Hsin-Chien Huang: The Data We Called Home

If you are in New York, there is one exhibition that you should not miss! Pratt Manhattan Gallery is showcasing the work of multi-disciplinary artist Hsin-Chien Huang. Curated by Linda Lauro-Lazin (Pratt Institute’s Assistant Chairperson of Digital Arts, Adjunct Professor), Hsin-Chien Huang: The Data We Called Home is the artist’s first New York City solo show. 

The exhibition highlights the broad scope of Huang’s complex body of work, featuring virtual reality films, sculptures, and videos that present new perspectives on the immersive possibilities of mixed media art practices.
And throughout the exhibition, the artworks are presented in an impressive set, and the audience can experience award-winning VR experiences. The show centers on four large-scale virtual reality journeys, (Samsara, 2021, Bodyless, 2019, To the Moon, 2018 and Chalkroom, 2017), alongside stainless steel sculptures and 3-D prints.
The multimedia installations invite viewers to immerse themselves in the otherworldly spaces, stories and forms reimagined by Hsin-Chien Huang. In these virtual realities, bodies are porous, chronologies are nonlinear, and environments become dystopian dreamscapes.

The Data We Called Home, Pratt Manhattan Gallery

Bodyless, Golden Mask Award, NewImages Festival 2020

BODYLESS“ is a very personal project, based on my childhood story that was told to the artist by his mother. The story places you back in 1970s, in Taiwan – we call it the White Terror period – when the government was afraid that civilians would contact the people in Mainland China, and become a spy.

During the Cultural Revolution, the director’s grandfather was still in Mainland China, and he wrote a letter to his family saying that he doesn’t have anything to eat, and asked for some money. As family helped him, but later this was discovered by Taiwan’s National Security Council, and the family was followed for a year.

Hsien said that as his mother started to have dementia – she cannot remember things that she told us. “So I thought if I made this experience, then I can show it to her, and she might remember the stories she told us. So this is kind of the background of where the “Bodyless“ is coming from,” said Hsin-Chien Huang

Bodyless Trailer

Inspired by a very personal story, “Bodyless“ is that experience that brings you to reflect also about contemporaneity. It is a story about the Past, and it is not only a story about the Past. The choice of the director to start from the past and show that Power relations are still here, in another form, makes this artwork outstanding. 

Hsin-Chien Huang: “You can say that the “Bodyless “is this imagination story. Because in the old days, the ruling government used to power, they used the military, and police and tried to make people obedient. But now the new governments use new technology, artificial intelligence, and try to change our minds. Although it is not as violent as before, I still feel it’s, it’s against our freedom, against our will. So this is what I try to say in “Bodyless, is that, do we really escape from the old days, from that autocratic government or now we actually still live in the world like the novel “Brave New World”,, where we live around these bubbles, and the government, one has to believe most fake news so we can be obedient”. 

Read TechvangArt interview with Hsin-Chien Huang 

SAMSARA – Jury Award, SXSW Virtual Cinema Competition 2021, Cannes XR 2021 Award

”Samsara” is a remarkable experience that exposes in a  poetic way how the history of the evolution of the being repeats itself till spirits learn through mistakes, to heal and find forms that suit developments. As if the history of each of us is linked to the history of our joint evolution, the director transports the audience through different significant times and spaces. In the same time, the audience will embody different Beings. It starts from primitive but proud humans, who discovered the power through different elements like fire, prehistoric weapons  and later modern armaments – being able to destroy other living creatures and nature. Only to be the next second in the position of a  victim, refugee, or to experience the anger against society and itself, till the self-destruction and reborn and search for new forms for evolution. 

An uplifting and powerful experience that combines forceful visuals, a sensitive and poetic (sub)text, and a bold and optimistic storyline about our evolution, Samsara is an astonishing experience that brings Hope. 

”Samsara’‘ is an experiment based on the concept of Embodied Cognition. Through interactivity and VR, the audience can live inside the bodies of different persons and creatures. When we feel this world in different bodies, we may truly appreciate the thoughts of others, empathize with them, and comprehend our existence in full and in harmony.”

Read here our entire review: 

Two VR projects in the show are collaborative works by Hsin-Chien Huang and Laurie Anderson. To the Moon (2018) and Chalkroom (2017)

Two VR projects in the show are collaborative works by Hsin-Chien Huang and Laurie Anderson. To the Moon (2018) aBest of VR Venice Film festival 2019, and Chalkroom (2017) Chalkroom, co-created with Laurie Anderson

CHALKROOM  – one of the first collaborative work between Hsin-Chien Huang and Laurie Anderson –  features eight unique rooms with chalkboards emerging as a vast labyrinth. The viewers are guided by Laurie Anderson’s voice through a sensorial landscape.
The audience can fly through letters, words, stories, and… worlds. These are composing and re-composing, offering different experiences. Abstract symbols are converted into concrete, interactive, physical presences, allowing the audience to explore the connections between written words and memories.
Chalkroom was awarded Best VR Experience at the 74th Venice Film Festival and was the first of several VR works that Huang and Anderson created together.

