Dear Mr. Jing,
Greetings! It is only now that I have made the decision to follow you — to monitor you — that I feel our relationship has truly begun.
But it was not so much my decision as it was yours. At a public event three years ago, you revealed data on your private life that meticulously recorded everything you did at each minute of every day over the span of an entire year. I remember you used this kind of performance art to protest against the government — to protest the government’s intervention into and control of our private lives.
I should say I was deeply shaken by your honesty and courage, but at the same time felt profoundly disturbed, so that it is impossible to clearly describe my feelings then. Or perhaps I should say that your honesty and courage aroused in me complex emotions. I was both excited and exhilarated, but also a bit uneasy and nauseous, a bit hysterical.
In any case, it was certainly not until a long time after, once all my emotions had settled down, that I finally realized my primary emotional response to your speech was that I felt threatened. After listening to your speech, I could sense that my personal life had been gravely threatened. You repeatedly emphasized that your original intent was to make yourself an example of how today’s system of social control has permeated our private lives, including our bodies and minds, but it was only through you that I could recognize the precise threat to my own life.
Since then, the graphic you showed on the projector screen flashes into my head every day the moment I wake up — the one with the pie chart depicting each of the day’s twenty-four hours, with the ratios of each daily activity, from eating to sleeping and going to the toilet to walking, driving, reading and making love, indicated in bright colors. Unlike you, I have never had the time, means or courage to study and account for the actions of my everyday life, or the leisure to spend on preparing colorful labels and analytics. I think this is one reason why our society needs public intellectuals like you.
And so, over a long time, I followed your every word and act, followed your thinking, and then periodically looked around me to see whether anything had changed. Unfortunately, after all these years, not only has my life not improved, it has actually gotten worse: I just lost my job at school due to my mental state, and I am no longer fit for work.
As a result this has given me more time to think through everything that drove me to take the step I have taken today. Your speech promised to change the world, but it has not led to any change in my fate, only deterioration, and I am starting to understand who it is, ultimately, that is destroying my life. Since it is already so intricately dependent upon your person, I can only alter my destiny through repeated close contact with you. So, starting from today, I will keep a constant eye on your every movement, continually until the day of reckoning when I expose your fake countenance.
Please take this letter as a sign of my eternal respect for you. No matter what happens, nothing will affect my appreciation for you.
I remain eternally grateful,
(Translated from Chinese by Andrew Maerkle)
Hu Fang (b. 1970, China) is a writer and curator who lives in Guangzhou and Beijing. Fang is the author of Dear Navigator (Sternberg Press and The Pavilion, 2014) and Garden of Mirrored Flowers (Sternberg Press and Vitamin Creative Space, 2010), among other books.