We had the good fortune of connecting with Kang Ma and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kang, why did you pursue a creative career?
I suppose this question can be separated into how I began pursuing an artistic career and why I continue to do so.

In the beginning, I wanted to be a pop singer. I tried to learn some instruments and singing when I was in junior high, but I wasn’t good at it. When I got the chance to choose if I want to study fine-art senior high, I figured that both music and fine-art are forms of art, since I’m not very talented in music, maybe I should try fine-art, and studying fine-art would be more interesting than only learning the standard subjects, so I decided to join the fine-art class.

Regarding why I continue, after years of practice, I realized that visual art is similar to a language that artists use to communicate with their audience. I utilize this artistic language to respond to my life experiences. So long as I have something to say, I will likely continue my artistic practice.

I also believe that the experience of making art and the theories I read change my way of perceiving and comprehending the world (which is analogous to learning a new language), and it is this new perspective that compels me to continue the art practice.

Even if I stopped creating “artworks” in the future, the language I learnt as an artist would remain in my thoughts and continue to influence how I interact with the outside world.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
One of my focus is to observe and reveal how images influence people’s perceptions of the world, particularly in this age when secondary experiences from screens and prints are increasingly replacing primary experiences from direct interaction with the physical world. For instance, in my works titled Collage Project — One (Image of) Dollar for One Image of Work and Collage Project — Untitled, I experimented with how and to what extent images of things can replace the actual things themselves, and how differently people interact with the image representation of things as opposed to the actual things themselves. In the project You Can Never Tell, I attempted to demonstrate that people’s perceptions of what is true or false based on what they see in images are unreliable.

I’m also interested in the topic of translation (and mistranslation). For instance, in my work Translate English into English, I attempted to convey that, in order to make people from different contexts understand something, simply replacing the signifier, also known as the words, is equivalent to doing nothing. And translation is a broad topic; another aspect of it is how mistranslation can potentially lead to the creation of something new; I explored this aspect in the sound art project Around South East Coast And East Coast Karaoke Symphony Orchestra, in which I misinterpreted the sounds of the English language and industrially produced music pieces with my mouth.

I deal with a variety of mediums and formats, including the Web, printed materials, and videos, among others. Currently, my main interest is web-based interactive artwork.

I believe that another feature of my work may be a type of deadpan humor, since I believe that making things humorous is a good way to communicate with an audience and makes my works more approachable. And occasionally I choose to make my work literal as opposed to obscure; this literalness would make the work feel silly and funny. The examples include the works Hatemail and 25 Feet. Humor also plays a significant role in the majority of the previously mentioned works, such as the 2 Collage Projects and Around South East Coast and East Coast Karaoke Symphony Orchestra.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in New Haven, Connecticut, where the New Haven Style pizza is particularly distinctive; I would take guests to BAR (that’s the name of the restaurant, just BAR) in downtown New Haven and order a white pie with mashed potatoes, clams, and eggplants. Because there are lots of Italian immigrant living in the town, there are also lots of other delicious Italian food, especially in the Wooster Square Neighborhood, I would take them to Zeneli, where they have wonderful pizza and pasta, as well as Lucibello’s and Libby’s Italian Pastry Shop, both of which have incredible Italian desserts, and Libby’s also offers authentic Italian Ice and gelato. In the downtown area, there is a bookstore called grey matters where you can get fascinating used books.

I also work in and frequently visit New York City; there are many interesting places in Chinatown, and Jing Fong offers the best Dim Sum in the city. On the second level of the building at 75 East Broadway in Chinatown, there was a bookstore/record store named 2 bridges that I frequently visited, but it has since been permanently closed due to covid. Chop Seuy Club, located at 81 Hester Street, is another intriguing place I occasionally visited; they sell some excellent Chinese art books and interestingly designed clothing.

I particularly enjoy the district surrounding Union Square and Washington Square Park, where there are numerous record stores, bookstores, and used clothing stores, and the streets are pleasant for walking. McNally Jackson books on Prince Street and Printed Matter are two of the most frequented bookstores I visit, both sell some great self-published zines.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to shoutout to Max Harvey. He is the person who first introduced me to graphic design. He taught me the fundamentals of graphic design, his practice and thoughts greatly influenced my worldview.

Website: https://makang.world/

Instagram: @kang_ma_km

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kang-ma-8b5663157/

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