In November, 1998, “Amsterdam Impact” – a talk salon by a media activist Geert Lovink from the Netherland – was held at Shibuya XP in Tokyo. At the salon there was an another guest talk session which was taken by Shu Lea Cheang, the “digital drifter.” Shu Lea is an artist whose works explore a wide rage of media based in 3 cities – New York, Amsterdam, and Tokyo.
She is now based in Tokyo for producing a new film. In this interview she talked about many aspects of her art works and her work styles including film, internet installations, Amsterdam, etc.
I heard that you are making a film in Tokyo. Could you talk about the film?
I was approached by Mr. Asai of Uplink to do a porno film. That’s how we got started. I think from the beginning we always have the idea of making a science fiction porno, and now it’s becoming a real SF porno. I guess in the beginning I thought all if I am just making a porno film.
I just came to Tokyo for one month and I can do this film very quick and make some money (Laugh), and finish it. But right now it’s taking longer time. But it is getting really exciting. We have a great story and have many artists involved in doing art design.
I think it’s a sort of a science fiction of post Blade Runner. So it’s like if you think about the idea of Blade Runner is neon and a lot of orientarism of the future, you know pretty much like modern day Tokyo almost. So when we want to do this SiFi film, we have to think about post Blade Runner. You know like a lot of images from Blade Runner that we can’t really take it anymore. So right now we are doing a lot of locations in Tokyo in trying to imagine our future.
Did you have the idea of this SiFi story before you came to Tokyo?
Actually I wrote the synopsis for this film last December (in 1997). Because last year when I was doing the project for NTT ICC, Mr. Asai talked to me about making this film. So I tried to make the proposal for him. And after that I’ve been so busy, I couldn’t do this film. So this is the first time that we decided to go ahead and spend some time working on this film.
You have been working on films like Fresh Kill and other films, forcusing on race, gender issues, mixed culture, and also technology that you are working through various media like internet installation works. So these are always reflected on your works not only films but also internet installations.
I think right now I’m kind of the artist, sort of switch between films and installation in art world and more commercial world, that kind of things. So it’s really trying to merge a lot of medium. You know we are talking about 35mm films or digital that kind of translation also.
In terms of technology I think my idea to use technology is like technology is everywhere. People just everytime use the word technology is like people get very nervus. But I think that technology is really everywhere. So all my work in terms of using technology is in a very common manner, trying to make very kind of accessible for common people.
So in the reason I have much desire to reach an audience. So for that reason may be a lot of my work is trying to use different medium, different story telling way in to do it.
On Uplink site I read a sort of the summary of the story of the film I.K.U., that one guy is researching on “extacy” and through his research on extacy people are able to feel extacy through the computer…
For me I think nowadays people seems to need a lot of sexal systems. You know if you go to like a drug store here you see all those medicines for like ” to make men strong” that kind of things or like a sex toy shop.
I read some magazine here like a lot of women now use bibrators. You know sex shops is always popular here. So I think toward the future you need to create those almost kind of the fantasy land and sexality. I don’t mean to make a film about sex that’s very kinky or strange at all.
I think in real life even the normal couple I think maybe will enjoy using a different way of fantasy to come to orgasm you know.
So that’s your film work. How about Brandon project? I’ve seen the website and all those small images are also talking about gender or sexality.
Brandon is actually a commisioned website from the Guggenheim Museum. Particularly with Brandon, the internet project what I am doing right now is like to set up those website with time period.
For Brandon I call it “One year narrative project”. So within a year the story change and many people get involved. We will have many artists to participate. And then in this case also all the image can be changing by different artists. So I view a lot of interface as structure for people to access. In terms of the story it’s taken from the real life story of Teena Brandon, a woman that dresses a man in Nebraska where is a kind of country side.
At the end he was raped and killed. After that people found out he was actually she. So it was a big story in 1994. So from that story I kind of thinking about a lot of , at that time by 1994-5 I played with the web, you know internet sort of persona play and switching character you know. So I was very curious, not curious as a project. I’m just curious in a real life and cyber space.
When switch character in a real life or a cyber space, what’s the difference or what makes the whole changes. So basically it’s a project like that.
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