Ye Ziteng’s hands are imbued with a streaming will that extends from himself. He cuts up the self and creates a collage with the pieces through time. The composition decouples from the composer, and no longer centres on the composer. It can be perceived only by not perceiving. Philosophy is his guiding stone. Guided by philosophy, Ye couples the sounds that cannot be coupled. The current work of his is artwork of sounds, rather than work of music. Constructed via philosophy, the sounds represent a coincidence resulting from integral calculus. Ye’s creation is largely about organising the means of creating sounds, paying attention to them, selecting titles by their philosophical significance, and constructing their laws through given laws. Examples are “Aufdeckung” (2019) included in “Phil ♂ osophy”（Gachimuchi Meme）, and “Two Spirit” (2022). The latter released on 1 May is Ye’s latest work. Connecting a bust and women’s clothing for the lower half, it explores “gender identity” and “subject”. This is the second work in the series of Decentrism. In the first work, “You will die alone” (2021), death is the beginning of his thinking, which reflects on the individual will’s being restricted and oppressed by moral freedom in social environment, and considers the disappearance of anthropological subjectivism and the study on non-subjectivism. Ye has been studying for a master’s degree in composition at Dresden Conservatory (Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber) since 2019. His mentors include Manos Tsangaris, Mark Andre,and Stefan Prins.
[The code, “? – C.E. 1992, C.E. 20XX – ∞”, keeps coming up in your works. What does it signify? How does the understanding of infinity and origin influence your thinking?]
Indeed, this is my second work in this series. After the first work premiered last year, I had the idea of continuing to create towards this series, because this is such a title that encompasses such a wide range of contents, that is, from the beginning of the world, to the year of my birth, and from the day of my death to infinity or the end of the world. This actually contains two opposing concepts.
First, by the title, it is a division into two parts where one is from before my birth to my birth, and the other, from my death to the end of the world. I try my best to erase from the world the fact of my existence in the world. I want to highlight the parts before and after my birth and after my death. This is also an absolute denial of subject-centrism.
Second, while I indicate the year of my birth and the uncertain year of my certain departure from the world sometime in the future, it resembles the epitaph engraved on the tombstones of many deceased people to prove life in the world during a certain period of time. From this perspective, the focus has to be back on the paltry subject. As the infinity and origin are transcendental, and I know nothing about them, I can only draw the outline roughly with my shallow cognition. But this will be the topic of the third work, “After the Subject”, and we will have a proper discussion there.
[You mentioned the significance of philosophy to you in your presentation, and you did not perceive philosophy as you would when learning about philosophy or studying philosophy, but as an ancillary tool to be employed. Has the experience of external philosophy exerted an influence on you yourself, or has it helped internalise a new pattern?]
It was only after I went to study in Europe that I began to learn about human history, philosophy history, art history, aesthetics, as well as political science, sociology, anthropology, psychology and other disciplines, and to reflect upon them. Interestingly, I find that my music or artwork is more and more dependent on or completely inseparable from other disciplines. After the humankind has gone through a couple of industrial revolutions, the definition of artist has also evolved. Artists may do anything in the future.
What I feel the strongest is that, it is right only when no requirement at all is set for art, or no one including yourself should tell you what you must do. I have also developed a deep understanding that we are under great pressure from the world, as the society we encounter is a powerful, disciplinary one. If you want to let go of yourself, you must brace yourself for the pressure and incomprehension of the society.
Regarding art and philosophy, ever since G. W. F. Hegel, the end of art has been in discussion. This issue has been analysed by numerous philosophers and aestheticians. What I agree with more is the argument of philosophicalising art and artisticising philosophy. Since the emergence of Duchamp and Dadaism in the early 20th century, philosophy and art have been inseparable. For another example, conceptual artworks such as Joseph Kosuth’s “One and Three Chairs” and John Cage’s “4'33''” have long incorporated their own philosophical thoughts into their works. In comparison, I live in a different time and I attempt to overcome more boundaries (including the latest technologies, ethics, anthropology, archaeology, sociology and so forth) in order to create.
[When you started creating, did you have any anticipation for the final result? Was the position of the object in the final work different from that in the original idea?]
Of course. Same as in many of my other works, there are lots of uncertainties until the end of the creation. It may also have something to do with my personality. I do not like to be completely sure right away, or that the creation develops in the exact direction of the original idea. Nonetheless, there is a general framework, which does not alter so much. For example, I decided at the beginning that the last part shall be me playing a scherzo of Chopin, and that never changed.
[You mentioned that “Two Spirit” itself was designed for both video and duo-piano versions, and now there is only one version, video. To you, in this case, is the work complete, independently? Will you continue to create a derivative version upon the video and duo-piano versions? In the video version, I noticed that you don’t seem to care about the direct manipulation of sounds, but indirectly achieve the display of sounds through applying the skills of video cutting. Does this break away from the significance in music to a certain extent and become a type of media art?]
Yes. At the beginning, I planned to do both video and live. But personally, I think that the video version itself is complete, because basically everything I wanted to show is shown in the work. Given chance, of course I will also perform it live, because live performance conveys some things that video alone cannot. The direct manipulation of sounds is indeed rare among my works. Even where there is, it may be diluted by visual materials that are sensory and stimulating. I have also made oto maddo videos before. This kind of video also modulates sounds and videos together using video editing. But it still possesses basic musical attributes, only of a lower proportion.
[A key idea in “Two Spirit” is quasi-object. It constitutes the core in composing the work. Through your description, I realised that quasi-object represents a transcendental understanding of the object, which involves applying knowledge beyond the object itself back to the object while observing the object. In your work, while the sculpture or mould based on your own appearance directs back to you yourself, do you consider such a quasi-object as an extension off yourself and become your quasi-subject?]
