Conversation | An Xiaotong: “I” is the mirror of the “I”

Exclusive report by Phoenix Art

An Xiaotong is an outstanding female artist active in the field of contemporary art, living in France. Over the years, she has continued to explore the contemporary cultural ecology of her work and presentation, and has held and participated in numerous international solo and group exhibitions, as well as implementing a series of work projects in public art institutions in different countries. Her work focuses on the relationship between cyberspace and the visual, based on the existence of the “I” in the wave of the “Internet Age”.

With the advent of globalisation of information, the experience of “overlap” brought about by the breaking down of boundaries of “thought” is further felt: individuals are able to trace their identical life experiences; they are able to find relief from the commonality in their spiritual differences; from one From one “I”, N “I “s can be discovered and extended, and even “I “s can be created to communicate. This tendency to transmit ideas also validates the drive to distribute and focus ideas on their own – from the creation of media channels.

However, its “overlap” gives rise to a state of interaction between the independent “I” and the communally specific “I” that is at once adhesive and separate. As Deleuze says in The Object of Philosophy, “Knowledge, power and the self are the three sources of the problem of thought. In the field of the problem of knowledge, thought is first of all seeing and speaking, but thought takes place in the space between the two, in the interstices or disconnections between seeing and speaking.” “Seeing and speaking” is here closer to the way in which the “I” lives in the terminal world of the Internet, and the freedom of power frees up new “spaces” –The language of abbreviated images replaces the lengthy process of generation, allowing the real identity of the person to be hidden beneath the identity of the image, tending towards a dialogue between image signs. The whole era seems to have been divided into two terminals that can intersect with each other, the real life and the virtual world, which also gives rise to another mode of “thinking” in the Internet era.

Faced with this context, the multidimensional interface of the Internet is spread out from the two terminals, locating the displacement of different data of the “I”, extracting its image nature, and synthesising these perspectives to explore the “social system of the public” with the insinuating relationship of the Internet. The exhibition is a synthesis of these perspectives and explores the “social system of the public” in relation to the Internet. These are the issues that French artist An Xiaotong has been exploring for a long time.

In the early 1990s, China’s ‘internet era’ began to dawn: paper texts were gradually translated into digital texts by computer systems; after 1995, computers with image processing systems became available, and it was not until the advent of electronic emails that the ‘internet era’ began to take hold. The “Internet age” was truly upon us. In this wave of information, language and images were instantly brought from the first scene into another virtual world of digital images, which also allowed people to communicate in real time in a virtual capacity, woven, overlapping and spaced by “digital information”. The “time-consuming process” of the “I” identity is reconfigured.

It is in the face of this ‘unprepared’ environment that An further realises that ‘in the new space and time constructed by the Internet, one is free to reveal one’s own views on things as an independent person, without the need to suppress one’s individuality, without the loss of self through deliberate submission to commonalities. In a virtual world, one may meet one’s true self”. As An Xiaotong’s “self” was the centre of her thinking, she began to think about the “Internet” in 2000 with her solo exhibition “Vision Limits”. As the name suggests, the concept of the “visual limit” is a metaphor for the way in which language is constantly transmitted through information and data, while the internet also cuts off the visual process of “real communication” – when information comes in The Internet is a metaphor for the way in which people enjoy the consistency, equality and freedom of language that images assume.

The “coherence” revealed by the Internet also accelerates the reproductive effect of the “I” to refer to the N “I”. From a single function to a collection of terminals; from the individual to the community, this undoubtedly constitutes a “social system of the public”. As long as there is a ‘society’, there must be ‘social relations’ – the way individuals interact with each other, the trends. An Xiaotong’s concern is the value of the existence of individual identities after they have been assimilated into the “thought” model created by the Internet era. In 2004, he created the “Reproduction” series, in which various shadows of the “I” that are about to be separated are linked to individuals in another space. Perhaps the multiplicative effect of “I” as a proxy for N “I” is what fascinates An about issues such as “the internet and the media age”, which has led her to further her studies abroad and to continue her This led her to pursue further studies abroad, continuing her research on the relationship between cyberspace and the visual. This was followed by the creation of her ‘Reflections’ series in 2006 and her solo exhibition ‘Bacteria 2006’, which continued through to her 2008 exhibition ‘When? “UCCA in Beijing in 2008. Where? Who? at UCCA in Beijing in 2008.

It can be said that the identity, definition and discussion of “I” is the real issue that needs to be addressed in the “virtual world of the internet”, because in the context of no identity, all images replace the “I In the absence of identity, all images replace the “I” in the distribution of power and resources. This is also the visual issue that An Xiaotong’s work is extremely concerned with and abstracted from. In her latest exhibition “I”, she abstracts the common images that can replace and simplify the “I” in the internet interface, attempting to complete a visual statement that de-warns each individual. The slightly uniform “two-dimensional codes” in the self-media interface, the sonic lines with only linear differences, the frozen objects, all seem to give the differences in identity and language symbolised by the images on a level extremely close to “uniformity”, but in the end The “self” is still hidden within.

This also fully responds to An Xiaotong’s statement that “images are again the carrier of the emotions, thoughts, values and existence of the N ‘I’, which does not need the tedious parsing of various languages and words, it is about the basic experience of life.” In this age of the internet and self-media, the ‘I’ is both the mirror of the ‘I’, the hero and opponent of the ‘I’, and the reflection of the times.

Conversation with “Phoenix Art

Q: Given your background of living abroad for a long time and your cultural awareness, do you have different feelings about the problems revealed by the “Internet era” from its invasion to its development, if you compare it with the current situation in China?

