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Ivan Liu: The Artistic Entrepreneur

Although for art is still represented mostly through paintings, artists throughout history have been early adaptors and innovators. Over the course of the twentieth century in particular, new materials and media were incorporated into the artistic canon.

This trend continues unabated, with a new breed of creators working at the intersection of science, artisanship, and entrepreneurship.

One of these new artists is Ivan Liu, who seeks to infuse our lives with digital works of art that combine the aesthetic with the scientific.

With a background in art and science, as well as the eye of a businessman, Ivan embodies this new ideal type of the artistic entrepreneur. Here, he shares his experience as one of the main players behind Legacy Lab International, how he bridges different fields, as well as what he has in store in the future.

Ivan Liu and his Legacy Lab International

Ivan’s main focus is actually science. With receiving tertiary education at Imperial College London and gaining a PhD in Physics from the German Max-Planck Institute, he also held research positions at CNRS France. Now, Ivan serves as the Artistic Director at Legacy Lab International, a position he has held since its inception in 2013.

Legacy Lab International’s self-proclaimed core mission is to push Innovation.

By gathering talent from a wide variety of fields, they seek to create a legacy of innovation through new creations of art.

But why did Ivan not pursue the classical academic career most physicist and scientific aspire to?

“I have been consistently passionate about art since a young age, and was particularly influenced by my mother, who is extremely fond of painting,” Ivan explains.

Upon his return to Taiwan in 2009, he began working in the Industrial Technology Research Institute ( ITRI) for three years. Yet due to his persistent interest in art, Ivan sought a means of combining it with science and technology. Thus, Legacy Lab International was founded.

In stark contrast to more traditional art, Ivan’s vision stresses not only an appreciation of beauty in nature, but also expounds the important insights modern technology holds for the art world, including exhibitions.

In 2014, Ivan and his team completed their first big project to manifest their aesthetic idea. The large-scale dynamical lighting project was titled “Penrose’s Dream” and commissioned by the renowned Le Meridien Taipei, which also exhibited the piece in their lobby.

Legacy Lab International: Connecting artists with global resources

Asked whether he considers himself an artist or an entrepreneur, Ivan asserts, “I think I am an artistic entrepreneur.”

Ivan explains that as artistic director of Legacy Lab International, he basically has to run the studio like a startup. In order to secure funding for his team, Ivan has been to plenty of speed dates, so to speak, with venture capitalists, who all need to be convinced not only of the artistic merits, but the economic feasibility of the respective projects.

In 2015, Ivan formed a new media performance group called “Encountart,” or “encounter art.” The troupe’s first production was “The Great Coupling,” for which Ivan served as director, scriptwriter, and interactive designer.

A collaboration between dancers, musicians, visual designers and sound engineers, the piece was nominated for the 2015 Digital Art Performance Award, and eventually was awarded the “Star Of Creative Industry” by the Ministry of Culture.

Following his success with Encountart, Ivan continued his search investors, both public and private. For instance, the Ministry of Culture granted funds to support Legacy work bringing into exhibition.

Compared to traditional art, the digital art that is so central to Legacy Lab International requires much more funding to sustain the costs for equipment. Therefore, Ivan and his team are actively trying to connect with other artists, investors, and organizations to create interest and support for their projects.

Ivan explains that usually artists are rather reluctant to talk about money, which is often seen as a necessary evil that at worst interferes with their creative process.

In this regard, Legacy Lab International figures as a buffer between artist and investor. The Lab also does commercial cases with well-known companies such as the aforementioned Le Meridian Taipei.

“Ultimately, we want our digital art to be seen by the public and allow more people to understand its beauty. Art must be pervasive and universally accessible, rather than being limited to a specific group,” Ivan proclaims.

Caption:Maison des Cultures de Monde.
Ivan Liu

In 2016, Ivan was invited by the Ministry of Culture and the French Office in Taipei to apply for Maison des Cultures de Monde Translated as “World Culture Institute,” this program was founded in 1982 to promote cultural exchanges between France and other countries.

Caption:Ivan joined in Maison des Cultures de Monde.
Ivan Liu

After being admitted into Maison des Cultures de Monde, Ivan exchanged with other recipients his views on culture, technology, and how to make art more influential the world over.

Besides France, Ivan also went to Belgium, London and other European metropolis to seek cooperation in the name of Legacy Lab International.

The Next Masterpiece: The Great Coupling

Caption:Poster of The Great Coupling
Ivan Liu

In 2017, “The Great Coupling” received the sponsorship of both the Ministry of Culture and the Taipei City Cultural Affairs Bureau for a brand new performance between November 10 to 12 at the HuanShan Creative Park.

This time, the performance will be enhanced through the technology of the Kinect. By using cutting edge technology to connect music, dancing, lighting and visual art within immersive 3D lighting,, “The Great Coupling” is going to break with traditional theater performances.

At heart a story about the historical trajectory from the Industrial Revolution to the digital era, “The Great Coupling” also probes the changing connections between individuals. Will humanity benefit from digital advances as a whole, or do only a few stands to gain?

For more information about "The Great Coupling" is here.

Feliciana Hsu
English journalist and PR for Global Affairs

Feliciana gained her MSc of Media Power and Public Affairs from Royal Holloway, University of London.

After graduating from London, she started her career of being journalist at Business Next Media and Meet Startup @TW Website, and specializes in interviewing about innovation and technology.

Within her career, she has interviewed various experts in their field, including Fleur Pellerin, former French Minister of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and Sir Christopher Pissarides, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economic in 2010.