TCZ : TENG CHAO ZHOU : STATEMENT
Why are there so many lonely (gay) people? This question drives my art practice.
Metaphorically speaking, four intertwining tendrils support my inquiry. In other words, my practice has four key terms: loneliness, ludology, generative, and plants. Loneliness is the interweaving force behind the four aspects. My practice stays meaningful as long as there still are lonely people.
An article on HuffPost titled The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness pictured the devastating state of the gay community. Due to homophobia, minority stress, and in-group discrimination, the mental health of gay people is worrisome. The sad situation is a silent cry for cultural works that address suffocating loneliness.
The opposite of loneliness is the joy of being with love. Such joy and loneliness were made permanent in queer cinema. Just as queer cinema, I hope that queer games and media arts will also remember the love and sadness of queer people.
I tend to believe that homoerotic attraction is more prevalent than we think. Don't we all experience homoerotic attraction from time to time? If not, why do people have different attraction patterns? I haven't fully untangled it, but it seems that our desire and the culture have a very complicated relationship. Through the mechanism of knowledge and power, we are settled within the boundary of certain identities and become certain social categories, such as gay or straight. And I think that mutually exclusive social categories can prevent us from connecting, and contribute to our loneliness.
Ludology means the study of games. I study games in addition to making games. By studying games, I explore questions such as: What are the ingredients of a pleasurable game? Can we play more together to cure loneliness?
Games are mediated interpersonal interactions. However, most games seem to push us towards competitive relationships. Though competing can be fun, it also adds to our loneliness. If we want art games to be spaces for connection, we might want to embrace gentle values such as being caring in game design.
It's unclear where play ends and where art starts, but it seems to me that there is always some room for being playful in art. WebVR art games enable us to interact within virtual spaces through smartphones. If we put this type of works into art spaces, we can turn art spaces into spaces for play. In the spirit of participatory art, but with a VR game twist, we invite the audience to be participants and create an experience together.
When we have simple game mechanisms and rich content, hours can pass without notice. That's the experience I had when I was playing Heros of Might and Magic III, a turn-based strategy game, my favorite game. The long and mesmerizing experience of playing video games replaces loneliness, sadness, and pain with the pleasure of adventuring in fantasy lands.
We often encounter romance but usually heteronormative ones in game-worlds. I wish to place more gay characters into game-worlds, so if not in reality, but at least in virtual worlds, gay people meet other gay people, listen to their stories, and feel affirmed.
Being a generative artist can be lonely because the art form is relatively unknown. Nevertheless, I'm deeply attracted to generative art because of its magic: If you can describe a vision in a programming language, the computer will turn your vision into reality on the screen.
Generative artists work with "statements, variables, loops, conditionals, functions, objects, and arrays," as generative artist Casey Reas said in an interview, which is also what I work with as a generative artist/artist-programmer/software artist.
As an artist who operates under the umbrella of generative/algorithmic art, I'm excited about creating visual forms, meaning, and interactivity with code. The first-generation artist-programmers worked with plotters. With the advent of net.art, machine learning, virtual reality, video games, and digital fabrication, the realms for software artists to express and experiment are ever-expanding. Within the ocean of potentials, I'm most intrigued by the possibilities opened by integrating generative art with video games and digital fabrication.
With the entering of NFT in recent years, generative artists seem to be able to form a new economy for their arts. It is still too early to tell how generative artists and the art world will remember NFT. Will NFT make artist labor less immaterial, as observed by sociologist Maurizio Lazzarato, meaning that artists don't harvest many material rewards for their labor? The answer is unknown. However, I wish that with NFT, more (generative) artists can afford to love themselves and their special someone while critiquing the market and speculating our future.
The more I work with numbers and code, the more I feel the urge to connect with plants and other living beings. To create opportunities for such connections, I morph loneliness, ludology, and generative into plant forms. My procedurally-generated plants exist both virtually in video games and physically as digitally fabricated wind sculptures.
Comparable to a painter who enjoys nature and paints sublime deep forests or beautiful gardens, I observe plants in admiration and procedurally generate them. In the process of creating plants algorithmically, I make subtle but critical changes to their forms, which is my method of inserting secret meanings.
We live in a time when biodiversity is decreasing. In other words, we are having fewer and fewer companions as human beings, which contributes to our loneliness. Following Donna Haraway's thoughts about kinship across species, I reflect upon my intersectional existence's relationship with all other beings, human and non-human, especially with plants, who provide us with food, medicine, beauty, and spaces for reinvigoration...