Stage design by James Cui

profile / alumni / illustration
November 05, 2019
By: Jamie Wetherbe

Stage of Life: Meet Freelance Artist James (Fader) Cui

ArtCenter: What are you working on right now?
James Cui (VJ Fader) (BFA 02 Illustration):
I’m doing a stage design for an EDM festival in Myanmar. I’m also working with an architect to create a video installation piece for the new LG headquarters near Manhattan — it’s a video wall made of two wide LG displays that will show six computer-generated animations. I never know where my work is headed. When you freelance, you don’t know what’s next.

AC:What’s the design cliché you’re most tempted to use?
JC: Abstract. I worked as a VJ for a long time, and a lot of the animations I used were abstract motions graphics. It fits very well with electronic dance music

AC: How do you define success?
JC: Having complete creative freedom.

AC: What’s the one tool you can’t do without?
JC: A computer.

AC: Where do you go (online or offline) when you’re taking a break?
JC: I watch shows or movies, or play video games — all bad habits.

James Cui
Stage design by James Cui

AC: What do you do to detox from media and screens?
JC: I’ll take a short trip to another city or go camping, and I won’t bring my laptop — that’s a good break from work.

AC: Who are the most interesting designers working today?
JC: Olafur Eliasson who does sculptures and large-scale installations, and Anish Kapoor, who designed Cloud Gate or “The Bean” in Chicago.

AC: Describe a moment in your childhood where you first identified as a designer.
JC: I studied illustration, so I never considered myself a designer in the traditional sense. I feel like that happened after I graduated, when I started designing websites and stages for shows. But when I was a kid, I wasn’t thinking about any of the things I work on now.

AC: What’s the most unique thing you’ve created?
JC: I worked on an app called EDMT— it’s an audio-visual toy. It won the App Art Award at the ZKM in Karlsruhe Germany in 2015, so it’s officially “art.” From that project, I got into some VR stuff. I recently attempted to create a VR experience, and now it’s turning into a game. I’m applying for some game funding here in Germany, so we’ll see.

design by James Cui

Alumni Q&A

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AC: What’s your most irrational or rational fear?
JC: The fear of instability. I’m constantly thinking about how to make a living and what I want to do next. These are questions you ask yourself more often when you’re a freelancer. My last full-time job was about 10 years ago, so I never know what will happen work-wise or project-wise.

AC: Where is your happy place?
JC: Staying home is pretty good, hiding.

AC: What’s your best piece of advice for an ArtCenter student who’s interested in following your career path?
JC: I’m still figuring out my career path in a way. I was a VJ, and I saw it as an art form in itself, a form of visual communication to a live audience. From doing that, I moved into stage design, which is a very niche job. Not many people in the world do it, and it’s not something they teach.