交陪_2_5

時間───2015年8月22日
受訪人───張徐展
參訪人───龔卓軍、陳盈瑛、羅文岑、林雅雯
地點───張徐展工作室
整理───侯昱寬 翻譯───王莉雰

紮紙的世代兩樣情

從光緒年間曾祖父張根乞經營的「茂興齋糊紙」到祖父、大伯承接的「茂興糊紙店」與現今父親張徐沛開設的「新興糊紙店」,家族四代經歷了臺灣紙紮事業的興衰。在我小時候,因為暑假剛好也是七月普渡,普渡時媽媽都會叫小孩幫忙,別人家就是掃地、拖地,而我們家就還要外加糊紙人,從小我們的暑假都被糊紙人給佔據了。製作紙紮有很多階段,其中有個階段叫「打坯」,以前我家糊紙紮時,我就要幫忙打坯、幫靈厝牽電線。大家忙完普渡就可以出去玩,但我們全家還是一直糊紙紮。我小時候也不太敢跟人家講我們家在賣紙紮,因為小朋友會對這行業開玩笑、間接成為言語霸凌。「紙人展」這名稱也是小時候其他小朋友對我開玩笑的綽號,他們會說:「你叫張徐展,你們家在做紙人,那你就是紙人展、紮人展啊!」就有這些奇奇怪怪的綽號,讓我不太敢跟其他人說。
我爸是傳統的藝師,他認為很多藝師都不被社會重視,自覺得地位低,所以在家庭裡面就很壓抑,那些藝品,對他來說不過是種討生活的方式罷了。我認為當我們在談地方文化時,雖然紙紮代表著臺灣的文化,但對以此維生的人,還是必須將這件事視為生意,即便想維持傳統工藝的文化,但是在生意沒辦法維持時,那些師傅也會認為紙紮沒什麼出路,學也沒有用。雖然如此,小時候家裡人還是得要一起幫忙,必須要做但卻對這行業沒有光榮感,這讓我覺得很矛盾。當我要升高中、職的時候,我媽就說:「你每天都幫忙糊,又不太會讀書,不然你就去念復興美工,念完再回來做紙紮。」我心想,誰要啊!那種生活環境,那種壓抑又不敢跟別人講的職業,我怎麼可能會答應!之後我就讀了一個跟藝術無關的資料處理科,其實就是想要離開那個環境。
很久以前的紙紮業狀況跟現在差很多,那天有人問我父親紙紮行業風光時期的事,他就會提起曾祖父以前在大龍峒那邊大家都認識,很有面子、很風光。當他走在路上,別人看到我爸都知道那是糊紙乞、乞師的孫子;但同一天下午有客人來對他說:「老闆我想要買iPad的現代紙糊。」他問他們:「你要不要看看傳統紙糊?」客人回說:「沒有現代紙糊的話,就不用了。」從上門的客人想要什麼,跟父親看著以前留下的照片談過去的回憶,我也感覺得出兩個時代的落差。
