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01 6月

不朽的留影

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——于非

从马晟哲的创作中不难感受到图像的迷惑性。这种迷惑集中体现在试图对其进行定义与分类时所遭遇的困难。表象上来看应该是抽象绘画无疑——理性的硬边线条与色块,确定没有可辨认的形象,察觉不到符号与叙事的存在,俨然是纯粹的形式构成。沿着这一路径对马晟哲的作品进行解读,以求从中获得单纯美好的视觉体验倒也未尝不可。只不过,若是稍稍觉察到计算机在他的创作中作为第二主体的事实,以及他获取和再造图像的内在逻辑,就不免使上述的推论有了偷懒的嫌疑。不妨大胆地另辟蹊径,引入观看马晟哲创作的不同视角——抽象式的写实,绘画般的摄影——或许能从其视觉的冰山一角之下分辨出更为广阔的维度。

视觉创作者的实践往往以“造像”为核心,或挪用现成的图像资源加以再造,或凭借现实经验构建景观,同时两者又时常在相互交融中呈现。马晟哲的造像过程可谓既分裂又矛盾,几乎可以将他的创作一劈两半——由机器担负前半部分“原创性”的工作,由他自身承担后半部分“机械化”的劳作。首先,他为计算机输入超负荷的程序,致使其正常的运行过程由于对程序的消化不良而产生卡壳、停滞、甚至全面崩溃。图像在痉挛中扭曲着定格,打破正常人为设定下的视觉秩序,随着键盘截屏的操作,化为瞬时且永恒的图像数据。由像素构成的图像又偶发地形成两个极端,分别由色块和线条主导画面。马晟哲以近乎于工匠的执着为两者拟定了不同的图像生产方式,并由此进入创作的第二个阶段。对于色彩复杂的,呈块面结构的作品,马晟哲先将计算机生成的原始图像层层解构,再以类漏板工艺逐一叠加着时间转印至画布之上,最大程度地还原有层次,而没有体量;有经纬,而没有纵深的,纯粹的图像。针对充斥着单一线条的画面,马晟哲则将复杂的坐标数据导入定制的绘画仪中,以机器实践机器的构思,确保手与画笔的经典组合在他的创作中全程缺席。

这不拘一格的创作方式使观者轻易便遭遇了第一个困惑:人与机器,谁才是创作的主体?不能忽略的事实是,马晟哲虽然无法完全控制创作的结果,却从一开始便自主分配好自身与机器的角色,严密而有效地控制着图像的生成方式。事实上,马晟哲并非他刻意抹除“作者”的概念、将艺术创作的权利让渡他者。他所做的,更像是企图松绑机器自身不为人知的自主性,以之于人来说偶发且随机的方式,实现对于机器而言的必然轨迹。自60年代以来,计算机艺术经历了最初的由人同时身兼艺术家与程序师的角色,从无到有地创作可以绘制图像的机械,到摆脱程序的束缚,依靠现成的先进设备随意发挥。然而不论有无对于创作结果的预设,艺术家们依然在普遍性地通过机器实现人的意志。相比之下,马晟哲似乎在与机器进行一场持续性的,脱离正轨的对话。人机关系不是绝对的平等,而是在交替占领主导的反复中推动创作的演进。

有趣的是,计算机作为创作的主体之一,其生成的图像又被艺术家作为现成物来处理和应用。这一现成物的面貌是抽象的,而攫取与转化它的手段却是写实的。屏幕在过量的程序催动下运行戛然而止的一瞬,即是短暂的死亡;而画面经由自我拍摄所形成的图像数据,则是永恒新生的起点。尽管如此,死亡的事实无法被忽略,一如桑塔格对照片冠以“死亡面具”的称谓,而巴什拉将图像视作死亡最本质,且超越时间的体现。计算机生成的原始图像被最大程度的保留和还原——它是真实的,无矫饰的,如宗教艺术一般,忠实描摹受难救世主的圣像。

