ARTX30 brings together 12 artists to respond to the theme of future friendship by collaboratively creating new digital artworks that are presented in an experimental documentary. This project celebrates 30 years of bilateral relations between Singapore and China through art exchange between the two countries. Co-organised by G20 Youth Entrepreneurs’ Alliance China, U30s Academy China, and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Singapore, and supported by National Arts Council Singapore and China Green Foundation, this art exchange project emphasises meaningful online interaction and creative exploration amongst young artists of the two countries.
Artists from both countries met over Zoom on Jan 18, 2021 to ‘speed-date’ in order to select their ideal collaborative partner.
What does friendship look like in the year 2050? Participating artists of ARTX30 ponder over the definition, purpose and value of this special type of relationship in 30 years’ time, speculating how shared joy among equals begins, develops, evolves and terminates across time and place.
Friendship has benefits of different values. Aristotle claimed in his Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII (350 B.C.E.) that friendships of utility and pleasure are inferior to that based on virtue. Alain de Botton disagrees slightly as he defends the networking purpose of friendship because the task that one person wishes to complete may be so enormous that it is achievable only with the help of an accomplice or alliance. Jacques Derrida even goes so far as saying that friendship is the basis of politics.
In this project, participating artists make friends by making work together. Will their artistic alliances affirm or add to those well told in art history—from the tumultuous (eg Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin) to the symbiotic (Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquait) and mutually supportive (Helen Frankenthaler and Grace Hartigan)? Are their speculations of friendship in the future hopeful or realistic, mundane or bizarre? Have they achieved artistic insights, developed a robust collaborative system, or ignited an enduring alliance? Whatever the case, one thing is for sure: their brief but intense period of collaboration would be leaving a mark on their life, and that of others.
The collaborative ‘Friendship 2050’ symbol by Li Mowen and Loi Cai Xiang, as part of the pair’s initial artistic proposal at the start of their month-long collaboration during Jan 25 – Feb 26, 2021.
Six pairs of young artists—each pair comprising an artist from each country (Singapore and China)—were invited to participate in this project. Under the guidance of curator Michael Lee and filmmaker Tan Siok Siok, the 12 artists underwent an intensive month-long period of collaborative art-making.
These artists have diverse backgrounds, artistic concerns and means of expression. For example, the Beijing-born Li Mowen has worked for AIESEC, a global platform for young people to develop their leadership potential, for six years, which took her to more than 30 countries and territories. Singapore-born Fazleen Karlan was trained in fine art and works as an archeologist.
The artists’ usual artistic mediums range from painting (Loi Cai Xiang, Li Mowen, Ma Lingli, Jaxton Su) and sculpture (Ouyang Sulong, Ang Xue Ning, Fazleen Karlan, Nhozagri) to illustration (Tan Zi Xi), animation (Ryan Benjamin Lee), video (Liu Yefu) and new media (Liu Jiayu).
Their research concerns span the natural world (Tan Zi Xi, Liu Jiayu, Ang Xue Ning), the relationship between the physical and virtual worlds (Nhozagri, Ryan Benjamin Lee, Ouyang Sulong), from issues of the past (Loi Cai Xiang, Fazleen Karlan, Liu Yefu) to studies of the self (Ma Lingli), social issues (Li Mowen) and collective agency (Jaxton Su).
Mindmap of key themes and ideas in the initial artistic proposal by Ang Xue Ning and Liu Yefu.
The exponential rise of digital art reflects both the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the future of contemporary art, by harnessing technology to overcome limitations of geographies, sensibilities and real-world needs. ARTX30 artists were given a ‘30-Day Challenge’ to respond to the friendship theme and work together on a new digital artwork in pairs, each comprising a Singapore-based artist and a China-based artist.
Their one-month artistic collaboration was marked by three milestones: The artists first met over Zoom to speed-date and select their collaborators with whom they put together an artistic proposal. At the mid-point of their production period, each pair presented their work-in-progress to a panel of mentors who gave valuable feedback. Their partnership came to a close with the presentation of their artistic outcomes to one another, friends and guests at the end of the month. Meanwhile, additional Zoom sessions between the creative team and specific artists or artist-pairs were conducted to intervene into the creative process where it was due.
Each pair of artists shared their works-in-progress to a panel of 4 mentors on Feb 9, 2021, to receive valuable feedback for their final artwork presentation on Feb 26, 2021.
Artists were given prompts to reflect on aspects of friendship through small creative exercises on a daily basis during the month-long production period. Panel discussions were also organised to further deliberate on key issues around this project.
Artist Li Mowen in the process of being filmed by a professional crew in Beijing on her experience in the project.
An experimental documentary is the platform that showcases the six new digital artworks created by ARTX30 artists. Responses to daily prompts and excerpts of online meetings mark the timeline of the 30-day creation period. Professionally shot interviews feature the artists reflecting on the collaborative creation process.