聽我爸說,以前有位有錢人,他在親人去世後想盡孝道,請了兩派紙紮師傅鬥技,拜託曾祖父去當持高尺(指規畫靈厝的分布位置並將兩派人馬隔開的人),分別以不同手路來鬥技,最後在兩邊都不知道完整模樣的情況下將靈厝組裝起來。也因當時的鴉片是合法的,曾祖父雖然沒抽但有領鴉片的牌照,所以就將鴉片分給趕工的師傅,讓他們鬥技、製作靈厝時能保持亢奮的精神。
父親小時候接觸的紙紮案子又大又華美,但到他這代接下糊紙店時,紙紮行業已漸漸面臨萎縮的處境。他在兩個時代中間,經歷了紙紮業由興轉衰的過程,但對我來說,我沒看到紙紮業興盛期,僅看到它在現代化衝擊下的衰退。困難的是,進步其實是人的嚮往,這也導致行業轉變,生意無法重新復燃,那是時代必然的衝擊,工藝、手藝、紮的技法需求確實也不可能再復原了。
大學剛畢業時,我受邀參加德國短片影展,出發前我媽媽召集大家開家庭會議,討論是不是該把糊紙店收起來,她認為若將店面租出去,每個月的房租都比賣這些紙紮的收入還多,也因此質疑起紙紮的價值:當紙紮被大家認同為很具文化價值,但在現實生活中又顯得如此不堪。它除了對文史學者有價值之外,我們從事這行業不過就是為了生存,我們堅持的到底是什麼?
之後我一直勸家裡不要將店收起來,想說申請補助,把資金當作營運的費用,直到大龍峒那邊有幾位文史學者推薦新北市文化局讓父親成為「薪傳獎傳統藝師」後,紙紮的價值感才慢慢被建立起來。即便有藝師的身分,店裡生意還是不太好,但是價值感提高後,我爸媽才開始覺得有機會繼續做下去,大家也開始努力想做些事情。2009年,媽媽一開始說要在「無名小站」上開設部落格宣傳,我們懶得理,但之後有facebook後,我們就慢慢經營一個「新興糊紙店」的平臺,依此找尋自己發聲的方法。
紙紮分為紅事跟白事,白事是給往生者,現今大部分客人只要好看又便宜就好;紅事也只有普渡、祭神時才會用到。但在很久以前,臺灣北部的喪禮很盛大、誇張,家屬為展現孝心都會等好日子下葬,屍體會放三個月,甚至一年之久,所以糊紙師傅有很長的時間做紙厝,當時也沒有印刷品能使用,磚塊、石子等等的圖樣都要用畫的。我們家族以前最著名的就是全手畫的紙紮,我爸從小就專門學畫那些圖樣,他不會素描,但會水墨、彩墨的技巧,將花鳥、神明典故大面積地繪製在紙厝上。現在因為印刷廠生產不同的色紙,印刷品的選擇更多了。我爸是將印刷圖樣跟印刷的商品、紙品視為材料,對他來說,印刷品無法完全取代手工,卻也是種進步,有越來越多能使用的色彩及圖樣。但當我站在一個抽離、旁觀的角色時,發現他還是很依賴以圖樣去表現質地,比如說印著大理石圖樣紙就用於表現紙紮中大理石的位置,他不會試圖改變圖樣的質地。

