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Back To Basics In 2012: A Q&A With Feng Mengbo

China’s Feng Mengbo on his latest show at the Today Museum and his outlook for the new year.

Creator Feng Mengbo‘s recent solo show just closed its curtain at Beijing’s Today Art Museum, but before it did, we spoke with the multimedia artist and game designer about the exhibition and his plans for 2012. While we enjoyed his latest project, Mortal Kombat‘s, amusing spectacle, Mengbo didn’t seem as immersed in his present work. Instead, he’s already on to the next, eagerly anticipating the direction his new projects will presumably take him in 2012.


The Creators Project: Are the works in this exhibition from this year? Why did you called the show “Mengbo 2012”?
Feng Mengbo: All the works were made this year. “Mengbo 2012” represents my temporary leave from exhibitions. I can’t wait to start my projects for next year. 2012 is certainly a very suggestive year for [my] audience’s imaginations.

Can you xplain the piece Q2012?
This work is a combination of two old works, Q2008 and Not too late. The former is a video game about a drawing that I finished in 2008, and the latter is a commission piece I did for London’s V&A Museum in 2010. It’s a video game related to calligraphy. Even after I finished Q2008, I kept on using the video game format to build drawing systems. Drawing machines have been built by many artists [throughout] art history, but I find them imperfect. And video games have a high randomness [factor] because all the elements can be designed. While they can deliver a 3D feeling, they expand the possibility of 2D drawing. The result of combining these two works creates some beautiful apocalyptic scenery.

How do you think interactivity fits into new media art?
Interactivity is not [an] essential [component] for new media art. Even if it’s needed in a work, it can be presented from different perspectives. For example, the model for practicing calligraphy can be seen as a kind of interactivity. When you are imitating the calligrapher’s strokes, you have to think in his movement and emotions—that is a very strong interaction.


Is it true that you will not be making any new media art works next year?
Somehow my art practices get labeled by the audience. I have been working with computer-related art forms for more than 20 years, so I feel exhausted. My good friend Lu Yue helped on the programming part, but I did everything else in the process. The audience might see Mortal Kombat as an old video game assembled with a few new characters, but we actually worked a lot on it. We overwrote all the programs, we took more than a thousand pictures of each character and I divided the pictures into 28 movements. The post production, programming and sound production processes took four months. I feel really tired. I want to take a break, and start to paint, to photograph, to do sculptures… but I won’t exclude the possibility of using new media technology.

You like to use your favorite games, music and characters in your work. It feels like a nostalgic pop culture imprint. If you are going back to traditional mediums, will you still use these iconic elements in your work?
I will keep using those elements, of course. Going back to the traditional medium doesn’t mean I have to be very serious and pretentious. I will still present my favorite things in my work. I am always interested in and inspired by pop culture, even through I was trained in a traditional way.

MoMA put Long March: Restart into their permanent collection last year. Can you talk about that process?
The MoMA people saw this work of mine in China, and they decided to collect it. We had at least two meetings to discuss how we could preserve it, how long it could be kept, if the work would be available to be exhibited in the future, and so on. Our main [issue] was that hardware and software is always upgrading and changing. My suggestion was to provide them with a highly-capable computer and a backup of data. When the computer’s operating system is upgraded, all the software and everything else changes. We have been through the analog time, and some analog lovers are still exploring the equipment to rebuild the analog environment. Long March: Restart operates under Microsoft, and this system might disappear one day, but it represents a [moment in] time. As an artist, I am not always considering how to perceive works. If we [think about] this issue all the time, we can’t do any more art.

What do you have planned next?
I will have a VJ show in Kee Club in Hong Kong this December. It’s the live version of the Bruce Lee VJ Project, which was exhibited at The Creators Project Beijing event. That same VJ show will be at the UCCA this November. I also have an upcoming solo show about video game machines in the Hong Kong Art Fair next year, as well as a photography exhibition in Shanghai, and I hope to finish a painting exhibition.

Vogue TV reports on Feng Mengbo’s solo show: