Crossing Boundaries: Taiwan’s Presence at Ars Electronica

KuoHsuehHu, credit: Wen-Chieh Chang

The intersection of technology, art and culture takes center stage at the Ars Electronica Festival. An innovative and somewhat different perspective on this theme is promised by the numerous Taiwanese art projects in 2023. The Taiwan focus invites visitors on a captivating journey into the world of creativity, innovation and intercultural exchange. With a series of fascinating performances, thought-provoking panels, and impressive exhibitions, Taiwan’s dynamic presence at the festival is a testament to its rich artistic and technological heritage.

In the special ambience of the Mariendom, the media dance performance Mirage Replicas 2.0 by Yen Tzu Chang can be experienced during the Ars Electronica Festival. In her performance, the artist addresses generational differences within a family and culture in the form of her father’s story about catching a golden bat. Following Michel Foucault’s idea of heterotopia, a multilayered space is created using various technologies such as AI-generated visuals. The technical research and development were realized with the support of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). The motif of bats is presented based on sound data up to projected images to convey the artist’s memories and cultural perspectives. Dancers react to the interactive images and take on diverse roles – from bat researcher to artist to Goddess. Some of the visual elements of the work are generated by artificial intelligence, thus Yen Tzu Chang questions the influence of AI on cultural knowledge and seeks ways to preserve diverse human ideas in an AI-dominated era.

The Taiwanese presence cannot escape notice at the Ars Electronica Campus either. At the University of Arts Linz, the Taipei National University of Arts is represented as Featured University of the Festival and is showing its exhibition in the Splace under the title Epicentrum. This theme highlights Taiwan’s special location in the midst of a tense global situation and geologically at the intersection of tectonic plates. The exhibition explores how media art in Taiwan becomes a node where vibrations occur. Notable works include Data Verse Taipei 02, where local Internet data is used to create an immersive experience, and Raw ⇆ Ripened ⇆ Happiness, which seeks to clarify the colonial viewing system.

In addition, Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University, Center for Technology and Art, is part of the campus exhibition at POSTCITY. The exhibition is titled A Face Drawn in Sand and deals with a prediction by Michel Foucault that if the design of the knowledge system changes, the human age will also end – like a face drawn in sand. Thus, in keeping with the festival theme, the work From Post-Truth to AI-Truth elaborates on the question of who defines truth. In contrast, Cybermove explores a method that allows us to escape into a virtual world, and Exchange between Reality & Virtuality lets the audience decide – virtual or real?

A sensory experience awaits visitors to the Ars Electronica Garden Exhibition – likewise in the POSTCITY – with Sensory Voyage: Taiwan’s Metaverse Exploration by the Formosa Virtual and Physical Media Integration Association, realized with the support of the Department of Cultural Affairs Taipei City Government. Interactive installations, animations, and digital narratives not only showcase the rich diversity of Taiwanese culture, but also allow visitors to question their perceptions of reality and truth through the lens of technology and art. Samsara – Honorary Mention of the Prix Ars Electronica 2022 – by curator and artist Hsin-Chien Huang takes us into a future where we try to leave a destroyed earth. Will we succeed? Or are the past, present and future too closely intertwined? Together with artist Wen-Chieh Chang, Huang conveys unique impressions of Taiwan in Kuo Hsueh-Hu: The Reminiscence of Taiwan in His Heart, which will surely move the audience as well. Mirror by De-Chuen Wu, whose last work won the 2021 Best Animation Shorts, takes us into a dream world in which three tin toys take turns. Trapped, they cannot free themselves. But these are just a few of the numerous contributions that invite us on a sensory journey at Garden Formosa. At the center stands the festival question: To whom does the truth really belong? For those interested, an Open Ceremony will be held for the exhibition on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, offering a deep insight into the Taiwanese perspective on contemporary issues. Visually, the impressive grandeur of Taiwan will be brought to life through projections of AI landscapes onto a six meters high screen, while a tea table will allow visitors to “taste” the essence of the virtual vision.

On Saturday – the Dare the Truth Day – the Taiwanese view is also represented during the conferences of the festival: Audrey Tang, Minister of Digital Affairs in Taiwan will be part of the theme symposium The End of Truth. The panel discussion on the topic The Future of Democracy in the Age of AI will address, among other issues, questions at the nexus of misinformation and democracy: Who owns the truth and how does the interpretive authority over truth affect our idea of democracy? What is fact and what is fiction? What are the implications/dangers of AI for democracy? How is technological progress changing our relationship to truth? And: Is the end of truth near?

Apart from that, in the panel Not your data? Open relationship between culture and technology, presented by the Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA), you can get into conversation with five artists – Hsin-Chien Huang (TW), Zi-Yin Chen(TW) & Hsiang-Feng Chuang(TW), Feng Chuang(TW), Hui-Ching KO (TW), Yen-Lin Huang (TW) and Aurélien Dirler (FR). Thematically, the impact of data ownership on creativity and culture will be addressed. How should cultural content be balanced between commercial interests and social needs? With the comprehensive and full support of the Ministry of Culture Taiwan, from cultivating creativity to international networking, Taiwan strives to make connections, promote exchanges, and foster cross-border cooperation.

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More about the highlights of the 2023 Ars Electronica Festival can be found here. Details will be continuously published online.

More about the details of the 2023 Taiwanese artworks, performance and events in the Festival can be found the TAICCA website.

“The Garden Formosa” is supported by Department of Cultural Affairs Taipei City Government.
“The panel Not your data? Open relationship between culture and technology” is presented by the Taiwan Creative Content Agency.
“Mirage Replicas 2.0” is realized with the support of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI)
All Taiwanese exhibitions, performances and events are supported by the Ministry of Culture, Taiwan.

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