We are in a digital age, where codes, programming, networks, and algorithms are crisscrossed, they are overwhelming, but invisible.
If they could all be seen, what kind of wonderful sight would it be?
The large-scale digital art exhibition recently opened in Beijing- "Immaterial/Re-material: A Brief History of Computer Art" shows all this.
The exhibition is organized by UCCA Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, with the participation of more than 30 well-known artists from all over the world. The generation spans 70 years. More than 70 digital art works are exhibited, each of which is created by a computer.
These works allow us to revisit the origin, present and future of digital art in a new form.
A "mobile" digital art
In 1985, Jean Francois Lyotard curated a groundbreaking exhibition "Immaterial" at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
▲The exhibition site of "Intangible". Picture from: Art Agenda
This is also the originator of the new media art exhibition field-the exhibition contains a large number of interactive installations, sound works, responsive environmental works, and early form experiments of electronic communication.
This new exhibition is not only a tribute to the old exhibition, but also a record of the new digital era.
35 years later, the digital age has changed dramatically. The curator Hei Yang wants to see how computer art has a new aesthetic expression under the new medium.
▲ Works exhibited by Ryuji Ikeda
The exhibition is divided into four chapters, corresponding to computer art in different specific historical periods.
Starting in the 1960s, when computer technology was still in its infancy, some artists have used algorithms to sketch and paint.
▲ Chapter One "Pioneer of Computer Art: The Invention of the New "Palette"" by Manfred Mohr
By the second chapter, when digital technology gradually became popular, computers also began to have the ability to create "self" under the artist's plan.
So the artwork is no longer just on a solidified paper, a solidified board, or a solidified screen, it begins to "flow".
Peter Kogler created a room that melted and knocked over like childhood alpine sugar.
When you are still, the lines are also still. When you walk around, the visual interlacing makes people feel like you are in the surging sea of candy.
Leo Villareal's work "Ellipse" weighs 850 kilograms and is composed of 262 stainless steel pipes, filled with LED lights. The artist uses algorithmic control to simulate the shining galaxy universe.
His other work "Floating Stars" also brings people a kind of dazzling visual enjoyment. In the sizzling electric sound, the silver smoke disperses and gathers. When staring for a long time, the brain seems to enter a void.
Charles Sandison's "Reader" has the same effect. Behind the digital code that travels like a centipede, there is a pair of eyes examining the flow of algorithms.
In the third chapter, the digital process continues to accelerate. When AI penetrates into the world we live in, art begins to have more possibilities and become diverse.
At this time, artists also created "creation" itself.
Michel Paysant by eye-tracking technology that allows the human eye to be authoring tool , the computer is connected by means of a plotter, allowing real-time track eye movements depicted on the canvas.
Memo Akten presents the mountains and lakes in a 60-minute video. In the evolution of the image and the extension of the mirror on top, the artist uses machine learning to paint a "short history of everything" for the audience.
Looking at the last chapter of the post-digital era, we are facing a more unpredictable future: what kind of world will computer technology take us to?
It may be a beautiful new utopia——
Just like Ouayola's "Summer Garden", the garden scenery is blown like the wind through image tools, and the surroundings become pure and beautiful, reminiscent of the planet where the little prince guards the roses.
It may also be irreversible destruction and endless disillusionment——
The younger generation of Chinese artists, as digital natives who have integrated into the global network culture, have a deeper feeling about this.
Fei Yining & Guan Chenghan created a robot thinking about artificial artists and art, and the pool next to her reflects the continuous smoke of war outside the window, thereby reflecting on the future digital world.
Lu Yang’s "Knight of the Device World" and "The Great Adventure of the Device World" intertwined the two-dimensional image, the dazzling neon lights, the pagan temple, the traditional goa dance of India and many other sub-cultural elements, and the bloody and heavy display of the world Hell, heaven and other multiple worlds.
PC computer stand-alone games, VR games, multi-screen images, and mysterious universe installations are all in one room. The audience becomes the experiencer and creator of the exhibition. Don't worry about being lost, it will constantly "question" you:
Does gender matter?
