Issues in contemporary society including digital privacy rights, deepfake technology, and cultured meat are discussed.
From virtual currencies to the metaverse and immersive performances, the frontiers of experimental aesthetics are expanding.
Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab (C-LAB) has organized numerous exhibitions related to technology and media arts in recent years, such as Fictional Life: Hybridity, Transgenetics, Innovation and the Future Media Arts Festival. In 2022, C-LAB launches the annual exhibition The Unrestricted Society. Curated by CHUANG Wei-Tzu, 12 artists and art groups have been invited to show their works, with their thoughts on technology and ethical issues extending to presentations of aesthetic experiments. Through various topics such as the use of algorithms, digital privacy rights, facial recognition, deepfake technology, cultured meat, cryptocurrency, and the metaverse, The Unrestricted Society looks at how technological advancements are affecting society.
The term “unrestricted” comes from the book on military strategy, Unrestricted Warfare. “Unrestricted warfare” refers to a new type of warfare in which all means are considered, going beyond the scope of conventional warfare and emphasizing more the role of technology. The concepts of “unrestricted” in the exhibition refer to the technological optimism, which makes humans believe technology can overcome anything and thus strive for progress by any means. The accelerated pursuit of scientific and technological achievements has resulted in legal and ethical issues. In this exhibition, artists reflect on technology and seek to understand its intermediary role in various relationships, such as the ones between artificial intelligence and humanity, and the ones between government and people. At the same time, these artists demonstrate how technology can be applied to the extension of the human sensory experience and therefore further experimental aesthetics.
From Artificial Neural Networks to Digital Privacy Rights
The starting point for this exhibition is Deep Meditations: A Brief History of Almost Everything in 60 Minutes, a work by Turkish artist Memo AKTEN. AKTEN obtained hundreds of thousands of images from the Internet and tagged them using words such as “love,” “faith,” “ritual,” and “reverence” to train an artificial neural network. Audiences are led on a 60-minute spiritual journey amid constantly changing images, during which the learning ability of an artificial neural network is revealed. Kyriaki GONI’s Not Allowed for Algorithmic Audiences is a semi-fictional video work, in which a digital avatar developed with artificial intelligence introduces itself. It explores how artificial intelligence and voice interfaces are applied to collect voice data. In It Could Be You, CHENG Hsien-Yu uses data from online forums and discussions to show how personal data is obtained and combined to create fake accounts.
Paolo CIRIO’s work Capture is composed of the facial images of 4000 French police officers. The artist also created an online database and invited the public to identify the police officers to encourage discussion on the use of facial recognition systems and artificial intelligence to question the unequal power relationship between the state apparatus and the people. Due to the provocative nature of this work, it was withdrawn from an exhibition in France in 2020. The above-mentioned works all touch upon issues of digital privacy rights.
Ethical Questions Related to Fake News and Cultured Meat
Deepfake technology is used to commit crimes and create fake news in contemporary society. This year, a news video was manipulated via deepfake technology to make it appear as if Ukrainian President Volodymyr ZELENSKY had surrendered during the Russia-Ukraine war. Two artists, Francesca PANETTA & Halsey BURGUND, filmed and produced In Event of Moon Disaster based on the Apollo 11 moon landing. With excerpts from US President Richard NIXON’s speech, they created a fake news story. These two artists invite viewers to enter a period of history that never happened, as they explore how technology distorts and obscures the real world.
For m(E)at me, Theresa SCHUBERT makes use of flesh cultivated from her own cells. Through documentary video, the audience is invited to re-evaluate their relationship with meat, as well as that between the physical and the material. This work poses the following question: How should we view cultured meat and associated issues, such as environmental conservation and food crises? An interesting follow-up question is: Is this an option for the development of the meat industry?
Art X Technology: Expanding the Frontiers of Experimental Aesthetics
Audiences can also learn how technology is being used to extend and expand sensory experiences and how artists are exploring the possibilities for aesthetic experimentation based on technology. CHEN Yi’s work Current/y adopts AR technology to delve into virtual currency transactions. Audiences follow the flow and value of virtual currency in a space based on computed images, observing what is happening in the global virtual currency market. CHANG Yung-Ta’s scape.unseen-co_2[ch.] detects carbon dioxide concentrations and translates them into sounds in real-time, transforming the invisible chemical compound into a perceptible medium.
FAMEME, who has become a fashion media darling in recent years, creates a metaverse space in HTC VIVERSE. For this exhibition, FAMEME launches FAMETAVERSE, which re-archives transnational immersive spaces from 2019 and beyond and invites audiences to enter the metaverse world. During the last week of the exhibition, Her Lab Space’s A World: If, a Family Trip (2022) experimental theater production is featured. Audiences are encouraged to discover a mysterious, magical, and imaginary world in this immersive audiovisual work. CHEN Yi and Her Lab Space have created these advanced sensory experiences with the technical support and coordination of C-LAB Taiwan Sound Lab.
International Exchanges and Accompanying Events
For the exhibition, C-LAB and South Korea’s Asia Culture Center (ACC) implemented exchanges and collaborations, with two ACC-recommended artists groups, SLITSCOPE and Unhappy Circuit, joining the exhibition. SLITSCOPE’s I Question 7.0 looks at how information provided by people is used to feed artificial intelligence and form algorithms. Unhappy Circuit’s Interstellar Message Written in 9 Languages of the Earth cleverly incorporates nine Asian languages and dialects, including Taiwanese (Hokkien) and Hakka, in the development of possible messages to be sent into outer space.
Lectures, guided tours, and film screenings have been planned to provide multiple approaches for audiences to understand the content of the exhibition and the issues from different perspectives. Experts and scholars, including mashbean, LUO He-Lin, KUANG Chung-Shiang, SUNG Huang-Chih, and HUANG Tsung-Chieh, provide lectures and discussions on the status quo of Taiwanese society regarding to the issues addressed by the exhibition works. Through collaboration with the documentary and independent film streaming app Giloo, an online exhibition has been curated, which includes six selected documentaries that describe the social condition under the rule of algorithm law and the problems that people are facing. In addition, Taiwan AI Labs founder Ethan DU and scholar Chih-Yung Aaron CHIU have produced guided tour videos and organized guided tours to lead audiences in learning about the content of the exhibition. For more details, please visit the exhibition section of C-LAB’s website or The Unrestricted Society website.
The Unrestricted Society
Dates｜ September 24-November 27, 2022
Venues｜Art Space II, Spatial Audio Field of the Taiwan Sound Lab
Organizer｜Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab (C-LAB)
Supervisor｜Ministry of Culture
Artists｜Memo AKTEN, Kyriaki GONI, CHENG Hsien-Yu, Paolo CIRIO, SLITSCOPE (KIM Jae-Min & KIM Keun-Hyoung), Theresa SCHUBERT, Halsey BURGUND & Francesca PANETTA, CHEN Yi, Unhappy Circuit, CHANG Yung-Ta, FAMEME, Her Lab Space (AU Sow-Yee, CHEN Yow-Ruu)