Guest post: Zoran Todorović | interview by Burong (曾不容) – (Eng/Chi)

The Transgression of Bodily fluids Crossing Boundaries: An Interview with Zoran Todorović on the ‘Integration: Illegal People’ Project

***Chinese version below – Translated by Burong with thanks to Brian Stone******

Intro:

In the 1960s American sci-fi novel ‘Dune’, the earth becomes so dry that the inhabitants have to wear a special ‘still suit’ that can automatically collect water from human waste and fluids and turn them into pure water to avoid dehydration. Zoran Todorović, a visual art artist living in Belgrade, has partially turned this fiction into reality but for a very different purpose. In a refugee centre in Belgrade where refugees from Near East and Africa resided/dwelled and through which they were passing, their urine was collected, on the basis of which a domestic beer was made according to a popular Belgian recipe. The beer was intended for export to first-world countries and for consumption by the audience and the artist as a part of the lecture performance accompanied by a video documentary to reveal the beer-making process, from the refugee toilet to the final packing of the finished product.

        Importing the beer made of urine to the “first-class” countries that refuse to take refugees but heavily consume beer poses the question of who is responsible for the refugee crisis and how to make refugees accepted in some ways. Used as a medium to present refugees’ status in Europe, urine is both abject and object in Todorović’s project. Through this liquid made of bodily fluids, refugees cross the borders of countries that do not welcome them, symbolically.  

        The ‘Integration: Illegal people’ project was premiered at LADA in November 2017 as the closing party of ‘Extravagant bodies’, which is an international trans-disciplinary art festival initiated in 2007 as a triennial project. More information about this festival can be found in the book Extravagant Bodies: Crime and Punishment.

         By using the form of lecture performance, Todorović showed the documentary and talked through the political struggles he experienced when collecting urine from the refugee centre in Belgrade. In the end, he opened the beer, which is probably quite pricey in terms of the labour involved, and shared with the audience. Then he exhibited in Belgrade the video and the pictures taken from the refugee centre and LADA. In November 2018, Todorović will bring ‘Integration’ to Brussels. (‘Integration’)

        We did the interview at Todorović’s home in July during the World Congress of the IFTR (International Federation for Theatre Research) in Belgrade themed ‘Theatre and Migration: Theatre, Nation and Identity between Migration and Stasis’ where Burong presented Todorović’s ‘Integration’ project as the main case study for her research in bodily fluids in Live Art. Todorović’s home is on the opposite side of the History Museum of Yugoslavia where Tito and his wife’s cemetery lies. Todorović works heavily with symbols and syndromes. The location of his home inevitably adds one more layer of symbolic meaning to our discussion. Instead of ‘beer,’ this time we had Spritz mixed with apple juice and sparkling water, a popular summer drink in Belgrade.

Burong: I am very interested in the entire process of your project from collecting urine at the refugee centre to importing the final product, the beer, to London. There must be something unexpected, undocumented or beyond the project itself. Can you talk more about the process?

Zoran Todorović: First we did some research into the background of the refugees because we do not speak their languages. People at the refugee centre speak Urdu, Pashto, Dari, Sorani and many other languages, and they write mainly in Arabic script. Thus, in the beginning, we did not know how to communicate. We found out that people do not reside there permanently but mostly come and go, visit their friends or come for some information. Sometimes they stay for one day or just one afternoon, it depends. It functions as a sort of a distribution centre where refugees can get information about what Belgrade is and what the country can offer, similar to a tourist information centre but for vastly different purposes. If necessary, people can live there for a few days, but only women and children are permitted to sleep there or stay overnight. However, there are exceptions, as you can see from one picture where a group of guys is sleeping on the floor. They are usually very tired and it is possible to rest there during the day. A couple of refugees also manage to stay in Belgrade by working at the centre. I remember one guy from Afghanistan who works there and gives practical information to the refugees. You cannot imagine how many different languages are spoken at the refugee centre.

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Image credits: Zoran Todorovic, Milica Pekic and LADA

Unlike the State refugee camp where I cannot get permission to record, especially for the sake of my art project, this centre is open to the public. However, even working at this particular refugee centre, I could not document or collect anything without the permission of the owner of the property. The place itself is actually very strange. Being a private facility that tries to help the refugees out, it is also struggling to get financial backing and support from other international organizations that work on the global level and have set up their offices in the same building, including the UNHCR and the French organization ‘Doctors Without Borders’. Therefore, the semi-private and semi-international nature of the centre makes it very complicated to carry out my project on the refugee crisis. I also talked with another organization regarding my project, but it turned out to be a real war between us. 

         In the last few days, some people who stayed longer knew that I was making beer, so they were willing to help, which is to pee in the urinal for my project. It took me four days to collect urine although my intention was to stay there a bit longer. On the one hand, I had to call it the end because there was an open confrontation between the Doctors Without Borders and me. They came to the former Yugoslavia 25 years ago and established their presence here. Now they have many offices including one in this centre. Their open fight against my project made me stop the urine collection immediately. I collected only 10 litres of urine, although it is not a small amount, I initially expected to collect much more. On the other hand, the conflict between me and other organizations reveals some hidden problems I am willing to confront and expose. Those problems are the symptoms of something I can hardly articulate, something that relates to the secret of our state condition. What is the problem if refugees choose to pee here or there? I have a tiny camera inside a regular urinal and there is, of course, an option not to participate. Some people do prefer mine while others choose different urinals, it does not matter. However, when the open conflict started the people from the UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders informed many refugees that they had become objects of my project, which made them feel very uncomfortable. They (the refugees) started to question my project on the ground that they could pee wherever they wanted but I forced them to make a decision. There was an open discussion at the centre for four days: Who is in charge? Who can tell where the right place is for peeing? What does ‘peeing’ mean in that context? 

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Image credits: Zoran Todorovic, Milica Pekic and LADA

Burong: Did it cause conflicts when you tried to find a place to filter the urine? 

