早期的录像艺术（Video Art)是为了抗衡电视媒体日益大众文化、娱乐化与商业化而出现的，并且早期的录像艺术也是被主流美术馆所排斥的，而录像艺术（Video Art)这个“老媒体”如今已经成为当代艺术的主流，这就是媒介和时代变革的悖论关系。
首先举几个关键词来展开独立动画的讨论：纪录片（documentary film）、录像（video art）、图像（image）、独立电影（independent film）、独立动画（independent animation）实验动画（experiment animation）。
网络和信息技术的发展带动了二维技术、3D技术、3D电影与游戏的迅猛发展与传播，当代艺术和独立动画有着深厚的渊源，在思想、观念、技术都具备的条件下一些艺术家和导演开始做一些实验工作：冯梦波(《私人照相簿》1997，《Q3》1999 ，《Q4U》2002；卜桦(《野蛮丛生》2008，《猫》2002年；皮三(《泡芙小姐的金鱼缸》2010、《泡芙小姐》2011，周啸虎（《乌托邦机器”》录像装置2002 、《围观”》录像装置2003等）；2005年以来的繆晓春（《虚拟最后的审判》2006、），吴俊勇（《春天俱乐部 》 2008、《鲤鱼》2007、《秘图志》 2010、《极权的肖像》 2010 、《乱花 》 2009、《时间的胃 》2011、《千月》9屏动画 2012。），邱黯雄（《在空中》 2005 、《新山海经》 2006、《为了忘却的记忆》 2007），张小涛（《夜》2006、《迷雾》2008、《痕》2009、《萨迦》2011）；2008年以来的刘健（《刺痛我》2009）；孙逊（《21克》2010) ，吴超（《追逐》2011）、王海洋（《弗洛伊德，鱼和蝴蝶》 2009），雷磊（《The Face》2007），王维思（《神秘地球和年轻人》2011）等。他们频繁地参与国际、国内的电影节与美术馆的展览，其中有不少作品获奖。中国独立动画在国际上的发声赢得了独立的尊严和荣誉，被国际国内的学术界所关注。如今越来越多的年轻艺术家开始利用自由的技术语言与资讯展开新媒体动画和电影之间的跨学科的实验。不少作品在网络上传播极为广泛，如卜桦的《猫》，很多的粉丝是在网络上观看的。网络世界的平等让信息成为共享的资源。网络世界启示我们：如果没有经过思考与沉淀就会成为信息垃圾，只有融合思想、观念与技术才能创造有价值的东西。虚拟世界、信息化、数字化、3D、互联网与多媒体互动为艺术家们提供了良好的技术平台。很多从事独立动画创作的艺术家不是动画专业出身，缺乏电影语言的基础工作，他们大多通过网络，大量地看片和学习来提升自身的专业素养，比如兹恩网站（www.cicistudy.com），可以足不出户共享全球名校如，哈佛、耶鲁、斯坦佛、剑桥的公共课。网络成为一个民主化、国际化的课堂，今天艺术家可以通过博客、微博、FACEBOOK、TWITER来以“自媒体”的方式传播作品、参加一些电影节、动画节。我们不是在一个封闭的系统当中，而是处在一个全球化的信息高速公路之上。只有在信息化的高速公路上才能实现现实生活中做不到的生而平等。
2002年中国美院成立新媒体系、2005年中央美院成立实验艺术系、2010年四川美院成立新媒体艺术系、2011年广州美院成立实验艺术系，这些系科和专业都肩负有培养实验艺术家的使命，它既是教育机构、学术研究的公共平台也是创作实验短片、独立电影的实验室，使独立动画有了教育保障。如果没有学院和民间机构对实验艺术的扶持，实验电影与独立动画是非常艰难的，它们在很多时候是没有销路的，幸运者可以获得奖金，如果没有基金会和美术馆的奖励机制与赞助，他们将无法继续创作，也有一些获奖者可以进入高校当老师，进入公司企业继续他们的专业。皮克斯动画工作室(Pixar Animation Studios)也是通过制作短片获奖，得以投资长片进入电影工业，逐渐成为国际重要的动画公司。独立动画工作室没有企业赞助与各机构扶持将很难取得突破，不建立公平的艺术机制，动画电影也很难真正地有所发展。各大院校都希望学生多参与一些重要的电影节、动画节，并能够进入到这个传播系统之中，没有这个传播系统，独立动画导演的作品很难获得真正意义上的自由和独立。电影节、动画节带来最直观的影响是让年轻的艺术家、学生能把他们的作品带进国际跑道，每个电影节都有论坛、国际交流和工作坊，这是一个重要的生产系统和评价体系，学院、电影节、美术馆代表了一个系统性的结构。
学术梳理和总结的意义在哪里？深圳独立动画双年展是国内的第一个独立动画双年展。我们试图通过一个系统化的梳理和文献总结工作，从独立动画的发生、发展与电影节、学院、民间的多层维度中来进行抽样调查，意在呈现这种系统化的工作方法的意义。独立动画的十年是中国当代艺术30年重要组成部分。这种系统化的工作汇成中国当代艺术多样化的生态景观，它与双年展、国际电影节系统构成了跨学科、跨媒介的实验场域。2011年成都A4艺术中心由张亚璇策划的“光谱——当代中国独立动画”是一个良好的开端，2012年A4艺术中心把“光谱”展览推荐进了荷兰电影节、亚太当代艺术三年展。2011在北京的伊比利亚当代艺术中心(Iberia Center for Contemporary Art)举办的独立动画论坛与2012年成立的西安独立影像节也成为其中的一个重要项目，可以看到独立动画被更多的学术机构所认同与研究。这种工作对后来者有什么价值，这种工作呈现了哪些变化？经历了80年代初意识形态的对抗与思想启蒙、90年代的市场转型到2000年以来中国社会全面参与全球化进程。中国当代艺术怎么在全球化格局中确定自己的文化身份与认同？独立动画作出了哪些有意义的工作，独立动画的实验工作是如何被当代艺术的主流系统遮蔽的？这些疑问在未来的实验道路上——通过对过去十年历史的反思和总结，在节点上展开的点滴工作与讨论对于未来都会具有深远的启示意义，尤其对于未来的学术梳理和总结，我们提供了一些原始的数据和文本，希望我们今天能从过去的经验之中找到一些通向未来的方法和道路，我们把这种孤独的试验与探索视为未来实验室的重要组成部分。今天的点滴工作在未来一定会显现出非凡的意义，期待积沙成塔，汇点滴成江河！
《电力城市：后奥林匹克北京迷你马拉松》 编辑：胡昉 维他命空间出版 P10
《卡塞尔文献展1955—2007》 [德］ 张奇开 著 重庆出版社 P658
《录像艺术启示录》 陈永贤 著 台湾艺术家出版社 P8
《影像的宿命》 贾克·洪席耶 著 黄建宏 译 台湾《典藏》出版社 P29
《1985年以来的当代艺术理论》“作为批判的‘YBA’—对英国当前艺术中作为中介身份的社会、政治推论” [美］佐亚·科库尔与梁硕思 编著 王春辰 何积惠 麦亮之等/译 王春辰/审校 上海人民美术出版社 P96
《赛博空间的奥德赛——走向虚拟本体论与人类学》 [荷兰］约斯·德·穆尔 著 麦永雄 译 广西师范大学出版社 P33
《媒介的转型—全球化、道德和伦理》 “五章 全球媒介文化：村落生活的轮廓还是文化帝国主义的支配” [英］尼克·史蒂文森（Nick Stvenson) 著 北京大学出版社 P146
《电影批评》 戴锦华 著 “电影的视听语言与叙事分析”：《小鞋子》 北京大学出版社 P41
《1985年以来的当代艺术理论》 “知识场域—一个分离的世界” [美］佐亚·科库尔与梁硕思 编著 王春辰 何积惠 麦亮之等/译 王春辰/审校 上海人民美术出版社 P16-17
《媒体考古学》 [德］西格弗里德·齐林斯基Archaologie Der Medien 著 “结论篇，附媒体考古学的设计图”商务印书馆 P271
《合成时代》 主编 范迪安 张尕 “媒体艺术上下观” 中国美术馆出版 P117
The Obscured Experiments
–-Experimental Journey of Chinese Independent Animation since 2000
The Miracle and Plight of Chinese Contemporary Art
