Whether it is the Garden of Eden, the Peach Blossom Spring, or the pastoral Arcadia, whether it is the ideal country, utopia, or the “Xanadu” described by Marco Polo under Kublai Khan, “gardens” have always represented humanity’s longing for a pure and innocent era. In the moment of rebuilding connections after the pandemic, the China Academy of Art has chosen “Brain Garden” as the theme for the 5th Jiangnan International Youth Art Week (hereinafter referred to as Youth Art Week), exploring and examining issues such as individual and society, art and technology in both real and virtual gardens. “Brain Garden” not only refers to the graduates who have grown up in the academy’s “garden,” but also to the infinite and complex technological changes and the extended future of art, as well as to the individual’s spiritual work, willpower, and aesthetic world. As the China Academy of Art said in its press release: “In the post-pandemic era, in the turbulence of overproduction caused by AIGC, we hope that everyone can cultivate their own ‘brain garden’.”
The 2023 China Academy of Art Youth Art Week was presented online and offline on June 1st, with offline exhibitions held at six venues including the Zhejiang Exhibition Hall, the West Lake Art Museum, the Zhejiang Art Museum, the Xianghu Expo Center (1368 Xiangxi Road), the Quanshan Stone Art Center, and the Yichuang Creative Town. The online exhibition was presented on Dongtian CAACOSMOS and Xihu Tianmu. The total exhibition area online was nearly 70,000 square meters, with more than 2,700 graduates exhibiting over 3,000 works, and more than 2,000 young artists, designers, writers, and scholars participating online. The exhibition attracted more than 400,000 offline visitors and had a total online reading volume of 750 million, extending the “college without walls” to a wider social audience.
From Brain Neurons to a New Era of Art
As the opening film of Youth Art Week, the AIGC film “Oddinary” conveys the new situation faced by the world at this moment: AI has triggered a new wave of technology, the development of brain-machine technology is merging, and the boundary between virtual and real is gradually blurring. Humans use their invented technology to construct a brand new time and space, and a series of issues such as the value of the subject and the origin of order penetrate into society and individuals. “Each individual is a tiny neuron of the ‘cosmic brain’.” Faced with the upcoming new ecology, the various schools of the China Academy of Art have conceived graduation works for the theme exhibition under the “Brain Garden”.
The exhibition of the Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Art Academy showcases 303 pieces/sets of graduation works, including four professional directions: figures, landscapes, flowers and birds, and comprehensive studies in the Chinese painting department, as well as calligraphy and seal cutting, calligraphy studies, and education in the calligraphy department. The theme of “Infinite Spiritual Thinking” is rooted in Chinese culture, and the artistic world of “Infinite Spiritual Thinking” comes from the spiritual freedom of the integration of mind and matter, deep thinking, and imagination, pointing to the openness of brain thinking and the energy and transcendence contained in imagination.
The Cross-Media Art Academy presents over 200 works under the theme of “Cosmocolosse,” inspired by Bruno Latour’s eponymous radio play, where the world is like a monster that is half hurricane and half Leviathan, curiously observing humans. The exhibition spans different media categories such as live performances, video installations, kinetic installations, miniature models, and monument installations, covering diverse themes such as AI art, Chinese futurism, virtual avatars, and simulated landscapes.
The Design Art Academy’s Visual Communication Design Department showcases the unique possibilities of exploring the boundaries between tradition and innovation, the integration of humanities and technology, and solving social problems and expanding artistic expression. The Textile and Clothing Design Department focuses on sustainable material design, smart textile design, digital textile design, therapeutic design, and Eastern design in various research fields. The Industrial Design Department collaborates deeply with the industry to create the “01 Workshop” for the intelligent era. The Comprehensive Design Department attempts to explain real-world phenomena and interpret design propositions in a diverse environment by establishing interdisciplinary connections.
The Innovation Design Academy’s exhibition showcases the works of students from various majors, including product design, environmental design, and digital media design. The exhibition highlights the integration of design and technology, the exploration of new materials and new forms, and the pursuit of innovative design concepts.
