A direct and disarming appeal to human emotions prevails over high-tech prowess in sensory transcoding. This might come as a surprise, given that the exhibition is based on the idea of transcoding (converting encoded data from one format to another) and is a showcase of Arts Tech projects funded by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.
The idea is to look beyond new media art exhibition staples such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, highlighting the aesthetic and experiential aspects of the seven installations on display while downplaying the technologies used to put them together.
Take the installation of Alain Chiu, A trifle of objects I: if I could talk about it in other ways, I would, for instance. The piece is made up of a series of found and inherited objects – books, cassette tapes and a guitar – scattered on the floor. The tiniest sounds (including some well below the human hearing range), produced by the rustle of paper or the breeze against guitar strings, are picked up by super-sensitive microphones for live broadcast. Snaking across the floor, several cables connecting the tiny microphones to the amp disappear under a mound of loose dirt. When the seeds that the artist planted in the ground begin to germinate, they will add a new layer of “music” to the current soundscape of the room.
Weather Trifle hides highly sophisticated technological gadgets underground, the ideas that inform it – loss, abandonment and rejuvenation – are likely to have universal resonance.
“One way to learn about these objects is to try to listen to them,” says Chiu. “By trying to capture the sounds of decay that the human ear can’t pick up, I’m trying to connect with them auditorily and emotionally.”
The art of making technology invisible is evident in other parts of the show. For example, everything one sees in inside the void, created by the NATP multimedia collaboration, is a giant black oval disc suspended from the ceiling, slowly rotating on its axis inside a nearly dark chamber. It is a kind of performance piece that evokes a meditative atmosphere.
Tung Wing-hong There is no place for useless men is another example of technology’s ability to bring inanimate objects to life and arouse emotions. A battered suitcase crashes into a wall repeatedly, its already torn seams widening with each bump. Tung says the idea came to him after talking to friends in Hong Kong who were keen to travel but felt constrained by the strict quarantine rules they would have to deal with upon their return. The pantomime takes place in an enclosure while spectators watch from outside, reinforcing a sense of isolation.
The exhibition also highlights how the digital revolution has changed the way people choose what to absorb from their environment: how we can edit, even manipulate, multiple sensory experiences received at the same time.
For example, Carla Chan’s five-channel video installation, the melted blackIt invites the viewer to mentally stitch together five fragments that constitute a scene of tidal waves hitting the shoreline, and ups the ante by swapping the vertical and horizontal axes of the ocean horizon.
Other highlights of the show include Chaklam Ng and Jackie Lou’s The interpreter, a sound installation device that transcodes random speech into music played by a mini-orchestra in real time. Words spoken through a mouthpiece activate a set of drums and cymbals to create a short piece of music, giving the audience the opportunity to experience language in another way.
If you go
Presented by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council
Dates: until August 13
Location: 1/F Event Space, Central Market, 93 Queen’s Road Central, Central