于是,至此我们便不难理解图像数据最终被物质化的原因。“彼岸,需要此岸的媒介”,这里此与彼的分野,并非德布雷所意指的,真正的生死间隔,而是屏幕两侧,数据与生物构造之间不可调和的维度差异。数据可能会随着快速的技术更新而面临失效,物质化的图像在物质世界才真正如鱼得水。在长期的创作过程中,马晟哲曾尝试过不同的图像输出方式。艺术微喷能够最大化清晰准确地呈现图像,然而过度的客观真实对于人的视觉而言反而失真;蓝晒工艺得以捕捉动态图像的微妙细节,而蓝色背景随物理环境变幻深浅,浪漫而不够确凿。为马晟哲持续沿用至今的布面媒介,携带着与绘画的渊源和更为显著的物质属性,承载了尤为繁琐的创作工序。在观者视线所不及之处,马晟哲冷静而又虔诚地重复着“成像”的仪式。“一切都可见时,也就没什么有价值的了。”所幸马晟哲的创作试图以可见照向不可见,由视觉指向视觉之外的深处。

马晟哲的作品尽管形容各异,呈现的却始终是同一张面孔——它属于未知的技术原理与机器意志,一种在当代物质社会中取代了宗教神迹和圣言的超验存在。他每每以过往的作品图像当做新一阶段创作的底图,反复锤炼机器的抵抗性,并在此过程总获得越发精密复杂与富有秩序感的,“进化”后的图像。若果真如德布雷所说,追求图像现时的原创性和未来的不朽性是两种需要做出取舍的信仰行为,马晟哲无疑选择了后者。

01 6月

永恒和新生

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汪民安 
每一个人都有其特殊的使用机器的方法。对于马晟哲来说,计算机根本不是运算的工具。他不断地面对它,让它超负荷地运转,让它承受大数据的挤压,直至它崩溃。他的目的就是让计算机崩溃。这个崩溃形成一种特殊的图像——或者说,崩溃有了自己的语言,崩溃自身在讲话——而马晟哲就将这些崩溃时刻的图像和语言截取下来,他对它们进行再创造,让它们呈现在画布上。计算机崩溃时刻的图像和语言是马晟哲绘画的基础。

在此,我们面临的第一个问题是,这到底是机器的创作,还是人的创作,或者说,这是机器和人的共同创作?事实上,在此,我们看到的一个清晰的特征是作者(艺术家)的消失。是机器在自主地生产,作者(艺术家)不过是一个被动的记录者,艺术家是按照机器的语言来完成他的作品的。艺术家收敛了自己神话般的创造性,而听凭机器的偶然性。在此,机器不是人们通常认为的是人的使用手段,反过来,是机器在使用人。人是机器的手段。人们不是通过机器来说话,而是机器的语言在通过人来说话,人在说机器的语言。就此,这不是我在绘画,而是绘画来到了我这里,绘画降临到了我这里,我承受了这些绘画,我被动地画出了这些既存的绘画,画出了机器的绘画。这是绘画领域发生的事件,但是,这难道不是现在在进行的一个一般性的机器事实?不是一个将要发生的普遍事实?我们不是会处在机器的控制中吗?我们不是各方面都被动地听从各种各样的机器吗?——这种控制,不仅是语言的控制,而且也注定是身体的控制。一个显而易见的事实是,机器不仅在模仿人,而且渗透到人的身体中来,人和机器的界线在分崩离析。人和机器越来越是一个不可分割的组装关系——它们无法彼此脱离。

  第二个问题是,马晟哲是在表达机器在崩溃时刻的语言。就像人在巨大的压力下,在不可承受的压力下会崩溃一样。机器也会崩溃。人在巨大压力下的崩溃会是一种精神分裂式的语言,一种理性无法倾听的语言,一种谵妄语言。同样,机器在巨大压力下也是一种疯狂的语言,也是一种人们永远难以理解的语言——我们在马晟哲的图像中无法读取任何的信息,计算机在健康的情况下就是提供无数的供人们分析的信息,这也就是计算机的“意义”。或者说,计算机只有在正常的情况下,才有它的恰当的语言和“意义”。但是,一旦崩溃了,“信息”和“意义”也彻底地抹去了。在这个意义上,与其说马晟哲画的是抽象画——看上去是一种典型的抽象画——不如说是一种精神分裂者的大脑绘画,只不过这个精神分裂者是一台机器,它是在无法承受压力的情况下而崩溃的。这是它的崩溃时刻的头像,是它的大脑瞬间,是它的疯狂语言。对马晟哲来说,计算机的意义恰恰在于它的崩溃,恰恰在于它的通常意义和信息的丧失。他捕捉的东西就是人们竭力避免的东西。或者说,对马晟哲而言,他期待着这一个崩溃的时刻,但不是为了将它们恢复,而是记录它们的永恒。让这个崩溃的瞬间永恒。

