From the Physical Body to Bodily Force – A Discussion of LEE Kuang-Yu’s 2013 Paradigm Shift
Text | WU Shu-An Art Critic
面對「雕塑」作品，我們總是慣性假設著其內部並不存在另一空間，即便是中空的翻模雕塑，或是擁有凹洞或開口的雕塑，我們仍會將雕塑的物質可見之處指認為一個「實心」的物體。（這也正是大型雕塑與建築物的差異。）而正是這種對雕塑的基本假設，讓藝術論述的書寫者們始終將雕塑定義為一種佔有空間實際量體的造型創作。其中我們假設雕塑造型美學的強度，源自其材質透過三維表面（3D surface）給出的空間感知（因為假設其內部不存任何其他）。而即便雕塑所能給出的可感事實（fait），或許確實就是其三維表面而無它，那麼我們該如何思考雕塑的內在空間？或者，要如何描述雕塑給出的體感、量感、張力等力量（force）與強度（intensité）？如果無法描述這些力量與強度，我們能否真正地切入一件雕塑的美學感受事實，予以描述或進行分析？再者，當我們認定雕塑身體為實心之時，難道不也已假設了其具有一種潛在的內聚力（la cohésion）？又，當我們明白所感知的這份既存事實（réalité actual），既不存在於雕塑表面，也不存在於雕塑實心的物質身體中，卻能以潛在力量（force virtual）的方式深刻地支撐其美學魅力時，我們究竟該如何思考與分析？最後，在李光裕的美學進程中，其究竟扮演著什麼樣的關鍵角色呢？
When contemplating “sculpture,” we always customarily assume that there is no empty space existant within. Even the sculpture has been created from a mold and is hollow inside, or if there is a cavity or opening, we still believe that the visible part of the physical sculpture is a “solid” object. (This is a prime example of the difference between large scale sculptures and buildings). This fundamental assumption consistently makes art critics define sculpture as a creation that takes up a tangible amount of physical space. We further make assumptions about the strength of a sculpture’s aesthetics, and assume that the strength originates from the perception of space given by the material that constitutes a sculpture’s 3D surface gives (because of the assumption that there is nothing inside). Yet even though a sculpture can bring about a perception of reality (fait), maybe it really is nothing more than a three-dimensional surface. If so, how should we conceptualize the sculpture’s inner space? Or how can we describe the feelings of physical body, volume, force, or intensity invoked by the sculpture? If there is no way to describe this kind of power and intensity, is it possible to really delve into the sculpture’s true aesthetic experience through mere description or analysis? Further, when we identify the sculpture’s physical appearance as a solid body, isn’t it already assumed that the sculpture has a potential cohesive force? How should we consider and analyze once we realize that although a part of our perceptions exists in reality, but that they also do not exist in the surface of the sculpture nor within the physical body of the sculpture itself, but can only use ‘potential power’ as an analytical support for our aesthetic judgments? Finally, what role does all this play in LEE Kuang-Yu’s aesthetic process?
Review: LEE Kuang-Yu’s Sculpture—Body
Experienced Taiwanese sculptor LEE Kuang-Yu is certainly no stranger to discussions on the potential power of a sculpture’s inner space. Even in the realist figures characteristic of his early years, one can already see the power and intensity conveyed through the various postures of his figures. By his 1980s creations, like Fountain of Life(fig.1) and A Hand It Seems(fig.2), Lee had undergone a dramatic change in aesthetic. These creations combined a continuation of the many aesthetic languages of Western sculpture history with an integration of the creative syntax of Eastern “statues.” In other words, this process of evolution is LEE Kuang-Yu’s creative exploration of life’s essence. Simultaneously, it is a conceptually specific attempt to integrate Eastern and Western styles. This confluence is undoubtedly based on the artist’s own life experiences and enthusiasm for exploring the nature of life. Yet this endless attention to life and physical body gives the very act of creation its own unique life of “Sculpture—Body”: by shaping a variety of inanimate materials into a form radically different from real life and transforming them into a kind of monument, their utterly static forms still undergo something akin to a distinctive growth process into sculpture. Before his 90s creations, LEE Kuang-Yu had already captured, mastered, deformed, and dismantled the possible role of aesthetics on every kind of physical body (both human and animal) to the limit. Therefore, in his own aesthetic evolution, he inevitably had to touch on subjects aside from the body.
