Sasha Water Freyers on her documentary Garry Winogrand; All Things Are Photographable
Recording Date： September 18，2018
Place: BRIC Arts Media, Brooklyn, New York
Artist: Sasha Waters Freyer
Interviewer: Savona Bailey-McClain
Savona McClain: Good morning. This is State of the Arts NYC and this is your host Savona Bailey-McClain. Today, we have with you a very special guest. We have Sasha Waters Freyers who’s a filmmaker and producer. Sasha, I just want to thank you for coming onto our show.
Sasha Freyers: Oh, thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Savona McClain: Great. Now, Sasha is not only a filmmaker, but she is also the Chair for Photography and Films at Virginia Commonwealth University. We are here to talk with her about her new documentary on Gary Winogrand. The documentary is called All Things are Photographable. Sasha, tell us a little bit about your film.
Sasha Freyers: Sure. Gary Winogrand is a photographer who was very active. He’s passed away in the mid 1980s. He was born a first generation Hungarian American Jewish, to a Jewish family in the Bronx in 1928. He was very active as a photographer from the mid ’50s to about the mid ’80s, with the peak of his work coming in the 1960s and 1970s. The film really spends a lot of time with that era and looks at both his life and his work, and sort of reflects back on why that work was valuable, why it was sort of pushed aside for a little bit of time after his death, but now why it’s returning to and considering again.
Savona McClain: Well, I wanted to share with you one important little fact that I know you didn’t know. I’m a Bronx girl too.
Sasha Freyers: Yes, I did know this.
Savona McClain: Oh, you did. I’m a Bronx girl too.
Sasha Freyers: Yes, I looked it up, yeah.
Savona McClain: And so, therefore, I was very intrigued with Gary Winogrand because it reminded me of my childhood. When I was a kid, we had all of these different kids from Eastern Europe and we had kids who were from Puerto Rico. You had kids like me whose family came during the Black migration from the south, and we all ended up playing together in the streets, and we all learned to be friends, and to be supportive of each other, so we were all like, you know, that new group of kids who were a part of the education movement during the civil rights, and how’s this going to work, and we all, we just had fun. We were just friends and so when I saw that, I just reminisced on the times when I was a kid in the Bronx, still feel that I’m a Bronx girl, the old Bronx that I remember. But this was quite fascinating. So you are born in Brooklyn, so you’re a Brooklyn gal.
Sasha Freyers: I am and it’s funny because what you’re describing is so familiar to me too. I grew up on the Upper West Side, which now has completely different connotations. At that time we called it Spanish Harlem. This was in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I grew up in a very similar neighborhood to what you described. It was Black families, and Dominican, and a lot of Jewish American. It was just a whole one big mix. All of us in public school together. And I think it’s part of the initial appeal for Gary Winogrand’s work to me was that way he captured that New York that I remember from the, not so much I remember it so much from the ’60s, but certainly from the ’70s.
Savona McClain: Yes, and I think a lot of reviewers, because I believe The New York Times also did a nice review on his photography work, and they were mentioning in the film that old New York that was a little gritty and had a lot of chutzpah to it. And so, a lot of us I think were drawn to that. I did take a lot of time to look at quite a few of his photographs. I just wanted to mention to people that they can look at his photographs online. The film that you have done, the documentary, which is considered a feminist documentary, which I want you to explain later, will start showing at the Film Forum on September 19th, so folks have a chance to just look at the photographs, which I think they’re beautiful and you tend to smile. Then, you have a chance to see a lot more in your documentary. So, tell us, how did the documentary begin for you? I know why you like him, but how did you decide to go about doing this film?
Sasha Freyers: Sure. Well, he passed away in the ’80s and there was an early retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in 1988. But then there was a more recent retrospective in 2013 that opened at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, traveled to the National Gallery and was at the Metropolitan in New York. It was at that time that I revisited that work. I went to two of those shows and I was reading articles and reviews, and I just started thinking, wow, this work is so terrific. I wonder why there isn’t a documentary film about him. There had been so many wonderful documentaries about photography and it just seemed kind of crazy that no one had made a film about him. So in some ways, I think I made this film in order to make something that I just wanted to see exist in the world.
Savona McClain: Okay.
