AADTHU Arts & Humanities Series Lecture,Adapting and Leading: Value and Mission of Arts & Design in the New Era

On the afternoon of December 29, 2020, Professor Lu Xiaobo, Dean of Tsinghua University Academy of Arts & Design (AADTHU), Doctoral Supervisor, Director of Tsinghua University Art & Science Research Center, Director of the Teaching Steering Committee of the Design Major of the Ministry of Education, Convener of the Design Discipline of the Discipline Evaluation Group of the State Council, and Vice Chairman of the China Artists Association delivered a great lecture themed “Adapting and Leading: Value and Mission of Arts & Design in the New Era”, as an AADTHU Arts & Humanities Series lecture.

Lu Xiaobo, Dean of AADTHU

In his lecture, Dean Lu Xiaobo started his discussion from the topic of whether art will come to an end, reviewed the important trend of thoughts and paradigm shift of arts, talked about the important development history and cultural concept of design, and mused over the value and mission of today’s arts & design discipline against the backdrop of the post-pandemic era when China is embracing for new development pattern 40 years after initiating Reform and Opening-up.

When interpreting the new era, Dean Lu Xiaobo mentioned the scientific and technological revolution, the industrial revolution, the influence of the novel coronavirus, and touched upon Yuval Noah Harari’s new book The World After Coronavirus. In what he called an unprecedentedly profound reflection by human beings, Dean Lu proposed that the arts & design education system must adapt to the changes of the times, and play a leading role. To “adapt”, we should undertake four major missions: talent training, social service, scientific research, and cultural inheritance and innovation, among which talent training should be the focus of the education system. Despite changes in the concept of education, the significance of education still lies in  people’s improved ability and their enlightened mind.

Dean Lu Xiaobo believes that the future world will be extensively interconnected allowing for more thorough perception and deeper application of intelligence technologies. To make this a reality, we connect people to people, things to things, people to things together based on  not only natural logic, but also  the logic of society and humanities and social sciences, so that we can devote ourselves to creating a harmonious society with innovative values.

Dean Lu Xiaobo walked the audience through the important schools of art including ancient Greek art, Renaissance art, Impressionism, German Expressionism, Non-representationism, Cubism and Surrealism, and their underlying reasons for evolution. At the same time, Prof. Lu talked about the concept of “the End of Art” represented by Duchamp and Danto, as well as some puzzling eye-catching forms of “art”. Despite the great diversity of artistic expressions, and the constant changes in artistic paradigms and trends of thought, Dean Lu Xiaobo believes that art should seek new possibilities, including the transformation of ideas, cognitive methods, media and aesthetic experiences. The goal of art is not about producing large-scale and eye-catching works, but more about helping people shape values, cultivate aesthetic tastes and gain more in their spiritual world.

With regard to design, Dean Lu Xiaobo thinks that design is a general term for the process of overall planning of things, and that we can see the target concept, planning and implementation  of any creative activities as design. Design stresses the integrated technical and artistic creation with goals and plans. Therefore, design means forerunning ideas for the emergence of man-made things. The mission of design is to solve problems. At the same time, design is also a measure to achieve balance and a process of relationship coordination. Nowadays, we are facing more complicated and prominent problems and challenges, such as environmental pollution, resource depletion, population explosion, technological impact, transformation of consumption patterns and lifestyles, and challenges to human health, as Dean Lu Xiaobo listed. He also pointed out that “people” in the concept of  “people-oriented” design refers to  not only the people of our generation, but also  of future generations, and peoples in other different countries, regions, ethnic groups, and cultures, as it is a concept of “the community of shared futures for mankind”. Different times and different social backgrounds give rise to different problems, so the core mission of design has been constantly evolving. However, such evolution is not disruptive, but the changes in emphasis with different development periods.

After enumerating many excellent design cases of designers from all over the world responding to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and the real contemporary social needs, Dean Lu Xiaobo noted that what we need is wisdom, soul and determination. Arts & design drive innovation with scientific spirit and humanistic feelings, while the development of the discipline, the innovation of arts & design and the creation of a better life all call for human wisdom.

Dean Lu Xiaobo concluded his lecture with the following remarks, “Accompanying the profound changes unseen in a century is the coexistence of risks and opportunities. We need to adapt and to lead.” He called on teachers and students in Tsinghua University to cope with the profound changes in the world together and make our unique contributions to leading the development of the world.

Following the one-and-a-half-hour lecture, the teachers and students present asked questions and expressed their gratitude to Dean Lu Xiaobo while exchanging their reflections on the lecture content. Professor Zhang Lei, a former student of Dean Lu Xiaobo, and the current director of AADTHU’s Department of Industrial Design, thanked Dean Lu for his teaching and guidance over many years. Meanwhile, Professor Wu Shizhong, a doctoral supervisor of AADTHU’s Department of Information Art and Design, also asked Dean Lu about the problem of “predicting the future  direction of arts & design”. Two students asked Dean Lu about “whether technical posts will be gradually replaced by artificial intelligence, how designers should respond” and “how we should better integrate arts & design with science and technology”. Dean Lu Xiaobo responded to these questions one by one.

“AADTHU Arts & Humanities Series Lectures” are delivered by senior professors and famous academics invited from the field of arts and humanities, aiming at building a frontier academic exchange platform, timely perceiving the new trend of the times, and actively exploring new ideas, new directions and new models for the development and research of arts & humanities. Based on the concept of liberal education, the series of lectures are open to teachers and students in Tsinghua University as well as the public by both online and offline channels.