— Hello Shen, how is your day?
— Had lunch recently and watched a video about U.S - China recent relationships. United States are afraid that China will be using its 5G infrastructure against them.
So now the U.S president is about to raise taxes on Chinese products up to 25%. And the Chinese president started fighting back publicly, saying that that kind of control is stupid, here really used the word "stupid". Of course he didn't mention any names, but everyone understood everything.
This was very direct, the Chinese government is usually never like that, they were like this for the first time. They never even used the word "war" in the news before.
— This kind of tact, so to speak, is present not just in foreign policy, but in daily life too, isn't it?
— The culture is not direct. This tact comes from a very old culture. People are direct only with friends. The tradition supposes being very friendly with strangers and that means smoothing out some corners and being more soft. There's a Chinese saying which can be roughly translated as "kind, but on a distance".
— Starting Roots collection had something to do with culture as well, didn't it?
— Yes, I was talking with my father about culture and its influence on a person. We were talking also about immigrants in particular. If I were raised in Italy, for example, what are my roots then?
Remember that movie "Black Panther"? There's a utopian country in the movie, whose governor protected people of his race that were only from his country. "If you are of the same race, but not raised in my country, you are not my problem."
And it seems that it's a personal story for the director. This is an example of how someone's roots affect people's decisions, affect people's lives and what kind of products a culture supports.
— Are both of your parents from China?
— Yes, but the first time I've faced this problem was with my cousin, who was born in France. It was interesting to see how different and similar we were culturally. Oh, by the way, something interesting happened to her that's related to what we were talking about before you started asking me these questions. She quit her study at Saint Martins and started learning Qigong! (laughing).
— How far back does your knowledge of your family extend to?
— I know my great-great-grandparents. They all did different things. My father's grandfather, for example, was running a textile factory. One of my grandfather's was a traditional painter. It's like that...
— And what's your upcoming exhibition about?
— There's an old movie called Alphaville, which shows a society in which everything is controlled by logic. Logic is the most important thing. So we are trying to create a similar space that's controlled by AI, by a certain logic. Its role seems to be correct and right, but you can feel there's something wrong with it.
— This is a description of our times.
— Yes. To give a little example, there's an application in WeChat which monitors your health and it also counts how much you worked out today. It also shows you the same data of your friends. You can see everything there!
So a friend of mine walks in a new fashion right now - always with her hands shaking the phone! You have to double the numbers! And I asked her: "Are you sure that increases the number?". She said: "I don't know, but, whatever..." (laughing)
— This is not your first exhibition?
— It's the first one that I started. But I had joined five or six before.
— You did design before, how can you relate the two?
— I think in the future art will become design and design will become art. Their functions will be switched. To give a very rough, aggressive, example - people need to sell their artwork. So they will create something beautiful that will decorate someone's house. So when it becomes a decoration - what's the difference with design?
And at the same time the scene of conceptual design is going crazy. People can't find any power in function anymore. So conceptual design is going in art direction. I would say it's like real art.
A lot of painters today do design job. They start working on hotels' walls for example. And the general perception is such, that today if you introduce yourself as an artist you will be asked "What kind of painting do you paint?". Oops, I don't paint. "Okay so what do you do?!" (laughing).
— Is there a lot of Chinese conceptual design?
— No, but there's a lot of it in Europe. Chinese market has not reached that level yet.
— Is your approach to art different from you approach to design?
— Mainly I'd say no. But when designing I still think about people's perception of the work. Will they like using it? For instance, I designed a motorcycle when I was in Italy and I was thinking about how people will interact with it. That's something very normal for design. But still I'd say there was an artistic part in it. The whole concept was that a motorcycle should be more "alive", like your pet, that's guarding you.
And in art I can just make it for myself. Although even if I make it for myself, I still think about what I'm doing, about the society and the world I am in. How can I not? So it in this way art has a function, it is a social one.
But If I get to a certain level, will I still think about problems or just enjoy life? I don't know. I don't know when I am going to be satisfied.
— If anyone comes to Shanghai, what place would you recommend them to visit?
— I think Shanghai has a big problem right now. It's growing so fast and every area is actually very nice. But the city is like that person who goes to gym to build super muscles. There are muscles everywhere, but overall it doesn't look nice.
But if I have to pick... I loved a lot a recent exhibition at Long museum.
And If you would like to eat somethings - Yong Ping Lane.
— What would be a pocket-size present you'd wish to receive?
— A European lighter. Chinese lighters are very different from the European ones, I like the sparkwheel.
— What music do you listen to right now?
— Right now I listen to Florence and the Machine and Glass Animals.
— Last question, would you share anything from your photo album?
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