Today, as one of the most important experimental area in the course of globalization, China has the largest work site, processing factory and consumption market throughout the world. Due to the tremendous changes brought to us by China’s restructuring and great transition of its economic system, we are now confronting before us an extremely special modern road or, in other words, the road of globalization. In fact, we have always been in a constantly disordered scene of action. China’s entry into WTO since 2001 marks that China has fully marched into the course of globalization. That China boasts a huge consumption market and processing industry has made the remarkable brand—“Made in China” a vital engine for promoting the world economy. With a high growth of GDP (around 8% per year), China has become the second economic power of the world. This marks that China has achieved extraordinary achievements in its economy. However, in terms of Chinese contemporary art and culture, what circumstances have they encountered in the pattern of globalization?
“Cross-domains: We tend to lead our attention to diversified scenes. Chinese art must bridge the borderlines among different domains, ages and geographic areas, for it should be open and inclusive. Book machines: Beijing Mini-activity is a really vital synthesis of feedback circuit, because it will bright out relevant published and document literature, and it will be like a battery, or a machine that will continue to produce energy for future development in Chinese context.” 1
Shanghai Biennale 2000 marked the beginning of local legalization of contemporary art. And the years between 2000 and 2010 also meant a decade when Chinese contemporary art had experienced the most drastic marketization and internationalization. Consequently, the excessive marketization has brought to Chinese contemporary art tremendous changes: on the one hand, it has greatly promoted the establishment of market mechanism for contemporary art, that is to say, it has enabled us to build a relatively all-round chain of art industry both at home and abroad. On the other hand, however, excessive marketization has also produced such negative effect that the price of our artworks has been regarded as a crucial evaluation criterion. The boom of contemporary art market doesn’t necessarily represent maturity of contemporary art system, especially when it comes to the vitally vulnerable aspects such as the setup of art museum, the study, carding and criticism of art history and art theory, etc. When compared with the loneliness and piety of Chinese contemporary art in the 1990s, contemporary art today is nothing more than residues of a grand banquet—leaving us nothing but those sky-high priced audition figures. A bad result of this is that those real experimental arts have been unfortunately obscured. Therefore, it has become a significant task for us today how to tackle all these predicaments. Fortunately, nowadays, Chinese contemporary art has begun to get involved with more international art exhibitions, and make international exchanges of art a regular thing. And as technology and media advance, many artists start to use new media to take up new work. For example, there’re plenty of underground rock bands, documentary directors, documentary photographers and independent animation directors gathering in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou. They persevere to try experiments of new media language, such as electronic music, new-media performances, spaces and theatres, among others. These kinds of work have already become a unique sight of contemporary art and cultural ecology today. Moreover, those unsung artists, though obscured by the contemporary art mainstream, also constitute an experimental art community and become an important background for us to talk about Chinese independent animation.