Zoran Todorović: Regrettably, I had to do the filtering in my faculty office. I asked many other places but I was rejected. I knew from the beginning that for this project I probably needed to distill it with my own machinery, which I bought online later. Many of my colleagues were very disappointed with me (laugh); when I worked at the studio they could immediately tell what was happening because of the horrible smell. Finally, I distilled ten liters of liquid in two days.

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Image credits: Zoran Todorovic, Milica Pekic and LADA

Burong: If you spent four days collecting and another two days filtering, the whole project was basically finished within one week!

Zoran Todorović: Yes, it was done very quickly but not so easily. For instance, it did take only two days for distilling, but afterwards, I needed to bring the water to the medical laboratory to test it before adding the yeasts and other necessary materials, which took at least another two weeks for brewing beer. The liquid looked transparent but it was not at all only water, as there were still some remains of ammonia in it. Ammonia is the smelly chemical substance that is impossible to totally distil off and is not very good for health either. Of course, you can always drink urine directly even without filtering, but it becomes undrinkable after a few days because a lot of bacteria will grow during the process. Thus, it is very important to make sure the water is clean enough to store and make beer because we can consume ammonia without harmful effect for our health only to a certain level. After testing a few times, it was confirmed in the lab that the water I extracted from urine is okay for drinking in a certain amount. If you drink one glass, for instance, it is definitely fine, but it might not be such a good idea to have one bottle every day.

Burong: What kind of beer did you decide to brew and how many bottles did you make?

Zoran Todorović: I chose a very popular flavour of Belgian beer. I asked and got help from a professional brewer so I could get the special mixture of materials to make sure the beer had exactly the desired taste. At last, I prepared 24 small bottles of beer.

Burong: I am impressed! If it is 330ml each, actually more than 80% of urine is successfully turned into drinkable water.  

Zoran Todorović: Yes, but you also need to count the additional materials added for beer brewing. 

Burong: Did you meet problems to bring the beer to London?

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Image credits: Zoran Todorovic, Milica Pekic and LADA

Zoran Todorović: I checked in advance how many litres of alcohol I am allowed to take on the flight, which is why I only brought 12 bottles. I told them it is beer because it is truly Belgian flavoured beer. However, I did not explain my point in details and managed to make it discreet. On the bottle, all the ingredients were written out, but it was written in such small print that it was virtually impossible to read. 

Burong: What does ‘pass water’ in the ingredients mean?

Zoran Todorović: (Laugh) ‘Pass water’ is a polite English word for ‘urine’. I suppose customs officers cannot be bothered to read all the ingredients written in very small print. 

Burong: Which is the most difficult or unexpected part of the whole process?

Zoran Todorović: Actually, every part is complicated: finding the places/facilities, getting permissions, as well as finding support for the project. Besides, the schedule to carry out the project is very tight. I knew the opening date in London before coming up with this idea, and the time was considered very short for making ordinary beer, let alone the beer with the special recipe. It was stressful from the very beginning because of the struggle with time. Nevertheless, I gave the lecture performance at LADA and the exhibition in Belgrade afterwards. If I have to choose the most problematic part, it is the negotiation with the refugee centre. Working with real people from different backgrounds is always the most difficult while the rest is basically technical stuff. For instance, at one point I did not know the methods of brewing beer, but I just bought the machinery and then consulted professional brewers who regularly work on the particular technical procedure. Collecting urine, however, is a political struggle without easy solutions.

        Let us say who is peeing and where to pee is very important in the context of my project because it is a political question, even though it might not have been so relevant to the majority before I raised the questions. The moment when people realize that where to pee makes a big difference, it reveals the social symptom I am mostly interested in. It is actually a hot political question, about whom you present in terms of where you are peeing — which gender, what social status you have, etc. I work with symptoms regularly in other projects where people, in some ways, realize the problems for the first time.     

Burong: How did you come up with the idea of working with bodily fluids to make political statements?

Zoran Todorović: In the case of ‘Integration’ I try to work on something different. After the long process of pondering over the topic of the refugee crisis, I decided to use the human biological materials just like I experiment in many of my other projects, like fat, skin and hair. The beer made from urine lays between abject and object at the same time, it is exactly the same situation with the status of refugees. Urine for me also serves as a symbolic tool to raise questions and represent the political pressure continuing in Serbia. As I have already mentioned, I had some doubts and unpleasant conflicts with some of the international humanitarian institutions that have established their offices in Belgrade.

        I work with different mediums in a similar way, but in all cases, it is primarily the political situation. For instance, for my project ‘Warmth’, what does it mean to spend a year taking hair from 250,000 people and make huge carpets? In the beginning, I was asked many times about what the meaning was behind collecting hair and why I was doing that, but eventually, everyone comes up with his/her own answer. Many people here understand my work as referring to and playing with the experience of genocide from our history, which is a very familiar experience for everyone, as well as raising the issues of how our deal with this history. My work does look like the representation of a holocaust visually bit it actually does not reflect or investigate this topic.  My work only represents a game with the real exploration of the image of a holocaust while the illusion of holocaust is the side effect of my project. The project is the game with our idea of normality and the related everyday hidden practice that, in the end, produces something very similar to the concentration camp. This is another aspect of a symptom of the politics of everyday life. 

Burong: For me, your work also deals with consumerism and popular culture. For instance, ‘Integration’ deals with the ‘first class ’countries with huge beer consumption and ‘Warmth’ becomes clothing material for costume designers. 

Zoran Todorović: Yes, a fashion designer from Belgrade organized a fashion show with the ‘Warmth’, which turned out to be a very popular event in Belgrade at that moment. For me, it is very interesting to work with designers because my project turns out to be much more easily accepted by the society than my own ‘raw’ approach as an artist. Notwithstanding the acknowledgement of the consistent theme of my practice, many of those who criticize my work have no problems with this particular fashion show (laugh). In some ways, in the context of fashion design, playing games with the concept of genocide is acceptable while the altitude towards an exactly same project can be reversed and much more complicated in the context of contemporary art. If I hang the picture of plastic surgeries of mine at a gallery, it is shocking and unacceptable for many audiences; but when they see similar images on the TV about inserting silicon into some girl’s breasts, it is okay and understandable. Again this is another game with phantasm. In the real world, some acts of brutality are not problematic while in the gallery the tolerance of brutality is not the same; witnessing brutal acts and images in the gallery is much more hurtful than in everyday life activities, which are ubiquitous in news reports and TV shows.

