One World Exposition Artist Roundtable Discussion
Date: 20 July 2011
Venue: Asia Art Archive
Isaac Leung, Li Zhenhua, Agnes Lin, Ellen Pau, Joel Kwong, Feng Mengbo, Zhang Peili, Wang Zhenfei, Wang Luming, Art Yan, Jade Enge, Arianna Gellini, Sonja Ng, Alex Fung
Isaac Leung: Welcome everyone to our roundtable discussion. First of all, I would like to thank AAA (Asian Art Archive) for providing this space for us and Phoebe Wong for the arrangement so we can have this discussion here today. Our plan for today is to listen to more opinions from the participating artists. We have invited a few of the artists and also our co-curator Li Zhenhua to Hong Kong to talk about the context of this exhibition. And also, hopefully, we may be able to discover some new perspectives about the exhibition and direction of this project.
Some of us here might not know each other, I would like to invite everyone to introduce yourself a bit first before we move on. I am Isaac Leung, co-curator of this project.
Zhang Peili: I am Zhang Peili. I am from Hangzhou.
Feng Mengbo: (I am) Feng Mengbo.
Jade Enge: I am Jade. I work at Osage Gallery.
Arianna Gellini: I am Arianna, working at Osage.
Agnes Lin: Agnes, from Osage.
Sonja Ng: Sonja. I am also from Osage Gallery.
Alex Fung: My name is Alex. I also work at Osage.
Li Zhenhua: Li Zhenhua, independent curator.
Wang Zhenfei: Wang Zhenfei (architect, artist).
Joel Kwong: I am Joel – I/O Gallery, and Microwave Festival.
Art Yan: Art Yan.
Ellen Pau: Ellen Pau, Videotage.
Isaac Leung: Let me quickly introduce the project, then we’ll start our open discussion. You should all have a copy of proposal in hand. There are three parts in this project. The first part is Symposium, which will take place on the 10th and 11th of December at School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong. The symposium is comprised of four panels. The first panel is “Making of Great Chinese Art”. It serves as a starting point for us to inspect the development of media arts from both Hong Kong and China’s perspective. We will touch upon issues like Hong Kong identity and the identity of artists in the mainland, especially when Hong Kong is such an interesting country with her colonial past. The second panel is “Unmasking the Business of Art” in which we will explore the inter-relationship between economy, society and art system as there are many commercial galleries and new museums economies in Hong Kong and China right now. The third panel is called “Technosocial Subversivity”. Speakers will share their opinions on social media and the influence of media art on society. The forth and the last panel is “Experimenting the Future of New Media”. We have invited major new media art curators, initiators and also artists to talk about the the future of new media art.
On page one of our proposal, we have a list of speakers. All speakers’ participation has been confirmed. Still, we can have a bit of a brainstorming here to see if there is anything missing from the general direction of the panel discussions.
The second part of the project is Exhibition. We came up with an idea of presenting eight pairs of Hong Kong and mainland artists. And each artist pair stands for something special. The first pair is Ellen Pau and Qiu Zhijie. They were the pioneers of video art in Hong Kong and China respectively. Apart from their old works, they will have a performance art project playing with the format of PowerPoint Presentation. The second pair is Wang Zhenfei, Wang Luming and Teddy Lo. They are all experts in light art, so we invited them to create some interesting spaces with light and effects. The next pair is Wang Jianwei and Danny Yung, who has not created a solo project of his own for such a long time. They both started participating in experimental theatre very early. In this exhibition, they will both have a new theatre project. The forth pair is Feng Mengbo and Henry Chu, who will be working on some game-oriented artworks. aaajiao and Eric Siu, both are emerging interactive artists. We would also want to invite some old masters to the exhibition in contrast to young artists. We have Yang Fudong, who will pair up with Wong Kar-wai or Johnnie To. We hope they can create some new works for us to explore new angles in cinema and visual images.
(Interruption: Why don’t we invite Pang Ho-cheung?)
Isaac Leung: (Cont’) The suggestion is quite good. We can have some younger directors from China as well. Anyway, at the moment, we are also contacting Shu Lea Cheang, Cao Fei, and Kan Xuan, hoping we can have a female artist group to do something on feminism. Finally, we are trying to pair up Zhang Peili and Jeffrey Shaw. Both of them are from the academia. They should have different opinions on artworks from different era. As a whole, this project will bring artists from Hong Kong and China together, exploring new media arts from different perspectives.