紙紮的形像與空間擴延

我高職念資料處理科,就是學電腦、寫程式等等,2005年那時動畫軟體很紅,我用Flash軟體做動畫,指導老師看了作品覺得很好,就幫忙送作品去比賽,最後也得了獎。老師看我對動畫有興趣,要我轉系去讀相關科系,但高職時我只能跨選修動畫的課程。之後大學我讀了致理技術學院多媒體設計系,開始接觸影像美學,其實就是想繼續做動畫。大三那時沒什麼錢,就常參加比賽賺點錢,後來畢業時擔任動畫導演與幾位同學一起做了一部手繪動畫,參加一些國際電影節,像「第十屆日本亞洲數碼藝術大賞」、「二十七屆德國柏林短片展」等。
大約二十三歲我才擁有第一臺相機,這對很多創作者來說算是非常晚,這時的攝影對我來說基本上就只是關於圖像,但也因為參加這些競賽到了國外,開始想說應該要再去更專業的學校。雖然我小時候不想繼續走藝術的路,認為藝術就是在家做紙紮,但又不小心繞了回來。之後我想精進藝術動畫之路,當時看到一位就讀北藝大的藝術家叫馬君輔,他的作品不同於一般所見,是具有實驗性的動畫,再加上我女友也向我推薦那間學校,我就試著考考看,就這樣進入臺北藝術大學的科技藝術研究所。在進入科藝所的前一、兩年很不適應,因為我的影像已習慣用電影的邏輯在思考,像是故事、敘事或討論的內容,而不在影像媒介上,錄像跟電影其實觀念很不一樣,所以差點就休學。後來有陣子我常和恩師袁廣鳴討論這問題,我跟他說我好像不太適合科藝所,他跟我分享一些他的看法,包含我必須要知道自己做的是什麼樣的影像等等,讓我改變了想法。
一開始創作我都手繪,也是因為不想要去碰紙紮,後來才進到紙偶動畫。我想一開始不敢碰,可能跟對自己家庭的文化價值認定感很低有關。在求學的過程中,不管我念資處還是設計,大家都會將我聯結到家中的紙紮事業,譬如他們會要求我做個讓人可以在網路上拜拜的程式等等,這些事情越多,我就越覺得不想被關聯到。之後我想那個「不想」,就像是我知道它切不掉,但也不想被牽連上。
這應和教育有關,臺灣很多人在現代化後對自身文化感到自卑,不認同自身的文化、不認同自己的模樣和自己的臉,這種文化的自卑感在出國時會更明顯。我覺得自己一直有文化的自卑感,所以一開始不太想與家中的紙紮有關聯,直到我思想成熟後,才有辦法看到自己與紙紮的關係,才願意回到我們家的文化裡。我爸做的紙紮,它就是完成的工藝品,如果我直接使用它的語彙,也沒有什麼意義,因為那不代表我個人完整的思想及脈絡。我認為紙紮絕對不是只有一種方法、技巧,或是觀念,所以我一直等待能遇到某種形式,遇到自己能發揮的核心、中心思想,而這個形式就是動畫、影像。
以前我創作電影短片時,多是藉由影展在世界各地發表,創作限度就是參加影展。因為參加影展,對我來說,純粹的影像內容很重要,後來慢慢接觸到實體空間的展演機會,當影片變成影像後,我開始注意到人與空間的流動,也改變了創作上對影像的思考。
我將循環定景中的動態影像視為一種「影像雕塑」。拍攝紙偶動畫時,這些死亡娃娃的動作經由一格格地拍、一格格地凹,透過時間在影像裡活著。拍完後,它們的骨架又因凹折受損、斷裂,如同死去一般,某種程度也隱喻著文化僅能保存於時間之中。另外,我藉由手繪的大型投影裝置,將敘事切成五個部分,同步談論一件事,且在同一時間畫面中,讓相反意義的符號同時出現,於此我則思考著動畫與影像介面的問題。這些作品才讓我開始覺得像在處理「擴延電影」或空間性投影的概念。總而言之,動畫的媒材與影像的使用手法在我的創作中扮演了很重要的角色媒介。
2015年我發表作品《自卑的蝙蝠:靈靈參》,之所以取名叫「自卑的蝙蝠」是因為以前家中紙紮太多,為了要省空間,家人常把那些金童玉女、零件、買來的馬頭或賣不出去的假花、紙紮商品,全部倒掛在天花板上,我跟那些紙偶生活在同一個空間中,看著天上日積月累吊掛的紙娃娃,覺得家就很像個蝙蝠洞,一群蝙蝠們窩在一間飛不出去的糊紙店裡。「自卑的蝙蝠」同時也隱喻著那些掛在我家牆上待乾的紙紮,看起來就像被凌遲一般,它們的模樣也就是我們紙紮現在的生存方法,也反映我自家處於比較壓抑或是低階的社會位置。所以我的創作中很多都是個人自傳的書寫,以及我如何看待自己和紙紮文化的關係,所以我在動畫中使用這些紙偶,就不只是討論紙紮。
林平老師之前看過我早期的作品,她提到我的作品都很猙獰、很多筆觸,和我之後偶動畫中皺皺的質感一樣,都有種畸形的畸零感。我想說這結合或許是因為早期喜歡看西方、東歐特別的動畫作品,因此留下了那些動畫中美學的部分。