Sasha Freyers: I got in touch with the family, and the estate, and the gallery, and asked about it. They were incredibly open, and supportive, and trusting, and it started there.
Savona McClain: Okay. That’s really cool. I think that’s a lot of documentaries get started. It starts with that interest, you’re interested in that subject matter. But then, in your film you get to showcase somebody who kind of started something that we all deal with today with our Smartphones. Everyone now is taking photographs of everything, not just family photographs, but events in the streets, disasters that go on, just different sort of quirky sort of events or moments, I should say. He kind of started that, but he stylized it. It got to the point where he didn’t just take photographs anymore. He was able to stylize these every day moments so that we could take that pause and appreciate the people that he was capturing. Wouldn’t you say?
Sasha Freyers: Oh, absolutely. And I think it’s true. I mean, even if you’ve never had a photograph in a magazine or on the wall of a museum, all of us with our Smartphones, if we’re taking pictures at parties, or on the street, or just of the world around us, we’re all sort of unconsciously or not working in that tradition that he really elevated into an art form.
Savona McClain: And then he broke into categories. I don’t think a lot of people realize how meticulous he was. He actually had photographs just of women, and then he had photographs of animals, which I thought was quite intriguing. Then, he had different types of photographs, I think, dealt with scenes. He meticulously, as I mentioned, just gathered these various subject matters so that you could also observe them too. What do you think he wanted folks to feel when he was collecting all of these images per categories as well? Was he trying to say, let’s archive our lifestyle? Should we archive style? Should we pay attention to what’s going on in the world? That there’s symmetry? What do you believe he was trying to convey?
Sasha Freyers: I mean, I think it’s so funny that you say that. It’s so interesting because it’s true, but there are so many photographs of so much. One could, if one had the patience to do so, go through all of the context and probably put together a really wonderful exhibition based on photographs of phone booths, or taxi stands, or subway entrances. There is this sort of this huge taxonomy. Based on what I learned and from interviewing people, and from what remains of interviews that he gave, and things that he said, he was thinking less about audience, and what the pictures would do, or mean, or convey for other people, and was really more interested in exploring photography for himself, so it’s thinking about what the picture could do from a formal perspective, sort of what would make an interesting picture. What would something look like when it was made into a photograph. He says that a lot about it. He famously said, “I photograph to find out what a thing looks photographed.” So he was really coming from a place of challenging himself, pushing himself, always trying to look at ways to make the photograph more interesting.
Savona McClain: Okay.
Sasha Freyers: And in the process created this huge compendium.
Savona McClain: All right. I mean, that’s fair that he was interested in his own discovery of photography. But what he ended up doing by photographing so many subjects as well as objects, he was able to really archive our life in the city and showcase what made New York City so special. Because it’s not just that he took photographs, and I know he went to other place around the world, but when he took those photographs of New York City, he showed what made New York City special at that time.
Sasha Freyers: Absolutely.
Savona McClain: And I think, that took my breath away because it really made you smile, and a lot of that old New York is disappearing, or has disappeared already, like kids playing stick ball in the streets, or 42nd Street, which was kind of scruffy, and you accepted that as New York. Now, it looks very Disney like. I mean, it’s nothing wrong with that, but you also miss that scruffiness that you also knew was a part of 42nd Street and you accepted that, a different slice of life. He really captured all of that element of New York City. What do you think his photographs will do for us when we review them again and look at your documentary? How do you think people will feel?
Sasha Freyers: Well, I think you’re right. I mean, one of the things that’s about New York today is that so many of the neighborhoods just look like other neighborhoods, right?
Savona McClain: Yes.
Sasha Freyers: I mean, there is a certain kind of flattening of distinction. There aren’t as many enclaves. There isn’t what I would think of as being sort of the theater of the streets where people are just out, and there’s these sort of every day dramas and interactions just unfolding. I mean, New York remains very crowded, but you don’t have people kind of living their lives out on the street, or sitting on their stoop the same way that you can witness in his photographs. I think it is a really wonderful document and testament to that vitality and that energy. I also think even though his book Women are Beautiful, it was the most controversial, among the most controversial of his books. It was a book of photographs of women on the streets in New York City in the 1960s and 1970s. And even though I’m not in love with some of those pictures, I think the title is problematic, I still really value those photographs.
