Walker Art Center

Bat Project IV
Huang Yong Ping, <span class="wac_title">Bat Project IV</span>

Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project IV
The artist’s concept drawing for Bat Project IV, incorporating the cockpit, bamboo scaffolding, plastic construction fence, and taxidermic bats.
Bat Project 2001-2005
Perhaps it was a coincidence. On May 29, 2001, I was on a flight from Paris to Shanghai to visit the site of a sculpture exhibition in Shenzhen. On the plane I picked up a Chinese newspaper, which had a short article with an eye-catching headline: “EP-3 to Return Home in Crates.” It was on that very day that China and the United States had reached an agreement to dismantle the EP-3 spy plane and to ship it back on an AN-124 cargo plane. Since the collision incident that occurred on April 1, I had been following the development of this situation, and I visited the exhibition site with all this information fresh in my head. In fact, Shenzhen is quite close to Hainan Island, where the spy plane had landed.

In early July, the Americans packed up the dismantled plane and left China, marking an end to this news event. I wanted to keep this event going in China, however, to make it “unfinished,” as if it had a “tail” it could not get rid of.

All political events are easily forgotten, inasmuch as politics is always temporary. Situations are constantly changing; therefore, people forget the old to make room for new developments. When we talk about politics, it is as if we were talking about art. In the same way, when we talk about art, we are always talking about politics at the same time. But art is not politics; it tries to stand up against the course of time and to allow something that is supposed not to be kept to stay there.

This installation involved making a life-size replica of the U.S. EP-3 spy plane, from the middle of the body to the tail, in all twenty meters long. The airplane was cut into three big chunks and then simply left in position. At first sight, the installation looks like a parody or like the shadow of a news event. It also reflects a sign, however, an antithesis to the prevailing globalization and Americanism. The work simply lies there, clear for all to see, and each viewer can have his own opinion of it.

In my view, a dismantled airplane symbolizes above all power and high technology. Instead of showing the decline of power or the incapacity of high technology, it signifies power at its peak and high technology with a bright future, because power at its peak is always linked to its decline, and the omnipotence of high technology cannot be separated from its incapacity.

If the spy plane had been repaired and openly and honorably flown back to the United States, it would have been a rather ordinary and dull ending. When an airplane is dismantled and transported by another aircraft, however, the whole process in itself resembles a “work of art” in my eyes. Very often, real-life situations have opportunities of being turned into “works of art,” but we must wait patiently. “Dismantling” is important, because it’s as if power itself were being deconstructed. The way the Americans dismantled the spy plane was structural and rational, whereas I dismantled the plane in an irrational, nonstructural way. I cut up an airplane as if I were slicing a loaf of bread.

During its realization the project was pulled out by the French organizers before the opening of the exhibition because of fears that it would damage Sino-American and Franco-American relations. Of course, the September 11 incident has made the existence of different voices—previously possible—become impossible. This work has in a certain way confirmed my prediction at the beginning, that the event is not completely finished; it has a kind of “tail” that it has not managed to get rid of. In any case, the “tail” of this airplane remains in China. —HYP

Related Links
High and Dry in the Mojave
Assistant Curator Doryun Chong discusses traveling with Huang Yong Ping in search of an EP-3 for Bat Project IV.

Concepts, Influences & Motifs