Since the inception of Chinese independent animation is related to the enlightenment of new technology and new conception, coalition of funding, technology and teamwork has therefore becomes something possible. This coalition has not only led artists to shift their working methods to those of directors, but also pushed contemporary art to start great changes. Those artists who formerly engaged in painting, shooting, documentaries and films begin to apply some two-dimensional or even three-dimensional technology to their attempts of creating more animation languages, and these attempts mark the advent of new art trends. Sure enough, all these changes are closely connected with the fact that the development of China’s economy, science and technology, and culture is situated in the course of globalization. Since the late 1990s, China’s contemporary art has largely get in touch with the system of international contemporary art. Chinese artists, while focusing on the international trends, have started to be concerned with the exploration of domestic cultures—such as the great reform of China itself, especially the transformation of traditional cultural context and post-socialist aesthetics. After China has initiated the shift from a planned economy to a market economy from 1992, the marketization of artifacts has gained some momentum since 2000. This momentum can find its way into the “798 Art District” in Beijing, which is actually an epitome of this period. From 2004 to 2008, foreign foundations, galleries, art-byproducts design companies, catering services and famous boutiques started to take active part in “798 Art District”, resulting in a rapidly growing market. The rental income of this district has been raised from over RMB0.8 million in 2002 to more than 200 million in 2012. The highly-marketed China has also made Chinese contemporary art play an important role in the course of global market integration. From our discussion of the start and growth of Chinese independent animation in 2002, to the prairie fire today, they all originate from the changes that have occurred in both the interior and exterior environments of Chinese contemporary art. The countrywide development of art districts has shaped itself as a barometer of Chinese contemporary art, and we can see the close relation between it and the society and times from its burgeon in 2002 to its large-scale removal in 2009.
“In the era of globalization, contemporary art practices embody the binary forces of aesthetics and politics at the same time.” 2
Thus, Chinese contemporary art has entered into a much broader international arena, where those unsung art experimenters are gradually emerging. Though their experiments may be obscured in the myth of market, their efforts are manifesting the research significance to our study of culture history, art history and sociology. Since always, the history of art is a sorting-out process.
The early video art was originally created to contend against the increasingly popularized, recreational and commercialized television, and it was excluded from mainstream galleries. However, video art, as “an old medium” today, has nowadays been included into the mainstream of contemporary art. This is the paradoxical relation between media and age transformation.
What Is Independent Animation?
“Therefore, the invention and application of TV sets, video recorders and computers of the 20th century have direct and close relations with media messages. As Marshall McLuhan (1911—1980) pointed out in his Media Mean Information in 1967, “From the media sense, any kind of new medium is a new kind of language, and is new kind of coding scheme for experimental practices.” By this token, not only can this new kind of language help people understand the influence of media on our daily life, but its innovative coding scheme can carry the reinforced power of media communication and constantly extend.” 3
First take for example a few key words to unfold our discussion of independent animation. They are: documentary film, video art, image, independent film, independent animation and experiment animation.
Habitually, we always have the words “Video Art” translated into “影像艺术”(art of video) rather than “录像艺术”(art of video shooting). Nevertheless, it’s exceedingly inaccurate to put the experiments of documentary film, video art, photography and animation into the same category of Video Art. The word “video” is merely a word we fabricated. As a matter of fact, from the year 1988 when China’s video art initiated, it has been combined with documentary photography, conceptual photography, documentary film, cross-media theatre and independent animation to have together developed into a unique sight of tridimensional and multi-component experiments of Chinese contemporary art today. By contrast with commercial film, independent film lays more stress on its independent thought and its social conscience of free criticism. Its uncooperative attitude, in particular, demonstrates the position and work methods of independent film workers. By contrast with the foul commercial taste of cartoon industry as well as the childish readings of television stations, independent animation focuses more on the future, experimental and advanced nature of conceptual art. Animation languages have long been considered to be able to express our actual and spiritual world freely and virtually. And independent animation directors have also drew on the work methods of independent film. They have found a new channel from documentary film, cross-media theatre, experimental film and conceptual art. From the very beginning, both two-dimensional and tridimensional animation have stepped a road of transcendence—an open, cross-discipline idea of creation based on new technology and new concept. They are meant to open up unique concepts and language experiments with the notion of virtual art engineer.
