Statement of Jia Aili for the works in Guangzhou Triennial 2008

« The word “Personality” comes from the Latin word “Persona”, which originally means the mask that actors/actresses wear when they play their roles on stage.

They deliver (sonare) their lines through (per) their mask. The mask is an emblem of the role in the play. Hidden behind the mask are the actors/actresses who are independent of the characters they act. We mistakely think that the roles that we play are our true selves. Confused by our current scenario, we cannot see our previous or futrue roles.

I was afraid of describing my own works because it is impossible to describe things with words. On one side of art is wonder and beauty. On the other side, emptiness and boredom. Which side is more important? No one can tell. A similar question is whether artistic creation comes from intuition and imagination or from practice and design. Perhaps I never want to know the answer. The increasing number of new concepts have made our world of differentiating meanings richer and richer. The analysis and and clarification of the nuances between these meanings have become part of our intellectual llife. Our excitement, joy, pride or disappointment in the world of concepts has bocome an indispensable part of modern life. Unlike those quiet people, artists have the leisure as well as the ability and obsession to express their joy and sadness. Therefore, they are able to express something unexpected. “You are like a crushed beetle, being squeezed out of your own body. The toughness and adaptability on the surface of your body are useless (Rainer Maria Rilke)”. Being able to work independently and having plenty of spare time is an artist’s luxury. So I must deepen myself and explore society like a sociologist. In this way, I will be able to live a full spiritual life and find peace and joy. I cannot explain the significance of it. And I do not know whether I have made other people’s lives meaningful even if only for a moment. But I believe that many people like me have contributed to the diversity and richness of the world. Fortunately, my work has been accepted in this era, where people have lived in poverty for a long time in the past and they suddenly become rich. My work allow me to continue my current way of life. I completed the two pieces at this Triennial in a slow process between 2007and 2008. They depict crazy or solemn scenes and people who want to hide. In bringing the real into the void, life or time keeps only these shadows or illusory images. These works are vestiges of the past. Perhaps they offer us some glimpses of society.

I am unsure whether my works are related to the Triennial’s theme “Farewell to Post-colonialism”. What I can say is that my works seek to explore reality and the symbolic order of the world.

I can feel that our history is slowly passing through its climacteric. What will be the next stage? Will the world enter into its peaceful, senior years, or perhaps a happy rebirth? It does not matter whether it is in the colonial or post-colonial periods. I believe, the world still offers us plenty of objective things, although we may never reach an agreement. When superficial, unsubstaintial artistic lingo is very much in vogue and valued for their wit, I am still fascinated by those difficult and heavy things. This is a reality that I do not want to abandon for now. I feel somewhat grounded and meaningful because of my keen observation and deep thoughts in the artistic process. Of course, I do not reject those lighter images and expressions, but they must arrive naturally and calmly like the dusk. There are no other ways. »

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