Around the beginning of the 90s, LEE Kuang-Yu began playing with the dialectical relationship between “body” and “space.” He started frequently using a “scenic/window” kind of approach on the bodies of his sculptures to develop another open space. Sometimes he would place a smaller sculpture inside the interior of a bigger sculpture. (In other words, in the realistic world of a sculptural body, he created an additional world and an extra sculptural body). Through this, the sculptures became more than just closed physical figures. Instead, they became aesthetic pieces based on the concept of space with interrelated, lifelike qualities: inner-outer, virtual-real, and substantive-intangible. These sculptural figures evolved to the extent that even the “outer shape” and “hole” took on a necessary co-dependency. Lee’s late 1990s sculpture Opening(fig.3) depicts a palm with a square opening inside, with figures inside the opening. This appears to completely distort the physical shape of the palm. In addition, the piece Facing the Wind(fig.4), is a huge Buddhist palm with an opening on the left-hand side, where the opening has a similarly necessary relationship with other parts of the palm. Here the relationship has been reversed to become the foundations to the entire sculpture.
Over several decades, Lee has played around repeatedly with many themes in his physical sculptures: inner/outer, virtual/real, and penetrable/non-penetrable. Through this series of sculptures, his ruminations on the aesthetic labyrinth of spatial relations have been completely turned on their heads and thoroughly exhausted. Now in LEE Kuang-Yu’s new 2013 series of sculptures, the relationships between entity and void, body and power have been taken to a new aesthetic level once again. This series dramatically enforce the confrontational relationship of entity and void, while expanding the usage of “solid” and “hollow” in a completely new sculptural form. As expected, the change in style is closely related with the artist’s changing attention to aesthetics. The primary difference might be in the turn away from “physical body” to “bodily force.”
從物質身體到力量身體 From the Physical Body to Bodily Force
我們必須先嚴格地區分力量與運動；力量並非運動，而是促使運動得以發生且被感知的先決條件。對藝術而言，「再現運動」（représentation des mouvements）從不困難（無論是繪畫、雕塑、攝影、動態影像），但「再現力量」（représentation des forces）則是截然不同的另一回事。因爲我們只能透過物質與自己肉身的相互運動產生感知，方能藉此反推得知力量的存有。若非透過物質的運動狀態，力量只能徹底屬於潛在（virtual），而非現實（actual）。而正因為力量本身並無任何可感知的物質形式，故而藉由物質形式「再現力量」，將絕對不同於對既存現實的次級複製；換言之，「再現力量」的前提便是將無形無相的潛在存有賦予現實物質的實在肉身，其中必然涉及創造是一種在場與表現（présentation），而非再現。如同法國哲學家德勒茲（Gilles Deleuze）在討論培根（Francis Bacon）的繪畫作品時提出的疑問——畫家要如何越過運動而直面力量，並透過繪畫將它們畫出來（peindre les forces）？尤其是壓力（la pression）、慣性力（l’inertie）、重力（la pesanteur）、吸力（l’attraction）、萬有引力（la gravitation）與發芽力（la germination）等這些環繞日常生活，並支撐這個世界各種運動能夠發生的根本力量？
We must strictly distinguish between force and motion. Force is not a movement, but rather the perceived prerequisite that occurs in order to promote movement. In art, the “reproduction of movements” is not difficult (whether it is painting, sculpture, photography, or video), but the “reproduction of force” is an entirely different matter. Because we can only generate perceptions through the reciprocal movements of substances and our own flesh, we thereby learn inversely that forces exist. If it were not for matter and the state of motion, force would only be virtual, never real. And because force does not have any perceivable material form, matter that attempt “reproduction of force” are utterly different from the existing reality in their secondary copy. In other words, the premise of the “reproduction of force” is that there exists a formless potential within the realistic material of the flesh, which inevitably creates a kind of presence and expression (présentation) rather than reproduction. The French philosopher Gilles Deleuze raised this question when discussing Francis Bacon’s paintings—how should the painter surpass movement to confront forces? By painting and drawing them out (peindre les forces)? Pressure, inertia, gravity, attraction, gravitation, and germinating capacity are especially important as these encompass everyday life. How can the painter support all the varieties of fundamental forces that happen in this world?