Quasi-object is a major term I learned from Bruno Latour’s book. Originating from the French philosopher Michel Serres, it is interchangeable with quasi-subject in terms of the concept. They are both product of the mutual construction of subject and object. They are the hybrid between subject and object. The self-sculpture in my work is a hybrid of my subjective morphological characteristics and the objective plastic material. You cannot associate a random piece of unprocessed rock or plastic with my own subject, nor can you separate my subject form from a carrier. You have to rely on language description, sculpture or photo to understand the subjective concept of me. Otherwise, it is impossible to know what I am like.
The motive behind my own statues is my love for figures since I was a child. When I was in elementary school, I started to develop a hobby of collecting all kinds of anime and movie figures. By senior high, I had a room almost full of my collection. Large and small, most of them were anime and movie protagonists. Most of them were related to heroic stories, and their moves were so cool and diverse. Their very existence satisfied my psychological longing for individual heroism. As a grown-up, when I looked back at the figures at home that had accompanied me and saw me grow for over a decade, I wondered why not have my own figure?
Of course, I know that the statue shows my appearance only. In the same vein, people see what Socrates and Aristotle looked like from millenniums-old written records as well as their statues and portraits. Certainly, among the artworks I know, very few artists would think of using their own statues in the artistic creation. Statues are originally related to religion and totems. Many cultures display their idols in this form, and then there are numerous widely known statues of philosophers, musicians, royalty and so forth. But a statue of myself, someone who makes no contribution to and exerts no impact on human history, is only meaningful in an extraordinary way to the very subject of the statue.
[Two Spirit is a term derived from the concept of Third Gender among tribal peoples. It is a “gender variant”, and a word included in the LGBTQ semantics set. Your work was established on the footing of a provocative reflection upon the contrast between this term and conventional gender set. Did it remind you of the reason for the opposition between subject and object? Is it used as a deduction axiom in the derivation of your work or is it just a guide in the chain logic? And does this affect the connection and continuity among the teils in your work?]
The term, Two Spirit, was coined at a Native American homosexual gathering in 1990, but the concept had existed in Native American tribes for centuries. With the advent of Christian culture as European colonists spread to the Americas, the culture of Two Spirit among the indigenous tribes was almost destroyed and suppressed to non-existence. The term thus bears a grave history. And isn’t the society we live in repeating this phenomenon? Constantly it creates opposing values. Men must be masculine and women must be feminine, otherwise they will be ruthlessly abandoned by society. It just so happens that Two Spirit covers the non-binary genders of men and women. In this regard, it is similar to the concept of quasi-object, since both acknowledge the existence of a third party beyond two.
If I must discuss it, I should have developed the concept of gender identity as one of the compositional materials. The materials related to the concept of gender identity before the last section of the work are presented in a fragmented way. In the last section, I designed a special arrangement. I myself play the last segment of Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2, and meanwhile, there are shots of the interaction between me and my sculpture. Towards the end, the lens gradually reveals the image of the women’s skirt below my suit top for men, which finally and fully demonstrates the essence of Two Spirit for the only time in the work.
[Quasi-object opens up an overlapping space where the extreme opposition of subject and object is torn apart. The object and its transcendental knowledge experienced by the audience originate from you. Does this convey your idea well? For you, as an extension of your very self, what kind of feedback does it give you? According to this concept, has the work become another quasi-object upon the quasi-object? Does the multiplicity cause separation to your cognition?]
Ever since the creation of “Two Spirit”, I have never stopped creating works towards my sculpture series. But they may only be in the forms of photo or video, because I think there are so much in it to be explored. I am not sure if the current works have completely conveyed all my ideas.
Regarding my statues, they are like my avatars. I take them wherever I go. On the train platform, they wait for the train with me. At school, I put them on the desk and they attend the class with me. I tie them up as in BDSM... I have been confronted by curiosity and questions from all kinds of people, and I am also very much looking forward to communicating with more different people about this behaviour.
As for the concept of quasi-object, I think I still have a lot of things to do. I can only say that in my second work in this series, I have made a good start. I don’t know how it will develop in the future. All I know is that my future thoughts are beyond my current cognition. The quasi-object upon quasi-object you mentioned is very interesting. Of course, as all artists’ works of art are themselves hybrids between the subject of the artist and the object of the world, the quasi-object (my statue) in my work has indeed become another quasi-object (the artwork) upon the quasi-object (my statue). For the audience, whether it is the quasi-object in the work (my statue) or the quasi-object upon the quasi-object (the artwork), the source is always me as the single subject, which facilitates an unconscious connection between my image in my statue and my artwork.
Although I did almost no technical work during the making of the statue, I just sent my photos to the people responsible for making 3D models, and they took full responsibility establishing a model, completing the 3D printing, and mailing to me. It was like commissioning a toy. From this point of view, my statue is a ready-made product in the work, but this work of mine is a non-ready-made product that I have carefully designed. In turn, between the two quasi-objects there forms a set of opposition, which consists of the quasi-object (my statue) (ready-made product) and the quasi-object (the artwork) (non-ready-made product) upon the quasi-object (my statue).
While I am a composer, and my works cross many boundaries (visual art, media art, drama, conceptual art, etc.), this multiplicity actually reflects that my works cannot be fully explained simply in one sentence or two. And of course, heaps of word would not work, either, because the works need to retain the non-semantic property. My wish is to make my artistic approaches and ideas public, and offer everyone with interesting works.