The tech-art spotlight shone on Shenzhen this spring, a city once known for electronics manufacturing, the Maker Movement, and in recent years, as the “Silicon Valley of China.” In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Shenzhen, the Shenzhen Futian District Government and the Huaqiangbei Street Office collaborated with Berlin-based Chinese curator Q. Lei and digital artists from around the world in putting forth the first Shenzhen Digital Art Festival in the booming Asian tech hub. Shenzhen Digital Art Festival was part of the 15th China International Cultural Industry Fair.
The festival attracted tens of thousands of audience, including children and parents who have never experienced large-scale digital art or audio-visual performances in public spaces. Internationally renowned digital artists from Europe and China, Allan Banford (UK), Donnie Tam (Hong Kong), Dali Wu (China), Nan Pang (China) have shown their latest digital artworks in the pedestrian zone of the famous electronics market of Huaqiangbei.
The entire festival is located in the center of Huaqiang North Road, creating an open “digital encounter” for the public. Banford’s “Digital Encounter” series exhibited in the Digital Art Festival are created by an algorithm developed by the artist. The algorithm creates a sequence of 20 million pixels based on the entered typo character and number combinations. The sequence is later translated into a digital image. The “Digital Encounter” series was shown in a 3x3x3 cubic meter digital installation made with LED panels, a material that can be found everywhere in the electronics market.
The audiovisual performances of the Shenzhen Digital Art Festival were displayed on a large LED screen right in front of the SEG Building, a historical landmark of the electronics market. The on-site digital imagery and live electronic music culminated in a phenomenal sensory feast. It also spoke directly to the turbulent history of the street and the young city which came into existence and made a name in the world only since 1979.
“The upgrading of the electronics market of Huaqiangbei and the development of Shenzhen is inseparable from the interplay between technology and art. The electronics industry has laid a material and technological foundation for new trends, such as the ‘open source’ culture, open science,’ the hacker culture, etc. However, what Huaqiangbei lacks now more than ever is in fact artistic imagination. I personally believe that innovation comes essentially from imagination. As a curator and filmmaker who grew up in Shenzhen, I hope to show the Shenzhen public the possibility of using materials that can be found everywhere in Huaqiangbei to make art.”
—Curator, Q. Lei
Shenzhen was the first of the four special economic zones (SEZs) the new Chinese leadership established in 1980. Originally a poor southern village of ~30,000 located right across the river from Hong Kong in Guangdong Province, Shenzhen today is a metropolis of 15 million people. At the core of Shenzhen’s success story was the pivotal contribution of the electronics market of Huaqiangbei, which brought both economic and technological opportunities to the locals.
The first Shenzhen Digital Art Festival marked the end of the era of hardware manufacturing in Shenzhen, as well as the beginning of the new era of hardware and software innovation, and the crossover between art and technology.
Curator: Q. Lei, Ph.D.
Artists: Allan Banford (UK), Donnie Tam (Hong Kong), Dali Wu
Producer: Aimee Hu
Production Company: Shenzhen Huayu Century Investment Co., Ltd.
Sponsors: Shenzhen Futian District Government, Huaqiangbei Street Office