In this video, June HE shared her creative stories during the pandemic by answering the questions provided by R-Lab. She also introduced two specific art projects: the “Home Studio Artwork Series” and the “Flag Project”, the former of which was the focus of the workshop she held in the video – how to create collages from materials around us.
Artist’s personal presentation, creative ideas, and artistic projects
Workshop on collage (starts at 21 minutes into the video)
The artist’s concluding remarks
The collages you will learn about: June HE’s collages are mixed-media collages made with oil paints, some of them are installation mixed-media and some of them are mixed-media on linen or canvas. June HE uses materials mostly from newspapers and magazines, and she also designs glasses in various shapes as one of the common materials.
Newspapers, magazines ( which can express your themes, ideas)报纸，杂志（可以表达你想传达的主题和想法）
Are you ready to start making your own collage?
STEP 1: Cut out the content you need from newspapers and magazines Just cut out roughly what you want, whether it’s keywords, pictures or whole news articles, but always remember that they need to be relevant to your topic and the ideas you want to convey.
STEP 2: Lay out your cut-out material on canvas You will need to roughly lay out your collage in this step and do some simple trimming of the material to see if you need to add or remove any more material. Don’t forget to take a photo of your collage.
STEP 3: Dip the material into water The wet newspaper and magazine material will fit more easily on the canvas and avoid air bubbles.
STEP 4: Brush the glue onto the canvas If your canvas is small, you can simply brush it full of glue, adding a little water for better results. But if you have a larger canvas, you should brush the glue on in specific places before putting the material on to prevent the glue from drying out.
Velasco & Hu already worked from home before the pandemic. Since the start, they have focused on projects relating to flower blooming, bringing them “Closer to Nature” than ever before. This experience changed their relation with nature and opened up their sight on flower art.
The couple also made a series of “Pills” which are short 1-minute videos, which they call “Visual Poems.” In 2020, they made 6 pills in total.
Closer to Nature – 30 days challenge / Beauty and the Dust
Two short films Velasco & Hu believe reflect their lives and thoughts during the quarantine and the post-quarantine:
QUARANTINE. (visual poem #3)
This is a mini short film Velasco & Hu made during the lock-down. The intention was simply to do a visual diary but it has somehow turned into a visual proof of the common emotions they all shared back then.
LA NONNA INVISIBILE
Velasco & Hu made this short film at the end of 2020. It presents an invisible grandma by representing her culinary heritage through a visual feast consisting of beautiful still life pictures in motion. Through the story, they want to pay tribute to many grandmas who lost their lives, silently, during the pandemic, and keep them close in their memories.
Velasco & Hu is a creative couple formed by Carlos VELASCO from Madrid and Kate HU from Taipei. They teamed up to create transcendent, story-telling, artistic and cinematic photographs and films across Europe and Asia. They are commercial photographers by day and fine art photographers by night, specializing in still life photography.
The names would be abbreviated as “Isabel” (Isabel DIERINGER) and “Velasco & Hu” (Carlos VELASCO and Kate HU).
(之后姓名分别写为“Isabel”、“Velasco & Hu”)
Isabel: How did you organise your work and life during the pandemic?
Velasco & Hu: As our home is our workspace (apart from the shootings in rented studios), we organized our work and life in the same way as before, trying to get a balance in between.
Isabel: What is different from before the pandemic?
Velasco & Hu: We used to work from home and we used to shoot still life photos at home, so it hasn’t been so different. But indeed, we stayed more time at home during the pandemic so we’ve tried to look for more projects to do at home.
Isabel: What is the biggest change you have been through or found? In other words, what is your Covid-pivot?
Velasco & Hu: We were very fortunate to be commissioned to work on a series of photographs and videos about a flower blooming during the pandemic. We spent lots of time studying the flowers before the shooting, by reading books, buying flowers to observe, testing flower arrangement and time-lapse at home. This experience changed our relation with nature and opened up our sight on flower art. We feel so much connected with nature and the changes of seasons, and all this has given us more inspiration throughout the pandemic.
Isabel: Has the pandemic had an impact on your work/work plan? (Was there any change in your thinking focus?
Velasco & Hu: Yes, unfortunately, we become more hesitant in planning projects that will involve many people, and we would have to think of a plan B to execute our projects in a smaller scale. That’s also why we made those “pills” as the footages could be made at home, on the street, during our trips without involving others.
The words “fragility” and “collapse” are often reflected in Xiaolei TIAN’s work, specifically, the sense of vulnerability and crisis that threatens to collapse. For him, the pandemic is the result of a chain of events, similar to a cascading reaction. No one realised at first that the virus would be so radioactive and that it would also lead to the interruption of all activities throughout society. Restrictions appear from country to country, people to people, and eventually, all life was messed up.
The astronaut is a symbol of man’s exploration of himself or a human figure cultivated by the spirit of science. He is constantly exploring new planets, and when he gets to the next one, it becomes a ball light in a ballroom, but it slowly blows up like a self-cracking explosion. And when he goes to the next one, the last one is restored, and man is like a locust, passing and exploring one by one.
Even though they are dancing wildly, those two have started to take on distorted and dead features, and the background has changed from a starry sky to a blue screen, reflecting a kind of revelry before the reboot.
