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[UNLearn] Interview with Fei Jun: Interdisciplinary Cooperation Ought to Bring about Values for All Disciplines

Interviewee: Fei Jun

Editor’s Note

The interdisciplinary relationship between art design and technology has become even more subtly intricate nowadays, it is full of possibilities of experiment and collaboration, and in the meanwhile, it also has impact on the aesthetics, behaviour and social interactions of the individuals. To Fei Jun in the direction of “Art+Technology” at CAFA d School, the integration of the two not only furthers the revolutionary language in art, but also influences the innovative practice of technology. Art and technology are not completely separated as they share the same interest towards the world. In order to build a model of interdisciplinary dialogue, art and technology need a equal basis, to establish the joint laboratory in various directions and fields. These ideas are reflected in the systematic plan of “Art+Technology” at the CAFA School of Experimental Art, and a sustainable driving force could only be formed when interdisciplinary cooperation bring about values to all disciplines. Fei Jun believes the ideal cooperation mode should be presented in the collisions of ideas, thoughts and the way of working, which is respectively maintain their own values while harmonizing in this reciprocal relationship. How to let the individuals become the strong link of this fragmented world in an interdisciplinary method of art and technology has always been the concern of Fei Jun. He considers participating in the re-construction of the ethical order of technology is also the core of interdisciplinary cooperation. Through the form of ultra-link to re-construct the correlation of mankind, oneself, others, society and nature. 

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“Art and technology are not completely separated as they share the same interest towards the world”

How do you adapt your multi-identity of being an artist, an awarded designer and a professor in the direction of “Art+Technology” at CAFA in the course of your creative practice and teaching experiences?

Being an artist, a designer and an educator at the same time has already become a “identification ecology” in me, they could be organically combined so their traits would be sighted in each other. As an artist, I keep the way of creative thinking in design while carrying out my artistic practice. I would chew on the idea and the impact of the work in the perspective of the viewers, and in the meanwhile, I would also lean from my teaching experience as the unconstrained thoughts of my students always inspires me. Being a designer I also maintain the state of being relatively independent as an artist, and the communication with the students allows me to understand the different needs of people. My artistic practice and experience in design have undoubtedly become part of the important knowledge that I imparted to my students, their curiosity and the craving for knowledge have impact on me too.

At the same time, I am also a curator. Although I have participated in many curatorial works, I rather call myself as an “amateur” curator since I believe this “amateur” attitude would keep the flexibility and novelty in my works, just like my other identities. I am ready to engage in different professions with a diversified and innovative thinking, and all of these would eventually reflected on me as a humankind. I am not sure if I would have more identities in the future, but multi-identities do provide me liberal thinking that enriched my life with variable experiences. 

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Inter-disciplinary Context of Art and Technology|©Fei Jun

How do you understand the “+” in “Art+Technology”? Does it mean the two are detached, what is the key that connects them, and how to establish the connection between the two from the perspective of teaching?

The fusion of contemporary art and technology has become the global current, it not only furthers the revolutionary language in art, but also influences the innovative practice of technology. Art and technology are not completely separated as they share the same interest towards the world, this is the human instinct. But they differ in the approach of study and the resource allocation due to the institution of disciplines. In the era of strong calling on interdiscipline, resources demand for re-allocation and the way of thinking also requires to be diversified. Unitary values is considered as the last ditch resistance to this era. Humanistic thinking and scientific ideas are both important to us. Only innovative interdisciplinary and systematic methods can respond to the complexity of the era. Interdiscipline is probably the most effective path to innovation, whether in the perspective of culture, society or environment.

The key to the connection of art and technology is the equal basis for dialogue, in the meanwhile being reciprocal could form an ongoing two-way relationship. As a result, the establishment of “Art+Technology” is launched towards this direction. We endeavour to set up lab-studios of different direction in various fields for the students, to build a model of interdisciplinary dialogue. In virtue of the technological capacity and experience of other research institutions and scientific colleges and enterprises, we have now built some infrastructures in the field of robotics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, intelligent technology and etc.. Furthermore, we have also systematically set up courses in the fields of art and biotechnology, art and intelligent technology, art and robotics and art and data technology and etc.. We hope to bring up talents with comprehensive competence of creativity, techniques as well as critical thinking. 

“A sustainable driving force could only be formed when interdisciplinary cooperation bring about values to all disciplines”

How did artist, scientists and people from other fields cooperate in your previous projects, what is the core drive of a project like this?

I have never stopped thinking how to connect art with the real world in the process of my artistic practice. There are always practical problems that need to be solved in specific works, and the knowledge of any unitary subject cannot make up the gap between art and society. The purpose of interdiscipline is to search after the systematic solution of the core issue by drawing knowledge and the way of thinking from other subjects.Taking my experience as an example,“Geometry of Emotions”is an interdisciplinary experiment involving art, mathematics and psychology of me, Xu Chenang the mathematician of algebraic geometry and the psychologist Liu Zhengkui. The work invites the audiences to touch the geometrical model that is pre-set up in the dark box of the interactive device, the installation collects the physical data such as the heart rate of the audiences to analyzes and then describes their temperament and emotional status with the algorithm of emotion. Geometric figures would then be generated due to the variation of the individuals, and automatically drawn on the blackboard in real-time via an mechanic chalk system.         

 A sustainable driving force could be only formed when interdisciplinary cooperation bring about values to all disciplines. The most common bottleneck that artists tend to experience when they cooperate with other disciplines is to merely create a visual symbol as they only understand them visually. However, I think the ideal cooperation mode should be presented in the collisions of ideas, thoughts and the way of working, which is respectively maintain their own values while harmonizing in this reciprocal relationship. As you can see in “Geometry of Emotions”, art has formally offered a pure irrational language and a variation that is full of possibilities, and in the contrary, mathematics has provided a true rational language from a metaphysical perspective. The collision between the two generates a joint language system. In the meanwhile, the emotional algorithm of the psychologist helps the work acquiring the possibilities of analyzing and expressing human emotions. This experimental project has proposed an artistic intervention in psychotherapy as an innovative application. The interaction and inspiration among the three disciplines has no doubt benefited the mode of interdisciplinary cooperation. 

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Geometry of Emotions 2.0,Fei Jun, Xu Chenyang, Liu Zhengkui | Interactive installation|Chalk, blackboard, automated chalk printer, 3D printed objects,data collecting device, graphic generation software Dimension variable | 2019|The work has been sponsored by Future Forum and Xichun Public Welfare

“The narrative of the mixed field of technology embodiment”

Many of your works including the one in the 2019 Venice Biennial involve the virtual environment that is produced by the interactive media, as well as engage with the realistic physical space and specific field. How do you look at this relationship?

The audiences have had triple experiences here. First of all, we moved the bridge of Chinese water town to Venice through the app. Secondly, the belongings of the audiences were technically recognized and interpreted variously on the scene.And thirdly, the audiences who were not there in person  could make up an imaginative world via the 3D model of the object in the real world on the app. Therefore a mixed filed was established in between the virtual and the reality. Here, the sensual experience has been reinforced as the narrative of art is enriched. This is what I have always been trying to do in my works, which has also further proposed a narrative model for the mixed field of the embodiment of technology. This mixed field narrative is composed by different space time, identities and senses, and conveyed via the experiences of audiences on the scene. The space time of the mixed field is nonlinear, and it has the possibility of being bent in the dimensions of both time and space. To achieve the surreal space time experience by virtually and physically superimposing, coupling, dislocating and grafting different times and location is the completely new perception of technology. 

 Time has changed. Today, art is no longer the same as the art in the white box back then. The physical space of the spotless white cube is impossible to bear today’s endless changes. Nowadays art and the public is closing the gap between them, new media is extending in all directions and scientific technology is embedding in our daily life. We are warned that we are in an era of fragmentation, technology is not a paean but an elegy, the value of virtual has been exaggerated so we do not give the time for the details in the reality. Technology has always been the driving force of human development since the ancient times, and we are constantly observing, learning, reflecting and practicing. The mixed filed that I am after is to combine technology and art, to have people pulled back from the virtual, to counter the vanity of fragmentation and to provide a new viewpoint of combing virtual and the reality. So people could live in a mixed reality where virtual is compatible with the physicals while re-constructing the connection with the real world. 

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INTEREST WORLD1 | Interactive installation|Exhibition site of the 58th Venice Biennale| 2019 | ©moujiti

“Participate in the re-construction of the ethical order of technology is also the core of interdisciplinary cooperation.”

You have mentioned the “ultra-link” in the practices of art+technology and teaching as art experimental projects, how does it differ from the general interdisciplinary practices? And what do you think of the social involvement of art+technology?

How to let the individuals become the strong link of this fragmented world in the interdisciplinary method of art and technology has always been the concern of mine. At the same time, in order to generate new connections with the participants, I am also making artworks, tools and working systems with the sense of strong link by applying  digital art medium, which all involve the connection among humankind, nature, culture and etc.. When it comes to teaching, groups substitute individuals and the cooperation among disciplines over-top single subject. It is also similar to the innovative practices between the industrial and scientific fields, we hope the cooperation among the industrial, academic and scientific fields would assist and lead the students to a more broader path. The core of the strong link is reflected in stitching, no matter in teaching or personal practice. Stitching is a current in the era of fragmentation, to stitch oneself with others, to stitch the differences among cultures and to stitch the gap between humankind and nature. The interdisciplinary cooperation between art and science does not mean that it is necessary to follow the lead of technology, but to participate in the re-construction of the ethical order of technology is the core of interdisciplinary cooperation.

 The link between technology and art not only bring about positive impact on teaching and artistic practice, but also search for more possibilities for social participation. I am trying to re-construct the interactive interface between humankind and media in my work through the mixed field, to have people pulled back from the isolated virtual to the real world, to awake their body by offering a complicated experience. I hope to recall their subjectivity through the different perception of life, and let the participants feel the strong link between themselves and the world. And in the meanwhile, their action is also a very important part  to realize the artwork, which should be considered as the art practice that re-active the social participation via art+technology. All sorts of boundaries such as the boundary between reality and virtual, people and cultures are broken and deconstructed by technology, the fragmentation is surely not the purpose, but the re-construction of the  primary relationship among humankind, others, society and nature in a method of ultra-link. 

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INTEREST WORLD2 |  Interactive installation |Exhibition site of the 58th Venice Biennale  | 2019|©moujiti

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