer and worship is called “consumption,” and what they shout is: “Long live consumerism! Long live the Great Unity of consumers!” Zi Bai has created a scene of heathen idolatry; a fetishistic movement is on the rise, and in it brews the ecstasy and tumult of consumption.
“City Series 2,” “City Series 3,” and “City Series 4” are, respectively, images of the river below Shanghai – the Pearl of the Orient – filled with plastic water bottles, of roaring waves of beer cans swarming the feet of the American Statue of Liberty, and of drink cans piled high as mountains around the islands of Southeast Asia. In the equally inspiring piece “Men are Higher than Mountains,” discarded drink bottles are stacked like Himalayan peaks. Zi Bai uses these iconic scenes and landmarks to make the garbage seem even more vast, imposing and able to shock viewers, as well as to imbue his landscape photography with a Neo-Romantic character.

In his “More? Less? (How Much?)” Series, Zi Bai uses a panning overhead shot to photograph densely packed bottle caps, drink bottles, cans or syringes, creating images that look like beautifully colored wallpaper. Among them two photographs are of bullets and grenades used during the Vietnam War when the Americans tried to block North Vietnamese and Chinese supply lines to South Vietnam by dropping massive quantities of explosives on the mysterious Ho Chi Minh Trail. Later on, these areas became sites for tourism, attracting large numbers of people who came to collect fallen ammunition. It’s said that every year there were people who died doing this. In 2008 and 2009, Zi Bai went to local recycling centers in those regions to photograph these discarded munitions.
Aesthetically speaking, Zi Bai tends to showcase his propensity for the shocking yet delicate. Admiring his works from a certain distance, they always arouse a feeling of delight. But behind this attractive exterior lies a brutal reality – billions of piles of garbage and the crushed carcasses of road kill (“Disappearing Landscape” series). These works are in fact composed out of human greed and vanity, and function as visual evidence of our inability to act as proper stewards of the earth.

According to recent survey data from the Department of Housing, more than a third of Chinese cities are now completely encircled by garbage, which has even begun to spread into the countryside. These “garbage-besieged cities” have also led to the rise of increasing numbers of cancer villages.

Zi Bai’s manner of critiquing our social condition is in some ways similar to the technique of clinical analysis. Society in his eyes is like a diseased behemoth that needs to consume and excrete in alarming quantities. In order to diagnose this behemoth’s condition, Zi Bai attentively wades through and examines its excrement, documenting, using photography as this monster’s lab test results: a clinical report on the condition of contemporary society. He helps us begin to notice that the bottles and plastic bags in our own hands and our concept of consumption are working together to further the spectacle of the garbage that surrounds our cities in ever-increasing piles.

Art, as visual documentation of an era, asks people to look beyond the world of appearances to the reality that exists below, and glimpse people’s greed. Art is a prophecy for this generation, calling on people to realize that if we don’t make any changes to our patterns of consumption or our manner of waste disposal, it will be the end of our world as we know it. Art is an expression of the human spirit: behind the billions of drink bottles there are billions of human beings with dry throats and dry souls. This is what I learned from Zi Bai’s clinical report on the state of contemporary society, of our horrifying society of the spectacle.

August 11, 2013
Translated by Becky Davis

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