The last part of the project is Screening. Also, we have a list of guests. To save time, we can see the details in the documents. We can talk about the development direction. Zhenhua, do you have anything you want to say?
Li Zhenhua: Just like the last visit, the time of us staying in Hong Kong is not long enough. Tomorrow hopefully we will be visiting some more interesting places, like Jeffrey Shaw’s studio. I am quite familiar with his projects. His collaboration with Peter Weibel on Future Cinema at ZKM is the result of ZKM’s cultural and technological innovation of the past twenty years. Culturally and technologically speaking, bringing his technologies to Hong Kong this time has its great significance.
We were just talking about this – when we decided on the artist combination, we were only considering the cultural context, and the time limitation of the media format artist uses. However, when we consider the real cultural situation in Hong Kong, people like Jeffrey Shaw who hosts the ALiVE laboratory, we should consider him as a Hong Kong artist. He is from Australia who developed his career in Germany, we should link up the clues and expand the Asian artists-only situation. Maybe it will be a collaboration between Jeffrey Shaw and Zhang Peili or Feng Mengbo. The project should develop itself based on the interests of different artists.
Isaac Leung: Today we have a few directions waiting for us to explore. Firstly, we would like to hear some opinions from male artists and how they feel these two days. Or we should brainstorm for new possibilities. Besides, we would like to hear from Ellen Pau as an artist and the founder of Videotage on the Hong Kong media art development. Peili can share with us the situation in Hangzhou, and Mengbo how it is like in Beijing. One of the important objectives of this project is to investigate the visual art’s context and how media art is formed. And under what context, artists and art groups carry out their art projects, therefore we would like to use this opportunity for a little cultural exchange. Ellen, you may start introducing the situation in Hong Kong first, then others can join in and talk about the situation as they know it.
Ellen Pau: I think there is a close relationship between the Hong Kong media art development and pop culture. In China, as far as I can see, most media art creations come from the fine art circle whereas in Hong Kong, its development is tightly bound to cinema, architecture and performing arts. The development is similar to the art history of the West – media art slowly developing from cinema then to art market and museums.
However, in China, media arts still remain in the fine art circle. It has already been twenty years since its emergence in the nineteen-eighties. In the eighties and the nineties, not many people in Hong Kong knew what media art was. They began to learn more about the art form since the late nineties after the first Microwave Festival. Later, with the establishment of SCM (School of Creative Media), Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Hong Kong Arts School also started their media art programs. Nonetheless, most of these programs are still design or pop-culture-oriented. The institutions are quite against the idea of putting art in design. SCM did not claim to be an art school in the beginning, they would prefer to be treated as part of the creative industry instead. After 2000, when the number of graduates started growing – as a matter of fact, some of our participating artists on the list are also graduates under this art education system – they knew how to use the strength of Hong Kong, such as our information system and close connection to overseas – it would be easier for them to have exhibitions abroad, therefore their experiences are more international and they also mature more quickly.
Isaac Leung: How did you start as an artist?
Ellen Pau: This, we can save some time for the next speaker.
Isaac Leung: Can Zhang Peili talk about the situation in Hangzhou?
Zhang Peili: Since last year, in China Academy of Art, the new media department I was originally responsible for has undergone a lot of changes. It merged with the integrated arts department where Qiu Zhijie was working at and also with Qiu Zhijie, Gao Shiming and Johnson Chang Tsong-zung’s exhibition culture research center of the liberal college and became a “transmedia college”. The original new media department disappeared. I have been teaching at China Academy of Art for ten years, starting from 2001. I think from the very beginning, we were facing a big problem, since in China, call it avant-garde art or contemporary art or experimental art, the art development and history is very different from the West. Many critics and artists in the eighties, they did not pay much attention to the value of languages or the critique of languages under the context of visual revolution, but rather the social meanings behind contemporary art.