面對紙紮的雙重身分

很多人對紙紮文化有認識的恐懼感,但是因為我沒有那份恐懼,所以我在處理紙紮時,反而是將它視為布偶,這件事讓我覺得「紙人展與新興糊紙店系列」的作品與觀眾間產生很大的衝突點。之前有人採訪我家的時候,提到這些紙紮人就像是在幫他人滿足一些心願,填補在世時沒做到的缺憾,我想小時候我爸媽在幫別人填補缺憾時,我也同時在補滿我自己的心靈。
如果將藝術創作分為三層,第一層是表層所見之物的特殊性,第二層是藝術家材質的隱含意義,第三層則是與共通的潛在文本有關。我其中一件錄像創作計畫「屋中屋」中的概念,是因剛開始我對新電影有點錯誤的認知,以為它是連結「家」的敘事,所以有著影像圍繞家庭間的誤認,才提到「家庭式」的紙紮。我是以導演的方式想像藝術創作中的第三層意涵,日本導演山村浩二翻拍了《鄉村醫生》、《老鱷魚》等文學作品,這些作品裡談的是人性,我覺得他的第三層,是以導演觀點重新翻拍卡夫卡式文學再銜接上文化的普世經驗。對我來說,我不認為台灣的第三層僅是政治、歷史與殖民,但同時我也還在抓我的第三層到底該從哪裡施力。如果從我身上思考第三層,我想我必須回去聽故事,從長者說書的模式下慢慢問、建構、理解。另一方面,我思考藝術創作的第三層時,也與思考自家的紙紮文化傳承有關,這是兩種身分的切換與疊合,同時也是避免僅為了創作去挖掘第三層。
我希望透過不同的方式讓「新興紙糊店」重拾尊嚴,之前有位馬來西亞的藝師要開一個紙紮博物館,他前來臺灣考察時也有來我們家,我們彼此交流,且是經由自己建構出的網路系統讓他人理解紙紮的尊嚴。2014年因為文化局的無形資產政策讓家人一起辦了一檔關於紙紮的展覽,我們必須去釐清以前照片的根源,也逼迫我爸重新回想那些記憶,同時間為了避免記憶有誤,我們也詢問一位長期關注與研究文史的專家許泰英,在整理的過程中,我發現那些照片就是我的第三層,我們家在整理這些照片的同時,也是在整理我的脈絡。
對我來說,面對紙紮時我有兩種身分,一個是扮演傳承經營家中紙紮店的孝子,我跟姐姐時常思考能以什麼方法重新建立並延續家中的紙紮文化,在談這件事時需思及家中的產業文化,我會採取如同父親工藝師身分的思維,並以一種文化策略,讓手藝、文化傳承下來;而另一個身分是在執行偶動畫的計畫時,這部分我反而不太談紙紮的文化本身的脈絡。簡單來說,我做這些偶動畫是重新討論我的人生,是思考創作者一定會碰到的生命問題,所以我在做「新興糊紙店系列」時,是在拼寫一段人生。這系列我預計會有十件,如同一張地圖般,標示家中真實的場域位置,每一件對照著每個房間的經驗。對我來說很像是將斷裂的自傳一點一滴地拼湊出來。
作為糊紙店的下一代與藝術家的兩種身分,讓我必須跟姊姊把家裡紙紮的資料重新整理,希望在這過程中能將兩者合在一起,而不是快速地消耗它底下的文化意涵。在創作作品時我會避免流於形式、純粹異國風情或單純個人思維。我目前理解的紙紮文化知識足夠應對他人,但是對於紙紮的傳承與存在意義上,我必須把糊紙的歷史文化思考清楚。例如,我不會像燒紙紮一般將我的紙偶動畫場景燒掉,因為如果要燒,那個對象跟要滿足什麼對我來說很重要,這些是我必須要想清楚的。
對我來說,動畫媒材的迷戀與追求,比起當代藝術更為重要。雖然我家的觀念保守,會覺得做這沒有用,小孩不成材,但動畫的創作讓我有存在感,像是把自己放到動畫裡面表演給別人看。印象中曾看過一部電影短片,裡面有個小孩在學校被霸凌,他就每天拿DV去拍別人,接著下一幕他就在房間裡透過剪輯拍下的影片,玩弄那些霸凌他的人。我想動畫就是我重新建構現實的通道。記得有陣子常跑蔡明亮的講堂,從「蔡李陸咖啡小沙龍」的「老歌欣賞會」到「來美術館郊遊」的「露宿美術館」等,蔡明亮有次在講座中提及創作時說道:「我們創作時常常會看看老電影、參考他人的影像如何拍攝,東參考西參考,但你怎麼參考別人都沒有用,參考別人也是為了從中找到自己,到最後總是在處理自己的問題,繞來繞去,繞到最後,還是得從自己的身上找回自己。」這也是我所抱持的創作信念!


