Sun Yuan -interview -burning point RAN DIAN (2023)

by liang shuhan Liang Shuhan
Translated by Daniel Szehin Ho He Siyan

There is one type of artists who simply cannot be defined, since any definition would take away from their originality. Sun Yuan and Peng Yu belong to this category. Human lipids, baby or animal samples, high-pressure hose — there is nothing that they cannot bring into their practice. But as Sun Yuan says, if experiments themselves are not experimental, is creation even necessary?

Liang Shuhan: What works have you two been doing lately?

Sun Yuan:Recently we’ve been taking a break.

Sun Yuan - interview - 燃点 Ran Dian (1)

LSH: In your works, there very often are some violent elements, elements that are almost intolerable — like human fat taken from liposuction surgery. Do you consider this as a medium, or rather is there a message to be sent?

And:This issue can’t be completely settled. Within this is a fundamental question: what is the position of art? Or perhaps we can say, what is art connected to? Is art about reality or is it about itself? Should it be more metaphysical or physical? This position is in fact very uncertain and is constantly in flux. Within contemporary art, there is even the possibility that art is not the stance put forth by the artist?

LSH: So this stance — who do you think masters and clarifies it?

And:I don’t think anyone could master this. Artists, or perhaps rather people who work in art, always attempt to “seize” art through various methods — from the threads of artworks, theory, and art history. But the distinctiveness of art lies in its constant flight from such capture. It is very hard to establish who determines the positionality of art. You can care about art from different perspectives, but it is difficult to come up with a definitive statement. To offer a definitive statement or idea usually only happens when you need an exchange of benefits — for instance when someone needs to offer an idea, to manifest a certain stance, and attempts to establish a certain position within the contemporary art world—this is a certain exchange of benefits. Yet I feel objectively and globally speaking, there is no way to be definitive about art.

LSH: But since “contemporary art” is already established as such, there must be a certain concept being extended. In your opinion, what standard should contemporary art have in order to point to?

And:One very clear standard: contemporary art is about knowledge. You must grasp the background of knowledge underlying the current position in order to participate in contemporary artistic production, and this is equally that which you must pay attention to. If you are concerned neither with the questions of the contemporary world nor with the contemporary issues of art, then there really isn’t any “contemporary” element.

LSH: I feel that contemporary art has in the past few years been shifting towards conservative and traditional art. At least in contrast to art in the 90s, art now is a lot more orderly. How do you see this?

And:I don’t have this feeling. For example, performance art does not equal experimentation. Your question has two levels. On one level, the intervention of commerce will be involved in the establishment of rules, and artists need to reference rules when producing — they need to consider the degree to which they challenge the rules. Yet this question basically did not exist in the 90s; only a small minority of people involved in painting on easels had the chance to be in touch with commerce. At that time, the vast majority were non-professional rather than professional artists. They put back the money they earned from other fields into art, so artists then weren’t so rich. Another level is that the development of art itself had come into difficulty and entered into a bottleneck. With what methods were we to push it forward? Within art, much had been digested; even experiments didn’t seem experimental. Art at this point entered into a period of hesitation. Of course, this emerged a bit earlier in the West; it was also about a decade earlier in Japan. Art within an age of hesitation is not necessarily passive or profit-driven.

Sun Yuan - interview - 燃点 Ran Dian (2)

LSH: And you believe that this hesitation is caused by what exactly?

And:With the form of artistic language having reached a degree of sophistication, two requirements emerged: one is how to innovate; the other is how to affirm itself. This is not merely a question in China; it has also emerged in the West. These two points are questions that artists must think about.

LSH: Can you talk about your thought processes along with your works?

