A year ago, we discussed the notion of “BE WATER”, which is a state of mind and a spiritual status. It is also regarding the natural essence of something. Of course, to be like water is not an easy aspiration. Yet in the context of current technology, the concept of “BE WATER” seems as easily achievable as clicking a “share” button. Do those things that wowed us in the past still wow us today? Do we still have to set the “wowing” factor as a priority in order to draw attention and gain appreciation? Many questions are then provoked, at times beyond our initial imagination. After celebrating its 20-year anniversary, Microwave continues to explore and innovate. Media and technology progress at lightening speed; we focus on the exploration of “now”. The words “wow” and “now” only differ by one letter. Yet in many other aspects there is a delta of differences between the two. “Now” is important. Time as a carrier connects events that unfold. Everything can be “live”. “Live” is not exclusive to describing performances. Technology has granted us the “right” to broadcast real-time, i.e. “live”, on social media and live streaming platforms. Given the circumstances, how do we define “live”? Live performances, live broadcast on Facebook, generative animations and live coding gigs...these all share a “live” element. What is “live”? What are being constructed when these live activities occur simultaneously?
Cyberia (1994) written by Douglas Rushkoff predicted that the virtual space was a new landscape yet to be developed and cultivated, like Siberia in the late 19th century. In the preface of the 1994 edition, Rushkoff speaks of "a very special moment in our recent history – a moment when anything seemed possible”. That was 1994, yet today we can declare the same based on the current technology and science. Through the lens of media art, Microwave 2017 re-examines the notion of “live”, and the multiple “live” activities that belong to us. Cyberia is also the title of the festival - a place to redefine the notion of “live” through live experiences.
In recent years, a new performance practice called Live Coding emerged in the field of computer music/ media art. It’s a way of improvising within the realm of programming algorithms; the performers project the source codes at the same time as they perform. In UNCONFERENCE, the festival’s first highlight event, Sean Cotterill and Shelly Knotts from the United Kingdom will present and perform their live coding works and provide a unique experience to the audiences. A warm-up tango.
Live could be static or dynamic. It can be proactive or reactive. Like the idea of hylozoism – the philosophical point of view that all matter is in some sense alive.
Static charges of old machines are normally difficult to been seen or heard. Darsha Hewitt made it possible through her installation - The Electrostatic Bell Choir. The viewer steps into the space and navigates through old television sets, each playing sounds generated from emitted static electricity. Together with a set up using electrostatic bells, they form an electromechanical sound installation, or an “electrostatic choir”, making the invisible heard.
Nonotak Studio, a multimedia group from France, presents Narrow V.2, which aims to create a full realisation of the notion of “narrow”. Working with light, sound and space, Narrow V.2 creates immersive and dreamlike environments that envelop and embrace the viewers through the drawings of light and sound.
In every environment, activity and stillness are constantly interchanging. This is particularly true in a performance space. In DzDz, Taiwanese artist Yao Chung-han creates an interactive light and sound installation which allows the viewer stepping into the space to become the performer. In this space, the viewer’s movement or hand gesture will trigger light and sound, turning a virtual environment into real musical interaction. This is the moment of “now”.
Perfumery Organ by Japanese artist group TASKO challenges traditional processes in sensory and live experiences. Inspired by G.W. Septimus Piesse’ 1857 book The Art of Perfumery, which proposed a “scent scale”, the highly experimental installation makes feasible the theoretical and creates the first ever perfumery organ to transfer notes into perfumes, bringing a different perspective to seeing and participating in a performance.
We used to always think of a venue when it comes to a performance. Nevertheless, it is no longer a given. For Microwave 2017, American artist Zach Lieberman created Daily Sketches, on a unique presentation of his daily sketches in codes (which produce short animations) to be posted on Instagram, turning the social media platform into the artist’s stage of performance.
Hylozoism views all matter as alive, either in itself or through participating in an operation of a cosmopolitan soul. This has become a philosophical base for Cyberia, which aims to provide a space to create “live”, to explore, experience and redefine “live”, and to reconsider our lives.
Douglas Rushkoff 1994年著有《Cyberia》一書，揭示虛擬空間將如同十九世紀末開發西伯利亞般，成為一片有待開發的處女地。它在此書的前言曾如是說：「這是我們歷史上很特別的時候，所有皆可能。」那是1994年的事，但到了今天我們仍然能依靠科技科學說出同一句說話。這個當下，微波2017透過媒體藝術重建這片空間，重新審問什麼是live，什麼是我們的lives。電元種生Cyberia就是今年我們的開墾之地，透過感受現場再重新定義現場。
藝術節先聲是來自電子音樂中的拉闊編碼，表演者透過運用軟件作即時代碼編程演出，以算式代替音符；來自英國的郭尚烈(Sean Cotterill)與結雪梨(Shelly Knotts)在反轉硏討會(Unconference)的現場，以即時的代碼編程演出，電出不一樣的現場感受，而這是一場熱身探戈。
老機器的靜電是難以觀看及聆聽的，卻因為德國藝術家希達莎(Darsha Hewit)的《靜電鐘合唱團》而成形了；走進空間中的多(老)電視中，跟前的鈴聲裝置穿越靜電產生輕噪音，一場無人之境的合唱就在當下。而把聲光放大，就可以重構空間；來自法國的多媒體組合Nonotak Studio透過把冷調的電子聲響與光結構的閃爍裝置成為切割空間的素材，源自初始演繹只屬於他們的節奏，該觀眾在全面沉浸式的空間中感受獨有的世界觀，這就是《Narrow V.2》。環境此靜彼動，觀眾亦然，在擅於結合聲光與空間感知的《動次動次》之中，台灣藝術家姚仲涵 (Yao Chung-han) 以其獨特的創作巧思構成聲光裝置，當觀眾走進空間即時換成「演出者」，一場互動音場即時產生，虛擬不見了，這就是當下。當進入轉換媒體與媒介的現場中，日本團隊TASKO即以《香噴噴風琴》打破傳統感知現場的過程。概念源自1857年George William Septimus PIESSE的著作《The Art of Perfumery》（調香的藝術）所提及的香階理論，糅合音階與香味的層級理念，這是一個實驗性極高的作品；除以「彈出香味」裝置實踐理論，更把「演出」一詞喚發到另一領域。而當跳脫於固有空間，人們的Live當然不可受範於現場即時之中，《IG日常賞》就是美國藝術家利沙克 (Zach Lieberman)的編碼實驗；當演出常指涉場地，我們不以為已，既然Instagram與臉書(Facebook)均成為全球人的表演舞台，藝術也可即時衍生。這就是種生(眾生)相，建構於始作俑者與後來之秀的交纏，如入無人之境卻又四周都是人。