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Digital Direction (MA)

Tao Xie 謝韜

As a digital artist, Tao's goal is to encourage viewers to look beyond the surface and develop their own insights through his digital creations. Growing up in a family interested in Buddhist Studies, he learned to think dialectically and express his ideas through symbols and metaphors. 

Throughout his career, he has had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, from virtual and augmented reality experiences to product visualisation and animation. He creates ideas with not only meet high standards of quality and innovation but also a variety of physical and digital media. His works present the focus of his creation at different stages, from self-exploration to the needs of the surroundings, to business values, and to social responsibility.

Me in front of my work when exhibition

This is a 3D film that focuses on mental health through Buddhist philosophy, inspired by personal experiences and observations. Mental health is a common issue in society, and the film aims to make people aware of it. I chose to present it from a Buddhist perspective, as I have experience in Buddhist studies and see it as a way of achieving a stable mental state. The film portrays an inversion of Pure Land based on people's responses to a questionnaire about their state of mind and Buddhist studies.

I want to present it from a Buddhist point of view because it's a significant part of my identity -- being a Buddhist. I have been in contact with Buddhism since 2015 and I have been exposed to the systematic study of Tibetan Buddhism and Pure Land Buddhism. I see Buddhist philosophy as a way of life and a practice for achieving a stable mental state, which I want to integrate with mental health.

Scene 1
Scene 1The opening scene features a tunnel that represents traveling from reality to 'the land of utmost badness', inspired by the Buddhist concept of Pure Land as a far-off place. This physical distance is expressed as a distance to the state of mind in the project, and the tunnel serves as a connection that transports the audience from reality to a specific state of mind world.
Scene 2
Scene 2This scene is about to show those sentient beings in this world. Pure Land is a reference showing that all the beings are free from suffering and worry. So I made the beings in this project as an opposing version-- wear masks as if they were trying to hide their emotions but their pain and anguish were evident from the 'spikes' on their bodies and their contorted postures
Scene 3
Scene 3This is the ‘Core’ scene and also references Pure Land but in an inverted version. The temple's appearance remains, but the Buddha is replaced by a spherical shape connected by chain-like objects. This represents Buddhism's teaching that suffering arises from delusion and how we all share our delusions and desires while being influenced by the environment. It also symbolises karma.
Scene 4
Scene 4Here these beings can be seen making pilgrimages to this central sphere in droves. They are blind but devout, representing the idea that we will submit to the tide of our suffering in the world and conform to it. We do not know what we are running for or even pursuing something for the rest of our lives, but perhaps it is as blind as they seem to be.
Scene 5
Scene 5As the shot progresses, the audience's views move to the huge sphere from the previous scene, and with it the sight of countless beings they are tortured and so in pain. This scene is also an adaptation of the beings depicted in the Pure Land.
Scene 6
Scene 6Here is the Lotus Pond scene. In the concept of Pure Land, all beings will be born from the lotus. So, I designed it so that all the beings are born from a giant lotus, and then all the lotus bloom together. At the beginning, the audience will see a huge installation with chains at the top, linking it to the previous scene, which was the huge sphere. This implies that the manipulation of the 'central' sphere leads to reincarnation and karma, resulting in the birth of beings here.
Scene 7
Scene 7The film ends with eerie clusters of flowers in a twisted space that begin to grow and cover a broken Bodhisattva statue. What I want to express here is actually about my own identity in this work, as part of my personal experience. But this is a rather open ending and may be viewed differently by those who also share this identity or can empathise with Buddhist culture.

Something I wanna tell..

To be quite blunt, the idea started with some of my own mental issues. Initially, I thought that this inspired creation would heal me in the process. However, through in-depth conversations with a few friends, I realized that mental health problems are, in fact, common for people in today's environment, especially young people. I gradually felt that it was not just me and became more determined to do it, hoping to appeal to more people in this way.

I have always been ashamed to talk about this mental aspect of myself, afraid of showing my negative energy or making people think I am too sensitive. But it is real, and it has had a very negative effect on me. I don't know if you can relate to this, but many negative emotions come one after another, and when they build up to a terrible level, they can push people to the brink of despair and give rise to even more negative thoughts. One of my worst experiences was when my head went blank and buzzed, and it was as if my body was about to lose its mind and be overtaken by horrible thoughts. I often imagined that these negative emotions were a monster inside me, eating and tearing away at all the good parts of me, and trying to take over my body and eventually represent me.

It is present in each of us, but it is not actually the enemy because we cannot really destroy it; it is part of us. Its image is an abstract representation of our present state of mind, and we fear it because we are deep in pain and anguish. But once you get over that, you will find that it is not actually scary, and you will not let it manipulate you anymore. You will accept that it is there and live in harmony with it. Although I have not been able to do that even now, I believe that at least being aware of it and thinking about facing it is a big change.

I have been thinking about how to integrate Buddhist philosophy into my artwork, but it is difficult to find many suitable examples for me to refer to, or perhaps my research methods were not good. The reality is that many artists who use Buddhist thinking for their subject matter, I think, are only doing it superficially, perhaps just trying to use the religious elements of Buddhism to make their work seem mystical. Of course, I'm not sure I'm capable of doing better than that because the philosophy of Buddhism is so vast that, even though I'm a Buddhist, I can only say I understand one or two percent of it. Finding the right direction to use these ideas in my work was something I had to think about, and as a work of art, I also had to consider the time it would take to complete and whether the technical complexity of the work would allow me to visualize all these ideas. But this work is the second time I have fused my own identity and subject matter into one work. I will continue to experiment with this kind of work in the future..

Photo on ‘The Wondering I’ exhibition
Photo on ‘The Wondering I’ exhibition
Photo on ‘The Wondering I’ exhibition
Photo on ‘The Wondering I’ exhibition