“The close nature and complexity of relations between aesthetics and politics, as well as the results of non-representation of video are not independent and special categories, but rather, they’re a domain full of symptoms and interaction of different fields.” 4
Characteristic of hi-tech, virtually-digitalized art and assimilated with many other media like film, new medium and sound art, independent animation is a comprehensive experiment art that differentiates from the aesthetic pattern of commercial films. It maintains the position of experimental and advanced nature and emphasizes the criticalness and experiment spirit of independent film, that is, to concern itself the society and to establish the relation between independent animation and social intervention. Independent animation is a new art trend and phenomenon derived from contemporary art system since 2006, and has gradually become an important project that is , and will be invited by international and domestic film festivals and three-year art exhibitions. Equally important, independent animation has already been studied and noticed by academic institutions both home and abroad.
The Influences of Film Festivals and Animation Festivals
We have observed and studied some important domestic film and photo festivals of the recent decade, such as Chinese Independent Film Festival (Nanjing), Beijing Independent Film Festival, Yunnan Multicultural Visual Festival (Yunnan), Chongqing Independent Film Festival, Documentaries of Chinese Performance, Art Macao, Ping Yao Photo Festival of Shanxi, and Three Shadows Photography Festival, etc. All these film festivals have given support for the creation of documentary film and documentary photography from the very beginning. For example, Beijing Independent Film Festival has included independent animation into independent animation festivals from 2008, and Chinese Independent Film Festival (Nanjing) and Chongqing Independent Film Festival now have encompassed the element of independent animation. As folk film festivals have great influence on independent animation, directors of this field, while resisting against authority and commercialization, can also find room to promote independent animation from institutions and in folk. If we say the early independent film festivals were popularized “underground”, today’s independent film festivals have gradually gain maturity, and more importantly, started to captivate the public. Film festivals in Beijing, Nanjing, Chongqing, Yunnan and Xian all have provided such projects as workshops, forums, lectures and public education for directors of independent animation. There’re also commercial films and experimental short film units in Asian animation competitions for young artists and in animation festivals of Changzhou, Fujian and the West China, which offer relevant platforms including such projects as forums, workshops, publishing and exhibitions for experiment animations. Independent animation, independent film and contemporary art are blood relatives, because independent animation is a new direction derived from the two systems of contemporary art and experiment film. The above-mentioned film festivals have set up a mechanism geared to international film festivals and contemporary art platforms for Chinese independent film and independent animation. In the process of going global, Chinese independent film has brought new changes to the contemporary art system, and thus has gradually established its own cultural ecology and artistic confidence in the recent decades of development. The intellectuals and artists today are rebuilding the connection among art, culture and folk, for our folk society has already been destroyed, and it requires people of vision to go back to the folk and dedicate themselves to changing the grass roots of society, to enabling it to self-renew and self-change starting from its cell. Furthermore, some foreign festivals such as Holland Film Festivals, Festival du Film d’Animation d’Annecy, Tokyo International Animation Festival and Seoul Animation Festival of Korea have also provided important international exchange platforms for Chinese independent animation to enter international channels. Besides, participating in and even winning awards in these international competitions have greatly broadened Chinese artists’ view and raised their confidence. In order to judge clearly the significance of Chinese contemporary art and culture in the international cultural battlefield, we’re required to be situated in the middle of a globalized view, and more importantly, to watch, to compare and to reflect in this view.
“Saki’s undeniable spirit of devoting himself to contemporary art practices should not be damaged by this kind of influence which spreads to information networks and controls the world. The cultural role he plays shows us the relationship among medium theory, business and art production. Influenced by medium culture, art is inclined to bring the hybrid of “our ubiquitous enciphers” in the post-modern society.” 5
Our Globalization and the Internet Reshape the World
“The networks have architected a new social morphology of our society, and the spread of network logic has radically changed the production process, experience, rights and the cultural operation and results.” 6
Information, Internet and 3D-technology have brought unprecedented changes to animation industry. Particularly, the popularization of new technology and Internet has given a favorable application platform for experiment animation. Quite a few independent animations initiated from 3D films and some soft wares of 3D-technology. Resources sharing via the spread of the Internet like Google, Tudou, Youku, Microblog, Facebook, Twitter as well as other mass media lets us realize profoundly the freedom and equality of the virtual world. Even pirate DVD software has popularized animation technology. And those seemingly inaccessible technologies in the past have now spread like wildfire. Therefore, many independent animation directors first acquire their languages and technologies not only from galleries and animation festivals, but more frequently, from the Internet. The popular use of portable radios at the end of the 1990s and HDV since 2000 have enabled shooting and recording to obtain equal rights. Apple’s Iphone and Ipad technology has substantially increased the spread and interactional experience of information technology. Thanks to the emancipation of technology, it’s now likely for one individual to finish a film independently. We can see from such issues as the Jasmine Revolution of the Middle East, the Wukan Incident, the Shifang Incident and the Wenzhou Crash in China that media like Blog, Facebook, Twitter and Microblog have become a significant “public weapon” for pushing forward the course of social democratization. Today’s Blogs and Microblogs have become the real “social