Art Issues- Freedom of Expression
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一封致現正/有志從事藝術、受藝啟發的香港人以及與香港同行者的公開信 | An Open Letter to Artists, Aspiring Artists, and the Art-Inspired in and with Hong Kong
at 9:35pm on 21st June 2019
(Please scroll down for English version)
這事曾經發生過，現在又再發生，並可能會一次又一次地重演：我們面臨的挑戰是停擺藝術，包括各種形式的參與、共建、貢獻藝術，還有作為藝術本身 — 都是為了可「一同抗議」。 因處嚴峻時刻，我們必要急切地將手頭上所有工作放下，騰出雙肩並攜，且前行，這是如斯美麗而感動人心的。我之所以撰寫此信不為質疑抗爭本身 — 完全不是，而是為了說明我們不必為投入抗爭而徹底置藝術於道外。兩者是可並行的。事實上，兩者必需同行。
以史為鑑，那些自稱掌權的人慾壑難填地去殺死夢想家，因為他們懼怕那些能看透其焦燥不安及潛意識的人 — 那些無拘無束的自由意志。如是說，我們要自我管治的話，就必須做得更好。藝術，以及其他一切人文精神的磬石，處身獨裁者想要掌控所有事物的時勢，都岌岌可危。當我們被迫放棄那個被藝術感召的自己，與此同時也放任了霸權恣意摧毀人文精神。如是說，我們要自我管治的話，就必須做得更好。
抗議是其中一種但不是唯一的反抗方式。拒絕接受社會規範和堅持與眾不同的思考也是抗衡的手段。我們可以停擺受社會規範的日常來反抗任意行使的權力（arbitrary power）繼而反騎劫體制，但我們不能停擺那些用於藝術、來自藝術和透過藝術去想像、思考及預見的能力 — 因為生命是不能罷工的。為了持續以藝術抗名，我們必須更竭力挺身展示我們最為擅長及成就自我的事。這也是為了爭取自由和自決而戰。如是說， 我們要自我管治的話，就必須做得更好，而不是強行從倉猝的二元對立中作出錯誤的選擇。
如果我們必得拋棄那個為藝術而生的自我，或者否決藝術作為涵養的核心和成就未來的可能，就再沒有其他人可拯救我們，或捍衛藝術了。如是說，我們要自我管治的話，就必須做得更好，而不是背棄藝術最能彰顯的 — 生而為人的毫釐之別、複雜性和不確定性。
一位藝術家朋友越洋傳給我一段喬治．史坦納（George Steiner）的箴言：「喬治．史坦納在《美與慰藉》的訪談中，談到1937年的蘇聯作家會議，當中每個人都要宣誓效忠斯大林，不然就被逮捕（或失踪）。即使鮑里斯．巴斯特納克保持沉默也足以令他被捕。到最後，他站起來引頌了一句莎士比亞的十四行詩，接著兩千人在他周圍也站起來，並一同再次朗誦那詩句；這就說明了一切 — 你無法觸碰我們，你無法摧毀莎士比亞，或俄羅斯人的語言，以及我們由心所學到的。」
瓦茨拉夫．哈維爾 (Vaclav Havel) 的聲音也響起來：「習慣在上位者往往不耐煩。他們想要立竿見影。任何不能即時見效的東西都是愚笨的。他們對那些發生了一段時間才奏效的行為沒有太多的同情；這些行為是由道德感驅使的，亦因而冒著永遠無法完成任何事情的風險。」（瓦茨拉夫．哈維爾，《打擾和平 － 希望的政治》)
本能告訴我們這種風險是值得承擔的。我們能當如斯「愚笨」。 「我們缺乏能準確描述本能所潛藏的活力和支配能力，並井然有序地闡述直覺的詞彙，而這一切都正正標明你是位藝術家。」（喬治．史坦納 ，《真實之存在》）
期待與你們在遊行與罷工 － 以及往後更多的遊行與罷工中碰面。
An Open Letter to Artists, Aspiring Artists, and the Art-Inspired in and with Hong Kong
Dear all, who make art and make art happen,
It had happened before. It is happening again and it may well happen over and again that we are challenged to suspend what we do in art, with art, for art, and as art, to “join the protest”. The act of putting everything in our hands down and changing their orientation, to wrap elbows around elbows and march on, is beautiful, compelling, and in critical times, urgent and necessary. I am writing this letter not to dispute that. Not at all. I am here to make the case that we don’t have to lay art down in order to protest. We can do both at the same time. In fact, we must.
