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Aka Chang and the fascinating digital art coming out of Taipei

Taiwanese artist Aka Chang explores his massive light installations and discusses his practice, NFTs, and all things art.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Oct 19, 2022

The light artist Chang Fangyu, better known as Aka Chang, has a digital art practice that is composed of a great deal of geometric forms. Many pieces are massive in scale, featuring rays of light that meet and break away from each other at angles. The artist explains that he refers to his forms as structures, and tells STIR, “At first glance, you might see a lot of geometric shapes dominant in my works, but before they grow into any forms, they are points, and then from there, they develop into lines and surfaces. I was a VJ in my early career, using lots of exaggerated and exciting motion graphics to create visual scenes and experiences. After that, I began to think about the nature of these visuals. What if I simplify the graphics to just one coloured block, where the only motion is just strobe? If the illumination has no longer been given the purpose of narrative building, then the canvas is basically a source of light, whether it comes from an LED screen, a projector, or from somewhere else.” It was questions and answers such as these that led the Taiwanese artist to begin experimenting with particle-based geometric audio-visual art, while simultaneously utilising high-power fixtures that were capable of shaping the light beams that he projected.

Smoke and structures besides port, 2022, laser, variable dimensions, Studio Aka Chang | Smoke and structures besides port | Studio Aka Chang | STIRworld
Smoke and structures besides port, 2022, laser, variable dimensions, Studio Aka Chang Image: Courtesy of Studio Aka Chang

Chang lives and works in Taipei, Taiwan. The subject he had originally pursued in college was fashion design, yet he would begin a career in VJing shortly after leaving campus in the mid-2000s. At that time, he was one of the few folx pursuing VJing in his city, and would likely have been seen as something of an oddity, even within the art community. However, the times have changed: Taipei has become quite the destination for new media arts. Chang tells STIR, “Over the last decade, my working experience has expanded greatly. I have worked on a whole host of projects, from commercial events, pop music concerts, and high-end fashion runways to large-scale projection mapping visual shows that garnered a global audience. These experiences have influenced my current artistic practice heavily.”

Void Jungle, 2016, light and smoke, variable dimensions, Studio Aka Chang, Studio Aka Chang | Void Jungle | Studio Aka Chang | STIRworld
Void Jungle, 2016, light and smoke, variable dimensions, Studio Aka Chang Image: Courtesy of Studio Aka Chang

The artist mentions that every musician and artist he has worked with has been an inspiration to him. He counts Han Cheng Yeh, Mark Vekman, Jez Fang, Zephec Hsu, and Shahab Sahhaf among them. He has also drawn critical influence from other practitioners including Alexander Mcqueen, Coldcut, Michel Gondry, Alexander Shulgin, Underworld, The Chemical Brothers and many others. “These individuals inspired me throughout my life in different phases. Aesthetic education wasn't the main emphasis in my surroundings when I grew up, which led to my artistry becoming a response mechanism to whatever was. It allowed me to discover the inner creative world I so longed for. Soon after, a dark and melancholy pall came over me. During this time, art brought light and allowed me to find redemption, thus beginning a new phase in my life,” mentions Chang.

Void Jungle video, 2016, light and smoke, variable dimensions, Studio Aka Chang and Han ChengYeh Video: Courtesy of Studio Aka Chang and Han ChengYeh

Chang explains that audio signals drive the dynamics of the geometric forms he creates. He creates his pieces in such a way that high-frequency sounds usually cause their breakage and deconstruction. Additionally, he keeps a keen focus on every aspect of the venue he is to perform at, from the size and acoustics of the place, to the windspeeds and even the amount of moisture present in the air. Chang further elaborates on this, saying, “I must imagine the relationship between the light-structure I am building, the postures for both humans entrants as well as the light forms, and moreover, the possible vitality brought in by a human crowd to the venue, once people begin engaging with the light.”

June Orbs, 2019, laser and smoke, variable dimensions, Studio Aka Chang Video: Courtesy of Studio Aka Chang

Of late, Chang has been playing with the collaborative format: in the second half of 2021, he invited 24 sound and visual artists based in Taiwan to create audio-visual works that fit into the broad theme he proposed: CENTURY 2121, a metaverse party imagined to occur a hundred years after their creative collaboration. The project yielded 12 audio-visual works that eventually became a limited edition NFT series on the blockchain, for collectors to mint. Interestingly, the success of this project did not signal a move towards the crypto space for Chang, who says “as a digital artist, I am delighted to see how NFTs allow creators such as myself to authenticate their work, which can then be collected and resold. They have the potential to bring artists all over the world good income. However, I don't agree with the speculation that has taken hold at the heart of the space, and the money game that is emerging at the current stage. So, I have suspended my NFT projects as of now.”

Profile Picture, 2022, Image, variable dimensions, Studio Aka Chang | Artist’s archive | Studio Aka Chang | STIRworld
Artist Aka Chang Image: Courtesy of Studio Aka Chang

The audiovisual artist does not seek unreliable bursts of creativity or the eureka moments many an artist seem to work through. His is a story of curiosity and perseverance: he explains that he holds a macro-view over his life and practice, and that he feels as though a steady and continuous rhythm will pay dividends in the long run. As he puts it, “the creative projects that I am currently pursuing will continue to grow farther on the outside, and deeper on the inside.” As of now, he is quite fascinated by the presence of smoke within his work. He explains that he usually uses a large volume of smoky gas within his pieces, so as to diffuse the beams of light he creates, and that everything from procurement, to deployment, positioning and quantity becomes quite challenging. This has prompted him to rethink how he uses the substance, and he is also on the lookout for large spaces where he can experiment freely in order to develop a new approach. Audiences will no doubt wish Chang Godspeed, and hope that he finds spaces of sufficient size to further hone his captivating craft, so that his performances and light installations may grow larger still. It will be exciting to see what comes from the artist next, and how the audio-visual arts scene in Taiwan will evolve in the coming years. Until then, fans of truly grand audio-visual art need only look towards the world’s foremost musicians and venues in order to, perhaps, spot a glimpse of Chang.

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