一、

我凝视着这张地图。

这张地图是清朝时云南的水利官员黄士杰绘制的,他在图中详细描绘了云南省城昆明附近的六条主要水系,将其源流清晰梳理出来,为后人治水提供了依据。

而现在,我凝视着这张地图。这确乎是我的故乡昆明,我能辨认出城市和滇池,能辨认出地图中出现的某些河道,某些地点的名称。但这种指认却似是而非:昆明的城墙在上世纪五十年代时就已经被拆除,而城市也早已扩张,甚至超出了这张地图的边界。滇池如今还在,但却被上世纪七十年代时的围湖造田填埋了大片的水面。河流也已面目全非。宝象河和马料河的主河道基本没变,但下游的支流却大部分已经消失,海源河和金汁河的某些河段已经被砌入地下,而银汁河则彻底消失了:它从源头流出后就直接进入了城市的下水道。盘龙江作为流经昆明城最大的河流,倒是几乎没有大的变化,甚至河道上的某些桥梁还保留至今,但河边的建筑和地景必然已经彻底改变。我曾看过清朝末年法国领事方苏雅镜头下的昆明,和今天相比,那几乎是另一个世界。而可幸的是,这个世界被黄士杰的地图描绘下来,空间被从时间的河流中抽离出来,凝固在纸上变为平面。而今,发黄的纸面让我得以凝视和想象,让我感觉到某种乡愁。通过再现,空间征服了时间。

这种征服却须付出代价。当时间的移位被抹除时,空间被再现所固化。那些偶然的,弹性的,具有张力和生命的变化中的关系,全部变成了二维平面上一成不变的线条,变成了想象中的内在永恒秩序,变成了某种恒常和必然,变成了某种更为物质化的东西。我是否能够追溯回这曾经流逝的瞬间?不能,因时间之矢永远向前。我无法回到这个空间,也无法回到我曾存在过的任何空间。或许,地图之上的昆明确乎不是我的故乡,这种无根的乡愁,最终只能指向我的自身。

如果承认这种永恒的变化,空间将不再具有稳定的结构,如艾略特所说:“我的开始之日就是我的结束之时”。过去和未来的空间只能在时间的维度上被连续的展开。而在这过去和未来的夹缝之中,当下的位置在何处?对当下的再现——抑或说表征——是否真的不再具有可能性?这是我整个项目的缘起,也是我试图解决的问题。

 

二、

在这种对时间-空间的表征中,我需要一个参照物。何者在此时空之流中保持不变?我选择了盘龙江。

盘龙江是流经昆明最长的一条河流,在昆明建城之前就已存在。在我小的时候,我曾经多次试图骑车去寻找它的源头,但都失败了。它虽然只有不到一百公里长,但这个长度仍然超出了我当时所能达到的范围。然而,在这一次次的探寻中,我在不断的扩展着我生命世界中已知空间的边界,那些存在于地图上和想象中的空间,成为了我所能认知的地点。我至今记得蜿蜒的水泥道路穿过郊外宽阔的稻田,河流在道路的旁边无限延伸向前。

如今,能够辨认的却只剩盘龙江。城市已经变得如此之大,将往日的城郊与乡村统统吞并。曾经的稻田中,高楼拔地而起。在古典时代,时间曾凝滞不前,“一代老去,一代又来,大地却依然如故。”而现在,恒常不变的或许只剩下恒常的改变。空间也不再是稳固的——或许它从来也就不是稳固的。它在时间的维度上被利用,转化为某种迅速变化的地点,进而转化为转瞬即逝的价值,“一切坚固的东西都烟消云散了”。

在更大的尺度上,河流却依然是那条河流。它从源头的深山峡谷中流出,穿过群山,流进平原,穿过城市,最后流入滇池。空间的秩序被河流缓慢而坚定的注入了时间的顺序,变成了一次奇异的旅程。这逐一展开的空间似乎也成为了某种对时间的隐喻:森林变为农田,农田变为城郊,城郊变为城市。唯一未变的只剩下了河流本身。

然而,这样的叙述也经不起推敲,因为河流本身也是时间形塑的产物。在盘龙江的北边,是被称为长虫山的蜿蜒山脉,其嶙峋的山脊是经过风化的二叠系的石灰岩——这是海洋的沉积。三亿年前,这是一片浅海,没有山脉,没有河流。而在时间的洗礼后,海洋抬升变为陆地,地层断裂隆起,再在千万年的风化后形成今天的山脉与河流。而如今,长虫山上的灰岩被人类开采,变为石块,变为水泥,进而变为了我们的城市。时间就这样从均质中创造出了多样性,从虚无中创造了空间。

