ACADEMIC HOST: GU ZHENQING
“Original home” is the source of human spiritual home and spiritual hometown which has been sought by people of different countries, different nationalities and different beliefs and which has created their own civilization traditions and culture subjectivity. The”Original home” bond traces not just the cultural hometown with traditional representation for a nationality or a country, but also a kind of enduring spiritual origin started with the “Axial Age” religion and philosophic rationalism tradition of human’ s ancient civilization. Nowadays, with the development of globalization, modernization and urbanization, China, just like other developing countries, is experiencing various new leaps and crisis in the period of social transition. This makes people often review the spiritual basis, which is composed of the thought system of ancient Chinese philosophers, they live on. “Original home” represents a look back from the contemporary society of flashy matters to genius of human spirit in the past. The “Original home” experience of Chinese modern and contemporary writers and artists is a self-conscious spiritual reform, a logical evolution, as well as a contemporary aesthetic form with independent innovation characteristics that stretches and is generated in Chinese cultural tradition. On the new international platform shared by multi cultures, Chinese modern and contemporary artists are generating a unique and open human experience of developing countries, and constructing their responsibility and contribution to national culture and global society as social individuals. In fact, “Original home” is also the spiritual concern that has always been upheld by Chinese contemporary art, which is of deep imagination and creativity. It bears the great dream of the Chinese cultural Renaissance, which has been pursued by Chinese men and women with lofty ideals for nearly a century.
The concept of “original home” can be used to demonstrate the cultural consciousness to constantly trace, comb, reconstruct, and promote their traditional source of Chinese intellectuals since the beginning of the 20th century. Actually, the “original home” of human spirit is the thought resources of spiritual talents such as Confucius, Socrates, and the Buddha during the starting era of religion or philosophy in Eurasia two thousand years ago. The “original home” consciousness of Chinese intellectuals is not only a cultural Nostalgia and an active digging of our traditional culture, but also a horizon of thoughts which is beyond the opposition of Chinese and Western and covers essences of both sides. Under the trend of the eastward transmission of western sciences in modern China, the “original home” consciousness of Chinese people has been stretching continuously in the cultural activities to carrying forward the studies of Chinese ancient civilization, new Confucianism, etc. With the substantial growth of China’ s comprehensive national strength since the 21st century, it has gradually become a social culture boom to return to Chinese tradition and revive the Chinese culture. The “original home” consciousness also frequently appears and has gradually become a kind of special mental representation of Chinese contemporary art.
Back in the late Qing Dynasty and early republic of China, China opened up, with western learning becoming popular and Chinese traditional studies weakening. The Chinese intellectuals back then tended to view problems in the mode of opposition between Chinese and western. They took the difference between former Chinese modernity with and the modernity of Europe and the United States as the essence of the difference between Chinese and western civilization. Rong Hong, author of “On the Eastward Transmission of Western Sciences”, wrote in his famous quote that “instill the western science into China and make China more civilized and prosperous gradually”, which means that China lacked civilization and prosperity at that time, so he wanted to “borrow the science of western civilization to improve Oriental culture”. Chinese intellectuals got a comprehensive learning of the modernity system and academic norms of Europe and America with the eastward transmission of western sciences. Some people worshiped European cultural tradition and even expected wholesale westernization. At the same time, they were constantly questioning and abandoning their inheritance of Chinese traditional culture. People who understood the times back then all agreed the value judgment that though Chinese traditional civilization was great and bright, but it was weakening when challenge by modern civilization. In modern China’ s two big ideological trends of enlightenment and salvation, only a few people reversed the trend and constantly returned to the “original home” of Chinese traditional civilization for nutrients. For example, people such as Zhang Binglin, Gu Hongming and Liang Qichao advocated national cultural heritage and humanistic pragmatism, they took the revitalization of Chinese traditional culture as a value pursuit of the revitalization of China. Cai Yuanpei and He Lin also advocated abstract inheritance of Confucius’ spiritual heritage. Hu Shi also said that “study of Chinese learning has to break the closed independent attitude”. After these minority intellectuals opened their eyes to see the world, they soberly knew that Chinese traditional culture was one of the core parts of the “original home” of human civilization, which had irreplaceable value. With the success of China’ s socialist revolution in 1949, the ideology of dominated by Marxism-Leninism covered the whole Chinese society, and some intellectuals advocating “the quintessence of Chinese culture” experienced decades of cultural aphasia and lonely watch. After the 10-year catastrophe of breaking the “four olds” and the Cultural Revolution, the traditional culture didn’ t return to Chinese society until the reform and opening up policy adopted in 1978. After the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, “studies of Chinese ancient civilization” gradually gained heat with a kind of confidence of the rise of great powers generated in the Chinese culture and art circles. The Confucianism, Taoism and Buddha that carry forward Chinese traditional culture have become fashion. Based on the reflection of modernity, some Chinese intellectuals traced back to the initial formation of their own cultural traditions, so as to radically reform and make clear the purpose from the very beginning. They revaluate the thoughts of China’ s ancient philosophers such as Zhuangzi, Confucius, Mengzi, Mozi, etc. from a globalization view of point, and take their thought as resources of spiritual “original home” to observe their living life and reflect on the way of existence. Some people are also trying to emulate the way people carried forward Greek and Roman cultural traditions during European Renaissance, so as to return basis to open a new road. They want to pursue the contemporary independent innovation on the basis of the revival of the Chinese traditions, so as to enhance the influence of the subjective pursuit on contemporary knowledge production. Clearly, these Chinese intellectuals constantly activate the “original home” spirit, expecting to face the next rapid development and potential crisis in Chinese society with it. The awakening of “original home” consciousness allows them a more macro profound historical pattern and a more open horizon of multiculturalism.
