When I was a child, my parents left our hometown to work in a faraway city, so I stayed with my grandparents. There, in a tranquil but breathtakingly beautiful countryside in the Sichuan Province, I had a lonely but happy childhood. I would often spend hours looking at water stains on the walls, imagining the kind of figures that these stains could be. At times, I would watch the end of the horizon and think to myself anxiously, asking, “Where is the end of the sky?” or “Who am I?”. Today, when I look back at this time, I believe that nature and my own self-consciousness were my first teachers of art. Moreover, because of this, my art is deeply rooted in life and humanity.
Like many lonely children, I started by drawing, and was deeply obsessed with colors and lines. Years later, I attended a Canadian school, UQAM, to study visual arts. During this time, I realized that the rest of the world was entirely different from the place that I called home. At UQAM, I became interested in new technologies that emerged, but this led to a sort of self-doubt in myself.
One year, inspired by certain video arts, I wanted to design a tool that could project anything into the air. I loved this idea and worked hard on it. However, I only knew how to paint, so I didn’t have much progress for a long time. Then, one morning, I opened my Facebook to see that Microsoft had launched a device called HoloLens, which looked precisely like what I had imagined. I felt terribly upset. But with this, I started to think about the difference between the creativity of artists and the creativity of scientists. I believed that there must be some differences, otherwise, why we are artists while they are scientists? Besides, does today's world really need artists? How is an artist defined? And how can artists contribute to today's world? The more I reflect on these questions, the more I find that art is much more important than we think.
I believe that artists are those who are very sensitive to people’s behaviours, feelings, and emotions. For instance, when I first saw a girl using her smartphone camera as a mirror to check her makeup, I was shocked, even if this might be a regular occurrence. In fact, as an artist, I had filmed people before. However, women or men, young or old, not many were truly comfortable in front of a camera. It seemed to me that the presence of cameras could create a sense of unease or anxiety. I had deeply reflected on this phenomenon. To me, the anxiety caused by the presence of cameras was proof of our own self-awareness. People knew that the recorded images would look exactly like themselves, and were subconsciously affected by deeply hidden insecurities or doubts: What are these photos? Who am I?
I thought that this was the reason people were uncomfortable before a camera.
I sincerely believed that self-consciousness made the essential difference between humans and other living beings --if we believe such a gap exists. I also thought that the camera, like a magic device, can bring out this self-consciousness, making us uncomfortable. This belief was set, until the day that I saw the girl using her cell phone as a mirror. She was so joyful and comfortable with herself, her real-time image. Years later, today, almost everyone uses cameras as a mirror.
Our critical self-consciousness then, where is it? Why does the camera no longer work in creating unease? It seems that our self-awareness has changed with an increased use of new technologies (social media especially).
"We shape our tools, then our tools shape us.", McLuhan said half a century ago. However, how do our tools shape us? This question seems difficult to answer since the evolution of technologies is unbelievable fast.
With my sensitivity, possibly the only tool that I have as an artist, my art is trying to find a possible answer to how our tools shape us.