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Digital Art Festival Taipei explores human-technology interaction

By Yali Chen
In 2019, the Digital Art Festival Taipei enters its 14th year. Themed “#RTS:ReTranSens,” the event features a selection of 17 artworks from Taiwan and overseas to explore the relationship between humans and technology.
Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DOCA) invited MOCA Taipei Director Loh Li-chen (駱麗真) and Chen Hsiang-wen (陳湘汶) to serve as curator and co-curator of this year’s festival. It ran until November 10 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei (MOCA Taipei).
“Rapidly evolving digital technologies change people’s perceptions of the world and create new values,” said Loh. The festival aims to explore the following issues: how artificial intelligence affects people’s perceptions of the world, how artists integrate their imagination of technological life and the future into their creations, and how they blend the physical and virtual worlds through art and technology.
Photo from MOCA Taipei
Photo from MOCA Taipei
The MOCA Taipei Director Loh Li-chen (fourth from left in the second row) with artists from Taiwan and overseas at the opening ceremony of the Digital Art Festival Taipei on October 25.

Unlike traditional creations, almost every artwork at the festival was designed for some form of viewer interaction. They range from the obvious — virtual reality (VR) technology — to the more experimental — brain waves and blockchain.
The Taipei event was an important platform for digital art exchanges at home and abroad. The two curators invited five digital artists and groups from the U.K., France, Germany, Japan, and South Korea to showcase their artworks in Taipei.
The evolution of a city has become an important indicator of modern industrialization and its impact on society. Emotive City, created by two artists of the Minimaforms from the U.K., explored a model that enabled social interactions among the public. Those interactions then affect how a city self-organizes, adapts and evolves.
In 2002, brothers Stephen and Theodore Spyropoulos co-founded their experimental art, architecture and design studio Minimaforms. Using design as a mode of enquiry, the artists launched a wide variety of projects to explore new forms of communication. Embracing a generative and behavioral approach, they built participatory and interactive frameworks in daily life. Their works have been collected by international art and architecture institutions.
Economic and Human Values
Value of Values (VoV) is a blockchain-based art project. It is a collaboration between French artist Maurice Benayoun (aka MoBen), German artist Tobias Klein, Colombian artist Nicolas Mendoza, and French composer Jean-Baptiste Barriere, with the support of the City University of Hong Kong, School of Creative Media, ACIM Fellowship and MindSpaces (a stARTS LightHouse EU project), and MindSpaces HK (a City U RGC grant).
The project aims to discover the real, economic value of human values through EEG (Electroencephalography) and biofeedback. In VoV, the resulting shapes are presented within the context of an “ethical realism” – an objective representation of individual and collective hierarchy of values.
VoV is an extension of the acclaimed Brain Factory project that deals with a wide range of abstract concepts. On the other hand, VoV gives shape to human values.
During the exhibition, a visitor could become an artist by giving shape to ideas, or a curator validating models and abstract concepts, or a collector who keeps freshly minted tokens, or an art dealer selling or bartering pieces of one’s collection of values for more “valuable” ones.
The DSPS band and Whyixd design team perform at the opening ceremony of the Festival.
Photo from MOCA Taipei
The DSPS band and Whyixd design team perform at the opening ceremony of the Festival.
Zone Eater, a creation of Japanese artist Shota Yamauchi, is an experience-based VR creation using head-mounted displays. Made from 3D scanning technology, slightly weird looking characters appear in a room.
In Zone Eater, players use VR controllers to enter the “soul” of a character and perform actions by that character. Through character design, the game plays with the concept of a mysterious valley. The player imagines humanoids that imperfectly resemble people and could trigger feelings of revulsion and eeriness.
In 2016, Yamauchi graduated from the Department of Film and New Media at Tokyo University of the Arts. He studied sculpture and film making in college. His recent creations use real-life videos to depict the world around him. These productions also branch out into 3D animations and sculptures made from oil-based clays.
Thoughts visualized
Ka Hee Jeong’s goal for her White Bears project is to create an object from thoughts that people want to erase from their minds. By using a portable EEG-reader, the Korean artist captured eight different channels of a participant’s brain activation while asking him or her to actively engage in thought suppression.
Jeong is a curator now living and working in Berlin. She studied at Kaywon School of Art and Design in South Korea and Berlin University of the Arts in Germany.
