Zirkularitätsbedingungen (Es hätte Licht geben können), Berlin 2015
So I do have some questions to you. I think there must be many unexpected difficulties in the whole process of the past month and because of the practice of online teaching. What is the most memorable experience that you’d like to share with us? Apart from the difficulties? Are there any like crossed into cross like Continental Cross language, like challenges? In this kind of the education of possibilities then you think have to be achieved in these course.
Well, I guess to answer that question. I don’t actually feel like that. There were very few difficulties. In fact, I would almost to turn the question around in the sense that it was actually surprising in many ways, how well and kind of smooth that it went. For instance, an obvious thing to consider would be technical difficulties, of which we had actually very few. We had like one time. I recall where there was something, and we could never quite figure out what it was. I think everything was very smooth. I mean that has certainly to do with the great organization of Sun and Cai. You know, everybody was on time, there was never any delay. I think everybody did a really great job in that regard. So difficulties, with regard to the intricacies of online teaching, that’s a given and we can discuss it. I think we’ll be discussing those a bit more over the course of the interview anyway.
I’m not sure if I could narrow it down to a particular memorable experience. I suppose the course per se is a memorable experience of which I’m not sure I can highlight a particular event in it. When it comes to cross regional and cross language education possibilities… Again, I suppose the course itself is a manifestation of that. Maybe there are some difficulties when it comes to language, but then again, it’s also kind of very nice to see how those can be mitigated. And Xinru was amazing and really, really super helpful in that regard, and we’ve kind of worked around them, and it doesn’t. It doesn’t so much seem like a difficulty any more. It just seems like a to me. in any way. It’s like a. It’s a specification. It’s a working in a specific context, then it doesn’t seem like it’s a difficulty. It seems like you kind of work, your way around it in this way or that way. Find possibilities. Also, in terms of cross-regional when it comes to that, I really think also it worked quite well. I had this idea, actually not so long before the start of the course of inviting a couple of guest speakers, some of who I knew from ongoing collaborations and some of who I didn’t know at all. And there was this nice network across China and beyond. One woman from Seattle was a guest, too. And so that’s really nice.
Right so you mentioned that it actually worked out well in your class. What about the students’ performance? Do you have any further advice for your students about their future study?
Yes, important question. When it comes to evaluating, I mean what I could evaluate may be…for the most part what we have just gone through the, what I take at this point are the final presentations, final works. Fourteen groups. I suppose those could be evaluated, and I have certain thoughts about them. I think that the students have worked extraordinarily well and ambitious and put a lot of work into it that is across the spectrum of all groups. The extent I suppose that could be evaluated is, for instance, the ideas that were brought up in the course, how well they are represented in the project. What kind of means, what’s the research background and so on and so forth? How let’s say original the thinking is, all of these things could factor into it. I see many projects among the fourteen that personally, I’m really interested in and I would really like to see developed further and pushed forward. So I feel really good about that part. I do. I have further advice. I think that’s always something that I think is really an important part of teaching, because in a way, of course, this was kind of short now, but I’ve kept in touch with many of my students that I have taught over the years, And it’s a very nice aspect of things, because sometimes you get an email after a year, after two years and here I am now doing this, I’m now doing that. I’m doing my PhD in whichever field. So it’s really cool. I’m not sure if I should bring it up here, or maybe there will be a similar question to follow. Why not actually, why not here. In a sense, one of the downsides, of course, of online teaching is that you never quite get to interact in person with the students. I believe that I have spoken to maybe ten out of fifty students. I think I’ve actually seen maybe ten out of fifty students, except for the very first interactions at the first day. In that sense I suppose that in an intense course like this one, if it was in person you spend more time, even outside of class to sit down, have lunch, have dinner, talk and discuss certain things, future plans, and so on, and so forth. Which then these questions of further advice for the future, they emerge kind of naturally in a sense. Now, at this time, I just don’thave the background knowledge to comment on those things or even be helpful in certain ways. This has been sort of centered around, in a way, design, of course, as the name of the school signifies. And I understand the students are at a young age. So therefore, I think everything is still pretty open. However, as we said this morning actually, I’d be very happy, of course, to stay in touch. And if there’s any question that comes up on the students’ part that I would be qualified to answer then I am, of course, very happy to do so.
