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Walking into the studio of the Luxury Logico art collective, a former theatre space, is disorientating. Around a dozen staff and technicians stand around; lights blink from intriguing-looking installations on the walls.
To say the artists are fascinated by machines is understating it. One of their biggest works, “City of Sunshine”, consisted of 300 recycled desk lamps which they interwove with an array of LED lightbulbs, programmed to flicker like the rays of the sun. To mark the Universiade sporting event in 2017, they crafted a large Olympic-style “mechanical flame cauldron” that referenced traditional bamboo-weaving design.
The following year, in the city of Taichung, they came up with perhaps their most ambitious project yet: “The Sound of Blooming”, a 15-metre-high spherical installation made up of 697 mechanical petals that stretched and flexed as viewers stood or lay beneath. Resembling a vast, red geodesic dome, it took eight months to create and involved more than 10 local companies. “Culture and technology shouldn’t be opposing forces,” says Chang Geng-hwa, the group’s current leader.
Originally they were two separate groups comprising four 1980s kids: Luxury Brothers — the twins Chang Keng-hau and Chang Geng-hwa — and Logico, made up Chen Chih-chien and Lin Kun-ying. Then, in 2010, they decided to pool their assorted talents in mechanics, computing, music, design, video, photography and lighting, and form a new collective. Although Keng-hau died in 2018, the group continue, and are marking their 10th anniversary with a series of mechanical installations at Taipei Dangdai, their debut at the fair.
Drawing inspiration from the environment as well as science fiction, they liken the group to Transformers — modular toys that can be folded and rebuilt in a new shape. As Chang Geng-hwa puts it, “Art is communication, solving problems. It is a tool and an interface.”
Though their art is often mechanical or high-tech, it is anything but bloodless. It’s notable that a number of projects feature light, or directly reference the sun and the natural world. In Manchester in 2014 they erected a large outdoor light installation entitled “Solar”, an array of illuminated lamps placed on a lattice of scaffolding. Similar projects have since appeared in Hong Kong and Taipei. According to Chen Chih-chien, “Our work questions the function of technology — whether it can be a solution, or whether it simply creates more problems. It’s a mission, perhaps a life-long one.”
The inspiration for “Solar”, which uses recycled glass jars, partly came from reading Liu Cixin’s bestselling Chinese sci-fi trilogy The Three-Body Problem, which dwells on the effects of devastating environmental destruction. “It made us think about the relationship between mankind and the environment,” says Chen Chih-chien. As Chang Geng-hwa puts it: “The balance is ever-changing.”
Working directly with the public has also been a fascination. For the final phase of “City of Sunshine”, the artists distributed pictures of the installation to everyone who had donated lamps, underlining its environmental theme. “We Will Fly No Matter What” (2012) was created with 37,000 primary-school students across Taiwan. The artists and their team spent a year travelling to classrooms across the island, encouraging children to paint pictures, which they then turned into an animated bird. Elsewhere they have collaborated with performance artists and musicians, as well as choreographer Chou Shu-yi and dancers Tien Hsiao-tzu and Lin Yu-ju.
Despite Chang Keng-hau’s death, the group’s enthusiasm for exploring and break new boundaries seems inexhaustible. “It’s a constant struggle to think outside the box,” says Chang Geng-hwa. “Art is not merely an object. It must have impact.”
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