This blog was created as part of the Erasmus Mundus Crossways in Cultural Narratives Masters programme, which is the only one of the EU approved and funded Erasmus Mundus Masters programmes to specialise in traditional humanities with a modern languages background. The Crossways Consortium comprises 6 top-class European universities.

For further information, please check the programme's official website and the universities' websites on the Useful Links section on the left. If you wish to have a specific question answered, please click on Email here and submit your query.

Mundus students, here you will find regular posts regarding the universities of the consortium, tips, activities, events, pictures, etc. Apart from checking it regularly to keep yourself up to date, a good way to use the blog is through the search device. We already have a significant amount of information on some universities of the consortium, so if you want to find information on a specific city, type its name in the search field (top left). You will then see all posts related to that specific city (because each post title contains the city's name in it). You can also type "General" in order to find information concerning everybody.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Interzones Applications Open

Applications for the Interzones Doctoral program, so highly anticipated, have opened. There are 4 places, under category B applications, open to candidates who have held Mundus Masters grants. These applications close at the end of February. The closing date for category A applications (European or non-European graduates who have not been residents nor have lived in Europe for study or work for more than 12 consecutive months duringthe 5 years prior to the application deadline) is listed as the 10th December. All the relevant information is available on the Interzones website.

Articles from students: Discontinuity in Qiu Anxiong’s work

Xu Sheng, one of the previous Mundus Master students was recently so kind as to send an article for publication on the blog, detailing the concept of 'the gap' in the work of Qiu Anxiong (the fascination with 'the gap' that is one of the hallmarks of the classes previously taught by Prof Girard will no doubt be familiar to many who have taken his course on 'applied heterology').

About discontinuity in Qiu Anxiong’s work

At the end of an article by Yuko Hasegawa on Qiu Anxiong’s video work, she mentioned “expressive artist” [1]. In “Utopia”, the solo exhibition of Qiu in Arken Art Museum, the artist has been classified into “magic realism” [2]. Although it’s true that the fantastic images in “The New Book of Mountains and Seas” accord with the sign of Magic realism, the meaning of this kind of classification has been limited within the words. From the beginning of modern art, the trends and styles of art has been defined through their appearance instead of their essence. Expressionism, cubism and their succeeders share a same pursue, that is to “transmit directly the spirit of artist” by the “discontinuity in logic” [3].

The discontinuity (or gap) has countless forms and exists in every successful modern art work. Before the discussion on its foundation, we can firstly find some “gap” in Qiu Anxiong’s work.

In “Jiang Nan Poem”, the most significant gap comes from the audience’s expectation of narration, as the only narration of the work is the passage of time. It’s exactly this gap that generates the aesthetic observation on the work. “The New Book of Mountains and Seas” has a firm background for interpretation, but the delicate polarization (gap) in the narration shows the inner confrontation of the work and of the artist himself. For example, in the representative scene, where the “men” in black get out from the earth and fly, logically, the “men” is no longer a creature described by the fictitious narrator of ancient time, but a symbolic sign put into the scene by the artist himself. In “Minguo Landscape”, the narration has been weakened again and gaps between scenes are common. Each scene has then adopted their own artistic conception.

Qiu said that his resource of art creation is his experience. The signs from “In the Sky” look like a direct representation of the artist’s inner experience, while interpretation from audiences can only depend on their own experience. The discontinuity comes then from the gap between different backgrounds of the author and the audience. In front of this gap, audience turns automatically to the “common sense” to get a “reasonable” interpretation – for example the “self destructive civilization” – so that the gap can be filled up. The aesthetics of a work are usually destroyed by this kind of “common sense” – “In the Sky” can be only a musing of the artist.

Welch wrote a letter on the day the war was broken. And the whole letter described a doll shop. The letter looks quite special as it gives a signal against the war and expresses the nostalgia for happy time, but the fact is that Mr. Welch didn’t know the war had been broken at all. If we read articles by Qiu Anxiong himself, we can see that his ideas have something in common with the “magic realism”, but being exhausted in finding any clew to rebuild the connection is not an aesthetic action. It’s better to go back to the work itself.

Being a philosophical exploration of the aesthetic methodology, “discontinuity” comes from “Matière et Mémoire” (by Henri Bergson), a work that explores the relation between man and the world around. Perception, in short, is by dividing the continuity of material and is only for part of it (man can’t perceive the whole world in a time). This divided perception selects related memory; and the memory brings related action as feedback to the perception. The process, where the discontinuous perception of the world engages the memory of a man, is where the affection is generated. In an aesthetic point of view, the process where audience discovers the discontinuity of an artist’s work and gives inner feedback, is where the transmission happens.

The western analytical methodology can actually be applied to the eastern art. The discontinuity by Bergson finds its earliest illustration on the blank of Chinese traditional painting. In Qiu Anxiong’s work, the “blank” has been treated in a new way and brings new discontinuity to the moving paintings.

In Qiu’ earliest video work “Jiang Nan Poem”, the real perspective has been compressed into an imaginary space of Chinese Painting. Later, by movements, “In the Sky” tries to put space into the blank of the flat paper. Spaces created by movements become common in “New Book of Mountains and Seas” and “Minguo Landscape”. A typical creation of space is the following: in “Minguo Landscape”, we don’t “see” the lake until a small boat passes by. Blank in Chinese painting is regarded as “imaginary truth”. Qiu turns the blank into a logical space by movements. This game with perception is only the first step.

In Qiu’s work, the expression of space and movement of every scene is based on one painting. He never represents a same space in different perspectives. On one hand , it’s limited by the technique; on the other hand, the still “camera” and single point of view denies the existence of “outre-champ”. His work is rather a theatre than a movie, as the stage can’t move, only the actors and sets can. The representation of the world is through switches of different scenes. Traditional Chinese paintings inspire imagination for time and space. In Qiu’s work, time and space has been represented, and imagination comes from the transition of scenes itself…

What’s important is not to find out all the discontinuity, but to perceive the transmission it generates. Yuko Hasegawa compares the last scene of “The New Book of Mountains and Seas” to the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich. It gives us a hint that Qiu’s work is rather a stage of spirit than expression.

[1] From the article of Yuko Hasegawa: “Witness of an enchanted land – Qiu AnXiong”

[2] http://www.arken.dk/composite-1210.htm

[3] A translation from the Chinese version. Sarah Connor, Art, A Histroy of Changing Style, translated by Ouyang Ying & Fan Xiaomin, 1992, p.209

[4] Refer to the discussion between the author and Qiu Anxiong.

[5] http://www.qiuanxiong.com

[6] This opinion is only applicable for Qiu’s published work until now.