Savona McClain: Right.
Sasha Freyers: They document this moment. As we look at pictures of women on the street in 1955 compared to 1965, it’s just a radical transformation.
Savona McClain: It sure was.
Sasha Freyers: With what they’re wearing, that their ability to be out in public, and be energized. Women are entering the workforce in this way for the first time. It’s a really exiting testament to that kind of visual change in the city and in American culture as well.
Savona McClain: I like that, how you talked about the vitality of the street because that is missing nowadays, where neighbors got to know each other. Like I said, when I was a kid you played with each other and you went inside different homes. I had a friend, I’ll never forget, she was Japanese, and so he invited me over so I could try octopus. I had never had no octopus before in my life. It was like, okay, I’m going to try this rubbery thing. It was the sharing of each other’s lives, every day lives. So you’re sharing with me seaweed and octopus at 12 years old, and then I get to share with you some games that I’ve learned by playing them on the sidewalk. There was this constant exchange, and for me it wasn’t just games on the sidewalk. I was a handball kid. You give me a ball and a wall, and I was playing handball. It was playing handball, or other kids playing stick ball, and other kids just running around, red light green light, one, two three. I remember all of those games that made the block so important and lively.
Savona McClain: And you’re correct, women, especially, they were going through a lot. You had the Black Power Movement, the Civil Right Movement going on, the Women’s Movement was just bubbling up. You had a lot of people dealing with expression and how do you harness it, or how do you go about showcasing it. That’s what I felt when I looked at a lot of those photographs, this enormous energy that you wish you could see today. I think there’s a lot of energy, but it’s about being busy, but not so much living. Everyone is caught up on these phones that they’re not having conversation. When you see that, you remember the conversations that people used to have, and the dinner parties people used to go to. Because when I was kid, people went to dinner parties. Now, when you talk about that, nobody knows what you’re talking about. Do you feel the same way?
Sasha Freyers: Yeah, that’s funny. I hadn’t thought about that, but that is true. I mean, I certainly remember, I certainly remember my parents driving me to dinner parties, and having dinner parties. I remember a lot more people out, just out on the street just living their lives, not doing anything, not being busy, sitting on the stoop or in front of the building, I mean, even not just kids, adults too.
Savona McClain: Oh yeah. Then, you had the women who would sit in the windows and they would watch you, and if you didn’t say good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, your mother would get a phone call to say how disrespectful you were. That happened to me once. I forgot to say hello to somebody, and before I got in the door my mother was already questioning me, why didn’t you say good afternoon to such a such and so and so? And you forgot, but they were there, and they watched you, and they kind of looked out for you. Those were the eyes your parents needed when they were taking care of their errands too.
Savona McClain: So with your documentary, how long is this documentary? Is it about, what? Two hours long?
Sasha Freyers: No, it’s not. It’s 90 minutes.
Savona McClain: 90 minutes.
Sasha Freyers: A quick 90 minutes.
Savona McClain: Okay. Great.
Sasha Freyers: It takes you through, really from his early life really through his entire career and then after he died suddenly the retrospective considerations of the work because he left a great deal of work behind. When he died he left over 6,000 rolls of film behind.
Savona McClain: Wow.
Sasha Freyers: Some also looks at that aspect of it as well. It’s a very, kind of unusual, legacy to leave behind that much work.
Savona McClain: That is unusual because he died at 56, correct? Around 56?
Sasha Freyers: Yes, he did. He had cancer of the gall bladder, and so he was diagnosed and he died quite suddenly. He died a month after he received the diagnosis.
Savona McClain: Wow, that’s very tragic.
Sasha Freyers: It really was.
Savona McClain: But he left quite a legacy. I mean, it makes you think about it because as we all age, you start to think, 56 is not really that old. That’s still kind of young.
Sasha Freyers: I know.
Savona McClain: And he left so much material behind. Did most of that material get developed?
Sasha Freyers: It did. There is this wonderful place call The Center for Creative Photography. It is at the University of Arizona at Tucson. It’s just incredible. It holds many, many different artists’ archives. His entire archive is there. All of the rolls of film were developed and contact sheets were made. The curators of different retrospective have all had access to that. I had access to those contact sheets as well. In the film there are about 35 images that have never before seen that weren’t in any of the other retrospectives or considerations of that posthumous work. So that was kind of exciting as well, to be able to go into the archive and make new discoveries.
