For the collaboration between the Van Abbemuseum and Arthub Asia on the occasion of the World Expo 2010, Shanghai, entitled, Double Infinity, Li Mu signed a contract with the Van Abbemuseum in which he bound the museum to his terms and conditions as a worker. The contract entitles the artist (Party B) to a salary commensurate with European standards – providing an uncompromising commentary on economic crisis and how this impacts the employment status and income of artists in China.
关于“新工作”的采访 An Interview about “New Job” Davide Quadrio/李牧Li Mu
“前几天，他们对我的友好，我只是觉得那是一种形式的礼貌。今天，因为劳动，是我觉得和他们没有隔阂了。大家都在加班，我当然也要加班。那一面墙上的画都挂上去后，已经近凌晨两点钟了。其他人先走，我还要留守，直到小高的工作结束。大家都和我相拥分别，good night;have a good dream……这一刻，我感觉大家的心是相通的，彼此是相惜的。 带着一颗喜悦的心来看周围的世界！”（April 28,2010）
Davide Quadrio：The first time we met, You left a deep impression on me ，since I had not met such a modest and low-profile Chinese artist like you for a long time, and yet I was also moved by your direct and strong words when you introduced your works. Today I’d like to talk with you about the concept of your work and your special experience in Double Infinity.In this exhibition, you chose to become an ordinary worker in a museum, acutally a worker in the Van Abbemuseum, in the Netherlands. What made you think of that? Why did you work so hard to become a Dutch worker?
Li Mu: It was actually a chance for me to achieve the idea of being a worker in the Van Abbemuseum. Before receiving the invitation for the Double Infinity exhibition, I had been thinking of a question for several months: could a job also be an art work? I could hardly make the ends meet at that time and was planning to find a job to make a living and be able to afford studying English. So natually, I handed in this idea as an artistic project when the invitation from Van Abbemuseum came. I didn’t care which country’s worker I would be.
Davide Quadrio: Cultural communication is easy to say but hard to achieve. As an ordinary worker in this exhibtion, you were in the middle of this cultural communication. I believe your experience must have been more important than that of other artists participating in this exhibition. I’d like to know what influence this experience had on you. What is good? What is bad? Do you think this exhibition changed your attitude towards cultural communication? Do you think this exhibition changed your attitude towards art in general?
Li Mu: If by communication, you mean showing the colletion of a European art museum to ordinary people in Shanghai, it would have been quite superficial. The true communication should be an equal dialogue with mutual influence. I explained the works to the actual audience and exchanged views on art in the exhibition hall every day that the Double Infinity show ran. Such a way of communicating made me very happy, since conversation became the window for mutual understanding. Art is no more than a medium which facilitates the spritual communication between artists and the audience and the mutual impact on each other. This makes me realize that in my future work, I should come out of the studio and permeate my works into everyday life.
Davide Quadrio: In the exhibiton, you gave up your artistic identity and became an employee in Van Abbemuseum and you also had to adjust your life (for example, folding your work). How did you consider your decision at that time?
Li Mu: Well, when does an artist count as an artist? When walking? Or when reading? Identity just differentiates each person and their life from the social point of view, whose interests lie in uncertainty. Take this experience as an example, I not only finished a work, but also earned a wage under European standards. Actually I got more from this work. God always blesses me, giving me much more than I want.
Davide Quadrio: Could you show me your working diary which you made during the exhibition? I’d like you to choose ten important sentences, drawing and so on in the diary, and explain to me why you think they are important.
Li Mu: This is a rather personal experience, quite hard to share with other people. Although I had few diaries and pictures, I don’t think they can represent my personal experience. So I just tried to find some sentences to express it:
Remember: don’t get jealous! Face everything you see peacefully. Don’t judge or feel. In this exhibiton, what I can and need to do is to work hard and be a good worker. Other things are not mine - don’t be greedy. Don’t even think about them. （April 25，2010 Sunday）
“I thought their kindness to me was just a kind of politeness several days ago. But today, due to working, I don’t feel any barrier between us. Everyone is working overtime, including me. It was nearly two o’clock after we hung all the pictures on that wall. Others can go first, but I have to stay until Xiao Gao finishes his work. Everyone hugged me and said ‘good night’, ‘have a good dreams’……At this moment, I feel we are connected and appreciate each other.” Look at the surrounding world with a happy heart! （April 28,2010）
“ I always believed that a work should guide people to be better, not more evil or greedy. But I changed my mind. Art should be diversified. What I like is just one direction of art. Surasi’s work probably reflects people’s greed just in the exhibition hall, but the greed is always there. Only when an artwork makes us realise the fact, is there a possibility for us to reflect. Of course, this work also brings surprise and happiness to people who have gentle mind. (May 8,2010 Saturday, cloudy)
“ A disadvantaged old man showed up again in the exhibition hall, bringing a visiting group – his wife and neighbours. He became an artistic commentator this time, explaining every piece of work vividly. His wife obviously didn’t quite get what he said, keeping saying: ‘Art is so abstract.’ In front of Surasi’s work, a well-dressed old lay said to me: ‘This is very good mohair. How many sweaters could be made! It is more expensive than golden necklace.’ Finally she whispered to me: ‘could you give me some mohair at the end of the exhibition? I’d like to knit a scarf for my grandchild.’ (May 10,2010 Monday fine)
There was no rest time from morning till evening. I kept explaining the works to journalists in the afternoon, and my mouth was parched. It is really necessary to commentate the artworks to the public. Such communication is beneficial to both of us. The view of the audience to art may influence my thinking of art, or at least, provide me with another angle to see art. (May14,2010 Friday rain)
What Lao Wu hates is their greed. At this moment, Lao Wu’s thought is complicated. I don’t know what else there is. It is not people’s fault to be greedy, but the overall social environment. Such idea will make you feel relieved. (May 20,2010,fine)
The art I like should be the art keeping exploring on the edge. (May 25,2010,fine)
Davide Quadrio：The last question is what do you think of the opportunity that a Dutch museum would invite you to work there for several months? How will you use this opportunity?
Li Mu: This is my next artistic project – cooperating with the Van Abbemuseum.I’d like to make an artistic exhibition in the village of my hometown, and my parents’house will be the main location of this exhibition. I plan to go back to my hometown and make an observation and survey. I think I need to re-observe and rethink of that place, although I have already rather familiar. And then I will go to Van Abbemuseum in Holland to make an investigation of culture and art. I’ll try to find a possibility to communicate between the two of them, not just to organize an unusual exhibition. I believe that art can be connected with life.