Because force is “not visible/perceivable,” reproducing motion to demonstrate force is certainly one way forwards. But then how can a static painting or sculpture demonstrate such forces? Bacon came up with a series of performances arranged in the middle of a pool, then subjected to the effect of various forces. They were twisted, distorted, and jerked into hysterical-looking bodies. But LEE Kuang-Yu focuses on esoteric and Qigong practices. His conceptions of the relationships between force and the body are therefore unlike the established practices of Bacon’s paintings, and rather extend to every type of posture and material. Since force cannot be seen and is of a non-material nature, the artist can only express force through visible materials and shapes, which can react to and bear force—based on this, the sculpture reflects the existing forces and the process and traces of motion. In this vein, the two bodies generate a moment of impact in his new piece Flyin(fig.5), demonstrating the force of impact. Skein of Heaven(fig.6) has been squashed and excessively stretched so that all filaments of the body demonstrate crimping force. In Woman(fig.7), the figure’s hands are twisted and the chest cavity is deeply sunk in through the force of reduction. In The Carefree Drunkard(fig.8), the figure’s body has completely been flipped inside-out into a petal-shape through an explosion of momentum and the force of stretching. Perhaps the most striking relationship of the forces is that the sculptures all demonstrate that all varieties of metals, when subjected to extreme pressure, will concave curve, bend, and be impacted, reflecting the multiple forces encountered in a static yet confrontational manner.
In other words, even though Lee’s past sculptural forms are also able to reflect these forces (body posture tensed or relaxed), the creations he exhibited in 2013 are conceptualized completely different from former works. These creations extensively use iron pieces, wire, and other materials in their assembly. In most sculptures, the framework is always the primary decider of the volume of the sculptural body, and an equal volume of soft material is then added. But for Lee this is not the case. Instead, Lee directly manipulates both the framework and surface of the sculpture to complete the sculptural body as a whole. In other words, his creative method has become “addition sculpture,” where works are made from many assembled components. Because the creations start directly from the surface instead of through a pre-determined body and framework, they always maintain a characteristic “hollowness” at the core, both during the creative process and after the works are finished. The creations are no longer a visible “physical body,” but rather a “physical body” coated with potential force and the configuration of “Force—Body” (crops-forces). In fact, Lee’s creations from the 1990s had already started to subtly depict this hollow expression of force. In this series the entity and cavity were already interwoven into the sculptures, not only in the bronze model’s material parts, but also in the emptiness of the air flow and landscape shape. Even though they are beyond the sculptures’ entities, they absolutely must be regarded as part of the whole work. In other words, Lee’s creations must consist of the dualism of the virtual and realistic to provide joint support, rather than either one or the other. From this angle, perhaps we can consider how Lee’s 2013 creations have taken a turn towards a greater emphasis on “virtual” aesthetics. Even though importance is placed on virtual over realistic, there is still a definite and concrete “body” at the core of Lee’s creations (although this body is not a material, visible body). With “addition sculptures” there is still by default an established body/mass. However, this body cannot be considered and preset through the material mass; instead, one can only turn towards the surface layers and surface construction. In other words, the thin, hollow material body encompasses and carries these invisible forces and the intensity of the composition’s “Force—Body.”
