Aka Chang and the Fascinating Digital Art Coming Out of Taipei

Light artist Chang Fangyu, better known as Aka Chang, has a digital art practice comprised of a large number of geometric shapes. Many pieces are large in scale, with rays of light meeting and parting 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 dominant geometric forms in my works, but before they become forms, they are points and then go from there. , they develop in lines and surfaces. I was a VJ early in my career, using lots of exaggerated and thrilling motion graphics to create scenes and visual experiences. After that, I started to think about the nature of these visuals. What if I simplified the graphics to a single block of color, where the only movement is just strobe? If illumination is no longer about constructing a narrative, then the canvas is basically a source of light, whether it comes from an LED screen, a projector, or elsewhere. It was questions and answers like these that led the Taiwanese artist to begin experimenting with particle-based geometric audiovisual art, while simultaneously using high-powered fixtures capable of shaping the light beams he projected.

Smoke and structures beyond the port, 2022, laser, variable dimensions, Studio Aka Chang Image: Courtesy of Studio Aka Chang

Chang lives and works in Taipei, Taiwan. The subject he originally studied in college was fashion design, but he would begin a career in VJing shortly after leaving campus in the mid-2000s. At that time, he was one of rare to pursue VJing in their city and would probably have been considered something odd even within the artistic community. However, times have changed: Taipei has become a must-visit destination for new media arts. Chang tells STIR, “Over the past decade, my work experience has expanded tremendously. I have worked on a multitude of projects, ranging from commercial events, pop music concerts and high-end fashion shows to large-scale projection mapping visual shows that have attracted global audiences. These experiences have strongly influenced my current artistic practice.

Void Jungle, 2016, light and smoke, variable dimensions, Studio Aka Chang, Studio Aka Chang |  empty jungle |  Aka Chang Studio |  STIRworld
empty 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 a source of inspiration for him. Among them are Han Cheng Yeh, Mark Vekman and Shahab Sahhaf. 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 people have inspired me throughout my life in different phases. Aesthetic education was not the main emphasis in my environment when I grew up, which led to my art becoming a response mechanism to all that was. It allowed me to discover the inner creative world that I dreamed of so much. Shortly after, a dark and melancholy veil came over me. During this time, art brought light and allowed me to find redemption, thus starting a new phase in my life,” Chang mentions.

Empty 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 the audio cues drive the dynamics of the geometric shapes he creates. He creates his pieces in such a way that high frequency sounds usually cause them to break and deconstruct. Moreover, it focuses on all aspects of the venue where it is to occur, from the size and acoustics of the venue, to the wind speed and even the amount of humidity present in the air. Chang elaborates further on this by saying, “I have to imagine the relationship between the structure of light that I am building, the postures of incoming humans as well as the forms of light, and furthermore, the possible vitality brought by a human crowd to the place, once people start to care about light.

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

Lately, Chang is playing with the collaborative format: in the second half of 2021, he invited 24 sound and visual artists based in Taiwan to create audiovisual works that fit into the broad theme he proposed: CENTURY 2121, a metaverse party imagined to happen one hundred years after their creative collaboration. The project produced 12 AV works that eventually became a limited edition NFT series on the blockchain, for mint collectors. Interestingly, the success of this project hasn’t signaled a move into the crypto space for Chang, who says “as a digital artist, I’m excited to see how NFTs allow creators like me to authenticate their work, which can then be collected and resold. They have the potential to bring good income to artists around the world. However, I disagree with the speculation that has taken hold at the heart of the space and gambling emerging at the current stage, so I have put my NFT projects on hold as of now.

Profile photo, 2022, Image, variable dimensions, Studio Aka Chang |  Artist Archive |  Aka Chang Studio |  STIRworld
Artist Aka Chang Image: Courtesy of Studio Aka Chang

The AV artist isn’t looking for the unreliable bursts of creativity or eureka moments that many artists seem to go through. It’s a story of curiosity and perseverance: he explains that he takes a macro view of his life and practice, and feels that a steady, steady pace will pay long-term dividends. As he puts it, “the creative projects that I am currently pursuing will continue to grow further outward and deeper inward.” Now he is quite fascinated by the presence of smoke in his work. He explains that he usually uses a large volume of smoky gas in his rooms, in order to diffuse the beams of light he creates, and that everything from sourcing to deploying, positioning and quantity becomes quite difficult. . This prompted him to rethink his use of the substance, and he is also looking for wide open spaces where he could experiment freely in order to develop a new approach. Audiences will no doubt wish Chang Godspeed and hope that he will find spaces of sufficient size to perfect his captivating art, so that his performances and light installations can grow even larger. It will be exciting to see what comes next from the artist and how the audiovisual arts scene in Taiwan evolves in the years to come. Until then, fans of truly awe-inspiring audiovisual art need only turn to the world’s greatest musicians and venues for, perhaps, a glimpse of Chang.

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