My take is, art cannot be suspended to make space and time for protest. I refuse to think of art and protest as dichotomies on the level of truth. I refuse to choose one over the other as if they are mutually exclusive on the level of truth. The conflict lies on the streets – each body, each missing body, counts. The challenge for us then becomes bigger: us, whom art calls for. We are called for not only by protests, but also by art. We need to become not only protesting bodies, but also supple and sensuous ones: drawing, painting, dancing, moving, jumping, touching, laughing, whistling, dreaming, day-dreaming, questioning, thinking…All these that we have been doing enrich our capacities to rule ourselves better.
We are confronting those who claim to rule but fail to – they rule by crushing all that they cannot give a name to. Or, they crush by naming (reducing and controlling) all that they are afraid of, so that they hold them down as objects for their narcissistic condescension. To rule ourselves, we must do better.
Those who claim to rule have an insatiable appetite to kill dreamers – this has happened in human history – for they are afraid of those who can see right into their anxieties and unconscious, those who know of no boundary in their free mind. To rule ourselves, we must do better.
Art is not safe, just as any other fundamentals of humanity are not when autocracy wants to lay claim on everything. If we feel forced to discard who we are that art calls for, we are letting arbitrary power destroy the fundamentals of humanity. To rule ourselves, we must do better.
Protest is one but not the only form of dissent. Art, by refusing normativity and by insisting on thinking differently is also dissent. We can put our routines regulated by society on strike as a revolt against arbitrary power that works its way into society. But we cannot put our capacity to imagine, think, and envision in art, from art, and through art on strike – for we cannot put life on strike. To sustain art as dissent, we must try harder, to stand up and show up as who we are and what we are best at. This, too, is the fight for freedom and self-determination. To rule ourselves, we must do better than forcing ourselves to make false choices out of provisional dichotomies.
If we were to be the first ones to discard our own Being in art, or the way art is our core competence and future becoming, no one would be able to save us, or defend art. To rule ourselves, we must do better than turn away from the nuances, complexities, and uncertainties fundamental to being human that art is the best at tapping.
An artist friend sends a piece of George Steiner wisdom across the Pacific: “In an interview of George Steiner in Beauty and Consolation, he talks of the 1937 Soviet writers conference where everyone was to declare allegiance to Stalin or be arrested (disappeared). Pasternak remained silent, which was also enough to have him arrested. Finally, he stood up and cited the number of a Shakespeare sonnet. Two thousand people then stood up around him and recited his translation of that sonnet. It said everything: you can’t touch us, you can’t destroy Shakespeare, or the Russian language, and what they had learned by heart.”
The voice of Vaclav Havel also rings, “People used to see society ‘from above’ tend to be impatient. They want to see immediate results. Anything that does not produce immediate results remain foolish. They don’t have a lot of sympathy for acts which can only be evaluated years after they take place, which are motivated by moral factors, and which therefore run the risk of never accomplishing anything.” (Vaclav Havel, “The Politics of Hope” in Disturbing the Peace)
Our instinct tells us this risk is worth taking. We can afford to be foolish. “We lack the right word for the extreme energizing and governance of instinct, for the ordered enlistment of intuition, which mark the artist.” (George Steiner, Real Presences)
May this energy not let go of us; may we not let go of this energy.
See you in the march and the strike - more marches and more strikes.
June 14, 2019
First published in Stand News, 15 June 2019