Yeah, thank you. Thank you for your sharing about your experience with the students, I think actually I’m curious about the teachers. Is there anything you want to say to your partners, like was there any collision? Between these different ideas from international and domestic, you know teaching method or even experience or concept.
Yeah. No, we didn’t, we didn’t have any collisions. No, I mean, of course, it’s a good question and it’s an interesting question and as I said before, from my perspective at least, we worked in a really great and very productive way. When it comes to difference… I am always really interested in this question and I think actually one would have to maybe differentiate in terms of international because, of course, already my own background, having studied in Germany, having studied in the UK, having studied in the US, there are also a lot of differences in that regard. No, I mean one could ask that same question you know between let’s say Germany and the UK or the US and I could speak about that. And to me, I mean, maybe one of the most interesting questions is that, especially when it comes to, let’s say my own perspective coming out of art is that there is no ultimate…there is no ultimate recipe or model for art education at the higher level, so it’s always up for being redefined and renewed and rethought. In that way, so I always try when I’m traveling and I have the chance to visit universities, as I did also in China and other places. I’m really interested in their approach? What is the model in what is it based on? But from the perspective that there is certainly no ultimate truth to that. It’s a matter of perspective in a sense, so when I’m teaching I really try to always be open to rethinking and remodeling my own approach. So in that regard, I think if there are differences…maybe there are. I wouldn’t even know exactly what they are. And of course you’d also have to maybe differentiate between, let’s say design or art or architecture. This is not something I’m particularly qualified to speak about. I do believe that these differences have become rather minor. In a way maybe twenty years ago, twenty five years ago, potentially there were bigger differences then we’re seeing them now.
Yes, very nice to get some information from you about this kind of a teaching method, and you know from your own experience, so if you don’t mind, could you please evaluate your course. Are there any regrets? Oh, I didn’t achieve his time. Or, for example, if you are invited to optimize your course plan and in which aspect would you make any development?
Right, an important question to ask, and I feel, we haven’t done this yet but this is actually a question that I would like to ask of Sun and Cai in that they also were the mediators often times between the students and myself and maybe also actually Xinru, for one thing because of the language and also in terms of other dynamics that factor into it. And for me, of course, the ultimate way to do this, let’s say self-evaluation and whether there are regrets, changes, optimization it would very much depend on the students actually, because ultimately, it’s about the students. If the students can pick up the ideas and they can be productive and they can develop interesting work, to that extent, to that
degree the course, in my opinion, succeeded. And so, the optimization and the evaluation should really, from my perspective, be centered around that. Judging from my own feeling I strongly believe that this went in in the right way, so I feel good about it. Of course, I’m asking myself, what would I have done differently? I mean, of course, there is a narrow time frame, lots of questions come up, lots of different ways to approach things and, I kind of realized we can’t do it all. We also cannot be too expansive, but rather in a way, also have to narrow things down so as not to confuse the students. Again, I didn’t know that much about
the background of the students. I was given some information on that, but you know, to a limited extent. I was trying to be careful not to make it too complicated or too complex. On the other hand, it has to be challenging so I have to navigate this and find the right balance, which can be difficult without a lot of background information. Yesterday, for instance, I had a conversation with a student about rendering models and Vray and Unreal Engine, and that was great and I thought maybe we should have been speaking more about it in class. But then again,
there are other groups that didn’t use this technology, and so for them, I think it would have been maybe less interesting. I think this should be rather be discussed in a private conversation. In that regard, I I don’t know, regrets…No, not really, I mean in a sense there are certain regrets that are associated with the online teaching. The fact that we just couldn’t sit down and have dinners and just talk and have a more personal and ongoing conversation. That’s a regret. It’s not a regret anyone of us is responsible for, we have to blame other
conditions for that.
Yeah, you’re talking about this. A regret actually attached to this very special situation of this year, which we all know is like the difference between online education and, you know, offline practice course, especially in the teaching in educational realm. And so what do you think is the difference here? Could you explain that? Can you apply your own experiments?