Savona McClain: So that’s another reason why people need to go and see this film because they’ll get to see images that have never been shown before. Now, they will have this opportunity to do this. Now, this film starts showing at the Film Forum on September 19th. How long will it run?
Sasha Freyers: It’s a two week run. It opens tomorrow and it will be there for two weeks.
Savona McClain: Okay. So folks to need hurry up and get their tickets and see this fabulous documentary of a real New Yorker, someone who appreciated New York as well as other parts of the world. You’ve already received some acknowledgements already for this film, correct?
Sasha Freyers: Yes. The film premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March. It was in the documentary competition and it won a special jury prize, so that was a really nice confirmation of the launch into the world.
Savona McClain: Okay. This is good. Are there any other visual exhibitions going on that you know of, of Gary Winogrand, so that folks can also, if they can’t physically, get there they can at least get some information online?
Sasha Freyers: Right now, I don’t know of any in New York. I know that, I believe that the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco is planning an exhibition, but not until early 2019, but there’s certainly tons and tons of his photographs, the Winogrand photographs available online, particularly with the websites for the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. There’s really a lot out there to look at.
Savona McClain: Okay, so folks also know that they can delve into his other photographs via MoMA, the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, so that they can learn more about him. I do encourage people to do so. We sometimes rush through life these days and we don’t take the time to just really explore. With him, you could, because I enjoyed looking at his photographs, you could spend a couple of hours just going through these various photographs and you learn so much. It’s not just that he took photographs, it was his use of lighting and creating shadows in the right places, so therefore, the subject could pop. Talking about the fact that he was interested in photography and making it as good as possible, all those various elements are very important. I always think of Alfred Hitchcock because Alfred Hitchcock was such a great filmmaker himself, and it was all about detail, it was all of his storyboarding first. Then, it was about how do you incorporate architecture, so that you can continuously tell the story, like stairwells, the moldings in certain buildings, so that all of these little details added to the storytelling.
Savona McClain: Well, I just wanted to say, thank you so much, Sasha, that you were spending some time with us. I know that you are still traveling and you made the time for us before you have to go to Italy. Is that correct?
Sasha Freyers: Oh, no. I’m actually in upstate New York right now and I will be in New York City at Film Forum tomorrow and Friday for the screening.
Savona McClain: Oh, that’s great.
Sasha Freyers: I go to Vancouver at the end of the month for the Canadian premier there.
Savona McClain: Okay. Great. So maybe, because I’m trying see if I can watch the film tomorrow evening. Maybe I might see you there. I love going to Film Forum because they really go out of their way to showcase Americana that we should not forget. This is a person that should not be forgotten, and you too. Are you doing any other projects that we should be aware of before we end our conversation?
Sasha Freyers: I’ve got a few things, little irons in the fire, pots on the stove, but nothing bubbled up yet. Right now, I’m really just focusing on this film and getting it out there into the world, and hopefully getting audiences excited about it.
Savona McClain: All right. Well, I just want to thank you so very, very much for joining us.
Sasha Freyers: Thank you.
Savona McClain: Hopefully, I’ll get to-
Sasha Freyers: And come say hi tomorrow it you come to the screening. I’ll be at the 7:00 P.M. screening.
Savona McClain: Okay. I’m going to try to make that one. Thank you so very much, Sasha, and enjoy the rest of your day.
Sasha Freyers: You too. Take care.
Savona McClain: All right.
Sasha Freyers: Thanks a lot.
Savona McClain: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sasha Freyers: Bye-bye.
Savona McClain: Bye-bye.
Savona McClain: And, for our guests, we had another impactful conversation with a creative professional that we should all get to know and appreciate. Again, Film Forum will be showing, starting tomorrow, the documentary Gary Winogrand All Things are Photographable. You can go online to read more about him. We did a post on our site, on WordPress State of the Arts NYC. You can also see some additional photographs and his bio, and we hope that you will join us back next week as we have more interesting guests for you. That’s our hope to show you the behind the scene side of the arts in New York City and beyond. Look out for other information on our Twitter and our Facebook page. Our handle is SOTArts NYC. That’s the acronym for State of the Arts NYC. This is your host, Savona Bailey-McClain wishing you a wonderful art-filled week, and we will be back with you again. All right, then. Thank you so much.
