20 July 2012
Art brings canal city to life
Lumens Festival: Curating the Ancient City, a contemporary photography and video art festival, was recently held in the city of Suzhou, Jiangsu, China.
Developed by RMIT University researchers from the School of Art, the project investigated how public-based contemporary visual art enriches and transforms the experience of urban spaces and can bring renewed meaning to heritage sites.
School of Art researcher, Dr Tammy Hulbert, said the festival was highly successful, attracting and engaging large audiences and much attention from local print and television media in China.
"The artworks curated for this project explored themes of landscape, community and identity - photographic and video imagery was projected on to the lime-washed, white walls of Ping Jiang Road, a site that is part of an ancient network of canals characteristic of the city," Dr Hulbert said.
"Our research team selected the area as it is a central part of the city and still has an active local residential pedestrian community."
The project was supported by the Victorian Government as part of the Victoria-Jiangsu Sister Province Cultural Agreement, bridging the two regions through contemporary visual art.
Ted Baillieu, Premier and Minister for the Arts of Victoria, congratulated the RMIT team on the project.
"This project has illustrated once again how art can transform everyday places and experiences into something quite extraordinary," Mr Baillieu said.
"In addition to creating dynamic art and establishing a festival that had a wide-spread community impact, the project reinforced the value of our cultural ties with our sister state and with China more broadly."
Suzhou is a mid-sized Chinese city with a population of six million, in the southeast corner of Jiangsu province, about 110km west of Shanghai.
Suzhou is an ancient classical city with urban structures dating back more than 2,500 years and is renowned for its network of canals, waterways, stone bridges, pagodas and meticulously designed gardens (with several of these gardens world heritage-listed by UNESCO).
As well as Dr Hulbert, other School of Art researchers involved in the project are Dr Shane Hulbert, Dr Geoff Hogg and Clare Leporati.
The relationship between RMIT and the Suzhou Art, Design and Technology Institute was initially established by Xiaowen Fan, Chinese Program Co-ordinator at RMIT's School of Global, Urban and Social Studies.
During visits to Suzhou to investigate local contemporary art practices, the RMIT research team became interested in understanding the role of public heritage sites in China's booming urban growth and how ephemeral public art is able to re-engage audiences within sites of cultural significance.
"As a result we endeavoured to respond with a project that investigated how digital technology could be used to create temporary artistic interventions and re-imagine the distinct heritage canal structures," Dr Hulbert said.
Victorian artists featured in this exhibition included John Billan, Martine Corompt, Mark Galer, Ian Haig, Shane Hulbert, Bronek Kozka, Harry Nankin, Nikos Pantazopolos, Dominic Redfern, Craig Shell, Matthew Sleeth, Darren Sylvester and Lyndal Walker.
Artists from Jiangsu included Hu Bing, Li Weilin, Li Xiao Song, Qian Hua Wang Gang, Wu Zhongwen, Yang Hia Tao, Zhang Ming Xing and Zhou Wei.
Lumens Festival: Curating the Ancient City was developed from the Meridians Intercultural Framework established in 2010 and is the result of an on-going dialogue between the School of Art and the Suzhou Art and Design Institute researchers.
The project aims to encourage an ongoing intercultural dialogue between the State of Victoria and Jiangsu Province through contemporary visual arts practice.
A Lumens Festival event will also be held in Melbourne through a partnership with the Chinese Museum, Melbourne, with dates to be confirmed.
This project was developed by RMIT University Design Research Institute's Mediated City stream, RMIT Art in Public Space Research Cluster, RMIT Photo Imaging Research Network, the Suzhou Institute of Art and Design, The Chinese Museum, Melbourne and supported by the Victorian Government Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Developed by RMIT researchers in the School of Art, the Lumens Festival in China brought the ancient city of Suzhou and its canals to life.
Contemporary photography and video art lit up the canals at night.
Out and about enjoying the public art on show in Suzhou.