Installation view of Absolute, Vanguard Gallery, March 2016. Photo: Guo Bo.
Jiang Jun: Rongrong, how did you choose the title Absolute (qiongding) for this exhibition?
Bi Rongrong: For the Chinese name, qiongding (lit. dome) was one feature that appeared in the materials I prepared. At the time, I was thinking I wanted to use something from the materials as the name to reference one of the fragments. The English title, Absolute, was a word that fluttered through my mind as I was in the process of making the works. The word itself is quite popular, and also very powerful. In the same way that all the different kinds of elements I collect for my exhibitions are familiar to people, the way they come from our daily lives, I thought that this word had a certain equality with my works. And in terms of the power of the word, I thought qiongding was comparable.
I’m rather curious how you understand the title of this exhibition?
Jiang Jun: My first impression for the word qiongding is to connect it with the Christian religious tradition. In general, the architecture of vaulted ceilings traces back to Western religious structures like the Cologne Cathedral or the Pantheon in Rome. Domes are formed above their supporting pillars to enclose a vast interior space that can be understood as the intermediary between the secular and heavenly worlds. Even today, churches and temples can still be viewed as the earthly offices of one or many gods. In order to establish their divinity, they must separate themselves from secular spaces, creating a link to heaven in the mortal realm. These hallowed spaces serve as intermediaries to a higher realm and convey the gospel of the other side. The domed ceiling of a church is the zero degree of the transition from secular to spiritual realms.
In terms of the English name Absolute, I think first of Hegel’s “absolute spirit” (der absolute Geist). This philosophical concept also has a theological origin, for it is well known that Hegel’s historical philosophy was itself an expansion of Christian salvation. It can also be understood as Plato’s “platonic idealism.” In the Western context, these theories naturally imply so called “transcendence,” which is to say, only by departing from profane states is it possible to pass onto the other side and reach what Hegel called the “absolute spirit” or the ultimate logos (the word of God). Because “absolute” has an affinity with concepts such as perfection, the supreme, the otherworldly, and the eternal, it was later translated into the supreme spiritual force. Therefore, to a certain extent, both qiongding and absolute actually express the aspiration to reach (for example, by ascending through the dome of a church) a higher plane . While they imply ascendance, they are also a form of sublimation.
再来说Absolute，它的中文翻译是“绝对的”，让我首先想到黑格尔的绝对精神（der Absolute Geist）。这个哲学概念同样拥有类似的神学渊源，因为众所周知黑格尔的历史哲学本身就是一种基督教救赎过程的展开，同时也可以被理解为柏拉图理念的世界中“绝对的理性”（Idea）。在西方语境中，其背后含有的当然就是那个所谓的“超越性”，也就是说，只有摆脱世俗的状况，才可以向彼岸超越、那样才能达到黑格尔的所谓的“绝对精神”，或者是绝对的逻各斯（上帝之言）。因为“绝对”这个词本身是跟完美的、至上的、彼岸性的、永恒的这些词亲缘，它在之后被转译为至高的精神力量。于是，在一定程度上，这个穹顶和绝对的双重诠释反而有效地表达了，有一种通过中介（教堂上升的穹顶）达到彼岸的意向，它蕴含着超越性，同时也是一种升华。
Bi Rongrong: I see. That brings us to the exhibition space and the works. Can you discuss your impressions?
Jiang Jun: Your exhibition space is realized in a unique style. It does not look like other exhibition spaces that are simply three-dimensional cubes with a few paintings hung inside. You are presenting a spatial experience. It is a project with a strong feeling of unity as the presentation of each work, including the video, the walls, and the carpet, adheres to a single atmosphere. Using the theme of a “dome,” the exhibition seems to become a metaphor for your own personal church. The geometric composition and the environment of the colors made me think of the transformations and intensification of color in a church’s stained glass windows. As you’ve said, all the modeling of the works is actually derived for your life experiences. Your handling of the entire exterior of the space, in comparison to the gray of the derelict factory spaces in M50, truly creates an artificial separation. This unified work could be thought of as your transformation of the daily, the overlooked, the invisible, or the influences that touched you, into a work. It could also be said that it is a work that takes the fragmented feelings of daily life and transitions them into the realm of art.