LEE : Hello. I'm happy to talk with you. First, when did you start working on art?
LI : I started creating art in 2010 and I was interested in absurdity at the beginning of my creation. There may be conflicts. My creations basically spring from my observation and reflection on life. Occasionally, I will deliberately set up some interludes to see if they will arouse a different kind of feeling.
LEE : I think In a patriotic society, antisocial work is a very sensitive subject.
LI : Satirizing society will be fine. But, satirizing government will not. Society and government are two concepts, and the Chinese government is very clear about this. So, I have not been subjected to political pressure. I haven’t thought of the idea of patriotism. However, I realized that most countries have its own way of promoting patriotism and setting up the dominant values. This ideological propaganda is not lacking in all kinds of government; the only difference is the cleverness of handling and the judgment of dominant values. For me, what I am facing is not patriotism but the specific embodiment of the capitalized system in everyday life.
LEE : How do you want to participate in social issues as an artist?
LI : I usually participate by myself – this is the most direct and sincere way to do so. Further than this is to discover absurdities from the mundane and ordinary social order that people take for granted.
LEE : You seem to be inclined to performing in your art-making, like the “The Plan of Slimming”. Is this your belief?
LI : One of the reason is that I believe that individual perception should be implemented personally. Another reason is that I don’t have any money, so doing it on my own saves the sources.
LEE : I know you directly participated in some antisocial activates in 2012. For example, you worked at Foxconn and forty-five days later, you used your wages to buy an iPad mini. Can you tell me what did you do and what’s your experience of working at Foxconn?
LI : I got an assembly-line job making iPads at Foxconn plant and I got to know a young master. He would ask me how I will spend one hundred million RMB if I have that amount of money. I said I will open an Internet bar, play games while drinking wines, and living in luxury hotels every day instead of buying a house. He said I am neurotic. He will repair the manor in the mountains and hire a lot of people. I guess I would only remember this young master besides my boring job at Foxconn’s assembly line.
LEE : In 2013, you announced your work in Hong Kong. What was your experience in ' Parasite '?
LI : I secretly did a work on personal identity during my residency in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, this work has not been published yet due to the suspension of the exhibition. The space of Para/Site is great and embodies a sense of folk community. It is a serious and independent art institution and the exhibitions here have research values.
LEE : The title of < Art is Vacuum > is interesting. Could you share the story behind this name?
LI : This phrase was said by my father-in-law who does not recognize me. He said to me, “You are a person living in a vacuum, and we are in reality”. Then, I summarized his words and used it as the title of my artwork.
LEE : Did you give 'Hugo Boss Asia Prize' to your girlfriend and her father to be recognized by his father-in-law?
LI : My girlfriend’s father heard that his daughter was pregnant. He was very angry at the moment and he came to Shenzhen from hometown to talk to his daughter to break up with me. I think this scene could be very intense; then, I recorded the content of the quarrel when I was going to my girlfriend’s home. Later, I applied to the museum for 40,000 CNY production fee and then gave the money to my father-in-law. I hope that art can help change something, but it didn’t. and then my daughter was born. The first sentence that I taught her is “art is a vacuum.” She learned a year and a half and the first sentence she spoke was not Mom and Dad - it was “art is a vacuum.”
LEE : Can you talk about your future plans?
LI : The current major problem in China is that the manifestation of civilization does not match with the current mainstream value judgments under China’s rapid development. This is an inevitable stage of a country that has developed and integrated into the global world. I believe it has multiple phases. In recent years, my focus has mainly been on China’s burgeoning middle, the power play with wife and boss, the gradual transformation of personal identities and the more realistic power relations in society.