Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Don’t touch. A common signage one would encounter at most museums and galleries. It was not the case with one of the works featured in the Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia exhibition I curated at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC in 2017. By focusing on the interactive digital work by teamLab from this exhibition, this paper explores how experiencing artwork in a visual and acoustic environment would create a new type of an aesthetic atmosphere where visitors could project their bodies into and become part of the artwork. In teamLab’s work at the exhibition, projected calligraphic words cascading down the gallery walls transform into the images they represent such as flower and moon when touched by a visitor’s shadow. If multiple visitors move through the space, the images they trigger interact with each other, and create shifting images with their own acoustic components. Visitors have agency in shaping the artwork and the work constantly changes. The multi-sensory experience with art would offer a unique encounter with one’s environment and affect his/her being. The exhibition challenged the common perception of calligraphy by reconstructing calligraphy in a three-dimensional space. Artwork transforms writing—a form of communication that is often looked through rather than looked at—into visualized and materialized words. Visitors may experience and sense, rather than read and translate, script in new ways and gain an appreciation for the cultural significance of Asian writing beyond mere legibility.