 

In-between the Reality and Animation: Paper-offering Art
──── Zhan Zhang-Xu

Time: August 22, 2015
Interviewee: Zhan Zhang-Xu
Interviewers and Guests: Jow-jiun Gong, Yen-ing Chen, Mirr Lo, Juliet Lin
Location: Zhang-Xu’s studio
Compiled by Yu-kuan Ho Translated by Li-fen Wang

A Commitment to a Challenged Tradition across Two Generations

Since my great grandfather Gen-qi Zhang started Mao Hsing Chai (store) in the Guangxu reign, my family has been running the business for four generations. My grandfather inherited the store later he changed the name to Mao Hsing Paper Sculpture Store and it was passed down to my uncle. Now, my father Pei Zhang-Xu has his own store named Hsin Hsin Paper Sculpture Store. In other words, my family has witnessed the ups and downs of this craft in the Taiwanese society. My summer vacation had always been different from others’ as the ghost festival is in the summer vacation, moms would ask children to help them to clean up the house, but on top of that I had to make paper sculptures as well. Our whole summer vacations were all about paper crafting and nothing else. It takes numerous steps to make a paper sculpture and what I did when I was little was to make molds and wire paper houses up. When others were having fun after the ghost festival, my family still had to make paper puppets used for offerings. I dared not tell friends about my family business as children would make fun of the craft and that eventually turned into verbal bullying. They called me “Zhan the Paper Guy” while they were making fun of me, they said, “Your name is Zhan Zhang-Xu, you make paper figures, so you are ‘Zhan the Paper Guy’ or ‘Zhan the Paste Guy’.” I was called names so I did not want to say much about my family.
As a traditional craftsman, my dad thinks people like him are not appreciated by the society, and that is why his self-esteem is low and is quite reserved in the family. He sees his art works as nothing but a means to make a living, therefore, although the paper sculpture art represents Taiwanese culture when we discuss about the issue of folk culture, we also have to bear in mind, that if all craftsmen think their craftsmanship is nothing but a business, they would depreciate their work when the business does not go well. Even if the craft is a cultural representative for Taiwan, it is just useless and not promising if it cannot generate money. Having said that, my family worked hard together to make paper offerings, yet I myself thought of it as a must to help rather than felt honored to engage in this craft. I was perplexed. When I graduated from junior high school, my mom said to me, “Since you help with the paste work every day and that you didn’t get good scores at school, why don’t you aim at the arts and craft department at Fu-Hsin Trade and Arts School and come back to help the business later?” I thought, “Over my dead body.” There is no way that I would continue living in such a stifling environment and having a career that I was not proud to tell others about. Then I chose a totally irrelevant major to art—data processing, because I desperately wanted to leave that environment.
The business was very different from present day, my father was asked one day by an acquaintance about what it was like when paper offeringing art was thriving. He replied that my great grandfather was a successful celebrity known by everyone at Dalongdong and they would know that my father was the grandson of Master Qi when he walked on the streets. But later on that same day, some customers came and said, “We want to buy modern paper iPads.” My father asked them, “Do you want to consider some traditional paper sculptures?” The customer answered, “If you don’t have modern ones I will go to other stores.” On that very day, I witnessed the moment when my father talked about the beautiful old days and when he failed to meet customers’ needs nowadays. I can see the stark difference between the two generations.