Xiaolei TIAN: Young Chinese artist, a pioneering force in Chinese new media art
“The post-pandemic era may accelerate the arrival of the post-human era; the pandemic is actually accelerating the speed of man’s incubation in the virtual world, as well as man’s dependence on the internet, while also moving further towards a world like cyberpunk. In general, man is actually getting more comfortable with the evolution of machines and technology, and at the same time they are cycling faster and faster on man.”
The names are abbreviated as “Jackie”(Jackie GAO) and “TIAN”(Xiaolei TIAN)
Jackie: As R-Lab is an organisation that explores the transformation and changes in Art during the pandemic, so our discussion will focus on the potential discourse that the pandemic provides for the transformation of art.
First, have there been any changes in your life and work since the outbreak that have impacted you?
TIAN: At the beginning it was very intense, but now I feel it has become very easier in Beijing, apart from that, sometimes, we still wear masks when going into public places.
However, when the pandemic first broke out, the feeling of change was very noticeable, as if there was tension around us all the time. The city management also tended to be stricter and more closed off. Whenever we went to some places, we needed to have proof of access and went through many checks which inevitably created more stress for us.
This change has affected all aspects of society, the main impact was about traveling, and we all had to take activities indoors mostly. Everyone was like an island, seeking information with the outside world, and the only option had become the internet and our phones.
Jackie: Right, we must be more proactive in order to connect with people.
TIAN: Exactly. I think it is the same all over the world. During the pandemic, people’s emotions became negative, so we just had to go through such a lonely period. I was one who adapted quickly and was not too sensitive to this change. Then, I have made good use of this period because I was used to being alone, so instead I felt that I suddenly have plenty of time without so much strife.
TIAN: I think the key words I am thinking about now are “fragility” and “collapse”. This may also be reflected in my work, specifically, the fragility of the status quo and the sense of crisis that there is a possibility of collapse. As the pandemic caused a series of events triggered by a single event, it is like a chain reaction. It was not acknowledged at the beginning that it would be so destructive, even leading to a state of almost stagnation throughout society. There were all sorts of restrictions between regions and between people, and eventually everything just went haywire.
It is as if our current situation cannot withstand any fluctuations, and a problem of any aspects could bring the whole society to a status of standstill. This vulnerability was much stronger than we thought. A problem in one area seemed to mean the whole world went wrong in an interconnected way. It felt like the current world order was not actually very solid, it only appeared stable on the surface, and it could not adapt to the change as quickly as we thought; like a wound, it takes a long time to heal, and its pain is global and continuous. So, I might rethink some of the topics about the sense of vulnerability, or the instability, etc.
Jackie: Yes, these two words are very concrete, and they are reflected in your work. In fact, I have noticed that you have used some visual expressions in many of your works, such as the LED gallery in Hangzhou, the ‘specimen form appeared on the flat screen’ presentation in Posthuman Zoo, and the ‘screen formalin’ concept. I think the concept of “screen formalin” is very clever, so how did you come up with the idea of using this kind of presentation? Do these works have a reflective effect on the context of the pandemic?
TIAN: Actually, those works started as an attempt to do it inside a box, to create the screen itself as a space. I think that was a little proposition I gave myself or a little restriction. It was a spatial restriction so that it would be better organised. From a formalism point of view, I focus more on the spatial relationship of the content, that is, the relationship between the content itself and the container. Later, I felt that this was making patterns, so I created some of these imaginary patterns that I imagined to be related to post-humanism. Of course, it is a long-term project that will probably take a few years to develop and refine, and eventually it will become a series. And it will all be displayed side by side, probably in many boxes, each with a different object in it, and eventually it will be displayed like a museum and could be collected on screen.
Jackie: I think this is a particularly great concept because including the ‘screen formalin’, which you mentioned earlier is a developing concept, which has porosity. What is also interesting is that long before the outbreak you proposed this concept, but once again when you look at it through the lens of the pandemic, its meaning has changed. I think this point also proves that the work does have an extensibility about it and a kind of prophetic quality too.
TIAN: Actually, I am better at working on the computer, which probably allows me to be more open and flexible than I would be. Because there are a lot of specific constraints, such as materials, costs, space, and time, and even a lot of mechanical or other specific problems, but on the computer, these are not really problems. In the future, it could be made into VR — VR is already being done, wearing 3D glasses, the world would be real, it’s like we are looking at exhibitions in a virtual museum, so the experience could be better.
Jackie: Right, so do you think the concept of ‘screen formalin’, is there some overlay or overlap of context between this concept and the pandemic?
TIAN: The pandemic has catalysed the fulfillment of the concept.
Jackie: As an audience, from my point of view, the pandemic is a continuation of the concept of this series of works. You just said that the pandemic is akin to a push for the fulfilment of these ideas, which I think is indicative of the prophetic nature of the post-human perspective of this work, the pandemic is akin to a validation, which is also interesting.
TIAN: Yes, the audiences are free to make associations. Although they might have different perspectives to what the artist initially thought, however, it is very normal and the artist would like the audiences to do so, to have various interpretations.
Jackie: It is. I think that is also one of the charms of art. Therefore, it has brought a lot of changes due to the pandemic, so what might be the most impressive change that the pandemic has imparted on the art world?
TIAN: I think it is the fact that there are more artworks online, or that people have a stronger desire to showcase it. It used to seem like people were a bit secretive and would not always post their ideas on public platforms. But then I found that people were trying to promote themselves in every way possible. However, there is probably so much information on the internet that even if you do speak up, you might not always be noticed. People only have a limited attention span and most of their attention was taken up by those platforms who have a way of knowing what could get people’s attention, even if it’s not necessarily what they really want or like. At the same time, because of the lockdown, there were more online exhibitions.
