Berenice Angremy: Curator
Xiao Lu: Artist
Location: 798 “Thinking Hands”
Berenice: I have known your work Dialogue since 1989, but later I heard no news from you at all. It wasn’t until 2004, when I saw your performance work at the 798 Dashanzi Art Festival, namely A Dialogue about ‘Dialogue’ at the “Language Without Borders 2004: Volume Control” Exhibition, that I started to pay attention to you. I was very surprised. This performance shook me. I realized that you had begun to speak.
Xiao Lu: Yes, it was the first time that I broke my silence to talk about Dialogue in public in the whole period from 1989 to 2004. This process was so long. These things are all described in my novel “Dialogue”. You can read about it later.
Berenice: At that performance, your action of cutting off your hair made a very deep impression on everyone, especially the women. I felt that you were giving a part of your body to the audience.
Xiao Lu: This analogy of giving a part of my body to the audience is very accurate. In the words of the classical Chinese poet Li Yu: “It cannot be severed by cutting, nor mended by combing.” Cutting off your hair is easy, but completely cutting off your past is not.
Berenice: I remember at that Art Festival, your performance work had been cancelled for the opening ceremony. The reason at the time was that the main person responsible for curating the event was afraid that your ex-boyfriend would come and destroy it, so he cancelled your performance work at the opening. May I ask you, what did you feel about this at the time?
Xiao Lu: It made me feel very uneasy. I remember the night before the opening ceremony, in the “Time/Space” coffee shop, everybody was arguing stubbornly about my performance on the next day. Only Huang Rui supported me. In this situation, I stood up and said: “What are you afraid of? I’m the one who should be afraid. If there is going to be any danger, it will be directed at me. All right! Since you’re so worried something will happen at the opening ceremony, I can cancel my performance tomorrow.” I then left the meeting. At the opening ceremony the next day, nothing whatsoever happened. Afterwards, Huang Rui was the one who convinced me to do it at the closing ceremony.
Berenice: I found that a lot of people like to talk about the work Dialogue because it happened in 1989. The sensitivity surrounding that year led to many political and social tones being associated with Dialogue, but very few people really cared about this work itself, particularly regarding the universal issue of the emotions between men and women. I have noticed that there is a very clear thread that runs through all your work from Dialogue, Fifteen Gunshots……from 1989 to 2003, Sperm, Wedlock, Drunk, to What is Love? and Love Letters. They are all about women’s own feelings.
Xiao Lu: Yes, this is rather individualistic, isn’t it? The outside world is too big, so it is only by returning to myself that I find a kind of peace of mind. In fact, like most women, I hope to have a happy home, but because of various things in real life not going as I had hoped for, I have returned to art seeking sustenance. There you can completely give yourself over to a world of virtual reality where the real-life ‘you’ can be intertwined with the ‘you’ of your art, and they can live and die together.
Berenice: In 2009, I curated the “Woman and Body” program at “La Bellone” in Brussels, Belgium. You did a performance work, Drunk. This work made an extremely strong and shocking impression on people. Even now, many people are still talking about it. In this work, it was as if you gave yourself up naked to the audience. You were totally drunk, and ended up being sent to hospital.
Xiao Lu: People probably think I’m an alcoholic. In actual life, I drink very little, though I have experienced being drunk. I find that it is often only after getting drunk that people move beyond their normal state. That realm of self-oblivion is totally irrational. It can be very lovable or very mean, and it can make people intoxicated with happiness, but the consequences are hard to foresee. Don’t you feel that people in love also transcend their normal state?
Berenice: Yes. Judging from many people’s discussions of this work of yours, some people were very disgusted by it, some liked it very much, some felt sympathy for you and others felt sorry for you, but it was obvious that everybody very much appreciated this performance work of yours. The emotions that the audience talked about were completely involved with your work.
Xiao Lu: Whenever I do a performance work, I don’t sleep at all well on the first night. I suppose I enter some kind of state. To do a performance work you need some feeling that can carry the audience with you. If your emotion is not fully involved, there is no way the audience will be able to enter into the work.
Berenice: Your works are extraordinarily close to life, and feelings are a part of life. At first glance, your works are all very powerful, so when many people look at your works, they simply think that you are a feminist. In fact, when one really looks deeper into your works, one finds that you are not, but rather that you are a woman who needs to be truly loved. In your performance work What Is Love? at the “Body and Woman” program that I curated in Ljubljana, I sensed this aspect of you. In my experience of artists, you are a very special one.
Xiao Lu: Really? Thank you, but there is nothing special. I live simply, looking after myself and appreciating everything that life has given me. That ‘powerful’ quality is an expressive format. I am a woman and I know the fragility of women. If you sense any powerful factors in my works, maybe this is the pain in my life. As to why I make my works in the way I do, there is a saying: “Your character decides your fate.” In my case some make-up in my character has determined the make-up of my works.
Berenice: In general, works by men tend to focus on social issues, and works by women tend to focus on private secrets. However, in your works, I feel that despite their personal point of departure, there is something rebellious in them. Your works are very courageous, you dare use a gun, you dare ask men for sperm, you dare drink yourself completely drunk. You seem to be telling one woman’s story, but your story has moved men and women.
Xiao Lu: Before something takes place, nobody knows what will be its outcome, so that when you say one dares do something, this also means that one dares accept the consequences. I have experienced many things in this life. Acceptance and rebellion are the double-edged sword of my character. I thank God that I am still alive.
Translate from Chinese by Archibald McKenzie