  这个崩溃的时刻也是一个偶然的时刻——没有人知道计算机何时崩溃,没有人知道它的承受极限何在?就像无人预料到一个人什么时候崩溃一样。人们也无法预料到崩溃的时刻会产生一种什么样的图像,就像人们无法预料到一个人崩溃的时刻会说出何种语言一样。因此,崩溃的时刻和崩溃的图像都是偶然的。因此,这是将双重的偶然性永恒化。但是,如何将这种偶然永恒化呢?
  马晟哲将它们在画布和画纸上复制下来。有时候他基本上是按照原样复制,保持它们的结构,线条,色彩,他用丙烯将它们绘制下来,因此也将它们凝固下来,将这个时刻和这个时刻的表象凝固下来——这唯一的时刻,唯一的图像,这唯一的诞生瞬间,它绝不可能复现,因此,复制它就是让它获得永恒,让这个唯一的瞬间,唯一的图像在画布上永恒。这个唯一的图像如此之奇妙,它们的降临诡异而神奇,谁也无法预料,谁也无法解释,它没有一个逻辑的起源。人们甚至看不到它的动力,或者说,它的动力恰恰是一台健康的计算机失去动力的时刻。它以不可预知的但却是一种具体的图像的形式来到了人世间。这个奇妙的图像,当然不背负任何意义的负担,它仅仅是图像本身而已,一个神秘图像而已。但是,它被马晟哲凝固在画布上面,这再一次让这种匪夷所思的图像获得了更加奇妙的命运。