Burong: In your opinion, what causes this contradiction? What makes audiences super sensitive in a gallery space?

Zoran Todorović: Because ‘gallery’ is indeed a fictional space. Through the lens of fictionality, you can directly see some real substance. I do not know why but the artwork that exposes reality usually works better with fiction because it is more dramatic, it is unlike the real world. For instance, let us say, TV where everything looks like reality. In my work “Correction” I play the game of the distinction between art and reality. At that time, the guy who had come from a less known art organization was designated to be the new director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Novi Sad. He made an agreement with me after I convinced him that since now he would become an important figure, looking good is more important. He had the type of big bat ears, which is regarded as ugly here, so I suggested him to allow me to change the position of his ears with the doctors I have long collaborations and take pictures during his plastic surgery. It is also interesting for me to have this little revenge on him. Although we had had some small conflicts in the past and he knew it very well, he was hearing the jokes about his ears for so long that he was willing to take risks to solve this problem (laugh). Of course, he is also an artist and he accepted this game and our roles in that show. Besides, he was the museum curator who invited me to make a new work in the first place.

Burong: Concerning your investigation of bio art, do you come from a family with doctors or do you have any working experiences with medical content?

Zoran Todorović: No, not at all.

Burong: Or do you simply love working with doctors?

Zoran Todorović: (Laugh) No, neither do I have a particular affection for doctors nor do I have any background in surgery. This is just the consequence of my work with the idea of life managing where danger, pain or some medical interventions can be the tool or medium. In the 1990s, I made a sculpture from rolled iron. The device could produce the sound at the frequency whose destructive impact is felt in the abdomen and some other organs. The sculpture imposed invisible but real danger on audiences’ health for anyone who lingered in the gallery for more than twenty minutes. 

        In the different context but with the idea of mass control in focus, a few weeks before the NATO attacks on Serbia started, I put up cameras to capture the feelings of society in three locations very far away from each other — not geographically but in the context of social existence. That was a kind of a messaging machine. I put one in the psychiatric hospital (mainly for women sent by the court), one in the prison and one on the main street near the student’s square in the city centre. I invited people to speak and act whatever was on their mind in front of the camera (‘Noise’).

        It is very interesting that when the war just started some BBC journalists came to me asking for the three-channel videos entitled “Noise”, as they knew my project and were so curious to gather the first-hand information of people’s reaction in Belgrade. They left very disappointed because people were talking about everything except the war (laugh). It was an opportunity to see whom they imagine as their audience when they talk to the slot machine. Who is the ‘Other’? What are the key topics for them? And finally what the slot machine might be for them? Actually, very few people mentioned something about the upcoming war but in such a manner that if you didn’t know the exact context you wouldn’t be able to guess what they meant. For some reasons, people do not naturally speak about big important political events or their opinions against the politicians and newspaper reports in the public sphere when they are recorded; they share the opposite logic of the normalization of public issues in terms of what is important and what is not. Now, we all think that the war must have been the most important issue for everyone in Belgrade at that time while I just captured some moments to show what was considered more important for individuals at the beginning of the war.

        For the preparation of “Noise,” like many cases of my work, I had to convince officials about my work and went through complicated logistic and ethical issues, negotiating with the officers at the psychiatric ward and prison (It is interesting to note that the warden of the prison with whom I ran very tense negotiations about setting up a camera, later became a prisoner). 

        This is the beginning of my interest in exploring different aspects of danger, the real and the fictional, the invisible and the visible. In that context, I discovered that the idea of body and many games on the body in relation to danger and normalization. Body, for me, becomes a platform for juxtaposing many cultural and political influences. In recent years, I am particularly interested in the idea of “normality” or “beauty” of bodies. What is aesthetics? What does beauty mean in the context of technical normalization? In Serbia, we call plastic surgeries ‘aesthetic surgeries’, but what is aesthetics? What is the standard of beauty in that context? In another piece of my work ‘Assimilation’, I collect the remains of bodily tissues collected after plastic surgeries, to prepare beautiful and exotic food.

        The work I make, above all procedures or situation, has a relational nature that does not have a finite form and the audience is somehow involved. The material used in the realization of my work is some kind of tactics in which its institutional and symbolic origin is inscribed. If I make food out of human tissue, then it is important that the tissue appears as a waste from the industry of aesthetic surgeries, and therefore, it acts as an ‘accursed share’ which hinders us to fit into some common standard of aesthetics. It is a fictional surplus that is problematic, socially produced both in an aestheticized form and in the form of delectable food that is returned to the public, especially to the audience who somehow must react to this kind of normative stoppage in which it found itself. Here the taboo of cannibalism is some kind of a method through which a symbolic interruption of its own kind is made, where the effect of the abjection occurs as a denied truth of medical and normative procedure that relates to the body and its aestheticization. When the beauty of food meets the beauty of flesh on one plate, it produces in most cultures a traumatic situation — a taboo of cannibalism. 

Burong: How is the audience’s reaction to this act of digesting two entities of beauty at the same time?

Zoran Todorović: Ah! There was a very big confrontation among audiences between those who wanted to try the food made of human tissue and those who wanted to call the police. 

Burong: But is your work against the law?

Zoran Todorović: No. In fact, at the invitation of a group of curators from Croatia, I once set up this work ‘Assimilation’ in Hamburg. The organizer investigated this and tried to find out whether this work was against the law but he did not find anything regarding cooking with elements containing human flesh, except the law against the act of killing to fulfil any task, which has nothing to do with my project. However, when my work travels to the UK, the main question is not about morality but health issues of the process of food preparation. Is it healthy to eat this dish? The same logic applies to brew the beer distilled from urine. When my work was brought to the National Review of Live Art (NRLA) in Glasgow around ten years ago, I did not have the British-standard food hygiene certificate. The organizers of the exhibition had no problems exhibiting the work but they hired guards to stop people from tasting it. It is very funny considering that the guards had no specific reasons to engage the audience except insisting that this edible artwork might not be very healthy.

