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Speech on 2024 CAA Report Day by Gao Shiming, CAA president
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Edited BY:He Jiabei

In the spring of 1924, a group of more than twenty Chinese artists in Europe, including Lin Fengmian, Lin Wenzheng, Li Jinfa, Liu Jipiao, and Wang Daizhi, founded the "Opus Society" (also known as the Overseas Art Movement Society) in Paris. In the same year, these artists held the first overseas Chinese art exhibition in Strasbourg, on the Franco-German border. This exhibition introduced Mr. Cai Yuanpei, who then resided in Strasbourg, to these exuberant young artists. Encouraged by Mr. Cai, four years later, they convened beside West Lake in Hangzhou and established the National Academy of Art (now China Academy of Art), China's first institution of higher art education, heralding a new chapter in the history of Chinese advanced art education.


Over the past century, this prestigious Academy has weathered the profound changes of a hundred years of Chinese history, continually resonating with the times and steadfastly adhering to its original mission. It has produced many of the foremost masters in the history of modern and contemporary Chinese art and has been a seminal influence on artistic movements through historical periods. As a beacon of artistic innovation in China, the Academy has been a crucible for the dual variations of the 20th-century Chinese art revolution and revolutionary art.


Last year, as we celebrated the 95th anniversary of the founding of CAA, we started the "CAA Report". It serves as a platform for launching cultural and creative initiatives on April 8 each year—the anniversary of the opening ceremony of the National Academy of Art. We fervently expect the CAA Report to evolve beyond the Academy to become a celebration of Chinese culture, art, and the entire creative industry.


The recently unveiled "CAA Century Masters" include a diverse array of talents, including master painters proficient in both the theory and practice of art, scholars who have bridged Chinese and Western academics, pioneers of commemorative sculpture, founders of higher education in calligraphy, and pioneers of modern Chinese design. This list also includes revolutionary artists who ventured to Yan'an, wielding their pens as their banners in the Chinese revolution, leaders who safeguarded cultural property during national crises, custodians of our cherished cultural heritage, vibrant voices of the leftist writers, and globally acclaimed artistic pioneers. Among these "Century Masters", some have become renowned literary figures, including Li Jinfa, the first professor of sculpture and progenitor of Chinese Symbolist poetry, and the eminent poet Ai Qing. We also have philosophers with profound academic prowess, such as Xu Fancheng, lauded as the "Modern Xuanzang," and Zhu Qianzhi, the pioneer to expound on the influence of Chinese philosophy in Europe. Noteworthy is that nine individuals from this esteemed list participated in the Yan'an Forum on Literature and Art and subsequently became mainstays of revolutionary and socialist literature and art in China. Additionally, this list honors a cadre of distinguished artists and art educators who have walked alongside New China, their artistic creations becoming embedded in our national consciousness and their pedagogical endeavors nurturing successive generations.


As we reflect on these resplendent names, we are immensely proud yet also feel a profound sense of responsibility. CAA is akin to a towering mountain range, grand and imposing; it is as dazzling as a splendid galaxy, with stars that shimmer brightly. This directory of over a hundred masters is not only a source of pride for CAA but also our gift to the world and to the annals of art history; moreover, it acts as both an inspiration and a call to action for us today. From this year until 2028, we will mobilize academic forces in China and around the world to initiate a series of creation and research endeavors focused on these "Century Masters", tracing the lineage and promoting the ethos of CAA. Crucially, through academic exploration of these masters, we continually remind ourselves that the core mission of the Academy lies in "cultivating people, producing works, and generating ideas." As long as we remain true to our founding principles and retain our authentic character, this list of masters is destined to grow ever longer and more renowned.


