The California Institute of the Arts announced that independent animator Lei Lei has joined its Experimental Animation Program faculty in the spring 2018 semester. An internationally celebrated artist, Lei has distinguished himself at festivals and artist residencies around the world with his bold sense of color and movement, sense of texture and blending of techniques and elements.
Lei is an alumnus of Tsinghua University in Beijing, and has made a name on the international animation scene since his collaboration with Thomas Sauvin, Recycled (2013), which won the Grand Prix as the Holland Animation Film Festival. He has gone on to earn honors at prestigious competitions including the Ottawa International Animation Festival (Best Narrative Short 2010, This Is Love) and DOK Leipzig (Silver Dove 2015, Missing One Player). Lei has been featured in exhibits throughout East Asia, Europe, North America and Australia, and has completed residencies including Yando, the ACC Cai fellowship and La Bande Video.
“Joining the faculty at CalArts feels like a logical progression to me,” said 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.”
Lei is currently developing a feature length project, Ningdu, which 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. The artist enlisted the help both Lei Ting and his father, Lei Jiaqi, in producing the piece.
“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.”