HsienYu CHENG: [.user ]

In a world where seeing is believing, how do we grapple with understanding or proving the existence of the intangible or imperceptible? This September, ESLITE GALLERY presents HsienYu CHENG Solo Exhibition [.user            ], where we see two of his new artworks tap into the experimentation with quantum network technology and browsers. These pieces meld together technology, situation, and interaction, inviting the viewers to engage and rethink the established notions of perception, documentation, and language communication.

  • Exhibition Period:16 September - 14 October 2023
  • Address:ESLITE GALLERY ∣ B1, No. 88, Yanchang Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei City 110055, Taiwan

HsienYu CHENG (b. 1984) holds a BFA from the Department of Theatrical Design & Technology, Taipei National University of the Arts, and an MFA from the Frank Mohr Institute at Academe Minerva in the Netherlands. Now working both as an artist and a software developer, CHENG’s artistic endeavors mainly revolve around electronic devices, software, and bioelectronic experimental instruments. They are vessels for exploring the relationship between human behavior, emotions, and their interplay with software and machinery. His talent has earned him numerous accolades, including first prize in the Taipei Digital Art Award (2013), New Media Art of Kaohsiung Award (2017), Tung Chung Art Award (2019), and Visual Arts Award in Taishin Arts Award (2021).

His earlier works imbue mechanical contraptions with symbolism or existential significance, at times employing humor to express his observations of the environment and his insights into life. For instance, Portrait 2011 featured in this exhibition is a robot face made from electronic waste. It can sense the crowds on-site: if there are people present, the robot’s face springs to life; if no one is present, it will start to shed tears.

The breakneck evolution of internet communication has sparked controversy over cybersecurity. In It Could Be You, CHENG utilizes server-side applications to collect information from regional online forums and chat rooms. When someone posts a message on the Internet, the system scours for potential personal information and images, then generates a series of “hypothetical” personal profiles using synthesis techniques and machine learning. Meanwhile, Annoyanony autogenerates a virtual phone number and corresponding personal information. Utilizing an Internet-based communication protocol, a phone call will be made to a number selected at random from the available data. After the call is connected, an anonymous call group is established, and a conversation between two strangers, the interlocutors of the call, is initiated without the knowledge of one another. The viewers observe the progress of the conversation through the venue’s sound system and visualization. This work touches on the anxieties and dialectics of privacy, ethics, subjectivity, and beyond.

Communication systems have not only changed the way information and intelligence are exchanged but also greatly altered human communication behavior and our comprehension of messages. This is precisely the inspiration of Cheng’s creations, A Slightly Different Browser and Around 7 Meters is More Fun.

In A Slightly Different Browser, he uses QuNetSim to develop a web browser akin to a regular browser. The difference is that it transmits the user’s actions, such as mouse movements, scrolls, or clicks, onto the screen at the exhibition venue through simulated quantum cryptography. These actions are converted to visible physical lights, offering viewers the most direct and intuitive visual experience. This artwork establishes a dynamic relationship between real-time information of browser use and the visual perception of another space, thereby forging another mode of communication.

Around 7 Meters is More Fun displays the image trajectory generated by participants manipulating a joystick onto a remote screen. Only observers can see the images that appear on the screen; neither the participants themselves can see them nor can the images be captured or recorded. Consequently, participants must rely on the descriptions or expressions of the observers to conjure an unseen scene. Here, CHENG creates a unique interactive situation that compels people to reconsider the distinctions and connections between the seen and the unseen.

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