And:For instance, the piece with the hose (“Freedom”) is a rather metaphysical piece for me; it’s very independent, unconnected to any reality and unreflective of any cultural phenomena. Yet within the reality in China it is indeed rooted; like the title, there are two directions — “Freedom” is a basic term. With a title like that on a work, the audience would feel that this is about China’s contemporary reality. Before I created it, I had considered these elements. The work with the police cars, “Tonight I won’t sleep,” is exactly the opposite of “Freedom”: it intervenes directly in reality. It’s not in the exhibition hall and I don’t really care if it’s art or not —it’s just a thing that happens in reality. But of course it is related to politics and culture — it doesn’t have a very clear direction; it differs from Ai Weiwei’s style (resistance against the government). It also differs from the performance art from the past, because performance art manifests another kind of form. Just as Brother Xi [Xi Jinping] says, “China isn’t exporting revolution, and it’s not exporting poverty” — one is exporting revolution, the other is exporting poverty. Well, aside from these points, what else is there? I hope to find the thing that is independent in a work, in a piece. It has to have the power of reality, but this performance also needs to have its own independence — without a clear target in reality but a metaphysical, non-tangible target.

Sun Yuan - interview - 燃点 Ran Dian (3)

LSH: So what value does the independence of the artwork itself have? Since it’s a pure, metaphysical problem. Whether in history or in the present, independence and freedom are in fact in relation with non-independence and non-freedom. So you think that the consciousness set forth by and called upon by independence and freedom is a part of your works?

And:It should be, but in fact I haven’t linked it up closely to our reality, actually. The most important thing for artists is to transcend the reliance on a subject, whether your art relies on reality or on concepts. Contemporary art is about the problems of today, so this is a certain object. “Transcending” is only an ultimate ideal, because true transcendence means you won’t be doing art. But there must be an ideal, like a lamp in the distance.

LSH:The problem now is that, transcending here and there, art will in the end have a certain “home” —like museums, collecting organizations, but these organizations have a selectivity and limitedness. What do you think are the meaning of these systems / organizations in relation to the free development of contemporary art?

And:The system is especially strong and the freedom you can imagine is made systematic and formulaic, to be erased under the greatest restrictions. For instance, if a work cannot be exhibited normally in a museum, then the museum will regulate a time, say, from a certain time to another on a Saturday afternoon. It gives you a certain model, making any of your resistance ineffective. It’s likewise in the West —when this system grows to a certain point, it will enter a period of hesitation. At this point, art seems to have trouble moving even a tiny bit forward.

Sun Yuan - interview - 燃点 Ran Dian (4)

LSH:So if artists don’t enter this exhibition system, can they enter shopping malls or not? Or within another system?

And:Actually, art has long ago entered shopping malls, or else within all kinds of replacement spaces. As long as there is a term to designate a certain art within the art world, in actual fact the resistance of this art has already failed. But something completely becoming another thing isn’t right either — this is tantamount to entering another field, under the constraints of other rules.

LSH: Or this is to say that art has already entered a stage with a high degree of professionalism?

And:This is neither good or bad. Art has already entered this stage. There are two aspects to this high level of professionalism: on the positive side, this can allow art to develop more systematically; on the negative, the “system of art” is especially strong. This is like Hollywood — without Hollywood, our movies today won’t be that good, and yet with Hollywood, a lot of good cinema is about to run out of options.

LSH: As a grouping, what kind of state do you think professional artists in China are in?

And:They live on their art.


What nationality is Sun Yuan? ›

Sun Yuan was born in 1972 in Beijing, and Peng Yu was born in 1974 in Jiamusi, China. Both artists studied oil painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing.

What is Sun Yuan and Peng Yu most famous work? ›

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu are famous for working with unconventional media such as taxidermy, human fat, and machinery. In the controversial "Dogs Which Cannot Touch Each Other", eight dogs (four pairs facing one another) were strapped onto treadmills in a public installation.

What is Sun Yuan and Peng Yu known for? ›

Recipients of the 2001 Chinese Contemporary Art Award, conceptual artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu are known for making controversial installations that use human fat, stuffed animal bodies, and machinery to offer satirical commentary about Chinese society.

Where is Sun Yuan? ›

They studied in the same years at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, the city where they still live and work today.

What ethnicity is the last name Yuan? ›

Yuan (袁, Mandarin pronunciation: [ɥɛ̌n] ( listen)) is a Chinese surname ranked 37th in China by population in 2019.

Is Yuen Chinese or Korean? ›

Yuen is a common last name found among Overseas Chinese communities around the world. In fact, "Yuen" is the transliteration of several different Chinese surnames. Its meaning varies depending on how it is spelled in Chinese, and which dialect it is pronounced in.