Jackie: That is right, you have been very specific about the profound shifts in the Art world. So, let us go back to your work. I have seen some short videos on your Weibo account, such as Before the Rebootand the Mythology series, which have some astronaut and planet elements in them. What are your thoughts on applying these elements in a post-human context?
TIAN: These astronauts relate to the stability, fragility, and collapse that we just talked about. In The Thrill of Stability, for example, the astronaut actually symbolises a human exploration of himself, or an image of a human being cultivated by the spirit of science. He is constantly exploring new planets, and as he goes onto a planet, that planet would become a ball light in a ballroom, and then slowly collapse and blow itself up, and as he is walking towards the next one, the last one resume, which could give a feeling of a human being as like the locust, going from a planet to another for plundering.
That is also what Before the Reboot is about. They are having a carnival dance, but the man has started to take on a distorted and deadly character, and the background has changed from a starry sky to a blue screen, a sense of one last carnival before the end. That is how I interpret it, but audiences may see it differently.
TIAN: Technology and Art are closely linked. Historically speaking, technology and art are one and the same, but I think it is basically technology that drives art. Because art is only beneficial if people are well fed and clothed. Like the technological revolution, which invented so many technologies that are particularly useful for life, such as CT, and technology has in turn contributed to the development of art, rather than art contributing to the invention of technology. Because art does not have that much objective energy, it’s the economy that’s behind the technology, and the economy drives the technology, and then the technology drives the whole society from all aspects.
In fact, from the invention of pigments to the computer, the Internet, including VR and artificial intelligence, all these inventions have been promoting art and finding new possibilities for it. Some of them are material, some are directly conceptual. In fact, art and technology are one and the same, but technology comes first, and art comes second.
Jackie: Well, yes, the economic base determines the superstructure. Then we come to the next question, the concept of the post-pandemic era was proposed in a way that overlaps with the context of the post-human era that you proposed earlier, can you talk about what would be potentially illuminating about the post-human era for what we call the post-pandemic era?
TIAN: I think the post-pandemic would accelerate the post-human era because the pandemic is accelerating the rate at which people are incubating in the virtual world, people are becoming more dependent on the internet, and we are taking a step further towards a cyberpunk-like world. In general, man has become more and more adapted to machines, to the evolution of technology, and conversely man has become more and more updated to them. There is a heavy dependence on technology, especially in some big cities, people there has reached an unrealistic level of dependence on technology. It is as if people are handicapped once they have been removed from certain technologies. For example, if you do not have navigation app on your mobile phone, you may not even know where you are driving. The use of the Internet for express delivery, ordering food, having fun, etc. has also increased our dependence on it. So, I think people would probably be happier in the virtual world, and this process may last for a few hundred years. As the technology becomes more and more mature, people will spend more time in the virtual world than, for example, gaming time now feels like a lot, as well as brushing Jitterbug or some other social media software. Excitement and entertainment, this is the next direction. People’s time has slowly been taken over by some technology, so I think the pandemic is a kind of acceleration, I guess.
Jackie: According to what you have just said, technology might gradually take over our physical world and art world. Do you think this form of online art exhibition may gradually become mainstream in the future or even replace the physical art exhibitions completely?
TIAN: It is impossible to replace the physical ones, because people have not lived completely online yet after all, and it’s only when they live completely online that offline is likely to be replaced. Exhibitions could become like games, where you could interact on your mobile phone, but right now we have not seen any exhibitions that are interactive enough to attract people, so there are still no big surprises comparing with physical exhibitions. A well-done online exhibition could complete the exhibition in the process of playing it, rather than still being a simple viewing experience.
Jackie: It is saying that the development of online exhibitions is not very mature now, isn’t it?
TIAN: Yes, but I rarely see physical exhibitions now. It depends on who the audience is. For young people, they have a demand to go to physical exhibitions, for dating or socialising. They must be the main audience for physical exhibitions. However, the cost of physical exhibitions is relatively higher, mainly in terms of time. For example, if you are busy at work, the time cost of watching a film on your mobile phone is different from watching a film in the cinema. In the latter case you must spend several hours, or even half an hour preparing before leaving home. So now the exhibition must be attractive enough and famous enough or have a following to go and attract people. Otherwise, it is satisfied for people to go through exhibitions online.
TIAN: In fact, the combination of technology and art in China is quite hot right now. Because to some extent, art has fallen into a big dilemma, so it needs technology to give it a new breakthrough. Firstly, there is a lot of potential for technology, because it appeals to young people and it is easy to create a buzz, and secondly, commerce likes it, for example, many shopping malls and advertisers would like to incorporate new technologies into art in their exhibitions. In China, the combination of technology and art has been very popular in recent years.
But I think artificial intelligence would be the thing most interesting in future. I think that artificial intelligence and mechanics could be combined with more virtual things. We could find a lot of potential directions in this area, and it will be interesting to see how each direction could be promoted. There is no direction that is better or more futuristic, so I think the state of technology now is that it is full of the possibility to be explored and rediscovered. Because there is no breakthrough in basic theory right now, it needs a process of accumulation, and there is a rhythm of quantitative change producing qualitative change. So, I think there is going to be a slow mix of technologies, there is going to be a lot of subdivision of new ways to play. I think it is going to be very great.