想象中亘古长存之地,当然是处在不停的变化之中。于是,空间成为了遗址的呈现,这些遗址来自于不同的时间。五亿三千万年前的生命痕迹沉睡在不断更新的河流旁边,今日的城市建立在昨日的废墟之侧。在这并不永恒的河流之上,百年前的古桥静静躺在今日的钢筋混凝土大桥的近旁,而那些被速朽材料所构成的物件,则只能留下短暂的擦痕,再消失在时间的流逝中。但在它们尚未消逝之时,这些时间之遗迹已在当下相遇。而我在当下与它们相遇。

 

三、

我在当下与这条河流相遇,正如我曾经一次次的与它相遇。这是我生命不可逆的时空轨迹与河流生命的时空轨迹的相遇。这样的相遇充满了偶然性,因为它处在此时,此地,我们从不同的时间走来,最终纠缠在一起。它不再是地图上的那条蓝线,不再是三维坐标系中那个标记,而成为了我眼前的河流,它在这里流淌着,它在我眼前流淌着。我来到它的源头,看着清澈的细流从泉眼中涌出。此刻,我明白,这条细流将与其他细流汇合,和黑龙、黄龙汇合,和冷水河汇合,和其它没有名字的源头汇合,然后成为盘龙江,成为不断流过我生命的这条河流。它会在旱季清澈见底,会在雨季裹挟着泥沙,有时也会漫过堤岸,淹没道路、农田和城市。

在河流所展开的空间中,我和其他人相遇了,我们共同构造着这个空间,这条河流。或许,我们都是偶然在此。放羊的老人说着土话,在讲述露水秀才的故事;寻蜂的大哥将我从雨季的急流中救起,之后,我们一次次走在江边的山林中;退休的卡车司机拿着萨克斯,吹奏起曾经的歌谣;我和高中同学又来到寒武纪的地层剖面,用地质锤砸开五亿年前的信息;经历了对越战争的老兵和他的狗伫立江岸;外地的缠脚老太太碰巧在此经过;失地的农民在建筑工地上扛起了水桶……我们都是自己生命时空中的那个中心,我们的边界在此相遇,在这条河流所构成的时空中相遇,不同的时间轨迹从不同的地方走来,终于汇合于此,共同形塑为这条河流的记忆,成为了它的当下。

最终,当下在这样的时空纠缠中被展现。时间在空间中被表征,而空间也在时间中被形塑。这是不可分割的滚滚时空之流,裹挟着来自于不同的历史之中的遗迹,汇聚在这同一个时间和空间点之上。我以自己的生命时空和它在此相会。在这样的张力中,我们终于指认了彼此,完成了对彼此的命名。这条河流是盘龙江,时间之河,空间之河。

 

2015.1.28.

1.

I’m gazing upon the “six major rivers in Kunming”.

​The map was made by an ancient hydrologist (Huang Shijie) in Qing Dynasty. In the map, Huang illustrated the major rivers and their branches around Kunming, detailed their sources, which later became a reference for later generations.

Now I’m gazing upon the map. The yellowish paper and the ancient map itself catalyze a sudden nostalgia in me. It sounds like the map was about my hometown, Kunming, as I could clearly find out the city and Dianchi Lake, which is the largest lake to the southwest of Kunming. I could somewhat find out some river branches and some places, but I could hardly figure out where many places are – the wall of the city had been dismantled in the 20th century, and the city itself had grown to a size way more than in Qing Dynasty. A similar scenario happened on finding out the ancient river channels. Among the ancient channels, the Baoxiang River and the Maliao River had only left part of its branches; the Haiyuan River and the Jinzhi River had partly gone underground; the Yinzhi River had been directed into the city’s drainage system and therefore disappeared. Despite numerous alterations on the smaller river branches, the Panlong River had remained. The Panlong River is the largest river in Kunming. And probably because of that, its waterway had been best preserved, even including some ancient bridges. However, even being the best-preserved river, the landscapes along the river has been changed drastically. As a result, the city of Kunming today is totally a different world compared to the photos taken in the late Qing Dynasty. Fortunately, the ancient city had been nicely documented on the map; therefore we would have a chance to access it even hundreds of years later. Through representing the city in maps, the ancient city space has been taken out of its time constrain and stand on its own. In other words, space has conquered time through setting up such representation.

However, such conquest comes with a price. While the time dimension is removed, space is fixed in its representation. Therefore many instantaneous, vibrant moments and activities have become lines and boundaries in a two-dimensional surface; or a deterministic and even materialistic representation. Any possibilities I can trace back these sparkling moments? Probably not, as the time always moves on. I can neither trace back to the ancient space, nor to any spaces that had ever lived in. Consequently, the ancient space illustrated on the map should not be my hometown. And my emerging nostalgia could only be a self-reflection.