sculpture”, along with information and media, promoting the progress and transformation of the era. Independent animation and micro-films have become the physical evidences of our personal history of heart and thought, while pictures our wordless thinking and conception. These pictures must be studied in the context of art history and culture history. Microblogs have shaped a platform for the intersection of new technology concept and information, and this intersection is like a cross-infection information zone where information breeds and spreads as rapidly as cancer. The development of Internet and information technology has driven the rapid growth and spread of two-dimensional technology, 3D technology, as well as 3D movies and games. As a result, there’s a profound relation between contemporary art and independent animation. Realizing this, some artists and directors, equipped with new ideas, concepts and techniques, start to do some experiments. They include: Feng Mengbo around 2000 (A Private Photo Album 1997, Q3 1999, Q4U 2002); Bu Hua (Overgrown with Weeds 2008, Cats 2002); Pi San (The Goldfish Bowl of Miss Puff 2010, Miss Puff 2011); Zhou Xiaohu (Machine of Utopia video device 2002, Onlooking video device 2003, etc.); Miao Xiaochun since2005 (To Virtualize The Last Judgment 2006); Wu Junyong (Spring Clubs 2008, Carp 2007, Secret Photo Stories 2010, Domineering Portraits 2010, Random Matching 2009, The Stomach of Time 2011, A Thousand Moons 9-screen animation 2012.); Qiu Anxiong (In the Air 2005, New Guideways of Mountains and Seas 2006, Memory for Forgetfulness 2007); Zhang Xiaotao (The Night 2006, The Mist 2008, Scars 2009, Sakya 2011); Liu Tao since 2008 (Piercing I 2009); Sun Xun (21Grams 2010); Wu Chao (Chase 2011); Wang Haiyang (Freud, Fish and Butterfly 2009); Lei Lei (The Face 2007); Wang Weisi (The Mysterious Earth and Young People 2011) etc. They have frequently participated in both domestic and international film festivals, exhibitions in galleries, and won many awards with their works. The international presence of Chinese independent animation has earned the respect, honors and concern from the academia both home and abroad. These days, a greater number of young artists have begun to use free technology language and information to carry out cross-discipline experiments between new media animation and film. Quiet a few works, such as Buhua’s Cats, spread widely on the Internet and captivate millions of fans to watch them. The equal cyber world has made information become shared resources. It tells us that only through integration with thinking, concept and technology can one create something valuable; otherwise, what he produces is no more than brain dumps lacking thought and value. Today Artists have been offered a favorable technology platform by a good interaction of the virtual world, informationization, digitalization, 3D, Internet and multi-media. Many artists who are engaged in independent animation-making aren’t formerly animation majors and therefore lack the foundation of film language, so most of them turn to the Internet to upgrade their professional knowledge through watching a great deal of films and reading a large quantity of materials on the Internet. For example, in the website of www.cicistudy.com, one can remain within doors and attend the public classes offered by world-famous universities like Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Cambridge available on the net. Today, the network has become a democratized and internalized classroom, where artists are able to popularize their works and participate in some film festivals and animation festivals in the form of “self-media” via Blogs, Microblogs, Facebook and Twitter. We are not situated in a closed system; instead, we’re right in the information superhighway of globalization. And only in this highway can we get the equality born for us but not accessible in real life.
The Progress of Independent Animation
“With the advent of transnational media, the global world and economy possess a constantly changing nature: the universally quickening time, and the emergence of spatial domain of rights related to media culture; the need for a worldwide, truly-globalized spread of democracy.” 7
The Sources of Contemporary International Messages
In the 48th Venice Biennale, many artists saw William Kentridge, a South African artist, exhibit a two-dimensioned animated work about the ethnic cleansing, colonialism, totalitarian power, poverty and violence interlaced in South Arica. The work was so impressive that it triggered many artists’ thought to engage in animation-making. What we can learn from William’s work is to see how contemporary artists wield painting to make animations, how they express the position of contemporary intellectuals in their works, how they put contemporary concepts into traditional media, and how they get a close connection between two-dimensioned languages and contemporary art experiments. Animation gives certain way of picture processing and it can activate the static pictures in the form of film language. In this sense, animation sets up a logic system of concepts and languages, which breaks the traditional way of narration and opens up a visual experiment road in a non-narrative way. The conceptual language of animation demands an independent, complete and systematic engineering, including teamwork, script, story boards, software, scenes, characters, sound effect, cutting, post-synthesis, release, promotion, and so on and so forth. Animation is very closely related to film, so many two-dimensioned animations are actually “individual films”. The artist Liu Jian from Nanjing has astonished the animation circle with his work Piercing I (a length film of 85minutes) which boasts back-breaking amount of work, a unique perspective with Chinese scenes pitched in, and its internal power. This work was demonstrated and won awards in many international animation festivals, thus making it an important representative works of Chinese lengthy independent animations. The power of independent animation that we can strongly feel requires artists of the ability to direct films, the art thinking, the executive force to lead a team and the philosophy of managing an enterprise. The reason is that animation is a systematized work flow, and thus it’s hard for only an individual to accomplish the whole part of the flow. Accurately speaking, independent animation is derived from contemporary art and independent film. For example, the Israelite films Dancing Waltz with Beorge and I Grew up in Iran are two documentary animations characteristic of documentary aesthetic style. The viewpoint of virtual politics and war manifested by these two films and the deep concern and sympathy contained have changed people’s regular perspectives of documentary films, which also marks a change of significance for independent animation.