The idea behind her White Bears project is the visualization of thoughts that are unpredictable and affect people’s lives. Jeong integrated philosophy, neuroscience, literature and methodologies, as well as 3D printing, video, and installation into her work.
Simulated Life
Driven by algorithmic predictions and originally used in computer games and for special effects in blockbuster movies, “Simulated Life” has increasingly influenced many aspects of the real world. Part of larger works by Clemens von Wedemeyer, the video explores the psychology and aesthetics of the crowd.
From urban planning to disaster evacuation plans, market forecasts and crowd control, algorithmically simulated scenarios produce real world policies and events.
Using a wide variety of images including film footages and simulations of crowd control software, Transformation Scenario is a meditation on “simulated life” and the increasingly blurred distinctions between real and virtual experiences.
Born in 1974 in Göttingen, Germany, Wedemeyer now lives and works in Berlin, holding a professorship for media art at the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig. His films and video installations have been shown in the Documenta 13, Skulptur Projekte Münster, and Berlin Biennale.
Taiwanese artists showcase their creations
One viewer manipulates an interactive art installation with a sensor and head-mounted device at the MOCA Taipei.
Photo from MOCA Taipei
One viewer manipulates an interactive art installation with a sensor and head-mounted device at the MOCA Taipei.
The curators also invited 10 Taiwanese artists to showcase their creations at the MOCA Taipei. They include Whyixd’s (何理) Channels (頻道); Su Hui-yu’s (蘇匯宇) A Future from the Past: Alvin Toffler, computer OLIVER and An Overview of Expo 70 (來自過去的未來:Alvin Toffler、OLIVER與EXPO俯視圖); Ku Kuang-yi’s (顧廣毅) Millennium Ginseng Project (千年人參計畫); Semi Su’s (蘇紳源) Lines – Online (界・在線); Wu Tzu-ning’s (吳梓寧) Metaverse 2.0 (魅塌域2.0); Hung Yu-hao’s (洪譽豪) The Hallway of City No.1 (城市穿廊計畫No.1); Huang Han-po’s (黃翰柏) Wandering Through the Aisles (遊蕩通道); Hsu Chun-cheng Laboratory’s (許峻誠實驗室) Bio I/O; Olifa Hsieh’s (謝瀞瑩) Melody of Motion (聲洄); and Lee Chia-hsiang’s (李家祥) Voronoi Guess 2 (沃羅諾伊的猜想2).
Themes of surveillance, control and dehumanization are still in the cards, such as in Su’s Lines – Online, which uses computer vision, surveillance system, and 3D rendering to convert museum visitors into “data subjects.” The work reflects the basic operational process of analysis and classification carried out by one of the data subjects.
In 2015, Su graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His creations explored the interaction between technology, natural environment and human behavior in contemporary society. Through the integration of different media and modern technologies, the artist examined the interconnection between real and virtual experiences, as well as its impact on society.
Doomsday narratives and scenarios can deepen a sense of humanity. Wu’s Metaverse 2.0 combines VR, AR (augmented reality), and MR (mixed reality) to plunge viewers into a wasteland filled with the detritus of civilization and its memories. The work provokes a reflection on the value of objects in everyday life.
The word “metaverse” is a combination of the prefix “meta” (meaning “beyond”) and “universe.” It was first coined in Neal Stephenson’s science fiction novel Snow Crash in 1992. The novel depicts humans as avatars who interact with each other in a 3D space, the metaphor of the real world.
The term is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the Internet. It is made up of persistent, shared, and 3D virtual space linked to a perceived virtual universe.
In 2018, Wu launched her art project “Doomsday School.” With her work Metaverse 2.0, the artist tried to discuss the technical essence of VR, AR and MR. She also combined 3D scanning technology to create a virtual ark, exploring the preservation of cultural assets and the means of survival when doomsday arrives.
Lee’s Voronoi Guess 2 uses a Voronoi diagram to produce a stained glass window-lookalike on the wall of the MOCA Taipei. Voronoi is an algorithm that partitions a plane into sections. Voronoi Guess 2 displays the artist’s exploration of combining Voronoi partition and origami. Viewers can manipulate its appearance with a sensor to create surprisingly beautiful configurations.