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Metro Beijing

Australian artists swap digital skills with locals

Updated: 2010-11-22 07:50
By Todd Balazovic ( China Daily)

 Australian artists swap digital skills with locals

Top: An artist demonstrates a new iPhone application with local professor Fei Jun.

Above: Artist Richard Allen (right) learns calligraphy at Tuanjiehu Park.

Recent workshop is platform for trade in new media industry

The capital's trendsetters got a lesson from down under in new media music techniques by some of Australia's leading artists over the weekend.

In a cultural exchange organized by the Australian embassy, 10 of the country's best digital artists were flown in to Beijing to give a new spin on multimedia music.

The troupe offered exclusive new media training mixing with more than 100 of Beijing's best designers, fashionistas and artists, helping teach attendees how to synchronize music and visuals with the click of a mouse.

"We all have so much to learn from each other," said Fei Jun, a new media professor from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing, who attended the first workshop.

Under the guidance of Australia's brightest stars, Beijing's designers gathered at Original Design in Sanlitun Village for a pair of four-hour exchanges of tips and tricks as part of the Imagine Australia series, a yearlong program dedicated to cultural exchange with China.

"There is a lot of common ground, but it was interesting to see how they do things differently," said Fei. "In Beijing, the style is more focused on everyday life, so it was interesting to see a more abstract take."

New media, which uses computers to fuse words, pictures and sounds, is a booming field in China, he said.

Hand-picked from more than 60 of Australia's leading new media artists, workshop leaders spent one week in Beijing collaborating with local artists and offering insight on laser displays, motion-driven sound and other multimedia.

"The goal is to provide Australian and Chinese artists with the first step of communication so that, hopefully, in the future they can continue to learn from each other," said Katherine Croll, manager of On the Edge Productions, which sponsored the training event.

The artists then showcased their talents for shoppers and revelers in a concert series on Saturday and Sunday.

Since coming to China, the musicians and videographers have mixed with the people and attracted the attention of several sponsors, she said.

For DJ Wasabi, one of Australia's leading disc jockeys, the trip was also a chance to mix in with Beijing's booming music scene.

"The DJ scene here is growing at a much faster pace than in Australia. They learn quickly, You show them one thing here and the next day they know everything in the genre," Wasabi said.

DJ Wasabi, along with Australian MC Rob "Mantra" Tremlett, who wrote several songs about China specifically for the trip, gave two performances last week at Punk Bar at the Opposite House in Sanlitun.

"We came here to work with the people and learn as much about the country as possible," said Tremlett.

The first of the two workshops was an invitation-only event, catered to selected designers from the new media scene. The second was open to the public.

"It's not really a workshop in a traditional sense," said Richard Allen, one of the new media artists who focuses on physical interfaces. "They are teaching us as much about new media as we are teaching them."

Allen spent the week designing an interactive calligraphy brush, which, when used for writing Chinese characters, produces different sounds based on direction, speed and how hard the brush is gripped.

His testing-grounds for the new "instrument" was Tuanjiehu Park, where he spent several mornings sharing his device with calligraphy enthusiasts.

"I'm not trying to change tradition - it's about adding that extra layer," Allen said.

While testing the brush, Allen met several local calligraphy experts.

"At first, taking the brush to the park was an odd experience. People would stop and stare," he said. "But since then, I've made new friends every day."

 Australian artists swap digital skills with locals

DJ Wasabi performing at Punk Bar in Beijing as part of the Imagine Australia series. [Photo/China Daily]