Burong: Did you make any live performance at NRLA alongside the exhibition of objects?

Zoran Todorović: Actually I see ‘Assimilation’ as live art because it is not for exhibition but creates an ethical dilemma and situation for the public, urging them to do something with their uneasy feelings. I prefer the audience to get closer and use my work and see what might happen in a different context. For example, the other year, when the soap made from the fat and skin cut from my stomach was exhibited in Glasgow, a few members of the audience lost consciousness. Many of them understood, in a way, that the making of flesh soap represents sacrifice, while people in Zagreb thought more about the act of washing hands together as it creates a nice moment of having an erotic conversation with strangers. A boy and a girl who were not a couple wanted to test if washing hands together with a piece of flesh soap will somehow bring them closer.

Burong: I wish you exhibited the rest of the 12 bottles of beer at the performance art session of 2018 IFTR. Somehow I feel the lack of diversity of practical work discussed at the congress.

Zoran Todorović: IFTR is still considered a theatre conference. Some visual artists in Belgrade hear about IFTR but have no strong motivation to present their work in the context of theatre. I work with hybrid fields and see my work belong to the Live Art sector, so this is not a problem for me, but I just want to explain why many artists working on migration and refugee crisis do not attend the theatre conference because here the theatre and art worlds have very different references. 

Burong: There is also an interesting documentation at the Museum of Yugoslavia named Project Yugoslavia now that reminds me of the syndrome you described in ‘Noise’ and other work. The video includes 100 interviews of participants of various age, history and background from the region of the former Yugoslavia.

Zoran Todorović:There were even more artists investigating the socialist period of Yugoslavia, the wars and political crisis in the 1990s when many European art dealers and curators came to Belgrade to collect contemporary artwork related to the war, which brought some problems and limits for artists too. However, some memories are rarely discussed in public. During the 1960s to 1980s of Tito’s time and a few years after his death, Yugoslavia was an important country where people lived a good life, at least compared to other socialist countries. These memories are the forbidden memories as a result of our new reality. Therefore, the Museum of Yugoslavia has to find some strategies to cover the problematic aspects of the narrative of Yugoslavia. During the war many influential exhibitions in Europe focused on the migration issues and artists in exile while now the focus has shifted to some of the hidden and undervalued sides of Yugoslavia’s culture, for instance, MoMA PS1 will put up a new exhibition ‘Toward a Concrete Utopia’ about the brutalism architecture built in Yugoslavia between 1948 and 1980, which will give a new angle for the audience who does not know much about the former Yugoslavia’s culture and history.

Zoran Todorović is an artist born in Belgrade in 1965. He lives and works in Belgrade. He holds the position of an associate professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Arts in Belgrade. His Work often deals with issues of surveillance and control, shedding light on uncomfortable truths and concealed motivations. He is a representative of biopolitical performance, radical body art, interhuman performance art and politicized postmedia art. He works with affective individual and collective situations and representations of the borders of “human conditions”. Todorović has exhibited his work in numerous leading media art institutions and events in Europe and beyond. He is the author of the Serbian Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale. www.zorantodorovic.com

Burong (曾不容) is a Beijing/Brighton based live art practitioner-researcher and theatre-maker. Her work deals with the politics of intimacy, gut feelings and the posthuman aesthetics. She has exhibited and performed in the Pratt Gallery (Manhattan), PSA (Shanghai), G12 Hub (Belgrade), Royal Festival Hall (London) and various Chinese theatre venues. Her co-authored book ‘The Happening of the Contemporary Performance Art’, and a series of interviews with UK based artists and curators have been published in China. Currently, she is a doctoral researcher at the University of Sussex investigating the use of bodily fluids in Live Art and performance. www.burongz.com

Burong’s previous interviews (including with Shaun Caton, Anne Bean, Reynir Hutber, Natasha Davis, Something Human, Richard Dedomenici, Marisa Carneskey, Mim King), published in the Chinese journal Xi Hu from 2017 to 2018 can be found at these links: www.xihuwenxue.com/article.asp?classid=34 – http://xihuwenxue.com/article.asp?classid=50

Featured image credits: Zoran Todorović, Milica Pekic and LADA

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艺术的越境之举:

与佐兰·托多罗维奇的“非法移民”项目专访

采访/翻译:曾不容

        按:

        当赖以生存的水资源变成日常生活中的奢侈品,人将如何存活?在1970年代的《沙丘》三步曲里,美国科幻小说家弗兰克·赫伯特描绘了一个干涸的未来世界,海洋被连绵的沙丘取代。水资源如此稀缺,以至于居民必须穿着特殊的紧身衣(stillsuit)来保持身体的水分。这种装备可以自动收集、过滤和净化体液,包括从眼泪、汗液,尿液和其他排泄物中收集水分。当征服地球以外的干燥星球,如远征火星和移民月球的假设日渐进入未来规划的今天,这项现在听来匪夷所思的循环技术也许会变成新的日常。

