Creative Disturbance (Elephant Says)

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Feng, Qianhui is an architect, interactive designer and multi-media artist. She is focusing on Interactive architecture and multi-Media art, as well as immersive theatre and interactive performance. She has earned two master degrees, first one is in the major of Architectural Design and theory from Harbin Institute of Technology, and second one is in Design for Performance and Interaction from the Bartlett School of University College London.
In this episode, Feng first introduced one of her architecture project, the museum of the Chinese writer Cao, Xueqin, who is the author of Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. The architectural project features a spatial embodiment and visualization of Cao’s literary world. The counterpart concept of space in Chinese language is kong jian 空间. Although kong 空 is translated as empty in English, but from a Daoist perspective, it actually means unlimited potentially. Thus, the space is not understood as a physical one with a determinate length and width, but rather a place of people’s life, memory, feeling, and open possibility. The conversation also covers the ideas of cang 藏 (hide), kuang 框 (frame) from traditional garden creation.
After a few years of work as an architect, Feng then enrolled in IAlab in University College London to develop her knowledge in Performance and Interaction designing. Feng tried to combine her long-term interest in traditional Chinese aesthetics and contemporary media art creation. She created a new form of theatre named Inner Awareness using the design of a spatial interactive installation that will assess the relationship between performance, space and audience, thereby providing the audience with a thoroughly immersive experience. It is based on a romantic classic Chinese Kunqu Opera THE PEONY PAVILION written by dramatist Tang, Xianzu in Ming dynasty 400 years ago. THE PEONY PAVILION tells a love story through the medium of dream beyond space and time, even beyond life and death. Nonetheless, the employment of digital technology can result in a new and better theatrical interpretation; the coming together and fusion of classical drama and contemporary digital art has the potential to give the opera a new lease of life. Feng used real-time body tracking, augmented reality and projection mapping to interact with the actor’s performance to transform the theatre space into a dream world. In such a space that is artistic and dreamlike, the audiences can transcend space and time, actual and virtual, become one with Du, experience her brave and persistent pursuit of her love and then raise their own inner awareness.
Furthermore, the installation can also be seen in a wider context and not only in the parameters of this one particular art form.
Thank you for listening! Please don’t hesitate to contact me via duansiying@gmail.com if you would like to learn more about the details of the conversation or have any suggestion.

Direct download: ep5edited.mp3
Category:Elephant Says -- posted at: 4:00pm CDT

Ying, Xinxun works and teaches at the Fiber Art Department of the Chinese Academy of Fine Art. Her artistic creations include fiber installation, body installation, light installation, theatrical exhibition, image and video, painting and so on. Her works have a particular focus on the living condition of contemporary people, such as issues like how technology reshape people’s way of perception and how people find their way to live together with technology in the current techno-ecology.  

In this episode, Ying starts with sharing her idea behind one of her works “Don’t worry” which she created based on her personal experience witnessing her mother’s surgery. The title of the work is drawn from the doctor’s words “Don’t worry, I’ll suture nicely for you”. Being inspired by the comforting power of this sentence, she started the creation of this series of works. By combining soft fibers which have a particular sense of intimacy with human skin and other “sensorial materials” with a touch of technological sense put by Ying, she gave a unique liveness to her beautifully shaped artistic “creatures” with vivid “scars”. Scars are usually ugly and hurting, but by resting independently in a peaceful atmosphere, these “creatures” and their “scars” visualize a contrast between a virtualized soft beauty and actual dangerous reality, and arouse a mixed feeling of unsettling and comforting, reflecting our deep anxiety towards our contemporary reality and the ruthless passing of time. The use of the title “don’t worry” thus gain a particular meaning and also a sense of aspiration for recognizing our own power for coping with it.

Creating a new “species” or “synthetic creatures” with new material experiments is Ying’s way for exploring the actual living condition of contemporary people. In another work of hers, “Birdy,” performers wearing wings stand on a swing. This work is inspired by Foucault’s idea that “Madness always seems to suffer the fate of confinement, and confinement becomes the reason why madness exists.” In Ying’s work, the seemingly mad performers in their hopeless pursuit of flying looks both sad and beautiful, and reveals a contradiction of the confinement and self-release of contemporary people.

