“Mental-logue/Monster-logue,” group exhibition with Chu Chunteng, Lin Guan-Ming, I-Yeh Wu, Sung-Chih Chen, Kuo I-Chen, Hsienyu Cheng
Soka Art Center Taipei (2F, No.57, Sec.1, Dunhua South Road, Taipei, Taiwan, 10557) Jun 8–Jul 21, 2013
Ridley Scott’s classic film “Blade Runner” skillfully explored the ways in which artificial intelligence bestows humanity upon the machine, causing automatons to resemble monsters more and more with each passing iteration. In the movie, when a replicant utters the dying phrase “all those moments will be lost in time…like tears in rain,” the human poetry of these words strike the viewer with a flash of otherworldly beauty. In his film Moon, the director Duncan Jones takes the analysis of human emotion further, showing us the life of a lunar-bound clone and his longing for a home and a family which were never truly his. When the protagonist at last finds a way to call home, the familiar voice that greets him on the other end of the line is that of his original “progenitor.”
The greatest and most powerful prophecy of our digital age is this: the closer a machine resembles a human, the more monstrously uncanny it will appear.
While the vast majority of new-media discourse in art considers this phenomenon from the perspective of humanity, the young Taiwanese curators Wang Yunglin and Wang Po-Wei take the opposite approach. On show at Soka Art Center in Taipei, their exhibition “Mental-logue/Monster-logue” aims to take on the perspective of the “mind in the machine” through the combined approaches of exhibition and public discourse, exploring anew the possibilities of new media art. The exhibition’s name raises two key words, “Mental” and “Monster.” The former refers to the mentality of the artist as well as the artist’s transformation of his mental state and imagination through media; the latter refers to the ways in which technological products break through the limitations of their material state, expressing emotions and states of being that closely mimic humanity.
The show features the work of young Taiwanese creatives immersed in digital culture, and allows their imaginations to roam free. Hsienyu Cheng’s piece “After Life ver.2.0 — Life Comes and Goes” combines the classic arcade game Space Invaders with a bug-catcher. The number of insects trapped within the body of the game console represents the number of “lives” remaining to the gamer. Kuo I-Chen’s “Shadow of Shadows” installation integrates a copy machine with a closed-circuit monitor, giving the viewer a perpetually cycling sense of déjà vu. Meanwhile I-Yeh Wu’s pieces “Dollar-Post” and “In the Future” both depart from the mechanism of electronic mail to contemplate what room there remains for the concept of “delivery” to “mutate” in a technological environment which constantly renews itself. In addition to pieces which employ specific devices such as game consoles or copiers, the show also features work attempting to explore the every-day beasts of technology through form and content. Both Lin Guan-Ming’s “Sea – Waves” and Sung-Chih Chen’s “Cloud-Blending Viewpoints” depart from a point of natural beauty, exploring the ways in which digital mapping techniques can modify how we think about natural landscapes.
Wang Yung-Lin, one of the curators, believes that “this is an era of mutual creation between man and machine.” The relationship between the two key concepts of the “mental” and the “monstrous” is a tangled web, but it also reflects a creative state unique to the 21st century as art attempts to keep up with the fast-paced advancement of technology. The least “technologically advanced” piece on show is Chu Chunteng’s “Rescue Mission No. 3 — I Will Be With You,” featuring two slabs of meat placed beneath a whirling insect-repelling device. The work hints at a dark reality: in the end, no matter how far technology advances, humanity is only so much raw meat. Despite of the efforts of the perpetually spinning “insect repellent device,” our rot and ruin are inevitable. Under such a premise, the ability of art to confer life and “mentality” upon the omnipresent machinery in our lives seems all the more valuable. Each of the works shows us how artists are able to use technology to stretch and even break through the boundaries of life. The price of this, however, is that we must live in a world populated with inhuman monsters; each possessing a sliver of humanity unto itself.