Lin Pey-Chwen’s Public Art Concept and Statement
Text written by Pey-Chwen Lin
After the shock of “921 Earthquake” in Taiwan 1999 and the revelation by the Prophet of all nations, Elijah Hong, I gained a deeper understanding of the relationship between mankind and nature. I learned that all of mankind’s problems actually originated from human selfishness, ignorant pride and un-respect to God, the act of using technology to alter nature and challenge God’s original creation. Prophet Elijah Hong’s message of “Eden Homestead” called out to human beings leave the civilization of technology and return to nature. This is why I starting the new series of artworks “Back to Nature” by using the art language of representation of the artificial nature and life.
Comparison of Artificial and Natural
I noticed that cities became the center of the development of civilization. Colorful and bright billboards and signage are the symbol of a bustling city. I decided to use artificial materials to represent artificial nature. To do so, I went to a signage manufacture company to search for technique and materials such as acrylic light boards, LED lights. I then apply the digital images of sky, ocean, and flowers to the light boxes to make it look like a “Nature Signage”.
Near the end of 1999, my art series, “Substantial Life,” was exhibited at the Taoyuan Cultural Art Center. I placed several cone-shaped acrylic light boxes along the side of the park’s walking trail. The combination of artificial nature and the park created a strange scene. Participants could walk around the cones and view the images of sky, ocean, and flowers from three different angles. The view was especially breathtaking at nighttime.
This artwork was my way of reconstructing the interest that city people have for beautiful artificial products. It’s ironic that they care so little about the dangers facing nature, yet they’re so mesmerized by this artificial light box mimicking nature.
In "Viewing Views," my solo exhibition in 2000, I used a cubic acrylic light box as the basic units to make up three scenery sets of artificial sky, garden, and ocean hung on the wall. Chairs were placed in front of the formatted artificial scenery sets for the audience to sit and enjoy the artwork. It’s quite a peculiar sight to see the audience sit so naturally in the chair to admire the view when we’re constantly bombarded with similar man-made scenery every day.
In 2001, I was invited to create “Treasure” an installation in Cingjing Farm. I chose a site with plenty of tall trees and tried to think of ways to incorporate them into my artwork. The idea of cherishing nature’s treasures came to mind along with the image of a bird's nest between the branches.
I made shell-like light boxes with silkscreen-printed flower patterns. The works of "treasure” were placed amongst branches of those tall trees. During the day, these nest-like pieces created a startling view. But at night, they sparkled like diamonds, lighting up the dark and catching the attention of people walking by.
"Treasure" was also exhibited at different locations, such as the ceiling of Huashan Creative Park, inside the remains of the Taiwan Sugar Factory, and even on the floor of an art gallery. Later on I was invited to exhibit them in the art area of the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Chiayi.
In my 2004 solo exhibition "Artificial Nature," in addition to re-arranging the pieces from "Treasure" on a reflecting board to make an unnaturally uniform and standardized installation, I strongly emphasized the symbols man-made technology such as computers and 3D animations, as well as several social phenomena of the digital era (money, brands, video games, cloning and genetic engineering technology). Those images were displayed with images of flowers to create a contrast between Mother Nature and our highly technical civilization.
From Public Arts Festival to Permanent Public Art
Public art curators started noticing me because of my unique choice of placing artwork within natural settings in the “Artificial Nature” series. In 2005, I was invited to create “Chrysalis” for The Second Annual Taipei Public Arts Festival. I made around a dozen white acrylic cocoon pieces and placed them between branches in the park. During the day, they looked like cocoons resting under sunlight; however, at night they transformed into sparkling butterflies, lighting up the trees they inhabited. This magical process of the artificial cocoon’s metamorphosis was done by using electroluminescent displays at the front end of the cocoon pieces to reveal glowing images of butterflies.
In 2006, I was invited to create "Rain Forest" for the Taipei Lantern Festival’s artistic light area. This piece used hundreds of fluorescent acrylic sticks and hung them on tree branches to create a rain-like glowing object. When participants walked through the artwork at nighttime, it was dream-like experience, as if they were traveling to a different time and space.
I created another piece in 2006 named “Morning Dew” for the Kuandu Museum Of Fine Art. Afterwards I was invited to exhibit this piece at the Pingtung Peninsula Arts Festival and the New York Godwinternback Art Museum.
