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The public call out for the inaugural CIRCA x Dazed Class of 2021 initiative asked audiences to submit a 2.5 minute film in response to the theme ‘Communion’ set by interdisciplinary artist and lecturer, Angel Rose. After receiving 2,000 applications, we are proud to present the 30 finalists who will each receive access to the Dazed Space and have their work exhibited as part of the CIRCA programme, appearing across public screens in London, Tokyo and Seoul this September.

Expanding on their commitment to help support the talent of tomorrow, CIRCA and Dazed appointed a community of jurors including Cauleen Smith, Frank Lebon, Hugo Comte, Simone Rocha, Dexter Navy, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Michele Lamy to select their top 5 submissions. From this, one lucky finalist will be selected by world renowned performance artist Marina Abramović to receive the #CIRCAECONOMY cash prize of £30,000.

With public art spaces diminishing, investment in arts education being cut and artist communities at risk, this joint initiative aims to empower the next generation of artists working in moving-image by platforming new voices and points of view from local communities on a global level, giving them unrivalled media exposure and the tools to help kick start their careers.

How did you become an artist and what was your route to your current practice?

ZONGBO JIANG:
I have always been interested in the arts since I was young, mainly with drawing and painting. As I got older I began to experiment with different mediums which led me to studying product design and graphic design, which has definitely shaped the way that I currently create. During my studies I was searching for what felt the best way to express myself as an artist. This is something that I discovered when I was studying my Fashion MA at the Royal college of Art, I became aware that fashion is not only about physical garments, fashion could be about community, identity and building a better planet for tomorrow. I was intrigued by the rise of digital fashion and felt a connection with how I could use my skills from previous studies to create the kind of work I wanted to make. This led me to making work around visual activism, creating digital characters which often take strange and comedic forms and placing them in virtually crafted spaces to share topics and issues that are important to me.

What inspires you to make your work?

ZONGBO JIANG:
I take inspiration from observing the aspects of daily life, also watching different documentaries based on issues that we face on our planet. I see my work as visual activism therefore I want to share issues such as the environment, animal rights and mental health with the hope of reaching a wider audience and sparking a change that can in turn hopefully change the planet in a positive way.

Can you identify any elements of your community or collaborators that have had a strong influence?

ZONGBO JIANG:
When making the work I was influenced by a number of different things, for the most part I was influenced by certain documentaries and campaigns. For example, the work of PETA, who’s ethos ‘Animal are Not Ours…’ was particularly important when focusing on the concept of animal rights. I was also heavily influenced by the documentaries ‘The Social Dilemma’ and ‘Our Planet’ when looking at this idea of awareness and how these documentaries reach a wide audience by pairing the beautiful with the truth of the devastation our planet is facing.

Would you consider your practice to have a positive social impact, and if so in what way?

ZONGBO JIANG:
I think that my work has a positive social impact, specifically ‘Dilemmas For Earthlings’ as the project asks people to consider issues based around the environment, mental health and animal rights and think about how we can work together to invoke change to make the planet a better place.

How is your project tied to the Circa x Dazed Class of 20:21 theme of ‘Communion’?:

ZONGBO JIANG:
The work I submitted is titled Dilemmas for Earthlings which presents a digital campaign within a virtual world exploring different issues that are faced on our planet. The piece includes three layers that focus on social issues, animal rights and environmental issues. Through the use of digital characters and spaces the work acts as visual activism to offer an alternative representation of these dilemmas, proffering the hope of change whilst looking to open a conversation about how we can improve the way we all live on this planet as earthlings. The work relates to this idea of communion as it is visualising and sharing these issues that are faced on our planet. Also creating this idea of community and togetherness, which we can use to work together as earthlings to combat these issues and create a world that we can all live peacefully together.

Has your work been recognised by any public bodies or organisations in the past?

ZONGBO JIANG:
My work ‘Dilemmas For Earthlings’ has been featured by a few platforms including; i-D’s article These RCA graduate designers are taking fashion far beyond clothes. Also part of SHOWstudio’s Shortlist: Fashion Design UK Submissions and Dazed as part of the Royal College of Art’s class of 2021 is designing fashion beyond the body article.

How would the #CIRCAECONOMY prize of £30,000 impact your future practice?

ZONGBO JIANG:
The prize would have a big impact on the future of my practice as it would allow me to further support me and allow me to develop my work and this project ‘Dilemmas For Earthlings’. It would mean being able to continue to create more work around this topic, exploring more issues that we face and sharing these to a wider audience possibly through an exhibition or immersive space. I would be able to explore further methods within the digital space in terms of creation, but also how my work can be viewed and experienced, to be used as a way to share the issues my work discusses in this alternative digital world.

What would you do with the money?

ZONGBO JIANG:
If I were to win the money, I would like to give a percentage of the winnings to charities based around the issues that my work discusses; the environment, human and animal rights. Secondly, to support my practice as I continue to make work sharing different issues that are faced on our planet, raising and spreading awareness. Lastly, I would like to give some money to my collaborator and sound designer Menex for his part in the project.

If you are awarded the #CIRCAECONOMY prize, how might this affect your community?

ZONGBO JIANG:
As an artist and designer creating work as visual activism, I think that being awarded the prize will have a positive effect on the community. As an alternative form of showing the issues to how they are usually portrayed, the work will be seen by a wider audience and ask more people to consider their actions and what is happening within our planet. The increase in awareness to different groups of people will contribute to the goal of the activism community.