An Xiaotong: The internet era has dissolved the concept of inside and outside the boundaries, and both domestic and foreign countries are experiencing a similar cultural ecology, just because you are standing on the streets of New York, you won’t stop browsing your circle of friends, just because you are on the ancient tea-horse road, you won’t take the mentality of the ancient people to understand nature, you will pick up your mobile phone and take pictures feverishly to leave the so-called traces, and then send them to various public platforms to share your experience, while at the same time, will that more peaceful and tangible feeling be there? On the internet, you can be a species without borders or identity, you can play all sorts of different things. But do you know which is the real you? Maybe in this day and age it doesn’t even matter.

Walking around many countries you see children, teenagers, young adults, adults and even the elderly with one digital product or another, the age of television media has made the paper media obsolete, the age of smartphones, the internet is everywhere clamping down on your life, and I once asked the question, do you feel even the slightest bit existential in such a life? Does your loneliness and despondency come from relationships that seem close but are nevertheless out of reach?

Q: Can you talk about some of the important stages in the development of your artistic creation from before you went abroad to after you went abroad to today? Can you talk about them in relation to the exhibitions and works, and what do you think is the conceptual thread running through them?

An Xiaotong: Before I left China I studied Chinese painting, which is a tangled story, but at that time I was already concerned about the attributes of the current media age. It was only after ’95 that I started to come into contact with computers with image processing systems, and then I got my first email address and started to browse the websites of that time, and it was also at that time that satellite television became popular, and I was particularly touched by this huge change in my life, and then I painted some works out of context (I had a solo exhibition called “Vision Limits” in 2000). “Later on, I felt most deeply about the Internet when I went abroad, and because of my boundless enthusiasm for the Internet and the media age, I chose to repeat a postgraduate course in multimedia. I was so absorbed in it, both technically and conceptually, that I did not make any new works for a long time, until I started my image reproduction series in 2004, my reflection series in 2006, until my visual abstraction works in cyberspace in 2008, and then I continued to be dominated by this concept, making different projects from different levels, including some graphic works. The works are also portraits and diagrams from the internet.

All of the works were made in the process of thinking and working, I did not think about the connection between them at the time, nor did I repeat or reinforce a certain idea at a specific stage, but all of the projects occurred in relation to the atmosphere of my existence in the moment, I expected the maximum freedom to think and work, and the maximum subtle binding and influence did happen around me on a daily basis, I felt a group feeling and experienced a group experience. In this age of the internet and self-media, “I” is both a mirror of my own “I”, a hero and a rival of “I”, and a reflection of this era.

Q: From the recent exhibition “I”, we can see that you have further highlighted your focus on the context of the “Internet”, while linking it to your major solo exhibition “When? Where? Who?” at UCCA in 2008. Can you tell us how the “Internet” culture has had an erosive and revelatory effect on your thinking?

In these works and exhibitions, “I” is actually a common denominator, representing the various individual feelings of the entire current Internet consumption era.

Rather than discussing the power of Internet culture on me personally, I would rather talk about the power on the whole era. In these works, “I” is not a reflection of me as an individual, but she is in fact both abstracted and at the same time acting as a stand-in for the era.

In this age, the Internet is a public social system. We can use the Internet for information exchange and resource sharing. In the age of the Internet, anyone, at any time, he or she can participate without being excluded because of different colours, different dresses, different religious beliefs. In today’s world, the only circle of life without borders, without discrimination, without politics belongs to the Internet.

Look at this decade, from MSN, Facebook, Weibo, WeChat, e-commerce, Alipay …… The Chinese New Year has just passed and almost everyone who uses a mobile phone has been hit by an electronic red envelope, all kinds of Internet products have allowed us to enjoy countless conveniences, at the same time, when you have become accustomed to enjoying everything without leaving home At the same time, when you have become accustomed to enjoying all the “necessities of life” without leaving home, you have actually been completely kidnapped, dominated, consumed, immersed in the virtual world, the once physical “I” has become a n digital program “I “, really did “I” …… float by ……

It can be said that the age of the internet, the age of no privacy, the age of no taboos, has brought strangers closer together – the virtual world, alienating those around you – real life

In the age of the Internet and the mobile phone, how much of the real is left for us to feel and remember? Which world is “my” world? The “I” is more in the role of “I”, “I” gives each “I” a special or A specific form that is possible or impossible to achieve in reality, but which is achieved through the virtual world of the internet. This is one of my main reflections on my work in 2008.

From 2008 to now, I have been a narrator, I don’t want to judge anything, I just want to describe objectively, to present those ready-made states, images, language, I am like a clerk, my favourite language for my works is: declarative sentence.

Q: How do you understand the connection between the self-described “I” in the exhibition “I” and “I” as a kind of “pronoun” for everyone? Q: How do you understand the connection between the self-described “I” in the exhibition “I” and the “I” as a “pronoun” for everyone? And the participation of the identity of “I” in the “virtual network” is in the form of an image that refers to and copes with the distinction, which enables the freedom of “I” and the switching of identity in the virtual. What is your understanding of the relationship between “I”, “network context” and “image”?

The “I” is the main finger, it can be the “I” of the voice, or the “I” of the N. In this era of self-media, multiple personalities are at play in the media world. In this age of self-media, where multiple personalities are at play in the media world, “I” has become a simple pronoun, with N perspectives articulating N attributes of “I”, this “I” is not another “I”. This “I” is not another “I”, but this “I” is one of the N dimensions of “I”.

The most intuitive presentation of the Internet is the interface, and the most direct language of the interface is the image, and the image is the language that requires the least explanation and definition, and people will interpret the image according to their own experience. It does not need to be cumbersomely parsed in various languages and words, it is about the basic experience of life.

(Interviewed by Phoenix Art \ Written by Li Ning, exclusively by Lee)