        现居贝尔格莱德的新媒体艺术家佐兰·托多罗维奇(Zoran Todorovic)已经将这项假设部分转变成现实。然而,在实用价值之外,循环利用体液在佐兰看来具有更多的象征意义。在2017年,他开始了全新的“非法移民”啤酒项目,旨在从短期收留难民的场所的公共卫生间收集体液,过滤成符合卫生质量验证标准的清水。然后佐兰依照一款流行的比利时啤酒配方,在水里加入大麦麦芽、酒花和酵母,静待数周。当发酵过程完成之后,再把啤酒分装成小瓶,出口到别的国家。佐兰将重点放在对欧洲难民危机负有责任、并且热衷于消费啤酒的“第一世界”国家。脱欧之后的英国成为了头靶。2017年11月,佐兰的“非法移民”项目的第一部作品“混合”(Integration)在伦敦的“现场艺术发展机构”首演。他结合讲座剧场的形式,播放了从收集、过滤到海关申报、出口啤酒的记录片,分享经历的逸事和遭遇的困难,在最后现场开封了这一扎昂贵的自制啤酒。通过一系列繁琐的行政流程,佐兰将那些无法穿越国境线的难民的液体加工成啤酒,从贝尔格莱德的难民中心运输到英国供观众“消费”。难民的身体以这种高度象征的方式抵达了不欢迎他们的发达国家。在主流媒体的报道里,难民始终介于人和动物、甚至是人和物品之间,他们丧失了最基本的权利,生存在文明社会的制度保障之外。佐兰用排泄物象征了难民的社会地位和处境,他们唯一可能被接纳的方式即是经过重重物质和精神的过滤,变成纯净无害的“商品”。而即使经过反复“漂洗”,他们仍然不可能完全摆脱“难民”的标签,无法摆脱被视如污秽的阴影,就像佐兰手工制作的啤酒,即使口感上乘,很多人仍然无法下咽。在揶揄从啤酒到体液的身体循环和视觉相似性的同时,佐兰从多个角度剖析了难民问题。2018年底他将把“非法移民”啤酒带到啤酒爱好者的天堂比利时。

        佐兰·托多罗维奇出生在贝尔格莱德,成长于铁托政府时期,经历了南斯拉夫社会主义联邦共和国的解体和南斯拉夫内战(1991-1999)。在他的诸多摄影、影像作品里,人体始终是关注的焦点。从1990年早期的身体艺术到新媒体(如监控摄像机捕捉到的身体),再到与医生合作的一系列探讨生命政治的手术作品,佐兰逐渐从宏观的身体转移到微观的生理组织,在尽量移除艺术家的主观视角的同时,记录身体在社会结构中如何被监察、操控和重组。他用头发、皮肤、体脂和手术后的废弃物做原料,有的作品小到一块手掌大小的肥皂,有的规模浩大,比如2009年代表塞尔维亚参加威尼斯艺术双年展的作品“温暖”。他用一年时间在三百余家贝尔格莱德的发廊收集头发,制作成1200平米的黑色卷毯。因为原材料取自人体,他的作品让人联想到战争的浩劫和潜在的威胁。他的作品被塞尔维亚当代艺术博物馆和诸多美术馆收藏,在创作之余他在贝尔格莱德艺术大学全职任教。

        “非法移民”项目是佐兰首次尝试用体液和讲座剧场的形式进行创作。在参加完伦敦的首演之后,笔者来到艺术家的家中进行后续采访。他的家就在南斯拉夫历史博物馆的对面,铁托和夫人的陵墓(也称“花房”)就安放在那里,是塞尔维亚游客造访最多的地方。佐兰非常谦和耐心,从外在来看完全无法想象他的艺术风格。在他的屋里悬挂着视觉冲击强烈的摄影作品,而两个孩子在屋里奔跑玩耍,对这些图片并不在意,不由让人感概在北约轰炸后的南斯拉的废墟上成长的一代人和普遍零零后的心态是多么不同。我们就着巴尔干地区的一种独特的草药酒,和苹果汁混合气泡水的当地饮料,开始了交谈。

        佐兰·托多罗维奇、曾不容,以下简称佐、曾。

        曾:我对“非法移民”项目在展出之外的整个流程非常感兴趣,很想想象这瓶啤酒如何从贝尔格莱德的难民中心一路抵达伦敦。

        佐:我选择的这个中心是塞尔维亚第一个收留难民的地方,向所有人开放,人们来到这里其实并不为久留,而是和人约在这里碰头后继续迁移,或者获取从贝尔格莱德前往匈牙利边境的信息。我在开始收集材料之前已经去中心做过多次调查,首先碰到的就是语言障碍,他们来自世界各地,使用的语言和书写方式都与我不同。其次,这个中心的特殊之处在于它其实是私人地产,但同时入驻了其他机构,比如长期从事人道救助的法国机构“无国界医生”(Médecins sans frontiers),曾在1999年获得过诺贝尔和平奖,他们在贝尔格莱德的办事处就设在这栋楼里。“非法移民”项目能够发起完全是靠这栋楼的主人的帮助,她联系我,建议用这个空间做些事情。 但同时尽管她拥有这栋楼,我仍然需要和其他国家的机构斡旋。

        曾:难民一般会在中心停留多久?

        佐:因情况而定,可以说一天、几天或是一个下午。这里更像是一个分配中心,但并不仅仅是一个普通的资源费配中心,有一些难民在这个中心找到了工作,我记得有一个人来自阿富汗,还有一个可能来自伊朗。他们的主要工作是帮助语言相通的难民,为他们提供实用的信息。难民们途经贝尔格莱德来这里了解本地的情况,打听这座城市可能给他们提供什么帮助。如果有必要,难民们会被允许在这里留宿几天,但只有女性和孩子才符合要求。当然,特殊情况下男性也会在中心过夜。在我为“非法移民”拍摄的一组照片里可以看到几个男性躺在地上,挤在一起过夜。因为路途遥远艰辛,在白天的跋涉之后他们一进入室内就卧地睡着了。但是一般情况下男性留宿是不被允许的。

        曾:所以这个难民中心和难民营的性质完全不同。

        佐:是的,因为所有难民营对外封闭,我不可能得到许可进入难民营收集材料,特别是用作艺术作品。但是作为临时收容难民的场地,难民营和难民中心的作用具有相似性,但难民不是被关押在这里,他们主要是来打听信息。

        曾:整个收集过程进行了多久?