The ideological trend to trace the cultural “original home” of modern Chinese intellectuals is not only the pursuit of the great revival of traditional culture, but also a spiritual archaeological behavior to dig the root of the traditional. They are trying to emulate Chen Yinque’ s quote of “put oneself in the position of the ancient people who put forward a theory”, so as to restore the spiritual problems faced by China’ s ancient philosophers. They don’ t want to blindly draw lessons from, transplant or divert other modern culture, but hope to make value modification and update for modernity after chewing and digesting the original culture of China. Their efforts to absorb nutrition from China’ s original culture are expanded to absorbing and integrating other original cultures, so as to embrace the “original home” of human spirit. Nowadays, the cultural self-conscious behavior of tracing “original home” and presenting “original home” by some Chinese artists should not be ignored. They value the original culture, and are also obsessed with artistic innovation. As a result, their contemporary art practices based on “original home” consciousnesses constitute the increasingly strengthening and deepening of China’ s cultural subjectivity pursuit.
Some Chinese artists have submerged under the impetuous and noisy reality cultural landscape, diligently learning from “original home” of Chinese traditional sources and making creative transformation in the artistic creation. They also try to put forward their own solutions and roadmap to face various spiritual crises in the real life of global society, and share the universal “original home” resources of all mankind. In terms of contemporary art circle, such “original home” consciousness causes Chinese artists to revisit and trace all kinds of traditional culture and classical human spirit. It makes them able to experience the dominant influence of Chinese traditional thinking habits, while focus on European and American modern and contemporary art scene at the same time, and gives them an irreplaceable and unparalleled cultural advantage in the practice of the inheritance of Chinese traditional context.
The diversity and variety of contemporary culture not only enrich the global village, but also form effective intervention and supplement for universal spirit. Since the 1990 s, the world has experienced rises and falls. Many cultural elements from various spirit “original homes” of traditional civilization countries beyond Europe and America are shared in international community, which is deeply baptized by network, with the trend of globalization and modernity. The culture symbols, words and ideas that first popular in many developing countries also began to exert a greater influence in developed countries through bilateral cultural export, intervening and balancing the culture and discourse power of European and American countries. In such international context, the creative practices of a batch of Chinese artists such as Shang Yang, Yu Youhan, Li Huasheng, Yang Jiecang, Xu Bing, Gu Wenda, Su Xiaobai, Wang Chuan and Liang Quan have reflected a high level of cultural consciousness in different ways. They directly demonstrate their inheritance of the human spirit “original home” as a shared global value, or transform Chinese unique “original home” spirit into an international one through the re-invention with contemporary language. Such self construction efforts by Chinese artists in contemporary art horizon may not only constitute an international cultural contribution, but also rewrite or reconstruct the existing order of global culture.
The “original home” spirit actually should also be a kind of value of modernism. Contemporary art in China has gradually formed the self experience of Chinese artist, and also formed their own creative inheritance and transformation of traditions. In the context of globalization of Chinese society, such efforts by artist are of greater significance than creative transformation of European and American traditional modernity, for Chinese artists has incomparable advantages and strengths in terms of the understanding of traditional “original home” in China and Asia. The core value of human “original home” transformed in their works can always generate a more reasonable spiritual contribution, which is suitable for long-term development. The spirit trend of returning to this shore, to concrete science and to existence brought by “original home” consciousness also help more artists to carry out deep reflection over the existing artistic system, rules and standards, and explore the adaptability and compatibility of system specification for human’ s original existence. Here, modernism is becoming a kind of thinking with global pattern of Chinese artists. The current systems, rules and standards are not necessarily essential, but they are definitely plastic. The most remarkable change in Chinese contemporary art’ s localization is not the landing, rooting and development of European and American contemporary art systems in China’ s gallery movement and the frequent cultural hemorrhage and spiritual alienation in this process, but the quietly growth of Chinese cultural subjectivity in contemporary art. In the ideological background of “original home” spirit constantly being traced, activated and promoted, Chinese cultural subjectivity is expanded and growing unceasingly, and is becoming a daily status and basic trend of various Chinese scenes in contemporary art. Such growth trend of the Chinese cultural subjectivity is bound to have a profound impact on the revaluation and reconstruction of contemporary art system, rules and standards in the next 30 years.