Interview with Jingqiu Zhang
MED candidate, Yale School of Architecture
I know you are interested in projection art, so why you like it?
I guess it started from the artist from MIT, who did projection for refugees from war, his name is Krzysztof Wodiczko, and his work reflects the images from refugees to represent a really immersing and emotional moment. It reminds people what happened around us, and to raise question. I think it’s a really powerful and useful tool presenting your idea to the audience. It is different from movies, because in movies, you are just as a person who watches it. But in projection, people can actually immerse into the space, so that’s the reason.
You mention the word “immerse”, do you think “immerse” has a special power to people?
I guess it’s also related to the other question which is why I want to take classes in drama school. I think drama is a magic space, because the stage and the black box itself is a generic space. But through performance of actors and actress and also set design, people can actually involved into the activity happened in a stage, people are actually going through a journey with the actor and actress. So that’s also related to projection of why it’s immersive. It’s really important for people, a lot of things we don’t want to take responsibility because we are only watching instead of involving into the event and then, the immersion is actually related to involvement. Like when you’re not a part of it, you would not like to react to it, just stand by. And then you don’t really do certain reaction to change the situation. Nothing gonna happen. Nothing gonna change. That’s the power of most immersive projection as well as drama space.
It’s interesting that you mentioned responsibility. I feel lots of artists or art projects, they don’t quite touch that territory, like building a sense of responsibility for your audience. So you think for artists nowadays should show more attention to responsibility?
Partially right. After the beginning of 20th century, people started to express their concepts or strong ideas into art projects and intend to be extreme. But express for what, I guess is the question. Why you want to express, what kind of change you are you wanting to make. I guess, that’s just my personal answer, responsibility is like that make certain improvements to your current situation. I don’t know if you remember, we had a class with Chris Pullman last semester, and he recommended us to see a documentary related to Vietnam War in 1967. He mentioned a poster with a dead baby and a mother on the road, and that image actually changed the perception how we see that war at that time. And people started to realize, by this artwork, this photography, it’s really cruel. The war is really terrible, And they need to make some change because of that. And then people start to protest or do certain things to really improve the situation. And I guess for me that’s the meaning of making things and I don’t know what about the others, but it’s just a personal choice I guess.
Like you have to have a thing in your mind that make you do something.
Cool. You also mentioned your experience in drama school, right?
I also know your teacher is super famous..
He’s really famous…
So can you talk a little bit about him? Like his experience, career or something?
Ming is really famous for stage design, basically he is kind of like a foundation for School of Drama in the US. He also teaches a lot of Chinese set designers. His students have strong influence in the trajectory of theater in China, Taiwan and Asian area. Also he did a lot of shows and won the Tony Award several times for set design. There’s a interesting thing. When we had a critique with Ming, I was presenting my project and I mentioned a word, and suddenly he got really angry about it. That word is “abstract”.
Yeah abstract. The word we also mentioned in architecture school or art school. He refuse to the idea of abstract because of abstract is actually, um, dangerous to humanity. We read scripts from Shakespeare and Ibeson. So we’re actually having the same, emotion, very detailed emotion, a very vivid experience. Tracing characters in a script, just as I mentioned before, we’re going the same journey with the character, the actor, the human, like human’s emotion is pretty similar to each other in humanities studies, no matter of the different cultural background, or historical background. There’s certain things tie people together like, when I’m presented with some topics like love and loyalty, betray, sadness.
That human emotion is shared by the whole earth. That’s why we can still understand Shakespeare after such a long time, after several hundred years we can still ever interpret his ideas. So that’s one thing. He always brings the topic of humanity during our class. He actually encourage us to share our personal experience, and try to tie our personal experience back to the script we read.
And I think the same thing for drama was also for design and architecture as well. The sharing of ideas cannot be achieved through the abstract concepts. Abstract is a really, really dangerous thing to do because it wipes our humanity from the existing world.
Is this kind of opinion influenced your projects currently you are working with?
Definitely yes. So basically now my projects are focused on three kind of issues. One is related to a sustainable environment design, like ecological environment. The second is about the art and humanity, different humanity, embedded in literature, poems, and in architecture.
The third one…What I found out was after I come to the US, the important of my self identity. Essentially I’m a Chinese. It’s a combination of biology and culture, and I can’t get rid of it. How we think about things and how we approach different topics and how we use the language. And now, after so many years of education in western system, it’s still embedded in me. Personal exploration is super important for how we define ourselves.
Your experience reminds me of the designer I did for Doug’s book, the Japanese Designer, Kohei Sugiura. He had a similar experience just like you. He taught in Ulm, a Germany design school, and after his teaching experience, his self identity of his own culture started awaking. He suddenly knew that he was not like western people in any sense.
I think identity is extremely crucial for design and creation. Eventually everyone should just comes back to themselves.
Like a reflection of ourselves?
Yeah. What we make is what we are.