The exhibition of the Academy of Fine Arts showcases the works of various departments, including the School of Innovation Design, the Painting Art School, the Sculpture and Public Art School, the Art Management and Education School, the Art and Humanities School, the Handicraft Art School, the Architecture Art School, the Film School, the Animation and Game School, and the Nantes Design Joint School.
The School of Innovation Design focuses on the theme of “Collaborator,” discussing the collaboration between art and science, AI and human co-creation, cooperation in biological gene evolution, cooperation in social design, and cooperation in culture, economy, and history.
The Painting Art School showcases the theme of “New Plants in the Garden,” expressing the vitality of life through painting after three years of the pandemic.
The Sculpture and Public Art School reflects on the continuous changes and evolution of individuals and society, exploring the desire to explore unknown fields with the theme of “Seeds of Nomads.”
The Art Management and Education School responds to the concept of “life is education” and showcases the path of “self-realization” through the theme of “Life Force 6.0: Harvesting the Invisible.”
The Art and Humanities School presents the theme of “Path of Images” through the visual presentation of graduation thesis literature, transforming textual research into visual representation.
The Handicraft Art School showcases the multidimensional narrative of young students’ craftsmanship, emphasizing the deep cultivation of material, craftsmanship, and modeling skills, as well as the repeated polishing of philosophical and connotative ideas.
The Architecture Art School upholds the spirit of “defending diversity,” which is also the core academic spirit of the school.
The Film School explores the contemporary development of poetic films from a young perspective.
The Animation and Game School inspires the establishment of a new cognitive bridge between reality and fiction through free, diverse, in-depth, and innovative thinking.
The Nantes Design Joint School showcases the thinking and creation of designers in different cultural contexts between China and France with the theme of “Cross-border Generation.”
Exhibition of Sculpture and Public Art Academy
In the online section of “Dongtian CAACOSMOS,” in addition to the online exhibition, there are also various entrances, paths, and experiences. On the opening night of Qing Art Week, in the open world of Dongtian, each audience member was assigned an “avatar” to watch the opening ceremony of the meta-universe scene together online. Online publishing of gatherings was also available, establishing a self-organized form of creation and activities, where competitions and exhibitions can be published online. The platform provided DCI digital copyright services for this year’s Qing Art Week, and in cooperation with AntChain, provided 10,000 free art works for all graduates to confirm their rights. The platform also launched free AIGC services to jointly create new ways and tools for digital content creation.
From Viewing the World to the Human World
In 2010, China Academy of Art pioneered the graduation season open to all Hangzhou citizens, and in 2019, it was upgraded and integrated into the “Zhejiang International Youth Art Week” based on the school’s graduation season, launching a city carnival throughout Hangzhou. It shared the teaching achievements with society and created a “college without walls.”
The theme of the first “Youth · Inter-World-View” in 2019 showed an attitude of “talking to the world.” The second “Living Together” in 2020 was a response to the rethinking of human life under the epidemic, exploring the desire for and how to regain the ability to live together in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and long-term isolation. The theme of the third Qing Art Week in 2021, “Now History,” is a rethinking of “living together.” We are all experiencing the loss and crisis in the global pandemic and facing new propositions and challenges of life ethics in the digital age. The theme of “Life Force” for Qing Art Week in 2022 calls on young artists and designers to fully immerse themselves in the current life scene with the creativity of art and the kindness of humanity, defending the positivity and resilience of life, openness, and accessibility, and transforming them into the driving force of “moving forward in life.”
The 2023 Graduation Exhibition of China Academy of Art, held at the node of rebuilding communication and connection with the world, has the theme of “Brain Garden”. It aims to establish connections between individuals, groups, society, and the world, while also exploring cutting-edge topics such as the metaverse and artificial intelligence, opening up possibilities for future artistic creation. From how to “observe” the world to exploring common life and existence in special periods, to contemplating life consciousness and creativity, if the previous Youth Art Week focused on the relationship between existence and individuals, then the “Brain Garden” in 2023 will extend its tentacles to a deeper spiritual world and broader human thinking. While facing the technological wave, it returns to and rethinks the inherent value of humanity.