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Recto VRsoArt / HeritageInterview

Gender and body at the heart of Chia-Chi Chiang’s artistic work

Œuvre de réalité virtuelle qui explore les thèmes du corps, sexe et genre

The perception of the body and gender is questioned by the artist-researcher.

Crédits photos : Chia-Chi Chiang

Artist-researcher Chia-Chi Chiang is interested in the representation of the human body. For several years, she has been conducting artistic experiments around our perception of eroticism and sexuality using new technologies. She exhibits her work Everything that has a form is unreal during the 2023 edition of the digital art festival Recto VRso.

Can you introduce yourself?

I have a PhD in Digital Images from the INRév Laboratory, under the direction of Professor Chu-Yin Chen. I’m particularly interested in the representation of the human body through new technologies. Combining practice and theory of Chinese medicine, my research is about the artistic potential offered in the representations of blood vessels and networks. I am a former student of ENSBA (Atelier Guillaume Paris/Jean-Luc Vilmouth) and I created a series of performances by staging my own body. My approach arouses questions of social structure and cultural phenomena. I passed the DNSAP (National Superior Diploma of Plastic Art) with the jury’s congratulations and the Multimedia Prize of the ENSBA foundation. To promote intercultural exchanges, I organized conferences and meet-ups to gather artists and researchers from Taiwan, China and Europe.

Why did you choose to use technologies in your art?

What implications for human relations can result from a direct and free mode of communication between communities? What behaviours can we qualify as “sexual” or as an assault and a rape on social media? Can sexual activities be practice without any interaction than voice communication by phone? I asked myself those questions for the first time when my parents showed me an American erotic advertisement in 2005. It was a time when online discussion groups like Yahoo, MSN and Skype were very popular. The Buzz me! project was the starting point of a seduction and provocation game.

In 2007, I conducted this artistic experience by dressing up as an erotic online service provider to check if someone would actually call me. On the erotic posters putting me in the scene and published in the public space, the phone number was the one of a real professional. However, I used a real Skype account to communicate with some of the clients and I even received erotic calls from the US.

You already exhibited at Recto VRso. What does the festival mean to you?

Art is a lifestyle. It’s a pleasure to leave the artworks exhibited as an art, and sharing and participation are a true delight. It’s there that I hope to touch the life of those who enjoy art or those who are curious to know more.

Can you describe the artwork you will exhibit at Recto VRso 2023?

There are two sculptures: The sound of the two microphones shows a projection of text (the action of the projection is like rain, it will disappear on the bowl, then the projected text will disappear; the calligraphy written on the board will disappear when the water evaporates). The meaning of Everything that has a form is unreal does not mean something abstract and ambiguous, rather it is all material objects or concrete and simple facts When we experience something through our senses, all phenomena such as sound, smell, color and temperature can only be said to exist because that we have seen and heard them; more importantly, their existence depends on our perception and awareness. There is no absolute truth for nature itself. Nature changes every moment; “this” is changing constantly in “that”.

What topics do you explore in your works?

In my work, I question the role of emancipation, on the angle of the notion of the representation of physicality and the digital body in the performance action. I approach body and space, re-playability or the act of re-actualizing live performance works as a documentary medium. I go back to my creative process based on multiple representations or “avatars” of myself, to better understand the multiple relationships that play out in my performances: between the work and me, the work and the audience, my culture and society or the creative context.

Will the technological extension of the body as allowed by networks make human relationships obsolete or will it extend its possibilities? Does the race to digital and sensory rise through new physical interfaces (effort feedback, tactile…) allow to consider an obliteration of the biological body in its relationship to the other as we know it? What about the very current and sensitive question of gender, in relationships essentially experienced and performed within dematerialized platforms?

Do you try to deliver a message through your works?

The human body can modify the perception of the gender by dressing up and the users can express their thoughts through words. Digital artists use an artistic form to give the public a feeling of participation and make sure that he is a co-creator. People’s gender consciousness comes down to their ideas of the world through the media. Sexual orientation should be an individual reflection and choice.

It is about thinking about the self-awakening of female gender roles and gender in patriarchal society, as well as about gender cognition in traditional society. From this comes the fundamental question about gender equality, and about human-machine interaction in the field of science and technology.

According to you, what do VR and new technologies bring to art?

Nowadays, many artists play with social behaviors to go beyond the binarity of the body. They use roles inversion to reinterpret gender, which consists in expressing a return to the human being, rather than simply reproducing gender-specific behaviors. It’s possible to go back to the perspective of the human thought itself and the auto-identification from body behavior intervening in the technological interface.

In your opinion, how did technologies change the relationship between the artwork and the spectator?

We can express our emotional reactions and our life stories by acting though our body. In all communities, must it be physical or virtual, the members need to believe in a common story. Then, digital art spectators also need to believe in a common scenario.

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