郑国谷最近的画册《跳出三界外，不在五行中》是以“我的老师”— 一张拍摄艺术家自己蹲在马路旁和一个痴癫的流浪汉一起大笑的照片 — 作为封面的图像。艺术家尊称为老师的这个年轻人实际上是来自阳江乡下的一个流浪汉，他作为一个偶然的相遇，与其它许多偶发的事件一样，成为郑国谷很多艺术 计划和作品的创作灵感来源。 朋友、家庭、日常用品、社会事件、工作经验、博物馆 ……任何与艺术家个人生活有关的东西都可以融入到他的艺术创作中，让人感到阳江这个华南的沿海城市就是这位特殊艺术家的一块大型的艺术实验地。但是“我的 老师”并不仅仅是一个题材和灵感的触发，同时也是一种观念化了的艺术形象的体现：反常的癫狂和思维的错乱所导致的自我的社会边缘化。通过与这样的精神状态 的接触，郑国谷得以深入社会现实的边缘与平时不可见的事实。就如同在他与胡昉的一次访谈里提到的那样：“反正是假设的，不是真实的，跟现实没有什么关系， 但又是在现实中发生。” 1 思想的癫狂所导致的与社会的紧张状态看来正好符合艺术家艺术创作的需要，而一个边缘的地理位置也是如此。对于郑国谷来说，阳江作为一个自然的净化系统，是 一个可以让他静下心来投入思考的理想的地方。2 距离与边缘性意味着闲暇，恣意，和游戏，它们都是郑国谷作品里的重要的元素。然而，即使他在有意地追求距离和疏离和边缘性，但他总是能够贴近与抓住大众媒 介和流行文化的本质，而中国快速变化的社会情态和日常生活的每一个方面都是他的兴趣所在和关注的对象。从这个方面来说，郑国谷的行为更像是一个当代的文 人：在自由自在中创作，但对时代保持高度的敏感，就像他自己说的那样：“不会为一些病态的事情担忧，整天精力旺盛肯定无所事事，什么都不做，什么都干得出 来。” 3
在北京当代唐人艺术的空间里，郑国谷将要实现他的作品“加工厂”，一个把光学仪器的生产车间复制搬到艺术空间里的具有真实功能的装置。工人们将在这个空间 里生产光学仪器。唯一能暗示这是一件艺术作品而不是一个真正的工厂的因素就是位于当代唐人艺术中心的空间， 还有来此的那些艺术公众， 以及来自上一个展览的照片的喷绘油画。这些线索使得这种场景的不确定性清晰了一些：到底是地点改变了行为的性质还是行为改变了展览空间的属性？场景的挪移 的实现在这里把“加工厂”简约为一个虚构。如果我们和郑国谷一起把艺术设想为一个能够让假设和构想得以成为现实的手段和空间，那么一个被移植到这样一个虚 构的环境里的现实将只能是一种假设。联系到中国的经济政策和发展的现实，包括最近的文化政策 – 加强文化创意产业的发展 – 郑国谷的作品尤其具有一种批判的意义和立场。
阳江青年：哦，是他。 他不会像我这样。我的家就是蹲在马路边，住在马路边好凉快的。现在他盖大房子了、盖庄园、盖皇帝的花园。他的皇帝没有我的大。我到处住，到处睡，到处都有房子， 到处都有花园，不用付钱的。
天娜：你觉得 郑国谷从你那儿学到的 是什么东西 ?
阳江青年 : 他学到不想像我这样，阳江的郑国谷都知道不能像我这样。 阳江刚刚大地震了，要盖核电站了，最大的核电站。 核电站很厉害， 可以压住大地震。 嘿嘿，这样好了， 心不震了。
阳江青年：阳江很热，什么都长，什么都活，你看我，不用穿衣服，到处检到好吃的、好喝的。我不用干活，到处飘来飘去。 谁都认识我，我也认识谁。阳江有很多打劫的，没有人打劫我。阳江有很多人失业的，没有人让我失业 。阳江有很多人赌博的，没有人敢跟我赌。什么都看见了， 昨天看见了、今天看见了、明天看见了、后天看见了。
天娜：就是海市蜃楼嘛。 阳江那么边缘， 很特别， 看来它可以引起一种超现实的神经，……
阳江青年：“一切都是有用的，没有浪费， 像一个大循环一样，经济，环保。” 如果都像我这样，不但对艺术家来讲可能性很多，在这里的每个人的可能性都很多。在这里可能以后更多的人都像我这样，我是他们的老师。
Zheng Guogu, Circuit of Endless Possibilities
Zheng Guogu’s recent catalogue « Jumping out of Three Dimensions, Staying Outside five Elements”, shows as cover image “Me and My Teacher” a photo of the artist squatting on the road next to a foolishly laughing youth. The meeting with this exceptional teacher, actually Yangjiang city’s village lunatic, is like many random encounters and coincidences a trigger for Zheng’s projects and art works. Friends, his family, objects, activities, work experience, museums, everything that is related to the artist’s life can be implicated in and leave traces in his creation. It is as if the peripheral southern-Chinese provincial town of Yangjiang was a large laboratory for this outstanding artist. But “my teacher” is not only subject and trigger, but also a kind of conceptual guiding figure: the lunatic’s abnormal, disrupted state of mind puts him at the margins of society. Connecting to this state of mind allows Zheng to obtain a marginal position in regards to reality and restricting facts, too. As he mentions in an interview with Hu Fang “In art you can make an assumption that is not true and yet you can make it take place in reality.”1 A lunatic state of mind engendering disruption with reality therefore seems desirable for a person dealing with artistic creation. The same is true for a marginal geographic position. For Zheng Guogu, Yangjiang, which he describes as a natural cleansing system allowing him to contemplate all day long, is the most appropriate location for an artist.2 Distance through marginality implies leisure, arbitrariness, and game, which are all important elements in Zheng’s artistic practice. Yet, even though he seeks distance and dissociation on a practical level, he nevertheless requests proximity and association in what concerns content: mass media, pop culture, and the reflections of China’s fast changing reality on all levels and in all facets of everyday life are subject to his interest. In this respect, Zheng Guogu acts like a contemporary literati: creating with leisure, but being concerned with the crucial topics of his time. As he states: “We are occupied with nothing, and yet we dare to do anything (…).”3