Who is the number one Chinese artist? ›

1. Ai Weiwei. Born in 1957 in Beijing, working and residing in Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal, Ai Weiwei is the most famous Chinese artist today on our list. Besides being a contemporary artist, a thinker, and a genuine global citizen, Weiwei has resided for longer periods in various parts of the world.

Who is the most famous artist in China? ›

Zhang Daqian was born in 1899 in Sichuan province in the final years of China's last dynasty, the Qing.

Who was the most respected artist in the Yuan Dynasty? ›

Zhao Mengfu is widely regarded as the greatest painter and calligrapher of the Yuan Dynasty.

Who were the 4 Great Yuan Masters? ›

These four scrolls were painted after the each of the Four Masters of the Yuan Dynasty, Huang Gongwang, Wu Zhen, Ni Zan and Wang Meng.

Are Sun Yuan and Peng Yu immigrants? ›

Sun and Peng were both born in China in the early 1970s (the former in Beijing, the latter in Heilongjiang). They studied at Beijing's Central Academy of Art and began working together in 2000.

What is the most famous of China's performing arts? ›

It should be noted that to date, the famous Peking Opera is considered to be the best China's opera house. Today's Chinese Theatre is quite a common phenomenon. It is a fascinating colorful spectacle that combines not only acting, but also acrobatic, dance and music scene.

Why are Sun Yuan and Peng Yu controversial? ›

Andrews of the Chicago Tribune. The most controversial work was Sun Yuan and Peng Yu's "Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other." Staged at a Beijing museum in 2003, it featured four pairs of pit bulls tied to treadmills. As they run furiously towards each other, the dogs try to attack, but they cannot touch.

How long did the can't help myself robot last? ›

The same counts for the robot; it seemingly gets sadder and sadder during the course of its 3-year-long life, as it just can't help itself.

What is the Chinese name for Sun Yuan and Peng Yu? ›

SUN Yuan 孙 原 & PENG Yu 彭 禹 | The Guggenheim Museums and Foundation.

What does Yuán mean in Chinese? ›

In Mandarin, yuán means a "round object" or "round coin," and in the Qing Dynasty, the yuan was a round, silver coin. Today in China, money is issued in both coins and banknotes, which are printed in amounts ranging from one to 100 yuan.

What is the most common Chinese surname in the world? ›

The top five surnames in China – Wang, Li, Zhang, Liu, Chen – are also the top five surnames in the world, each with over 70-100 million worldwide.

Why do Vietnamese people have Chinese surnames? ›

It is considered to be the Vietnamese variation of the Chinese surname Xie. When people from South China migrated to Vietnam, they changed their surnames and adopted Vietnamese surnames. As their Chinese surname translated into 'thank', they adopted the surname 'Ta' as it also meant thank you, but in Vietnamese.

Are Korean descendants of Chinese? ›

Both analyses demonstrated genetic evidence of the origin of Koreans from the central Asian Mongolians. Further, the Koreans are more closely related to the Japanese and quite distant from the Chinese.

What are the Chinese last names in Jamaica? ›

Common surnames among the Chinese population in Jamaica include Chai, Chan, Chang, Chen, Chin, Chong, Chung, Chow, Fong, Fung, Hugh, Kong, Leung, Li, Lim, Ling, Lowe, Lyn, Ng, Wan, Wang, Wong, Yap, Young, Yuen, Yang, Zhang, Zheng and Zhu.

Can Kim be a Chinese last name? ›

Kim is a common last name found among Overseas Chinese communities around the world. In fact, "Kim" is the transliteration of several different Chinese surnames. Its meaning varies depending on how it is spelled in Chinese, and which dialect it is pronounced in.

Who is the most popular pop star in China? ›

As of June 7, 2023, Jay Chou was the best-selling music artist in China with about 321.05 million yuan of sales revenue across all mainstream music platforms.