Matthew Barney, an artist full of the most active creativity in the 1990s in the US, found new approaches from medical science and myth narration. He integrated multilingual forms of performance, film, shooting, video and appliance into his works. His series of works Suspension Wires from 1994 mirrored a trend of international contemporary art in the 1990s, namely, beauty and fabrication, schizophrenia and the fact that in the era of globalization, individuals had been profoundly influenced by consumer culture, international capitalism and virtual society. Matthew Barney can be remarked as a representative artist practicing cross-discipline and cross-media experiments in the United States in the 90’s, and equally important, he’s set an example for Chinese contemporary artists about how to work with cross-media experiments. The trends changing from America’s “post-human” exhibitions in1993 to Britain’s “feelings” exhibitions in 1997 and to China’s “post-feelings” exhibitions in 1998 can safely be seen as important transitions of international contemporary art and, the significant influences on the trends of Chinese contemporary art.
Shirin Neshat, a female artist of importance, was born into an intellectual family in Iran in 1957. Her father was a scholar who had studied Western cultures for many years. She came to America at the age of 17, finished her study of basic theories of art in San Francisco, went to take MFA courses in Berkeley, and then started to take up the study and creation of video art at the same time. For some political reasons, she had to work and live in New York as a long-term resident. Shirin had deep observation and research about the living states of female Moslems of her times. Her work The Women without Men, a film that she made based on a novel written by an Iranian novelist, depicts the life histories of five heroines. In the film, by means of video art, she successfully reproduced the true stories of the book, which flooded with mental fears of sexuality, taboos, and brutal suppression of revolution. It’s a film not only about females, but also of multi-boundary denouncement and doubt about politics, religion and aesthetics.
“In today’s world, any kind of film from the Third World is bound to connect with the globalized world, and is bound to relate with the position of a given nation in the pattern of globalization. In a sense, owing to various religious and political reasons, Iran has always maintained a non-cooperation position or even a hostile attitude towards the European and American developed countries as well as their allied nations. As a result, Iranian films undoubtedly constitute a part—a very special, vital yet complicated part of the globalization pattern today.” 8
The three above-mentioned artists help us find from the work methods and research projects of artists in South Arica, the US and Iran some enlightenment—how to overstep such sensitive issues as post-colonial geopolitics, consumerism myth, religious fundamentalism, and political isolation as well. Their works present before us the complicated aesthetic appreciation and the power of interlaced politics. And art as a unique encipher of conception and thought has become an important declaration and evidence of our presence. China is now confronted with such intricate political, cultural and spiritual straits, but who would pour out our sufferings, and who listen to them?
From Painting to Animation
How come Chinese water-ink animations like The Monkey King, Na Cha the Great, Pastoral Flute and A Deer of Nine Colors can enjoy an important status and have a prominent influence on an international scale? The reasons are as follows: firstly, these film directors had profound traditional backgrounds. Instead of simply learning from models for Western animations, they had their own aesthetic and philosophical systems of animation that differentiated from those of America, Japan and East Europe. Secondly, the core of Chinese water-ink animations lies in the Oriental water-ink and the linguistic concepts and methods of folk art. Thirdly, Shanghai Animation Film Studio boasts powerful technology, adequate funding and complete work flow of animation. Fourthly, the Wan brothers and Guang-Yu Zhang were all excellent painters, who possessed spiritual pursuit and aesthetic ideals for animation films that cannot be found from people taking up commercial animation films today. Apparently, the core of the relation between painting and animation is the methods to process pictures. It’s a very interesting change that artists have gradually shifted their creation focus from independent short film to fiction feature films, because in general, Chinese contemporary art is relatively conservative, and thus has difficulty judging the relations among animation films, independent animations and new media. However, for contemporary art, the development of independent animation is a brand-new face. The shift from painting to animation represents that artists have started to turn plane narration to dynamic languages, reality to virtuality, traditional vocabulary to contemporary vocabulary, traditional painting to hi-tech animation. The use of 3D technology, in particular, does help artists surpass the narrative pattern of traditional animations. For instance, the interactional multi-media advocated by Lin Junting (a Taiwanese) is another branch of animation, and is another direction of experiment animation and multi-media devices. If we only focus on animation technology and conception, how can we distinguish independent animation from cartoon industry? Then what’s independent animation? What matters most is the integration of thought, position, technology and language. The working method of independent animation is characteristic of its independence. It is not attached to certain system or circle. We can see some conceptual changes of contemporary artists from the shift from painting and animation, and lots of artists now begin to conduct cross-media experiments. Particularly, only when the prosperity of the art market has brought plenty of money can artists accomplish works that might only be finished in the dreams in the past. From this we can see the impact of the art market and contemporary art on independent animation.
“Cultural producers hold a special right, that is, the right of symbols, which is able to demonstrate objects, and make people believe that they can, in a clear and objectified way, reveal more or less the slightly disordered, indistinct, non-system or even hardly formulized experience of the natural and social world.; hence their reasonable existence.
