MENG TANG

Meng Tang, Amendment II, 2013, HD video 1920 x 1080, Duration 3:29 (detail)

How would you describe the work that you do?

In my body of work you can see a variety of media and content. . . . There are many different vocabularies at work. For example, I’m a video artist who makes narrative films. But I also make a lot of abstract, conceptual videos. . . . In addition, I do installation work because I want to give the viewer a three‐dimensional experience. I think that an artist today does not have to stay with one medium. I think part of an artist’s responsibility is to use the best medium to portray her ideas. 

Are there ways in which you want your work to challenge viewers?

There are multiple ways. Because I am a media artist I use a lot of video and photography. I think that viewers have the right to decide whether or not they like your work, or if they want to think more about it. I want my work to make the viewer want to look . . . [and] so visually, I must make something stunning that attracts the viewer’s attention. You must control the process and portray your ideas in a way that makes your audience think. A lot of people see my work as approachable, then they think about the ideas.

Is there something you are currently working on that you are particularly excited about?

Meng Tang, Amendment II, 2013, HD video 1920 x 1080, Duration 3:29 (detail)

Currently, I am working on two documentary film projects. One is called Fairytale, which, in the Western world, sounds spiritual. But, actually, this project is about homelessness. . . . As human beings we should take care of each other, and I wanted to make a film raise awareness that these people exist and are not irrelevant. In this project I am tracing back their history, exploring their lives before they were homeless.

Another project on which I’m working is related to gender issues. . . . It talks about being a single mom in the Eastern world, which is considered a serious problem. . . . I met a single mom who didn’t get married, but fell in love with a married man. This was a disaster. . . .  She gave birth to a baby girl and they wanted me to adopt this baby girl because I don’t have kids. . . . I called the government officials to try and adopt the child, but the officials didn’t allow me to do that because the child didn’t have an official birth certificate. The government could not provide that kind of paperwork because the mother had been unmarried. . . . It is very complicated. I’m trying to work those two projects right now. It’s very slow because I do not currently have the budget for them, but I am very excited about them.

  Meng Tang,   Amendment II  , 2013, HD   video 1920 x 1080, Duration 3:29 (detail)

Meng Tang, Amendment II, 2013, HD video 1920 x 1080, Duration 3:29 (detail)

What have been the greatest challenges to your art career and how do you navigate them?

Two challenges: one is money related. You always have to get the funding for your art projects. If you have a full time job, you have to spend all your money to buy equipment, go to locations, etc. It’s very hard for me to sell my documentary films. . . . Sometimes I receive funding from institutions, but in general those are not really commercial products. The second is being a female artist and having to deal with male artists around you. When I was very young I treated all the male artists like tutors, or instructors. I respected them. But now, as I am more qualified and become more mature, I see they very much dominate the world. They have this presumption that I should be more submissive because I am a female artist. 

What advice influences you or your art making?

There is a philosopher and art critic named Arthur Danto [who recently passed away]. . . . I feel his words and articles inspired me a lot and gave me a lot of great ideas.

How do you know when you have been successful?

When you are invited to organize a big show and you are one of the artists spotlighted in the show, that is a good indicator that you are successful. . . . I also feel successful when my art touches the majority of the audience, and when people come over to talk to me and say, “I am inspired by your work.". . . Whether it is in a gallery or not, I feel successful when my art is accepted by the audience.

Why did you choose to pursue the life of a professional artist?

My original idea was to become a film director. I was pursuing that career when I was in high school . . . and [I] eventually applied to a film school. But the year that I applied the school was not accepting students for the film program. So, if I wanted to go to that school, I needed to apply to a different department. I chose photography, and that was how my career got started. I find that art has no boundary; you can use many media to portray your ideas.

In the studio

In your opinion, how is being a woman artist in 2015 different from what it might have been like one, two, three or even four decades ago?

Of course, there is a huge difference between the current days compared to decades past. Even though I appreciate what we now have, I still feel being a female artist requires that you must still fight for equal rights and equal positions, and you still must fight with the entire art world for a chance to show your work.

Does personal history work its way into your practice? How might who you are be reflected in your current work?

Meng Tang

My personal history is that I was trained like a commercial, photographer. Those solid skills helped me to go very far, particularly when I wanted to do abstract work. . . . A lot of artists I know have great ideas. However, because they lack some fundamental skills, they can’t execute their ideas in the best way possible. . . . Fundamental skills are still relevant and useful as you pursue your career. Also, hold your ground when you encounter the world. Don’t try to be submissive, as that is not useful. That is very important.

 

 

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