I guess a part of the answer has maybe already been given in previous answers. The way I would like to look at it is that there are obvious downsides to online education. As I I think I have stated already and they are obvious, and I think we’ve already covered some of those, but I don’t think it’s the right way to look at it. Because I think there’s also, there’s also opportunity. I mean, I would personally, of course, always choose to teach in person if the possibility exists. I see practically no reason to deliberately choose the online model over, let’s say offline or in person education. However, we’re not being allowed even to ask that question, because the alternative would have been, of course, to not do this course at all, and I think when you take that perspective then everything appears in a new light. I think I said this before, maybe not here but I do want to repeat it. I really feel that the organizing committee made a kind of a bold move by deciding to push through with this course despite the challenges and difficulties that could be foreseen. And I feel like it would also have been a viable option to say well, we’re not going to do anything this year and maybe we’re going to come back to it next year. So I think while, of course, everyone, including myself, I’m sure, was in February still looking forward to spending some time in Hangzhou I think, given the circumstances, this is really great, and it’s really something that I think it’s not obvious, it’s really not obvious given the circumstances to say we’re going to pursue this. And so I really think this has been great on the part of the organizing committee. The difference between… it’s just a vast difference, for me there’s no comparison, it is just something… there is a certain sense, there’s an atmosphere in a classroom you feel like that you can tell immediately how responsive the students are to certain things. Are they like almost falling asleep or are they really excited? Online, there’s basically no sense of that very responsive dynamic. It very one way, this online thing and can be a little bit tiring at times. But fine, it’s what it is, and it’s again a matter of context and you have to accept the context.
I’m sure you mentioned about all of these challenges this year. So in this
whole process of the creation of the education, do you think, like have
you encountered this conflict between the virtual world and reality, Like, How did you deal with such contradictions.
That’s an interesting question that I didn’t quite know, I didn’t totally know what to make of that question and I felt like maybe there could be something potentially in the translation. I was wondering what is referred to by, let’s say the word, the virtual, that I am, I guess I’m a little less sure about. In relation to the reality.
Yeah, I think I guess you know everybody, we are already in the same class, but we’re in different locations and we are in a kind of virtual space.
For me, I suppose, I guess I never so much thought about this. Let’s say in a way, the dynamics of online teaching as something that would be from my perspective, particular virtual in a way. I mean, I think it’s very much connected to a kind of a real teaching endeavor in a sense that is, of course, let’s say it’s mediated in certain ways. It’s more, I suppose I suppose the virtual seems to be like something that is it may be simulated in a sense. I guess that’s my own, let’s say, narrow whichever definition of the virtual. The encounter between virtual and reality in the process of creation. Yeah, I mean, I think mabe this is something I have to think a little bit more about. Let’s say, I think there’s in this course, what we did, it seemed to me like a kind of really tangible endeavor, especially even more so in that in most interaction was live, nothing was actually recorded in a sense, not that that would, I think, really be virtual, but there’s a sense of maybe of a delay and a mix of temporal difference there. I have to think more about this idea of the virtual in relation to teaching or in relation to online teaching. For me, it’s a very sort of tangible endeavor. I think I’m dancing around your question here.
I understand what you say, how you reacted to this question because it’s
actually a very, very big question to all of us especially in the recent month. And there are so many conversations and discussions about this topic. Maybe, yeah, I’ll go to the next question. How about students? Is there any students that make you feel really special? And you know, maybe you want to say something to him or her at this time.
For this kind of international collaboration we always were wondering what are the differences between international way and the Chinese way. And so before you mentioned that you had a lot of different experiences in different countries in terms of your own studies, or maybe you also taught in different countries. So do you have any experience like you can introduce some typical self-learning or self-managing methods to Chinese students?
Yes for sure. I suppose you might have to stop me because I could talk about this for a really long time. Let’s see if I can be concise here. I would again differentiate a little bit when it comes to international, because it breaks down into into so many also different models, especially when you experience them personally. It just turns out that they have, certain advantages, certain disadvantages, and there is no ultimate model, so it always has to be reinvented. Let me summarize this in a way from my own perspective, having been in Germany at first, which was very self-managed, and super self-learning based and in a way based on this idea of let’s say, if you’re an artist or you want to be an artist then you have to develop everything out of yourself, you find your own interests to pursue, your own strategies, you make your own work and you can never rely on any one, any sort of external teacher or something to tell you what
to do in a sense. I guess there are certain things that could be said. In favor of it, I think it kind of teaches you to be self-reliant and develop your own strategies in a sense. At the same time, of course, there is something to be said for a
stronger sense of guidance that can accelerate things, speed things up in a way. I had a really cool professor, so everything worked well in that regard. But I’ve come to be more critical of that of that model. Certainly I can speak more about it, but it’s one way of approaching teaching. Also spending like a long time, a couple of years, like four or five years with one particular artist teacher. Can be great, can also be not so great in the sense that maybe they’re super influential, the work starts to look more and more like theirs in in a way, and it becomes very hard to avoid this this kind of overarching influence. And so I think this was also very much what this model was based on.