  有时候马晟哲也尝试改变它们的色彩,他让它们变成各种不同的蓝色。为此,他用古老的手工技艺铁化合成物相法(蓝晒-Cyanotype)来着色——这种方式缓慢而持久,仿佛这些图像在缓缓地生长一样。这一瞬间产生的图像,这一出人意料的崩溃时刻的图像,却以一种十分缓慢的方式在纸上形成,它们根据不同的物理环境而形成各种不同的蓝色。如果说,在计算机崩溃时刻所诞生的是一个死亡图像的话,那么,对这个图像进行蓝晒而诞生的作品则是它的新生,它们重新被孕育,借助于水,借助于空气,借助于光而缓慢地发芽和生长。绘画就这样经历了一个图像的由死到生的过程——这不是原封不动的迅速复制,而是一个死的图像在此开始启动和新生的过程。绘画获得了它的时间宽度,也因此获得了它的生命。一个由于崩溃所产生的僵死的符号,一旦从机器中被劫持下来,它并非不能在画纸上获得缓慢而令人感动的新生。就此,在马晟哲这里,计算机崩溃而产生的图像获得了两种命运,一种是让它静止的永恒化,另一种是让它获得充满运动感的新生。
Eternity and Rebirth
Wang Minan 
Everyone has his own way of using machines. As for Ma Shengzhe, computers are not computational devices. He is in constant confrontation with them, forcing them to the point of overload, burdening them with the pressure of massive quantities of data, until they collapse. His goal is to make the computers collapse. Their collapse forms a special kind of image. That is to say, collapse has its own language. The collapse itself carries a dialogue. And Ma Shengzhe captures the images of the moment of their collapse, manipulating them to the brink and then creating his works, bringing these images to the surface of the canvas. The images and language of the computers collapsing form the basis of Ma Shengzhe’s painting practice.
Here, the first problem we encounter is whether or not the work is produced by the machine or the artist? Or both together? What we’re seeing clearly is the disappearance of the author (artist). The machine is producing autonomously, while the author (artist) is recording passively. The artist is following the language of the machine to complete his artworks. The artist is restraining an assumed mythical creativity in favor of the machine’s fortuitous operations. Here, the usual order of human using machine as tool is interrupted, adversely allowing the machine to use the human: what is human becomes a tool for the machine. People are not talking through machines, but rather the language of machines is finding voice through humanity. Humans are speaking the language of machines. Thus, I am not the one painting, but rather, the painting has come to me, has arrived here, and I accept these paintings, passively painting these existent paintings, painting the paintings of machines. This is an event occurring in the field of painting, but isn’t it also an ordinary actuality of operating machines, a common event that is bound to happen? Will we not end up under the control of machines? Don’t we passively obey all sorts of machines? This control is not simply a linguistic control, but is also bound to the body. A plainly visible truth is that machines are not simply imitating humanity, but in fact, have permeated our bodies. The border between what is human and what is machine has begun to dissolve. Humans and machines are an increasingly inseparable unit; they are incapable of being divided.
The second problem we encounter is that Ma Shengzhe is evoking the language of machines at the moment of collapse, as when humans, already under enormous pressure, can accept no more and collapse. Machines also collapse. The language of human collapse achieved under enormous pressure is schizophrenic, a language insolvable to reason, a delirious language. Similarly, machines under enormous pressure also produce a crazed language, impossible for humans to understand. We are unable to make out any information from Ma Shengzhe’s images, whereas computers operating under normal circumstances are capable of supplying seemingly infinite streams of information to be analyzed. In fact, this is what normally gives computers their “meaning”. But once they collapse, “information” and “meaning” are thoroughly erased. In this sense, it might be more apt to say that the abstract paintings painted by Ma Shengzhe, while in all appearance seem like typical abstract paintings, are rather imaginings of a schizophrenic mind, that of a computer collapsed under immense pressure, its portrait at the time of collapse, a moment in its mind, its language of madness. As for Ma Shengzhe, the meaning of computers is precisely dependent on this collapse, precisely dependent on the moment they lose their average meaning and information. What he seeks to capture is a moment most try to avoid. That is to say, Ma Shengzhe is waiting for the moment of collapse, but not so that he may then set out to recover the computers, but rather to record their eternity, making this moment of collapse eternal.
 This moment of collapse is also a chance moment—no one knows when a computer will collapse or what the limits its capabilities are. Just as no one can predict when a person will collapse. We are incapable of predicting what image a computer will produce once it collapses, just as we are incapable of predicting what a person will say once he collapses. Thus, the moment of collapse along with the image of that collapse both occur by chance. Thus, there is a duality that is becoming eternal. But how is one to make them eternal?
  Ma Shengzhe copies them onto canvas and paper. Sometimes he follows the original to copy them, preserving their structure, contours, and color, using acrylic to draw them, thus, solidifying them, solidifying this moment and the representation of this moment. This singular moment and singular image, this singular extension of time can never be reproduced. Thus, copying it makes it achieve eternity, makes this singular moment and singular image eternal on the canvas. This singular image is fantastic. Its arrival, strange and miraculous. No one can predict or explain it. It has no logical source. Humans cannot even see its power. That is to say, its power is exactly the moment when a healthy computer loses its power. It assumes an unpredictable but concrete form to arrive in the world of humanity. This fantastic image, of course, does not bear the weight of any meaning. It is an image in itself, simply a mysterious image. But, Ma Shengzhe has solidified it onto the surface of the canvas. This, again, gives the unimaginable image an even more fantastic fate.
  Sometimes Ma Shengzhe tries to change their color, turning them into different tones of blue. For this, he uses an old hand-printing technique, the Cyanotype, to achieve the color. This method is slow and lasts for an extended period of time, making these images appear as though they have been gradually growing. The image produced from this moment, this image, which lies beyond our expectations, uses an entirely slow method to form on paper, and the variation in the shades of blue form according to different physical environments. If, for instance, at the moment of collapse, the computer produces a dead image, then the work produced through the Cyanotype process gives new life to the image. They are placed back in the womb, and through water, air, and light, they gradually re-emerge and grow. Painting is like this, the process of reviving an image that has died. This is not a copy that preserves all aspects of the original, but rather is a process by which a dead image begins again and has new life. Painting achieves its temporal breadth and, thus, achieves life. A symbol of death produced from the collapse, if hijacked by the machine, does not necessarily exclude it from achieving a new life on canvas or paper capable of moving the human viewer. Thus, here, with Ma Shengzhe, the images produced by the collapse of computers find two fates: one is static and eternal, while the other is a new life full of movement.