TO THE MOON, co-created with Laurie Anderson Best of VR Venice Film festival 2019 

To the Moon (2018), originally commissioned by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, made its US premiere at the Museum of Natural History timed to the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The artist duo reconceptualizes the moon in six segments, using images and tropes from Greek mythology, literature, science, and sci-fi space movies. The viewer is able to explore the surface of the new moon, glide through space debris, and fly through DNA skeletons of dinosaurs. 

Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang were interviewed by Christian Lund at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark in connection with the exhibition ‘The Moon’ in September 2018. In the video, Anderson and Huang talk about their VR piece ‘To the Moon’ (2018).

https://youtu.be/bncsR45hxGU

Sculptures

Three stainless steel sculptures  accompany the VR journey. Through these, Huang references historical Buddha statues and reframes them by stripping them of their humanity and turning them into robot-like creatures in high-tech armor, floating motionless in space.

The exhibit includes Huang’s standalone series of 3-D prints, Sculptures of Touch (2020). For these, the artist devised a digital system that would record his touch upon once untouchable martial law public objects such as barricades, bunkers, and monuments that remain in Taipei. The hand-traced objects were then re-visualized as images and 3D printed objects.

“Touch” as a symbol represented a starting point while the trajectory of it constituted the volume in the space, and the after images of the motion condensed into a new sculpture. The investigators in the new era took “touch” as the methodology to feel the present as well as to ponder and to reconstruct the experience of the days in the past.

影片製作:范中翰 Photo and Video by Zhong-Han Fan

Through these new sculptures the artist explores “body memory” and the body’s physical performances and connections with history, art, and technology.

© 高雄市立美術館 KAOHSIUNG MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

A video installation, Omni Channels, (2018) will also be on view, furthering the conversation around humanity’s dystopian impulses and the ethics of surveillance.

”The idea for Omni Channels originated during a collaboration between Huang Hsin-Chien and a dancer friend in 2012. While testing ways to incorporate wireless CCTV equipment into the dance, Huang accidentally received the CCTV footage of the building, which led to the realization that we are surrounded by “omnipresent” CCTVs. Huang started capturing images that were transmitted wirelessly and scattered around the city. Using full-frequency scanners and laptops, Huang gathered the images throughout the city, and once signals of wireless CCTVs are detected, the computer program automatically starts recording 3-5 second footage. In the end, approximately 500 segments of footage were collected.” © 高雄市立美術館 KAOHSIUNG MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

Project benefited also from the support of: to the Taiwan Ministry of Culture; Taiwan Creative Content Agency; National Taiwan Normal University; Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government; Kaohsiung Film Archive; and Fou Gallery, Brooklyn, NY for supporting the artist.

Exhibition: Hsin-Chien Huang: The Data We Called Home, September 23, 2022 – March 4, 2023 (Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 144 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10011)

About Hsin-Chien Huang:

Hsin-Chien Huang is a New Media Creator with backgrounds in art, design, engineering, and electronic gaming. His career endeavors explore the possibilities of cutting-edge technologies in art, literature, design, and stage performance. His projects involve large-scale interdisciplinary interaction, performing, mechanical apparatus, algorithmic computations, and video installations. While being a professor at the Design Department of National Taiwan Normal University, Huang is committed to interdisciplinary collaborative STEAM education and publication.

Huang’s artworks have been exhibited throughout the world, including Taipei Fine Art Museum, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art, Shanghai Biennale, Venice Biennale, MoMA of New York, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, Ars Electronica Festival, Beijing 798, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York, and Transmediale in Germany, among others. He has also commissioned projects for the Digital Dunhuang VR Experience of the Dunhuang Academy China, Future Museum of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taipei Pavilion in the Shanghai Expo, Pavilion of Dreams in the Taipei Flora Expo, and a public installation art for Taipei 101.

In recent years, Huang’s revolutionary VR works have attracted international attention and won a variety of awards. His VR film Chalkroom, made in collaboration with Laurie Anderson, won the Best VR Experience Award at the 74th Venice Film Festival in 2017. Bodyless won an Honorable Mention at the 2020 Ars Electronica Festival and the Golden Mask at the Newimages Festival in Paris. His new work Samsara won the Jury Award at the Texas SXSW Festival in the United States, Grand Prize for the Best VR Narrative at the Cannes Film Festival XR category and Honorary Mention in the Computer Animation category at Prix Ars Electronica.

 About Pratt Institute

Pratt Institute gives the creative leaders of tomorrow the knowledge and experience to make a better world. A top-ranked college with opportunities in art, design, architecture, liberal arts and sciences, and information studies, Pratt offers nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The Institute’s impact expands beyond its 25-acre residential campus in Brooklyn to cutting-edge facilities throughout the borough, a landmark building and public gallery in Manhattan, as well as an extension campus, PrattMWP College of Art and Design in Utica, New York. Since its founding in 1887, Pratt has prioritized diversity and inclusion, welcoming students from all walks of life while developing and sustaining pathways to more equitable workplaces and careers. Today, Pratt and its exceptional faculty pride themselves on being academically excellent as well as adaptable to both in-person and online learning. Pratt students are part of a collaborative, interdisciplinary, research- and inquiry-based education that prepares them for professional and personal success in creative fields and with the goal of contributing to a more just and sustainable world.