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CJ: In a previous interview, you mentioned that your attitude towards the “Great Firewall of China” (GFW) could be likened to the effects of Stockholm Syndrome. Could you expand on that? Do you follow a nihilistic line of thought?
MY: Stockholm Syndrome is when a hostage develops an emotional attachment to his/her captor, empathizes with the captor, accepts the captor’s views and thoughts, even begins to assist the captor. It’s a type of traumatic bonding, where a person gradually begins to love something that brings them harm. It’s an irrational emotional response, and because of its irrationality, it often becomes misinterpreted as truly romantic. It would appear that in both the East and West, women are more susceptible to this traumatic bonding than men. Perhaps women are more infatuated with power, more narcissistic. Like children unwilling to flush their feces down the toilet, women are unwilling to give up a love full of suffering. The wound and the feces here are the same: as bad as it is, at least it’s hers.
My adoration for GFW has been ten years of prolonged, painful love. I started making works about it in 2007, simply because it was something you couldn’t avoid about China’s Internet. At the time, there was still Google, Facebook and Twitter, but GFW was like the pink elephant in the room. Let’s not even mention how it is today.
In the ten years since, GFW and I have both gone through major changes. I have gone from disappointment, anger, anxiety and fear to acceptance, adoration, even love. These differing emotions are basically sequences of thought taken on by my creative work. For example, my early artist book Dead Zone is more idealistic and angry, while Is It Me You’re Looking For? (2014) is entirely soft and loving. Internet security is like a bad boyfriend—I cherish him like I cherish my own shit. According to Freudian theory, Stockholm Syndrome is a kind of defense mechanism, not a proper mental disease. My love is not rational, but I’m not crazy.
I think such love without resistance is nihilistic, but I’m not a nihilist. I’ve only fallen in love with someone I’m not supposed to love.
CJ: Your works often crudely pile up “realistic” elements in ways that are reminiscent of ‘80s or ‘90s aesthetics. For example, with the pile of iPhone boxes in #mememe (2014), are you attempting to construct a form that reflects the conditions of a “post-socialist nation”?
MY: Wow, post-socialist, post-Internet—it makes my work sound so fashionable! The notion of a post-socialist nation is interesting, but that’s not part of my thinking process. For me, having been born in the mid-‘80s in Shanghai, the impacts of socialist ideology and commercialism are definitely warped together. But I am more infatuated with the crude reality of superimposition. This “crudeness” comes from an overall boredom with ideology. The reality of superimposition is that the virtual appears truer than reality, so in attempting to capture reality, I immediately superimpose things onto it and inspect what it looks like. Reality no longer exists in “real life.”
CJ: You recently participated in an exhibition at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin. Could you describe what direction you plan to take your work following this show?
MY: Yes, my work in the exhibition at KW is predominantly about mainstream technology and media that have profoundly changed our daily lifestyle. Like Tech Abstractionism (2014), which is an advertisement for one of Apple’s touchscreen products, manipulated in Photoshop to appear as an earnest abstract painting. Another work features a functional hypnosis app, which enables meditation underneath a pyramid, allowing one to achieve harmony with nature. And finally, there’s a gif artwork.
The changes in our lives brought on by popular technology and media are the main lines of inquiry within my work. Everyone seems to take certain ideas from the “Holding A Kitchen Knife to Cut the Internet Cable” series, but really, the most important part of these works to me is that they are gifs. I always try to explore the possibilities of a new language, because people as aspects of media are easily changed. I think this is a part of art.
Miao Ying (Chinese, b. 1985) is a media artist who resides on the Internet. She runs the website thedeadpixelofmyeye.com.
Chao Jiaxing is an independent curator and writer based in Shanghai and Beijing. She currently serves as curator at New Century Art Foundation, Beijing, and Goethe Open Space (Goethe Institut), Shanghai.
Translated from Chinese by Greg Young
Images in order of appearance: A Healthy Fear, 2015; When SMART and wash-cut-blow meet bilibili, 2014; So in love, will never feel tired again, 2014; iPhone garbage, 2014. All images courtesy of the artist.