The Art Assassin 2

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang, or a portrait of the artist as a young failure…

REVERSE ASSASSINATION: Jim Morris Meets qi peng, Artist

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Photograph of Jim Morris with cigarette. Courtesy of Facebook.

On to the show and here are Jim Morris’ latest details of this “assassination” of THE ART ASSASSIN:

Jim Morris: Why do you call your conceptual portraits Assassinations?

qi peng: To be somewhat facetious, my zodiac sign is Libra, which is the same sign as Lee Harvey Oswald, whom I am pretty sure everyone knows who he is. I also have been a rather huge fan of Don Delillo, particularly the novel Libra and Players, both of which deal with the idea of assassination.

Originally, the moniker of “THE ART ASSASSIN” startled many in the audience about my original intention. Was I trying to shoot artists or art professionals? Obviously not, except perhaps some terrible art (laughs) of which there really isn’t any. The conceptual portraits are called “ASSASSINATIONS” perhaps because of the allure of the difficulty of completing one since each one is a form of collaboration, or as some may put it, collusion perhaps? I feel relieved whenever I receive completed answers into my e-mail’s inbox as I know that the subject had to put in just as much time as I did in formulating the original questions.

So, in many ways, I guess that my assassinations are non-violent in intent and result. There isn’t even any character assassination either. So basically, I think that perhaps it gives the tenor of my artist’s books a feel of the James Bond-like quality of being a normal guy who is fascinated by equalizing the playing field of the contemporary art world and attempting to show the humanity behind each individual, whether they be an art dealer or a museum curator. There won’t be any stereotypes flourishing here.

In conclusion, you could say that I am assassinating the facade or mask of the professional persona to reveal the human character underneath each person. I feel like Balzac in terms of delineating an individual’s worth in the art world regardless of his or her position as seen by others.

Jim Morris: Do you have a conceptual artist that you base this textual interview portrait process on?

qi peng: A few conceptual artists such as Mel Bochner, Jennifer Dalton, William Powhida, Lawrence Wiener, Joseph Kosuth, Mark Lombardi, Mungo Thomson, and John Baldessari all could factor into my interest into many text-based projects. For the humorous side of things, I would choose Eric Doeringer, Sophie Calle who is a definite must, as well as Maurizio Cattelan. For the new media art aspect, I would rank Cory Arcangel as a blessing. I could name drop a lot more influences but hopefully my series will have a unique perspective in trying to blend together conceptual art, which has been seen to be rigorous and mathematical, with a heart.

Jim Morris: Why do you refer to this as a conceptual portrait rather than a journalistic interview? Is this just a matter of semantics or is it more than that?

qi peng: I am not a journalist in any formal sense of the term. Plus I don’t do any fact checking and allow the subject, and occasionally myself, to intersperse small fictions into the overall fabric of the non-fiction aspects. It isn’t a question of semantics but mostly a search into the subjective character of each art professional.

Journalism, whether print or photojournalistic, aspires to seek a humanistic truth within the relationship between the viewer/reader and the actual object whether it be a monograph or article. My aspirations are focused on the thin boundaries between truth and fiction, a deconstruction of the art world hierarchy, and a further understanding of the network that ties people together within this conglomerate that we call the contemporary art market. In some way, I am achieving a mild form of institutional critique in terms of my willingness to accept the system while trying to induce a more democratic look into who the players are within this system. I am fascinated by how some people remain unrecognized by the tastemakers and other crowned by the art critics and published media.

In conclusion, my conceptual portraits are focused on their self-creation just as much as portrayal of the person involved within that segment. I betray potentially every type of bias within my inability to frame objective questions. I prefer to catch the off-beat and the quirks of the individual rather than can my question and response session into the framework of the media’s expectations of what they want the public to perceive the subject to become to the outside world.

Hard-core journalism is hardly postmodern in its veins but poses as such.

Jim Morris: Does the limit of textual scope hinder or help in some ways in finding a more actual portrait?

qi peng: The admixture of new media art, text, and visual cues help to increase the dimensionality of each portrait. It’s so easy to whip out endless paintings of Facebook individuals but much hard to create these “truer” portraits where the viewer can see the actual personality that is embedded within the skin of the subject. I also feel that there is a spiritual dimension that I can capture within each person that can’t be done through lighting or shading.

Each portrait is a hybrid of new media art, text, and appropriated photography. The whole context enriches our own awareness of who these people are within our own lives. How can we relate to them without having met them in real life, for example? Has social networking changed the dynamics of how we define relationships? The art world is truly an economic and social system that thrives on people’s connections and ability to gain trust even if the distance between those persons are not close physically. We can ensure our own existence by trying to help each other while remaining playful and subversive, which are the elements that drive challenging art today.

Jim Morris: How can you know a portrait is truest to life, is it a matter of phrasing the questions in a targeted way or just a matter of feel? Or is it something else?

qi peng: To be succinct, should we strive to worry about whether a portrait is truest to life? What is truth? Honestly, I believe in trying to avoid pigeonholing any particular character that I “paint” and focus on the emotions and intellectual thrust of the interaction between the artist of “qi peng” and the personage being examined.

My questions are going to betray bias no matter what. And I am not worried because as long as realize that the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction are non-existent then I think we can become vigilant of our interest in this two-way communication and its structural framework rather than the minute details only.

Jim Morris: Is there anything else you would like to say about your work, your artist intent, and/or its significance?

qi peng: I appreciate your asking me these questions and supporting the endeavor of the interview portraits. It will be awesome to see the interview portrait that you execute or bang-bang of myself.

The significance and intent of these interview portraits or faux assassinations are the merging of social networking with various conceptual art projects. I think that new media art can become too focused on the technology so that the methodology is too predominant and I am hoping that these portraits can shift the balance of power back to the underlying humanism of it all.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

May 20, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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