[-empyre-] media art as phenomenon

ellen pau ellenpau.hk at gmail.com
Sun Nov 7 22:24:47 EST 2010

Hi Robin and all,
It has been a very interesting discussion here, I also want to share
some ideas. I agree that many Chinese artists using new media do not
reflect on the media and the technologies. The reason that they use
technology, probably is  because they are assessable and easy to
produce and as Robin said, easy to climb up the ladder.  Somehow this
makes me respect video art that is made for small screen and low in
resolution, in comparing to the always big screen projections.  The
reason that many artist are using technology without the consciousness
of them like surveillance camera etc, have to do with the education
system too. While many new media departments in China are animation
and even if they teach technology they are not introducing a cross
disciplinary exploration.The cultural studies, media studies research
even art history seldom focus on the technology. Experiments in art
and technology, the idea of research and media specificity are not
interested to many artists. The international art world and the
museum/ gallery circuit wants new product but not new thinking. There
is still a very big difference in the empirical everyday lives
experience in  China and how technology is being used. What Melinda
posted( Brian Ling's Blog -
http://www.designsojourn.com/why-does-china-copy-designs/)  a few days
ago did some good introduction here. The west definition of new media
art relate to convergence of art and technologies, it is unstable and
experimental. In the dominant thinking of economic growth, unstable
and experimental is not a good cause.

I am in a strange place called Hong Kong, not too China, the quest to
find our identity, search for a history and play with technologies are
the main cords. Our everyday lives and education system are very
different from China. We share one thing probably, we all are
encouraged to be consumers of technologies rather than producers.  In
our early video art history (around 90'), I see some works being
social commentary on media, some brought out the media specificity. To
be critical is hard in Chinese society, even critics will need to give
positive feedbacks rather than criticism. Now we have more sound
artists than ever. I don't see there is a change Our new generation
media artists, like Keith Lam, Eric Siu, Henry Chu writes their code,
hack the electronics in a playful, cute way. Playful and cute will get
some audience while works that require prior knowledge or
understanding had to be avoid.  As there is no foundation or science
labs that is interested to have artist in residence, there is lack of
opportunity for these artists to explore deeper into new media. They
usually receive commission from advertising agencies to do augmented
reality advertisement or other "new technology" for the customer,
audio visual gig for entertainment. Visuals are more important than
ideas, concepts, strategies.

Mainland Chinese artists using new media have more profound concepts
and their works caught the eye of the art world. HK new media artists
can find more entertaining outlet because they know no profound idea,
skill in technologies is already enough to support a career. Having
said that I saw this new generation artists getting bigger and
maturing through this commercial and art cross over activities.

2010/11/6 Robin Peckham <ra.peckham at gmail.com>:
> 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.
> www.kunsthallekowloon.org
> +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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