TIAN: Technology itself is like a kind of life. Kevin Kelly wrote a trilogy that is actually talking about this. People are nurturing technology into life and trying in various fields to make artificial intelligence become like a life form, for example, it can control itself, make itself, and then he also wants it to be conscious at the end, in fact, they are all working on this. I think that after continuous experimentation, once the direction of evolution is determined, it will evolve successfully. It is just a matter of time because human beings have evolved over a long period of time. However, this is just a natural and slow evolution, but the time it took for man to cultivate technology was actually very short, and perhaps in another 1,000 years, this could break through even faster. It is giving a sense that human is cultivating a strong and powerful life from the point of view of the evolution of living things.
Rust-like elements often appear in my art, like scars, negative effects, etc. My thinking in using these elements is: when we’re faced with some issues, recognising their existence and balancing their relationships with us is precisely what we should do.
As a young artist in the field of contemporary art, Zidian YAN aims to consider the social situation by combining his visual language and the realisation of philosophy.
YAN hopes to break with the constraints of traditional Chinese aesthetics and explore the future context of the Art world by communicating through a combination of Western and Chinese culture.
He wants his works to build a world of “Poetic Utopia”, and his main artistic intention is to promote “poetic revolution” and “rebuilding life”. He, therefore, regards artwork as a reflection of intention and the content involved in it as evidence of his artistic concepts. He also believes that, as a medium, the form of artwork is merely about presenting meanings.
The names would be abbreviated as “Ifance” (Ifance FAN) and “YAN” (Zidian YAN).
Ifance: Could you tell us how did you organize your work and life? Like, what have you been up to lately during the pandemic? And was there any aspect of your work and life that has changed by the pandemic?
YAN: During the pandemic, I spent most of my time painting at home, and my social life was less than normal. Recently, I’m trying to change myself and breaking through some limitations, in order to explore some new views. The change might be that I had more awareness of the crisis, just as a Chinese old saying goes, “If we live with sorrow, we would die with happiness”. Therefore, being in such a serious circumstance, all of us should inspire ourselves to be more aware in order to deal with the challenge.
Ifance: Could you tell us about what kind of impact the pandemic might have on your art creation? such as the changes you‘ve experienced or discovered? or what could be taken as your Pivot during this period?
YAN: If we just talk about art creation, I have to say that actually, it might have more positive impacts. As the result of lockdown which directly caused by the pandemic, I’ve spent a quiet period at home by creating some oil paintings, or reading some poetry masterpieces and anthologies. As for my Pivot, it might be more about the new things that happened during this period, such as the process of engaging with the new stuff or new friends and understanding and accepting them as time went by. This was also presented in my paintings I’ve created with my heart.
Ifance: Just mentioned that you read a lot of poems and anthologies at that time. Could you share them with us?
YAN: Yes, in particular, there will be more poetry anthologies recently. Like” Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Nietzsche, and “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau. Interestingly, they were also in the stage of solitude in their lives when they wrote these masterpieces. Meanwhile, I’m reading books by Xiaobo Wang and Rainer Maria Rilke.
Ifance: During this special time, what has impressed you the most? does it have any connection with your intention of the artwork?
YAN: The thing that impressed me most was our attitude toward the pandemic. After the outbreak, we instantly implemented the lockdown strategy to control its spread. This attitude also could be found in the process of art creating similar: when we discovered a problem, the thing we need to do is not avoiding it, but to recognize it and solve it, I also express this opinion in my works.
Ifance: What was the source of inspiration for these works? And when did you start two conceive it? What kind of relationships are involved among them?
YAN: The idea of the artworks mainly came from the phenomenon of the pandemic, my mood state, and the poems and articles I’d read at that time. Ideas could emerge in every moment of living a life. When these artworks were finished, virtually, it was not the same as its conception at first, because it’s varying with my feeling and thinking during my process of creation.
Ifance: From the bonus scene in the video, it can be seen that you’ve changed to another idea just before creating. Why does this happen? What kind of information do you want to express by this?
YAN: The idea appeared after Easter. At first, I was focusing on experimenting with new materials to make a breakthrough of the scenes, and after attempts, I found that it was quite good. Therefore, this bonus scene was created and wasn’t public until one year after the outbreak. What I wanted to depict was not only that we were all affected by the time and the destiny, but also the clear moonshine, the bright sky, the endless sea, and the stars covered the sky, they were all in my mind.
Ifance: Have you ever counted how many artworks were created during that time? Which one do you like best? What do you think should be the most difficult part during the whole creating process?
YAN: There were nearly 30 artworks, not just paintings, but also performed with the form of conceptual art and installation art. My favourite work is The sunshine is falling like dust when we are breathing quietly.
The most difficult part of the whole creating course was my mental issue. This was due to the fact of my standard of taking an artwork as completed because I wouldn’t think an artwork as finished unless I’ve passed the hurdle that emerged in my mind during its creation.
Ifance: Did these works capture or record the changes or influences that appeared during the pandemic? Could you tell me which one gave you the deepest feeling during the creation? and what its story was like?
YAN: It is true that these works recorded the changes in my thoughts. Cutting off the prosperous moon on the earth and my thought of never contacting initiatively was the most impressive one for me because I am not an active person in life and relationships, I always miss some of my friends, but wouldn’t contact them on my own. I can only miss them deeply in my mind.
YAN: There are four artists. The first one is Anselm Kiefer, and then Joseph Beuys, Olafur Eliasson and Anish Kapoor.