In February last year, during the Ministry of Culture and Tourism's national conference on the collaborative construction of universities, I worked alongside President Zhou Qingfu at the Chinese National Academy of Arts and President Liao Changyong at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music to lay the groundwork for the Research Center of Art-Synesthesia (RCAS). RCAS is designed to foster a cross-sensory and multimodal approach to the arts, integrating various artistic disciplines such as painting, music, calligraphy, architecture, poetry, drama, and dance. Our aim is to expand the horizons of artistic synesthesia, exploring the foundational codes of artistic creation through the interactions among sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought. In addition, the ancient Chinese discourses on poetry, painting, calligraphy, and music all share a common system of critique and aesthetic tastes. This reminds us that, through the study of synesthesia, we may have the opportunity to reinvigorate the long-absent education of sensibility within modern academic education. We aim to foster a form of humanistic education grounded in artistic experience—an education that appeals to the senses, one that is felt before it is understood. It is an education that educates through intuition, that connects disparate ideas, and that teaches profoundly without words.


In recent years, both CAA faculty and students have increasingly agreed on a shared mission for education: to preserve and develop humanity, and for art, to discover the world and humanity. In the 21st century, discovering the world involves engaging with mixed realities and virtual environments made possible through the internet age, while rediscovering humanity is increasingly facilitated by artificial intelligence (AI). AI has captured global attention, and its rapid evolution over the past two years has truly exemplified transformative change. Prof. Chen Yan recently launched the "CAA AI Center," which outlines the Academy's strategic initiatives within the AI domain. The Academy was among the early adopters of AI in the artistic sphere, taking a clear and proactive stance. Some argue that AI poses existential risks to humanity. However, we believe that all critiques and concerns about AI, including its potential weaknesses and dangers, mirror those inherent in humanity itself. Therefore, any threat AI might pose originates from humans. There are claims that AI will eventually replace humans, but we contend that AI's development is not about mimicking or replacing humans; rather, it is about creating diverse futures. AI's significance lies not only in its ability to simulate, extend, and enhance human thought processes, but more importantly, in its capability to help us explore the very nature of human intelligence—how we think, learn, analyze, reason, plan, and imagine. AI is not just a tool for research and manufacturing but also a means for perception and cognition, acting as a mirror to our self-awareness and societal consciousness. AI is not merely a tool but a partner; it is an integral part of our present and future.


Tasks that can be automated by artificial intelligence do not represent genuine creativity, nor do they amount to genuine intelligence. Human intelligence encompasses more than just calculation or logical reasoning; it extends beyond mathematics, which is not merely logic, and logic, which is not merely intelligence. There is emotional reasoning beyond numbers, and beyond calculation, there are experiences and intuitions, impulses, intentions, and strategies, insights and visions. Humans possess not only eidos but also pathos, not only logos but also mythos, and importantly, desires and instincts, empathy and expectations. It is these elements, beyond mere calculation, that facilitate real "praxis" and "action"; it is these elements that constitute human intelligence, making us truly human.


Thus, I consistently emphasize the coexistence of two forms of AI: Artificial Intelligence and Artistic Intelligence. CAA AI Center aims to cultivate an interplay, intertwining, and dialectic between these two forms of AI. My friends, the Renaissance men of the 21st century should be integrally fused with artificial intelligence, possessing the daring and capability to evolve with AI. These new digital subjects will co-develop with both artificial intelligence and artistic intelligence, gradually forming a composite "Human + AI" entity capable of mastering and even surpassing algorithms. These composite subjects will learn and create at a scale far beyond that of natural humans, accumulating all human knowledge and activating all civilizational genes over the eons, thereby achieving a transcendent state of "connectivity" and "transformation."


Regarding the CAA AI Center, I must say—the future is vast, and we approach it with great anticipation!


Three years ago, CAA founded the Research Institute of Better China Initiative, aimed at creating a platform integrating an art think tank, public aesthetics, and social innovation. Since its inception, the center has earned extensive praise and support from various sectors of society. This year, in collaboration with People's Daily Online, we have established the Photography Center of Better China Institution, led by Prof. Li Ge at CAA, who is also the Chair of the China Photographers Association.


