【REVIEW】Sensation(Remix): When Artworks Meet the Gaze of the Audience
於今年5月20日開幕，在羅東文化工場舉辦的當代新媒體藝術展覽「感覺重混 Sensation(Remix)」的策展論述中，引用了新媒體藝術研究者列夫．曼諾維奇（Lev Manovich）在《新媒體的語言》（The Language of New Media）一書中的論述：
此番宣告的徵引，標誌此展覽不僅有向大眾引介與思考新媒體藝術的使命，同時也叩問著台灣新媒體藝術當前的發展。在同一本書中，曼諾維奇更提及1995年的電子藝術節（Ars Electronica Festival），將「計算機影像」（computer graphics）的分類以「網絡藝術」（net art）取代一事。他認為這個轉變代表的正是計算機不再只是生產工具，而是一種媒體機器（media machine），以及其與觀者之間的互動性表現。
Opening on May 20th this year(2023), in the curatorial statement of the contemporary new media art exhibition Sensation(Remix) held at the Luodong Culture Working House, a paragraph from the new media art researcher Lev Manovich’s book The Language of New Media is cited. “The new media creation of the time seems to continually reference past media content, artistic styles, and forms. ‘rather than assembling more media recordings of reality, culture is now busy reworking, recombining, and analyzing already accumulated media material.’ In this case, can artistic creation continuously update itself? The answer is undoubted yes, and perhaps this approach is even more closely related to contemporary life and more effective in conveying content than mere representation.”
The quotation symbolizes that the exhibition not only has the mission to introduce new media art to the public and contemplate on this genre, but also questions the current development of new media art in Taiwan. In the same book, Manovich further mentions the 1995 Ars Electronica Festival, where the category of ‘computer graphics’ was replaced by ‘net art’. He believes that this transformation signifies computers are no longer just production tools, but are media machines that interact with viewers.
‘Interactivity’ has always been a keyword for ‘new media art.’ It does not only refer to the actual participation of the audience in changing the physical state or presentation form of the artwork. In addition, it includes the interaction where “when the audience actively engages in viewing and understanding, the face of the artwork that greets the audience will change.” The audience believes they have actively participated in the assembly, but in fact, the artwork has also restructured the audience’s cognition.
Take two pieces of work from this exhibition as examples. One is The Daily Moments by Lin Che-Yu. Lin designed a device to attract the audience to act, allowing the audience to determine the content of the images presented on the screen. At the same time, in the same space, the hand in the image adjusts the switch in the image in two other sets of images, forming a self-directed and self-performed situation where the image itself would be turned on/off as the hand in the image adjusts.
The other is Awakening by Hu Ching-Chuan. Hu divided the space with a floor-to-ceiling window, outside of which are real plants, and inside of which several heavily counterfeit-implying objects are placed: aluminum wires wrap around the window frame and extend to the interior to create a fluid effect; a 3D scanned plant image is stripped of its original material and replaced with a mirror-reflective material, creating a static image with reflective light and shadow; and a few fluid models that mimic the visual texture of objects in the space. However, once the audience collects these pieces of information from the space and forms a real/fake distinction, the unexpected knock triggered by the kinetic installation outside the window begins the transformation: the plants outside, originally deemed real, gain a layer of fictional implication, the transparent window leading to the outside becomes a screen for projected illusions, obstructing the view, while the intentionally fictional and even mirror-like objects inside respond to the transparent/mirror transformation, enveloping a pseudo-real atmosphere that puts the audience into an illusion where “fiction becomes truth when pretending to be true”.
In fact, in recent years, Taiwan’s new media art no longer uses virtual to understand image creation, the boundary between reality and fiction is gradually loosening, and artists begin to answer through their creations “why do we regard something as ‘real’ while rejecting others”. From Lin Che-Yu’s The Daily Moments, it can be seen that the switch of the light has never been just a physical fact, but also a symbol involving cognition. What determines what we see or do not see is not optical fact, but viewing cognition, which is what you want to see, what you think you can see, and what you believe you can see.
The switch in The Daily Moments also reflects this point. How should viewers in the exhibition space discern that this object hanging from above is not part of the “do not touch” artwork, but an invitation for “welcome interaction”. I once discussed this issue with the artist, and he gave a thought-provoking response: you can’t let the audience feel that this mechanism is too obvious to touch, but at the same time, you can’t over-design it otherwise the audience will be completely afraid to touch it. It is precisely because the artist grasped the ambiguous scale between touch and non-touch that when the audience breaks through psychological boundaries to pull and tug, a real viewing cognition leap can occur.
Viewing this exhibition as a whole, six groups of young artists were invited, with a total of ten works exhibited, divided into three categories by the curator: direction, scale, and boundary. The aforementioned two pieces of work are classified under “boundary”. In other words, the so-called “sensory remixing” is not just a change in the arrangement of existing perceptual content, but also a reorganization of existing perceptual frameworks, and even a destruction of these frameworks, enabling the audience to perceive things that were originally outside their perception range.
In this regard, the reason “new media art” is considered “new” is not only because the creative medium itself involves “newness in technology” such as computational technology and virtual imaging, but also how artists, through the use of (or creation of) media that the audience must actively participate in, can make the audience realize the process of perceptual modes being reshaped during participation in the form of creation.
In fact, we can see that most of the works in this exhibition are more like “video installations”, and Manovich has already hinted at us that we may be limited by traditional perceptual frameworks (imagination of media), thus narrowing our understanding of new technological expressions. Conversely, since the new/old nature of technology does not necessarily equate to the new/old of perception, this group of artists demonstrates how to use not overly complicated technology to achieve the manipulation of audience awareness in terms of “cognitive mode/direction” and “cognitive content”.
As we see in Single-Storey Building by Su Tsan-Yuan, categorized under “direction”, the artist constructed a four-channel device that produces an infinite mirror effect when viewers look up. This allows viewers to create an infinitely extending depth of view under the premise of realizing the physical scale of the installation —— new media artists not only manufacture illusions for viewing, but also make viewers aware that they are in the midst of an illusion, as well as the foundation on which their perception is established.
(Translated by ChatGPT May 24 Version, edited by Lee Chia-Lin)
Chao’s master thesis focuses on Buddhism in the Ming Dynasty and Neo-Confucianism during the Song and Ming dynasties. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Fine Arts at Taipei National University of the Arts, with his research on the ethical dimensions of image about individual/collective trauma. His articles can be found among the fan page 藏書閣, filmaholic.tw(釀電影) , BIOS monthly, and Funscreen. He also runs a podcast named “字戀男與變焦女”. Chao is a member of the 5th Golden Horse Asian Cinema Observer Group.