prison break

the wrong: imprisoned by our own long history

5 years ago, i was throwing around an idea of building a chinese fashion house. all the feedbacks from china were 1) copy, copy, copy, 2) make it look like a western brand, and 3) give it a european name. no one said anything about the actual customers. no one said anything about an original vision. and, no one said anything about a long-term strategy. 5 years later, i am still getting the same answers. and no, i am not taking those “advices”.

i suspect our proud 5000 years of chinese culture and history are not doing us any good regarding designs. at this point in time, not only should we break from the western ideals in aesthetic, but also our own past history. if design is about exploration and navigation of our contemporary life, then we should be looking for new frontier of the modern lives, not the remains of our cultural ruins. please forget about all those dragon motifs visually. please let go of all those emperors and dynasties conceptually. please stop using all these ancient similes conversationally. and please: do not be imprisoned by our own past.

when i went to 798 for the first time a few years back, i saw lots of artworks dealing in the rein of politics. the americans ate that stuff up, but as a chinese citizen, i found that too far removed from everyday lives and the general reality of the here and the now. in other words – boring! then there were those artworks with which their main idea is to update the past to the future: pop art ink drawings, the ceramic coca cola cans, the modern installation using ancient furniture from the forbidden city, etc. these were all good gimmicks… for about 5 minutes – boring! and let’s not even mention the “east meets west” rubbish; that stuff lays so deep inside the mind-prison that i am not even going to comment on that – boring!

however, i came across some artworks that excited me. those were free of our historical baggages as a people. the artists just deal with the everyday lives without referring to the past. the artworks are all witnesses of the modern history of the rise of china. i invite you to check out the brilliant minds of yue minjum, zhang huan, and ju ming.

i am not saying we should develop our own form of internet from the ground up. a good thing is a good thing. but if we are going to copy, we should copy the thought process, not the end products. i don’t want your fish; i want to learn how to fish. don’t just hire all the international celebrity designers and architects to work on our projects; we should mix in our own creative talents to learn, to adopt and to find our own paths. not to be limited by our 5000 years of experiences, to be a trailblazer is to have one’s own beliefs, own value, and own strategy.

(first published in the aug. 2010 issue of his life magazine)






(第一次发表: 2010年8月 他的生活杂志. 翻译: grace chen)

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