The success of Chinese contemporary art on the art market in the last many years has not induced much impact on the art education system. Our art institutions’ education did not change much in the past few decades. That is why when I started preparing for the new media department in 2001, I already had this feeling that “new media” might be just a technological label, which looks open-minded. Yet in fact, it is only “new” technology-wise, not “new” in terms of concepts of creativity or of education. I tried to change the old teaching method. Whether it is new media or old media, the real problem is our art education system is outdated. In my opinion, China Academy of Art, Qinghua University’s Academy of Arts and Design (whom Zhang Ga is working with), and Fudan University Shanghai Institute of Visual Art could be the three cradles of new artist with new practical abilities and creative concepts in the coming years. Over the last few years, some students of ours have been carrying on their creations and become quite active on the art scene, such as Double Fly Art Center (an art collective). We should give them some time and more knowledge and give them room to develop. That is about it. Now the new media department has nothing to do with me anymore. It no longer exists.
Li Zhenhua: Let’s talk about your career. How did you start making video art in 1988?
Zhang Peili: 1988…
Isaac Leung: It is similar in Hong Kong. The term “Creative Media” was used because it could attract funding from the business sectors. It is totally commercial-oriented instead of pure art.
Zhang Peili: He was talking about what I did in 1988. Back then, I was not planning to do new media or video art. I only had a feeling. To me, it is a new possibility, a new experience. In fact, from 86 on, I started to pay more attention to possibilities outside paintings. During that period, television became popular and a household product in China. I happened to have an opportunity to use video camera. Before, my art works were more closed without elements of live audience or performance art, so I started shooting video. Of course, it might also have something to do with the Huangshan Conference in 1988. We were thinking why not use video to stir something up.
We did not only want to stir things up among the audience. What we really wanted to do was to challenge the curators and artists. I felt the philosophical questions discussed in the conference were empty. I felt like we should do something real and practical.
Ellen Pau: I think the early new media artists in China are very experimental. They were rebellious unlike the post-80s generation. And like what you (Zhang Peili) just said, if an artwork involves more technological elements, it might be short of humanity and its artistic value might also be more unique. Is that what you were trying to say?
Zhang Peili: Not necessarily. Maybe it is just me. I find reaching a balance between the two is very difficult. You can also use high technologies to express deep thoughts and concepts. They do not have to be contradictory, still you need to reach a balance.
Li Zhenhua: Let me explain what Peili has just said about technology and society. He hopes artists could explore in the direction of media and aesthetics instead of following the direction of the eighties that is mainly searching for new possibilities in the art system and politics.
Zhang Peili: Sometimes the boundary is hard to define. Using technological language to express thoughts and showing off technologies, the boundary between the two is very interesting.
Ellen Pau: Recently, Videotage is presenting an exhibition called New Media Archeology, which you have already visited. In the last couple of years, I have seen a lot of science laboratories inviting artists to create new works. Their creations are based on scientific investigation and research, which is very different from our usual way of looking at art. The result might be something high-tech or something we do not understand. So what is the value in creating new media art using this method? I think in general, there are two elements in new media – art and technology. New discoveries are present in both art and in technology. I do no think there must be a balance between the two. The new discoveries can be completely on the technological side. Like when the artists talk about the aesthetics of new media, it can also be with no technology involved. Someone works I see recently only use pencil and paper.
Zhang Peili: The balance I was talking about depends on the artist’s attitude. When we look at an artwork, it is not important whether we see its meaning or its technology first. It does not mean the work is with no deep meaning if you cannot see it. Thinking is also an attitude. Artist might not want to express their thoughts explicitly.
Isaac Leung: Ellen, you can talk about the art in Hong Kong in the eighties. They are also rebellious and political.
Ellen Pau: Because in Hong Kong, the cinema and television in the seventies were…
Isaac Leung: They started to become more popular.
Ellen Pau: That is why some of us started making independent films that are different from the mainstream. We were conscious about our use of video as a new medium. A new medium that allows us to voice our opinions. We had two models of creations. The first one is documentary and the other one is like Videotage as a platform to create. A lot of the works we created are medium-specific.
Isaac Leung: The artists use new media consciously.
Ellen Pau: Like in our first video compilation, we can see videos that deal with the issue of medium-specificity. For example, we realized there is no real “dark” image in video. That was my work. Another artist called Johnny Au was experimenting with the color feedback mechanism – a work on the video mechanism. We were looking at the medium from many angles. What is this medium? What possible interactions this medium can have with society? The development was closely related to television, performing arts and other cultural activities, but not so much to visual arts. That is why in the beginning, we did not have an art gallery even though art galleries could not really help us. What we needed was an editing table.
