NEIL BROWN, DENNIS DEL FAVERO, JEFFREY SHAW AND PETER WEIBEL, T_Visionarium, 2006, interactive installation with 100-square-meter cylindrical projection screen. Copyright Shanghai eArts Festival, 2008. Courtesy the artists.

Big Ambitions for New-Media Art Festival in Shanghai


Launched in 2007, the Shanghai eArts Festival will hold its second edition this October, another addition to the already dynamic roster of art events occurring later this year in the city. With the main events scheduled for October 18-22, a month after the 7th Shanghai Biennale and the art fair ShContemporary open, this year’s eArts Festival will be the largest showcase—in scope, scale and attendance—for digital and new-media art in the world.

Entitled “Urbanized Landscape,” the festival showcases some of the best new-media art in public arenas, such as Century Avenue in the Pudong district and along the Zhangjiaband River, where organizers believe individuals’ interactions with the art will broaden the audience for art in China and promote a new approach to public art.

Last year’s inaugural festival gathered some of the best international and Chinese figures, and partnered with numerous public and private institutions including Center for Art and Media (ZKM) of Karlsruhe, Germany, Paris’ Centre Pompidou, local gallery ShanghART and the Benetton Group’s communication research center, Fabrica. Victoria Lu, then art director of the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, was brought in to advise and curate shows.

This year’s eArts will be no less ambitious. In addition to collaborative projects from returning partners ZKM, Centre Pompidou and Fabrica, eArts will feature exhibitions by French curator Richard Castelli and Shanghai’s own Davide Quadrio, director of the non-profit organizations ArtHub and BizArt Center. Castelli’s “eLandscapes,” which explores notions of modern landscapes through various interactive and digital artworks, will be shown at both the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum and the Zendai Museum of Modern Art. The exhibit will feature specially commissioned pieces by international media artists such as Canadian Diane Landry and the darling of the Chinese experimental art scene, Du Zhenjun. With his large-scale video installations that rely on the participation of viewers, Du particularly embodies the festival’s spirit.

The festival’s main events will take place simultaneously in public areas in Pudong, Yangpu District and Xujiahui, each with its own corresponding theme: “Breath,” “Wave,” and “Final Cut,” respectively. One of the most ambitious events will be a series of installations and performances along the Zhangjiabang River in Pudong, including a 15-by-30 meter interactive panorama that will allow viewers to participate in the fusing of virtual and actual worlds. ArtHub, under Quadrio and Shanghai-based curator Defne Ayas, will curate a multimedia extravaganza in the Xujiahui Public Activity Area, one of the busiest shopping and commercial areas in the city. With cross-disciplinary performances by electronic musicians, designers and artists, organizers aim to challenge perceptions of public space and the relationship between technology and art.

The Shanghai Cultural Development Foundation, a non-profit, public organization that receives government funding and sponsors the eArts Festival, was founded in 1986 but has recently stepped up its programs to promote art in public spaces and to develop the city’s cultural and artistic life. Now an annual event, the festival paves the way for Shanghai’s Expo 2010, a contemporary version of the World’s Fair to be held from May to October 2010. World Expo organizers plan to incorporate the eArts Festival into the event itself to promote art and culture alongside the commerce-focused Expo.