I didn’t decide, it just happened.
Wei Na was born in 1981 in Inner Mongolia. In 2010, she got her M.A. at the Fine Arts Department of the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, and before that she graduated from Art College at Xiamen University, M.A. Her field of investigation is photography, video art and installations and has participated in many International academic and exploratory exhibitions. Wei Na lives and works in Xiamen, China.
In her work, Wei Na researches peoples’ daily lives. She focuses on the psychological aspects of her subjects. Her work usually questions and exposes the conventional attitudes and judgments of the given society. Perhaps because of her experience with living in both Europe and Asia, Wei Na’s work also offers an intuitive observation and sensitive commentary on what could be called cultural or international differences, while simultaneously exposing and bridging them.
The three videos that are part of the fifth episode of Návštěva are all connected by intense observation and individual experience. In “Watching”, Wei Na offers a careful insight into what it feels like when you come to Europe as a foreigner, while in “The Temple”, the language is broader and more metaphorical, touching universal experiences of human beings. "Mr. Zheng" is a personal testament from Chinese town in Amsterdam, reflecting on the topics of multiculturalism and migration.
Interview with Wei Naquestions by Jan Martinec
Wei Na, you have the great experience of living, working and studying in both China and Europe, how was it?
Yes, I come from Inner Mongolia. I then studied contemporary art at the Multi-Media Department of Xiamen University in China, and also at the Fine Arts department of the Sandberg institute in the Netherlands during the last ten years. I’ve traveled to different places in both China and Europe, I enjoyed it a lot.
I recall that the other day I was explaining something about my work to you and you patiently listened to all my curls and whirls and then just reflected with “very Western”. This comment kept coming back to me during the time I spent in China - would you dare to try to describe where lies this difference between Chinese and Western art?
I remember I reflected with “very Western” when you talked about the fast development in China. The changes you said seemed common to me, it was quite similar to the conversations I had with other western artists who came to China for the first time. For instance, the first thing you see are the big modern buildings combined with shabby houses. I wasn’t comparing Chinese and Western art, just the things you discovered about China, I think.
I know that you are truly a multimedia artist, your work spans from installations to videos, is there a central point around which it all revolves or is that a naive idea?
No, it is not about an idea. It is all about my love life, family, the things I care about, and things that delighted me… everything. I’m not sure what it is. It all originates from the same love, to present life bravely.
Can you recall a moment when you decided to make a video as your work?
I didn’t decide, it just happened. I discovered I liked filming when I brought my first video camera for a video required course when I studied at Xiamen University. That was my starting point to making videos, and I found I loved it.
Do you have some artists that you follow regularly? Is there someone who influenced or surprised you substantially?
There are some artists, for instance Bill Viola, Hans-peter feldmann and Sigurdur Gudmundsson had influenced me, and I follow Hans Aarsman, a Dutch photo detective and the Oneminutes video regularly.
What it is like to be a Chinese independent artist?
I guess the same as you, working independently, and doing other jobs to make a living.
Do you follow Beijing’s hype of the 798 Art Zone or are there different layers you are more interested in?
Maybe not focusing too much on art in my spare time, I read philosophy, watch movies and follow TV programs…
What important change can you see in China in the recent years?
I think that because of the growing wealth and education, people feel more confident than before.
I know that you have worked as a teacher at Art University in Xiamen. What do you think is the biggest difference between young students of art in Europe and China?
Maybe it is easier to discuss contemporary art history with young art students in Europe and asking them to share their own ideas on art or things they love. However, maybe it is more valuable to share things with young art students in China about European contemporary artists, things they didn’t see before. They are always very quiet and curious to hear about everything.
Is there any project that you are recently working on? Are you preparing something new?
I still work on the project “Tell me what love is” recently. It is a personal quest on how young people pick a partner in life. The work shows the reality of contemporary Chinese society, where love is on the edge of changing revolutionary through my own experiences and investigation, and to discover some of what is beautiful, interesting and wise from all that.
Thank you and may the force be with you!