Ying also shares her observation on the practice of the new generation of artists. Unlike their pioneers working in the age of the 1980s, Ying thinks that without the historical burden and regulation of art media, the new art practices have a unique sense of freedom and relaxation.

Thank you for listening! More of Ying’s work can be found at http://yingxinxun.com/. Please don’t hesitate to contact me via duansiying@gmail.com if you would like to learn more about the details of the conversation or have any suggestion.

Direct download: ep4.mp3
Category:Elephant Says -- posted at: 2:55pm CDT

Tan, Liqin is a full professor and co-director of the art program at Rutgers University-Camden. He has served as a board member of the Digital Art Committee, SIGGRAPH and as a juror for the digital art gallery at SIGGRAPH. He was also one of the activists during the ’85 Art New Wave of China.


In this episode, Tan shares his own idea of art, his pioneering art practices and his observation of new media art education in contemporary China.


Tan published his article “The futuristic feature of Chinese art ideas” in 1985, a year that can be considered a turning point for Chinese art. After several years of incubation during the post Cultural Revolution period, Chinese art witnessed an outburst of artistic experiments and theories which later became known as the ’85 Art New Wave of China. Under this background, Tan’s article, which expressed many radical ideas at the time including the role of the future on the present, the need for diversity in art, the need for an improved art market, and the ability of teachers to learn from students. These ideas received both high praise as well as strong criticism.


These ideas also affect his later artistic practice embodied in three waves of opporturnity for Tan. The first wave was the emerging period of art education and pedagological study; his publications at the time are now considered to be pioneering studies. The second wave was the ’85 Art New Wave. Apart from his writings, he was also an artist, experimenting with art forms including the combination of installation and Chinese traditional art such as calligraphy and fine brushwork Painting. The going-abroad upsurge is the third wave he caught up with. Under pressure to survive, he started his own business in animation and then gradually turned to the study and practice of 3D-animation and other digital art forms. The most famous works of his “Digital-Primitive” series were all created after he came to the United States. His focus for the series was the dialectic thought of “new” and “old”, “digital” and “primitive”. For him, the current form of digital art will inevitably become “primitive” one day.


As Tan frequently goes back and forth between art institutions in the US and China, Tan also shares his thinking of new media art education in China. He criticized the general thinking modes towards past experiences rather than future possibilities in China, as well as the hostility and ignorance towards technology among Chinese artists and art institutions. Therefore, Tan calls for the breakdown of the barriers between different disciplines and active cooperative among artists, business men, engineers and scientists.


Thank you for listening and please don’t hesitate to contact me via duansiying@gmail.com if you would like to learn more about the details of the conversation or have any suggestion.

Direct download: Elephant_Says_Episode_3.mp3
Category:Elephant Says -- posted at: 10:29pm CDT

Zhang, Peili is considered the father of Chinese video art for his three-hour video 30X30 (1988). He is also as an influential educator who started the New Media Department at China Academy of Art in 2002 where young artists such as Hu, Weiyi, Lin, ke, Lu, yang among many others graduated from.

This episode starts with a re-discovery of his 30X30. The work depicts the artist breaks a mirror and glues the pieces together. Although being labeled as the first Chinese video art piece in China, the artist’s intention behind the work has been ironically covered by its fame. Firstly, in today’s talk, it is actually called a “failure” by Zhang as he actually planned to lock the audience in the room, forcing them to stay with the monotonous or “meaningless” time of mirror gluing, and thus making obvious the consciousness of time passing. However, it was him ended up being forced to hold the video controller and keeping fast forward under the press of the audience. What made this work pivotal in contemporary Chinese art is not that it made in the video form, but the effort to engage the audience, trying to make them part of the work and thus create an experience for them which might leave some traces or make some differences in their life instead of just a pretty painting on the wall to be taken a glance of. In that sense the original intention of the work hasn’t been touched upon at all at the time. Secondly, the point is to create a period of “meaningless” time no matter what Zhang was doing. Because of the expectation of the TV media, the audience would tend to expect something happening during the event, but they would be disappointed to find that there is actually nothing happened, neither in terms of the content nor the video form, camera language or visual effect, nothing happened only except for the time passing. Zhang mentioned Waiting for Godot when asked about if he has been influenced by the Greek mythology Sisyphus. But the choice of mirror breaking and gluing has its own symbolic meaning anyway, which actually came from the Chinese idiom “A broken mirror joined together” to indicate a certain hope after the violent break. The work finally shows helplessly that a mirror can never be rejoined and reused. We didn’t dig into the political metaphorical meaning which could possibly be there, but continue to talk about the use of video instead of performance and the difference in between. Zhang dislikes the kind of showing himself of performance in front of the audience and he feels much more comfortable when facing with a camera, which means, the “mediated” time is more “natural” for him than the “real” time. From there we discussed his later works from Uncertain Pleasures (1996) to his retrospective exhibition Certain Pleasures (2001), covering the topics including the relationship between “to look at” and “to be looked at”, the visceral power of media worthy of both artistic exploration and particular vigilance.

