Education of Oslo PhotoArtSchool. Norway
Interviewer: ShenYang (for short: Shen)
Interviewed: Emil Fedida (for short: Emil)
WengFen (for short: weng)
Shen: Could you tell me how did you get to know Emil?
Weng: I met Emil in my solo show in Bangkok several years ago, when he was working on a school project cooperated with a university there. He said to me that he liked the high-speed development in south China, and hoped to do some educational project in China. So I advised him to choose some school to work with, and to run a project like that in the south might involve different meaning to in Beijing, where there were more frequent cultural communication and more international school collaboration when comparing to the south. Afterward we tried to collaborate with Hainan University for a joint schooling project, but it failed for many reason. Later on we decided to do some thing first. It’s the first time he led his Norwegian students to Haikou, as well as a teacher named Manit Sriwanichpoom, a famous photo artist from Thailand. I helped him with this first project. The project was about question& perspective,how the foreign student view China? In Haikou, a new place to them. We began with lectures introducing local culture & history, then give them assignment to further observe China with their only way. Since last year, we launched a joint project among OPAS, Hainan University and Luxun Art Academy; we worked on a same subject, coordinated our teaching pace, however, we still allowed different ways in different schools.
Shen: Could you give me more description about how did this project carry out?
Weng: Without certain content, there was a specific theme and a designated way. We use a way of stage photography that has been taught to the students in the three schools. The students had to express their thoughts via fabricating a scene in a real space. However the ways of staging were different according to different teachers and different schools. For me, I work on contemporary art and have my own identity. This is very interesting! But I think what’s important is how the student do with their thoughts as well their objects.
Shen: Considering the different cultural backgrounds, how did you coordinate the teaching of Norwegian and Chinese students?
Weng: This project went on separately in different schools. All of the students worked on the same subject, but the outcomes were different. Yes there were different social backgrounds among the students, and even some of the Chinese students majored in design but photography, it’s the first time for them to work with camera. How to look at the society in front of them? Their backgrounds were but the living experience in the university. How to visualize their experience with photo medium, the differences presented in the final result products is interesting!
Emil: Someone present directly, while some others express their idea after reflection. Everybody has his/her distinctive way according to different angel of view, this is what is meaningful. We’ve done the educational experiment for the second times till now, hope there will be further project collaboration in the future.
The appearance of students’ works are various, not only stage photography. For each time there was a focus, a point of enterance, we also talked about many questions in relation to art, and some personal questions as well. The discussion is around the questions raised by the students, most of the time in a way of debating but lecturing. When the students put forward their idea, we talked it over to see how far could this idea go ahead, and how much could be present with this idea. The students needed to reflect after discussing, and then made the works out. Sometime the outcome was different to what had been discussed, but it doesn’t matter, we emphasize the process, through this process the students can find their ‘selves’, to face the present society with their perception, this is our purpose.
I hope the students can find out their own ways, and the work can present something more personal and profound! The relation between teachers and students embodies openness and equality. The students had lots of progress during the project. Reflection needs a course; the student can catch up after some time. This teaching method provides the student with a chance to experience new things within a period of time.
Weng: When I was in discussing with the Norwegian students on the work project, I found out the problems we faced were the same. In a day of developed information, their students are as naive as ours and as clever as ours also, but their perception is different. When a Chinese student went to the countryside and shot many farmers faces crowded with wrinkles, it’s very simple! And I found a Norwegian student shot a strange room with many radar-like receivers hanging on the wall which he thought was interesting, when he drove to the countryside of Norway. Their sensitivity might react to peculiar things, but the objects are different. Since there are many similar situations in both Europe and China, it makes easy to communicate! But what makes difference between western students and Chinese? The reason lies in the fact that our former education has restricted our students all along. There isn’t such a restriction in their education, if our students had been taught without restriction, will be the same with theirs. For example, our student would think about if it is “correct” or not first when he brings forth his project, and how to do with it if “incorrect”? So we told them from the beginning:” you can do anything, there is no right or wrong as for everybody’s “idea”, this is addressed in our education! Even when I was in university I got this education, I am pleased with it; a comprehensive education allows the student to be free and brave, however some thoughts couldn’t work out, it still makes me happy! Since their mind is free, the sensitivity comes after freedom. It is not the “good” or “not” of the works that we are going for, we are cultivating excellent artists, this has a process, what important is at the beginning.
Shen: before in an E-mail, Emil referred his DNM teaching method, is it in correspondence with yours? Or is there any difference?
Weng:Yes, it’s the same!
There is a rooted concept in our teaching philosophy—non-regional concept. We talk about what is history? What is culture? For we cannot say we are Chinese, we have Chinese tradition! Viewing from a broader angel, anything that happened on this globe could be our history and culture. Thus we’ve opened a bigger window; anything appropriate to us could be our resource, and our students can be more brave and open, instead of being confined to the stock of elements and symbols from traditional Chinese culture, there is no localization, everything is applicable, even the future! This provides the students with an explicit picture of the relation among tradition, culture and history, and liberates them from a designated context, not like the propaganda of oil painting-nationalization in the past! It’s very dangerous to cage you in a narrow-minded Chinese spectrum. So it’s necessary to thing about how to understand the culture and history, to look at the global history in a new viewpoint of culture and history! The new history is a concept of global culture and global history, instead of oriental culture and history. We must break up the boarder to talk about nomadism and to dissociate. Giving the students a broader context, this will benefit them! So in the workshop we introduce various cultures from around the world.
Shen: This is also part of your art thoughts, you carry it out in the teaching, it’s important to open up the students mind as a teacher/practicing artist. As an artist you need to reflect constantly to keep your question updated, could you tell me how this did happen in your teaching?
Weng: The teaching methods we prefer are discussing and reading, the discussing, most of the time was not only one or two teachers take part in, many teachers and the students, —was direct. We entered into the theme from different angles to show the students there could be various ways to get the point, the diversity of a subject mater. By this mean to open up the students mind is what we want to bring to the students! We might discuss in different groups, they talked together, and this is what we have experimented last year. We applied the same method to the Norwegian students in Hainan. I am doing my own work all the time while at the same time put my thoughts into my teaching, this met with Emil’s, so that we could work together, and work our ideas out.
Shen: Could you tell me about how did you communicate with your students on their project, do you often discuss it between two of you? And was there any confliction given the different cultural background? How did you resolve it?
Emil: for example, if we hold different opinions to a student’s idea, that means we are contradictory, we will talk it out openly. The student can experience the different attitudes to a question during this process, which he/ she experiences it again and again, gradually he/she will perceive the conflict and colliding aroused by a question. It makes them think, and it’s the meaning of the discussing. We found out many ways in our teaching.