Isaac Leung: In the early years, Videotage’s collaboration with Zuni Icosahedron was mainly on performance documentation. Some of the videos at the time were also responses to the medium itself, just like Ellen said. Also, a lot of the works dealt with the Handover and Hong Kong identity issues. There are some quite serious and interesting works. Now, we can listen to Feng Mengbo to talk about your stories.
Feng Mengbo: I grew up playing video games starting from 1983 or 1984. Video game is an universal language. Video game development in China actually synchronizes with the world’s. However, people in China began to use personal computers much later than people in Hong Kong. I was one of the pioneers. I started to use computer in 1993. In 1994, when I showed my work at Hanart TZ Gallery, I already started using computer to create. Very few were doing that. I remember at Documenta X in 1997, only two out of more than a hundred artists were making art with computers. In 2002, almost half of the artists were using computers.
This so-called media art to me, from the start, whether it is game or computer, has no artistic implication, but we started using it very naturally. I do not know since when we started calling the new art we used to refer to as “avant-garde art” “experimental art”. This is a huge step backwards. “Avant-garde” does not mean one has to start a fight on the street with someone else, but rather it stands for an attitude and a spirit of not being bounded by any limitation. Now, the word “experimental” means “messing around” – no liability and no future, as long as it is experimental, it is good. Personally, I am strongly against this. After the establishment of new media departments in China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CCAFA) and China Academy of Art, all art institutions in China have such a program. The progress these programs have brought is very limited. In many cases, phrases like “interactive” and “physical computing” are used wrongly and unprofessionally.
We in China have actually missed an important transition from analog to digital – mechanics and electronics. This is a huge problem. We are not sure where the digital came from. We are ignorant about the revolution of electronic art in the sixties and seventies. The way artists like Nam June Paik used video was not the same as the ones after them. We missed this important lesson. There was no book or art museum available. We could not see the works themselves. We only heard bits of rumors. The real problem is this so-called digital art – its connection with the rest of art history is lost. People started creating before they fully understood the weakness and power of digitality.
I think this is all very pointless. Each time, when I teach at CCAFA, I ask the students to picture what would it be like when electricity is cut off. If you can still make art with no electrical power, you are okay. But if you can’t do anything without power, you can never make an artist. Everyone is so afraid of the internet blackout. No power, it is fine as long as I can use my cellphone. This is sad and wrong. From my experience, every time I create, I try very hard to let go and forget that part of myself. I want to see if I can still work under a very limited environment. I can use some very complicated software and hardware, but I can also make art with only pen and paper and even nothing.
We need to have this open-mindedness when we look at media if we want to be an artist. It gives me a headache every time I see the word “new media” when I go to seminars and exhibitions. I try to avoid taking part in those events. The word is limiting. What were we all trying to do from the eighties and the nineties? No matter it is video game or computer or Internet, we never adopted an attitude that we must use this or that technology. You are finished if you are stuck in technologies. We try to broaden the concepts of technologies. The reason we started using computer is we want it to bring us to a bigger space. I am not against the theme of this project, absolutely not. Especially, I find this project meaningful in the sense it can trigger dialogues between Hong Kong and mainland artists. Otherwise, it would become just another new media show. If that is the case, I am not sure about that. This is some of my personal thoughts.
Isaac Leung: New media or media are related to each other. Interestingly, many early artists did not want to think about the issue. No organization or gallery, no system or academy would name these things. The so-called media art or media nowadays are related to those different organizations and power structure. We hope through this project we can explore the meaning of media in different context and under what power structure media is defined.
Feng Mengbo: I quite miss the days before 2000. Before the word “new media” became so popular and common, I used to attend to some international exhibitions quite frequently. It was a better time. Now, this word becomes mainstream and modern. If there is an exhibition with no new media, it is an old and shameful one. It was not like this. But this is not important. We are not of the mainstream. When this thing became part of the mainstream, I started to hate it. I do not like it anymore.
Li Zhenhua: There is one thing in common. There is a historical reason. I can remember vividly in the eighties, for instance, when Feng Mengbo made a computer artwork, it would trigger a whole series of progress. The second type of responses would be a lot of people start imitating him for doing that make them feel innovative. Also in the nineties, installation art became something like a gesture. Now in retrospect, the problem Mengbo just mentioned actually existed. In general, new media exhibitions become more common.
