[-empyre-] local contexts

Isaac leung isaac at isaacleung.com
Fri Nov 12 16:52:43 EST 2010

Hi all,

Sorry for my late reply, been very busy, here are some of my thoughts -

Li Zhenhua has brought up critical issues of theoretical and  
methodological problematics of “new media”. “Media Archaeology”  
provides a useful thinking tool to reconsider “new media”, not from  
a grand theorizing manner or in a way that presents categorical  
differentiation of technologies as objectively “true”. To re-orient  
the methodological framework of new media analysis allows us to  
holistically examine the contextual nature of “new media art” from  
bottom-up, detailed (historical) observations that cannot be found  
only through studying various “texts” that are readily “told”  
and represented in the literatures and works of art.

I believe there are certain kinds of knowledge and logic about “new  
media art” that can be drawn from practices embedded in the fabric of  
the broader “international” field of new media, such as what Robin,  
Ellen and Zhenhua’s highlight about the intuitive or intentional  
reflection on evolving media technologies. Though in the case of  
China, I always find it difficult, if not handicapped, to formulate  
constructive evaluations due to the different conceptions of the  
“international” and of “China” that have been historically  
constructed in the field of art.  Traditionally, art researchers have  
been highly invested in the relationship between the value of art and  
the state-bound locations where they are produced and consumed. Many  
discourses concerning contemporary Chinese art are based on the  
premise of polarized East/West aesthetic values that tends to pander  
to the knowledge and logics of the art centers in the West.  These  
common conceptualizations imply that the trajectory of art within  
China is operated in a monolithic and unidirectional way, that is to  
say, from the West to East.  To read “Media Art in China” and  
trying to escape from the limitations of the East/West thinking tools,  
it might be useful not to consider media art in China by only focusing  
on the domestic particularities, nor by directly jumping into the  
abstractions of the “international”.  That is to say, it might be  
constructive for us to re-consider different practices and examine  
when, where and how “new media” is included and excluded in  
relation to context-bound spaces.

In fact, if we look at the formation of new media art practices, it is  
impossible not to see the various institutional mediations that shape  
the knowledge and logic of what “new media” is to be.  The  
discourse of new media can hardly be solely tied to the subject  
itself; rather, the subject of new media is inevitably a social  
construction. Foucault’s notion of archaeology and Bourdieu’s  
concept of field have both shown skeptics about the Kantian’s “art  
for art’s sake”. To critically look at “new media art in  
China”, one should avoid the “universality” of qualitative  
judgment that is offered by our common understandings of new media. To  
look at the “use of technologies” in the field of art, we should  
draw a bigger picture of media art practices of China into a more  
relational framework that includes institutional, economic and social  
mediations of art practices. When, where and how have “new media art  
in China” been disjunctively formulated from networks of key players  
and institutions locally and transnationally? How and when do artists  
choose to make use of the term “new media” or various technologies  
in their context-bound space framed by institutions and the economy?   
(see: Robin’s case of “careerist individuals”, Ellen’s idea of  
bounding as seen in academy and museum).  How has “new media art”  
been contradictorily defined by “international” events such as  
eARTS Festival and “Synthetic Times – Media Art China 2008”?  
After all, I don’t think it is possible to construct universally  
valid statements about new media art aesthetics, nor can we claim that  
the formation of new media art in China is clearly distinguishable  
from the rest of the world, since notions of new media are constructed  
by entangled, complex forces.   Loyal to the essence of “new  
media”, I hope our discussion can allow further shape new media art  
in China through an interpretive attitude, so we can produce a  
critical and yet flexible discourse about these conditions.


Isaac Leung, PhD Candidate
School of Creative Media
City University of Hong Kong
83 Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong

mobile phone:
Mainland China: 18621261433
Hong Kong (852)9806 4052
isaac at isaacleung.com

On 9 Nov 2010, at 12:34 PM, Melinda Rackham wrote:

> hi all,
> thank you Zhenhua, Robin and Ellen for posting such a wealth of  
> information on the -empyre- list.
> If anyone on our -empyre- community could translate one or two of  
> the interviews links that Zhenhua sent earlier to the list, to  
> expand the shared knowledge, we would be very grateful.
> I've been enthusiastically trawling thru links to improve my rather  
> naive understandings of the context from which media art emerged and  
> is understood in China. When the discussion topic is so vast, I  
> think we naturally generalize to try and grasp an overall  
> perspective and framework before we dig down to explore the detail  
> of deeper levels. The significant differences in histories,  
> perspectives and nuances in the evolution of making and thinking  
> around "media" arts in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Hangzhou and Beijing is  
> becoming quiet apparent - as of course localized conditions produce  
> localized outcomes.
> It seems many artists move between these cities, melding their  
> flavor, making conceptual and physical connections between their  
> networks - Aaajiao (Xu Wenkai) for example has set up Dorkbots in  
> both Beijing and Shanghai, and founded the larger network http://www.we-need-money-not-art.com 
>  and its private discussion list. These localized scenes are  
> becoming an attractor for non-chinese artists as more media artists  
> from around the globe are doing residencies in China, or moving to  
> live and work in China, just as they were moving to Berlin a decade  
> or so ago.
> Is this due in part to the sense of dynamism radiating from China,  
> and /or looking more closely at the mechanics of media art  
> production - affordable housing, ease of material construction, what  
> is perceived as an opportunistic market, and perhaps a perfect  
> central location between Europe, the Americas and Australia?
> best wishes
> Melinda
> Melinda Rackham
> melinda at subtle.net
>>>> 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>http://www.bjartlab.com/read.php?239 
>>>>  shanghai research
>>>> <http://www.bjartlab.com/read.php?177>http://www.bjartlab.com/read.php?177 
>>>>  hangzhou research
>>>> thanks
>>>> Li zhenhua | ÛıÍU™Å
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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