Artist Talk with Siyuan Tan 「Contemporary Art and NFT Art」
Today we are very excited to have with us, a New York based multi-media artist Siyuan Tan. Siyuan Tan was born in Northeastern China and, majored in sculpture in college, began working in the states in 2015. He was featured in the recent cross-dimensional exhibition — “Who’s Dat Panda”, organized by ONBD、Snark.art、Shanghai Gallery and LATITUDE Gallery NY. I said cross-dimensional because the exhibition was split into two parts, one being on the virtual metaverse platform Decentraland, and the other half in New York at Latitude Gallery. So, without further ado, welcome Siyuan Tan!
AG: Before we get into the “Who’s Dat panda” exhibition, can you tell us more about your practice? Do you mostly work in 2D? 3D? etc.
Siyuan: Actually, I majored in sculpture in both my undergraduate and graduate, so I have always worked in 3D. My research direction focused on the connection between the real-world and virtual world. I have been focusing on installation-based sculpture and videography during when I was an undergrad. When I got to the States I mostly focused on Sculpture while also painting on the side.
AG: From your website, I saw that a lot of your works referenced art history, contemporary artists, and in general the art ecosystems. (auction houses and such.) Would you say your works are commentaries on the contemporary art world? If so, what is your perspective towards the contemporary art world?
Siyuan: I have always worked in spatial connections, and my works evolved around that when I was an undergrad. And it has always evolved around “mankind”. We are always the medium that can connect different spaces, so I am always reflecting on these connections. The connections between the reality and the so-called virtual world. When I was an undergrad, I looked at this so-called virtual space from the perspective of physics and science, that is, the universe as we know of but cannot see, or the division of Yin and Yang under the traditional Chinese concept, the relationship between Yin and Yang. And then the physical, for example, I was born in an energy city, Fuxin in Liaoning province. Most people from my hometown live on the ground but you also have people underground mining coals. This is an activity that is not visible but known to everyone. This phenomenon to me is a reflection of the connection and disconnection between the positive and the negative, the up and the down of all spaces.
When I was in grad school, I worked at a newspaper publishing house for a while. I was influenced by my time at the company that I started realizing the similarities between online research and the act of spatial connection. After all, the Internet is a virtual space, and I will take things from the virtual world to reality, including art and auctions. Whether we get the news or see the works of art, most of the time we can’t see the original work. We always get this information from the Internet and news. There is this information gap, or misreading of the work frequently. Including dimensions, materials, and various attributes. I think this thing is very interesting, the misinterpretation of dislocation, is also what I have been trying to express in my works. The works on my website are all created during my post-graduate period, focusing on the connection between the real world and the virtual world.
AG: I see you have made some small paintings in 2020, and some elements are from the Chinese cartoon “Little Brother”. Can you tell me more about them?
Siyuan: They were all made in 2020 during the pandemic and were only exhibited in New York this summer. Actually, those works are also related to discussing real space and void space, but they involve some memories and events during the isolation period. In addition to reflecting on the events of this era and their influence on me, I will also look inward at myself, why I formed such ideas or opinions, and why I am interested in such things.
One of these things is the characters from the cartoon “Little Brother” in my childhood memory. Those memories will give me a hero complex. In this epidemic, I myself had a hero complex, but not as a national hero or war hero, but a civilian hero. Through the news report, this hero will be reported while usually hiding in the streets just like the ordinary people. But in this critical moment, these doctors, soldiers, they become the heroes who stand out during outbreaks. Sacrificing their own life and time, to ensure the operation of the social system.
I received the news from the Internet because we were all in quarantine and can’t contact the outside world. Collecting information via news and the Internet, I reflected on this information and created No Connection and Brainwashing. Later, I dug into myself, why I was interested in this kind of thing and where the spatial links came from. I would trace back to my childhood and find this hero complex, so I made this series of works related to spray paint at that time. Because the blur effect is very similar to what I remember it to be. It’s fuzzy, and hard to focus. We can only say that there is roughly an image there. So at that time, I did a lot of spray painting.