For example, what kind of media is new media? What is video art? What is performance to video art? And what is video installation? Categorization of all these art forms is not adequate. One of the most heated topics these days is bioart – but what is bioart? How many different kinds of bioarts are there? We do not know enough, but at the same time, we start doing it hastily. For example, I can make something about genetics, because it is trendy and special. It looks like I just made something none of you could understand. But maybe later it will change due to the lack of regulation.
The phenomenon in China Mengbo just mentioned, I think since 2007, has also been happening in the global art scene. Many new media artists no longer want to be referred to as new media artists, instead, they want to be seen as contemporary artists. Like Mengbo just said, maybe Peili also remembers, when Nam June Paik was making video art, we all forgot he started off composing music. He is an artist who makes music who is also concerned about performance. What he used was media. He saw new possibilities in television when it first came out. It was a very contemporary medium. As I wrote in my previous article, multimedia or new media are all contemporary and should be seen as part of contemporary art system, rather than separating the two and merely look at its technicality.
Isaac Leung: We can listen to Wang Zhenfei and Wang Luming. They, like many multi-media artists in Hong Kong, have multi-identities. They are both architects by profession.
Wang Zhenfei: First of all, we are architects, we do not know much about the development of new media art from a historical point of view. We would do something related to new media and computer programming. There was a breakthrough in architecture after 2000, called pragmatic design. Pragmatic design uses innovative technologies through computer programs, for example, application of global design algorithm to help bring changes to architectural design.
From this point of view, I think it is similar to the role and function of new media in the arts. In the past few years, probably after 2005, the opening up of software has made the research and development of hardware design easier. Some architects started doing some computer programming, including interactive applications. Many universities, like UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) also began bringing interactive design to architecture programs where one studies the correlation between architecture and human, only they have not been raised to an artistic level. I started to learn about these concepts when I was studying in the Netherlands. I found them very interesting for they are different from traditional architecture in terms of way of thinking and technique. I agree to what Mengbo has just said, that is can you still make things when there is no electricity? This is just the same, in architecture, there are two opposite views. One is people see architecture as a tool to carry out the complex ideas architects want to put into practice. The other is to see architecture as a way of thinking that can potentially change the architect’s ideas. And this change of concept results in the change of architectures.
I think this is very important. The change of way of thinking implies that I can solve problems without the use of computers or programming. To a certain extent, I think pragmatic design has brought a lot of changes to the filed of architecture, not only technologically, but also ideologically. Later, we did a lot of experiments on computer programming, which I don’t think should be called architecture, and they have not reached the complexity and functionality of architectures anyway. At Shanghai’s eARTS Festival curated by Art Yan in 2008, we collaborated with aaajiao (Xu Wenkai) on a new media artwork, using purely programming. Of course, the way the work was built was very lo-tech, but the way it was designed was totally different. It is something in between art and architecture. This to us, is more attractive – a new programming method. We will see what we can do with it, even though it might not be counted as art.
Isaac Leung: Let me first summarized some key areas we have already touched upon. First, our knowledge of the media itself. Second, the relationship between galleries, institutes, artwork, artist’s naming and media. Thirdly, the relationship between artwork and its historical context. And finally, the relationship between media and artist.
Agnes Lin: Like what Isaac said, may things originated from concepts and media. I think art is art, what really important is the concept. Today we are sitting here organizing this project, we should also state clearly our idea and concept in each part of the project. From the gallery’s point of view, we emphasize and support the development of concept.
We are also supportive of experiment. Experiment itself does not have a conclusion. It is not necessarily a success or failure. At least, we can talk about these concepts. We will provide what we can for the project, as Peili said, just let them do it. Osage Gallery has a similar experience. Five yeas ago, when we first started, with no experience or background in art, we only knew we wanted to do something. In 2007, we tried to do some poetic experiment. Miao Xiaochun came to have a exhibition at our gallery, then we had a response to new media through music, performance, sound art, projection art, and live music performance. This became a project called “Sire” which some post-80s generation artists participated in, such as Samson Young and Christopher Lau.
I like the works of Wang Zhenfei very much. They are a transmedial experiment. We all have different expectations and ideas of our society, like when you go to an exhibition, if there is no new media artwork, you’d think the show is not fashionable enough. Why do we want new media? Because it gives us a different experience. Through architecture, new media, science and technologized visual arts, a new experiment with the space, architecture and interior design is formed. We should hold to our expectations of the visualization of these projects.
