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[ICF 2019] Wonderful dreams in the garden: New Media and Art Exhibition of Peking University

OCT . 23 2019

Peking University, Oct. 23, 2019: The opening ceremony of “Wonderful Dreams in the Garden—New Media and Art Exhibition of Peking University” was held at PKU on October 19.

In her opening remarks, Vice Chair of PKU Council Ye Jingyi said the exhibition was one of the most innovative activities during the International Culture Festival 2019, which was a spectacular sci-tech representation of ancient landscapes and Kunqu Opera. Ye added that the exhibition also gave people a fresh experience of arts through the combination of light and shadow.

Ye Jingyi giving her opening remarks

Xiang Yong, the curator of the exhibition and professor of School of Arts expressed his appreciation to the staff and organizations on their support. He revealed three main features of the exhibition, i.e. using advanced technologies to showcase the Chinese ancient landscapes in a small hall, giving visitors a mixed sense of hearing and seeing through new media and offering chances for young artists to present their artworks. 

Xiang Yong delivering his address

An attractive performance of Kunqu Opera was also given at the opening ceremony. The attendees were immersed in the show thanks to the light and shadow effects brought by cutting-edge technologies.

The Kunqu Opera combined with the teconology of front-projected holographic display

As part of the main events during the Peking University International Culture Festival (ICF) 2019, the exhibition was open to the public in Peking University Hall from Oct. 19 to 21. A total of 10 young artists were invited to jointly present an immersive audio-visual feast.

Based on the theme of ICF, “A World without Borders, The Future is Now”, this exhibition not only aimed to present the collision and fusion between art and science, but also attempted to promote global communications.

At the exhibition

With the combination of traditional Chinese arts and digital media technologies, the science-art exhibition revolved around its own theme “Wonderful Dreams in the Garden”. The artworks were displayed by means of new media technologies such as lighting installation, immersion experiences, digital arts and interaction design. They endeavored to restore the glorious history of the royal gardens in the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) where the emperor received foreign envoys, hence echoing the purpose of enhancing cultural exchanges.

The exhibition was divided into three sections: “Traveling in Jingchun Garden”, “Everything is Spring”, and “Dreaming in Yanyuan Garden”. The eponymous work of the installation art “Three Hills and Five Garden” invited visitors from various countries via facial recognition technology to the beautiful landscape of the royal gardens, in which the grand banquet shared by Emperor Qianlong and foreign envoys alike reappears. 

When it comes to the prologue “Traveling in Jingchun Garden”, visitors can interact spontaneously with the living creature depicted on the screen, participate in the composition of traditional Chinese paintings, appreciate the audio-visual performances of tradition musical instruments and wander in the 3D version of the landscape painting “A Picture of Wangchuan”. In the second section “Everything is Spring”, visitors then moved from the material scenery of Jingchun Garden to the spiritual realm of Chinese cultures, in which they can enjoy the charm of Chinese calligraphy through the project of Chinese character library, the charisma of kirin dance, one of national cultural heritages, via 3D mapping technology, and the beauty of traditional Chinese window lattices by 3D book carving. Eventually, in the epilogue “Dreaming in Yanyuan Garden”, visitors again jumped from the nostalgia for the past to the futuristic vision, as the collections of “eight-palace handicrafts in Beijing” bloomed like flowers when visitors approached them. 

The work of installation art Kirin Dance

As the curator Xiang Yong suggested in the introduction, “By utilizing digital technologies, such as hand-painting repairing, multimedia imaging, facial recognition, 3D projection mapping, and sensor interaction, the exhibition featured natural images, royal treasures, calligraphy and paintings, Kunqu Opera, and multiple handicrafts of intangible cultural heritages. Meanwhile, it united spontaneously the temporal-spatial experiences, the physical-mental journeys, and the traveling from the past to the future into ‘an eternal Yanyuan Garden’.”

Kids interacting with new media devices

In this regard, the exhibition was a confrontation between art and science, helping visitors reexamine and reconsider traditional Chinese arts from a contemporary perspective. It also exerted effects on international cultural communications since digital technology and new media derive, indeed, from the western contexts. In terms of the potential conflicts between art and science, as the executive curator Song Liang claimed, we cannot neglect the irreconcilable parts when art meets science, and for instance, the technology of hologram may inevitably weaken the aesthetic effects of Kunqu Opera which relies on virtual performances and audience’s imagination;

The importance of advanced technologies in this exhibition should not be overlooked, as they contributed to the brand new audio-visual experiences and disseminated Chinese culture to the broad masses, particularly the young generation who may not be keenly interested in traditional Chinese arts. 
It is also undeniable that the duet for art and science, as a prevailing trend, heralds the harmonious melodies in the future. It is not only a dialogue between art and science, but also a dialogue between traditional culture and contemporary contexts, between the past and the future, between home and abroad, and between the elites and the masses. As such, the New Media and Art Exhibition more or less indicated the way of establishing a better platform for the art-science dialogue.

Reported by: Zhou Meng, Liu Jie, Liu Huihui
Edited by: Huang Weijian