Archive for June, 2009
Everything is art in modern society. I experienced invisible art during my fourth week at Cai Studio. Video editing is a foundation course for design students at Parsons. I learned the tool, but never had a chance to put it in use until Cai Studio. The editing process itself is a form of art, it tells a story. Most of us neglect the relationship in between frames when we watch a movie, and that is due to the distinctive techniques of an editor. Sequences, images, melody, voice, tempo all come together to lead us from one frame to another. Proactive montage is the only way to grasp the hearts of the audiences. Through the opportunity to edit short demo films on the making of certain artworks, I was able to explore the possibilities in video editing. Piecing together the story and process behind a 16-panel gunpowder drawing on the topic of four seasons. From start to finish, incorporating every step of the making process in five minutes. Is it really possible to fit an entire day into five minutes? Oh yes, and I found a trick! Paying tremendous attention to details is crucial in the process of editing. Cutting at the wrong place lead to a lighting effect when frames are combined. The process is almost mathematical, permutations, combinations and factoring out the unnecessary. This system also exists in the world of translators.
A translator is a machine trapped in a human body, the machine can only survive in a human body. This is because good translations demand flexibility. It is necessary to alter one’s personality when facing different writers in order to be fully engaged with the work. It’s the only way to be invisible and successfully relocate the voice of a writer. Bonnie and I shared a conversation on the objective of translators. It is time consuming, definitely not well paid, and sometimes not respected. Why do people do it? We came to the conclusion of having the advantage to borrow one’s voice and personality is what makes translation pleasurable. It’s not imitation, it’s duplication. Duplicating the voice to fit into another culture. It’s not as simple as converting words of languages. It’s becoming a converter for cultures. This converter can never be a machine, machines lack of flexibility and vitality of human beings. I fell in love with the permutations, combinations of words when translating an essay on explosion by a Brazilian psychoanalyst. Having the ability and freedom to create and solve your own equations in languages catered to voices is almost orgasmic.
It’d be silly for me to call lunch a culture at Cai Studio, but the lunch-scape here at the studio is home to most team members. Family style way of eating is strictly Chinese, it is still the way modern Chinese eat. Border-less conversations float along the long table.
Family Style Bubbles:
Listening to others chat is a hobby of mine. Amidst the conversations I thought of home, I thought of Frank Lloyd Wright’s fellowship, but most of it all I thought of the joint forces of Cai Studio. Large varieties of topics convert to the foundation of bucket-effect-proof synergy. And of course, I am the happiest in middle of it all.
A few weekends ago the Studio headed to the southern tip of Roosevelt Island for an introductory lesson in pyrotechnics. Our instructor, Phil Grucci of Fireworks by Grucci, lead us on a detailed walking tour of the fireworks setup for the Queensboro Bridge centennial celebration. He explained everything from electronic fuses to standard safety procedures and a few typical design challenges. The lesson was a good opportunity for our new staff to become familiar with technical terminology and equipment.
Hidden from view in both these photos is Cai’s contribution to the Artstrong show, which opens July 16th at Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris. (Top photo, fourth from left, is intern Mona Chen. Bottom photo, second from left, is new archives assistant Phoebe Ford.)
我们一行人在堵车两个小时后从东村来到了长岛的Grucci 烟火公司. 农场式的空间很难想像这就是蔡的爆破基地。
晚上9：30整我们开始了部分作品的打包工作。 细心的 Chinyan 对待胶带她总是耐心地折起尾巴为下个开封的人着想。热爱助人的 Kelly 总是在别人最需要的时候伸出援助之手，屁股上的口袋永远插着剪刀，小刀和一把笔。或许我们需要的是她口袋里的东西，但我们更需要的是准备充分的她。 在我们小心翼翼地为作品盖上被子后我们回“家”了。
Four new works by the Cai were realized on a recent trip to the Gruccis on Long Island. The innovation of Cai’s drawings is directly related to his use of gunpowder as a medium. As a neophyte witnessing the process by which Cai works; I was not prepared for the first “Bang!” I quickly adapted to the process and indulged in the artist’s pyrotechnics with my eyes closed; smelled the scent of Spring Festival in a Village. Upon opening my eyes, I saw nothing but a piece of contemporary art. Capturing the moment is my interpretation of the work. Various-sized blotches of gunpowder serve as Cai’s drawing tool. He sowed the seeds of art onto eight equal-sized panels, lighting the way to a celebration of sparks. Stiff cardboard could not fight the passion of fire, but the drama was short-lived, leaving a moment of the carnival on paper as evidence of the moment. Man-made composition paired with unexpected moments objectified the pleasures of his passion. I immersed myself in the frozen moment of “Bang!” I listened closely to the language of explosion, desiring the arrival of the next reunion.
