Wang Dongma - 王东马 (b. 1968) is a multimedia artist from Beijing who, since 2005, has worked in a variety of new media art forms including interactive LED screens, mirrors, electronic sculptures, and large scale and miniature video installations around China.
He is a main pillar of the island6 Arts Center and the in-house art collective Liu Dao.
In 1991, Wang earned a BA degree in Physical Engineering from Zhejiang University which instilled in him an extensive knowledge of optics and nanotechnology, and provided an engineering aptitude that has been a centerpiece of island6 works and exhibitions since he brought his skills to the studio as a resident artist in December 2007, beginning collaboration with Liu Dao.
Together, Liu Dao and Wang Dongma research technology as a visualization instrument, as Wang’s desire to approach timelapsed video and aerial photography as an apparatus for research in his study of visual landscape continually excites the island6 creative process.
Wang’s balanced life between academic and artist enables him to have increased communication and dialogue with technicians and artists from all backgrounds, such as Cai Duobao, Bing Bing and Matt Carols. With art direction from Wang and physical construction and input from Liu Dao, the collective produces their unique series of interactive mirrors that speak of the cultural and technological leaps in China over the previous ten years that seem to appear out of nowhere, as well as the mandatory world one enters when encountering the outer-body experience of examining and evaluating oneself through physical reflection. As viewers approach these antique wooden mirrors with styles that could be a hundred years old, the appearance of another image within the glass is suddenly triggered, which is at first impressive in its seemingly magic technology, and then mesmerizing as the image combines with the mirror to emit a panexperientialist aura before ultimately imposing a pantheist hypnosis on the viewer in front of it. This project of Wang and Liu Dao continually entices visitors into the evermore prevalent contemplations of China’s cherished traditions versus its high tech infrastructural developments, and the tides of technological upgrades rapidly bringing families and companies across China to the front of the globalized world. Like the images in the mirrors, China’s unforeseeable changes materialize in the blink of an eye.
Part of the mirrors’ ghostly nature is the stylistic echo of Old Shanghai furniture from the shikumen longtang and yangfang longtang periods, which together made up a century of Shanghai housing from the mid-19th Century to the mid-20th. The shikumen style of housing is found only in Shanghai. It is a blend of Eastern and Western architectural styles built in the foreigner concessions, but the conceptual and aesthetic beauty of these structures has not withstood the test of time. The antique mirrors used by Wang speak through their images of the stone archways and brick alleyways disappearing day by day to be replaced by large apartment blocks or charmless, modern replicas. The architecture of Shanghai’s past with the alleys children ran through before cars and television were invented will be completely swept away in only a few years’ time, and this sense of passing is carried on in Wang’s productions.
In these works made of IR sensors, two-way mirrors and video screens, the subjects that appear are females of all ages, from child to woman, bringing a familiarity that speaks of traditional values and the newly constituted relationships holding it together, revealing the very personal struggle Wang encountered while developing his own artistic identity from engineer to artist. The earlier mirrors from 2008 and 2009 feature the little girl MeiMei, eating ice cream or playing with her hair, while the later mirrors from 2010 feature mature women standing with a sexual presence. The ghostly nature of these floating images invade your method of reflection and commands it to consider the younger versions of yourself, who you are, who you could have been, who you’re not and who you want to be. When facing the child or the adult, you have to wonder what interpretation of yourself do you see when you look at your own face? The fantasy? The alter-ego? Something explicitly recognized by everyone or something that is within only you?
In Wang and Liu Dao’s parallel series of vanity mirrors, broken phrases appear in red LED-lettering in varied positions, coming in and out of sight like words in a train of thought. The egocentrism, through vision and contemplation instantly become shared experiences as viewers approach the installation and appreciate the insularity and loneliness that arises when examining the “self” directness or vagueness of its communication. For the complimentary pair "What He Wants" and “What She Needs”(2008), in-house literary collaborator and guest curator Kristen Delaney provides accompanying written pieces that invite viewers and readers to stare at their own gazes with the intended melancholic and sympathetic spirit Wang created with these mirrors and words, one which breaks down the human identity as both independent and needy, tangibly beautiful and mentally grim, present in body and worlds away in soul. For the male piece, Kristen ties the ritual of grooming with the mental preparation needed to conquer the world’s daily rigors. A drawer opens automatically to make you part of the very machine that is this man’s day, schedule, society and life. Experiencing "What He Wants" offers the ability to step into another man’s life and feel his ego, understand his secrets, his keys to destruction and the story between the mirror and himself.
Kristen places the bureaus as those of husband and wife, and the wife’s hidden thoughts develop the story of their upcoming dinner with the young couple down the road who seem to have a certain happiness that the hosts in the mirrors are lacking. “What She Needs” allows viewers into an emotional haven of the wife who feels neglected by her ambitious husband, caught in a whirlwind of issues she never anticipated, but finds comfort in these mirrors where she has built a personal fortress with her looks and styles that are fueled by optimism, in order to remove herself from pity and patronizing thought.
In February 2008, Wang was chosen by Manaart to be represented at the first ever Roma Contemporary Art Fair in Rome, Italy.
In June 2009, while working with Liu Dao, Wang became part of the White Rabbit Collection in Sydney, Australia.
In May 2010, Wang was chosen by Red Gate Gallery to be represented at the Hong Kong Art Fair (HK ART 10).