5 Questions: Sammy Chien (Ryeberg, Jan. 26)

Sammy Chien
Sammy Chien

On the 5th anniversary of Club PuSh, we ask Club artists five questions.

Sammy Chien is a Vancouver-based interdisciplinary media artist who seeks to merge cinema, sound art, new media and dance performances techniques into a new individual practice.


1. Club PuSh turns five this year. We're wondering what you were up to / obsessed with when you were five and how that informed the artist that you've become.

When I was five, I used to be obsessed with seeing imaginary stars. I discovered a way to press my eyes with my hands or pillow, so that the pressure triggers some kind of optical illusion that resemble flares, halos and stars. I didn't know enough about biology to explain this phenomenon, but I also didn't want to. It felt like a way to see the universe of some sort. After I became a professional artist, I realized that it was almost a way for me to search for new paths in order to attain some kind of imaginary world – a portal to this other world out there that I'm still constantly searching for as an artist.

2.  What's the YouTube obsession that you'll lecture us on at Ryeberg?

I remember when YouTube came out, I was shocked how it totally changed the value of my personal breakdance, graffiti VHS collection and rare DJ battle videos that I downloaded on Kazza or Napster. However though, I won't be focusing on YouTube phenomenon at all on this talk but talking about my most current story in my artistic and spiritual journey.

3.  You recently did a PechaKucha presentation. What do you like about presentational formats like that and Ryeberg?

I was very honoured to be part of this international series of 6.5-minute presentations. I like the restriction that PechaKucha requires, which is 20 seconds per image. Ryeberg has a very interesting approach as well. The difference is that Ryeberg requires fixed writing and also publishes the writing online, which makes the process quite different. 4. What were you up to in Beijing recently and what did Ai Weiwei have to say to you?

I was in Beijing to work on a performance & research project with the Beijing Modern Dance Company on Stravinsky's Rite of Spring 100-year Anniversary. It was the first time working in China. I feel extremely grateful and fortunate that I was already working in the biggest theatre in China with the top artists in their field (such as Wong Kar Wai's Cinematographer Christopher Doyle, Zhang Yimou's production designer for theatre Gao Guangjian and the Father of Rock in China, Cui Jian).

I met Ai Weiwei through his friend Wu Hongfei, a singer-songwriter who also just got out of the prison. I went on the research trip with her friend Dr. Chen Yao, one of the craziest scientist that I've ever met, who also teaches at the top University in China, a super progressive man who constantly seeks to improve the bureaucracy in academia and the political apparatus in China.  He originally wanted to hook up Hong-Fei and I, and later on we became good friends.

Ai Weiwei and I didn't talk too much about the arts. He treated me to a nice lunch by his studio. I was shocked by how busy this international star artist is, yet how gentle and patient he is in contrast. He had cameras by the table with a few people interviewing him even while he's having his meal, yet, he still made sure that he came up to me and gently chatted with me with such great patience and honesty. I wish I wasn't so hungover that day! I had even more respect for that man. Beijing is a really underrated city full of potential with an energy unfamiliar to me.

5. Tell us about a current or upcoming project.

I'm currently working on commercial for a large LED company doing interactive /real-time media with dance in Taipei. I'm also composing a music score for an architecture commercial at the same time. Then I'm back in Vancouver for Ryeberg, then working with Wen Wei Wang on his ongoing performance project called Made In China. I'm currently going through transitions for my co-founded collective Chimerik.