By The Editors of ARTnews
What the future holds will depend on who’s controlling the coding.
The promise of technology versus the threat of technology is a conversation that has long been underway. Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab’s (C-LAB) annual Future Media Arts Festival focuses this discussion around the future through media art. Twenty-four works by 23 individual and group artists from Taiwan and abroad are currently on view both online or in-person through November 28.
Organized by Taiwan Living Arts Foundation, C-LAB Future Media Arts Festival features an eclectic mix of exhibitions carefully crafted to allow attendees to experience this future technology through audiovisual media, installations, theater, performances, lectures, and seminars. Several of the installations explore technology’s present, past, and future. The Festival’s online platform debuts in “Unzip C-LAB.” Using interaction through its exhibits and events, C-LAB invites viewers to explore and contemplate our relationship to technology. It also offers its global audience hands-on practice by means of workshops, lectures, and forums to demystify the coding that makes it.

In Sugar Foot, an animated video from American experimental rock group, Battles, Transformer-style robots from present-day Earth band together to fight Covid-19. When it looks as if the battle is lost, Earth transforms to unleash its secret musical weapon to destroy the virus and win the day. NFTs and NFT trading undergo a closer look in TFN-Technological Finding Netbot. This production, co-produced with Hong Kong–based Microwave International New Media Arts Festival, investigates the effects of decentralization and antiauthoritarian control of blockchain and digital currencies on our economies.
C-LAB Future Media Arts Festival also tackles the effects of technology and media on our collective social conscience. The Glass Room: Misinformation Edition exposes how fake news spreads online. This project from German NGO Tactical Tech delves into the weaknesses of our social media platforms and their ability to become vehicles of propaganda for political gain.
Artificial intelligence is also at play in many festival offerings. In Big Dada: Public Faces, American artists Bill Posters and Daniel Howe create a deep fake using AI-synthesized celebrities to spread misinformation. AI and real-time imaging transform winding rivers on Earth’s surface into beautiful sound and visual installations in German-based onformative’s work, Meandering River. Taiwanese artist Huang Yu-Hsiung also uses machine learning to transform sounds and trajectories into mesmerizing images, while American artist Kiel D. Mutschelknaus creates the ultimate collage of interactivity and design in Space Type Generator.

Although a future-themed event, the festival also acknowledges the past. The sugar industry rose to prominence in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial era and was a vital part of its economic strength. Artists Hsu Chia-Wei, Chang Ting-Tong, and Cheng Hsien-Yu delved into this past when they toured the Huwei Sugar Factory, in Yunlin County. Their findings served as inspiration for Crystal Seeding, where they used sugar as a 3D printing material to create a unique theater experience complete with traditional puppetry—and a robotic arm!
Sixteenth-century printmaking traditions get an update as well, when traditional roles are reversed in Inverso Mundus, where men and women, butcher and pig, pauper and prince trade places. Russian art group AES+F reimagines these roles with a modern flair, adding a criticism that speaks for itself.
C-LAB was initiated in 2018 by the Taiwan Living Arts Foundation with a mission to provide an open and inclusive cultural landscape to promote innovation, experimentation, and international exchange. The physical site was once a military base and, before that, a research institute that was taken back after the Japanese colonial era ended. It has since transformed into a hub of art, tech, science, and music collaboration. There, you’ll find a contemporary art platform, a technology media platform, a sound lab, a social innovation lab, and research laboratories for high-performance computing, with many more facilities to come.
Among the innovations in the lineup is “Future Vision Lab,” which runs parallel to the festival; it features The Dome, a hemispherical experiential space for immersive audio performances and projections. Presentations there will include one lecture and fourteen performances of open calls, invited and self-produced art, music, hand-drawn animation, and theater programs. Four experimental works from Arts and Technology: Creative Innovation and Counseling Project  will also screen during the Festival to showcase Taiwanese creative energy in audiovisual, installation, theater, and art activism.
In well-meaning hands, technology may save the future. In hands tending otherwise, it may not. C-LAB Future Media Arts Festival explores these possibilities and more, while letting viewers add their own understanding and interpretation to all it has to offer.
C-LAB’s annual Future Media Arts Festival is now on view in-person and online through November 28.
You can follow Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab on Instagram.
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