Ah, and then the UK model that I’ve experienced myself, it was a lot more, let’s say class, reading, you know, many tutorials as they call them, and it was two super intense years for me that I enjoyed very much. It’s hard for me to prioritize in a sense. I think that it was a privilege to kind of experience all those models myself, and then I did another year in the US that was just basically reading, and a lot of theory, and it was absolutely fantastic, just the practice was in the background more so and it was all about discourse and thinking
When it comes to self-learning and self-managing, I mean, yes, I thinkt his applies mostly to my, let’s say early years were it was all about figuring out your own strategies. I think one thing I also want to say from my perspective, when it comes to studying. In a sense, I think what is really important from my perspective, and I think it’s equally important as to find really good teachers, is to find really good peers. Meaning people roughly your own age who you can have ongoing exchanges with over the years. In a sense, it’s kind of like academic peer review. I view it as that. You submit your ideas to critique and to feedback. Because teachers in a way like come and go, maybe they are there for a year, they could be there for two years, but it’s the peers that ultimately really last. And this is something you build up in university and within those years. I think it’s really important to develop that. That’s one thing I really want to want to encourage.
As well as at this point, I think I briefly touched upon this, certainly it’s not that your studies end when you are like 24 or 25. I feel this now with more urgency than ever before. You have to reinvent yourself in your practice and your
thinking at every moment. Basically, maybe every five years, every ten years or so. It really never ends now that knowledge is available all the time, everywhere, I feel this great sense of urgency and this obligation in a way to take advantage of that. I always have to, you know, rethink my own practice and my own thinking through new input and new information. So that’s a way of studying that just never really ends even though it becomes less formalized.
Do you have any ideas, plans or projects that you could hope to achieve in the young too young program next year?
Yes, well. I mean, first of all, right, let’s hope for a should we say normalized state of things in a way. That’s may be the primary concern still given the uncertainty that we are still facing in the world. It’s still very much unknown. My
own traveling for this year is still on hold. And who knows. But given the assumption, and I think there’s good reason, of course, to assume that in due course will be in better shape. Yeah, I mean for sure. For one thing, just the
personal dimension. Again, this time there were no real difficulties, but there are certainly limitations. So not having those limitations already sounds like something super exciting. And you know in a sense it’s just the standard, but it sounds from this perspective like something really cool and something that would be a chance to take this to a really new level.
What I think worked out well and again we haven’t really had a chance to discuss this, but I’d like to discuss this further. I believe that I think this input in this perspective that the nine guets that I had invited into the course contributed was really great and interesting and I think the students responded well to it. I still have to figure out the extent to which every part of it was accessible. Maybe something was a little bit complex coming very much out of the natural sciences and I don’t know, maybe this was sometimes hard to make sense of in certain cases. I felt like you know, in a way, of course everything could have also been much more focused on creative practices and art and architecture and design. My own feeling was that this would be something that the students would be exposed to anyway during the course of their studies, and it will be easier for them and more accessible to them. So I thought why not? I thought why not try to introduce perspectives that are not obvious in a sense, that maybe would not normally be considered. At the risk of potentially losing some of the students, because maybe they just could not be making sense of this at this time. However, judging from the projects, I think it was well received, but I’d be very open also to rethinking this to a certain extent, because I am not sure if I have a clear perspective on the reception on the students’ part of this.
So having said that, I think this could be something that could well be further developed. I was limiting myself, for instance, right now to people who were speaking Chinese, I think for rather good reasons, because I thought everything would become more complicated if that was not the case. Could that be potentially expanded? Maybe it could be expanded. It’s something to figure out. So I think there are many, let’s say ideas here and approaches that I have to say from my perspective are, of course, experimental. I mean I had a sense, but it’s a surprise what’s going to happen in the end, you know, and in that regard, as I said, I’m very pleased with it. how? How could all of that be realized in an even better way in person with more time to prepare and with the existing experience, I think, yes, absolutely, this could be taken further.
