Culture  Where technology and art meets - On the Road, Young Media Artists in China
15/04/201800:00 TV5MONDE
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Since late March, a group of promising young Chinese artists have been offering a stimulating representation of the media art scene through 40 fascinating new media artworks at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU). The exhibition, titled “On the Road: Young Media Artists in China” features the works of 36 young artists selected from major contemporary art institutes and art organisations in mainland China and Hong Kong. 

The exhibition has as its aim to showcase how young artists have moved beyond the idea of “new” versus “old” media, seamlessly combining art and technology. The exhibition is likewise a carefully curated reflection of the breadth of knowledge, aesthetic framework and academic contexts of the generations born after the 1970s and 1980s. First held at the Guan Shanyue Art Museum in Shenzhen last November, the exhibition comes to Hong Kong this time in an expanded version, following receiving raving reviews. Under the curatorship of Professor Maurice Benayoun, a leading figure in digital and contemporary media in the world, the exhibition is an ambitious overview of the current state of media art created by a younger generation, reflecting the surge in size and quality of the new media art scene in greater China. 
 
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The other Shore:  Transpiring, Crystallizing by Gewen Song
2015, Mechanical Installation.
Constructed with cow leather, arduino controller, electric relay, neon lamp, metal, stone. Dimensions variable.
 
TV5MONDE visited the exhibition earlier in the month and had the chance to speak with two of these emerging young artists, Mr. Gewen Song and Mr. Haichao Zhang. Both of them have spent time in France while pursuing their studies in arts. Gewen Song was born in 1986 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. In 2014, he went to Paris for a state-funded international exchange program and is currently working on his doctoral degree at the School of Intermedia Art of the China Academy of Art. Haichao Zhang was born in 1987 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Art Education department of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. From 2011 to 2016, he pursued his graduate degree studies at the Institut Supérieur des Beaux Arts de Besançon, and is currently teaching at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. 
 
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Space Interface by Haichao Zhang
2017, Mixed media. 100 cm x 100 cm

As both of you have spent time in France pursuing studies in the arts, what was your experience like? Can you tell us what are some of the advantages and challenges of pursuing an artistic career abroad?
Zhang: you'll definitely notice how much effort France puts into nurturing its student population. A lot of resources are granted to students. As an art student you get often unlimited access to musuems and art institutions in the city, and the government helps with grants, space and resources to study, as well as internship opportunities. The challenge of course lies in the languages. In my case for example, I'd have loved to stay to work on post-graduate studies, but the French language skills required at that level was a bit beyond my reach at the time. I ended up returning to China because I'd also found an excellent internship after my studies.

Song: I spent only half a year in Paris, unlike Haichao who did his entire master's degree in France. I stayed in the middle of the Latin quarter in Paris and definitely took advantage of a very artistic lifestyle. Every day, I'd go for walks, observing the historic strcutures nearby as well as at the museums and other institutions. It was an absolutely marvellous experience. As an installation artist, however, I must say that China has much more opportunities and resources for the nature of what I do. For one, I have much easier and more economical options for the scope of my projects. With full respect to labour laws and worker's rights, the money I would have to spend on hiring teams and sourcing raw material would be exorbitant if I stayed in France or Europe in general. There are also materials specific to Asia which would not be available in Europe. 

 
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Haichao Zhang with his piece

Hong Kong has once been mocked an artistic desert, as our education system does not devote as much effort to artistic studies in comparison to other developing countries in the region. What is your thought on that, especially as we know this is a first visit to the city for one of you?
Song: we can't speak for the other types of art, but when it comes to new media Hong Kong is a global leader. Professor Maurice Benayoun (MoBen) is a pioneering figure in the field of New Media Art and has the reputation of “France’s most cutting-edge artist”. 

Zhang: I agree. It is definitely an honour to participate in this exhibition, especially when we heard that Prof. Benayoun is curating it. For those of us working with digital and new media, he’s really like a landmark and icon which we look up to.

Song: Plus, when you work in new media, your academic background is not as important as your will to explore and experiment. A lot of the most established artists in the field come from all sorts of academic backgrounds. In fact, they merge those skills they have acquired elsewhere, making it uniquely theirs within their pieces.

Zhang: Yes. Many of the digital and new media artists I've come across could be computer programmers, sound engineers, builders or even studied something completely unrelated at school. For example, my work deals with a lot of programming languages, but as we know anyone could code; it just depends on what you make of it.

 
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Gewen Song

 
So what are your plans in the immediate future? 
Zhang: Have you heard of the Dazu Rock Carvings? (Dazu Rock Carvings are a series of Chinese religious sculptures and carvings located in Dazu District, Chongqing, China). I am working on a project involving digitalization, light projection and these carvings. I don't have an exact blueprint of what I am working on, as a lot of my projects are created based on trial and error as well as various sessions of work. I'll be based in Chongqing for the time being. As for participating in exhibitions, I am not too sure as of yet.

Song: I will spend about 6 months in my studio, I think. I would like to dedicate time and space to focusing on working on my projects. Installation takes time and I want to be able to perform more hands-on work as well.

For more information on the exhibition and the list of artists, please visit the official website. The exhibition is co-organised by CityU, the Guan Shanyue Art Museum in Shenzhen and the Curatorial Committee of the Chinese Artists Association of the Museum and goes on until April 19, 2018. The exhibition is free of charge and opens to the public daily.

With special thanks to the organizers of the exhibition who has graciously granted our liberal use of all the photos herein. Please note that copyright of all photos belong to the artists and organizers of the "On the Road: Young Media Artists in China" exhibition.
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