“PlugIt” is an exhibition of young and emerging artists who have engaged the use of electronic or computer technologies as a creative vehicle in their artmaking process. Twelve artists from around the world will be converging on Island6 premise to showcase some of the most innovative art ever seen or experienced in Shanghai. Everything gets plugged, everything runs on power, lights and sounds comes out from the walls to waken the beautiful four-storey red building standing near the Suzhou river since 1898.
It's as though these young “children” of high-tech have chosen to electrify their own flesh with the most primal adornments transforming them into a kind of liquid-crystal display status: the body as electronic billboard, flashing, brutal, powerful and ultimately meaningless, yet existing in a splendid state of rebellion against the stifling oppression of "normal" dress and decorum.
It is wrong to assume that technology has always been embraced and incorporated into culture, or that it is neutral in its effects. The Pre-Columbian Indians refused to employ the simple wheel because it destroyed ritual aspects of their religions. The Japanese refused to exploit western munitions and rifles in order to avoid destroying power relations. The Chinese refused to integrate nineteenth-century medical practices because such would endanger culture and tradition. But the instant that technology is utilized; gives power out of proportion to those who employ it.
Everyday, the use of digital technologies in art practice becomes more and more prevalent, and just like the television, contemporary art generally has to be switched on before you can enjoy it. Island6’s artists “humanize” the technology by extending their methods and identifying with it. This desire appears to be among the driving forces in the conception of “PlugIt”, an exhibition that one century later reflects the effort of Mr. Sun Duoxin and his brother Sun Duosen who founded the ground of Island6 (Fou Foong Flour Mill) and made it the most innovative and biggest flour mill of Asia in 1897. It is hard to believe that only fifteen years after the first light bulb was exhibited on the Band Stand in the Public Gardens of Shanghai, Island6 became the most technology oriented factory of China, possessed its own power plant and was fully equipped with American machinery. The success of the Fou Foong Mill encouraged others and 16 more flour mills were built.
We sincerely hope this success can be reproduced and that the arguments used in “PlugIt” will be as compelling to you as the artwork appears to be: all are one-of-a-kind, many never-before, only-here experience.