Memory Cycle─Hua Yong’s June 4th Performance Art

On June 4, 2012, Hua Yong, an artist,
cut his finger with a knife and wrote 6 4 on his forehead with his bleeding finger. Polices immediately surrounded him and took him away. Later he was put into detention under the Crime of Provocation. Now, he is under Reeducation through Labour, a penalty for punishing those who commit minor crimes in China. In June 2012, Hua Yong lost his freedom and has to do penal labor for refusing to forget the Tian’anmen incident happened on June 4, 1989 with his performance art.

On June 4, 2011, Hua Yong did a similar performance art in Tian’anmen Square. He punched his nose hardly until it started to bleed, then he dipped his finger with his blood and wrote六四 (Six Four in Chinese) on his forehead. He called this performance art “Memory Cycle”. Police took him and his photographers away and released them after questioning.

June 4, 2011, Tian’anmen Square, photo courtesy of Hua Yong

One of Hua Yong’s photographers, artist Guo Zhenming transcribed the dialogues between the police and four artists about the June 4,  2011 performance art on his blog, “Shouldn’t you abridge my right to enjoy the pain?” (in Chinese) 

Scene 1: Police car Tian’anmen Squre

Plain cloth police A: Why you hit your own nose? Hei, you!

Hua Yong: ————————(silence)

Police B: Why you hit yourself?

Hua Yong: ————————(silence)

Young plain cloth C: Say, Why you hit yourself?

Hua Yong: ————————(silence)

Middle-aged plain cloth (gave signal to other plain cloth polices): You all get off.

Middle-aged plain cloth: What’s wrong with you? Hit yourself? I have been a police for more than ten years, never seen? Say, why? (took out a cigarette box, offered cigarette to Hua Yong. Hua Yong asked him to offer them to his three photographers brothers)

Middle-aged plain cloth: Why you wanted to hit your own nose?

Hua Yong: I want to have a talk with the nine members of the Politburo.

Middle-aged plain cloth: What do you want to talk with them? Politburo members are quite busy.

Hua Yong: I want to make suggestions; it is to make advice, because I feel that our country is under crisis.

Middle-aged plain cloth: Then you can talk with me!

Hua Yong: I do not think your position is high enough to talk with me, you even did not show me your police card!

Middle-aged plain cloth police: Ok, I will show it to you1 (suggested Hua Yong to have a look at his police card, which wrote, vice-director of one sub-branch of Tian’anmen Bureau)

Hua Yong: I only want to talk with the top.

Middle-aged plain cloth: You can talk with me first!

Hua Yong: Look, how beautiful the sunshine is! Are you satisfied with the country?

Middle-aged plain cloth: This——————

Hua Yong: How much do you earn monthly?

Middle-aged plain cloth: 2000 yuan. (RMB)

Hua Yong: 2000 yuan for one month, can you live in Beijing?

Middle-aged plain cloth (pointing to another plain cloth): He can prove it.

Hua Yong: See, how corrupted the country is. A relative of the Railway Ministry officer can make several billions.

Middle-aged plain cloth: He was caught!

Scene 2: Culture Palace Public Security Office of Beijing Tian’anmen Public Security Sub-branch

Police: Education level?

Hua Yong: Senior high school.

Police: You do not look like.

Hua Yong: I drew already better than professors of art school when I applied, is it necessary that I go to university?

Police: Profession?

Hua Yong: Painter.

Police: Political status?

Hua Yong: I was a member of the Young Pioneers when I was small.

Police: Do not go that far, then you are common people.

Hua Yong: Common people.

Police: Did you make any mistakes before?

Hua Yong: Yes, hit my girlfriend.

Police: This is not.

Hua Yong : Then, no more.

Police: Why you hit your own nose?

Hua Yong: Because I once hit my girlfriend, this is a memory of emotion, relating to some biological cycle such as menstruation.

Police: Do you know what day is today?

Hua Yong: No.

Police: Why you come to Tian’anmen square to make your performance art today?

Hua Yong: It is Saturday, I have time.

Police: Do you think it is appropriate to make performance art in Tian’anmen Square?

Hua Yong: Things that are not forbidden by law can be done! Is there a law stipulates that performance art is not permitted in Tian’anmen Square?

Police: You only answer if it is appropriate!

Hua Yong: It is appropriate!

Police: You are a painter, why you do performance art?

Hua Yong: For me, performance art is a continuation and extension of painting.

Police: Anything else to add?

Hua Yong: No.

When Hua Yong was detained in June 2012, his lawyer Liang Xiaojun visited him in the detention house. Liang wrote on his twitter quoted in an article (in Chinese):

Accompanied by two police officers, I saw Hua Yong. Hua is tall and strong, speaking in bell-loud voice, and moustache unshaved. I asked him, “why you perform the ‘criminal’ action?” He answered: “as an artist, I have the responsibility to memorize this day, and I shall not evade what happened twenty-three years ago, I want to fight against the sense of fear as an individual as well as a nation.”

I asked Hua Yong, “have you thought of the consequence?” He said,” Yes, however I do not think it is right that nobody stands out for the nation. I am willing to be a straw upon the Camel’s neck.” I asked him, “did you win over your own sense of being intimidated?” He said, “ when I did it last year, I felt afraid, but it is not any more there this year.” “What I do is also in order to make our our parents and children to live in a better world in the future.”

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