這份由中空與表層組成的雕塑身體，不僅沒有因為中空而失去既有身體的體感與量感，而是藉由金屬凹折出的薄片組成的外殼，同樣營造了一個身體的厚重 輪廓，並讓力量作用、凹折、貫串所有金屬材料，擠壓出一個徹底以力量所組織的嶄新身體樣態。然而，這股力量的核心究竟是什麼呢？最直接的解釋，當然便是藝術家在創造過程中，手工力量與材質本身既有強度的正面遭遇，抑或，是創作者心靈中不斷流轉的靈動力量。當李光裕的雕塑語言從西方的寫實具象雕塑，轉而傾心於體現東方禪思，又從厚實的雕塑身體轉向以孔洞的造境，創造出更豐饒複雜的美學空間。而今，李光裕再度向內探索，取中空的雕塑身體以反映不可見的潛在力量。其一方面，固然反映著藝術家的創作進程與其外部社會關係的複雜交往；另一方面，也是一種行走於藝術史書寫中，又必須不斷背離且持續開創的創作者姿態。即便李光裕早已在台灣的雕塑歷史中被賦予相當的位置，但持續且推進的創作生命力，又使得他今日以另一種姿態展現自身，而這是否將會再次牽動藝術史的書寫工作，產生一種伴隨著藝術家創作進程的歷史書寫進程？論及這股推逼著藝術創作與歷史書寫的持續演變與推進，甚至如今成為藝術家核心關懷的生命潛能（virtualité de vie）究竟為何？若我們以更宏觀的角度觀看世界，並將藝術家的生命歷程轉折，以及其所運生的心境移轉，也視為流變中的世界（le monde en devenir）的一個單位；那麼這股逼使世界不斷滾動的永恆創生力量又是什麼呢？筆者以為，其不僅是藝術家賴以為生的生命能量，也是我們能夠在此欣賞並談論一件藝術品的力量來源，更是支撐一切生命與物質存有得以存在，且能夠不斷變化、創新並展現不同樣貌的先決條件。對此，法國哲學家柏格森（Henri Bergson）在其書寫中有個動人說法，他將宇宙描述為一個不斷創生、變化、生生不息且永恆流變的巨大生命，而一切世上的存有、流變、悲歡離合、命運輪轉乃至生離死別，都是源自於此生命本身不可測度的任意變化。此浩瀚生命的運動，乃由一道波瀾壯闊的強悍力量所貫穿；而這神秘力量則也有個宏大而壯麗的名字，其喚名為「生命衝動」（élan vital）。
These sculpted figures, formed from space and a surface layer, have not only retained their solidity and volume despite the void within, but through their outer shells formed from broken and indented slices of metal they have constructed an outline of the body that conveys weight. They further allow the metal, force-effected, broken and indented, pierced through and strung together as it is, to be extruded into a brand-new form itself organized by those forces. However, what is the nucleus of that power?
The most direct explanation is that whilst the artist is in the process of creation, it is only natural that the strength of hand and the raw materials come into direct and powerful confrontation. Otherwise, perhaps it can be said that it is the continuous roaming power of the creator’s thoughts and vision. When LEE Kuang-Yu’s creative vocabulary shifted from western realist figures to a whole-hearted embodiment of eastern meditation, and from substantial sculpted bodies to hollow created realms, he created a richer, more complex aesthetic space.At present, LEE Kuang-Yu is once again exploring inwards and is using the hollow forms of his sculptures to reflect a potential force that cannot be seen. On one hand, this reflects the complex interchange between the creative process of the artist and external social relations; on the other it also reflects that amid a journey through art history, one must both continuously depart from and continue to develop one’s creative stance.Although LEE Kuang-Yu was long ago assigned a position of importance in Taiwanese sculptural history, his present cultivation of a new manner of expressing himself and his success in both preserving and advancing creative vitality lead to us to the question: will this affect the work of writing art history once more and will it produce a process of writing history that accompanies the creative process of the artist? Why exactly has this continued evolution and advance of impelled artist creativity and history writing – to the extent that at present it has become the artist’s core concern of the potential of life – come about? If we look at the world from a macroscopic viewpoint, and see the turns of the course of the artist’s life and the corresponding transformations of the heart as another part of a changing world (le monde en devenir); then what is the everlasting creative force that impels the world to keep rolling? I myself believe that it is not only the life force that artists rely on, but is also the source of the power that allows us to appreciate and discuss an artwork. It supports the existence of all life and things, so that they can exist but also are able to ceaselessly evolve, and is a prerequisite for innovation and new manifestations to emerge. French philosopher Henri Bergson in his works gives a moving saying. He describes the universe as an immense lifeform, perpetually changing, ceaselessly creating, evolving and multiplying. All that exists in the world, that changes, all joys and sorrows, all the revolutions of fate and even death originates in arbitrary, immeasurable changes of this lifeform. The movements of this gargantuan are linked by a majestic, billowing force; and this mysterious force is given a magnificent, lofty name: it is known as the “élan vital”.