Sun: I can’t believe one month is already finished now, and I really appreciate your and Xinru’s efforts for this course. And especially for our course you invited nine scientists in a special effort and research to give the students a variety of
lectures. They broadened their perspectives and gave them insight into very specific fields of knowledge. But the pity is that the time is limited. So I already appreciate your desire for this course in that you want to introduce the students
to an interdisciplinary approach still given the very short time and also our course theme of consciousness, machines and ecologies. Every party is a big problem and a big subject. We need to talk about that and they will still need a
lot of knowledge. And I think the best way is that this is just the beginning for them to open their minds and the course is not ending here, but is a beginning for them to think about why they want to learn design, why they wanted to choose this course. I think this is the best for this course and for the students. Thank you.
Yeah, thanks, that’s certainly true. That is, in a way, a concern that that was certainly there. How do you approach these things, which are such complex concepts in their own right, and then you have three of them. A few weeks time,
it’s a challenge as I said. And if it’s the beginning, and how could it be anything other than the beginning of something. In a sense, I mean that’s all it can be. But even if it’s a beginning, I think that I would consider already a success, of course. And I think I think what’s most beautiful is that it is something also for myself, especially, of course given our guests, but also from any other perspective it’s a learning experience as well. Yeah, so it’s literally impossible
to teach without learning, or if it was possible then there’s something wrong with it.
Sun: I also learned a lot from you, like teacher Zhang about teaching strangers or the teaching differences here, and I think that you always gave the students options as in maybe you can think about this or that. And me and Cai always wanted to inspire the students. But after the course all students came to us to find a specific answer. Should I go this way or that way? They know the time is limited.
That’s a very good point. Yeah, that’s a very good point and it is something that I really feel maybe also, there is a slight difference between let’s say the fine art field that I am coming out of and potentially maybe there is a bit of a sometimes stronger sense of guidance when it comes to design, but really as I said, especially my early years the approach was that the students had to already deliver a solid kind of body of work, and then that would be reacted to by the teachers. And if you ever asked the question, what should I be doing now? There would never be any response to that. Or the response would be you are already a young artist, you need to figure this out by yourself. So this is why I I’m always like you could go this way, you could go that way, make up your mind, make a decision. And when it comes to more practical questions like what should I do, I can’t tell you that.
It all sounds interesting, and also from your conversation, they get me more excited and curious about your class progress, and I do believe you and all of the students after this one month achieved a very productive outcome. Yeah, thank you. Thank you. For all of these answers. Here is a very easy and relaxing one. so. Just imagine if you were in China in the past month. What is the thing you would wish to do the most?
I think this is one of the harder questions. Actually, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I don’t know, I think this question is actually kind of not even so easy for me to answer. No, no, I thought a little bit about it. And I well, let’s say there are some more professional things I would like to do. Of course, you know, if I had the chance to be in China tomorrow obviously it would be great to come back to Hangzhou. I mean I was there a few times and visited the campus once, and it’s so beautiful I really, really enjoyed it so much when I got this little tour. And of course that would be something to just be there and we could meet and we could chat in person than that would be fantastic. There are a couple of things I actually may be doing in Shanghai that I could be taking back on. I mean I think that won’t happen until next year, but,of course, I can’t wait to do that. Also we had Cai Liyuan as a guest from Luxelakes A4 art museum in Chengdu. I’ve never been, and I believe if I could it would be really great to go to go there. One of my favorite foods is Sichuan, so you know, Sichuan cuisine is amazing, so I’d love to spend some time. Now we’re getting a little bit off the professional into indulging in all kinds of things. No, seriously, I also spent time in Beijing a few times and there are things I really want to take back on there. We were speaking about Goethe briefly, also Xinru was involved in this in 2017, this great exchange that we did that was a lot of fun together with Goethe. I could think of countless things I’d like to do. Realistically I’m not sure if it’s possible this year, but as soon as traveling is back on track, so to speak, I really very much hope to be back in China.
You know, it sounds very interesting. You had a lot of experience here and so we are looking forward to find a chance to meet you outside, face to face and also, yeah, thank you for your time. Thank you teachers Sun, Cai and also Xinru. We had a really nice conversation here and thank you for joining the interview.
Thank you. It was a lot of fun. Thank you for asking these questions, interesting, very interesting questions and it was my pleasure to answer. And we will keep in touch and I’m sure we will meet sooner rather than later.