My dad once told me that there was a rich man wanting to serve filial piety to his dead parents, so he paid two paper puppet offering stores to compete and my great grandfather was invited to be the judge for this competition (He set the rules for the paper house and made sure the two teams were separated.) and craftsmen from the two stores were asked to finish the assigned tasks with their own techniques. At the end of the competition, they had to assemble the paper house without knowing the blue print. And it was because opium was legal at the time, my great grandfather also had license for it, he then offered opium to the artisans to lift their spirits up during the completion, although he himself doesn’t smoke them at all.
When my father was young, the paper offering works he made was spectacular and splendid, but when he had his own store, the industry was gradually shrinking. He lives in-between the two eras and has seen the ups and downs of the craft. For me, I have only seen the business withering away in the process of modernization. To progress is the desire of human beings, and it inevitably leads to the change of industries, however, if an industry does not recover, neither do the craftsmanship, the techniques and the demands.
Shortly after I graduated from college, I was invited to attend the International Short Film Festival of Berlin, before I left for Germany, my mom called a family meeting on whether we should close the store. She thought letting it out would be more profitable than running the paper puppet offering business. In short, she questioned the value of paper offering art. When others think it has high cultural value, the people relying on it to make a living barely survive. If it seems to be valuable to no one but scholars, then what are we fighting for?
I kept asking my family not to close the store, and suggested we apply for subsidies to pay for all the costs, but it was not until my father was awarded the “Heritage Award” with the recommendation of some scholars based at Dalongdong that my parents started to sense the value of their profession. Being a laureate traditional artisan, however, does not help much with the business, the difference is that my parents now think paper offering art has its own value, so they are more likely to hang on there and work harder. For example, my mom had been talking about setting up a blog on “Wretch” (a Taiwanese blog portal site) since 2009 for marketing, yet we totally ignored her idea until Facebook became popular, so now we have a FB fan page named Hsin Hsin Paper Sculpture Store to voice our ideas.
Paper offerings can be used either on joyful occasions (red events) or at funerals (white events). If it is for the latter, the offerings are for the deceased and customers’ main concern is that the price has to be cheap. Red events basically refer to the ghost festival and all god-worshiping occasions, which are not as frequent as funerals. The funerals in the north part of Taiwan used to be extravagant, and relatives of the dead would keep the body at home for as long as three months or even a year just for the funeral to be held on a good day; therefore, the artisans had rather long time to make the paper house. Back in old days printers were not available, the artisans needed to draw bricks, stones or other patterns by their own, my family was most famous for the drawing. My dad started to draw those patterns when he was a child; despite he does not sketch, he knows all the techniques in wash ink painting and color ink painting, so he can draw onto paper houses flowers, birds and the stories related to gods. Nowadays, printing houses provide customers with various colored paper and more choices of prints, but my dad is not convinced that prints can replace hand-made works, instead, he sees printing patterns and products as merely a progress in materials and that he enjoys having more choices of color and pattern for his work. When I observe him as a detached bystander, I find that he relies heavily on patterns to show the texture of his drawing. For example, he uses marble patterns to make paper marbles, he has no attempt to change the texture of a pattern to make them something else than its own original texture.