In 2009, I received my first invitation to submit work for a permanent public art project. Yen Ming Hun and I were chosen to jointly construct four pieces for the Xinpu, Sugar Refinery, Qiao Tou, and Kaohsiung MRT stations. “Integration and Co-construction” was the work installed at Qiao Tou station. I used images of butterflies and local sunflowers, as well as Qiaotou Old Street’s hand-illustrated totem designs sprayed onto acrylic boards. These boards were hung on the ceiling of the train station’s hallway towards the MRT. On the way to take the train, travelers saw images symbolizing nature; but on their way out, they saw another side of the artwork with images symbolizing the local culture of the town. This two-sided artwork represented the seamless integration of nature and culture in the historical town of Qiao Tou.
“Listening to Cloud-light #2,” an artwork I did for Chinpu MRT Station, was constructed by cloud-shaped steel frames holding prism glass placed where the sun would shine from the west. The sunrays reflected from the prism glass and created rainbows. According to the time, it would change positions. Sometimes reflects onto the floor; sometimes reflects on the ceiling; and sometimes even on the visitors’ bodies. The colorful rainbows changed unpredictably. This piece cleverly borrowed light from the environment and successfully highlighted Kaohsiung people’s warmth and harmonious coexistence with nature. This series was awarded the Education Prize at The 3rd Public Arts Awards.
From Interactive Installations to Interactive New Media Public Art
As I developed my work from “Artificial Nature” to “Artificial Life,” interactivity became a bridge between my artwork and the audience. When I exhibited “Catching” in 2006 at MOCA, I used 4D images to present the lively butterfly images. In 2007, at my exhibition in Beijing 798, I took a huge leap forward with my interactive installation, “Virtual Creation.” This installation allowed participants to decorate their own butterflies, which would appear on the projected screen after they were done. This process allowed them to experience the grandeur of being a creator.
Later on, I developed the idea of metamorphosis of butterflies into a series of work, “Eve Clone.” This series has been exhibited in several domestic and international art museums and digital art festivals. I criticized cloning technology as an extreme form of artificial life, using these series of work as a warning of the alluring, yet dangerous, technology that will ultimately destruct human beings.
After exhibiting several interactive installation works, I started receiving commissions and invitations to enter my work for new media public art. In 2009, the National Center for High-Performance Computing commissioned me to create “Digital View,” to show their interest in humanities and science. I used the center’s real-time observation station, and used the center’s images captured from the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium to appear on my artwork’s LED display.
The participants could see actual images of seaweed, fish, and coral reef in real-time. They could also switch to images or videos of lakes, forests, weather changes, and such. Through this project, the public could gain some understanding about the research being done at the center.
I also set up an interactive platform for visitors of the center to freely write their thoughts and illustrate their feedback, which would show up in the screen of my work. This was a highly time and labor consuming project that combined art and technology to create an interactive public artwork.
In 2011 at the Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University, I created, “Sons of Blue Sky,” another work that allowed real-time interaction. This was a commissioned project, which meant I had plenty of time to communicate with the school. First, I called for submissions of student artwork to uncover their feelings and thoughts towards the campus.
I decided to use 3D animation and interactive game software to create a virtual campus, which transformed the old walls of one of their buildings into an interactive screen simulating the campus. When participants raised the interactive sensor shaped like a red bird, their face would be captured by the webcam and displayed into the 3D animation of a floating crystal ball. Participants could tour around the virtual campus by flying in the sky or passing through walls of every building, or even diving into the lake. This gave the students a deeper appreciation of their campus and empowered them to pursue their dreams like sky’s the limit.
I also created a virtual gallery to showcase student work. Students had the opportunity to draw on the computer tablet and save it onto the computer’s database for a designated teacher to select quality work to exhibit in the virtual gallery. This provided students a space to express themselves. The high school was left with creations and memories from different periods.
In 2012, I made a bold move to take interactive public art to the outdoors. In “Door of Creativity,” my interactive systems overcame the test of the outdoor environment. This work was based on the imagery of a university gate and the Arch of Triumph to emphasize the unique qualities of National Hsinchu University of Education University.
“The Door of Creativity” is comprised of seven “gates” arranged into a semicircle, symbolizing the scholarly endeavors one embarks on when enrolling in the university. I invited Art majors to create images symbolizing each major offered at the university, and invited Music majors to create the audio portion of the artwork. After some modification, they were incorporated into the work. The participants could stand in front of the podiums and wave their arms like music conductors, and change the interactive music’s tempo as well as the LED lights. This artwork established an intimate relationship between the students, the public, and the artwork.
My creations used artificial material to mimic natural forms and scenes, revealing mankind’s desire to continuously advance the technology of virtual and artificial illusions. The mesmerizing colors and lights glowing from the work, although beautiful and fascinating, is merely a work of man. This artificial nature is beautiful yet depressing. It is also a way to get people to reflect on the relationship between humans and nature.