Chow Chun Fai on His Exhibition at Eli Klein Gallery, Contemporary Art and Beyond (English)
Date： September 10，2018
Place： BRIC Arts Media, Brooklyn, New York
Artist： Chow Chun Fai
Savona Bailey-McClain: Good Morning. This is state of the arts NYC, and this is your host, Savona Beiley-McClain. We are so happy because today we are at our brand new studio at BRIC Media in Downtown Brooklyn. And we have with us, a wonderful wonderful guest, who will talk to us about his artistic practice. This is Chow Chun Fai.
Chow Chun Fai: Hello Everyone.
Savona: And we are so happy to have him because in addition to his exhibition, which has just opened at the Eli Klein Gallery in the West Village, the exhibition is also a part of ACAW, the Asian Contemporary Art Week. So thank you so much Chow for joining us.
Fai: It’s my pleasure.
Savona: Great! So, for the benefit of our audience, let me just give you a little bit background information about Chow. He was born in 1980 in the city of HONG KONG. He is a visual artist, also an inter-disciplinary artist in where he mixes up painting, photography, and on occasion performance art. He teaches painting, and he is also a political activist. So I just want to kick off our conversation with Chow about his current exhibition at the Eli Klein Gallery. So why don’t you start us off, Chow, by telling us about your exhibition.
Fai: I was on the program; it’s a residency program. So I was in New York since June. I have been in New York for 3 month already. So in this show there are now 19 paintings on the wall. And most of the painting I made it here. So for the whole summer I was staying in the studio, which is the gallery actually. And most of the painting I finished it here. They are some images from movies. So I captured some still and caption, the subtitle from different kinds of movie, try to have Hollywood movie. And some Hong Kong local movies, and I also tried to have movie from different ages. And as you can see from the show, there will be images and subtitles from this movie that I transformed into paint. (Savona: OK.) And I tried to have different meanings rather than just the caption or the capture from the movie. Even though I didn’t change the wording because if I change the wording, I think it’s too easy to create my own meanings. But when the wording, the caption is out of the context, some of the movies you may know, but I bet, audience form here they may not know my hometown’s movie. (Savona: Right. ) But when they see the wording and still they will have different layers of interpretations. So that was my intention.
Savona: OK. And I did go to the opening, and I saw your several of the paintings, all of the paintings, in fact. So yes, you are right, you had a lot of iconic American film scenes, The Godfather, Forrest Gump, you even had the film with Natalie Portman with the killer. And so yes there were a lot of iconic films that many of us could recognize. But what I also thought I was interested in were some of the phrases those captions that you had at the bottom of each of these paintings, and to me they were almost philosophic. They weren’t just from the film themselves, you were trying to convey these various messages with these mixtures of American and Hong Kong films. And what were you hoping that people would walk away from when they saw these combinations of paintings and philosophical captions?
Fai: Yeah, what I was concerned was about the interpretation on my work of course, but also on different artwork (Savona: OK. ). Like everyone knows the last supper, (Savona: Yes.) But I would say we would not be able to use the traditional mind to read The Last Supper anymore. We know many different stories like if you saw the movie Da Vinci Code, then when you go back to The last Supper, then maybe you would say that young guy next to Jesus is not a guy,
Savona: It’s a possibility that it’s a woman.
Fai: Yes, but of course the church would be upset by this kind of interpretation. But I would say it is impossible to keep your mind clear or pure to that traditional interpretation even for this kind of masterpieces. So I would say I try to have a very open dialogue on my own work. (Savona: OK. ) So, let me take some of the paintings that is showing in the gallery as an example that I have two paintings about paintings. (Savona: Yes. ) There were paintings inside the still or I mean there are actual paintings in the movies. One is Mr.Bean, that if you remember that there is a film about Mr. Bean being invited to a museum in the State .to present about a painting we all called The Whisterler’s mother. And of course Mr. Bean made a mess but what he was trying to say is that it’s not just a painting ，but it is more than a painting. So I have this sub tile “It is not just a painting” was the face of Mr.Bean looking at the whistler’s mother. So you can see, in my painting there is a painting, and the painting is actual real work from the real world, but is was a fake one in the movie. So you may have different interpretation if you know the movie, or, you don’t even watch it before, and next to it I have another work which is also a painting inside a painting, was from the movie Palling.(8’44”) is about abstract expressionist painter everyone knows which is Jackson Pollock. And when Pollock started his new painting about the abstract expressionist images, everyone said that it was not a painting.(Savona: Right. ) It was not considered to be a painting.