Thank you for listening and please don’t hesitate to contact me via duansiying@gmail.com if you would like to learn more about the details of the conversation or have any suggestion.

 

With particular gratitude to Chronus Art Center for facilitating this interview.

Direct download: episode2.mp3
Category:Elephant Says -- posted at: 9:09pm CDT

Jieming Hu is one of the pioneering artists of digital media and video installation art in today's China and is currently the chair of the academic board at the School of Fine Arts at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts.

This episode covers topics including early Chinese media art practices in the background of social changes, his thinking about media culture as reflected in his artworks, artistic exploration into time and life, manipulation of installation spaces via smell, sound and light, etc.

1980s and 90s witnessed a transition in the living condition of Chinese people which was reflected in the media condition. In contrast with the information exploration in the Internet Age, TV used to be the only information resource for Chinese people with only 12 channels. Being sensitive to the social change of the times, the first period of Hu’s art creation focused on questioning the relationship between media, popular culture and people, such as taking snapshots from the 12 TV channels and making them into a synthesized visual experience of labyrinth, juxtaposing pictures of Coke cans, Pepsi bottles and red flags to create an ironic new version of the “Raft of the Medusa,” etc.

In the years following 2000, Hu’s works turn more “inwards” into the exploration of the issue of time and memory. For example, his installation work Dozens of Days and Dozens of Years (2007) displays a set of furniture pieces decaying 4000 times faster than normal decaying speed with chemical and optical facilities, thus directly presenting the power of time and the fragility of life. When discussing the on-site affection of an artwork, Hu mentioned his long interest in the documentary of the animal world, and how he incorporates these primitive sensorial arousing elements including subtle changes in smell, sound and light into the construction of his artwork. The episode then ends with a discussion of Hu’s twofold solo exhibition with Jeffery Shaw: how the parallel presenting of the two art pieces gives a strongly contrasting effect and play between “showing” and “hiding”, “presence” and “absence”, and thus also exemplifies a particular Chinese way of artistic exploration into new media.

Thank you for listening and please don’t hesitate to contact me via duansiying@gmail.com if you would like to learn more about the details of the conversation or have any suggestion.

Direct download: episode1.mp3
Category:Elephant Says -- posted at: 9:13pm CDT

Hello everyone, I am the channel host Siying Duan, currently conducting my doctoral research in new media instillation and comparative aesthetics at Shanghai University. In this episode, I introduce the main contents of this podcast channel with a particular focus on the idea of “象(Xiang)” which has both the connotation of “elephant” and “image”. In Chinese aesthetics, “象(Xiang)” is an important concept which basically means an aesthetic object that both present and absent, which creates an effect transcends the barrier between viewer and artwork. This kind of aesthetic thinking is not exclusive to traditional Chinese art practice; on the contrary, its dynamic, relational and non-dualistic features resonate with characteristics of contemporary media art practices.

In order to make these art practices more visible and accessible, in this podcast, Chinese artists who are experimenting with all kinds of interesting media will be invited to the conversion in this channel, to share about their artworks, their feelings and motivations, their working methods, how they react to the contemporary world with these works, how they relating themselves to the tradition, not in the sense of kongfu panda or spring roll, but as natural and at the same time unavoidable as the mode of thinking lurking in the language being spoken everyday, and so on.

I am sorry that probably most of the episodes will be in Chinese, please don’t hesitate to contact me via duansiying@gmail.com if you would like to learn more about them or have any suggestion.

Direct download: episode0.mp3
Category:Elephant Says -- posted at: 11:38pm CDT

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