Algorithmic Art: Shuffling Space & Time
Interdisciplinary Media and Technology Artworks from Asia
STEAM, that is, STEM + Art, meaning “Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Art+Design,” is a movement championed in the United States to ensure a future for innovation. It is a research policy principle that is being applied to contemporary education and has been widely adopted by institutions, corporations and individuals. The focus is on enquiry, and using the different disciplines as unique entry points. I look around in Asia, and see that we have all the credentials to practice STEAM, and not only that but we have many existing but hidden routes, an unacknowledged STEAM-like history that is yet to be written. Such is the basic orientation of Algorithmic Art: Shuffling Space & Time, a place to let the arts and the sciences sit together comfortably, a chance to plot a genealogy of media art in Asia, elliptical as it may be, and to define a new breed of artists whose artistic excellence is rigorously rooted in the technical and the scientific.
To envision a STEM to STEAM reality in this part of the world, including Hong Kong, takes more than just aspiration. Hurdles are obvious. I grew up in Hong Kong, a curious lover of the sciences as a young person, but stopped pursuing such subjects simply because I wanted equally much to be a writer, a poet, an artist and a humanist. From an early age it was made clear it was one or the other, arts or science, a binary choice. I am sure I am not alone in having had to choose. What brought me back in touch with the sciences was when I finally started to really seriously understand that I am an artist, that an artist creates space for hypothetical thinking to take off, i.e. that the urge to experiment and to discover, my curiosity with tools and how they extend our human senses, and the unwillingness to lose out on the hidden, invisible, and super-fine parts of the world in which we live, which was explainable only in the language of science and could be perfected through diligent scientific research.
I believe in art. I believe in “artmaking” as a location of progressive thinking for society; as worthy of preservation and support through theorization, practice and resource allocation. I also see how artists, without the facilitation of science or aptitude for technical tools, are giving up access, or being denied access, to a vital part of the contemporary world. I also cannot foresee how artistic innovation will emulate the fast transforming material construct of our lifeworld if perception is only used in the service of perhaps narrowly defined beauty.
Fear of the sciences and technological innovation is often irrational, as many of us have seen in our pedagogic and artistic practices. Of course, we also come across fear of art, and the comfort-cure in equating art entirely with a particular aesthetic or with design because the latter is more “functional” and controllable. But the arts and scientific/technological innovation are the two longest lasting journeys in human history, and in fact have always progressed together. The School of Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong has been addressing these realities, tackling fears, bridging the gap and bringing art and science together no matter how difficult it is. And the School of Creative Media has already spent 20 years doing this, with or without the knowledge of the general public.
Algorithmic Art not only opens up the “black box” we usually take for granted in media arts, but also challenges the unexamined, habitual segregation between arts/humanities and the sciences. As a history project tracing the convergent points of art and science, it asks what human desires towards uncovering the mysteries of life and the unknown universe have driven the history of technological innovation. Algorithmic Art is curious about the deep time we often neglect.
We are deeply indebted to the Innovation and Technology Commission who have recognized and supported the desires, research directions and solid educational agenda that underlie the exhibition and its accompanying educational workshop/lecture series. We also thank the US Consulate for supporting renowned scientist cum sci-fi-writer Prof. Chang Shi-kuo to be available here for his sci-fi conversations.
Algorithmic Art: Shuffling Space and Time is an important ritual and ceremony to mark the thoughts and open agenda of the School of Creative Media, to which a community has devoted itself. This is how we are celebrating the 20 years we have accomplished in Hong Kong.
Linda C.H. Lai
Curator, Principal Investigator, Project Chief for Algorithmic Art: Shuffling Space and Time
STEAM就是科學(S)、科技(T)、工程(E)、數學(M)加上藝術和設計(A)，即 STEM+A (from STEM to STEAM) 的倡議，在美國發起，成為創新未來社會的指標，指導政策，亦得到不少企業、教育機構和個別人士的支援，連成新運動。STEAM是對世界帶著好奇的問診與懷疑，不同的學科領域是不同的切入點。