[-empyre-] media art as phenomenon

Edward Sanderson ed at escdotdot.com
Sat Nov 6 20:53:26 EST 2010

As promised, here's an extended extract from the text edited by Li  
Zhenhua collecting interviews with artist Hu Jieming. Although one  
artist's anecdotal response, I think this provides some context for  
how Chinese artists were experiencing international developments in  
art making:

"In early 2001, my photographic installation "Legend 1999–2000" was  
presented at 010101: Art in Technological Times at the San Francisco  
Museum of Modern Art. As far as I recall, there was no such thing  
called “new media” back then. Works were presented in an  
unconventional and unexpected way, different from videos and  
installations seen from 1970s to 1990s. Some were totally beyond my  
experience. For instance, I vividly remembered that there was a work  
at the exhibition that I didn’t really understand. The work featured a  
display window, on which a series of seemingly irrelevant numbers were  
increasing and decreasing, making me feel at a loss. According to the  
artist, the figures were information from the stock market in San  
Francisco and were displayed in the space via real time communication  
facilities. With this explanation, I seemed to have a better idea of  
the work, but I had to admit that it was so different from what I had  
seen before it was therefore hard for me to feel the beauty of it.  
It’s like if you eat something you never tried before, it’s hard for  
you to judge if it’s good or not. Other works made obvious use of new  
technology to further develop the concepts and expressive approaches  
of contemporary art. An artist from Germany presented a series of  
statues made using digital three-dimensional carving technology, of  
people who were influential in international contemporary culture. The  
figures included curators, critics and directors of art museums. Each  
statue was about 20cm high. Works of this kind were easier to  
understand and accept – as these powerful figures were represented by  
digital duplication, did power still exist or not? At least such works  
presented an obvious direction for people to think and interpret and  
hence were easier to be accepted by audience than the changing  
numbers. …There were also some purely experimental works on display.  
For instance, there was a work featuring a completely clean wall. It  
was like a minimalistic painting. At each end of the wall, there were  
several hairdryers. The audience could use the hairdryers to blow hot  
air onto the wall and they would find some texts and images would  
appear on the wall. If they switch off the hairdryer and let the wall  
cool down for a while, the texts would just disappear. I carefully  
studied the work but apart from the belief that some special materials  
were used, I had no conclusions. I had never seen such things before.


What I gained from the exhibition could be summarised as: the  
expressive power of contemporary art was further developed via the use  
of new media and new approaches. The exhibition in San Francisco was  
an opportunity to broaden my vision, or to be more specific, it  
confirmed the possibilities for a more diversified way of expression  
and narrative…"

 From "A Brief History of Hu Jieming" by Wang Yalei, Weng Zhijuan & Hu  
Jieming, edited by Li Zhenhua.

Would any of the subscribers to this forum outside of China care to  
share experiences with the Chinese situation from the other direction?

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