Isaac Leung: In the following week, we will launch an exchange platform on the Internet. We will invite all the presenters and artists to join the discussion. We can explore topics based on the title of the discussion. Then, we will use the following five months to continue our exchange and sharing. The documentation and transcripts will be translated and uploaded. We now have about fifteen minutes left, I would like to know if you have any special ideas or suggestions about this project before you came today? Or what are your reactions to Hong Kong? I very much agree to what Mengbo said, this project is all about cultural exchange, the exhibition itself should not be of the topmost priority.
Li Zhenhua: I think this is a new beginning, and an opportunity. It is not always easy for artists in China to have a gathering as such. This project should be at foremost for cultural development. I have this question in my head – why do we have to do this in Hong Kong? What can we do in Hong Kong? As a curator, there is always this contradiction. What is there to initiate an exhibition? Apart from selection, what can you do to inspire the artists or how do you trigger off new possibilities? In the beginning, it is difficult to judge whether we are right or wrong, or whether the theme for this exhibition is too clichéd. Why do we choose these artists – is it just because we are close friends with them? Or are they really that unique in the history of contemporary art? It is more important we can create something interesting out of these choices and judgments made with our own experience.
Isaac Leung: As for the question of Jeffrey Shaw’s Hong Kong identity. We do not look at it from the ethnicity point of view, but rather from a contextualized perspective. Do you have any response to that, Peili?
Zhang Peili: This is a very interesting collaborative project between Chinese and Hong Kong artists in the form of dialogue. I hope there will be a real meaningful exchange rather than just a simple pairing. I’ve met Jeffrey Shaw previously, but we did not have a very deep conversation. If the two of us will be paired up for this exhibition at the end, there should be a genuine dialogue between us. This is very important. I do not wish to see at the end, it would be just putting our works together. That would be easy to do. But that would be purely formal, meaningless and without content. I hope there is a real concept behind this collaboration.
Isaac Leung: That is why we hope the artists can work and create a new work together.
Zhang Peili: I am also looking forward to that. It will be a new experience for me.
Agnes Lin: We once did an exhibition at Asian Art. We had six curators and six artists. It was also in the form of pairing. We were also hesitant about the role of the curators and artists. It is very interesting for different artists working together. It is like each person starts from a new concept.
Isaac Leung: Feng Mengbo.
Feng Mengbo: We came to Hong Kong in around 1993 or 94. That was pre-Handover. Hong Kong has undergone a lot of changes all these years and so have we (China). This is not simply a question of “What is Hong Kong and what is China?” and how it has evolved. We also have a lot changes to the question of “what is Hong Kong?’ Before, we needed our passport to come to Hong Kong, now we only need a pass. We can basically come over anytime we want to casually. When we first came here, nobody understood Putonghua and we all needed to communicate with people her using English. Of course, over the years, the mainland has also changed a great deal and in the art scene as well. Artists like Ellen Pau, we have all heard of. I know her works. To us, she was like a “Hong Konger”, almost a British.
Isaac Leung: Because she has a British passport.
Feng Mengbo: Anyhow, I think now Hong Kong is not so much different from Shanghai. It has changed. That is why like Peili said, this project should never be just drawing lines from artist to artist. If so, it would be really like just putting two artists’ works together.
Agnes Lin: How would the exchange between mainland and Hong Kong artists be arranged?
Isaac Leung: This is our first meeting. We will arrange meetings with artists according to their schedule. Then, we will begin our five-month online exchange. It is foreseeable each group will have different arrangement due to the different outcomes.
Feng Mengbo: The key is to stimulate the energy of both parties. The pairing should be flexible. It should not be done simply for the sake of hosting a fancy-looking exhibition, putting different works together. We hope the condition would be more uncertain, so something new may come out. Otherwise, it would be just another group show. Shows like that you can see everywhere.
Ellen Pau: Have we told you the details of the project yet?
Feng Mengbo: I only learned about them after I got here. I do not care about them that much. I do not pay much attention to things like whether I must make a video game – to be honest – I am not so sure about the connection between me and games. I wish to see a more organic and flexible basis for this project.
Ellen Pau: It should not be a problem.
Feng Mengbo: That is to say we should be more playful. Now, there are too many rules.