For Tang Contemporary Zheng Guogu realises “Processing Factory” (加工厂), the replica of a factory for optical instruments, a replica that is nevertheless functional. Employees occupy the space and produce optical instruments. The only hints that this is an art work and not a real factory are its location within an art gallery, the visitors, which are evidently an art public, as well as models of workers and spray-painted reproductions of photos taken of former exhibitions of the work. These clues diminish the ambivalence of the given situation: does the location transform the activity or the activity the location? Yet, the actual dislocation created here reduces “Processing Factory” to a mere assumption. If we consider with Zheng art as the place where assumptions and hypothesis, can become reality, then a reality placed within such a hypothetical field, changes into nothing but an assumption. Having in mind China’s economic policy and development, including the recent agenda of cultural policy – the enhancement of creative industries – Zheng’s work obtains a particularly critical stance.
I went to Yangjiang several months ago to speak to Zheng Guogu’s teacher. I include below a transcription of the short conversation we had.
Martina: You are a Yangjiang youth, and you are Zheng Guogu’s teacher. How did you meet Zheng Guogu?
Yangjiang youth: Which Zheng Guogu? In Yangjiang there are many Zheng Guogus.
Martina: Well, the one who is now moving earth and trees, planting flowers and plants, the one who is making art.
Yangjiang youth: Oh, you mean that one. He wants to be different from me. My home means squatting on the street. Living on the street is very nice and cool. Now he is building a house, an estate, a garden of empire. But his emperor is not as big as mine. I live everywhere, sleep everywhere, have a house everywhere, have a garden everywhere and don’t need to pay.
Martina: What do you think did Zheng Guogu learn from you?
Yangjiang youth: He learned that he should not aim to resemble me. All the Zheng Guogu’s in Yangjiang know that they should not be like me. There has just been a big earth quake in Yangjiang. Now they build a big nuclear power station, the biggest nuclear power station. Nuclear power stations are strong, they can suppress earth quakes. Like this, it is fine, the heart does not shake.
Martina: You know, a long time ago, Zheng Guogu also planted geese. It is a famous art work.
Yangjiang youth: I told him, in the eyes of a goose, everything appears very small, even a nuclear power station; a goose is not afraid of a nuclear power station. The eyes of Yangjiang people are goose eyes. They are not afraid, of nothing, not of heaven and earth, not of man.
Martina: All the Yangjiang people I know really love Yangjiang, as if it was the centre of the world.
Yangjiang youth: In the Ming dynasty China was the richest country in the world. One night in Yangjiang, there was a big earth quake; an entire island disappeared in the sea. Now the city is in the ocean. Now China is also the richest country in the world. One night Yangjiang will again fly into the sea. Then everybody in the world will know Yangjiang. Then it will be the centre of the world. Yangjiang youths know tomorrow, they know that it is enough if they eat and drink well, if it is good looking and pleasant.
Martina: Apparently, everything in Yangjiang is of use, nothing is spoilt; like a big circuit, very economical and ecological …
Yangjiang youth: It is very hot in Yangjiang. Everything grows, everything can have life. Look at me; I even don’t need to wear clothes! Everywhere I can find something to eat and to drink, I don’t need to work; can be here and there …. I know everybody and everybody knows me. There are many robbers in Yangjiang, but nobody is robbing me. In Yangjiang there are many unemployed people, but nobody will make me unemployed. In Yangjiang many people are gambling, but nobody dares to gamble with me. I see everything: yesterday, today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
Martina: Well, this is like a mirage. Yangjiang is very marginal and special. I feel it can generate a kind of surrealist mental state …
Yangjiang youth: Yes, this is my case. Many Zheng Guogus are like this, and many Zhou Xingcis are also like this, too.
Martina: Like this, there are many possibilities for artists.
Yangjiang youth: I have to pee …
MARTINA: Just like this …
Yangjiang youth: “Everything in Yangjiang is of use, nothing is spoilt; like a big circuit, very economical and ecological …” If everybody was like me, there would be many possibilities, and not only for artists. Here everybody has many possibilities. Maybe, later everybody here will be like me, because I am their teacher.
Martina Köppel-Yang, Paris, December 2007