[-empyre-] media art as phenomenon

Robin Peckham ra.peckham at gmail.com
Sat Nov 6 21:24:44 EST 2010

I find it interesting that Li Zhenhua also recognizes that new media
does occasionally take the form of a trend within China--a fact that
is not at all ameliorated by the relationship of the new media circuit
to contemporary art in general internationally. Certain careerist
individuals in China, a particular set of artists and curators,
occasionally find that it is easier to climb ranks by positioning
themselves as working in "new media," which is seen as a smaller pond,
so to speak--it is often easier to become recognized internationally
through such a maneuver, and then to position oneself more properly
within contemporary art back home in China. Cynical, perhaps, but I
think this has fueled a lot of a certain technical aesthetics that
reached its peak around 2008 with a few large-scale media exhibitions.

Li Zhenhua mentions the new media department at the China Academy of
Art in Hangzhou, which is a fascinating case study. What really
interests me is that the best and most well recognized contemporary
artists to emerge from that program don't necessarily work in new
media. Li Ming and Li Fuchun, mentioned here, are both brilliant
artists occasionally working in video and bringing in electrical
elements to their sculpture, but not really interested in the way
technology functions socially or within art. Other members of
Shuangxi, the collective in which many of these artists work, are
actually technologically illiterate and have a difficult time with
computer-based work. (I imagine Aaajiao will have more to say about
this phenomenon, I recall having a rather blistering conversation with
him about anti-technological new media in Shanghai.) This situation
has been slightly ameliorated just recently as the academy has been
restructured to reflect this, so now "experimental" and "digital"
studios will be separated once and for all.

Robin Peckham
Society for Experimental Cultural Production
2/F 716 Shanghai St., Mongkok, Kowloon, H.K.
+852 5181 5156

On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 5:21 PM, Edward Sanderson <ed at escdotdot.com> wrote:
> Zhenhua replied to me directly, so I'm forwarding his responses to the
> forum, marked with "///":
> On 2010-11-6, at ÏÂÎç4:52, Edward Sanderson wrote:
> Hello Zhenhua,
> Thanks for your insights. I have many questions for the forum but I will try
> and keep things simple.
> Although we can't get all your valuable research translated, perhaps you
> could summarize the important points the speakers are making in the videos
> (sorry - big question!)? If you pick a particularly representative video,
> we'll try and get that one translated quickly.
> ///sure I will work on it but maybe next week give you an answer///
> A very basic question, but one which comes up a lot: how does the
> understanding of "new media" vary between China and elsewhere? And what are
> the consequences of this? Robin touched on this topic in his previous email,
> pointing out Chinese artists' late entry onto the international stage and
> subsequent parallel developments of many genres of contemporary art making.
> Zhenhua, you talk about whether media art is just a trend (maybe because of
> late entry?) - are there any aspects which take it beyond that in China?
> What makes new media art "new" in this case? Is this epithet even useful in
> the Chinese context?
> /// I think it comes from a different mentality, there's many art trend
> happened in china, when performance and installation are the trend in 80s or
> video art trend in later 90s, and now new media art...the trend start when
> people do not really get the meaning of it, but the artistic form or visual
> standard, then people just catch up with the scene. which is also happened
> lots in europe / america as well, because of the word new media is very
> broad meaning, that from photography to moving image to immersive virtual
> space to space art to AI all included, so it's hard to say what is new media
> what is not....then for china media artists are rather limited by video or
> interactive art....///
> I just finished proofing Hu Jieming's catalogue for you [Hu Jieming is a
> very important Chinese new media artist whose solo show Li Zhenha just
> curated in Shanghai] ¨C is this material available online? I think there are
> some useful texts there. His experiences taking part in the "010101: Art in
> Technological Times" show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2001
> provide an interesting case study [from the text "A Brief History of Hu
> Jieming"]. Maybe I can post that section to this list, with your permission?
> ///the material is not online, maybe after the show finished [Ed: there is a
> print catalogue available from ShanghART Gallery]. go ahead and post that
> section [Ed: I'll post this separately]///
> Based on your experience and to give people unfamiliar with China some
> background, why Hangzhou and Shanghai are most well-known for media arts?
> Could you describe the various media arts centers in China?
> ///since 2001 hangzhou start to set up new media art department in the
> school, so many interesting artists and group out of the department, such as
> li ming/li fuchun and many more....for shanghai is because Xu Zhen, Yang
> Fudong, Yang Zhenzhong, Lu Chunsheng, Hu Jieming and Zhang Peili first time
> shown his video in shanghai, and he is based in Hanzhou who set up the new
> media art department in the school....///beijing is focus on design and
> digital art related to photography and video only....///
> [As always I would recommend digging into the http://bjartlab.com website
> set up by Li Zhenhua, which is a massive archive of material related to
> Chinese contemporary art.]
> Best,
> Ed
> On 2010-11-4, at ÏÂÎç9:10, lab wrote:
> hi all,
> this moment I had a chat with Feng Mengbo and Wang Chunchen (curator of the
> CAFA museum), most of our topic is focus on whether media art is a specific
> medium or a new phenomenon, through the dicsussion, we start to realize
> media art is again a new trend for the art world, and I have to say so many
> of media art related topics are just follow the trend, rather than a true
> specific topic.
> why I am saying this, it's because I would need to understand to not confuse
> people with what I try to approach, media art related issues are related
> base on a certain understanding of what media art means and how is function
> internationally, why internationally? because media art could have a
> national trace or history but an international knowledge base and medium
> based thing.
> so, if we talk about china the general culture scene is fine, but if we talk
> about media art in china, I would suggest people start to think about
> translate my research on the media art education from Hang Zhou and media
> art integrated contemporary art in Shanghai, to have a basic understanding,
> which is not the only one, but something could easily help with the idea we
> discuss....
> wish you could understand chinese for the interviews:
> http://www.bjartlab.com/read.php?239 shanghai research
> http://www.bjartlab.com/read.php?177 hangzhou research
> thanks
> Li zhenhua | ˔͖Ȼ
> ---------------
> http://www.bjartlab.com
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