The Heteromorphy in the Era of Digital Consumption – Animation in Chinese Contemporary Art
Source:Artintern Author:XUE Baohua Date: 2009-08-25 Size:
The multi-media animation created an interactive art, enabling the receivers to experience the art through interaction in the situation set by the artists. In this sense, the multi-media animation presented its distinction and distance from other video art, creating a meaning through non-static and non-free video and audio presentation.

Just like the drastic reformation of the Chinese society copying miracles of the Western economic field, the corresponding cultural realm staged the same act. After rounds and rounds of presentations of varied western arts and concepts, the multi-media animation art followed their course. The cutting-edge medium swiftly won wide attention for this art form. The development towards the native experience helped Chinese multi-media animation art transcend the mere meaning of a new medium and acquire its position in the avant-garde art. Among the many extensions of the concept of multi-media art, the multi-media art we talked about involve all kinds of experimental audio and video works, experimental documentaries and feature films, 2D and 3D experimental animations, CD-ROM art works and internet works based on interactivity, as well as video device and audio device, which are more connected to the space features of the traditional fine arts.

The burgeoning of multi-media animation art was first based on the continuance and extension of the Chinese contemporary art pedigree. Its cultural psychology sharing the same background with other forms of contemporary art, its aesthetic orientation and conceptual pursuit corresponded with other contemporary arts quite a lot. However, the conflict and dissimilation constituted by the concept, virtuality and interactivity of the multi-media animation art, brought on the audience a physical and mental impact, the totality and intensity of which were unprecedented. We noticed that the multi-media animation tried to create as many ways for the audience to receive as possible, such as the combination of video and device and audio art, the expression of various media forms, and the interactive communication with the audience, all of which endowed the multi-media animation art the post-modern trait of the consumption ear, at least in the form. Just like HUANG Danhui noted: The post-modern art is neither the so-called audio culture brought up by Wolfgang Welsch, nor the visual art by Frederic Jameson, nor the tactile culture and visual culture advocated by Walter Benjamin. The post-modern art is a complex art with the audio, visual and tactile arts fused as one, a theory strongly proved by the multi-media art, the complexity and diversity of which represented a new tendency of the development of contemporary art. Meanwhile, the penetration of the most powerful and entertaining animation into the video art, further strengthened the virtuality, gaming quality and entertainment of the multi-media animation, making it more a representative of the current cultural situation.

The multi-media animation created an interactive art, enabling the receivers to experience the art through interaction in the situation set by the artists. In this sense, the multi-media animation presented its distinction and distance from other video art, creating a meaning through non-static and non-free video and audio presentation. The multi-media animation highlighted its difference and departure from the traditional vision (painting) and space (sculpture and architecture) in the form of expression. The transcendence over the traditional art form, the multi-dimensional, multi-angle visual approaches and the application of media and technologies, helped this transformation of the medium bring a multitude of possibilities to the expression of art, including new visual forms, ways of experience and ways of communication, carrying and expanding the diverse expressions of personal experiences and feelings.

In the transition from the former video art to the multi-media animation art, the power based on the digital technology of the digital consumption era was released, assuming the role of a midwife. The "moving down" of technology, and its gradual transfer to individuals, along with the production, copying and broadcasting of video becoming more and more commonplace, enabled the subject to freely and smoothly use this kind of tool and medium. The multi-media animation art possessed an ecumenical democracy compared to the pressure on the technology and skills of the traditional art.

We finally got to see this kind of transition: in the multi-media animation art, video went almost completely against its original intent as an objective and exact record and transformed into a surreal, deceptive and indefinite virtual image. The reality of the video was continually dissimilated in the process of video transforming into virtual image, until it presented vivid virtual heteromorphy. Just as Ernst Cassirer emphasized: The painting is an imitation to the world, photography and films a copy of the world, and digital images the freely created products of the visual world. In the era of digital visual culture, people pursue better vision and perspective of the world and themselves with the aid of visual machines and its technology continually enriching the forms and art of "seeing". Artists' pursuit for "a multitude of possibilities" was being replaced by the "infinite possibilities" of technology. In fact, from the painting on the easel, device art to the video art, multi-media animation art, human arts have staged new forms incessantly. The development of art stands proof to the liberation of human imagination under the guidance of technology.

On the other hand, the multi-media animation art is a product of the waves of digital era, mass cultural, consumption culture and entertainment culture. French writer Regis Debray thought the alternation of broadcasting media could be divided into three eras of different modes: writing era, printing ear and audio and video era. The three eras respectively corresponds to theology, aesthetics and economy. In today's audio and video era, which corresponds to economy, the public audio and video image has become its important token. The tender, flattery and penetrating public audio and video images surrounded us with their daily stimulation of TV, films, entertainment culture, internet and advertisements, flooding the current society and changing the existence experience and cultural environment of people in an unprecedented way.