AG: To you, what does it mean to practice art in the current time? What is contemporary art?
Siyuan: If we were now living in the Qing Dynasty, every art we make will be considered “Qing contemporary”. Contemporary art is the art of our time. Every era has its own art, and it is hard to define it while we are still living in the time. Maybe people in the next decades will be able to categorize the works from our time more accurately.
AG: Can you tell us how you got in touch with the Cryptoart Panda community and how you became part of the “Who’s Dat Panda” exhibition?
Siyuan: My friends invited me to join the exhibition. Many of my friends used to live in New York, like the organizers, curators, and artists that are in the show. They have always known that I use many media in my works, including sculpture and painting, as well as video. Just at that time, I made some NFT works that are related to reality and the virtual space, the direction of my research was also focused on similar topics like the Metaverse. The emergence of Metaverse is also about the real world and virtual world. They thought my concepts could fit in the exhibition, so they invited me to participate, I am also very honored to be in this exhibition with so many outstanding artists.
AG: Did you just create the work for the exhibition or that was your previous work?
Siyuan: I have almost completed several sets of works so far. The batch of works exhibited in June this year is all from 2020. I still have two sets of works to create in 2021, but these two sets are still work in progress. Including the NFT work called “juvenile adventure”, which is now in its tenth chapter. It’s actually putting together the whole humanity regardless of race, color, age, gender, as a team to explore the universe, which is a reference to shows like the power-rangers, Star-Trek and 80’s anime, music, and retro disco from my childhood. The work is interactive meaning the audience can participate in this adventure I created. I have created a total of ten chapters, the first chapter is called Alert and it’s about an alien civilization that came to the earth and how we fight back to protect our planet. I have started creating the future chapters to come.
AG: Was this your first time working digitally? How did it feel to you?
Siyuan: The first time I work digitally was when I was a sophomore in college. I made about 18 video works in total and have kept about 5 of them that were actually decent. most of the works created in the time were studies and were not finished. I made another video in Grad-school and have been filming non-stop ever since. I am just too lazy to update my website. But since I have finished all my projects for the first half of the year, and my next show is not until June next year, I will gradually upload the works to my site. But then, the NFT market was not as mature as it is now, if it was I would’ve started uploading my works to the blockchain as I do now.
AG: is this the first time you exhibit on Decentraland? Or on any kind of Metaverse?
Siyuan: Yeah, this is my first.
AG: The idea of expanding an exhibition in reality to the virtual world is quite innovative. Who came up with the idea? Do you think this type of exhibition will be adopted by the art world in the future?
Siyuan: It is a matter of make-believe. If people truly believe in a “Virtual World” or the Metaverse, that in the future we will exhaust our own habitat and have to rely on a virtual reality/space, then, those people will believe in this technology. Otherwise, for those who are speculative and conservative, that only believe in reality, nature, animals, things that are visible and touchable, then they will never adapt to this world. But I believe in a world where the two can coexist.
AG: What is your opinion on NFT art? and why?
Siyuan: That it is art and also a form of currency. In the physical world, worthy paintings and sculptures are also used as currency, so it really isn’t that weird. NFT art is called art and is practiced by many people now so there must be value in it. To me I don’t have much to say about it, I quite rather like it actually.
AG: Are you following any NFT projects/artists ATM? Can you share with us some of them?
Siyuan: All of the 20 artists featured in this exhibition alongside me. I like and admire every single works from the show and it’s not fair for me to single one out.
AG: what else do you want to say to our audience?
Siyuan: The NFT market is growing in China and Internationally. It is providing opportunities for many artists, and I must say I feel very lucky to be living in this interesting time. Everyone is learning and creating good works and I am very happy to be introduced to so many talented artists.
I am glad I am spending my time on something so meaningful.