Who is the most popular female singer in China? ›

Best Chinese Female Singers
  1. 1 Teresa Teng. Literally no one can replace Teresa Teng. ...
  2. 2 G.E.M. ...
  3. 3 Faye Wong Faye Wong is a Chinese singer-songwriter and actress, often referred to as a "diva" in Chinese-language media. ...
  4. 4 Anita Mui. ...
  5. 5 Jane Zhang.
  6. 6 A-mei.
  7. 7 Coco Lee. ...
  8. 8 Stefanie Sun.

Who is the best celebrity in China? ›

Top 10 of 2019 CelebrityZ Most Influential Celebrity in China
NameOverall RankingRanking of Salient
Zanila Zhao 赵丽颖15
Dilraba 迪丽热巴22
Jay Chou 周杰伦333
Mini Yang 杨幂412
6 more rows
Mar 6, 2019

What music does China listen to? ›

Instrumental pieces played on an erhu or dizi are popular, and are often available outside of China, but the pipa and zheng music, which are more traditional, are more popular in China itself.

How can you tell if a Chinese painting is valuable? ›

Seven factors help determine their value:
  1. Reputation. The reputation of the individual calligrapher or painter is arguably the most important value aspect. ...
  2. Subject Matter. Content is important. ...
  3. Style. ...
  4. Quality. ...
  5. Inscriptions. ...
  6. Exclusivity. ...
  7. Age.

Why was Yuan Dynasty so bad? ›

The Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) was a period when China was ruled by Mongol emperors. It lasted a little under a century before falling to economic troubles and massive social unrest largely caused by the exclusion of ethnic Chinese from government positions.

Who was the most successful Chinese ruler? ›

1. Qin Shi Huang (221-210 B.C.)

Which Chinese dynasty had the best art? ›

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE)

Now comes the Ming Dynasty, arguably the most important period in Chinese art history. This era is distinguished for its porcelains, temple sculptures, jades, scroll paintings and more.

Who was the worst Yuan emperor? ›

Despite his accomplishments, Emperor Yang is generally considered by traditional historians to be one of the worst tyrants in Chinese history and the reason for the Sui dynasty's relatively short rule.

Who stopped the Yuan Dynasty? ›

In 1368, following the defeat of the Yuan forces by the Ming dynasty, the Genghisid rulers retreated to the Mongolian Plateau and continued to rule until 1635 when they surrendered to the Later Jin dynasty (which later evolved into the Qing dynasty).

Who destroyed Yuan Dynasty? ›

In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang, the leader of the Red Turban Rebellion defeated the Yuan Dynasty and established the Ming Dynasty with its capital in Nanjing.

What part of China did most immigrants come from? ›

The majority of migrants came from mainland China, but also from Taiwan, and Hong Kong. They moved mainly to industrialized countries – the top destination for overseas Chinese at the time was the United States.

Who are the biggest immigrant groups in China? ›

The most significant immigration to China has been by the Overseas Chinese, who in the years since 1949 have been offered various enticements to return to their homeland. Several million may have done so since 1949.

What does can't help myself mean? ›

: to be unable to control one's actions or stop oneself from doing something. I know I shouldn't be so rude to her, but I can't help myself.

What was the main religion of ancient China? ›

Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism were the three main philosophies and religions of ancient China, which have individually and collectively influenced ancient and modern Chinese society.

What was the religion in Chinese theatre? ›

Answer and Explanation: Yes, Chinese theatre did originate out of religious practice and observance. These were mainly dances performed by Chinese religious figures known as shamans.

What are the six arts in China? ›

  • Rites (禮)
  • Music (樂)
  • Archery (射)
  • Chariotry or Equestrianism (御)
  • Calligraphy (書)
  • Mathematics (數)

When was dogs that Cannot touch each other made? ›

The work is a seven-minute video of a performance that was staged at a museum in Beijing in 2003, during which dogs were placed on non-motorized treadmills facing one another and prevented from making contact.

Why is the Guggenheim museum controversial? ›

Guggenheim Museum, designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, opened in New York City. The building broke conventional architecture rules that had existed for centuries, causing contemporary artists to sign a petition against it.

What is the life expectancy of a robot? ›

Typical life expectancy ranges from 80,000 – 100,000 hours, but not limited to. Preventative maintenance and service is paramount for optimal life expectancy.