How will we experience death?
Is heaven and hell really what people imagine?
These artists try to reflect on machine learning aesthetics, digital objectivity, and science and technology through their creations, and arouse audience discussion.
From "immaterial" to "re-material", from yesterday's computer art pioneers to today's active digital art practitioners and emerging Chinese artists, the digital world spanning 70 years is displayed here.
As for the exhibition itself, the most prominent experience of people during the exhibition may also lie in the digital experience.
▲ Miguel Chevalier’s work "Plant Specimen 2059" will automatically change plants every time a page is opened
This is also a new form of "dialogue" between people and contemporary computer art.
When the audience becomes part of the exhibition
If you are an expert at exhibitions, you may also find that there are more and more immersive exhibitions that "talk" to the audience.
Starting from the second chapter of the above exhibition "Generative Art: Infinite Language", the boundaries between artists, algorithms, and viewers have been blurred, and they have even become creators of works together.
When people stand in front of Daniel Rozin's "Red, Green, and Blue Hanging Mirror", the sequins of each color in the installation will automatically adjust the direction with the reflection of the person, showing your outline.
There is a microphone in front of Michel Bret & Edmond Couchot's work "Dandelion". When you stand in front and blow, all the dandelions in the video will be scattered.
The one that attracted the most viewers to come and experience the line is Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau's work "Insect Man".
When people pass by the screen of this work, a group of black shadows rushes, countless ants appear on the screen, and then freeze into the shape of your standing.
These ants look very real, but also because the algorithm behind them has conducted a comprehensive dynamic analysis of ant behavior.
At this time, the artist, the computer algorithm, and the viewer merge into one.
The exhibition also includes a special Baidu AI unit, which also strengthens the sense of interaction between the audience and the artwork.
▲ "The Origin of the World"
In "Silver Coral" by a British artist, Baidu uses deep neural networks to extract a large number of coral reef image features and visualize them. When the audience observes the coral, the coral also changes color and shape according to your movement…
The meaning behind it is that the screen in front of us is a prophetic mirror. When we see the beauty of the ecological environment, we must also feel the ecological fragility, because human intervention is causing them to be irreversibly destroyed.
In addition, Baidu also simultaneously exhibited "Baidu AI Immersive Interactive Art Exhibition-Awakening All Things" in UCCA Lab. Digital multimedia art studio Moment Factory created multiple immersive interactive spaces.
Baidu has implanted an AI artist named "Du Fei" here, and every action of the audience will cause it to "chemically react."
When people walk to the entrance and wave their arms on a screen that seems to hide "Du Fei", a stream of paint will spread out like splashing ink, and the direction, intensity, and color will all follow your strength.
In another space, every step you take, every action you move close to each wall will make the color 3D move dynamically with your frequency.
The secret behind the technology is that the entire venue is filled with ranging sensors, and the projector on the top can project real-time effects on the venue.
Not only can people walk, dance, and play inside, but they can also scan the code to save and "take away" their creations.
Once, at art exhibitions, we always passively accept the feelings that works give us, but now, the new exhibition experience makes everything no longer a one-way communication.
Regardless of the synchronicity of the exhibition, the participation of the audience experience, and the flow of artistic sensory information, there are new possibilities.
You Yang, the art director of UCCA Lab, pointed out that for the museum space that evolved from the “treasure room” or “surprise room” in the 15th century, its classroom attributes (physical bondage) and commercial attributes (cultural consumption) are more or less Hidden less.
This experiential exhibition breaks the boundaries of creation and art.
▲Works exhibited in the Linz Electronic Arts Festival: "Sharing the Senses" Lanser & Matt
In the collective experience and immersive participation, people can also temporarily stay away from the outside world and enter a new public space.
In this new space, people connect works through technology, connect with each other, connect with pioneering experience, connect with new creativity, and connect with unconventional thinking.
Technology + art, not just the future of exhibition
The combination of technology and art has become an indispensable part of contemporary exhibitions.
