Dr. Jia-Rey (Gary) Chang, an assistant professor of architecture and interaction design at the University of Delaware’s Interaction Design Lab, works with grad students to design tangible interactive designs for the future — including, as we saw when we visited his space at UD in 2018, table-integrated feeding aids for children with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita.
Chang received his Ph.D. at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, where he did his dissertation on Hypercell technology, which can create “architecture as a living thing.” You know, walls turning into seating and opening up without doors. Normal stuff.
Chang is also an artist getting ready to unveil his newest piece, the tech installation “Myth from the Future,” which will be on display at UD’s Recitation Hall Gallery from Nov. 5 to 22, Mondays through Fridays from 12 to 5 p.m.
We asked Chang five questions about the work ahead of the opening. Here’s what he said:
1. What was the inspiration for “Myth from the Future”?
“Myth from the Future” focuses on the idea of reflecting/reminding how current technology has blended into our daily lives, physical and mental bodies by referring to the old ancient Chinese classic literature, “The Classics of Mountains and Seas.” Can you imagine how a human being will evolve into a three-head-man in the future? No need to wait, because actually, we ARE this kind of three-head “tech-species” (a species with tech-devices merging) if you consider our smartphone, laptop as heads, and plus our own head.
This project attempts to take these creatures in these tales of marvels as metaphors to indicate people who wear/hold high-technology gadgets and the robotic creatures as “tech-species.”
2. What is a “tech species,” and how does it relate to our world?
“Tech species” here is a metaphor interpreted nowadays people who tend to own and take all kinds of different digital gadgets with them (closer or even attached to their body). People seem to [heavily] rely on them and to make them become parts of their body, just like another digital prosthesis to replace our original organs sensing the world.
When reflecting the “The Classics of Mountains and Seas,” the book to me became a prediction rather than a record. It seems like all the strange creatures written on the book somehow match the people who wear those gadgets just in a different shape/form, and I called them “tech species.”
[Editor’s note: See also: the singularity.]
3. How do people interact with the installation?
It’s a journey of bodily senses experience. The project is an interactive installation lasting around three to four minutes as a cycle.
One of the audiences will volunteer to wear the easily-taken-off interactive instruments as a controller (a gamepad-based garment) attaching to his/her body/limbs. By actively moving his/her body, this active audience wearing the instrument will influence/interact with the visual and sound effects of the projecting background. This particular active audience will “be/come” the “tech-species” in the experience while the other passive audiences may stand freely and do observation within the dynamic immersive visual-audio interactive environment.
4. What do you think is technology’s effect/impact on modern art?
To me, technology is not only a tool but also a great resource of materials when talking about the effect/impact on modern art. For example, those VR/AR devices were meant to be created for the game industry which are gradually become a common medium in modern art. I believe the improvement of the technology should and will inevitably bring the valuable prosperity to the modern art. Therefore, I will encourage the young generation artists/designers to embrace technology and use them as one of your tools.
5. Do you have any other works or future plans you’d like to share?
One of my plans is to turn the “Myth from the Future” into a VR environment to engage the audiences more into this fantasy experience. And the idea is to create a series of real-time immersive interactive projects emphasizing the topic of intimacy amongst body, technology and space.
Under the same research objectives and scope, my other research focus is to create interactive visual-audio instruments played by body movements in real time. As an assistant professor at Department of Art & Design, University of Delaware, my colleague, Ashley Pigford, and I are currently running an Interaction Design LAB (IxD LAB). And we are working on a large-projection immersive room for VR settings and live performances to experiment and share the aforementioned ideas and outcomes.
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