Savona: Because of his style.
Fai: So I also have this subtitle, it is not a painting, on this image. So it is lying form the movie, at the same time I was making joke of my own works.
Savona: Alright, so basically what you are trying to do is that you are trying to get viewers to kind of take a step back, and look at these iconic still images, but then open your mind to different kinds of possibilities, so that’s your main goal. And with that said I want to delve into the fact that over your artistic practices have been pushing for throughout your career. Let’s talk a little bit about that in Hong Kong. You are in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, as it was taken over by China in 1997, and so now, the life in China and Hong Kong is merging. And there is concern about you know, artist sharing different types of views and opinions, so sometimes when artists are working on different art it’s not so much about this literal translation but the subtext, and getting people to understand the layer of other messages that are being conveyed. So tell us a little bit about that because I know we talked a little about it before the show about how you were working just to help other artist gain access to old factories that are no longer in use but wish to be used as working spaces and studios, correct?
Fai: Yes, well, like what I have done on my work, that I try to have different layers of meanings behind the surface. And I think this is one of the reaction of an artist who is under pressure. I didn’t understand before because I thought we were in a quite liberal environment before.(Savona: Right. ) But now I would say I am trying to express something that I cannot tell directly, so that’s why I’m trying to hide some of the meaning behind the surface. And I was a bit involved in politics that was because the studio I’m using.
Fai: At the very beginning, I was trying to negotiate with Hong Kong government about the factory land use, like many cities, also in New York, many artists use factory space as their studios. But, at the same time, in Hong Kong, we are considered to be illegal. Or we are considered violating the regulation. But I would say, if we are violating the regulation, either to say we are wrong, or there are mistakes on the regulation. So, I spend over ten years to open dialogues with the government and try to change the regulation as long as we are doing well and doing something good to the community. Then I was more involved because I find it is not about what we did in the factories, but it is more about the absence of cultural voice in the discussion. No matter it is about the factory use of different kinds of policy-making in arts or even on the general public. The absence of the cultural voice is made because of the legislative council.
Savona: Just to interrupt briefly, this is like an issue that is happening all of the world where artists are trying to convey that they are cultural workers and they deserve certain rights so that they can engage and they are profession. I find this quite fascinating how this is such an international issue.
Fai: Yes. I think it happens in every city and every country. But of course the law and political background is different in different places. So I was facing my own experience and my difficulties in my hometown.
Savona: So, were you able to at least, in your efforts, to negotiate within the Chinese bureaucracy to convey that artists need spaces. And they need to come together and share. Their needs just might be outside the factory so that they can engage, contribute, and be a part of the society.
Fai: That was a sad story. I would say. As a painter, I will still be fine. Because I will close my door and then we made our own painting inside of the studio. But there are many different kinds of artists. There are performers. When they have their performance in the space, they attract many audiences. So there were stories of the police and the firemen try to check the space while there were performances in the factory. They could be captured. At the end of the day, I ran an election in the Legislative Council because of this issue. Because I think even though we have so-called representative in the council, but the voice is absent. I spend the whole year ran the election to raise this question to the public.
Savona: So, the Chinese government is still very sensitive to the works by Chinese artists. Do they really have such a need to be afraid. Cause this sounds like they are concerned, but they might not be such concerned with what you are trying to do. Cause it seems as though if some of the artists they just want to do their thing, they just want to paint, or they just want to do photography, they are not trying to say anything more than that. So is there the real concern, that the government should have? Or is it just imagined?