Li Zhenhua: It is very important for us to come to Hong Kong this time. I told Isaac and Ellen already that we know too little about Hong Kong artists. Information about them is not at all that accessible. There can be many possibilities in terms of artistic exchange. It can be achieved through visual-audio works, performance or whatever.
Ellen Pau: When I talked to Qiu Zhijie, he told me China Academy of Art had invited some Taiwanese artists over for cultural exchange. I think it is easier for mainland and Taiwanese artist to communicate with each other since they all speak the same language. On the other hand, there are a lot of commonalities between artist from theses two places. Hong Kong is a bit different. It feels like we do not have an already established culture. In this project, our main focus is on the artists. And one very important thing is art criticism. We should look at this project from a more critical point of view, from the combination of artists to the concept of the artworks. However, the final result may be something other than an artwork, for example, for Zhang Peili and Jeffrey Shaw’s collaboration, it could be a dialogue on media art education. To me, in the system of media art, the flow is from popular culture to visual arts and to art institutes. If we can have an exchange between two prominent media art educators on this, it will be great. Also, we need to invite some art critics to our projects since now it feels like we are talking to ourselves only.
Li Zhenhua: Let me follow up on that. Recently I talked with Uli Sigg about this problem. He was judging for an award for art criticism. I said to him that is an almost impossible task since there is no basis for art criticism. The foundation of art criticism lies in investigation of facts. For example, how much do you know about artists in a certain area – what are they working on and what have they done? What makes an oil painting or a photographic work new, etc. In Chinese contemporary art, this kind of art criticism never exists. They are always political. No one is doing the job of archiving, collecting and categorizing the data. If these document and records are not present, I am not sure if art criticism holds any value. I encourage people to do this kind of research, even research on individual artist.
Ellen Pau: Many people are talking about public space and public intellectuals nowadays. Many discussions like this are going on in Hong Kong right now. There is this platform called In-Media. It aims to create new activist possibilities in public space with media. What we are talking about here are mainly visual arts, maybe we can broaden the horizon of this project and get involved in social and public discussions.
Li Zhenhua: Speaking of social responsibilities and public intellectuals, the development of social media is growing very quickly in the mainland. Many public intellectuals started using Facebook and Twitter within a year after their launch in China. They are already talking about the way the words are counted. In English, a word is composed of many different characters. In Chinese, two characters can already form a meaningful word. Only ten words are needed to form a sentence. It can be quickly turned into a huge and free public realm. I think this is closely related to what we were discussing about – what is new media and how to understand a new medium. Should we be self-reflexive when we are using the medium and how about their social aspects?
Our collaboration is a way of a dialogue. I like what Feng Mengbo just shared with us. The impression and experience of Hong Kong culture is also a form of collaboration.
Li Zhenhua: Should we talk about Hong Kong’s imagination of the mainland?
Isaac Leung: True. It should be an imagination of the two places. It does not have to be an artwork, but rather a new exchange with the use of new media.
Feng Mengbo: In China, there is not much we can learn about the art scene in Hong Kong. We know a lot about the popular culture here. Any small showbiz gossip will be turned into a big deal in the mainland. However, I am not sure even a professional art student would know anything about what happens in Hong Kong contemporary art.
Isaac Leung: This might be the most interesting thing.
Feng Mengbo: We saw this exhibition at Cattle Depot today…
Isaac Leung: A lot of times, our imagination of the mainland is political. This is very limited, maybe we can play with it a bit.
Feng Mengbo: About Imagination.
Isaac Leung: Imagination might not be real at the end, but this is already reality. I think this kind of exchange is of great importance. After that, it would be the making of the artwork.
Li Zhenhua: If it is possible, we might want to invite someone who is between Hong Kong and the mainland media, such as Leung Man Tao and Dou Wentao. I remember Leung had a television program on Hong Kong people’s imagination of China. He mentioned some phrases like “Mainland bumpkin” and “Hong Kong bumpkin”. I found that very interesting.
Isaac Leung: We contacted him before. He did not reply to our invitation. But we can keep trying.
Agnes Lin: We have too much imagination of the mainland.
Isaac Leung: Right. Too much imagination. We can continue our discussion on our online platform until next time. Thanks for coming. At six o’clock, we will go to City University for Li Zhenhua, Art Yan and Ellen Pau’s talk. Thank you very much.