The Photography Center's efforts to collect visuals go beyond traditional visitation, as a Better China encompasses more than just picturesque landscapes and views. We utilize photography as a medium to perceive and understand society, to capture direct snapshots of social realities, and to grasp the progression of our times. Through visuals, we aim to record and present the historical milestones of this new era and establish a grounded mechanism for experiencing a Beautiful China and creating a Better China. This initiative requires us to mobilize tens of thousands of photographers and visual artists nationwide to engage in ongoing interpretative reporting and sociological sketching concerning Chinese modernization and the building of a Better China. As this imaging project progresses, artists will cultivate a deeper personal connection to history, enhanced social perception, and a more vivid experience of reality, thereby nurturing a broader and more profound artistic concern.


At the end of last year, CAA and the Shanghai Municipal Government entered into a strategic cooperation agreement, initiating a new chapter themed "Great School Reflects Great City." Moving forward, CAA will actively engage at the forefront of "the Integrated Development of the Yangtze River Delta," a major national strategy of China. With first-class resources in art, design, and creativity, the Academy will contribute to the high-quality development of the Yangtze River Delta across education, creativity, cultural tourism, and entertainment sectors.


Shanghai stands as the leading city in the region, distinguished by its innovative spirit. Its openness and inclusiveness have fueled significant creative achievements across various historical periods in modern China, steering the development of Chinese social customs and urban culture. Shanghai is also a global city, having served for nearly two centuries as a crucial bridge for exchange and cooperation between China and the rest of the world, as well as a melting pot of diverse cultures. Last year marked the 180th anniversary of the opening of the Shanghai Port. Reflecting on these 180 years, we witness the grand vistas of modern civilization, the epoch-making moments of the Chinese revolution, and the blend of legends and dreams across different ages; we see how this great city's modern trajectory has mirrored more than a century of the Chinese populace's struggles, quests, reunions, and emotional journeys.


In the Yangtze River Delta and Shanghai, we especially sense the vigorous pulse of this new era. Amid this grand and profound progression of the times, how do we find our place? What role does art play?


This year, CAA has started the "Changjiang Delta Art Action." We plan to synergize artistic creation with technological innovation, drawing upon the premier development resources of the Yangtze River Delta. Our goal is to explore new models for high-quality development characterized by a thorough integration of art, technology, and ideas, deep collaboration between universities, governments, and businesses, and comprehensive innovation across education, industry, and society. We aim to gather the formidable forces of original and breakthrough innovations to establish a testing ground for cultural arts, innovative design, and advanced manufacturing, thus empowering a digital, intelligent society. This initiative will foster an innovative consortium that transcends traditional boundaries between art, technology, and industry, transforming artistic imagination and creativity into tangible, new quality productive forces.


In May 1924, Mr. Cai Yuanpei delivered two speeches at the opening of the Chinese Art Exhibition. The first speech discussed "the harmony between Eastern and Western cultures," made at the opening ceremony, and the second dealt with "the harmony between science and art," given at the reception event. One hundred years later, these themes perfectly resonate with the current educational philosophy of CAA—"Driven by Global and Domestic Vision, Empowered by Culture and Tech Education."


Friends, the essence of art and education lies in "enlightening others through self-awareness and achieving goals through opening new avenues," while the responsibility of a university is "to elevate minds and propel societal innovation." Today's CAA Report unveils a splendid array of initiatives, from projects that delve into the Academy's historical context and shape the legacies of our "Century Masters", to efforts that advance high-quality development in the Yangtze River Delta, along with exploring the future possibilities of interplay between Artificial Intelligence and Artistic Intelligence. Here, we behold the "classical studies" of a century-old prestigious school, the "practical education" that roots deeply in Chinese soil and promotes a Better China, and the "creative education" that transcends disciplines and integrates the Way and objects. These fresh endeavors illustrate the expansive vision and lofty ambitions of all CAA members.


Dear friends, we gather here on the 96th anniversary of CAA, not merely to commemorate but to muster the energy accumulated over a century for a new journey ahead. We eagerly anticipate more projects and outputs to be incorporated into the "CAA Report". We invite more individuals of insight and ambition to join our endeavors—to expand the influence of CAA's spirit and extend its pathways in all directions.