How old is the oldest robot in the world? ›

The first digitally operated and programmable robot was invented by George Devol in 1954 and was ultimately called the Unimate.

How old is the oldest robot? ›

The first modern robots

The earliest robots as we know them were created in the early 1950s by George C. Devol, an inventor from Louisville, Kentucky.

What does Yu Ying mean in Chinese? ›

Yu Ying takes its name —meaning nurturing excellence—from a groundbreaking girls' school founded in 1911 in Beijing, China.

Are Sun Yuan and Peng Yu a couple? ›

Early Years. Born in Beijing and Heilongjiang, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu studied Oil Painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1994 and 1995. The pair has been working collaboratively in Beijing since the late 1990s and got married in 2000.

Is Sun Chinese or Korean? ›

Sun is a transliteration of a common Chinese surname (simplified Chinese: 孙; traditional Chinese: 孫; pinyin: Sūn). It is the third name listed in the Song dynasty classic text Hundred Family Surnames.

Where is Shen Yuan from? ›

Shen Yuan (Chinese: 沈远; born 1959 in Xianyou, Fujian), is a Chinese-born French artist. She graduated from China Academy of Art in 1982, and then started to practice in the Xiamen Dada group, an artists group that is known for exploring radical avant-garde art in Southern China.

What is Yuan Xing Liang nationality? ›

Yuan Xing Liang is a Chinese artist who creates amazing surrealistic clay sculptures.

How common is the last name Yuan? ›

According to the data, Yuan is ranked #4,129 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

What is the most common Chinese last name? ›

The three most common surnames in Mainland China are Li, Wang and Zhang, which make up 7.9%, 7.4% and 7.1% respectively. Together they number close to 300 million and are easily the most common surnames in the world.

What Chinese name means beautiful? ›

Ehuang. There couldn't be a more beautiful Chinese name for a girl than Ehuang, which means “beautiful.”

Is Korean based on Chinese or Japanese? ›

Because Japanese and Korean have Chinese roots, there's a lot of similar vocabulary between these three languages. Linguists believe that around 60% of Korean words and 50% of Japanese words come from Chinese.

Do Shen Yun dancers get paid? ›

Dancers are trained at the Fei Tan Academy of the Arts, which is part of a 427-acre refuge for Falun Gong adherents in upstate New York. Profits from Shen Yun shows go towards maintaining the academy. The dance companies also, unusually, have a mixture of paid and unpaid performers, according to Hazlitt.

Why is Shen Yun so expensive? ›

For one, we try to guarantee that every seat that's open to the public has a good view of the stage and backdrop. Second, this is a large-scale production. Each of our companies includes some 80 dancers, orchestra musicians that perform with us full-time, singers, emcees, and production crew.

Why was Shen Yun banned in China? ›

make up the outreach effort of Falun Gong". The Chinese government bars Shen Yun from performing in China as it considers Falun Gong to be an "anti-society cult" and has attempted to cancel its performances abroad by pressuring theaters and governments.

What does Liang Yuan mean in Chinese? ›

LIANG YUAN is direct pinyin translation from the Chinese word 良缘 which meant opportune connection with marriage partner.

What is fen liang chinese? ›

quantity weight measure. Example Usage. 份量 fèn liang. see 分量[fen4 liang5]

Who is Liang in China? ›

Liang (Chinese: 梁; pinyin: Liáng) was one of the states during the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China, bordering the State of Qin and was conquered by Duke Mu of Qin in 641 BCE. The rulers of Liang had the surname Ying (嬴). The capital of Liang was located south of modern City of Hancheng in Shaanxi.

Is yuan a Mexican name? ›

Originally from China, Yuan is a baby boy name meaning “round”, “circular”, or “spherical”.

What are the oldest surnames in China? ›

According to ancient documents, the earliest surname in China was "Feng", and the earliest surnames were "Fuxi", "Shennong", "Nuwa's" and so on. The most commonly used ones in China are "Li", "Wang", "Zhang", "Liu", "Chen", "Yang" and so on. 100 common surnames, accounting for about 85% of China's total population.


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