Ifance: I have noticed that you’ve used the creating methods of paintings, installations, sculptures to reflect on the difficulties and considerations in your life. Is this the focus of your art creation? What are you thinking of when you selecting different methods to perform creation? What is the relationship between these artworks and your other works?
YAN: There are many ways of expressing my thoughts, and my focus is to purely express and vocalize my mind through those works. The perception that emerged from the dilemma is the most inspirational for creation. There are different creative methods but the purpose is the same.
Ifance: I’ve noticed that you held a solo exhibition online last year. Is there anything you want to share with the audience from this experience? What made you want to hold this exhibition? What do you think is the relationship between curation and creation?
YAN: Well, I’d like to share but I feel that I am still not good enough, I should put more energy into my creation to present better works. Haha, the reason for holding this online exhibition was because I had nothing to do during the epidemic, so I thought that I should make an annual summary for my whole-year creations. Maybe I would hold such an online exhibition every year in the future. Art creating is like the arm, and curatorial work is more of overall planning, summing up, like joints.
Ifance: Since your first exposure to art, or before the special period, has your perception of art been changed? Is there anything you want to say to the artists? Especially the ones who are still in school.
YAN: My ultimate goal hasn’t been changed for more than ten years, what changed was my attitude towards the “rules of the game”. I want to say that, “This road might not be as easy as you imagined, so if you’re taking Art as a pure belief, just try your best to live your life.”
Shawn: “without the whirlwind of energy around me, I had to look inwards to find a way to drive me forward, and to translate that into an artwork that was accessible in this day and age. So transform all my work into digital work.”
Tsitra: “the biggest change to adapt to was making work internally, there was a lot of insular thinking, as opposed to being a part of something bigger. We are probably creating the most interesting dialogue in the every day, there are constant pivots and we are constantly aware of them.”
With a combined interest in communication and digital aesthetics, Tsitra Park and Shawn Nayar’s curatorial venture [INSERT ART HERE] develops emerging ideas and methods of making art to create an intimate and engaging experience in a time of isolation.
[INSERT ART HERE] is an online exhibition hosted on Zoom. Between the 12th and the 14th of March, the event featured 13 artists across Europe and North America, each combining a green morph suit with Zoom green-screen technology to embody their work in new ways.
[INSERT ART HERE] website with more information that you can access here:
Shawn Nayar is a practising artist and curator from India who is currently based in Newcastle upon Tyne. His practice traverses digital platforms and media to explore queer and erotic club culture. Amalgamating personal experiences from the club scene with a deeper exploration into the role of POC within the gay community, Shawn creates work to depict and engage a community isolated due to lockdown.
Tsitra Park negotiates dialogues of privacy and identity in the realm of social media, with work that interrogates the role of the individual and art-making in the digital context. Based in Edinburgh, they use their curatorial and art practice as a means by which to engage and unpack new contexts as art and artists adapt to an evolving world.
Interviewer: Hello everyone, and welcome to R-Lab and our interviews. My name is Velia Cavallini and I’m here with Tsitra Park and Shawn Nayar, and I’ll let them introduce themselves.
Interviewer: 大家好，欢迎大家来到R-Lab的采访环节，我的名字是Velia Cavallini，我将采访的是 Tsitra Park 和 Shawn Nayar，接下来让他们为大家做一下自我介绍。
Tsitra: Hi, I’m Tsitra Park, I’m currently based in Edinburgh, I am an artist and curator and I work with ideas of dialogue between social media and the public sphere at the moment. Together with Shawn Nayar we created [INSERT ART HERE].
Tsitra: 大家好，我是Tsitra Park, 目前居住于爱丁堡，我是一名艺术家和策展人，目前我致力于社交媒体 和公共领域之间的对话。我与Shawn Nayar一起创作了[INSERT ART HERE] 。
Shawn: My name is Shawn Nayar. I am an artist from India who is currently based in Newcastle upon Tyne in England and my practice is really interested in queer culture, particularly in queer club culture. And I look and research and explore the place that people of colour have within the gay community and within this really vibrant culture. And yes, together with Tsitra we’ve worked really hard to create [INSERT ART HERE]
Shawn: 我的名字是Shawn Nayar. 我是一位来自印度的艺术家，目前在英国泰恩河畔的纽卡斯尔工作，我对酷儿文化非常感兴趣，特别是酷儿俱乐部文化。我致力于观察、研究和探索有色人种在同性恋社区和这个充满活力的文化中的地位。并且，如你所⻅，我和Tsitra一起创造了 [INSERT ART HERE]
I: For the first few minutes we’re going to focus on your lives as and then we’re going to go into discussing your artwork. So, how did you organize your life and your work during this pandemic?
S: I guess during this pandemic it was a lot about trying to find the artwork that drove me. Before I was surrounded in this really lovely chaos of the art world, there was um inspiration everywhere from art galleries to people around you and suddenly just being isolated and alone without all of this whirlwind of energy to keep driving you forward you have to have to look inwards to find a way to drive me forward. So it was a lot about studying myself and finding a way to translate that into artwork that was accessible in this isolated age so transforming my work into digital work.
T: I found that it took a little time to get used to work in the pandemic and I think my immediate response was to develop a sort of routine and just to do something, to create work and not necessarily think about what I was making, or what I was trying to make, and just doing. And that developed then into ideas.
I: And what do you think is the biggest change that you had to go through, or the biggest change that you have found yourself stumbling into?