        佐:最初我并没有详细的时间表,只因为难民中心的主人联系我,说有意愿提供场地支持。我和另外一个难民中心也取得过联系,但那完全是场灾难。在这个难民中心人们来来去去,但是到项目的最后几天,很多人特别是留宿超过两天的人都发现了我的正在进行汇中的项目,自愿加入到支持我的队伍里。我在卫生间里贴了条,一个是正常的便池,一个是用来做项目的便池,我在那个池子里安装了微型摄像机,记录的过程会用在讲座剧场里。最后在四天里我一共收集到十升液体。之后的过程我可以独立完成,虽然程序繁杂,但是基本是技术活,总能克服。我在网上购置了一套过滤液体的专业化学器械,在任教的艺术系的工作室里继续工作,总共用了两天过滤十升液体。但是因为气味刺鼻,我的同事们都“刮目相看”(笑),也许他们对我的品味失望透顶。

        收集到的液体总量比我事先预想的要少。因为在第四天项目被迫结束的一个重要原因是和法国机构“无国界医生”的矛盾已经白热化。二十年前,他们在南斯拉夫内战期间已经入驻贝尔格莱德,提供国际援助。因为他们的干涉,项目只能提前终止。不过我最关心的不在于项目的时长,而是在过程中遇到的阻碍。我喜欢直面困难,在我看来遭遇的阻碍是更大的社会问题的症候,比如我作为一个本地艺术家和国际组织“无国界医生”在处理难民问题时候的不同态度。我很难说清和他们之间难以调和的矛盾是什么,但从中可以看出更多隐秘的社会心理和症状。举例来说,我设置的便池选项到底说明了什么,如果一个难民选择我的而不是其他池子会造成什么差异?当和“无国界医生”的矛盾公开后,不少来自英国的难民导向了“国际阵营”的一方,我的项目让他们感到不愉快,质疑我凭什么干涉他们的选择。在此之前他们想用哪个池子就可以用哪一个,但现在有一个池子短期归“我”支配,这相当于剥夺了他们的权力。

        最有趣的地方就在于没有人刻意区分便池的时候这个“两难”的选择并不存在。在难民中心的最后两天,你可以听到每个人都在公开议论“非法移民”项目:谁拥有难民中心的管理权? 谁有权力拥有一个便池?谁有权决定其他人在卫生间的自由?我感兴趣的是通过一个小的现象询问争议背后更复杂的社会结构,比如就难民问题而言,卫生间的使用权和人权等更大问题的关联是什么。

        曾:前后整个项目用四天收集材料,两天过滤,所以仅仅用一周的时间就完成了?

        佐:并不尽然。在项目开始之前我需要做很多准备工作,联系懂多国语言的志愿者去难民中心帮我宣传,寻找难民志愿者加入。就后期来说,虽然过滤只需要两天,但是等待水发酵成啤酒起码需要两周。我和专门做啤酒的专家请教如何酿酒以及如何实现比利时啤酒的口感。最费时的得到得到啤酒的清水,但其实叫作“清水”并不合适,在过滤过程中荷尔蒙和其他化学原素不可避免地残留在水里,对健康不利。因此在酿酒前我又托付化学实验室的人帮我检测荷尔蒙的浓度,是否达到食用级别。如果液体的纯净度不达标,在酿造和存储中会滋生细菌,啤酒就没法要了。虽然最终荷尔蒙的比例仍然比较高,但是偶尔喝点儿没关系(笑),如果每天喝两瓶可能对身体不好。

        曾:十升液体最后酿造出几升啤酒?

        佐:总共有四扎二十四瓶啤酒,330毫升小瓶装。

        曾:利用率比我想象的高不少,几乎80%的液体都派上了用场。   

        佐:不过在液体里还有附加的材料,比如酒花、大麦麦芽、酵母和香料。

        曾:往伦敦运输啤酒的过程中你有被询问么?

        佐:我事先和航空公司确认过可托运的液体的容量,然后根据这个指标来准备。所以在伦敦首演的时候我没能把啤酒都托运,只带了十二瓶。我并没有具体解释啤酒的特殊性,因为它确实是达标的货真价实的比利时啤酒(笑)。当然,我不会错过玩文字游戏的机会。在原材料一栏里我标注了“pass water”,是对小解的委婉称呼,而且印刷字体非常小,希望在过边境的时候检查员不会劳烦拿着放大镜细细地一个词一个词地读啤酒配方。

        曾:在执行中你遭遇到的最大的问题是什么,或者最出乎意料的环节是什么?

        佐:其实每个环节都很复杂,从最开始寻求语言帮助,到寻找谁自愿贡献液体,再到过滤、发酵和运输。,经历了很多出乎意料的麻烦。而且整个项目的行程很紧张,在想出啤酒的点子之前我已经知道了在伦敦“现场艺术发展机构”的首演日期,因此整个过程中都在和时间赛跑,压力很大。手工酿造啤酒本来就费时费力,更不要说我的特殊啤酒。

        如果一定要说最大的问题,那就是在难民中心的四天里遭遇的干涉,特别是大的国际组织之间的分歧。和不同种族、语言和背景的人沟通永远是最复杂的,其他问题我都称之为技术活儿。虽然在此之前我对过滤液体、食品卫生达标和酿造风味啤酒都毫无概念,但是可以和别人请教。比如我只需要提供酿酒的材料,剩下的过程可以由专业酿酒师完成。但是在难民中心问题我称之为代表了社会症状的问题。“在哪里方便”其实是一个政治命题,涉及到你的性别是什么?在哪里方便?曾经属于你的身体的一部分流向哪里?谁有权决定这些?只是这些问题在被专门提出来之前没有人把它当回事,这就是社会症状。“症候”是我的作品里的常见主题,让公众参与到不被经常讨论的社会问题之中,在此之前很多人可能觉得棘手的政治问题和他们的日常生活无关, 

        曾: 如何想到用体液作为艺术载体?

        佐: 这次我确实想尝试新的媒介。但在思考之后,最终我选择了体液,作为我多年的实践的延续。对于我来说,体液和头发、体脂、皮肤是类似的创作材料,都来自于人体。但无论选择哪一种载体,我创作的语境永远是隐秘的社会心理和症状。比如在2009年,我用一年时间在三百多家贝尔格莱德的发廊收集头发,参与的人数达到25万,然后我找工厂压制成一卷卷光面原材料做其他作品。我遭遇的仍然是和“非法移民”类似的问题:剪完的头发流向何处?谁拥有使用别人头发的权力?

