Sun, Jul 18, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Art's digitized future on show in Taichung

By Adam Ulfers  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Digital art in a dining-room setting.

PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL TAIWAN MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

The National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts in Taichung has finally reopened with its first exhibition since the 921 earthquake, titled Navigator -- Digital Art in the Making.

It's a progressive art display that displays the works of 18 artists from around the world, five of whom are from Taiwan. What is unique about it is that artistic creativity and expression has been lifted from the canvas and is instead digitally projected.

With the use of sophisticated digital-media technology, the museum-wide show is a look at the cutting-edge future of art, incorporating academic research, new technologies, and an avant-garde style that promotes audience participation.

According to the museum curator, Wang Jun-Jieh (王俊傑), "This exhibition of digital media will be a major event not only in Taiwan, but in all of Southeast Asia."

The works range from studies on emerging relationships between technology, humans and nature, to others involving computer manipulation requiring proficiency beyond the grasp of computer illiterates.

What is consistent throughout is the commitment to convince audiences of all ages, educational backgrounds, and artistic savvy that in digital art there is an emerging avenue for ideas, themes, inspiration and enjoyment for the artist and viewer.

An interesting attraction is Japanese artist Masaki Fujihata's Beyond Pages. The highly technical work, which is already considered a classic among digital-art collections, delves into the idea that the loss of cultural identity, an insurmountable threat to the environment and newly developed relationships to humanity have been the effects of technology.

A book is projected onto a desk in the middle of the room. Using a digital pen found on the desk the viewer can operate a lamp, a door projected onto an adjacent wall, as well as manipulate other projected objects such as a glass of water, leaves, an apple and Japanese characters -- the controls for each found on separate pages of the book.

A somewhat more disconcerting work is UCLA Media Arts professor Christian Moeller's Smiles. The piece focuses on the habitual hypocrisy employed through body language and illustrates the human capacity to maintain the pretext.

After vigorous interviews, six women were monitored by a machine, an emotion recognition system to be exact, and asked to smile for 90 minutes, all the while being video taped. Any lack of sincerity is recognized and displayed by the system through the use of a color code. If a lack is detected, an alarm sounds to alert the women to continue to display a "genuine" emotion.

It's obvious that the technology is imperfect, as the participants seem to be struggling as much as those straining to watch them.

In Pulsate, Sachiko Kodama has delivered an interactive magnetic soup with personality. In the middle of a white room stands a dinner table, set for two, covered in a pink tablecloth. Served for dinner is what a hungry patron might mistake for a bowl of chocolate or black bean soup. It is however, a magnetic fluid that responds to auditory gravitational discrepancies.

The work illustrates the expected accommodating interaction between the would-be dinner guests, portrayed by the black soup's symmetrical character transformations.

One of the most recent works on display is German art group ART+COM's Floating.Numbers. A stream of digits floats across an extended table and responds to touch, each disclosing a different secret message.

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