Image and Spatial Expansion in Paper Offering Art

I majored in data processing at a vocational school, so what I learned was programming and other computer-related skills. I had an animation work done on Flash in 2005 when animation software caused a sensation. My instructor was so impressed that he sent the work to a contest and it did win an award, he suggested that I transfer to a department related to animation, but unfortunately as a vocational school student I could only take animation courses as optional credits. Later I went to Chihlee Institute of Technology to major in multimedia design and learned about the aesthetics of video, but the ultimate reason was that I wanted to continue working on animation. When I was in my junior year, I did not have much money, so I attended contests trying to make money by winning awards. After graduation, I collaborated with some of my classmates and directed a hand-made anime film to compete in international film festivals like the “Tenth Asia Digital Art Award” and the “Twenty-Seventh International Short Film Festival of Berlin.”
I did not have my own camera until I was twenty-three, this is quite late for many creators. At that time, filming was nothing but images and videos to me, it was after attending those international contests that I started to consider about going to a professional school. When I was little I did not want to do art as I associated it with paper offering art, yet I took a detour and came back to do art related projects in the end. Later, I wanted to master in artistic animation, so when I learned about Chun-fu Ma, an artist based at Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA), and his unusual experimental animation works, I applied for TNUA after being encouraged by my girlfriend. Then I became a graduate student, majoring in art and technology; however, my first two years were tough and I almost drop out. It was because I was used to the logic of filming, which is for story-telling, narration or discussion, this is totally different from that of video-recording, which focuses more on the medium itself. I discussed this issue frequently with my respectable teacher, Goang-ming Yuan, and I told him my doubt about if I was right for coming to the graduate school of technology and art. He then shared with me his opinions and told me that I had to realize what kind of work I wanted to present. His words changed my thoughts.
At first I hand-made my film because I did not want anything to do with paper offering art, it was until later, I decided to use paper puppets in my animation. I guess the initial unwillingness was because I had little identification with my family’s business and did not think it had cultural values. Regardless of my major being data processing or design, everyone in my school always associated me with my family business in paper offering. For example, some would ask me to develop a program which allows people to worship on the Internet. Requests like this were numerous, but the more they associated me with my family business, the more reluctant I was to involve in paper offering art. Later I realized that the unwillingness resulted from knowing that it would never be separable from me, but I just did not want to have anything to do with it.
Education also plays a role in this. Many Taiwanese people do not identify with their faces, appearances and local cultures, they feel ashamed of themselves, and it is more obvious when they go abroad. I have been aware of my sense of inferiority for a long time, and this is why I did not want to get involved in paper offering art. It was not until when I was mature that I started to recognize my relation with the craft and that I was willing to retrieve the family culture. The paper offerings my father makes are fully developed artisan work pieces, it will be meaningless if I appropriate them for my creation as they cannot show my personal thoughts and the thread of context of my works. In my opinion, paper offering art is more than a means, a technique or a concept, therefore, I have been waiting for a way to express my very own core and central idea, and that very way is animation and videos.
I presented short films in international film festivals world-wide, and attending those festivals was the best I could do. Participating those festivals was important to me, as the content of the image itself was essential, as the time goes by, I had several chances to present my work in an exhibition space, when my film transformed into image, that’s when I start to realize the interaction between the people and the space, it also changes the way I had on images.
I regard images in motion against fixed background as “Image Sculpturing.” When making animation films featuring paper puppets, the motions of these death puppets were created by folding their body parts and are shot frame by frame, in a way, they become alive in images in which time is a parameter; on the other hand, they are dead because the puppets’ “skeletons” are damaged or broken after the shots are done, I think of it as a metaphor that culture can only be preserved in time. Also, with a large hand-drawn projector, I divided the narration into five parts yet all of them revolt around the same issue, and symbols carrying opposite connotations appear simultaneously in the same frame. By doing so, I think about the issue of the interface of animation and images. These works have prompted me to apply the concept of “expanded cinema” or spatial projection. In a nutshell, the medium and the way images are used in animation play fundamental roles in my creation.
The reason I named my work Inferiority Bat—Hsin Hsin Paper Home 003 at 2015, was because there were too many paper offerings at my home. In order to save space, my family would hang all the paper puppets, components, paper horse heads or unsold pieces and plastic flowers on the ceiling. I lived with them in the same space, so whenever I looked at them up on the ceiling, I would picture my house as a bat hole and many bats were stranded in this paper sculpture store. The project Inferiority Bat is a metaphor referring to the paper pieces’ suffering in the drying process; second, it also symbolizes the bare survival of paper offering art nowadays; last, it depicts that my restrained family is in the lower stratum of the society. Most of my works are actually autobiographic in that they show how I see my relation with paper offering art, and that is why when I use paper puppets in my creation, they mean more than just a craft itself.
Professor Ping Lin, commented on my earlier works by saying that they were creepy and with lots of details. Their texture is similar to paper puppets in my animation in that they are wrinkled and have a sense of deformation. In reply, I would say that when I was younger, I preferred Western and East European animation styles, and that is why I leave such preferred aesthetic traits in the animation.

