The Artist is the Genius of Suffering
Interview with Pei Li
Interviewer: Edward Sanderson (ES)
Interviewee: Pei Li (PL)
The pursuit of beauty and the artist’s commitment to their practice are parallel concerns for Pei Li, whose solo show closed recently at Beijing’s Platform China space. This young artist holds these pursuits to a high degree of scrutiny and suspicion, regarding the beauty and fame as suspect notions that demand a certain cynicism. In a series of complex and sometimes audacious projects, she has grappled with the ideal of the artist and the relation that art has to the presentation of the body through representation, psychological projection, and performative acts. The following conversation was conducted via email and a face-to-face interview in Platform China’s galleries. UPDATE: Platform China have kindly translated this interview into Chinese.
Edward Sanderson: You titled your show at Platform China “Generation P,” and the catalogue cover shows a text that has been roughly crossed out, leaving only the words beginning with the letter ‘P’ visible. Can you explain this and what is its significance?
Pei Li: At the very beginning I planned to call the exhibition “Generation Pain.” The sound of the word “pain” is close to my name “Pei” in Chinese, and I have a particular interest in pain. But then I felt that, for me, using the word “pain” was a little strange, because I always want to be fun. I like pain, but my character is cheerful and optimistic – and I think there is no conflict between the two!
I have a dual personality: sometimes I am cheerful and optimistic, and sometimes I fall into deep depressions. When I was a little girl I had infantile autism, apparently I would stand face-to-face in front of a wall, for the whole day, day after day. Actually, up until the age of 14 I don’t have much memory of my childhood, my family told me all about this.
When I was a teenager, I used to cut myself – not because of any bad experiences, just because of the pain itself. But I think pain on the body is really nothing. The real pain is the one you feel in your heart, a pain you cannot see.