In the first half of the twentieth century, Shanghai was a city that attracted performers, writers, artists and designers from around the world. A breeding-ground for new art forms, such as oil painting, cinema and poster art, this ‘high time’ of Shanghai’s past has long been considered the city’s cultural and artistic zenith. Today, Shanghai’s cosmopolitan heritage is under restoration. Over the past five years in particular, a growing number of international artists have made Shanghai their base.
Since its establishment in 2006, the new media art collective, Liu Dao (aka island6), has become something of a stalwart of the Shanghai art scene and beyond. The collective’s creative and operational centre is its production studio and exhibition space in Shanghai’s m50, also known as Moganshan arts district, where individuals from different backgrounds come together to engage with and comment on contemporary life in Shanghai. The collective’s signature LED art, interactive art and sculptures makeup only a fraction of Liu Dao’s ever-expanding repertoire. Meanwhile the tone of the work is often humorous, delivering social commentary in unexpected ways — see the LED display, Puxi Fluffer (2012), pictured above, which references the city’s dependence on an army of ‘ayis’, or domestic cleaners, for a cheeky example.
With its international member-base and technically and conceptually experimental practice, Liu Dao embodies the vision of cosmopolitan Shanghai. Liu Dao’s collaborative structure, valuing communication over egocentrism (their approach has been likened to film production), provides a model for cross-cultural and collectivist approaches to art making, curation and arts management in China.
In the spirit of Liu Dao’s uncompromising collectivist ethos, the following interview responses were submitted anonymously by its members.