The Dual Identities in Engaging in Paper Offering Art

Unlike many people who are afraid to approach paper offering art, I see them as dolls when I make them, I think this also indicates a great conflict between viewers’ perception and the exhibited works in Hsin Hsin Paper Sculpture Home─Zhan Zhang-Xu’s Stomach series. Once when my family was interviewed, my parents mentioned that puppet making was like realizing wishes of the dead to make up what they could not have accomplished when they were alive. I think when my parents remedy for others’ regrets via the craft, I, too, remedy my own soul via paper offering art.
If there are three layers of artistic creation, the first layer must be for viewers to see the uniqueness of the visible; the second layer deals with the connotations given by chosen materials; the third layer is for a shared and underlying context to be explored. One of my video projects, Houses in the House, is the product of my misunderstanding of new cinema. I thought it would lead to the narration of “home,” so all the images were about family, but that was misrecognition and that is the reason why I used some “family” trait in that project. As the director, I directed the film by imagining how it should be to work on the third layer. The Japanese director, Kōji Yamamura, explores humanity in his remake films A Country Doctor and The Old Crocodile, the director reincarnates Kafka’s literature with his personal perspective and combines it with universal cultural experiences, I think this is his “third layer.” As far as I am concerned, I do not think the third layer of creation in the Taiwanese context should only be about politics, history and colonization, yet meanwhile, I am still figuring out where to focus for my third-layer creation. I think I have to go back to listen to the elder’s stories, and then start from asking, constructing and understanding; on the other hand, while I am thinking about the third layer of artistic creation, I am also thinking about how to pass down the family business. That will result in the overlapping and switch between my two identities, but it is a way to avoid forcing myself to explore the third-layer just for the creation only.
I hope to rebuild the dignity of Hsin Hsin Paper Sculpture Store with a variety of methods. A Malaysian artisan, who wanted to open a paper offering art museum came to Taiwan to survey, he came to us and we exchanged information. This makes me believe that we can build up our own connection for others to understand and appreciate paper offering art. In 2014, my family and I had an exhibition resulted from the intangible assets policy by the Department of Cultural Affairs. The exhibition forced us to figure out the story behind each photo and made my father recollect his old memories. We double-checked with a history and culture expert, Tai-ying Hsu, in case my father’s memory did not serve him correctly. In preparation for the exhibition, I realized that the photos were the inspiration of my third-layer creation. When I was sorting them out, I am also sorting out what have defined me.
When I engage in paper offering art, I play two roles. One is the good boy inheriting the family business, my sister and I often think about ways to revive and pass down paper offering art when I play this role. I would put myself in my father’s shoes and think as an artisan to preserve and pass down the craft with a cultural strategy. The other role is the executor of animation projects, when I play this role, I tend not to talk about the cultural context of paper offering art. To put it simply, those puppet animations are a way to re-evaluate my life, which is a creator’s unavoidable question about life. Therefore, when I prepare for the Hsin-hsing Paper Sculpture Home series, I actually present my life in about ten pieces of works. They will serve as a map and simulate the authentic arrangement of each room in my house, with my life experiences embedded in them. This will be like fixing a broken autobiography piece by piece.
Being an artist and the son of a paper sculpture store keeper forces me to build up an archive with my sister, and personally I hope to connect the two roles together rather than rapidly consume the underlying cultural values of paper offering art. That is why I avoid attending too much to the form or imposing an exotic sense or personal thoughts in any of my creation. The knowledge I have about paper offering art is enough to answer others’ questions, but I need to be clear about its history and intrinsic culture in order to answer the questions such as why it has to be passed down and why it should exist. For instance, I would never burn down my animation scenes like other paper offering artisans do traditionally. I need to know clearly to whom I burn them to and which demands I meet if I have to do so. These are important questions to be answered.
I think the pursuit and fascination of animation medium is more important than contemporary art. In spite of the fact that my conservative family think animation is not promising and I do not achieve anything, the creation of animation gives me a sense of existence, it is like putting myself into a film to perform for others. I remember seeing a short film about a child being bullied at school uses a DV to film others. In one scene, you see him editing the images he has got, images of those who have bullied him. In a way, animation is the pathway leading me to reconstruct the reality. There was a period of time when I often went to Ming-liang Tsai’s seminars, from “Concert of Old Songs” held at Tsai Lee Lu Coffee to “Sleeping at an Art Museum” as a part of the Stray Dogs at the Museum exhibition. Ming-liang Tsai once said in one of his seminars, “When we create, we often see old movies and see how others shoot. You want to see this and that, but it is useless trying to learn from others unless you know the purpose is to find who you are in their creations. In the end, you have to deal with your own problems. You take a detour but eventually it has to come back to you.” This is also my belief in creation!

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