An im­mer­sive ex­hi­bi­tion in Bei­jing in­vites vis­i­tors to re­flect on how dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy is shap­ing their lives. Lin Qi re­ports.


Since its open­ing two weeks ago, To­day Art Mu­seum’s on­go­ing ex­hi­bi­tion, .zip Fu­ture Rhap­sody, has drawn big crowds. The mu­seum, in the heart of Bei­jing’s down­town, has turned three floors of its main build­ing into a play­ground of lights, sounds and im­ages, us­ing dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies.

The ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tures 27 videos, in­stal­la­tions and sound works which cre­ate an im­mer­sive en­vi­ron­ment, and it has be­come a pop­u­lar place for young ur­ban­i­ties to take pic­tures and post them on so­cial net­works.

The artists fea­tured in­clude Claude Leveque from France, Charles Lind­say from the United States, Re­fik Anadol from Turkey and home­grown tal­ents such as Feng Mengbo, Lin Xin and Shi Chuan.

The ex­hi­bi­tion has re­ceived mixed re­views with some prais­ing it and some say­ing it sim­ply fol­lows a trend of “im­mer­sive ex­hi­bi­tions” where new-me­dia works are cre­ated to fill the space and pro­vide eye-catch­ing ex­pe­ri­ences with­out any artis­tic depth.

“There is no need to la­bel the ex­hi­bi­tion as a show of ‘new me­dia art’ or ‘a mar­riage of art and tech­nol­ogy’,” says Wu Jue­hui, who co-cu­rates the ex­hi­bi­tion with Yan Yan, the deputy direc­tor of To­day Art Mu­seum.

“From the be­gin­ning, we did not in­tend to boast about the kinds of ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies be­ing used. At the heart of this ex­hi­bi­tion is what the artists feel and want to ex­press in the dig­i­tal age.”

Wu, who is an artist and a teacher at the China Acad­emy of Art in Hangzhou, says that while the art­works pro­vide un­real and fas­ci­nat­ing vis­ual ef­fects, they also in­vite view­ers to re­flect on the re­al­ity that peo­ple’s lives are very in­te­grated with dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and wire­less net­works, es­pe­cially through mo­bile de­vices such as smart­phones and tablets.

He says that is why the ex­hi­bi­tion is ti­tled .zip, af­ter the ar­chive file for­mat which sup­ports data com­pres­sion.

The art­works con­tain al­most all the dig­i­tal for­mats that have be­come com­mon, such as .txt (text), .jpg (im­age), .gif (graph­ics) and .mp3 (au­dio).

“The ex­hi­bi­tion is like a zip file com­press­ing all the for­mats into

shown at peo­ple’s lives.

.zipFu­tureRhap­sody one pack­age,” says Wu.

“When the view­ers see the works, it is like they are ‘un­zip­ping’ com­pressed data.

“They are shocked and amazed as they find it dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish be­tween real and un­real.”

Artist Shi Chuan says the exhi- bi­tion keeps pace with the times and “pro­vides an an­gle to re­con­sider the role of tech­nol­ogy and how it has changed an artist’s ap­proach to work.”

The cen­ter­piece of the ex­hi­bi­tion is the mu­seum’s 14-me­ter high main hall which is trans­formed into a “box of black and white” — two walls and the floor are painted white, and the other two walls and the ceil­ing are black.

Wu says the black-and-white box is an in­de­pen­dent piece of work and the largest one on show, rather than a place for dis­play.

Nine video-and-au­dio works, in­clud­ing one by Wu and his UFO Me­dia Lab, are pro­jected in ro­ta­tion on the white walls and the ground. And vis­i­tors can re­lax in the space: they can lean against the walls, sit and even lie on the ground, while be­ing sur­rounded by the mov­ing im­ages, as if they are en­ter­ing the minds of the works’ cre­ators.

“Every­body now lives with cer­tain for­mats, and they have re­shaped how peo­ple think and act,” says Wu. “Maybe in the fu­ture, peo­ple will greet each other by ask­ing, ‘What’s your for­mat?’”

The ex­hi­bi­tion is part of To­day Art Mu­seum’s project “Fu­ture of To­day”, and it was launched in 2015.

Now, as peo­ple ac­cess art­works and ex­hi­bi­tions by vir­tual means, “Fu­ture of To­day” aims to use di­verse ap­proaches to give art lovers ex­pe­ri­ences that are unique to a spe­cific lo­ca­tion.

The mu­seum’s in­au­gu­ral ex­hi­bi­tion in 2015 show­cased art­works through tech­nolo­gies such as com­puter-med­i­tated re­al­ity, and the artists fea­tured in­cluded Chi­nese sculp­tor Sui Jian­guo, new­me­dia artist Miao Xiaochun and Suzanne Anker, a New York-based vis­ual artist.

Gao Peng, the direc­tor of To­day Art Mu­seum, says: “The project is bold and risky.”

Gao says that when he took the di­rec­tor­ship of the mu­seum in 2013, two ques­tions kept emerg­ing in his mind — what will a fu­ture art mu­seum look like and what art­works will suit such a mu­seum.

“I haven’t come to a con­clu­sion yet. But we will keep seek­ing an­swers.

“We are now on an ex­tra­or­di­nary jour­ney — to build a mu­seum of the fu­ture.”

Con­tact the writer at linqi@chi­

Art­works ex­plore the role of tech­nol­ogy in

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.