T: I’d say that the biggest change has been the lack of everyday communication that you never really planned with people, the kind of the interactions when you’d just be in the studio and someone would walk past, or just on your daily commute where you’d see someone doing something weird that will kind of stem your brain into thinking different things. And the change has been that you’re making work, like Shawn said, internally a lot, so there’s a lot of insular thinking as opposed to being part of something bigger.
S: I think the biggest change for me is that I’ve been actively seeking out communication and talking to other artists. Because initially I was taking, like as Tsitra said, those walks through the studios and seeing something which sparks your brain, just random conversations in the hallway. I completely took those for granted, so now when I was completely deprived of all of those I’ve been actively trying to recapture that. So it’s been calling artists to have meetings, randomly outreach, messaging and such. Essentially, it’s me bombarding all the artists I know being like ‘hi how are you’ and trying to force them into having dialogues just to keep conversations going, to get those cogs really going. Even if it’s not even at an art level, even just a social level, just to get some sort of communication going.
T: I think really grabbing onto the digital sphere as well, and like bouncing off what Shawn said is quite important in that, how do we still re-establish that connection that we’ve kind of lost. So I think uh both of us have been seeing how we can use this new world to our advantage.
T: I mean, I think that the world is constantly changing anyway isn’t it? And I think actually what’s funny about this is that there was one big change, and now it feels like the world isn’t really changing. So you’re much more aware of your own pivots, because we’re probably creating the most interesting dialogue in the everyday. So I definitely think that there are constant pivots, and we’re constantly aware of them, because we’re now our own stimulus and our own world, in a sense.
S: I have definitely noticed that my pivots change depending on my emotions, and how I’m feeling. Because I’m always trying to have this outrageous outgoing-ness, but then whenever I’m feeling down or I just got a lot of work that I need to do, I have this recluse and my pivot becomes internal. I’m like ‘okay, I’ve got this work that I need to do, that I need to develop’. So, it sort of comes in, and then I want to reach out again, get some more inspiration. It’s definitely oscillating, depending on how I’m feeling between the internal and the external. And that’s definitely a really important, pivotal change during this pandemic.
I: So, as artists, what is your most proud creation since the beginning of the pandemic?
S: Honestly, [INSERT ART HERE], and for me personally another project that I’m doing, Freaky Deeks. For both of them it’s less about the work – the work is still amazing and I love what I’ve got out there – but what has really drawn me into it has been the audience, and the artist networks that we’ve created, so the places where artists can talk together, create work together, collaborate, talk. And even audiences, using platforms to see our work but to also talk amongst each other. So, I think that’s what I’m most proud of, creating the networks between audiences and artists, for sure.
S: 老实讲，[INSERT ART HERE], 我同时也在做另一个项目叫Freaky Deeks。对我们来说，令人惊叹并不是作品最重要的，我喜欢的是，我在项目中获得的意义，其中真正吸引我的是观众，以及我们创建的艺术家网络。艺术家可以在这里一起交谈，一起创作，合作，交谈。即使是观众，也可以通过平台观看我们的作品，也可以相互交流。所以，我想这是我最自豪的，即创造观众和艺术家之间的网络。
T: I think that would stand for both of us. [INSERT ART HERE] has been a big part of both of our works this year, it has kind of transformed the way that our own individual practices work, but also the way that we interact with others. And I feel like the idea has caused others to kind of have a bounce point as well and to reconsider their own practice. And we’ve had a lot of feedback from that which has felt really great. So, I’d say that’s what we’re both most proud of, hence why we wanted to put forwards for R-Lab.
T: 我想这对我们俩都有好处。今年的 [INSERT ART HERE] 是我们两个作品的重要组成部分，它在某种程度上改变了我们个人实践的方式，也改变了我们与他人互动的方式。我觉得这个想法让其他人也有了一个“转变”，并能重新考虑自己的做法。我们收到了很多反馈，感觉非常棒。所以，我想说，这是我们最引以为豪的，所以我们想将其展示在R-Lab线上展览中。
I: Thank you for that! So, you talked about [INSERT ART HERE]. When did you start working on it? And if you could just describe the project to me.
I: 谢谢你们!那么，你们谈到了 [INSERT ART HERE]。你们是什么时候开始创做这个项目的?你们能否向我描述一下这个项目？
T: We started it and it was kind of an idea that originated back November (2020). We were just thinking, what can we do with this new space? I was so frustrated about this constant thing ‘well it’s not real exhibition space though’ and ‘oh you know when we get back to the whatever’. And it was just like, we knew we’d be in it for a while so, what can we do to create that sort of atmosphere that feels like it’s a one-time only thing, that used to be there but whatever. And also, I was playing with this idea of the artist compared to the artwork and that relationship. So Shawn and I had a walk and we were brainstorming this idea, about what if we used like the green morph-suits and the Zoom technology – because we’ve been using Zoom so much – to kind of get the artist to embody their own work, so they become their own exhibition space. Because it felt like the artists will see their work anyway but it was interesting to play with that relationship, and then bring it to an audience on Zoom, which almost feels like an intimate platform as well, that doesn’t replace or stand in for the physical exhibition space but it’s something of its own accord.
