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Preliminary Note
When Yesui (Ye Yongqing’s nickname) asked me to write a short essay for the exhibition “Boys and girls”, which he planned to hold in Kunming’s newly restored warehouse, I felt a bit lost. This feeling is not due to lack of familiarity with the artists’ work, rather to the impression that all of us: the curator, the artists and myself, are talking about persons (today’s teenagers) whom we do not really know. All the artists, with the exception of Yang Fan (29), the youngest and the only woman, are in their thirties or forties, therefore can only look at the younger generations from afar. In order to give a voice to today’s teenagers, who are the favorite subject in many of the paintings shown, I have interviewed several students in a Shanghai’s design school. Their answers, recorded on the spot, are here reported faithfully.

What do you think of the relationship between boys and girls?

Wang: (17 years, female) The relationship between boys and girls is very normal, very spontaneous, very friendly.
Tang: (18 year, male) Very spontaneous.
Zhang: (21 year, male) Very natural and spontaneous, but sometimes the parents or the society make it very unnatural and troublesome.

Have you had a boyfriend/girlfriend?
Wang: Yes. I did once: It was a normal feeling, sometimes happy, sometimes sad ... That’s all.
Tang: Yes I have.
Luo: (15 year, female) No. I am not interest in this. I think it is not for people of my age.
Li: (16 year, female) No, no yet, but many of our friends have. I don’t think it is time for that yet. Beside that, I think that love relationship bring a lot of troubles. I’d rather try to reach a peaceful mind and do the things like, rather than to get in this kind of troubles.
Zhang: I do have a girlfriend. I think to have love relationship is something very natural, when it happens it happens, you do not have to force it.

What is the aim of having a partner?
Wang: The aim? Well, I think it is an aim itself-you have to try in order to know what it is.

Is it aimed at marriage?
Wang: Of course not. If you plan to marry you should consider a lot of things, how to take care of your partner, be responsible and so on. To be in love is another thing, it is very free.
Zhang: I think relationship are aimed at marriage. It maybe depends on my education. I think at my age (21) I should be responsible for my partner. Of course, at the beginning you don’t necessarily think so but the slowly you do.

Do you think your parent’s generation view is very different?
Wang: Sure, the difference is great. In the past the society was rather conservative. In the recent years it has been evolving, and it will keep on evolving. My parents are in their forties, and sometimes they have a hard time understanding my way to relate to boys.
Tang: There is a difference, my parents are not very open. They take very seriously things we do not really pay much attention to. For example this earring, my father hates it. For me it does not have any special meaning. For them it does. For me it is only a way to express myself.
Luo: I feel that sometimes there is a gap in the communication, for example sometimes they cannot stand the music I listen to. They find it too noisy.
Zhang: My parents apparently do not understand me, but depth I believe they do. They do not support me nor they are against me. I think it is right. My parents are rather open. Once I tell them my thoughts, they can understand me. They are 46 years old. In some respects, of course, there is some misunderstanding, but we all try hard.
Li: My parents understand me, they are quite open. They try to understand the things I like, and so do I. They both work in design. They are quite old, in their forties.
Wang: I think that the way they look at things is much more complicated that ours. There is a generation gap, even though we all look for material and spiritual satisfaction.
Tang: I feel that the elder generation does not understand the way we use money, the way we spend it.

What hobbies do you have?
Wang: Listening to music, reading, buying things, seeing friends ...
Tang: Sport. Sport and music are my greatest interest. I do like to buy things, and to decide what is the most convenient and fun thing to buy.
Li: To read books, to paint, to write calligraphy, to listen to music. I listen to many kind of music, also classical. I also like to look at cartoons, especially Japanese. I do read them because I want to draw them myself, like many others friends. I think to read novels and read cartoons is different: the novels make you a lot of imagination, in the cartoons you pay attention to the drawing skillfulness.
Luo: To read, to write, to listen to music. Rock, Japanese rock. To surf on the net. I am looking for matters regarding art and music.
Zhang: Sport and painting. I don’t have much time to read, but I like music a lot. I like any kind of music. I do surf on the net, but seldom.
Ma: (17 years, female) I like to listen to music, to read books, to see friends, to see art work, to cook, and so on.

Do you know anything about Chinese contemporary art?
Wang: Not much. I sometimes look at art books and magazines, especially on oil painting, but they are not very contemporary.
Tang: Not much. I do no know much about it. But I do like to look at art books, for instance on drawing ...
Li: We do not know much, we do not have the chance to see much.
Luo: I have seen some. I am interested. I have read some magazines, I find them interesting, sometimes I talk with my classmates about it, I ask them whether they understand something.
Zhang: I do know some of the installation artist, they are pretty famous.

Do you think advertisement influences your way to get dressed, to eat and so on?
Luo: I don’t think so. Today’s advertisements are very extreme, they are not really close to our life. I myself do decide what to wear according to my own taste and my body. We do like to go to Mac Donald, for example, but we do not think the food is great there: is just a meeting point.
Zhang: I think so. We are very young and inexperienced, so we are very easy to be influenced by advertisements.

Material things and spirituality: which is the most important in your opinion?
Tang: I think spirituality, no matter what, is the most important.
Zhang: I think the spirituality is more important. The spiritual part of you can decide the material one. It is not the contrary. But I have the feeling that my schoolmates think differently.

What is your greatest dream/ideal?
Wang: I want to become a designer.
Tang: My ideal is to become a singer, to sing pop music.
Li: I hope to keep on developing my skills. I hope to be able to do what I like.
Luo: I have a lot of dreams, but they are too great. I do not have much hope. For the time being I can only continue with my study, and the best would be to become a famous advertising company’s director.
Zhang: When I was young I had a lot. I mean, few year ago. But now I realize that it is rather difficult to make them become true. Now my dream is to become a successful artist, I would like to be an installation artist like teacher Hu. A successful artist is someone who gets recognition from outside, someone who is able, through art, to express what he wants, and to be understood by others.
Ma: I want to go to Dunhuang. I want to see the grottoes, the desert. It is a dream and it is an approach to art and life. After that, I have other dreams: to study music, to paint better, and so on. My dreams are quite concrete, and I want to get them. (I have asked some people of my age to reply to the same question, and here’s the result, as a reference for the reader)
Zeng: (38 year, male) To be peasant.
Zhuang: (38 year, male) I have no dreams. I had one once, to find the right wife. I had to give it up.
Mo: (38 year, female) To find interest in life, everyday.
Duan: (31 year, female) To be free to do what I like as an artist and not to take part in any art trends.
Wei: (30 year, male) To be able to do the things I like.
Chen: (43 year, female) To understand what means to be born and to die.
Zhou: (46 year, male) To a free person, and to have a comfortable life.
Zeng: (36 year, male) To be a common person.
Zhang: (43 year, male) To have a dream.
Jin: (33 year, female) To have two children and to do well with my company.
Xie: (33 year, female) Not to have to study so hard.
He: (27 year, female) To make a very good dinner which could make my friends very happy.
Wang: (45 year, male) Dream? What is a dream?

Monica Dematte’ Beijing, May 2001

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