The digital revolution has risen in the past 40 years, and digital technology has also been integrated into various artistic fields such as painting, photography, and installation. From AI, to AR, VR, and XR, technology and art are continuously cooperating across borders from online to offline.
▲"Post-digital Anthropology: International Exhibition of Science and Art" work: "The Path of Tomorrow", Wang Xinren
Robots, sound and light devices, virtual environments, biological genes, and even brain-computer interfaces… Under various virtual and intelligent creations, the identities of art and artists have been repeatedly broken across borders.
Last year, an art work "Portrait of Edmund Bellamy" created by AI was auctioned in New York for a high price of US$432,000 (approximately RMB 3 million), which caused a sensation in the art world and beyond.
In recent years, the hot "Internet celebrity exhibition" Teamlab has made digital art "out of the circle" in all walks of life, trying to strike a balance between art and science.
The Teamlab team has absorbed people from various industries such as science, art, and design, and created immersive exhibitions of connected reality technology in various cities, allowing people to interact with digital devices in real spaces, and then experience various wonderful feelings.
But it is more like packaging technology and art into a gorgeous candy, reflecting the illusion of the future and amplifying the consumption of art.
Everything has two sides, and it is difficult for Teamlab to look at it one-sidedly. In addition to dazzling vision, most technological art exhibitions will also explore and reflect on human development under technology.
After all, the current digital media is closest to people's real life. Compared with the past works of art, the current digital art has richer contacts and presentations in modern environment, social ethics, and information transmission.
The Linz Electronic Arts Festival, the world's largest electronic art event , has been held for 40 years since it was founded in 1979. It is held five days a year and can attract 150,000 visitors.
▲Linz Electronic Arts Festival. Picture from: Austrian Embassy
This is inseparable from its exploration of the state of human existence under the fusion of technology and art.
In recent years, the theme of this art festival has been thinking about how scientific and technological progress has shaped mankind from cybernetics, to knowledge economy, to bioethics.
The Linz Electronic Arts Festival is world-renowned because it not only represents the forefront of global scientific and artistic exploration, but also maintains a seriousness of thinking.
In this way, in addition to the sensibility of watching the exhibition, the audience can also realize the internal thinking and certain responsibilities a work plays, so that they can truly appreciate the technology art exhibition better.
In Qiu Zhijie's view, art and technology have never been separated. As the two fields where human beings most need imagination, they play highly similar functions in the entire social body.
They all use a new and unique way of thinking to rebuild our relationship with the world.
▲ Linz Electronic Arts Festival. Picture from: Arshake
Piero Scaruffi, author of "A Hundred Years of Silicon Valley" has also repeatedly mentioned a point of view . Silicon Valley first had hippies, rock music, and maverick artists' paradise, and then technology came and rose.
The connection between avant-garde artists and technological entrepreneurs is intertwined. Whenever a new technology appears, artists will subvert it with fantastic ideas, and then use it for completely unimaginable purposes. At this time, the new Things start to shine.
So now the LAST (Life. Art. Science. Technology) Festival, the TED Conference, and the Burning Man Festival have also been called the three major activities of Silicon Valley's cross-border art and innovative inspiration sources.
▲LAST Festival. Picture from: Daniel Stefanescu
UCCA also brought a panoramic "Technology Art Exhibition" to the audience in the process of display, interaction, and discussion.
This is not only an art exhibition, but also an exploration and practice of the present and the future in the digital age.
An interesting point is that due to the epidemic, artists from 15 countries in this group exhibition cannot come to the scene. The only way to organize the exhibition is to allow artists to collaborate remotely. However, this group exhibition has a huge amount of work and high technical difficulty, and it is too difficult to complete online.
At the time everyone thought this was too risky and thought it was impossible to accomplish, but they did it anyway.
Artists from all over the world connect to UCCA in different time zones and use digital collaboration to build works. So even in the early morning, you can see the light and shadow interlacing in UCCA. The staff inside are still debugging the equipment, they just hope everything goes well.
When this exhibition was presented to the audience, they knew that all the adventures were worthwhile.
And this collaboration is also the starting point of a new digital art.
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