Fai: Well, I would raise two points. One is that culture is always a very important agenda for Communists, no matter is China or the form of Russian government. This is the first point, the other one is so-called undercover police is the big business in China. Of course, if could be very ironic that, I heard not in Hong Kong, but in Mainland China. I heard of a story that there is an artist, he tried to escape the city that he used to live, because he knows that there are so many undercover police around his house. So, before he left, when he was packing his luggage, and someone lock the door. And then there was an undercover police who banned him to leave. If he leaves, they will lose their jobs. That is what I meant, it is a big business in China.
Savona: Wow. That I didn’t know. So they pleaded him he couldn’t leave, so they keep their jobs and kind of keep this structure going. So therefore artists do play a role, a very important role in the culture there because it might be a way of pushing forward social issues or social concerns.
Fai: Yes. When you check some of the famous artists like Ai Weiwei on their Weibo or Twitter, sometimes Ai Weiwei play with these undercover police, right?
Savona: Yes, he does.
Fai: He put the camera in front of the police. Well, he would have much more fantastic stories to tell.
Savona: Yes, he does. But he does share some very important issues. I saw the exhibition he did in NYC over a year ago. And he was talking about refugee crisis. It was just shoes everywhere of different sizes of different people. I actually brought groups of people so that they could see that exhibition and it was something to be held and made you pause. You realize that there is real problem going around and it’s not just about immigration, it’s about people trying to flee their life. And he is doing that. And I just have to continue with that conversation with Ai Wei wei and Chinese artists in general. You are sharing with us how you might be able to push certain agenda forward. You were talking to me briefly about artists who were trying to leave. Tell us about that again.
Fai: Ok. So I heard some stories about them, too. It was not in Hong Kong but in mainland China that there is a guy who is trying to escape from the undercover police. He packed his luggage. He tried to escape silently. Suddenly someone knock on the door and when open the door, he found out they are undercover police. And the police begged him not to leave because if he leaves, all the police will lost their jobs. So that is what I meant by saying it is a big business that the undercover police is a big business in checking the artists and the public in general.
Savona: So you guys really could help the country in many ways. Move forward with your art to see that there is more to life than just managing people. There are so many areas where innovation, design, and photography could actually help people so that you could solve a lot of problems and challenges that people are dealing with day-to-day that doesn’t have to be this sort of battle over concepts and ideas and that’s what I am seeing from these new contemporary art that you are trying to push. You know, life, in a manner that could embrace more people and embrace solutions. Is that one thing you feel you are trying to do?
Fai: Or I should put it in other words that, I used to be more common artist. I thought I don’t have to be political. You just trying to be an artist, to be liberal and do whatever you want. But in the end I realized why the Chinese artists or the Mainland Chinese artists were so political. It is simply a reaction. When you are hit, you don’t have to fight back, but at least you are trying to block the fists. So, to block the fists, just a very simple reaction, an artist uses their works to react to the actual environment. This is a very simple way to give expression.
Savona: So do you see Chinese contemporary art involving more and more where people are expressing not just their craftsmanship but also the environment like you said or ideas that they feel might need to be explored even further to benefit the whole society?
Fai: Hmm, I would say that in different medias it could be different; so in visual art, we have more freedom, because we are not in the structure, we are in the system. But if say something about the film industry, because in my works, i have works (paintings) with films, so I try to know a bit about film industry; if you are talking about the films, then it is much more under control. As written in Chinese law, what to write and not to written in Chinese films.
Fai: Yes, some of them could be funny, like you cannot have ghost stories in the film if it is in the contemporary China,
Fai: Yes it is written in law. If you making stories of modern china, then it must have to be no ghost; if you are making the ghosts, then you must be daydreaming in the film. But of course, it could be something I am making fun; but it is about power, it is about political concern, because under communist rule, there should be no ghost.
Savona: (laugh), really? I was just trying to understand, but how could this relate, but ok, alright, there is a fear there.
Fai: Well, yeah, of course, I am trying to tell the funny part of the story but something like that, no police could die in Chinese film.
Fai: Yes, it is written in law. What I meant is, if you in film industry, there are thousands of rules that you have to follow, in modern China.
Savona: Wow, that is a lot. It takes a lot for creative people in China to share a story because you have so many hurdles to overcome in order to share, whatever message it is you want to convey, for you, you are finding this freedom, because you stick with visual arts, so therefor you can play with a little more, even though you have to be careful with, you know, how you state, what you doing.
