Artist dreams of keeping paper culture alive in paperless era
Merger of tradition and AI path to future
Published: Jun 05, 2023 12:39 AM
Photo: Courtesy of Liu Liu

Photo: Courtesy of Liu Liu

Going paperless has become extremely popular both at home and the office, the downside, however, is being discussed among many Chinese intangible cultural inheritors and artists for its impact on a special type of traditional Chinese culture. 

Paper culture refers to various arts, techniques, traditions and customs related to paper, which has played an important role in Chinese history. Paper is not only a carrier for writing and printing, but it is a symbol, representing the wisdom and civilization of China. 

While going paperless is eco-friendly, it has to be admitted that it has also had some negative impact on Chinese paper culture, such as leading to the decline of paper art, disrupting the preservation of paper documents and weakening people's connection with paper.

For Liu Liu, a young female artist renowned for her contributions to the ancient art of paper cutting, she's been looking for ways to ensure this tradition, which is rooted in paper culture, continues to thrive. 

In an interview Liu shared her vision of the future of paper cutting, in which AI technology is incorporated with tradition. 

Paper cutting involves using scissors or a carving knife to craft patterns on paper. The artist starts by establishing a theme and gathering the necessary materials. Then, they draft and refine the design using a pencil on white paper. The sketch is then transferred onto Xuan paper, a traditional type of Chinese paper, and then the pattern is cut out. Finally, the finished piece is mounted on a scroll using spray adhesive.

"My vision is to synergize the ancient art of paper cutting with AI technology, like OpenAI's GPT-3, to create innovative and engaging artistic experiences. By encouraging more people to engage with this niche culture, we could increase its international recognition and contributions, providing a spiritual refuge in an uncertain future," she said.

"In an age dominated by AI and high-speed information, paper culture can offer a sanctuary for the soul." 

Chinese artist Liu Liu teaches children paper cutting. Photo: Courtesy of Liu Liu

Chinese artist Liu Liu teaches children paper cutting. Photo: Courtesy of Liu Liu

She also created the Zodiac Fun Experience, an innovative work with 12 unique boxes, each representing a different Chinese zodiac sign, a playful way to engage people in the culture carried by paper.

"The Paper Cutting Garden is another creation of mine, which serves as a stress relief kit. I wanted it to serve as an outlet for busy individuals to not only decompress but also to connect with the ancient art of paper cutting."

Yet the road toward innovation hasn't always been smooth. Some people have told her the pursuit is the modern-day equivalent of Don Quixote's futile fight against windmills.

But for Liu, it's a noble mission. "I'm bearing the lance of the ancient art of paper cutting, facing the windmill of AI technology. It's my lifelong dream and mission to see the sparks fly from the collision between the old and the new, ensuring the continuance of paper culture in the digital era," she said.

"I feel a duty to safeguard and develop our traditions while infusing them with fresh elements. I aim to spark the interest of the younger generation by not just focusing on the crafting process, but also paying close attention to social changes."