About The Book
After trying hard to turn his son into a great oil painter, Wan Shu was flabbergasted when Wan Yi decided to go off and do performance art instead. And nowadays, Yi and his two foreign friends were planning “Cycle”, a show in Peace Square where they’d get medical personnel to draw two 500 ml bags of blood from each of them and inject it into the next person.
Believing that their son had really crossed the line this time, Shu and his wife planned an elaborate ruse, threatening to jump from a building if he did the show. But nowhere did they expect that Yi would find this a great idea for his next performance…
Were it not for his son, Wan Shu probably wouldn’t have heard about performance art; and boy, was he confused why these crazy ‘performances’ were considered art at all. But despite condemnations from himself and the government, Yi’s picture was featured prominently on magazines, his face framed by those weird, wriggling letters that pervade foreign media. Yi had even left China a few times to be interviewed. For what, you ask? To talk ‘art’.
Trying to save face, though, Shu only told his neighbors and colleagues about how great his son was and avoided the more concerning details. To them, he could finally sleep easy, his son finding huge success as an ‘international art icon’. But really, he was worried to death that Yi would go and get himself killed. So worried, in fact, that his teeth would ache and he had trouble getting sleep at night!
And now, he was in worse shape, having heard about Yi’s upcoming performance. Yi and his two friends from South Africa and Sweden were planning a show called “Cycle”, where they’d meet with medical personnel in Peace Square to rig up their veins and transfer two 500 ml bags of blood from one person to the next. And sure, the process seemed easy enough on the surface, but it was really quite complicated, and Shu saw danger every step of the way. His biggest concern was whether or not these foreigners had any weird diseases. But he also found the whole thing pointless –Yi was already fine as is, so why would he potentially ruin his health by getting a blood transfusion? To Wan Shu, this wasn’t ‘performance art’ – this was nutjob art.
His wife yelled from the bedroom, wanting him to check again for Yi. But he saw nobody on the street when he stuck his head out the window.
Returning to their bedroom, his wife raised her head up from beneath the sheets: “He’s still not back?”
Shu gave a heavy sigh and said nothing.
“Well!?” she questioned, sitting up. “I’m going to die! Get him home, now!”
Wan Shu remained still.
“Well, if you’re not getting him, I am!” She threw the covers to the side and looked for her slippers around the bed, but could only find one.
Shu gawped as she bent down over and over trying to find her slipper. Then when she looked up and saw him like that – oblivious that he should hurry up and help her – she scoffed and ran barefoot into the living room.
When his pager rang, Wan Yi was busy ‘talking’ to his foreign friends. Really, he had just about mastered as much English as they could learn living in China for a month; all they could do was gesture to one another, which was not only tiresome, but ridiculous to watch as well.
The message on his pager read: “Dad’s threatening to jump. Come home at once. – Mom”
Figuring it was another trick to get him back home, Yi ignored the message. Finding his friend still paused mid-gesture, he shrugged and continued their conversation.
It was only when his older sister paged him that he decided to call home. And boy did she sound furious – dad must really mean it this time! Grabbing his bag to go, he thought again about how as soon as his shows were about to debut, something would always ‘happen’ at home demanding his immediate return. Hell, his mom even paged him at noon saying she was sick!
Wan Yi knew that his parents (especially his dad) found no reason for his success, so they thought his accomplishments in performance art utterly meaningless. And as always, they’d go out bragging about his achievements in public but be worried sick over his ‘beautiful, false image’ at home.
Ever since he was a kid, his father truly believed he could become a great painter and that success was only a matter of time. So naturally, it was an emotional backhand to discover his son was ‘throwing away’ ten years of painting ability to pursue performance art. To be honest, Yi only wanted a brief change of artistic expression and planned to continue oil painting in his spare time. But to Shu, that was a bag of nonsense.
Back at home, Wan Shu was pacing the roof of their apartment complex, hands folded behind his back. He thought about how in the ten years they lived here, he’d never seen this place from so high up. And everything seemed so wide and open that he felt his anxieties melt away into the hustle and bustle of life below. “Damn,” he thought, “Why didn’t I take walks up here sooner?”
His sublime feeling was interrupted not too long after, though. His wife was down below, craning her neck as she yelled: “Are you ready? Can we start now!?”