        曾:也许我们可以就次从“非法移民”展开,谈一下你的美学风格。就我个人的印象,使用人体元素的作品很容易让人直接联想到集中营和种族屠杀,特别是在塞尔维亚南斯拉夫内容才结束了不到二十年。

        佐:屠杀和浩劫确实和我的作品的主题一脉相承,但是我想制造的是浩劫的幻觉和突出日常生活里隐秘的实践。梳理发生在巴尔干地区的战争历史并不是我的方向。我关心的是战争带来的副作用,即一种植根于记忆里的浩劫将至的幻觉。从这个角度出发我制作出和集中营意象非常接近的作品,但这种相似性同样表征了一种社会症状。其实很多日常实践和流行文化里的元素在战争时期的画面里也可以找到,比如整形手术和战时医院的现场。

        曾:有趣的是“温暖”既在2009年代表塞尔维亚参加威尼斯双年展,同时在网站上可以查到这件1200平米的头发卷毯的定价,好像是200欧元每平米,理论上每个人都可以拥有这件作品。所以浩劫的意象又转移到了消费主义。

        佐:其实“温暖”出现在过很多展览上,因为不少艺术家都购买过“温暖”用作原材料。定价的逻辑很简单,在塞尔维亚很多人打零工维修,如果车坏了我们不会去找机构,而是打电话找认识的人上门维修,在这里这种方式很常见,而报价就是一半成本费加一劳动费,我认为艺术品也应该如此定价。

         作为艺术家,我做的最多的其实是行政工作,和各种繁文缛节的社会机构打交道。比如为了收集头发,我联系过贝尔格莱德五百多家发廊,昂贵的女性美发中心并不适合这个项目,我们需要尽可能拉拢低廉的剪发店。因为这个项目涉及如此多发廊,而我不可能专门雇佣人为我工作一年,所以很多参与的人都是志愿者。在一年里,我需要频繁和每一家发廊联系,了解他们每天清理头发的时间,再专门派人去收集,送到储存处。为了了解每个人的时间安排,列出一份尽量可行的一年计划,需要投入大量时间。何况很多人不理解我为什么需要头发,怀疑我可能在做投机的事。不少发廊在中途退出了,有些在决定加入还是退出之间反复了好几次。有些人想签合同,有些人提出千奇百怪的要求,比如除了提供垃圾袋,必须给他们买特殊颜色的垃圾袋他们才愿意合作。设想一下和三百多家发廊周旋这些细小麻烦的琐事!除此之外发廊和志愿者临时更改联系时间的情况常有发生,我每天都要面对繁重的行政工作。头发本来没有成本,对于发廊来说只是垃圾,但是收集垃圾的过程却非常复杂,因此“温暖”从劳动量来说是一件昂贵的作品。 

        在找加工厂的时候,我又碰到了新的困难,很多厂商不愿意接这份活儿,他们提出非常多的质疑:为什么要用头发做卷毯,拿到制成品之后要用来做什么?但是起码这些问题也是对我的作品的反馈。大多数都认为“温暖”表达的是屠杀,毕竟现在距离南斯拉夫内战并不遥远,是多数人的共同记忆。但其实我不是为了回忆内战才做了这件作品,而是游戏于虚构的集中营意象和集体记忆之间,也可以说是和记忆开的一场玩笑。

        有位来自贝尔格莱德的时尚设计师,她提议用头发压制的原材料给模特做衣服,举办一场时装发布会。这次活动当时在贝尔格莱德非常受欢迎,但这种现象延伸出了新的讨论:为什么同样的材料在时尚界出现的时候,社会接受度就高?事实上很多对我在作品颇多非议的人,对这场头发时尚秀却没什么质疑。我感兴趣的就是这种矛盾的社会心理和症状。在时尚的语境里轻易被接受的事情换到艺术的语境就变得很唐突。如果我把一幅整形手术的照片直接放在美术馆,观众会感到震惊,被血腥的画面恐吓;但是如果一幅类似的照片出现在电视台,比如一个女孩儿在讨论隆胸手术,如何把硅胶植入揭开的身体,观众却可以接受这种残酷的行为。有一次我把真实的整形手术的照片挂在美术馆里,照片里的人是维萨德的当代美术馆的馆长。我们在一次展览之后签订了协议,由他委托我给他做整形手术。因为作品原因我和很多医生合作过,我找来医生“矫正”他的耳朵的位置。在照片里可以看到,他的耳朵明显地往后移动了几毫米。在塞尔维亚我们把他的耳朵叫作“蝙蝠耳”(类似招风耳)。很多人都比喜欢蝙蝠,觉得难看。正好那时候他刚刚从一个不那么显赫的美术馆调任到当代美术馆当馆长,所以我说服他作为一个“重要人物”,需要为了“美”做出牺牲,我们之前曾有过小摩擦,把他的耳朵换个位置可以当作我在帮忙的同时实现的小复仇(笑)。

        电视台允许出现的画面却不能放在美术馆里,这一点非常有趣。在真实世界里,有一些残忍是可以被接受的,但是在美术馆里观众对残忍的容忍度却完全不同。幻象(phantasm)成为讨论的焦点,为什么观众在美术馆里看到一件虚构的作品,受到的心理冲击可以比发生在真实世界的同等残忍的事情更强烈?

曾:你认为是什么原因导致观众在美术馆里变得更敏感?

        佐:因为美术馆是一个虚构的空间,通过虚构(fictionality)观众反而有可能直接感受到某种真实的存在,这很难解释,但往往身处虚构和戏剧性的冲突之中,人们和现实世界才能建立更好的联系。和美术馆相对应的是现实生活,比如看电视在我看来属于现实生活中的活动,但人们在看电视的时候不会如此敏感。

        曾:你或者家人有长期从事医院工作的么?

        佐:没有。我可不想真的当医生,对这份职业没有特殊的偏爱。和医生们的频繁合作只是我长期以来做作品的结果。

        曾:能具体谈一下医学和你的作品的关联么?

