Q: Would you like to briefly introduce yourself, and the works presented in the Venice Biennale?
Zhang Xiaotao: My name is Zhang Xiaotao, engaging in the art fields of painting, installation, photography, and experimental animation. I have always been concerned about the transformation of Chinese modernization and the issues of the development of the histories of human thought and spirit. I have featured three works in the China Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, including “Sakya”, “Mist”, “The Adventure of Liangliang”. The three works are composed of a clue to the logic of my art creation since 2006, the main discussion is: In a modern context, what does traditional culture encounter; the struggle of traditional culture encountering the histories of mind and thinking; with globalization and modernization, how to use art to express these contradictions and conflicts, etc?
Q: Curator Wang Chunchen said that, the combination of the participating artists is inevitable in representing the diversityof states of this era in China. Which state do you stand for?
Zhang Xiaotao: First of all, I think that all my issues unfold around mainland China, such as my focus on Tibetan Buddhism, as well as the experience of my child’s growth. I think it’s the particular quality of an artist that the expression covers from macro to micro, from history to individual, from personal experience to public experience, from particular elements of an individual to universal. Without the particular, an artist finds it difficult to create his/her language for expression.
In fact, a lot of works by post-modern artists are very “personal” and “fragmented”, when I graduated from the academy, I had my initial exhibition “Personal Experience”. From Sichuan to Beijing, I slowly began to know that “personal” was not enough, instead, we should find the common concept related to the public experience in the personal one, which is called the concept of the times, able to become a cultural ideology to share with everyone.
Q: What did you feel when you were informed that you were invited to participate in the 55 Venice Biennale?
Zhang Xiaotao: I would like to initially talk about Venice, I had been to the city in 1999, and visited many artists’ exhibitions, I believed that I would exhibit my works in this place in future. In fact, I have received an invitation from the Venice Biennale in 2008, but failed to participate in it for a number of reasons. Sometimes, it all depends on God, so I believe that you will get what you want within a certain time. Just like in a show, viewed by an audience, playing a role as an actor/actress. I have confidence in my works, because I have prepared them for years, I think it makes sense to attend the Venice Biennale. I am neither arrogant nor humble, instead, in a reasonable way, magnanimously and bravely playing a role in the show. I told my son that, one should remain faithful in doing something, finding a method, bit by bit, I like the feeling of the constant effort that brings success.
Q: What do you mentally expect in this Venice Biennale?
Zhang Xiaotao: I hope to find more unexpected things in the exhibition space. In addition I want to produce a small installation, to fill up the space. It’s actually very contradictory to my personality to perform with passion and cheer while the inside is very pessimistic and dark, often doubting myself. I am anxious to do things and I use a lot of energy in preparation, thinking about the worst thing that might happen. In my opinion, we should fully prepare although the results are unpredictable
Q: “Sakya” and “Mist” are three-dimensional digital videos, why do you choose three-dimensional video mode to produce works? In addition, is there any special requirement for space to showcase three-dimensional works?
Zhang Xiaotao: “Sakya” and “Mist” are pure 3D animations, while “The Adventure of Liangliang” is the combination of the two-dimensional and three-dimensional. Because I think three-dimensional video was able to completely reflect my thinking. Regarding the arrangement of the exhibition venue, I have also made a lot of plans, and constantly consulted and selected with Wang Chunchen and the organizing committee. I want to present an experimental state, and I know that the effect of the exhibition is beyond technical issues and impossible to anticipate and control.
Q: “Sakya” is an interdisciplinary visual research project related to religion and archeology, in need of lots of funding and powerful techniques. Why do you want to try it?
Zhang Xiaotao: After production of “Mist”, a Western-oriented work, I created “Sakya”, a very oriental work which is the opposite of “Mist”. “Sakya” was finished in 2011, and the cooperation with the archaeologists made me transcendent. Similarly, “The Adventure of Liangliang” is created as the opposite of “Sakya”, I use logic and grammar, as well as methodology in the three works. Artists should try theirnbest to avoid the formation of a fixed mode of thinking, which would be very easy to trap them.
Q: Would you like to talk about “The Adventure of Liangliang”, a work filled with fatherly love?
Zhang Xiaotao: I pay more attention to Chinese traditional education, allowing him to learn Wushu/ material art, calligraphy, writing a Selection of Zhang Qian, Tang Kai. He grew up with painting, and I have always taken the attitude to offer praise, I think it is very important to encourage the child lovingly. He and I are friends, we often communicate with each other.
In relating to children, we should give them freedom and equality rather than spoiling them. I hope to use the traditional education that I received as a child to infect him, bringing him belief and love, I hope to give the works to him as a gift, meanwhile a gift for him in the future.
Q: As the director of the Department of New Media of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, would you like to show your opinions on the domestic education of the new media?
Zhang Xiaotao: “85 New Space” of Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts initially engaged in new media, in the 1990s, photography and performance art were staggered with new media. In recent years, there has also been a breakthrough in new media in experimental art. But, the current new media art still lacks an institution and system, and theoretical articles on Chinese new media are too few. Speaking of education, it is a system, participating in the educational process, I mainly engage in the establishment of the educational system of new media, such as the research of the theory of new media, routines of international exchanges, direction of personnel training, etc. In addition, it’s worth thinking about what international vision the new media art should hold, and how to undertake the work.
Q: Would you like to tell the thing that drives you to be involved in new media?
Zhang Xiaotao: First of all, it is a belief, and I think it is like painting, giving me unprecedented freshness.
Q: What do think about the current development status of Chinese independent animation?
Zhang Xiaotao: By understanding some animation industries, I believe that it’s necessary to be involved in independent works. For the “First Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennale”, we had sorted out more than four hundred thousand words of material, as well as the establishment of the unit of competition, which also encourages and supports independent animation. It’s very hard to do independent animation, but I believe that persistence will make a way in the future. Art has no business with success, instead, a requirement of dedication and persistence.
Journalist: Zhu Li
Transcript: Yu Ya
Photo: Hu Zhiheng
Translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO