Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Back Dorm Boys interview

In the fall of 2005, I sat down for dinner with a friend who works in international media and compared notes about the crop of UG video that were appearing on the then new phenomenon of Googlevideo and what would become the Youtube avalanche. We both had stumbled upon the lip-synching videos of two Chinese art students whose combination of sincerity and satire in their rendition of “As Long as You Love Me” made it an immediate viral hit. A few months later, Motorola had engaged these art students, the Back Dorm Boys, in a campaign to be broadcast on P2P channels. Now the BDB have graduated from the School of Fine Arts, Guangzhou University and are heading to Beijing to start their own video + multimedia art studio. We caught up with Vivi, the square-jawed member of the duo, late one night to do an IM chat about the Boys’ future sense of making art in the media sphere and their future plans. (Yi Xin, his fearless and dedicated collaborator, was being treated for a sports injury, thus could not join our conversation.) All images are courtesy of Back Dorm Boys blog. BC

Interviewer: Professor Beth Coleman
Interviewee: Vivi
Translator: Liwen Jin

Record of our interview:
Professor: Hi Vivi, thanks for joining us so early in the morning and congratulations on finishing school. To learn more about us, please visit projectgoodluck.com
I have a few questions: When did you make the first Back Dorm Boy (BDB) video? Why did you make it? And where was the first place you posted it to?
Vivi: We made our first BDB video in March, 2005. We just felt it was very funny and we actually got the inspiration from a funny video abroad. We post the video to the local internet network of college. Other students liked it very much, and then they helped us to spread it out.

Professor: Where did you see the video that help to inspire you?
Vivi: No, not youtube. My friend recommended that video to me. After watching it, we felt it really funny. But that video only lasts for around 10 seconds. We began to wonder what it could be if we completed a whole song.

Professor: Did your reputation change among your friends once the video started to be famous?
Vivi: In my friends' eyes, I am still that Vivi. They probably know that we have become more and more popular now. They are happy for us, since more and more people begin to like us.

Professor: Did you make international friends?
Vivi: Yes, we have international friends. In fact, a lot of netizens want to add our QQ and join the online alumni list of our undergraduate class. We have 8 or 9 QQ groups. They are all set up by our fans. But we are too busy to get online to talk with them.

Professor: Did art school training prepare you in anyway to make videos such as this or even talk about network distribution? (For example, Youtube or Googlevideo)?
Vivi: Art school training really helps us a lot in making videos. It prepares us with art basis and sculpture aesthetics so that we can pay a lot of attention to the composition of pictures, vision effect and light contrast in our videos. Besides, we got training of creativity and advertising in art school. It prompts us to make new creations in each video so that it can impress more people.

Professor: How did you get involved with the Motorola campaign?
Vivi: Motorola invited us. Moto proposed a conception to us and invited us to make a video for them.

Professor: What was the concept? Was it different to make that video for Motorola than to make others?
Vivi: They held an activity and invited us to make a promotion video for them. They integrate their new cell phone into our video in a smart way. And the cell phone is designed for youth.

Professor: How do you decide what to wear in your videos? What inspires your art direction?
Vivi: We don't intentionally plan our clothes in videos. It just depends on our feelings. In general, the song we mocked of is the one we like very much. We will then select clothes and design images to accord with the style and the feeling of that song. At first we made those videos just for fun. Then we began to develop some requirements for our videos. We hope to made new creations in each video. We hope to express fresh ideas through videos to our audience, rather than just play a funny show for them.

Professor: Is it a sign of affection to make fun of something you really like?
Vivi: I'm not sure whether we have that kind of affection. We just feel it’s very interesting. And we are really happy when watching our own videos.

Professor: What about your friend in the background of the video on the computer? I think he must have his own fan club by now.
Vivi: Yes, a lot of people like him because they are curious why he doesn’t have any reactions in front of such big activities of our performance. He is our classmate and he lives with us. In the beginning, he appeared in the background unintentionally. When we made our first , he was playing CS. We then invited him to play with us when the music reached to the climax. But till then, he was playing a game (mafia) happily with other students and forgot to join us. Luckily, the final effect of that video is great: we are active while he is still. (It’s an interesting and funny combination.)

Professor: What will you do now that you are have graduated from school?
Vivi: We have signed a contract with a company in Beijing. We will have our own studio very soon. It will be used to make more funny videos

Professor: In your studio, will you make more lovely sculptures such as your senior project?
Vivi: Yes, we will. We will make all kinds of things as long as we can think of.

Professor: Did someone buy that piece from the senior show?
Vivi: I think no one can afford to buy those sculptures and even they bought them, they would have the problem of placing them. Those sculptures are very huge: the height is 4 or 5 meters. We will put them in our studio in Beijing.
Actually we have two senior projects. One is the celebrity sculpture. We applied to our department to make sculptures of ourselves and our department permitted. Another project is a larger one. That is a video device.

Professor: what kind of video device?
Vivi: Our senior show was held in the art gallery of our college. Our projects are placed on the front door. On both sides of the door are placed the sculptures of ourselves riding horses. Entering the gallery, you will see a space like a film theater. Every seat there is an enlarged key on the keyboard, and the screen is a television. The television screen is playing our videos. And our video productions can interact with audience directly.

Professor: One last question, do you feel lucky to be able to do what you are doing?
Vivi: Yeah, we feel we are extremely lucky...it’s a great chance for us.

Professor: Vivi, thanks!!!! It was great to talk with you. We will post to the blog. Hope to meet you soon in Beijing.?
Vivi: you are welcome! See you in Beijing!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey... this is some good source information about Back Dorm Boys that I've been searching for so long. Everything that comes straight from them is always in Chinese so I can't understand.

*sigh* I just hope I can also have a chance to chat with them if I know their IM address... if you would like to share them, mrs. Beth.

Thanks again for the interview post... hope you can post another interview with them in the future.

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