An artist’s normal day – Qianlin Wang

An artist's normal day - Qianlin Wang

Another day is wasted. It seems a lot of artist’s activities are done in their heads. Yesterday before I went to bed, I was thinking about death. In fact, I have been thinking about death quite frequently these days. 

Someone told me they skinned a rabbit before. This person in my mind was the kind of person who would never do such ‘cruel’ things to animals. For probably a minute, or longer, definitely not very long, for I dislike being emotional, especially with this person, I felt distant with them. Skinning the rabbit was one of the activities during their school camping trip, of course they didn’t kill the rabbit, nor did the person have the stomach to finish the job. This activity was not mandatory, the person chose to do it to prepare for possible emergency situations. For that exact reason, my impression of them was not entirely wrong, the person is not someone who has no issue with killing or skinning animals. I asked myself, what is being cruel? Would I think killing chickens and pigs cruel? How about insects? Plants? I felt sad for the rabbit’s death, because I had prejudice towards other creatures. Some guru said, when you are only responsible for several people, their deaths are unbearable. We are defined by things we feel responsible for. When one feel responsible for his country, they identify themselves with the country and therefore hate other countries in certain situations. But when I’m responsible for everything, I’m everybody, and also nobody. There are so many deaths happening every second, and also so many births. Death, in the end is a neutral thing. It is another possibility. There won’t be so much time left if one is sad for every single creature’s death. 

What about my own death? Not long ago, I thought I would die. More accurately, I was in a black tunnel, some wind blew fiercely on my body. After searching online, I was almost sure the wind was from a high-speed train which was speeding towards me. That was my first time facing human death directly. I was too young that sometimes I felt death was just a lie, since I never have seen anyone dying in front of me. So the wind, and the darkness did scare the shit out of me. Anyway, turned out it was just some random animals running past and I got scratched. And what would I do if I didn’t have much time left, if you ask me? At that point, I thought if I die, nobody would even make a show for me like Van Gogh or whoever became famous after their death, because I don’t have much work. So I was thinking, yeah I would just continue to do my usual things. Although you can see now, I just spent half a day cooking, sleeping, hugging and another half a day thinking possible ways to make this issue interesting and end up choosing the most boring way to do so. 

I considered writing about my mushrooms. A month ago, I received a pink oyster mushroom growing kit from my partner as a Christmas present. It is my first time of growing vegetables. The first harvest took nine days, and I made oden out of it. Speaking of food, I am pretty hungry right now. It is technically already the second day. For the second and third batch, we made carbonara and roasted chicken with it. After probably a week, there were new mushrooms growing out from the hole again. Back to the topic, I thought about writing a mushroom growing log. This idea was soon moved to trash because it would be too boring to read. Then I thought, what if I write a short Lovecraftesque fiction related to these mushrooms? For example, some kind of anxious atmosphere gloomed over the house when those pink mushrooms grew crazily. I gave up the idea for I had never seriously attempted to write a novel in my life, and it would take too much time. Is this laziness? Perhaps, in a capitalistic sense. Capitalism and mushrooms — if I’m gonna sell the bunch of mushrooms with the recipes I used, how much would it be? If this is an artwork, how much would it sell for? My friend once told me, you should document how many hours you spent on each project, and multiply by your hourly rate, that’s the price of your labour. But how do I define my hourly rate? One possible way is to compare my level of competence with other artists, which just wouldn’t work in the art world, because art is inherently against capitalism. Plus, if most of the time I just lie on my partner’s chest to think, walk around to think, take a shower and think, does that also count as my working hours? 

So I came up with another idea. I could write two parts of contents. One is purely mushroom photos or videos; another is purely text claiming I made an artwork out of mushrooms. Then I can make a programme which would allow the net surfers to only access one part of the information. If they clicked one part, they will lose access to another part. And they can’t screenshot or anything. So people can only get the whole story from someone else’s verbal description. Just like some secrets, myths, mantras or spiritual truth, you only can access a part of it through published texts, the core is often preserved orally, and you won’t get proof if they are real. Technically this effect is quite hard to achieve. I did think about using email to send viewers manually about the content, but soon another idea came up. 

There is game called Wikirace. Basically one selects a random page to start, then chooses a destination page which is unrelated to the beginning page. Players can compete to reach the final page within limited time or with the fewest clicks. Interesting thing about this is people who prefer the first method likes to use divergent thinking, where the latter group like to use convergent thinking. Divergent-thinking users generally are less common and they like to reach the goal through exploring many possible solutions. In Wikirace, they would try to find a page with the most links. Convergent thinkers tend to focus on a single answer to a problem, in this case, they would try to use all knowledge they have to find connections between the first and final page. I could let the viewers to begin a game of finding the rest of the work only through Wiki links. The internet browsing behaviour is quite similar to how fungus grow. Unlike human, who only can go one way, fungus branch into all possible ways at once. What if people can’t find the rest of the information? It doesn’t matter, since most of us can’t access the full information of things online anyway, due to the sheer amount of information, and the personalised feed function. 

Thing is, I can’t just create random Wikipedia pages. So I sat there, screaming in my head. I felt like the guy in Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground, starting to pass the line between the sanity and insanity. When I was spraying my mushrooms, which became one of my favourite distracting activities from work, I found some parts of mushrooms grew smaller and less healthy. Feeling sad, I told my partner I would want to give a part of myself for those unhealthy mushrooms. Later I realised those mushrooms share the same network inside the box. They grow towards the part which has the most nutritions. If anything, it means the mushrooms as a whole are pretty vibrant. Maybe I can just write about my failure of writing another boring thing then, as a whole, there is no failure and success, no death and life, no boring art and interesting art. 

I guess this is how I normally spend my day, not much output, a lot of idling around and excuses.

P.s. Not representing any other artist who might be more efficient than me.