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Post-Humanism, AI, Oral Histories, Mythological Narratives, Machine-Nature Interaction, Machine Learning, Calligraphy, Performance


Calligrapedia: A Universal Algorithm

Calligrapedia: A Universal Algorithm, Tuan Mu, 2023-2024. Calligraphy Script, Machine Learning, Multi-Channel Video, Live Sound Performance, Inkjet Print (30x30cm, each piece). Dimensions Variable.

Based on the artist’s experience of practicing “A Narrative on Calligraphy” for many years, Calligrapedia: A Universal Algorithm utilizes a machine learning model called Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) to analyze a large number of calligraphy drafts. Drawing inspiration from natural elements such as landscapes, animals, and plants, it has developed a series of human-machine-made Chinese characters that flow between script and organic things. On the other hand, through collaboration with a folk tale narrator, it reinterprets ancient oral stories passed down worldwide with “qualitative transformation” as its core:

“…the severed giant snake split in two, with one half falling into the sea and the other half transforming into Banping Mountain…” (The legend of Mount Banping in Kaohsiung).

“…the eagle folded its wings and transformed into a minstrel, snuck within the crowd…” (Folk tale from Armenia). And so on.

Deconstructing machine learning’s aspects of image style recognition and simulation, Calligrapedia: A Universal Algorithm explores how words, language, and mythological narratives in human history continuously interpret themselves through learning from the world around them. The work constructs an intertwined view of human-machine-nature interaction. Combining the interdisciplinary practices of calligraphy, generative images, and sound performance, it contemplates on the essence of creation and relationships between humans, machines, and nature.

Creative Team:
Artist, Director | Tuan Mu
Machine Learning Engineer | Aisthesis Savage
Sound Performer | Ku Hsiang-Yu, Yang Yu-Chiao
Folk Tale Narrator | Yang Yu-Chiao
Sound Designer | Chen Lin-Shuang
Filmmaker | dULUb studio
Data Organizer | Ray He
English Translators | Ray He, Alex Stoner
Supported by the National Culture and Arts Foundation

Artist Interview

Q: In this new edition of the UAAD online magazine, we're exploring the theme of "[Matrix] of the [Not-Yet]." How would you interpret these two words, and how do you see your work aligning with the concepts of [Matrix] and [Not-Yet]?

I greatly appreciate the concept of the "Matrix of the Not-Yet," as it delves into the core of art — exploring yet-to-happen scenarios through observation, deconstruction, and interpretation. My work "Calligrapedia: A Universal Algorithm" precisely engages in deconstructing the process of machine learning and intertwining it with traditional media and mythology to contemplate the creativity between humans, technology, and nature.

Q: We are very interested in the trajectory of your creative practices and their connection to the theme. Could you provide us with a little more information about your background?

My bachelor's and master's degrees are in traditional ink painting and calligraphy. This background provides me with a unique perspective on my creations. Recently, I've been experimenting with using technological media to interpret my background and connect it to the present era. "Calligrapedia: A Universal Algorithm" is an example of this, as its creation was inspired by my experiences learning calligraphy.

Q: The creators participating in this magazine work across various mediums, including moving images, interactive installations, music composition, etc. What factors influence your choice of medium for your works?

My choice of medium depends on its ability to effectively convey the concept of the artwork. When creating "Calligrapedia: A Universal Algorithm," I became aware of the similarity between the process of learning calligraphy and the logic of machine learning, both involving extensive analysis and imitation before developing a unique style. This realization motivated me to further explore the possibilities of artificial intelligence in my artistic practice.

Q: How does your work reflect or actively engage with the cultural and social dynamics of your community or the communities you interact with? Are there elements in your art that seek to bridge, disrupt, or transform these dynamics?

My work incorporates narratives from various Asian countries' folk tales. These stories stem from my upbringing, some gathered through fieldwork, others from books and oral traditions. I reorganize these tales into new narratives to reflect the complexity of the environment in which I live.

Q: What real-world strategies or methodologies do you employ in your art practice to manifest your visions of the future? How do these tactics serve as forms of resistance or intervention within the current socio-political landscape?

My work primarily revolves around fostering imagination about the future through dialogues between different fields. Rather than opting for explicit resistance or intervention, I lean towards conveying my thoughts through communication and neutrality.

Q: How do you hope your work impacts its viewers or participants, particularly in terms of rethinking potential futures or alternate realities? Who do you perceive as your audience?

I hope to provoke the audience to contemplate the role of technology in human culture and history through "Calligrapedia: A Universal Algorithm." The artwork attempts to deconstruct language, nature, and technology while proposing imaginings of collaboration between humanity and artificial intelligence. I believe that anyone can find their entry point within it. Children might be drawn to the fascinating folk tales; engineers might be captivated by the concept of co-creation between humans and AI; and calligraphers might appreciate the process of scripts transforming into natural elements.

Q: As a creator, what do you see as the threats or uncertainties we will face in the coming decade?

I believe that the most significant impact on humanity in the next decade will be the changes in the natural environment. The relationship between nature and humanity is a crucial issue, as civilization, politics, and technology are all built upon our coexistence with nature. I think we need to approach this problem with more effective and wise ways of thinking; otherwise, everything created by humanity will remain fragile.

Q: What motivates you to continue creating as an artist?

As an artist, I explore the unknown and learn from it with every project. I thoroughly enjoy experimenting with the latest media, collaborating with experts from different fields, and engaging in cultural exchanges with people from diverse regions. These are all driving forces behind my continuous pursuit of new projects.

Q: Are there any theories, books, or artists you would like to recommend in your current areas of interest?

I recently started reading a book that I've been interested in for many years, "Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.“ This book explores various perspectives such as mathematics, art, music, psychology, and technology, and discusses order and change in an intertwined narrative style.

Q: If you could possess a superpower, what would it be?

If I had superpowers, it would be the ability to communicate with all things. It would enable me to converse with animals and plants, dialogue with the oceans and forests, and even comprehend life forms yet unknown to humanity in the universe.

About the Artist

Tuan Mu is an artist and independent curator based in Taipei. As an artist, Mu’s work is based on cultural and philosophical dialectic within the context of East Asian culture. Through technological art and new media, he attempts to reinterpret bodily perception in relation with space and time. The mediums include XR, generative AI, 3D animation, installation, live performance, ink painting and calligraphy. His works have been exhibited in Armenia, China, Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, Taiwan, USA and Venezuela. Mu has been shortlisted for the 7000× project (co-organized by Digital Art Center Taipei and New Museum Rhizome) and the Kaohsiung Award-HCS Special Award. He also participated in Athens Digital Arts Festival, Asia Digital Art Exhibition, CutOut Fest, Miami New Media Festival, Now&After International Video Art Festival and Venice Immersive Market Taiwan Pavilion.

©2024 Underground Art And Design LLC | ISSN 2835-284X

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