As the twenty-first century expands human experience into the digital realm, fundamental transformations spread rapidly and unchecked through incremental changes to the everyday. Wired into invisible networks and new economies, critical reflection might only occur with an interruption of the ordinary – at a large enough scale. Grand in ambition, scope, and size, ACT Festival presents a world-class selection of exceptional works that creatively reconfigure and recontextualize advanced technologies and let us experience the digital anew.

On arrival in The Ground, visitors descend into an arena-sized staging of Ryoji Ikeda’s test pattern, an idiosyncratic visual system that translates data into oscillating barcode patterns. Spreading out across the floor of the sprawling 1,300 square metre space like a strange area rug for the over-mediated, the piece is part pattern study, part glowing landscape, and all arrhythmic glory. Those stepping onto the striated surface can explore – or meditate on – the digital sublime, making the piece a perfect primer for the abstract works that lie ahead. Ikeda’s installation is the inaugural featured work within a year-round program for The Ground and this massive space will serve as an experimental environment within which leading artists will create compelling architecture-scale immersive experiences.

Delving deeper into the exhibition, visitors enter The Vault, an experiential arcade designed to stimulate senses and drive dialogue. Unlike the bank, the ACT Center’s vault is open access and encourages engagement. Comprised of nine installations by a roster some of the world’s most renowned media artists, the works reveal a spectrum of luminous and mechanical forms that defy categorization and invite careful attention. Visitors to The Vault arrive to an interstitial space and can head towards the light, or venture into darkness. The first route leads to machines and assemblies that serve up deconstructed landscapes, elaborate mechanical devices that draw and recalibrate themselves, and a moribund portrait gallery of mediated bodies; the latter contains colourful machine choreographies and unconventional projection surfaces. The construction of images, the limits of perception, and the alchemy of light – several themes resonate throughout the installations and rather than remain esoteric and veiled, participating artists will share the skills and insight that yielded their creations in accompanying workshop and lecture programs.

Rounding out the ACT Festival’s exhibition program is “Imaginary Circle, Asia – Plastic Myths,” a showcase of the ACT Center’s first cohort of ‘Creators in Lab’ residency program and a selection of artists from around the world. Drawing on the talent of over twenty artists and designers, the show reveals works in progress that bridge disciplines and take advantage of the impressive on-site fabrication facilities.

(photo: Zan Wimberley)