Provided that the special interests of cultural producers were connected with specific domains, and these domains were inclined to encourage or force beyond the individual interests of regular significance according to the logic of functional operation, then these special interests would probably trigger them to resort to political or intellectual actions of universal significance.” 9
—— Pierre Boudieu
It always happens that in independent animation exhibitions, other elements like manuscripts, single-frame screens and devices will also be exhibited. Such an art form is a manifestation of the cross-media and cross-discipline independent animation. In the retrospective exhibition of Matthew Barney, we can have a look at the scenes, stage properties and the work flow of a film. Different from video and feature film, independent animation has made a meaningful breakthrough, visually and conceptually, and it has both some conceptual and visual plus lingual expressions. Russia’s AES+F group has also adopted the mode of film workshop to create contemporary artifacts. What deserves our deep thought is their concern about aesthetics of the final period of the century, and their use of 3D technology to have created a magic world of art, and their profound insight into human’s spiritual plight. Furthermore, their working method and systemic production and breakthrough have particularly brought some new inspiration for new media art and experiment animation.
The Experimental Modes of Independent Animation Since 2000
There’re several major ways of sorting out the development skeleton of independent animation of this decade, from which we can see the breakthroughs that independent animation has made in the following aspects these ten years.
The transcendental spiritual world;
“Two turns”: from painting to animation, and to picture and language;
Virtual art projects, the relationship between art production and teamwork;
Psychology and personal experience;
Turbulent global perspectives;
Electrified, futuristic and game-like cross-media experiments;
Interdisciplinary contacts between new media and films;
The Future laboratory (experiments done by scientists, engineers, and experiments of biological genes and digital art).
Transcending the Road of Art Museums and Film Festivals
Having seen independent animation directors carry off awards in international and domestic festivals as well as from art museums, most directors start to set up their independent studios, digital art companies and entertainment companies. Artists may find it hard to access to a transmission system without financial support from galleries and foundations. As we need better transmission platforms, their interconversion and interplay are of great importance. But for the popularization and transmission of animation film festivals, many artists wouldn’t likely obtain today’s achievements. That more independent animation directors have won awards in some small film festivals and institutions inspires greater confidence in more directors and artists of this field. Nevertheless, the living environment for independent animation today is still very tough, because the average experimental Corto Cortissimo shown in independent film festivals and animation festivals are all targeted at a niche audience. When faced with the overwhelming low tastes of commercial animation festivals, how can the independent artists get involved in this field? How do they have a clear position in the commercial world? These are the focuses of widespread concern for independent animators, such as international animation competitions, the commercial tastes of cartoon industry, the public aesthetic appreciation, the experimental nature and originality of independent animations, etc. Independent animators have to judge the relations among those elements, and determine what to do next after winning awards with their works. Embarrassingly, however, independent animation belongs to neither the value system of contemporary art nor the industrial system of cinema; instead, it is an “alien” that falls in between contemporary art and cinema. Considering that independent animation is growing in a difficult condition, we must try to find out the prospect of it, that is, what’s the relationship between talent training and education of new media art? And what’s the way to go? Sure enough, these are questions that deserve our discussion and deep thought, and they are also remarkably instructive to not a few young independent animation directors. Then how can we transcend the existing patterns of art galleries, museums and film festivals? Well, such organizations like artists’ studios, film companies, and cross-media performances, etc. are all likely to be important shift channels for us.
Independent Animation and Experimental Arts Education
In 2002, China Academy of Fine Arts established the Dept. of New Media. In 2005, China Central academy of Fine Arts set up the Dept. of Experimental Arts. In 2010, Sichuan Fine Arts Institute built the Dept. of New Media Art. In 2011, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts founded the Dept. of Experimental Arts. With the mission of cultivating experimental artists on their “shoulders”, these departments and majors are not only public platforms for educational institutions and academic research, but also laboratories for creation of experimental short films and independent films. This makes independent animation educationally-guaranteed. Without the support of academies and non-governmental institutions for experimental art, it would be very difficult for experimental film and independent animation to develop. As experimental artworks can seldom find a market, those who failed to win bonuses and support from foundations or galleries would be unable to continue their creations. But some lucky bonus-winners may have an opportunity to work as teachers in colleges, or to go on with their majors in enterprises. A case in point is Pixar Animation Studios. They first aimed to win awards by their short films, and then started to invest in producing lengthy films, so that they could have access to the film industry and have finally developed into a world-famous international animation company. Moreover, if there’s a lack of a fair art mechanism, it’s also tough for independent film to thrive. Therefore, all art academies tend to encourage their students to participate in some important film festivals and animation festivals, and more crucially, to be able to enter into the transmission system, for without this system, independent animation will lose the true meaning of “being free and independent”. The most visualized influence brought by film festivals and animation festivals is that such festivals can provide good opportunities for young artists and students to bring their works to the international channel. Each film festival has its own forum, international exchange and workshop, which constitutes an important production system and evaluation system. In fact, academy, film festival and art museum together represent a systemic work system.
