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Nov 01 2010

First Intermedia School Opens

by Angie Baecker

The opening ceremony for the School of Intermedia Art at the China Academy of Art (CAA) in Hangzhou, on September 12. Courtesy CAA.

On September 12, the China Academy of Art (CAA) opened the School of Intermedia Art (SIMA) in Hangzhou. The new school integrates the departments of new media, experimental art and curatorial studies into a single program. It is the first initiative on the mainland for contemporary interdisciplinary arts study.

The CAA had been the earliest Chinese institution to embrace new-media study, founding the department of New-Media Art in 2003 under the direction of Zhang Peili, the first known artist in China to work in the video format. His directorship signaled the official acceptance of new-media art within a conservative academic system that had previously kept it on the fringes.

“People tend to believe nowadays that biennales or new auction records are really important,” explained Lu Jie, founder of Beijing’s Long March Space and himself a CAA alumnus, to ArtAsiaPacific, “but rarely do they understand that what’s truly important is education. For many different historical reasons, education in China still happens to be very traditional, so a new institution with alternative approaches to art education is quite significant.”

SIMA is divided into three different teaching platforms: studios, laboratories and the department of Research and Curatorial Studies. There are five separate studios, each led by an artist conducting research into specialized areas of study. Yang Fudong, for example, heads the newly created Experimental Image Studio, and Qiu Zhijie continues to direct his Total Art Studio.

Eight laboratories provide all SIMA students with open access to state-of-the-art technology, including labs for sound art, video art and digital darkroom techniques. Finally, the research and curatorial department is split between four different institutions: the Institute of Contemporary Art and Social Thought, directed by Gao Shiming; the Institute of Trans-media Art, directed by Wu Meichun; the Institute of Radical Visuality, directed by Geng Jianyi; and the Center for Intermedia Art in Shanghai, an art and exhibition center currently under construction that will also be directed by Gao Shiming.

“It’s been clear for some time that we needed a program that was flexible enough to investigate the changing conditions of the present,” said Yang Jinsong, vice president of SIMA. “We don’t tell our students that they have to become artists, but hope to instill them with the critical skills necessary to confront the world around them.”

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