I found out that Star Gallery had an open time slot in October, so I thought hey why not get people together and do a show. I didn’t know what it would be about. Then I remembered a four-frame comic strip I’ve read. It goes like this: I often find artists who draw better than I do. I’d think: Fuck. And then I realize they are younger than me. I’d think: Fuck they are the post-nineties generation. How am I supposed to live now? I’d start hating myself: I’m old, I’m done for. But I always end up in front of my desk, finally making something good. Then I’d think of myself as the best of the best, the king of the world.” This is the building and collapsing of narcissism, a process in which I’ve grown up.

I recall seeing an impressive documentary about Robert Crumb which inspired me to categorize narcissism into three types:

Type I: The abused, unrecognized and marginalized Genius who ends up breaking away from society—a born narcissist.

Type II: The self-aware and self-protecting narcissist who, though initially victimized, ends up gaining recognition from society. But after such long-term repression, all that he wants now is to take, not to give.

Type III: The compulsive narcissist, subsisting on conscious or unconscious self-deception that is narcissism.

I’m glad to realize that I’m no genius but more like a mix of Type II and III. I admire and aspire to many figures of the third type. In fact, narcissism—healing, hypnotic, and hallucinating—has helped me get through a lot of difficult times and made a stronger character out of me. I was in still college when I first wrote to my heroine, Anke Feutchtenberg, who replied in praise of my drawings. I was so full of myself as to believe that we were on the same page, her validation suggesting that I could possibly catch up on or even surpass her. I would immediately show the works that I like to people in hope of getting their approval and reinforcing my self-confidence. I would even send out things I don’t like and secretly sneer at those whose criticism lacks insight. It is after gaining a sense of superiority that I can finally examine my own work and come up with an adequate judgment. In short, I’m quite self-absorbed, but also constantly absorbing and digesting other things so as not to be defeated.

I have invited several artists in whose work I see a strong narcissistic tendency. They are: anusman, Tianzhuo Chen, Da Gua, Jin Ningning, Song Kun, Wen Ling, Wu Qing, Xie Qi, and Zhang Wen.

Wen Ling is a genius, but often thought of as technically unrefined. People don’t know how harsh he is on his own work, nor does he care about what they have to say. My good friends Jin Ningning and Zhang Wen are a mix of Type I and II, keen on being praised but apathetic towards the audience’s opinions. I find anusman’s works to be lonesome soliloquies or performances of monopolylogue. Song Kun is almost a synonym to “narcissism”—she continues to observe herself and record what she believes to be memorable moments. Her installations resemble private collections that are completely undisturbed by the outer world. I’ve found Xie Qi’s portraits of Fan Qihui very moving, and this time she is presenting four paintings directed related to the sensual experiences of sexual organs. For his tattoo project, Tianzhuo Chen gives out tattoo designs to volunteers on weibo and collect pictures of the tattoos once they are done. I don’t know how many volunteers he has managed to find, but using people’s bodies as canvas for his work is certainly a narcissistic move. I still recall Da Gua’s photographs of her classmates dancing and faking death, but the joyful sentiments of those college years have completely gone missing in her later work. She has taken pictures of students—her nostalgia for the lively time of youth; of adults—a somewhat critical observation of their plain, mechanical life; and of herself in a state of confusion—documenting the process of change and growth, which makes her more courageous than Wen Ling. I don’t know if this counts as self-protective narcissism, but it certainly portrays her fear and loneliness without the sense of belonging. Plus, there’s the poet Wu Qing. I’ve heard a lot about him but read little of his poetry. Nonetheless I love two of his short stories:

Tell You About A Video

There was a time when I was crazy about the video ‘Big White Mice’. I used to sit in my house and watch it at midnight, five or six times at least. I always turned off the light, lay on my crappy couch, smoking and drinking, and made Kangshifu instant noodles when I got hungry. All was quite at the time. A bit chilly too. I had to go to the bathroom each time I watched it, sometimes to pee and other times to poop, which had become a habit of mine—squatting down, smoking, even pooping a little. The more I thought about it the more excited I got. Eventually I gathered enough courage to call Duo Zi. As soon as she picked up I would say: “Sorry to wake you up. This is Wu Qing. I wanna tell you about a video ‘Big White Mice’. It’s so good. So damn good. ” “You called to tell me yesterday.” She said. “Seriously, it’s so good. Did you see it?” I said. “No I didn’t. Anything else you wanna say?“ Duo Zi said. “No.” I said. “You really have to see it!”

L’ami de mon amie

I called my girlfriend at midnight. “Did I wake you up? ” I asked. “This is Wu Qing. I wanna tell you about this video ‘Big White Mice’. It’s so good. So damn good.” “Oh. You already called to tell me yesterday. ” Duo Zi said. “Seriously, it’s so good. Did you see it?” I said. “No I didn’t. Anything else you wanna say?“ Duo Zi said. “No.” I said. “You really have to see it! ” I added. I heard another man’s voice and asked Duo Zi who he was. She did not respond.

Suddenly the man’s voice came out of the receiver: “Hello, who’s that? I’m asking who’s that?” “I’m Duo Zi’s boyfriend.” The man said. A while later, I said: “Hi, have you seen the video ‘Big White Mice’?” “I have. The ‘Big White Mice’. It’s so good.”

I started to believe that the “I” in the stories belonged to Type III which I most admire. But as I thought about it today, I realized that he is probably a Type I or II, a narcissist who urgently needs recognition. How pathetic

——Curator, Yan Cong