Significance of the Future Art Laboratory
“It’s quite a waste to make art practices in the world of media, for the most suitable place for them is those open laboratories, not the palace.” 10
Before 1985, Chinese water-ink animations had reached a climax and won many titles on a global scale. Unfortunately, after that year, they were absent from the international arena. Why did they vanish from our sight later? In the days of a planned economy, the film studios were guaranteed by the country. However, when a market economy started to take shape in China, animation practitioners lost the national system security owing to great changes brought by the market economy. Without financial support from the government and technical support from the market, Chinese water-ink animation came to a premature end from then on. Then why hasn’t the animation industry produced first-class works? First, it lacks an independent system of thought and philosophy; second, most of its work methods and ideas are mere copies of those of European, American and Japanese animation industries; third, China’s animation industry is still a low-end system of processing, which has only produced some infant and easy readings. It needs a systemic production chain and a systemic working procedure serving for originality, thought and implementation of the concept. Despite the fact that Chinese contemporary art has a 30-year history of development, it would still be unlikely for Chinese independent animation to gain the achievements like it has today, if it had evaded from the severe test of internationalization, or stayed out of the arena of film festivals, or out of the lingual intersection of documentaries and films. As we mentioned before, the most important thing of independent animation is to make breakthroughs in its thought, character, technology, and conception as well. Then what characteristics does it possess? What’re the really future-oriented breakthroughs it has? And what’re the valuable work methods we need to think about and summarize? These are the questions we must answer.
“Contemporary media artists take the mass media as part of the world and as part of the eyes and the camera that watch this world. The suggestive eyes tell of the media and the world. Yet media artists tell about the world in a way different from the mass media—they are some neoliberals’ frustrating viewpoints and pictures in the global illusion.” 11
Where does the significance of academic carding and summary reside? Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennale is China’s first biennial exhibition for independent animation. We aim to present the significance of this systemic working method through an attempt to sort out and summarize systematically the essential documents, and conduct a multi-dimensioned sample survey on how independent animation started to occur and develop and what kind of role that the film festival, art academy and the folk each plays. The recent decade of independent animation constitutes an essential part of the three decades of Chinese contemporary art. Such systemic work helps form a diversified ecological landscape of Chinese contemporary art. It has, together with biennales and international film festival system, constituted a cross-discipline and cross-media experimental field. For example, in 2011, the exhibition “Spectrum—Chinese Independent Animation”, curated by Zhang Yaxuan and organized by A4 Contemporary Arts Center, was a good start. In 2012, “Spectrum” was recommended by the Center to exhibit in the Holland Animation Film Festival and in Asia-Pacific Contemporary Art Triennale respectively. Other projects like the Independent Animation Forum held in 2011 in Iberia Center for Contemporary Art and Xian Independent Image Section established in 2012 are also important items of the experiment field. This proves that independent animation has now been acknowledged and studied by more and more academic institutions. What’s the value of this kind of work for successors? What changes has it presented? Chronologically, it has developed from the ideological confrontation and ideological enlightenment in the 80’s to the market transformation in the 90’s and to China’s full involvement in the course of globalization since 2000. As for Chinese contemporary art, how can it confirm its cultural identity in the global context? What kind of meaningful work has independent animation done? In what way has the experimental work of independent animation been obscured by the mainstream system of contemporary art? All these questions—our reflection and summary of the past decade of history, and all the work and discussion we have done at crucial points, will have profound implications for our future experimental road, especially for the future academic carding and summary. It’s a great hope that with the help of some raw data and texts, we can now find from the past experience some approaches and roads leading to the future. We tend to regard this sort of lonely experiment and exploration as an important part of the future laboratory. The work we’ve today, unnoticeable though it may be, will definitely show some remarkable significance in the future. As an old saying goes, “Many a little makes a mickle”, so let us wait in hope!
Battery City: A Post-Olympic Beijing Mini-Marathon, edited by Hu Fang, Vitamin Creative Space, P10.
Documenta Kassel 1955-2007, (Germany), written by Zhang Qikai, Chongqing Press, P658.
Revelation of Video Art, written by Chen Yongxian, Taiwan Artists Press, P8.
Le destin des images, written by Ranciere, Jacques, translated by Huang Jianhong, Taiwan Book ReservationPublishing House, P29.
Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1985, “As a critical ‘YBA’—to British current art as intermediary identity social and political reasoning”, edited by Zoya Kocur (America) & Simon Leung, translated by Wang Chunchen, He Zhihui, Mai Liangzhi, etc. revised by Wang Chunchen, Shanghai People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, P96.
SAIBO KONGJIAN AODESAI (Holland), written by Jos de Mul, translated by Mai Yongxiong, Guangxi Normal University Press, P33.
The Transformation of the Media, “Chapter five -global media culture: the outline of village life or the mercy of the cultural imperialism”, written by Nick Stevenson (Britain), Peking University Press, P146.
Film Criticism, written by Dai Jinhua, “The film audio-visual language and narrative analysis”:Children of Heaven, Peking University Press, P41.
Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1985, “Knowledge field—a separation of the world”, edited by Zoya Kocur (America) & Simon Leung, translated by Wang Chunchen, He Zhihui, Mai Liangzhi, etc. revised by Wang Chunchen, Shanghai People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, P96.
Media Archaeology, written by Archaologie Der Medien (Germany), “Conclusion of the article, with the media archaeological design”, The Commercial Press, P271.
Synthesis Period,chiefly edited Fan Dian, Zhang Ga, “Different Perspectives of Media Art”, National Art Museum of China, P117.