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New Media Exhibition
    2008-06-25 20:04:52     CRIENGLISH.com

 When the National Art Museum of China casts heavy floodlights on new-media arts installations, especially interactive ones, it's a sign that these works have officially blossomed from the alternative to the prevalent, if not the mainstream, in a country where tradition is fading fast. The museum is presenting an exhibition called "Synthetic Times C Media Art China 2008," from June 10th to July 3rd. Our reporter Li Peichun takes us on a tour of the exhibition.

"Synthetic Times C Media Art China 2008" will be one of the most important cultural events leading up to the Olympic Games in Beijing. Fan Di'an, president of the National Art Museum of China, says the show will epitomize two of the three leitmotifs of the Olympics C culture and hi-technology C and bear the signs of the art world in transition.

"This exhibition necessitates that visitors bid farewell to their old ideas about art. Traditional art forms like oil painting, sculpture and lithography have their peculiar media like canvasses, pigments and brushes. The medium determines the artistic content. Today, when electronic devices rewrite history, art will inevitably mirror this evolution. "

Professor Zhang Ga from Parson's School of Design in New York is the guest curator of "Synthetic Times." He talks about the essence of new media.

"Basically, the Internet is an interactive media. Its invention has caused a fundamental change in the art scene. Before, no matter how effective a medium like paper or film could be, it was just a one-way communication. With the Internet, a revolutionary two-way communication has come into being. In this exhibition, visitors will be initiated into interacting with artwork."

Established and emerging artists from 29 countries present a stunning battery of significant media installation works, ranging from telematics to bio-cultural hybrids; from sensible machines to generative systems; from robotic interventions to audio-video spectacles; and from immersion environments to monumental structures. The works on view highlight the most cutting-edge artistic imaginations since the dawn of the new millennium. They propose new sensibilities for cultural artifacts and reflect and critique our contemporary technology-saturated society. Many of the featured works are world premiers.

The show is laid out according to four themes: "Body Beyond," "Emotive Digital," "Recombinant Reality" and "Here, There and Everywhere."

In the "Body Beyond" section, American art student Daniel is typing sentences on a computer. A five-meter-high male face projected on the wall gives responses to whatever Daniel types. Onlookers are amazed, especially because there are no computer operators prompting the projected image's answers.

Daniel enjoys the conversational system called "Prosthetic Head" designed by an Australian artist.

"I am talking with the computer. He was just talking with me about movies. He knows 'Blade Runner' and '2001.'"

"Touch Me" by a Holland artist is an interactive installation that lets users create and contribute a personal image on a blank digital screen. You simply press your body against the frosted glass surface of the installation, leaving your imprint on it. The interaction itself is entertaining.

Huo Xiumin, an art teacher at Beijing 165 Middle School, is not the chalk-and-talk type of instructor.

"Modern art is a new field for the students. Through exhibitions like this one, the students come to know that today the concept of art is not limited to painting and sculpture. Sound, light and electricity can be artistic mediums. The students are able to see with their eyes, touch with their hands. These exhibits are highly interactive. "

Huo's three female students manage to print a three-good-friends picture on the installation. They smile sweetly when they see it.

Chinese Artist Du Zhenjun's work "Dr. Du Zhenjun's Anatomy Lesson" is in this section as well. The installation consists of a large digital screen with half a table affixed to it. In the video, eight Dr. Dus appear in the background, surrounding a table with a lifeless body on it, that of Mr. Du. The eight Dr. Dus observe Mr. Du. That is the anatomy lesson.

In the image's foreground, the real table virtually extends into animation. A second Mr. Du lies down on ithalf real, half virtual. When a visitor approaches the screen, the eight Dr. Dus leave the background and, in an orderly manner, station themselves in a half-circle around the first table. The visitor has actually become an "actor" in the lesson, a ninth watcher besides eight Dr. Dus. As long as the visitor remains there, the eight Dr. Dus continue to look at him. If the visitor moves away, the eight Dr. Dus also withdraw, returning to the background of the animation.

An American art professor strikes several different poses, expecting to see different reactions from the eight Dr. Dus. But to her disappointment, every time they only come and stare at her. Finally, she finds that the secret lies with the floor mat below the screen. When she steps on it, sensors inside it prompt the motion of the eight Dr. Dus.

"I think it is clever and funny. Now I imagine I am the specimen, and they are all watching me. It makes you feel very self-conscious with all these people coming and getting you."

The word "digital" is readily evocative of something that lacks warmth and unemotional. "Synthetic Times" attempts to reverse that stereotype with its section called "Emotive Digital." Here you can really feel the color and euphoria that digital technology brings.

Let's first look at an "Emotive Kitchen" created by a German artist in the "Emotive Digital" section. When you enter this standard western style kitchen, you probably will not see its artistic nature. But suddenly, devices, accessories and appliances start moving about as if they are part of an orchestra. Tables and chairs jump together in rhythm. Piece by piece, the objects have calm down. Visitors are pleasantly surprised by this sensual and aesthetic display. Once they see it, they no longer wonder about the meaning of the installation's title "Living Kitchen Happy End of the 21st Century."

"I am an art worker. The high technologies presented here seem wondrous and magical. They are new to us, since mostly we deal with traditional two-dimensional art. The artworks here are meant to involve the visitors and carry them along."

This section also presents a very interactive installation called "Sound Drawing." The Korean artist who designed it wanted to visualize unseen sound. When visitors draw casually on the paper set on four tables, different sounds can be heard. They sometimes form a rough melody.

The exhibition's fourth section is called "Here, There and Everywhere." A three-dimensional shooting game tagged "Object B VS" looks like any similar arcade one. But unlike arcade games where you shoot at ghosts or bullies, there are no targets to aim at in the installation. Every bullet you shoot at the screen turns into the image of a modern material comfort like a car, a floor lamp or a supermarket trolley. The more bullets you fire, the more objects crowd the screen.

An avant-garde music promoter interprets this game this way.

"I fired shots very happily. I regard it as a psychological game. The objects come out of the pistol and pile up to make the space of your own activity shrink incessantly. It is an allegory of the materialist times that we inhabit. Greed and consumerism are awful."

"Synthetic Times Media Art China 2008" is a showcase of new-media arts presented on an unprecedented scale in China. A variety of visitors say it is an eye-opener, yet find it a hard nut to crack.

For the Spotlight, I am Li Peichun.




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