Chinese Students' Experiences in American MFA Programs in Digital Arts: How to be Prepared and What to Expect

Chinese Students' Experiences in American MFA Programs in Digital Arts: How to be Prepared and What to Expect

Edmond Salsali (Georgian Court University, USA) and Rebecca Ruige Xu (Syracuse University, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0911-0.ch005
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In recent years, the number of Chinese students seeking advanced education in the United States has increased considerably. This paper attempts to compare Chinese students' expectations of the MFA program in digital arts in the U.S. to the actual contents offered by the graduate schools. It addresses the unique challenges they face when pursuing MFA degrees and discuss how they could overcome those challenges to successfully achieve their educational goals, as well as how the MFA programs can assist them in this endeavor. It explains that digital arts curriculums in the US are usually meant to help students achieve an individual approach to the field, while developing their aesthetic and artistic sensibilities through conceptualization. But upon entering graduate schools, Chinese students usually lack proper knowledge of the theory, history, and philosophy of art, which are employed extensively in these programs to engage students in a multidisciplinary practice that emphasizes as much on the conception of the final piece as it does on its technical prowess.
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Artists began experimenting with computers to create artworks since the 1950s. The first computer art show entitled Computer Generated Pictures was held at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York in 1965. This exhibition was strongly influenced by contemporary art movements and popular culture. Moreover, since many forms of digital arts heavily rely on interactivity and viewers’ participation, art historians have often related their roots to the Dada and Fluxus art movements, in which audience participation was already important. As Christiane Paul (2008) mentions: “digital art did not develop in an art-historical vacuum, but has strong connections to previous art movements, among them Dada, Fluxus, and conceptual art. The importance of these movements resides in their emphasis on formal instructions and in their focus on concept, event, and audience participation, as opposed to unified material objects” (p. 11).

It wasn’t until the arrival of personal computers that a significant rise in the number of different genres of computer related artworks became noticeable. Since then, curators have referred to these forms of arts as “computer arts,” “new media arts,” or “digital arts.” They typically include computer generated imagery, computer animation, physical computing, creative computer programming, digital music, sonic art, visual effects, gaming, virtual reality, and other interactive art forms. With constant expansion of digital technologies, new art genres continue to emerge each day, including robotic art, bio art, intelligent art, etc.

Similarly to their traditional counterparts, all these digital art practices expand beyond simple adoption of new tools, to address expressive or conceptual creative objectives, and respond to the artistic queries raised by individuals. Therefore, the artists’ responsibilities are not limited to learn the practical aspects of using the tools, which could be a tedious task on its own, but they also need to develop a deep understanding of the underlying conceptual art theories and concepts.

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