Curator’s Notes/Linda C.H. Lai 策展絮語 / 黎肖嫻

Algorithmic Art: Shuffling Space & Time 
劃破時空:奇異旅程演算法

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

劃破時空:奇異旅程演算法

標記亞洲藝術與科技的對流

於二十一世紀談STEAM是有點剛剛趕上的意味吧。

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。

還算不早不晚。創新科技署的慷慨支持意義重大,不單令《演算藝術》得以全盤完滿,更令我們可以開心見誠的用人文的論述去明科技的意義,令藝術與科技的互聯得到理應的重視,名正言順。

環看亞洲區,我看到有地區自身的孕育氛圍,以及對科技、器物、思維感觸表述上的不同座標,不同的系譜源流。又或,STEAM 的亞洲故事許是有點飄忽,卻正等著我們去述,去辯明、解拆。而《演算藝術:劃破時空》的初衷及緣起,就是打破隔,讓藝術與科技可以較對等的對話,嘗試香港和亞洲涉及科學的藝術創作放下一些點線面,即使是不完全、具爭議性的,更希望可以標記一下新時代的科藝集於一身的藝術家們。

作為香港土生土長的一份子,我沒有忘記中學時期我因為喜歡文史哲想做詩人熱愛藝術就忍疼的放棄了我同樣鍾愛的數理化,無語。幸運地,我重新接觸科學是由我很認真的當藝術家的時候開始的。

在城大創意媒體學院的多年來,我和同事們都得愛藝術的學生對科學的先入主的恐懼。更多時候,我們知道周圍的人誤解了藝術而懼怕藝術。無論如何,藝術創造是一個社會的進步思想的場所。藝術創作與科技的發展創新在人類歷史裡擁有最長久的齊肩並置的存在理據,毋庸置疑。創意媒體學院的二十年如果得回顧,也許是因提出過上面的問題,且著力的尋找出路,勤於實踐。

於過去二十個月的艱辛籌備的日子裡這一切的思念就如 「夢航」,要放進大會堂場館的器物創作栩栩如生,歷歷在目,卻又抓不住,一觸及即化開。

二十年。

如何記住?分享一個點著了的夢,分享一個很得繼續燃點的夢。

也許這就是一個展覽最能做到的。一個具形具體的儀式,一串如持續盛宴的接連到會。把器物的由來與再創造擺放出來,讓藝術家的策略、想像、慾望變成周密設計、意志豐盈、滿有力度的

科技與藝術,重來就是創新的表現,兩者互相挨近你呼我應,是整個人類文明底蘊,一下來就五千多年(有文字記述),或一萬年,又或三百萬年。一種朝往「更好」的衝動。

黎肖嫻
策展人、主研究員、項目總監
2018年12月