        佐:其实探索危险性和危险的预兆是我一直的方向,而医学作为技术可以帮我实现这个目的,仅此而已。在二十多年以前,我已经开始制作能发出人耳听不见的低频声音装置,如果观众在馆内停留超过三十分钟以上健康状况会受损。在南斯拉夫内战开始前的三天,我在三个地方安装了监控摄像机,记录浩劫将临时人们的反应。这三个地方分别是学生广场的贝尔格莱德大学语言学院、精神病院和监狱,三个地方的社会属性距离很远。我想尽可能涵盖不同的声音,邀请路人和患者在镜头前做任何想做的事情,这个影像作品叫作“噪音”。有趣的是BBC等电视台在开战后都想播出这个记录作品,他们非常好奇人们在战前的反应,但结果却失望至极,人们看上去没有任何异样,他们处在风暴眼,却几乎没人在乎这场浩劫,也完全不知道他们将面对什么。只有极少人谈到了战争即将爆发,但只是蜻蜓点水,对政局和自己的命运漠不关心。事实上,人们确实不习惯讨论宏大的政治话题,而且媒体对大众话题的监控无处不在,有一些话题是符合规范的“正常”的日常话题,而对政局的批判显然不在此列。主流媒体对人们去政治化的现状“功不可没”。

        曾:在此之后你为什么转向了生物艺术?

       佐:现在很多哲学讨论都在关注人体和生物科技发展,一夜之前似乎每个人都开始讨论生物艺术和后人类转向,虽然关注点不尽相同。对我来说,把生物性的人体成分当作材料延续了对“危险”的讨论,因为置于危险状态中的身体可以视作多重影响下的结果,不管是文化、政治、还是科技的影响。对身体的规训和“正常化”也是我关心的话题:什么是对“正常”的标准,谁制定的标准?比如在塞尔维亚我们把整形手术叫作“美容/美学手术”(aesthetic surgery),在这个语境里“美”的标准是什么,实现“美”的过程算不算美的范畴?我们为什么可以通过残忍、丑陋、恐怖的方式,比如整形术或者战争,实现符合社会规范的、统一的“美”的标准?这种统一性里隐藏的暴力是什么? 我收集手术后的废料当作艺术的原材料,并且以食品的形状呈现给观众,是为了让两种“美”的概念相互对峙。在同一个作品里, 观众会经历两种美:一种是来自美学手术的肉身残余,一种是颜色鲜明的美丽的食物,两者结合的时候还会让人联想到食人的社会禁忌。而我想做的是将流行的“美”的观念和不能碰触的社会禁忌置于同一个语境, 询问在通往“美”的过程之中,哪些原素是可以被拿出来公开讨论的,哪些是禁忌,以及在社会层面上禁忌和美的关系又是什么。

        曾:观众对你的作品的反馈两极么?

        佐:(笑)你永远没有办法预计观众的反应,我喜欢那种在想尝试和拒绝尝试的观众之间产生的对峙感,有些人急着尝一口,有些人急着打电话叫警察。我曾经用自己的体脂制作肥皂,在英国格拉斯哥的“现场艺术国家评论”艺术节(NRLA: National Review of Live Art)展览。之后同一个机构在澳大利亚珀斯的分部也邀请我去展览这件作品。我邀请观众用肥皂洗手,在格拉斯哥的时候有几个女孩看到肥皂的时候晕了过去,不少人拒绝接触肥皂。在英国和澳大利亚的大多数观众将这件作品理解为肉身的宗教献祭。但是在塞尔维亚,更多人将使用体脂肥皂理解为与他人建立亲密关系的情色道具,有一对年轻情侣问我能不能两个人一起洗手,他们觉得这样能增进彼此的关系。

        曾:你的作品并没有碰触到法律条文,但是制造了一种越界的幻觉。

        佐:是的,没有法律规定不可以用手术的残留物做作品,其实不少经历过手术的艺术家都尝试过将切除的器官保留下来,因为患者的身体不归医院所有。我专门查过相关法令,特别是有一次在德国汉堡,我的严谨的策展人专门找来律师负责我的展览,但是没有人能查处违规之处,除了有一条说不得伤害他人的身体来取得艺术原料,这和我的回收行为无关。有趣的是,在德国人们更关注伦理道德和法律的层面,但是在英国食品卫生标准才是重点,他们不关心社会禁忌和伦理,而是担心制作的食物是否对人体的健康有害:“吃这玩意健康么?”(笑)因为每个国家的食品卫生法不同,去英国格拉斯哥参展的时候我没法获得本地的食品卫生证。很遗憾,观众即使想尝试也不行,现场有专门安排的保安阻止观众靠近“展品”,但对于我用的材料和涉及的伦理问题,他们似乎轻易地就接受了。你可以想象保安阻止观众,和他们列举为什么不能试吃的理由的对话有多么滑稽。 

        曾:在参加现场艺术节的时候,除了展出物品,比如毛毯、肥皂和摄影作品,你还会同时在现场做表演么?

        佐:其实我把这一系列和人体相关的作品都称作“现场艺术”,它们并不仅仅是美术馆里被观看的物件,而是为了给观众制造虚构的情景。我希望观众尽可能多地和我的作品产生互动,因为在互动过程中,艺术家的复杂的伦理立场才会变得很重要。观众会更好奇我为什么要做这件作品;凭什么去做。到底要质疑什么;想让观众得到什么?对于“非法移民”,我想尝试讲座剧场,如果这个可以称作现场表演的话。项目才刚刚开始,可能性还有很多,但是生产啤酒是确定的,下一步我将把它带到比利时,比利时受难民潮影响很大, 并且拒绝收留难民。虽然它以盛产啤酒著称,但是啤酒只是形式,比如马其顿也产出啤酒,但是国家并不需要对难民问题负责,它的政策也没有对难民造成可怖的影响。借助液体和戏称为“非法移民”的这款手工啤酒,我可以进一步讨论难民问题。对于我来说,艺术作品的第一要素永远是作品对话的社会语境。

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