Fai: Yes, and I also witnessed some kind of censorship in China. For example, the police in China will go to shows, exhibitions to check that if all the works are okay. If they find anything with is not appropriate they will tell you to take the painting off from the wall; so as in Hong Kong , we trying to not have this happen in Hong Kong,
Savona: Like sort of being experiment, you know, a labtorial, so therefore if you can show, that there is no reason for them to fear, it could actually grow.
Savona: Alright, that is fair, and not only fair, that is a possibility. Because you are sort of not in the mainland, and there is a little bit distance so you influenced by a lot of other people in culture. If they can see, there is no harm of what you doing, then hopefully that will also afford other artists in the mainland more freedom as well.
Fai: Exactly, in the 80s, Hong Kong is a pioneer of China. We were still under the British colonial government, but we were decided to return to the china in the 80s. And for the Chinese government, even for the Deng Xiaoping (chairs of communist party), he saw that Hong Kong should be the pioneer of China in different ways, in economic development, which is draw until today, you can see the economic so strong in China. Also Hong Kong as the pioneers of political reform to but I would say it did not happen after the economic reform in China, because it could threaten the rules of the government , if the politic or even culture from the start, and so at the end of the day, Hong Kong can not be the pioneer of political or culture development for the whole China; but on the other hand, they try to make HK into one of the Chinese cities rather than the pioneers for the culture and political side.
Savona: But you are more pushing to be that even though now it is not, they are afraid, you are still pushing that possibility so in that way, the whole Chinese culture can involve, can grow.
Fai: Yes, but for many people from Hong Kong, we try to be or realistic to this: we are not to pull whole China into one direction, we are trying to protect Hong Kong from being one of this big giant monster.
Savona: Ok, alright, alright, so but still by doing that, you still trying to pull away kind of being allowed to experiment. It can’t be sort of like that model that could involve mainland because I see a lot positive things happening, your contemporary scene, the talents is definitely there you can see from the brushstroke that in your painting, the details of the imagery that in your painting, the talent is definitely there. Now you blend that talent with a kind of thoughtful movement, so I can see something really positive happening if you are allowed to experiment, in effect, I can see that cross the globe, there is a lot of hubs in the world where artists are trying to break through they trying to be innovative, they trying to shake up things a little bit to say here are some possibilities, if there not being given that chance, that space, that voice, we are stuck, we are where we are and I think people are ready now, for that break through, wouldn’t you say?
Fai: Yes, image if you are a scriptwriter, and you are not allowed to write something about the ghosts or a fallen policeman, like what I just said, then that is the limitation of your creativity,
Savona: Yes, so this is a real possibility, you know I really enjoy our talk because I have learnt so much about the screen, and so many of us in new york, in us, we never have a chance to really have a conversation with artists from china or maybe even central Asia to here. This is so important for us to learn and hear your voice, your perspective, and your understanding, and helps us to get along because politically (laugh) we not doing well with China right now, there is so many fighting going on. But if we talk to people directly, that could possibly help improve the relationship because it not only somebody dictates. but it is from those personal context, where we get to learn appreciate, respect, and even support. So I just want to thank you very much coming on and showing in our new studio.
Fai: I am very much happy to be here.
Savona: Thank you so very much, I just want let our audience know that your show will be up at Eli Klein gallery which is located at 398 west street in the west village until mid of October. Thank you again for join in us.
Fai: Thank you so much.
Savona: We will be up on radio as well as other platform iTunes, Radiopublic, Pocastbox, Soundcloud, and others. We will come back to you next week with another great speaker.
地点： BRIC 艺术传媒，布鲁克林，纽约
萨沃纳：所以，中国政府对中国艺术家的作品仍然非常敏感。但他们真的有这种需要害怕吗？ 因为这听起来像是他们会担心的事，但他们可能并不关心你想要做什么。因为似乎有些艺术家他们只是做事，他们只是想画画，或者他们只是想做摄影，他们并不想说更多的东西。政府应该的担忧事真正存在的吗？ 还是这只存在于艺术家们的想象中？
萨沃纳: (笑），真的吗？ 让我想想，但这怎么可能有关系，但好吧，可能是一种恐惧。