The development of mechanical reproduction technology and the advent of market consumption era resulted in the production and broadcasting of mass consumption images. Images became the medium and symbol of communication of the consumption era, even an intangible power to manipulate and control us, exerting influence on our daily behaviors even consumption awareness. Just as Heidegger warned about the raging world image era: "In the essence, the world image does not point to an image of the world, but rather the world being grasped into an image." The following artists of multi-media animation respectively expressed their understandings and attitudes towards this fact through their own ways and angles, without exception they all chose the different memories, experiences and feelings of the subjects in the background of city of digital consumption era, plus their personal aesthetic expressions:

ZHOU Xiaohu's works always start with the daily information of life, integrating its complexity and disorder into a surreal visual experience. In Mr. Honey, Utopia Machine and Beautiful Clouds, the important theme of "manipulation and anti-manipulation" endowed his works allegory and satire. "Media in essence is a product packaged, furnished and trimmed by people," in fact a manipulation of the mass, and the world is just a dialectic place of manipulation and anti-manipulation, full of games, manipulation and anti-manipulation between human and human, power and mass, and media and mass. Like dramatic plays, ZHOU's works implied the existence context of daily politicization, with games starting and puppets taking the stage. From the manipulation of the production of animation images to the anti-manipulation of audience in the interaction of animations and sets, the participation of audience further extended the meaning of the works. GU Dexin' animation art employed the new medium to continue his independent and sharp critic awareness of the pioneering works since the 80's, expressing the thoughts on life and humanity as well as the metaphors on ideology through straightforward and concise languages, in his latest work Imitation of Life, GU adopted and online-like dialogue, with repetition of virtual, incoherent and obscure plots to present the infinite boredom of life, reminding people of the absurd play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.

CHEN Shaoxiong and QIU Anxiong both chose the form of ink painting to present their multi-media animation art, with astonishing similarity in the process of creation. CHEN's serial works of ink painting depicted the city culture, normal life and material and personal experience of the consumption era, abandoning the heavy ideology of the other while shifting to the presentation of the "light" and "minute" daily life. The details, normal things and landmark buildings of life, together with the narrative and flowing image constituted the memory landscape of current city experience. Shutter, photo, printing, ink, re-shooting, editing, sound, finally coming down to animation, the unique process of creation plus the expression of ink painting and animation became the symbolic art language of CHEN's Ink City, Ink Diary and Ink Things, with the painting language of ink being re-edited in the 4D space, displaying the effective exploration of traditional culture in the current society. QIU's New Shanhaijing (The Books of Mountains and Seas) discussed about the change of the natural and social environments people live in. From the unchained imagination of Chinese ancient myths, the author derived peculiar images closely related to current lives, seriously revealing through the absurd and fabricated situations the side effects brought by technology and some danger towards where human beings were marching. PI San's works, on the other hand, are a combination of animations with real images, delivering the existence experience and personal feelings under the consumption cultural context of the city. Its fashion, liveliness and cheerfulness made the commercial temperament of animation art stand out.

TANG Maohong and WU Junyong's animation works possess the cool feature of animation generation. The line-drawing images of TANG showed the touch of some traditional claborate-style painting, added with fashionable element of animation, showing the diverse application of varied resources. Irrefutably, we observed the obscure presentation of sex in the works, images like human bodies, flowers, insects, fish, rubber tubes, mushrooms and angels, along with the swift and random depiction, continued his personal fantastic and surreal psychological expression. While WU's works could be compared to the stage of a magician, or a theater of mysticism. A bunch of nude animation jokers with pointy read hats – a group of nobodies performing the absurd, weird, or even slightly pornographic plays like puppets on different stages and sets, a social play of current reality constituted by bits and fragments. The author's reference and criticism of the current society is more of a cold humor of wisdom with a touch of grief than cynicism.

YE Linhan's work is a metaphor of the relationship between time and space. His work created a transwarp relationship. The image and language expressed a flowing and shifting space, the void and eternity of which could only be guessed, but never determined. The filed that SUN Xun and its artistic elements dabbled in ranged from world history, politics to natural creatures, its eternal black and white keynote and the background of yellowed old newspapers were permeated with the bleak temperament of history. The animation language of SUN pursues the quality of painting in the flowing animation with a striking feature of print. SUN thought his reproduction of history – No More Heroes, presented the examination of history, building a way of communication and talking, also implying a critical and questioning attitude of the individual. He combined the visual images he found and created with personal imaginations to stimulate the senses, enabling the viewers to approach history and filling the gap between history and images with the thinking of oneself.

It's a group of heteromorphy of the digital consumption era, digital technology, dissimilation of the subject, affluent material, consumption culture … the complex contemporary cultural features coexisting in the frames of virtual world.

                                                June  2009

[Editor] 于添

    Artintern