Early July 2012 the Museum of Contemporary Art in Beijing prolonged Ma Hui’s exhibition for another ten days after an incident involving the removal of her 75 meter long installation of 1500 mouth covers, titled ´Masks´. MOCA BJ was forced by local communist party officials to dismantle Ma Hui’s installation, one of three of her artworks in the museum, after hundreds of bloggers on the web had mistakenly interpreted ´Masks´ as a protest against freedom of expression in China.
Ma Hui was quoted in Dutch media as having been ‘shocked’ by the intervention. ‘I fail to comprehend the reasons why. It all seems a bit childish to me, after all we are dealing with exhibiting art here.’ The incident drew many art lovers to the MOCA exhibition, a group show of four female artists from China, Germany and Taiwan, even though Ma Hui’s name in combination with the title ‘Masks’ had been blocked by the authorities on the internet. Her intention to exhibit the mouth covers was to draw attention the increasingly alarming air pollution in Beijing.
Background to ‘Masks’: About five years ago I walked the streets of Beijing. After a quarter century living in Europe this was the first time I spent the winter in Beijing. I saw a lot of people wearing masks on the street, to cover their mouths. The masks had different designs, colours and was made of different materials. It made me think about my childhood because I used to wear home-made masks to cover my mouth from the cold. From that moment on I started collecting all kinds of mouth pieces. I talked to people about wearing masks and I realized that their function goes beyond a simple meaning. They protect against evil wind, against the cold, against poisonous fumes and also serve to hide one’s face. Behind this small piece of protective cotton worries and fear rule. My video installation ‘The tree wants to rest, but the wind never stops’ touches upon the same subject, human development. The industrial revolution brings trouble, we cannot stop the pollution, it is becoming a dangerous factor in our daily live. Beijing is a beautiful town in my memory but it has turned into one of the most polluted cities in the world. Human development is just like a big wave, we all just float along. The wind continues to blow. Meanwhile we dismiss the passing of time as if we will live forever, without even beginning to fathom its consequences. Never enough. As an artist I feel I have a duty to fight and look for language to stop this disastrous development. To protect others and myself. This installation represents my view of myself, when I was a little child in China. How my identity was shaped through life in the countryside and in the city, over and over again memorizing, contemplating, dreaming of getting lost in an illusion of the past. Dreaming of a far away no man’s land, trying to find the key of the meaning to life. This artwork represents my deepest emotion of not being capable of waiting any longer. Starting today we can challenge and shape the future.
艺术家马蕙日前听说她正在北京当代艺术馆展出的一幅作品被撤下了。一些博手将她的作品与言论自由受到限制联系起来。而与此同时，马蕙本人已明确表示，她只是希望唤起人们对目前中国环境污染问题的关注。 当北京当代艺术馆馆长通知马蕙，她的参展作品之一依照地方党政官员的意愿撤下时，这位华裔荷兰艺术家最终还是有点惊讶。马蕙的《护罩！》由1500只口罩组成，挂满当代艺术馆外围75米长的铁丝护墙网。在党政官员看来，这含有政治隐喻。 “但我恰恰是想通过《护罩！》表达政治声明以外的东西,”居住在荷兰阿姆斯特芬的马蕙解释说，“我的作品的主题是生命。我只想用我的装置艺术呼吁人们关注中国目前的空气污染，以及我们为之能做些什么。我再次重申，它绝对不带任何政治色彩。” 言论自由 导致她作品被撤下的原因在于中国国内的一些博客写手将马蕙的艺术创作与限制言论自由联系起来。马蕙本人不知道如此关联从何而来。结果却是，她在作品被撤下的几天前必须将文字和解释交给北京党政部门的有关人员。“党内的官员要我的信息。在讨论中他们想知道我是如何创作的。当时我明确表示，我的作品只是关于环境，而且我从来没有打算在这个装置中赋予任何政治涵义。完全不应该这么联系。” 值得注意的是，目前当代艺术馆的大门上仍有马蕙参展作品的海报。而且她的另一件作品，一部名为《树欲休息，但风从未停止..》的影像仍在艺术馆内展出。在马蕙看来，这可能是因为其他作品“蕴含更多生命的哲理，从而减少了有可能与政治的联系。” 界限 事实上这并不是北京当代艺术馆第一次出现如此事端。这家成立于2007年的艺术馆其目标便是在中西方之间展开对话。这也使得一些在馆内展出的艺术有时会探索甚至挑战中国所允许的限制范围。而恰恰也正是由于对界限的探索，该艺术馆吸引来了大批的参观者。 正因为如此，马蕙对自己作品被撤下也并不完全感到意外。“当馆长看到我的作品时，他曾开玩笑说，他希望艺术馆不会因此招惹麻烦。也许他当时已经感觉到我的作品将会无意中引起轰动。” 麻烦 接着，她又补充说，自己对作品被撤还是有点失望的。“另一方面，我也希望艺术馆不会惹来更多麻烦。” “馆长在我回荷兰前给我打了电话说，他已经和一些党政官员谈过话。他告诉我，他很可能得把我的参展作品撤下，因为艺术馆会招惹麻烦。因此现在传来这个消息也并非完全在意料之外。”