Vanguard animation program brings iconoclast of Chinese independent animation into the fold.
LOS ANGELES -- The California Institute of the Arts announced that independent animator Lei Lei joined the faculty of the Experimental Animation Program in the spring semester of 2018.
An internationally celebrated artist, Lei has distinguished himself at numerous festivals and residencies abroad, producing work with a bold sense of color and movement. His work, which is often handcrafted, integrates elements of video arts, painting and installation art, and bears an unmistakable sense of intimacy and texture.
An alumnus of Tsingua University in Beijing, Lei is a notable figure in the international experimental animation community since his explosive collaboration with Thomas Sauvin, Recycled in 2013, which won the grand prix at the Holland International Animation Film Festival. Since then, Lei’s films have won awards at festivals around the world, including best narrative short at Ottawa International Animation Festival in 2010 and the Silver Dove award at DOK Leipzig in 2015.
Lei’s work has been featured in exhibitions throughout East Asia, Europe, North America and Australia, and he has completed several artist residencies, including Yaddo, the ACC Cai fellowship, and La Bande Video in Quebec, Canada. He has consistently emphasized cultivating artistic relationships both within China and abroad.
“Joining the faculty at CalArts feels like a logical progression to me,” said Lei Lei. “After studying in China, I ventured into the international festival scene, and from there I began to explore artist-in-residency programs abroad. I have always enjoyed meeting and working with artists abroad. CalArts is famous as the home of animators and artists who prefer to buck trends and break the rules. I’ve always felt the same way; what is popular or in vogue does not mean as much to me as exploring my ideas. It is a community, but one that emphasizes creative choice and uniqueness. I’m a Gemini, and I feel that I live within contradictions like these. For this reason, I think CalArts is a good fit and I am excited to see what students are working on there.”
“From the very outset of his career, Lei Lei has established himself as a fiercely non-conformist filmmaker,” said Leighton Pierce, the dean of the School of Film and Video at CalArts. “At the festivals where his work is recognized, he’s consistently side-stepping the trends in favor of lending expression to a unique and independent point of view. I think that’s exactly why he’s been so widely celebrated and it makes him a perfect fit for the Experimental Animation program at CalArts.”
Though he has worked extensively in short form animation, Lei Lei’s most recent work is feature length project entitled Ningdu, which is in development. Ningdu combines illustration, collage, archival photographs and historical footage to tell the story of Lei Lei’s grandfather, Lei Ting. Extending from the techniques first explored in Recycled, Ningdu fuses research and imagination, as Lei explores modern Chinese identity through the lens of his own family history. Lei Lei enlisted the help both Lei Ting and his father, Lei Jiaqi, in producing the piece, which lends the film a quiet intimacy and emotional resonance.