Curated by Yu-Chuan Tseng, Hideyuki Ando, Yu-Jie Lin
Date: 2018.9.27 ~ 10.14
Place: Taoyuan Arts Center, Taoyuan¸ Taiwan
Give me a CyberHug
Give me a cyberhug. ((((me.))))
In restaurants, family members dining together at the same table are holding their mobile phones and staring at the screens chatting with people over the internet. Upon the serving of the dishes, they pick up their mobile phones and take nice photos of the food to share with their Facebook friends. Then, they enjoy their food while continuing chatting with friends online, occasionally lifting their heads to look at their families across the table before lowering their heads and returning to their phones.
This real-life scenario has been happening in all families, schools, offices, restaurants and on the MRT. We inhabit a real world, but connect with each other through a virtual world constructed with technologies of the internet, intelligent computation and social media. Our lives alternate between the real and the virtual world as we express our emotions and perceive others’ through emoji. Every person’s facial expression have been replaced by the small round-face icons on the screen, or have been communicated to the world through posts and live streaming. We are publicizing our own lives in front of the public that we cannot see. The light-emitting interface guides us to keep searching for the meaning of life in the virtual “space” that exists on a sleepless screen.
We submerge ourselves in this virtual world, finding pleasure in the endless flow of information while worrying about information overload. We enjoy the happiness of strangers giving us “likes” while feeling intimidated to build real and intimate relationships with people. We feel the thrill to show ourselves all the time while being anxious about exposing our private lives. However, amidst these confusing contradictions, we still pretend that we do not care, gradually submitting ourselves to be conditioned by technology.
Living in a world defined and confined by our digital life and relying on digital messages to interact with people, it fits what Sherry Turkle states in her book, Alone Together—“a peculiar sense of loss: today, whether you use the internet or not, people eventually find it difficult to confirm whether they are getting closer or farther away from each other.”
“Cyberhug” refers to the symbol and message of virtual hugs, ((((me)))), in the online instant messaging conversation. It can be used in the following situations: 1. You want to give someone a hug via electronic means; 2. You don’t like to give physical hugs (ie. you don’t like touching other people) and prefer to type it out in an email or in a chat room; 3. It can be a token of appreciation over the internet. Instead of saying just “thank you,” typing “cyber hug” will be like the icing on the cake; 4. It is almost like XOXO but with less intensity. Through the curatorial theme of “cyberhug,” it is hoped that a virtual hug can be converted into a realistic one. In the real world, we have long forgotten how to give people hugs. Therefore, with three main topics, which are “Virtual Wandering,” “The Other Me” and “Just Hug,” Give Me a CyberHug aims to reveal the current condition of modern digital life and its aloofness, and to remind people to return to a world validated by real hugs.
This section discusses how our life alternates between the real and the virtual worlds as we wander and submerge in perceptual experiences. Chi-Hao Lung’s The Blended Synchronicity between Current and Past provides audience a gateway into urban cityscape through interaction. Yue-Jun Deng’s Somniloquy 2015 reveals a fantastic space constructed with light. Yu-Hao Hung’s Shift looks at real urban street scenes from an aerial perspective and presents them as settings in a video game. Chris Cheung’s Ink Flow – Mountain transform the mountains in Taoyuan into a digital landscape. Meng-Chin Huang’s Cyber Flora: Rhizome of Sounds makes use of sounds to create urban scenes.
The Other Me
This section displays the reflection upon digital existence and explores the relationship between the self and the body in the digital era. Naotaka Fuji, Grinder-Man and Evala presents The Mirror, which uses interactive mirrors to submerge audience in the illusion of being present yet feeling absent. Ping-Yeh Li’s Spirit Exposure V.2 exposes people’s transitional state in time and space. Le Thanh Tung’s Hau Dong Ca transforms the artist himself into a virtual character in traditional Vietnamese attire that dances for deities. In The Buddhist Bug Project, Anida Yoeu Ali wears an orange robe inspired by monks’ robes that resembles a squirmy caterpillar, assuming a virtual existence in the real world. Etsuko Ichihara’s Digital Shaman Project evokes the presence of the deceased through robots and computer programming, converting robots into a double of the deceased that comforts their living family. Yang Lu’s Electromagnetic Brainology discusses the phenomenon of young generations that worship trends and idols as if they were divine existence.
This section proposes strategies of hugs that target at the virtual world, the real world and those in between, and emphasizes the uncertain co-existence through the interactive experience and audience-engaging mechanism created by the artists. Kyle McDonald’s Sharing Faces adopts an interactive approach that enables participants to perceive each other’s similarity. Akihiko Taniguchi’s The Big Browser 3D converts the artist himself into a 3D companion that accompanies participants to wander in the virtual world. Tomoko Hayashi’s Psyches detects participants’ subtle emotions to create a perceptual resonance. Wei-kai Liou’s The Eye of the God constructs a simulating scenario of observation and surveillance that reminds people of the eye of God. In the form of group collaboration, Chen-Wei Chiang’s Neurons reveals objects that are mutually attractive and interactive. Binary Pottery by Kai-Yu Kamm employs digital sculpture to reflect the connection between digital and analogous objects in the conversion between the real and the virtual.
In this dream-like world where virtuality and reality are blended, the Taoyuan Art x Technology Festival brings the public to re-comprehend the relationship between themselves and technology through visual and interactive works; it awakens the public to re-examine the relationship between the self and others through events and exhibitions that illustrate the sense of disassociation stemming from the mixture of virtual and real hugs; it also offers workshops and talks that explore and discuss intimate relationship in the internet world to enable people to re-construct close relationships in both the virtual and real worlds through understanding and actual practice. This year’s Taoyuan Art x Technology Festival adopts the curatorial theme of “Give me a CyberHug.” In the section of “Virtual Wandering,” audience can wander in the urban landscape created through images and sounds to explore both the virtual and real worlds that are the realistic representation of the digital life. “The Other Me” reflects upon the self and discusses the conversions of the double, deification and identity as well as the co-existence of body, consciousness and soul through the existential images created by the artists in the virtual and real worlds. “Just Hug” responds to the other two topics and calls everyone to return to each other’s embrace in the real world through destabilizing virtual doubles and communication scenarios posited between the real and the virtual without really providing a definite answer to the question: what is real?
Give me a CyberHug asks people to move their eyes away from the screen and turn to urban spaces for observing life, focusing on people around them and caring for their families. In addition to cyberhugs, we need many genuine hugs, which will be freed and returned to the real world from the virtual realm, and become an essential bodily perception for everyone.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2012.
https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cyberhug (Viewing date: March 22, 2018)