At precisely 9:30 PM on Friday evening, we packed up the first two finished works. Chinyan, the project manager of Cai Studio, wowed me with her attention to detail. She folded the end of each piece of tape, as I glimpsed discreetly at her actions. Having the next users in mind as we packaged, I couldn’t help noticing the back pockets of Kelly’s black jeans. Well prepared, she filled them with a pair of scissors, an X-acto knife and a sharpie. She was always ready on the spot whenever anyone needed her or the contents of her back pockets. We hurried back “home” to the Marriot after dinner around midnight.
The character of each of Cai’s works varies from the mood of the gunpowder. It was clearly not in a good mood on the sunny day of Saturday. Stubborn gunpowder required extra attention from Cai. It refused to “Bang!” as a collective after numerous attempts to ignite it. Cai patiently chattered with each one of the seeds and gave them their own stage on which to sparkle. I did not encounter the dramatic reunion I was expecting, but the soft-spoken flings swept off my feet. Never have I imagined fireworks could be so gentle.
On the way home on Saturday afternoon, everyone sat motionless. Some showed a poker face, some stared impassively into space, and others fell into a deep sleep. The studio door was quickly unlocked upon arrival. Cai entered first. He meandered through the studio until discovering an unlocked door. Devastation spread over his face, like a child whose toy box is missing. “Who was the last one to leave the office on Friday?” he shouted. Five minutes later with no answer, he focused on inspecting every inch of the studio. Attention to detail is a top-down culture at Cai studio. He is the king of detail in this miniature art nation. It is an essential factor in all successful organizations.
Thursday rapidly arrived. Upon the completion of my library organization project, I enjoyed a coffee break. Whole Foods Market is an emporium of fresh smells. As I loaded upon on my daily intake of organic caffeine, I thought about how difficult it is to be an art/design student looking into the abyss of graduation. Two or three of the lucky ones will find their spot at graduation exhibition, but the vast majority will find no immediate gratification. Many conservatives of my parents’ generation think it depressing so few students will sustain themselves after graduating. I respond with, “It is not sad at all!” I believe in education for its own sake, because it is deeply humanizing. It is about being more fulfilled as a human being.
Many people assume that extraordinary artwork requires some degree of media participation. Surprisingly, I learned that Cai Studio has no official contact for public relations. Sublime seduction of his work speaks for itself. Placing myself in the context with two weeks of first-hand experience in the studio environment allowed me to learn through keen observation and attentive listening. Maybe interviews will be part of my next report! See you next week! =)
We’re pleased to announce a new feature on our blog, namely a weekly report penned by our intern, Mona Shi Chen（陈诗） . In the fall Mona will be entering her senior year at Parsons. Check out her bilingual skills:
Bonnie, 我的图书馆学小老师，看似难沟通的人。 但我却从她毫不含糊装满了工作室数据的头脑里学到许多我在设计学院不能学到的东西。她的深厚的文化底蕴令我刮目相看。或许许多时候她散发出的感觉是盛气凌人，但她肯教人的心需要一个好事的实习生来挖掘出来。在她身上我学到的不仅是文档类的知识，还通过了她为我安排的任务学会了耐心，也享受到了耐心后的果实。
整理目录／文档／书，是许多崇尚时尚的人会认为枯燥，无聊的工作。但现在的我并不这么认为。嫁接蔡的喜好及逻辑和Bonnie的专业知识，在她的领导下我们成功地设计出了一个平衡的图书管理系统。我们首先以蔡的艺术生涯入手，色彩加上人性化的代号（例：SOL: solo, GRP:group)是 新系统的核心， 由内而外推理，以展览／事件年月日排列。设计标签是系统讨论完毕后的第一个任务，在工作室新又快的洁白手提电脑上我以蔡的CV为参考画出了所有个展与群展的标签。
Cai Studio is located off an intersection in New York’s East Village, where eclectic architecture pervades First Street. Walk from West to East. It is hard to turn a head to a shiny red door glimmering against the aged tenement buildings. The contrasting façade was my first introduction to the studio. Upon entering through the door, the sense of contrast is lost, with everything perfectly balanced: a poetic center court, loft ceilings and exposed bricks fuse seamlessly fit together to form the blissful space.
