Innovative Exhibition Showcases Calligraphy in 16,384 Ways

Innovative Exhibition Showcases Calligraphy in 16,384 Ways
Photo Credit: The New Taipei City Art Center

What you need to know

The beauty of traditional calligraphy is usually appreciated in complete characters, but an art exhibition encourages the audience to look beyond form with seven large-scale installations.

Seven large kinetic installations are turning calligraphy into a dynamic, moving art form that can be seen in 16,384 different ways.

The New Taipei City Art Center is currently showcasing “16384 of Silent Music,” an innovative calligraphy exhibition by Taiwanese calligrapher Tong Yang-tze (董陽孜) and Paris-based art collective Active Creative Design. The large-scale pieces rotate to engage the audience in the strokes and dots of calligraphy, instead of the form of each character.

Tong is known for integrating traditional and contemporary, Eastern and Western elements in her calligraphy, which has become her signature in the traditional art. The 73-year-old artist breaks down the characters written in calligraphy hoping that people can grow to appreciate the beauty of each brushstroke.

Ho Kuei-yu (何桂育) from Active Creative Design tells The News Lens International the team developed the form of aesthetics based on an initial proposal by Tong. The calligrapher provided the team with a set of works of the same size, the size of the Xuan paper Tong uses for painting, and Active Creative Design developed an approach using these works as a base.

Ho says the team wanted to stay in the realm of pictorial art, so they gave up every technology that could stray away from it, such as projections, multimedia entertainment and tactile interfaces. At the same time, Active Creative Design developed the idea of a dynamic exhibition that plays with the possible combination between all these different fragments and integrated them into the exhibition space.

“The idea of the seven rotary devices therefore came naturally,” says Ho. “They play between full and empty, white and black, and between the three dimensions of space, while bringing a rich variety of combinations that evolve softly, with respect for the artistic work.”

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Photo Credit: The New Taipei City Art Center

The size of each device was given by the initial size of each painting, and team is pleased that the installations give such a strong physical presence. But the devices serve primarily as an original mode of composition and do not constitute the goal of the exhibition by themselves.

“We were not interested in speed and movement, but rather the ability to depict a set of combinations, establishing new relationships between all the fragments,” says Ho. “So you should see the rotary devices as a scenography for this original creation, and not as a mechanical system we would use in different creations.”

A total of six calligraphy works of Tong was patterned onto the seven kinetic installations, producing 16,384 configurations.

Active Creative Design worked on the project for three months under many constraints. The team only had two days in the exhibition space, during which they had to build and integrate the entire set design with the artworks and connect the electronic system and engines.

“For us, this exhibition was the opportunity for a strong dialogue with contemporary art and painting, questioning how to present a pictorial work to the public,” says Ho. “We are very pleased that Ms. Tong Yang Tze was as open and enthusiastic for this type of research.”

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Active Creative Design, Ho Kuei-yu (right) and Patrice Mugnier (left), with Tong Yang-tze (middle).

Since working on the “Poems 100” exhibition at MOCA Taipei eight years ago, Active Creative Design has never stopped working with the conversation between art and history.

“This is obviously one of the most important features of Active Creative Design, and is something we want to continue to develop in the future, particularly in the context of Asian culture,” says Ho.

“16384 of Silent Music” is currently on display at The New Taipei City Art Center and will run until Aug. 28.

First Editor: J. Michael Cole
Second Editor: Edward White