Sep 13 2019

Where Culture Fuses with Technology: Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing

by ArtAsiaPacific

Installation view of "Future Humanity – Our Shared Planet,” curated by Martin Honzik, Qiu Zhijie, and Lee Daehyung, at Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing, 2019. All images courtesy Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing.

In March, when ArtAsiaPacific visited Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing, located in the heart of the 798 Art Zone, the exhibition “Quasi-Nature: Bio Art, Borderline and Laboratory,” curated by Wei Ying, had just opened. Awarded the Hyundai Blue Prize for Creativity, Wei Ying looked at the history of bio-art through philosopher Bruno Latour’s concept of the “quasi-object,” with contributions by 11 artists and groups. The second of the Blue Prize exhibitions, “Lying Sophia and Mocking Alexa,” opened in July, and was curated by the Sustainability Prize winner Long Xinru, who uses the two protagonists referenced in the title—the humanoid robot Sophia and Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa—as symbols of humanity’s hopes and fears surrounding artificial intelligence. In August, ArtAsiaPacific touched base with Hyundai Motorstudio at its Beijing space to discuss the organization’s projects and upcoming plans.

Since opening in November 2017, Hyundai Motorstudio has hosted several exhibitions and many programs on cutting-edge developments in the visual and technological field. How has the audience in Beijing responded to these events?

Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing is, among the four other Hyundai Motorstudios [in Seoul, Goyang, Hanam, and Moscow], the only space that focuses exclusively on contemporary art, and it is also the first culture and art center of Hyundai Motor Company in China. For local visitors, such a cultural and artistic space—one set up by an international automobile company in China—is a novelty. As both our exhibitions and public-education programs are based on interaction and experience with the audience, we have attracted many visitors to the studio and many of them have participated in the activities there. On July 30, our total visitor numbers broke the 700,000 mark.  

In the beginning, some people did not understand why this space of Hyundai Motor Company did not display cars. However, through our communication of the contents of Hyundai Motorstudio, and visitors’ interactions with our exhibitions and activities, people have gradually shifted their focus from the automobile as a product to a brand-new lifestyle concept, as we have introduced. People enjoy this new way of communication focusing on art and culture that can enrich one’s lifestyle and beyond.

The flagship project of Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing is the Hyundai Blue Prize, which has really led the public into the interdisciplinary areas of art, science, and innovation. The Hyundai Blue Prize not only provides a broad international platform for young Chinese curators, but also allows the general public to become participating judges and to choose the best exhibitions in their eyes and lend their own thoughts and feelings to our programming. The Hyundai Blue Prize nominations have received more than 30,000 total public votes in the past two years since it was launched in 2017. We look forward to the outstanding results of the third edition of the award this year.

Installation view of “QuasiNature – Bio Art, Borderline and Laboratory,” Hyundai Blue Prize 2018 Creativity Award exhibition, at Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing, 2019. Copyright the artists and Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing.
Installation view of “QuasiNature – Bio Art, Borderline and Laboratory,” Hyundai Blue Prize 2018 Creativity Award exhibition, at Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing, 2019. Copyright the artists and Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing.

What has been the biggest success for Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing to date? 

The Hyundai Blue Prize, certainly, as it is one of the key projects of Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing. Each edition’s theme is extracted from the brand concept of the Hyundai corporation, and various topics related to Chinese culture, environment, society, and the future are proposed based on the understanding and interpretation of the theme by the curators. The Prize allows curators and artists to develop concepts that are important to the technological and social visions of Hyundai.   

Why did Hyundai decide to support emerging Chinese curators with the establishment of the Blue Prize in 2017?

Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing is an important platform and a crucial addition to the art scene in China, where rapid forces of innovation are continuously changing the way that people live. Through its commitment to the Hyundai Blue Prize, the company explores new ideas that bring together advanced technology, contemporary art, and environmental sustainability, helping people to make sense of the world around them and give insight for the future. Since its establishment in 2017, this annual award has been given to emerging curators with insightful approaches toward the complexities of contemporary Chinese society.

The two prizes awarded are for “Creativity” and “Sustainability.” Why are these important concepts for the Hyundai brand and Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing?

Each year, young Chinese curators submit exhibition proposals around a theme that intersects with the essence of Hyundai’s long-term vision. Creativity is for the communication of open minds and innovative ideas, with sustainability being the core of future growth and visions of a better society. The Hyundai Blue Prize focuses on seeking out the most creative and innovative ideas rather than selecting winners based on the experience level of the applicants. 

Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing has a new partnership with the new-media organization Ars Electronica. What will the collaboration entail?

Ars Electronica Festival is a world-renowned media art festival that began in Linz, Austria, in 1979, and it is a major stage for art, innovative technology, and ideas that inspire people around the world. Ars Electronica collaborates with artists, scientists, technologists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and social activists from all over the world to share innovative visions, ideas, and projects. 

For the past two years, Hyundai Motor Company and Ars Electronica have worked closely together. We have held regular workshops to search for new methods of communication between artists in the fields of art and technology, and the results of our efforts will be presented in this year’s exhibition at Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing. The partnership continues Hyundai’s global commitment to creating better access to art for people, and is part of a unique series of long-term relationships that the company has established with leading art institutions around the world.

Installation view of “Lying Sophia and Mocking Alexa,” Hyundai Blue Prize 2018 Sustainability Award exhibition, at Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing, 2019.
Installation view of “Lying Sophia and Mocking Alexa,” Hyundai Blue Prize 2018 Sustainability Award exhibition, at Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing, 2019.

For the 2019 edition of the Hyundai Blue Prize, the focus is on “social intelligence.” Why was this theme chosen?

The theme was chosen together with Ars Electronica. The focus of the 2019 prize is on the social and cultural dimension of technological progress. It deals with the future relations between humans and machines, the interactions between culture and technology, as well as the tension between tradition and spirituality, and the ever-increasing mechanization and rationalization of our world.

What can audiences look forward to in 2020 and beyond from Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing?    

In 2020, Hyundai Mororstudio Beijing will stage various exhibitions throughout the year under the theme of social intelligence. Starting with our global exhibition in collaboration with Ars Electronica, we will then hold two exhibitions curated by the winners of the Blue Prize Awards. During those exhibitions, we will also run various programs such as “Dialogue with Artists” and “Art Workshop,” which will evoke interesting interactions with audiences. Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing will continue to provide various “Art and Tech” exhibitions and content to the public in China.

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