S: Yeah, and I think as soon as Tsitra brought up these ideas, especially using Zoom in an unconventional way to bring audience and artists together, my mind instantly just went forward and I was like ‘okay, this is such a great idea, it’s so visually striking’. So, what really got me invested in the project were these really strong visuals and I was like ‘I know how to take this forward, and how to reach our audiences’. So in my mind I was instantly thinking about crazy posters, with these green morph-suits, paired with high art, or just our features in the green. So, what really sold me on the project was really the visual medium that we would use to bring our audience together. That was instantly what got me interested, and I guess it was like a snowball going down the hill. Tsitra just had this idea of using Zoom and I was like ‘let’s do this on social media!’. And these crazy ideas were just building and building and building until finally just became this big fascinating project that we just had to do something with!
I: Did you all know each other before or did you just collect new artists along the way?
S: It was a lovely mix of both. We had an open call which we distributed amongst our university, but also on Instagram and Facebook. So, we had people that we knew applying and we also had people who we had no idea about applying from Brussels and from North America, and we were so fascinated by this response. It was a really interesting mix of people that we knew but also people we had no idea about. And no matter what level we knew them at, being able to relate to this idea of wanting to create art really helped to create this awesome starting point to build a really interesting dialogue with them.
T: We gave them a lot of freedom; they developed the idea with us really. We kind of started the project wanting it to be a collaboration, we had this idea to embody your own artwork, but immediately you put it out to people and you get ideas that you didn’t have before. People wanted to use green paint, green clothes, and we thought as long as it’s your body so that you’re still embodying it and not taking it away from that, then beyond that people really went a bit wild. And that’s why you’ve got such a range of artworks in it, which is really great. It was so exciting to see where people would take it.
S: Yeah, because I think as soon as we started getting applications in from the open call, and people with their really interesting ideas beyond just the morph-suits, like as Tsitra said green paints green clothes and different ways of embodying their artwork through performance, through digital paintings, I think we just didn’t realize that this could be so much more. So, we did everything we could to really help the artists to reach their own vision, we did a whole bunch of research as to how we can use Zoom, we looked into webinars, we looked into green screen, the best way to people for up to upload their work, to record their work. Essentially we aimed to provide as much support to our artists as we could, showing them all the options available and discussing their work with them and being and then find out ‘this will work best with your work’, and then watching them take it forward. So it was just a really interesting back and forth to seeing the artist’s ideas and then talking about the platform and how to take it forward, to seeing the work really grow.
I: That’s fantastic. So, of course this as an artwork, as a project is strictly connected to the pandemic because we have the technology we’ve been using, and it’s all online. Do you think that something similar could have come up in a non-pandemic situation? In an alternative timeline, basically. Or do you think that – of course it would have been different but – would you have had the original thought if not for this global situation?
T: I think it could have emerged, but I don’t know if it would have. There’s a great connection of this kind of green suit to digital, and I just know personally, I knew Shawn was using kind of digital platform so it’s definitely something that I was perhaps progressing into, but the pandemic shot me into thinking this is actually maybe the most useful thing to be doing rather than faffing about with other mediums. So I don’t know, I think it may have emerged but perhaps a little bit later.
S: I think definitely, at least from my personal perspective about creating artworks. At least for me it was a lot about creating our artworks for a space. So knowing that we’ve got this physical space, how do we fill this, how do I put my digital arts into the space? For [INSERT ART HERE] if not for the pandemic we definitely would have considered a physical space like ‘okay so we’ve got this green screen technology, how do we translate this to a gallery space? Do we show our screen on the wall?’ So it definitely would have been this digital idea, but rooted in the physical. And [with] the pandemic we decided to just do away with all of that, because especially for this idea it was a lot about the digital. So we did away with one extra step and allowed us to focus on what we really want to get across.
S: 我想是肯定的，至少从我个人的⻆度来看是这样的。对我来说，这是关于我们艺术创造的空间。所以知道我们有这个物理空间，我们如何填补这个空间，我如何把我的数字艺术放入这个空间?对于[INSERT ART HERE] ，如果不是疫情，我们肯定会考虑一个物理空间，比如我们有这个绿色屏幕技术，我们怎么把它转换成画廊空间?我们会在墙上展示我们的屏幕吗?所以这肯定是一个数字化的想法，但它植根于物理。在疫情之后，我们决定放弃这些，因为对于这个想法来说，它更多的是关于数字 的。所以我们多走了一步，并专注于我们真正想要的东⻄。
I: Have your feelings about art changed since your first encounter with it? And has it changed with the pandemic?
S: I’ve definitely been exploring new mediums, even though before the pandemic I was exploring digital art it was more about all right how do I transform this, how do I put this into a gallery space. But now because of the pandemic we’ve had to use new platforms rather than the gallery space to show our work. From there my work has been a lot about using platforms, and then transforming platforms as well, so using a platform as a medium, manipulating it to become an artwork.
I think definitely the pandemic has really encouraged me to look at new mediums, especially digital mediums, and look for ones which aren’t necessarily our mediums. So, even looking at platforms and things which you won’t really consider something you can manipulate in an artistic way, I really push myself to m create something new in this new digital world.
T: I think for me personally I found that I’ve been really questioning the role of art, rather as in the public sphere but bringing that then into the private, and where does it stand there, and what’s its use and purpose, and how do we interact with it when you know it’s from your own home and in your own personal environment. And also the role of the artist and curator, and the interaction of public and private sphere, and all the different roles of art as a way of expressing emotions. But also as an audience member, how do you receive it on a personal level. And so it’s just been questioning that and how we can play with context in relation to that.
I: Yeah because I suppose that the pandemic has accelerated everything, because for years now we’ve been moving towards the digital world, but it has accelerated everything. And now of course we are kind of forced to have everything online, in this very weird space that doesn’t really exist.
S: Because technology advances so quickly, so these objects like VHS and CDs, it becomes this peak and then just recedes and disappears, and now it’s become completely digital in this world that it doesn’t really exist it’s not physical. I guess the pandemic really helped to acknowledge these new objects and these new mediums and materials which don’t exist in the physical realm, but because of the pandemic we had to use them and sort of encourage the new way of thinking and approaching art and objects.
T: It’s all about what you notice and what your way of thinking is, because compared to, rather than a physical object, it’s interesting because it’s becoming more about ideas and art as a way of sharing ideas, and art as a way to propel technology as well.
I: Where do you think [INSERT ART HERE] stands in this? Because of course you have the artists basically disappearing into their own work.
I: 很多观点认为艺术家们基本上消失在他们自己的作品中，你认为[INSERT ART HERE] 在这方面有何意义?
T: Yes and no. I would say it’s a relationship between the art and the artwork. The artist is very much present in the piece because it’s through their shape, through their form that you experience the artwork. So I think in a way the audience sees the artist more than they would have otherwise. And I think Zoom as a platform, as I mentioned I think it’s quite intimate, because I never really facetimed people before the pandemic if I wasn’t particularly close with them, and I still think that people do think it’s a bit odd to be face to face with someone on a call. There’s something about it that feels kind of close, and we’re all getting used to it now but I think there’s still a bit of that in [INSERT ART HERE] and we tried to show that with the private slots. We had private sessions where the artists would have a much smaller audience, and you feel like you’re able to converse with them a bit more, or you experience that human to human rather than being in a white empty room with just a piece of artwork and a silent artist.
T: 是也不是。我认为这是艺术和艺术品之间的关系。艺术家在这件作品中是非常真实的，因为通过他们的形状，通过他们的形式，你可以体验到这件艺术品。因此，我认为在某种程度上，观众比其他人更能看到艺术家。我认为Zoom作为一个平台，正如我提到的，我认为它非常亲密，因为我从来没有在疫情之前真正与人们对视，如果我不是特别接近他们，我依旧觉得人们认为在电话中与某人面对面有点奇怪。但是我们现在都已经习惯了，但我认为在 [INSERT ART HERE] 中还是有一点类似的地方，我们试着用私人会议沟通来展示这一点。我们有私人会议，在那里，艺术家的观众会少得多，你会觉得你能和他们多交谈一点，或者你体验到人与人之间的交流，而不是在一个只有一件艺术品和一个沉默的艺术家的白色空房间里。
S: And I guess another way of putting it would be that initially you’d have the artist and the artwork, and usually they would exist as two different entities. You have the artwork that exists in the gallery space which is up for purchase, and you see the artwork a different way, and the artist you’d approach a different way they explore their work through this and they talk about it. So they exist as two quite different entities, I guess with [INSERT ART HERE] we really wanted to focus on the creation and the unity of both of them. Through [INSERT ART HERE] using Zoom we are able to embrace the relationship between the artists and the artwork, so how they see their work, how they react to their work. And it just became this fluid amalgamation of the two. And which the digital world allowed us to represent and showcase.
S: 我想另一种说法是，一开始你会有艺术家和艺术品，通常它们会作为两个不同的实体存在。你有一件艺术品存在于画廊里，你可以购买，你可以用不同的方式看到艺术品，你接触的艺术家也可以用不同的方式探索和谈论他们的作品。所以它们是作为两个完全不同的实体存在的，我想通过[INSERT ART HERE]把重点放在两者的创造和统一上。通过[INSERT ART HERE]使用Zoom，我们能够理解艺术家和艺术品之间的关系，从而了解他们如何看待自己的作品，如何对自己的作品做出反应。这就变成了两者的流动融合。数字世界让我们得以表现和展示。
T: It’s conversive. it’s a kind of dialogue. There’s art and technology, and art and artist, and audience and artists and it’s like bringing those conversations and encouraging them.
I: And do you think that this moving of the arts online will stand after the pandemic? Or do you think that the art world will abandon the online world after this pandemic? How do you see the next pivot for the arts?
S: I see it as definitely advancing as a separate avenue. Obviously, people are so used to this new normal, but they sort of idealised the past as well because it was when people could meet and talk in person. And it’s the same for art. People like being able to go to a gallery and seeing their favourite painting up in front of them. So people do want to go back, so I definitely see the physical art world still being a big important part, but the pandemic has definitely highlighted that there is a digital route on which you can develop your artworks, that you’re not just tied to a physical space to show your work. You can take it to online platforms, you can show it to a different audience that’s not just based in your city, you can show your art to the world, potentially, through online platforms. And even now with the current craze of NFTs and new digital currencies to promote digital artworks, there definitely is a separate avenue of digital arts which will be progressing after this pandemic ends. At least I personally hope that it will be propelled forward, it won’t just sort of plateau, it’ll just keep going and being spurred on.
T: I hope they develop as different branches, that the physical space isn’t completely forgotten and that the digital space keeps progressing as well. I think that different people have different needs for each one, and different spaces work differently for people, and say different things. And I think it’s just an interesting expansion of dialogue, and it’s an interesting realm to explore, but not to take away from the physical space either. I don’t think we should completely live all online.