By Jocelyn Sargent
LuFei (Vera) Sun is an MFA in Emergent Media student at Champlain College. Vera has been working on curating the ‘Shanghai Digital Artists’ exhibit, bringing artwork from six Chinese artists to display in Champlain College’s Miller Center building. I recently sat down with Vera, as well as Rick Harrington, the Emergent Media Center’s Shanghai Business Development Manager, to discuss her curation process and what is in store for the exhibit and her future.
Jocelyn: What was your process for curating this show?
Vera: I connected with hundreds of Chinese artists by using WeChat and e-mail. It’s actually very hard to find digital artists in China because most artists are traditional. After I confirmed the list of artists, I continued to communicate with them while writing the preface and translating the artist statements. This is the first time I’ve been a curator, so I have to also write my thoughts about their work.
Jocelyn: How has your past experience combined with what you have learned in the MS and MFA in Emergent Media programs played a part in your process?
Vera: Before I came to the United States, I worked for a contemporary media company as a marketing director for almost five years, so I know Chinese artists and Chinese collectors very well. I started my Emergent Media studies through the MS program offered in Shanghai. After I came to the United States and studied at Champlain College to complete my degree and then stay for the MFA program, I realized that digital art is very popular. Before that I had no idea what digital interactive art was. I saw our professors Al [Larsen], John [Banks] & Ken [Howell] do amazing digital artwork, so I learned a lot of technique and how to make digital art as well. The MFA program broadened my knowledge – broadened my vision.
Jocelyn: Was it hard to cross over from traditional to digital? Or was it easy to adjust your artwork?
Vera: I think that digital art expanded the limits of mediums for what is feasible. Traditional art creates a very specific object on the canvas, but if you’re using digital interactive art, there is no limitation. You can use any kind of medium you can imagine.
Rick: Because there are differences in the traditional art in the West, compared to China, do you notice differences in the digital art… how it’s done with Chinese artists compared to American artists?
Vera: The way I see digital art is as immersive and interactive. So, it can build a multi-sensory experience, and be physical, spiritual and emotional, but traditional Chinese painting is just visual; you see what happens, but you can’t interact with it. But I think that digital art can create an interaction between the person and the art. Traditional art is just put in a gallery and people look at it, but it’s not as interactive.
Jocelyn: Can you tell us about your current project of opening an art gallery in Shanghai?
Vera: Our space, named OCLUB, will open at the end of April. My partner and I have been working on bringing the digital art market to China and I think it will be a very big market. We are going to represent digital artists in China, not traditional, so I think that’s what’s different between us and other galleries in China. Other galleries are traditional, but we want to bring something different. We really want to enhance contemporary arts by supporting the development of interactive digital artists and connecting them with exhibitions and communities. As an innovator in the art world in China, we facilitate a representation program, building connections for American and Chinese contemporary digital artists. We want to promote cross-cultural exchange between China and the U.S.
Jocelyn: You’re planning to graduate with your MFA in Emergent Media degree from Champlain College this spring. Can you tell us about your thesis work?
Vera: My thesis explores the relationship between traditional Chinese art and contemporary digital art. The project is based on multiple shared and personal experiences in the United States and China. OCLUB will help with building connections for American & Chinese contemporary digital artists in a way that spreads contemporary digital art in China. In the future, we will hold exhibitions between the two communities in the U.S. and China, organizing American artists to participate in exhibitions in Shanghai and also organizing Chinese artists to participate in exhibitions in the U.S.
The ‘Shanghai Digital Artists’ exhibit will be in the Champlain College Miller Center at Lakeside Campus Cantina from March 2nd-April 3rd, 2015. The reception will be this Thursday, March 5th, from 4-6pm. Come join us to see artwork from six Chinese artists, some of which have never exhibited in the U.S. before. Their art is focused on digital media and inspired by both traditional Chinese art and modern urban global culture.