Laser beams shed new light on art

Wu Juehui is one of four artists featured in an exhibition of new media work at the K11 Art Museum.

For Wu Juehui, art is “the antimatter of technology.” 

Different from traditional art such as painting and sculpture, “new media artists are often bounded by the space and some other technical issues,” says Wu, who is considered as one of the representatives of China’s new media art.

Wu is one of a group of young artists from home and abroad featured in Shanghai K11 Art Museum’s ongoing exhibition “Capricious Structure.” The others are Brendan Fowler, Shen Xin and Andrew Luk.

“For us, the implementation of an art piece is of the same importance of the work on the paper,” Wu says.

Born in 1980 in Hangzhou, Wu graduated from the School of Intermedia Art at the China Academy of Art in the capital city of Zhejiang Province.

“When I first entered the school, it was just established at the academy,” he says. “And it was a fortunate for me to be tutored under Zhang Peili, Geng Jianyi and Guan Huaibing, today all big names in China’s contemporary art.”

Wu says his mind was almost empty at the beginning of how to create a piece of new media art. The reason why he chose the School of Intermedia Art was because he was interested to discover “the possibility of how far art could go.”

Wu says he “played” with various media — from video, mechanics to laser to conjure up his art dream.

Purposely created for this exhibition, his work “Loophole” attempts to transpose and interfuse viewers’ perception and illusion.

Using laser projection, he constructs a “loophole” space that resides on the very edge of perceptual reality. When stepping into the space, visitors might be dazzled by the beams of green laser lights.

The physical world we know is stripped of its representational skin, exposing its internal grid structure as if it was a failed 3D model. The work enables visitors to embrace a quest for self-discovery, reminiscent of the movie “Matrix” as if they become unconsciously subjected to it.

Through a series of experimental spatial manipulations, the space is being dissected, folded and exfoliated.

“I wanted to examine the depth and breadth of this simulated theoretical space as well as its physical counterpart. Once trapped within this highly charged ‘loophole’ environment, would you find a hideout or a way out?” Wu asks.

Ti Gong

Q: How do you define new media?

A: Very simple — an attitude to reflect danger, destruction and revolution.

Q: Do you still remember the first new media work?

A: It was a video work I made perhaps when I was a junior at the academy. I explored the possibilities of DV equipment through using it on a pneumatic motor.

Q: For many people, technology is a vital part in creating new media work, do you agree?

A: Technology is important, but is art all about technology?

In fact, technology has already changed the nature of being. In the future, human beings might no longer need hands and legs to do things while the distant online platform will control everyone’s life.

Q: New media artists often involve themselves with more people, so how do you describe your role?

A: I call myself a “project manager” or a “product manager.”

Actually I am collaborating with a whole team, varying from technology staff to installation workers.

It is a long process of communication, sometimes the resulted work is far from my original plan. But guess what, I find such unexpected results or failures unwittingly lead to an amazing part of the work itself, like a side-product, very interesting and stimulating.

Q: How many works are you able to create a year?

A: No more than 10 pieces.

Q: When you visit exhibitions of other artists’ new media work, what is your focus?

A: I try to see the “ambience” of the work, and how it is arranged.

Ti Gong
Ti Gong

Q: Can you elaborate on your latest work at the K11 exhibition?

A: I wanted to conjure up an immersive space divided by green laser light, a space filled with a sense of the future, illusion and uncertainty.

At the same time, I also purposely added some waste such as abandoned chairs, unfinished models and paper boxes in this dark space, akin to the bugs in the digital world.

This is not a perfect and delicate world, but once entering it, we are immediately isolated from the outside world.

Q: Do you have any buyers?

A: Not many, because new media works are not suitable for the traditional collecting setup that is composed of galleries, art museums and private collectors.

There will be a new market with new game rules for a new media artwork collecting setup such as the public space of a property complex. The world is changing, and everyone is in this changing swirl.

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