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Curatorial Philosophy

Curatorial Discourse for the 8th Taipei Digital Art Festival, Taiwan

Chih-Yung Aaron Chiu (Professor, Department of Mass Communication, Providence University)

The concept of “Data-Neurons” consists of two crucial issues,namely “Big Data” and “Neurons,” in the contemporary global network society. Since the last decade of the twentieth century, the rapid transmission of digital data and the powerful driving force of digital media technology have considerably changed theeconomic, political, media, and cultural dimensions of our society, and thereby usheredin the “information age” and further constructed a new historical reality, namely the emergence of the “network society.” The new historical reality is molded by the dualhinges of “globalization” and “digitalization.” Itturns the structure ofan information circulationsysteminto a prominent feature of the newsocietal form. Since the space for information circulationis transformed intoa new physical substance through the dominant process and the supportive function of our society,we can depict this space with three levels of physical support. Electronic pulses constitute the first level;the knots and cores of the spaceconstitute the second level; and the spatial organization in which the management elites occupy the dominate status serves as the third level. In the organizational model of this new information structure, Big Data graduallyinfiltrate into the realm of culture and further play the key role as the central nervous system in the contemporary techno-culture.

Afterthe traditional databases were regarded as a computerized data storage system, the structuralized data sets of this system have expanded rapidly. The emergence of the concept “Big Data” indicates that common software isno longer adequate to capture, manage, and process the data setsin contemporary information structure. In addition, this concept reveals the valuable aspect of seemingly common and trivial pieces of data by collecting, arranging, and analyzing themwith various algorithms that allow these data to transcend the level of information processing andreach the stage of knowledge application. Moreover, rapid transformation and development of digital technology makecontemporary databases not only a significant cultural narrative but also a relational and networking method used forthe collection and creation of unique cultural heritage. Accordingly, the intrinsic connection between information structure and aesthetics gradually evolves from the potential relationship between information and the vessel that carries it, or the actual relationship established by the components of software,into “database aesthetics” that creates various forms of possibility in terms of individual, culture, and media.

It is self-evident that contemporary digital artistic practiceshares the logic of database. On the one hand,the unique featureof “database aesthetics” generatestension between most of linear and hierarchical databases and instructions. On the other hand, the reset and reproduction of information in the structure of “database aesthetics”seemingly enjoy unlimited possibilities, and thereby inevitably cause tension among information structures, data streams, and available visual forms. As a result, the term“database aesthetics,” which is often used foraesthetically describing or applying the logic of Big Data, has become a critical theme that is strictly necessary to be addressed in the field of digital art. It can be represented as information in any form, a filtered data set, or a piece of visualized information. Based on this conception, “database aesthetics” has become a potential concept, an epistemological belief, a visual model of social behavior, or even a cultural form.

More importantly, except thatgeneral visualized data sets do not actually display the basic structure of databases,many digital artworks are able to create meanings by using the information embeddedinBig Data. Theseworks carry cultural implications and make this approach a hyper-narrative strategyfor demonstrating cultural values andaccords. As Lev Manovich claims, “databases” and “narratives” are inherently in a state of hostility. Each claims that it exclusively possesses the power of defining the world. Databasesrepresent the world in which we live in the form of item catalogueregardless of the actual operational state of the world, whilenarratives require protagonists, narrators, contexts, plots, and causal relationships that are ostensibly not the itemized outcomes. Nevertheless, the differences between databases and narratives do not imply that they are mutually exclusive forms. We will cognize that the narrative elements of digital art practice are still organized in the form of database structure. Meanwhile, interactive narratives or hyper-narratives can be understood as the aggregation of multiple trajectories of a database. As a result, we can get a general idea of the simultaneous emphasis on traditional narrative elements and database structuresthroughobserving the interaction among and reorganization of the components.

With this regard,in 2013, which is known as the “first year of Big Data practice,” the 8th Taipei Digital Art Festival proposes “Data-Neurons” as its curatorial theme. It follows the approach ofcalling for proposals of interdisciplinary work without classification adopted since the 7th Taipei Digital Art Festival. Based on the five major activities of the Festival, namely the International Digital Art Exhibition, the Digital Art Awards, the Digital Art PerformanceAwards, the Digital Art Platform, and the AnimA, together with other education and promotion programs, the 8th Taipei Digital Art Festival organizes additional programs such asan opening show of “HH electronic music and visual performance”, the interdisciplinary performance “Threads” collaborated between the DAC (Digital Art Center, Taipei) and the GRAME (centre national de création musicale, Lyon, France), a special exhibition of the art of video games, and a pavilion for the special exhibition of digital design that is more in line with the curatorial theme of this year. A special exhibition of “APPArtAward” held by the ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, Germany) is also included. These contemporary and avant-garde digital artworks will collectively incarnate the proposition that the cultural form shaped by Big Data will become the core of the contemporary digital world.