Nevertheless we have to accept the constantly changing nature of space, and therefore space could never be fully represented. No space could be represented without a time dimension. In such a sophisticated time-space complex, how can we define the present? In order to answer this question, I started investigating the time and space and their interactions through naming the Panlong River.

 

2.

The Panlong River is less than 100 km in length, and is the cradle of Kunming’s civilization. When I was young, I used to search for its source. Although all my trials failed, my known territory had expanded drastically through numerous searching experiences. Instead of imaginary spaces on the ancient map, now the streets and rivers became real places that I had visited. I can still remember the scenes while I was searching the sources of the river, like rice paddies lying by the endless concrete road and beside the water. I thought the landscape could be there forever as described in the Bible: “One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever”. As I grown up, the city has expanded to almost twice its size. Within these few decades, the previous rice paddies rapidly turned into houses and then skyscrapers. The change in space is so rapid that I could not even know whether the place still exists without a timeframe. The only thing that that remains in the region is the Panlong River.

The river originates from the mountain ridges to the north of Kunming. Streams run down from the mountain forests; join with many other branches and pass through the rice paddies; flow through the suburbs; across the Kunming city; and finally flow into Lake Tien. With the flowing of the river, the spaces upstream and downstream are sequenced into a timely order. The sequential space alone the river also illustrates a metaphor in parallel -- forests to farmlands, farmlands to suburbs, and suburbs to cities; similar to the landscape evolution in time. And the only thing that remains unchanged could be the river itself.

However, in geological timescale, even the river evolves naturally. The river could have never existed in the Permian system. Millions of years ago, the place where Kunming is could have been an ocean basin. With millions of years’ evolution, the oceanic crust uplifted into continents; mountains were built; and then rivers were formed. As evidence of the geological evolution, fossils of marine lives could be found in the limestone on Snake Mountain, implying the mountain used to be underwater. Today, the limestone is mined as a raw material for making concrete. Concrete was used to build up the city. As such, materials of various origins were added into space. As time goes by, more and more multiplicities were added.

Materials from various time points multiply into one space. Therefore different time points could be traced today in a spatial format. For example, along the naturally evolving river, I found the rock with fossils lying beside the water habitat for today’s snails; I discovered the ancient arch bridges on the river next to concrete bridges; I witnessed the old buildings standing side by side of new skyscrapers. The durable materials could trace the longer time in the past. In contrast, the endurable materials could only represent a relatively short period and then disappear. I think this is why the past could never be represented accurately on a map. However, I could meet the present with traces of the past in various time-snaps.

 

3.

I meet the present Panlong River, with all the traces from the past. It is like my irreversible path of life encounters the time and space of the river. Now the river is no longer lines and boundaries in the map, but a river flowing in front of me -- the river that is crystal clear during dry seasons, and muddy during wet seasons; the river that could sometimes flood the rice paddies, the concrete roads and the city. I finally trace the river to its source, looking at water running down the mountains. From then on, the stream will merge with many other streams; and finally become the Panlong River -- the river that flows through my life.

Within the path of the river, I meet with other people. We all accidentally run into the space and time that the river reaches. The good shepherd told me the legends in the local dialect. The bee seeker pulled me out from the turbulent water, and walked with me in the jungles along the river. The retired truck driver played the old songs using his saxophone. The veteran steered at the flowing water with his dog. The former farmer whose land was lost due to urbanization started working in the construction site. My friend who is a geologist and I went to seek the fossils from Cambrian outcrops. We all have different life paths, and we meet along the river. Our life paths, the changing environments, and the constant evolving river together build up the present.

Finally, the present is illustrated through interweaving space and time. Space is modulated as time goes, and time is represented by various traces in space. This sophisticated space-time complex illustrates the present. And the present emerges in my life. I finally could project the river within my lifetime and my living quarters as most personal pieces. These pieces of my treasure are specimens of the river in various time/space dimensions. They interweave and consolidate into the Panlong River-- a river of space, a river of time.

 

2015.1.28.

Wootton_CZ-ZKM_TWW1086-87_hires s.jpg
Wootton_CZ-ZKM_TWW1083_hires s.jpg

"Critical Zones. Observatories for Earthly Politics", © ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, 2020. photo: Tobias Wootton

微信图片_20200521123937.jpg

"UN/CONVENTIONAL"  © OCAT Shanghai, Shanghai,2020

"Notes on Region"  © Contemporary Gallery Kunming, Kunming, 2018

"The Imaginations of a Museum"  © J-Gallery, Shanghai, 2018