Art, technology and the science of everything

Written by Haley Tse, CNN

We’ve all encountered ad campaigns that feature unrealistic expectations of beauty, youth and beauty outcomes, and most of us have responded with laughter. But we all love a good idea too, and it’s very possible that many of us have had a strange encounter with a company or agency that suggested that our chosen consumer might be more inclined to choose this brand or product because it already embodies our ideals.

While this may seem like an unsophisticated assumption, it could be key to understanding why young people choose to identify as part of certain subcultures. It might be this system of implicit, or implicit, beliefs about who and what types of people should be valued, or it might be more unconscious or malleable ones.

Ideas about what are fundamental to a consumer’s potential will hopefully be considered by artists and other thinkers at the STS Plus art/technology and creativity festival. Based in Shenzhen, China, STS Plus is a wonderful showcase of innovative work. It’s an event of many focuses, but above all it’s about art that is ethically and socially progressive. Think robots, data, automaton creations and performance art.

Kasey Conover, STS Plus’s co-founder, understands that whilst these elements may represent art, art is not technology.

“Design is not about technology or algorithm. I do think there are some really interesting tech ideas in some of the projects that we’re looking at this year, like Intel’s new robot that can perform a haptic keyboard.”

You’ll also find Iranian-born artist and artist Mohammed Tabatabai working with Turkish scientists who have created an intelligent prosthetic hand equipped with sensor technology. Indeed, we may have no idea we have had much innovation in prosthetics at all, even with all the improvements in knee and hip joints and other elements of care, until now.

Tabatabai was also behind the London’s Tate Modern’s reality of robots exhibition. And she’ll be part of a crew of artists, activists and intellectuals that include a host of artists in a range of disciplines, including for example artist Kelly Squires, who is on tour in Europe at the moment, showing “Canyon: A New York-based Dream of the West.”

Looking across the venue you’ll find some other much more highly visible art being presented. It’s a collection of fairs that are part of a larger phenomenon called the Amusement Machine Festival. Through fairs like this, globalization is happening in art.

So it’s not surprising to find, for example, a pavilion called Etat Tech that is dedicated to the magical and mesmerizing, although sometimes supernatural, power of algorithmic art. Artists and programmers are exploring how algorithmic movements can be programed into everyday products and experiences.

There’s also a, well it feels more like an installation, called ‘Harvard Law School/Munich Airport’, created by a great team at Intelligent Design Interactive.

This show follows the story of an anonymous Syrian refugee who, after arriving in London to a permanent life, is invited to accompany another refugee on a voluntary trek to France to join a death march.

The artists present an interpretation of the situation, giving the migrants tools that allow them to envision how this journey might play out. This creates a projection of what the trip might look like. Of course, it all plays out on a screen in front of them.

The show is well-handled. The responses are interesting and their ideas are engaging. The size of the project gives the audience a unique opportunity to imagine their perspective on the journey.

Haley Tse is the Cannes Lions Communications Consultant, and co-founder of STS Plus. She posts regularly on Twitter @HaleyTse and Facebook/

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