The Unstable Characters: Reading of Chinese Text-based Digital Works


Presentation Title:

  • The Unstable Characters: Reading of Chinese Text-based Digital Works



  • Abstract (short paper)

    Chinese characters consist of “three levels of hierarchical organization: stroke, component, and structure.” This paper suggests that, unlike in works based on alphabetic languages, such structure is significant for analyzing and creating Chinese text-based digital artworks. The ambiguity of semantic meaning at the levels of stroke and component in a Chinese character as well as the culture of traditional calligraphy, which encourages artistic expression on the material level of brush writing, create tension but also potential that influence how we read the characters incorporated in digital artworks, whether as spectacle of visual effects or as a linguistic sign, or both. This paper will investigate the evolution of Chris Homhim Cheung’s artwork series “Shang Da Ren” and will focus on two versions in the series: No Longer RIGHT (2011) and Shang Da Ren (2013). Although the techniques and basic concepts are almost identical in these two works, changing the context and the textual content in the newer version provides a very different experience for the audience as they read and interact with the work; this highlights the specificity of Chinese text-based artworks.