Concrete Flux | Soy Sauce Noodles


1994

很多年以后,我对东北的记忆就只剩下这样的画面:在夏季的暴雨中,几条大红鲤鱼不小心从菜场的塑料兜里窜了出来,滑到马路牙子上,拍打着尾巴,最后折进了水流窜进下水道里流走了。东北那时时刻刻被遗忘的历史就像这几条大红鲤鱼,从没被讲述过。这个故乡,更多是在抽象的层面让我营生起无限的忧愁。而母亲家那些美丽的人,都为证明了这份忧愁而日益老去。

1994年,东北的冬天照常下了大雪。姥姥家的农村亲戚和往年一样,在正月的第七天进城里给姥姥姥爷拜年,带着冻得邦邦硬的粘豆包和刚杀猪的后鞧子。农村亲戚身上总有股味儿,就是怎么洗都洗不掉的那种味道。东北的土话叫胡巴滥垦,就是烧火的烟味混的。那种味道太重了,我每次都不能和他们一个房间呆着。姥姥是极其节省的人,每次都给亲戚们拿回去点攒下的破布和打了虫子的毛线球。从小就挨打受罪,后来跑到了城里,读书认识了一个大学生,也就是我的姥爷。当时姥姥已经从原来的粮食店退休了,每个月我都陪姥姥去人民广场的银行领工资,她原来是粮店主任,为国家做了一辈子的贡献,工资却少得让人难以启齿,还经常受到我妈妈和小姨的嘲笑。我记得姥姥有一次只从那个柜台窗子口里领了一百块钱,回家的路上就哭了。

1994年,我在小舅舅凤凰自行车的前梁上,我们带上10个瓷瓶大酸奶和肉联厂风干的香肠,到南湖的棋牌室打台球、游泳。街道、灰褐色的房子从我们身边划过,还有那窸窸的碎语,时间凝滞,城市却在浮动,如梦。舅舅有时会唱起一首歌,有时和我讲了一个关于同性恋的故事,还有他的那些女朋友们。在大部分时间里,他保持了美妙的沉默,那是唯独能在刚刚成年的男孩子身上找到的沉默,他们心里想了太多事情,以至于顾不上说明。

1994年的夏天,三峡。我骑在在甲板上的栏杆上,看小姨妈吐着烟圈,当扬子江的亚热带暖流拂过她美得近乎是疯狂的面容,一个冰冻的世界也开始融化。

1994年,我六岁,留着日本明星山口百惠的发型,因为长得像日本人,经常被人称赞洋气。每当听到阿姨们夸我“真洋气”,我心中总是咒骂这些没有诚意、圆滑的成年人。洋气比不过漂亮,这个词汇是这边人措辞风格的好例子。莫名的事故和繁杂的人际关系侵蚀到生活中去,那时候就是这样,生活侵染着压抑和不能名状的泄气。我有时很没趣,喜欢拆穿这些冠冕堂皇,之后蓦然看着穿着裘皮大衣和金色高跟鞋阿姨的脸。她们会表露一些不自在,但是更多是不耐烦,像是说,我已经很仁至义尽了,你这个自找没趣的家伙。在这边,把话说绝是万万不可的,不给他人留余地也是为自己添麻烦。可能像所有遥远的外省,荒凉人生的处境只靠这适当的冷漠才不显得绝望。东北的孤独,让人尴尬的好客,却也近乎是放肆的淡然,他们把陈词滥调不计后果地运用到生活中去,只为一时的热闹和其乐融融。


Natural Resources-A Captured Instant

Shortly after the election of Donald Trump, I stayed in New York a little while. It seemed that nobody had yet gotten over this event; aging white people, especially, as well as media professionals, really failed to understand their own country, and still appeared to be in a state of shock. On a typical New York afternoon, I met with curator Howie Cheng on Union Square near 14th Street. The sunlight flickered through the branches of the leafless trees; there were pigeons and passersby everywhere. Howie was very busy at the time, as he had just started his residency at the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP), and had also arranged many workshop interviews. He told me that the elections had made many artists feel anxious, or even desperate. In contrast to his usual studio interviews, which aimed to provide professional advice and artwork appraisals, he found that these meetings had recently turned into psychological counselling sessions to artists in distress. Indeed, these artists needed someone with whom to discuss whether, in such a rotten political context, it was still so necessary to pursue artistic creation.

Later, I met in Chinatown the three Chinese artists who run Practice, an alternative art space. Each of them was busy preparing their respective contribution to the group exhibition they were about to take part in, at the 47 Canal gallery. They are not snobbish in the least, and such an opportunity is particularly rare. While each of them still pursues his or her own career as an artist, together, these three people have also succeeded in forging a collective entity through this open space—or to put it in the simplest terms, a friendship. Cici had cut her hair; she had not changed over the past two years, since I had first met her, although she might have become a little more caustic. She was still hoping for a war. As she drank, she criticized young Chinese artists for having no political enthusiasm, and lamented the corruption in which artistic creation was drowning. Out of self-defense, and due to my aversion to words like “war,” I almost quarreled with her once again.

For a few weeks thereafter, I hid in a little village on the West Coast, and decided to stop thinking for a time about the entreaties of art and artists. I lost track of time in the winter wind blowing over the Pacific. Occasionally, I would stare transfixed at enormous abalone shells on the beach, or discuss the cultivation of marijuana with hippies in collective saunas—various scenes that reminded me of Joan Didion’s experience when she returned to the West Coast in 1968. On a characteristically peaceful morning, my stroll was interrupted by a female archaeologist (if I correctly remember her self-introduction), who was bubbling enthusiasm; upon learning of my nationality, she started effusively discussing how she concentrated “qi” and meditated there. This strange episode of friendliness and cultural exchange made me quickly lose interest in that temporary cozy nest. I could not help but think of Cici’s passionate advocacy of “radical action,” and of my own feeling of powerlessness a few years back regarding political action, at the time of “Occupy Wall Street.” I started wondering whether I had become corroded by the environment of China, a country which is seemingly open as part of the world and yet is full of local rules; at the same time, I felt nostalgic of the summers spent drinking Yanjing beer with artists in Heiqiao.

However, short-term travel always grants me a kind of intermediate space: in the irregular variance of cultural life around the world, I ceaselessly discover the self-evident and yet profound mysteries of everyday life—or even experience enigmatic instants. For example, I once saw that certain Californian cliffs, where picking plants or going hunting was forbidden, had grown covered in Chinese cabbage that had escaped from the yards of newly-arrived Chinese immigrants. Many such plant migrations, without requiring any theories or justification, constitute a perfect process of globalization; and this patch of natural coast, whose protection was ordered by Barack Obama, rather seems to be a sophisticated artificial landscape, a projection of the world overflowing with extraneous choices. Comparable scenes frequently appear during instances of rapprochement between two former enemies. Explorations and metaphors as regards poetics, sex, or identity, are being developed in the Scottish Highlands, the Californian deserts, the south of China, or in the landscapes of Central Asia, like so many everyday activities; they bring about brief instants of alienation, exteriority, dissimilarity, or uncanniness. And yet generally speaking, in reality,  such instants have already been excessively pondered over before they even appear, which robs one of the happy surprise of encountering them. But these impotent encounters seem to be our fate, reflected onto the pupil of the world. Or in other words, identifying history, politics or power seems no longer to be the final purpose of our cognition. In this moment in time—an awkward and even painful moment—finding out how to discard long-familiar burdens and presuppositions, and how to rebuild confidence in one’s expression, has naturally become our present responsibility.