I made the talk in Claudia Hart‘s class of “Travels in Hyperreality" on March 10 via zoom. The following is the script for the presentation:
S1: Thanks so much for having me to present about “Travels in Hyperreality in China”, I’m excited about what I’m going to share.
S2: First of all, I’d like to introduce myself a bit. You can check out more information through my blog also.
S3: As I said, I’m excited about this topic because China is such a country of postmodernism. It has been through a cultural revolution and the economic reform last decades. Everything after that almost started from zero (we kind of lost our “origin”), especially in terms of culture.
S4: So, we had experienced the time filled with Shanzhai and duplitecture. Like this Eiffel Tower in the suburb of a Chinese city, or the KLG instead of KFC, Naik instead of NIKE.
If you’d like to explore, you will find a lot of fun from it. sometimes they’re masterpieces in terms of imitation. But I’m sorry to say they are fading in history now.
S5-7: Actually, there are growing creativities everywhere in china from the public.
And these are photos from Tabao (which is Chinese amazon), although they were collected by a British artist KIM LAUGHTON who bases in Shanghai.
I bet you’ll want to take a chance when you see this gigantic barbecue duck.
BUT besides these hilarious appropriations, there are a lot of artists criticizing the spectacle of Chinese consumerism.
S8: For example, I think this piece can strongly present the hyperreality of Jean Baudrillard’s critic, which is a representation, a sign, without an original referent.
XU Zhen (who’s an established artist based in Shanghai), he made a supermarket without any actual products, and instead of offering the empty packaging alone.
if you look carefully in this picture, you will find out there’s nothing inside of the package. The artist tries to merely sell the package to the customers.
S9: And somehow the supermarket does so good business that it eventually sold itself on Sotheby’s auction. I wrote the texts for the catalogue as a writer of Xu Zhen’s company, at that time, everything is ironic in many layers.
S10: Beyond these things, my generation (which is Millennials, a generation born between 1981 and 1996), we were coming of age in the Information Age, and kind of witnessed technological development in accelerated speed. we’re also working on a new way to explore reality.
S11: Compare to 200 years ago, Hippolyte Bayard (was a French photographer and pioneer in the history of photography), he made a selfie of himself drowned to death. In the image, he pretends to have committed suicide, sitting and leaning to the right. It became the very first move of post-photography.
S12: Back then, the artists now are doing the same thing with updated technology. Wang Newone is using CGI to create humanoids and environment, doing collage based on the database.
S13: She describes her works as photography of the surreal world she made, and she claims that she was born on the INTERNET.
S14: Speaking of the artist born on the internet, it reminds me Laturbo who is an avatar and artist originating in virtual space.
S15: Laturbo has founded, Panther Modern, which is a file-based exhibition space, encouraging artists to create site-specific installations for the internet founded in 2013.
S16: In 2017, without knowing Panther Modern, three students from Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts founded a VR space called slime engine. I’ve worked with them several times. Did anyone play slime before?
The point of this toy is you can make any shape from the gel. So they use this name for the virtual world, which is utilized to present diversified contemporary art forms.
S17: They don’t care about someone or avatar who has founded a virtual reality space before them 4 years ago when I told them so. They believed Slime Engine doesn’t come out from any originality while Panther modern is still a virtual white cube.
And I think it’s a perfect example to narrate the simulacrum.
You see the distinction between Panther Modern and Slime Engine is the latter one “bears no relation to any reality whatsoever”.
S18-20: So this is the lego city, and cyberspace, a Jurassic Park all designed by Slime Engine, and they present the artworks in this fictional world.
I’m not saying which one is better than the other one. But it’s interesting to compare two different patterns of virtual art space.
This is a screen record of their website. But you can explore more by yourself. It will be the best with your VR glasses.
S21: Take this project, for instance, Ocean including more than 100 artists on a virtual ocean. It allows the public to surf on the ocean to check out each artwork.
S22: We’ve shown this piece at Rhode Island College. You see the works are just floating on the ocean. Experiencing an exhibition is just like playing a video game in your home. I would strongly recommend you to try,
S23: because some artists think “The experience in the virtual world feels very real” quoted from the artist Lin Ke (a new media artist Born in 1984), who recorded himself playing Second Life.
He said: “because you will encounter unrepeatable choices made by online players at specific times.” "
S24: BUT when this second world becomes a real-life conference platform or AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and leads to real-world interaction, virtual reality started invading reality.
S25: “For artist Li Hanwei (a young emerging artist based in Shanghai), virtual is real, and he wants to demonstrate it by the green screen. In the show “hunting cycle” I curated, he coloured the wall and the floor tiles into the green.
This is not the perfect photo to make a point, but if you look carefully, there’re floor tiles covered by the green. And you can imagine another wall was fully covered. Such transformation blurred the border between reality and virtual. Make the space as a kind of tunnel into the virtual world, you know.…"
S26: Just like platform 9 and 3 quarters of harry potter. A condition in which what is real and what is fictional, are seamlessly blended.
S27: This disregard for the distinction between real and fake reminds me of the subculture of cosplay. Like Disneyland, it works in a system that enables experience in the created atmosphere “giving us more reality than nature can”.
S28: And through them, I can understand better with Lu Yang’s works. I’d really like to introduce her or him to you, but this is what I found on her website. So Lu Yang is human.
S29: “And, this is the nonsexual 3D Avatar of Lu Yang herself or himself.
Obviously, she takes advantage of VR space to transform her gender identity without physical surgery."
S30: Lu Yang explores the representation through 3D animated works inspired by Japanese manga and gaming subcultures. In “Uterus Man” (2013), she collaborated with musicians, manga artists and others to create a project centred on an anime-style character Uterus Man who rides a “pelvis chariot” and skateboards on a winged sanitary pad.
I will show you through this video.
S31: But the artist Chen Zhou ((b. 1987, China is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice involves cinematic language, painting and writing). intimately senses this fusion of virtuality and reality. In his film Life imitation, he parallels real life with a virtual game.
There’s a video clip of Life Imitation.
S32: You saw a female killer wanders the streets of Grand Theft Auto, and people express their suffering and depression over love life in social media.
It reveals the symptoms of a mental disorder in this hyperreality.
S33: Instead of worrying about the reality on our side, some artists concerned about the other side: computer simulation – a parallel world inside the computer. Like Matrix.
S34: Lawrence lek (he is a filmmaker and musician working in the fields of virtual reality and simulation).
S35: One of his works, Nøtel (2016), is a multimedia installation eventually transforms the gallery space into a real estate marketing suite for the fictional Nøtel Corporation, Lek’s design for the future.
S36: This immersive advertisement enables visitors to experience through interactive video games, guided walkthrough trailers and virtual reality tours, rendering the global hotel chain as if it already exists on site. So you can see the people just sit on the bench, but their minds have stepped into the future through VR headset.
S37: And finally, I wanna introduce Ian Cheng (Chinese American artist) as the last case for today’s presentation. He is a perfect example to narrate a parallel world, a nature as hyperreal. He did his first solo show in the US in MOMA PS1 three years ago.
S38: Since 2012, He has created a series of simulations that explore the capacity of living agents to deal with change. His simulations commonly understood as “virtual ecosystems”.
S39: It’s a virtual world where function as a game of life, meaning that its evolution is determined by its initial state, requiring no further input. It evolves by itself. Some scientists even think this game reveals the ultimate secrete of the universe.
S40: “When I look into this, I wonder how can we tell real or fake if a “virtual world” can evolve and generate reality by itself? Is this ecosystem a real nature? Or,
Is this sth beyond the hyperreality? "
S41: And that’s all, thanks for listening.