I am a new intern at Cai Studio. Coming from a design and media studies background, library sciences was never on my “to-learn” list. My first assignment was to re-organize the studio’s mini library. Absence of such skills presented a mild setback, but I found myself in the midst of books that interested me. If judging a book by its cover is prohibited, then my obsession of judging a person by their books should be illegal. At first glance, the rows of books conveyed to me a brief history and culture of the studio. The Chinese books calmed me with a sense of familiarity. Feng Shui philosophy, architecture, folk culture, and even Swallowtail Minan architecture books are almost identical to books on my father’s bookshelf at home in Xiamen. Cai and my father’s Minan roots have common interests that come together to where I presently stand. A comfortable and friendly working environment drives me to succeed. This is only the beginning, six days into my internship at Cai Studio.
My first library of science teacher was Bonnie, head of archives. She tried to avoid communication as she circulated through the studio, but picking her brain was a new hobby that I developed within just a few days of interning at Cai Studio. Her tremendous knowledge of literature and impressive memory of the database of the studio put me in awe. She may be eccentric to some, but fortunately I managed to convince her to put in an effort in coaching me. I learned more than just archive related skills from her—I learned the beauty of patience and how to enjoy harvesting it.
Organizing documents and books may be boring to most interns, but this is not the case for me. Under Bonnie’s leadership, we successfully bonded Cai’s logic with her expertise and designed a balanced system for all. Our first task was to improve Cai’s solo shows, adding eye-popping colors to labels along with a humanized short symbol (example: SOL: solo, GRP: group). This was the core of the new system, to be put in the exhibition chronologically. Designing the labels was the first step to reality after our final decision. 3600’s voice had never been so sweet before. At the exit of 3600 (the printer) were two warm sheets of letter-sized labels ready to mark Cai’s legacy. More than 100 catalogues later, I subconsciously memorized Cai’s solo shows after giving each catalogue their own identification. The satisfaction I felt is beyond description!
These six days were interspersed with archives, drawing, and researching tasks. The first drawing assignment was to draft a tree. This simple tree gave me headaches that I did not foresee. With no experience in large-scale drawing compositions, the tree appears lifeless under my pen. Not only did Cai not get irritated, but he patiently corrected my mistakes. Cai said, “Each branch has their own facial expression.” Such a simple sentence brought me closer to the meaning behind his works. Using the tree as my lesson, I decided to be conservative with the next task, digitalizing the final result before drawing it. Leaders of the Soviet Union are the main characters of the next drawing. After the third day, I no longer shied away from expressing my own thoughts. With the magic of Photoshop, the leaders’ beard and mustache came to life. Having spent my elementary school years in Communist China, this assignment held a special place to me. Gorky, Pushkin and Dead Souls are reasons of my fondness toward Russian culture. However, my “one size fits all” personality implies that I can never be an expert on anything. Countless interests make me a hodgepodge. Professor types are my role models. Perhaps this character of mine really does suit the career test I took in school perfectly. Am I meant to be a dean and never a professor? Could Project Planning and Management be my future direction?
Having four years of professional design skills I acquired in school under my belt, I am lost. I still have not escaped the chaos. There is nothing quiet or harmonious about this style of living, being torn in the middle of cultural nodes of New York. But as I look deeper into my surroundings, I begin to find myself within the loud juxtaposition. The East vs. West and the past vs. future all come together to where I am today, interfacing through art, design, media, cultures, and even invisible skills of mine. And I, possessing elements of both Chinese and American culture, feel somewhat at rest. Yes, I want to be a bridge, as I am happiest in middle of everything.
My life and internship goals are not clear now, but I know that I find pleasure when I excel and perform my best in everything that I do.