A Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco Program 舊金山中華文化基金会項目
Artist Dialogue with Feng Jin
Whatever its form, public art attracts attention, delivers the idea and message from the creator as well as interacts the visual material and artistic thought with viewers. Just like a movie, the form of public art can be commercial or purely artistic in various type of subjects. And it doesn't matter what type of media the creator uses, as long as the content is good or interesting, everyone would watch.
I think the contrast in between public and gallery art is that public art reflects the knowledge of an artist toward our living environment and society. How "people orientated" the artwork can be as well as how the artwork is suitable to the public environment are two major concerns for the presentation.
For Sidewalk Art the idea of a 'store' or 'shop' was incorporated into some of your designs. What influence did this venue have on the piece that you created for this show?
As a Chinese who lives in the U.S. for more than 15 years, Chinatown happens to be a place I can relate to--restaurants, Chinese character signs, messy and crowded streets...this is an environment full of "Chinese stereotype". I feel like doing something that people in my community can enjoy, something that is not stereotypical that non-Chinese visitors find interesting and fun to watch.
I found that my "Tao of Metal" series suit this project. These "character-like sculpture" only adopt the spirit of Chinese cursive and calligraphy and do not intend to be made to represent any actual Chinese or Japanese characters (but some of the sculpture might coincidently look like or similar to the actual characters). I intend to give native Chinese audiences a new way to view and re-think the written language that we use daily. I hope the Chinese viewers don't try to "read" but "view" my work as some sort of sculpture or artistic presentation, not calligraphy.
For any viewers who do not read Chinese, these sculptures are just purely symbols for them, as they can relate to the impression of Chinese characters and regenerate a new point of view.
Stores are often about consumerism, what are your ideas on the viewer consuming art, instead of products?
As an artist who sells his own art work for living, I often need to think of the question such as "What am I selling?" "How do I sell it?" "What type of work do people like to collect (buy)?" There are always such questions behind my creation. Displaying my art in a storefront does give me an opportunity to re-think these questions.
Artwork needs to get exposure so the viewers would recognize and consume it, such a concept is just like a product needs to be displayed in a storefront in order to get consumers' recognition. Many artists often think that galleries or museums are the only place to show art in the public. In fact, the way of presenting art to the public has changed, alternative spaces such as Internet, coffee shops, office buildings and commercial storefronts provide wide choices for artists to express their ideas and creativities. Art collectors or art lovers who would like to buy art are inspired by the art presentation that the artist made.
There were certain challenges and barriers in this project. For example, the physical barrier of the door, window, and low-lighting that working in a storefront space entails. How did you work with these challenges? Did you use these elements as part of your design?
I think the challenges of conducting an art installation in an actual storefront are: To improve the existing scene; and make my work properly fit-in to the environment. The installation needs to be "Site Specific"; therefore, I can not just "fill up" my existing artwork to the space and call it a day.
There are problems and limitations in this storefront site, such as graffiti on the window, no interior light and a huge interior space that needs clean up and remodel. And since we do not open the door to allow viewers to come and see the work, there is actually just a "storefront" that need to be shown. I have to cover almost the rest of the unwanted space for my installation.
Taking the graffiti as an example, when I found out there is no way to clean these graffiti on the window I decided to make my work just "blend-in". As accepting the graffiti as part of my presentation, I've covered almost half of the storefront in red fabric so the graffiti can be seen even clearly, consequently separating the outside graffiti with my calligraphic sculpture inside of the storefront. Such a makeover may allow my audiences to be more curious about what's inside of the window so they can be more focus on the art work inside of the window.
Public art should not just be an art installation decorating the environment. An artist has a duty to make his/her art "make sense" to audiences in that specific site.
I would like to see my viewers just look at my artwork and enjoy, perhaps discuss with their company or friends. Of course, I hope that pedestrians would lay their eyes on my work every time when they pass by the site, in addition to remind them something or make them think of something. That's what a piece of "Public Art" means to a creator, the work needs to be seen. And the viewers need to receive stimulation or impact through such an action.
While installing my sculpture in the storefront, I discovered an interesting fact that many native Chinese viewers have tried to identify which piece of work related to what Chinese character. I was hoping that maybe they can end up discover a poem from my work and tell me about it.
Sidewalk Art 金鋒訪談
1) Sidewalk Art 將裝置藝術帶進了街道上的店面、提供公眾觀賞。你對公共藝術有什麼看法？ （特別是與畫廊做對比。）
2) Sidewalk Art的想法，是將一個“商店”或“店面”納入你的創作中。這個項目的場地對你的創作提供了什麼樣子的影響？
答：作為一個需要出售自己的藝術作品維生與維持創作的藝術家來說，我常常需要思考這樣的問題，像是：“我賣的是什麼？” “怎麼賣？” “什麼類型的人會喜歡收集（買）？”總是有這樣的問題在我的創作背後。Art-In-Storefront這樣的項目確實讓我有機會重新思考這些問題。