Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Distilling Senses (A selective review)

Watching you and watching me

teamLab, Homogenizing and Transforming World
Sensory devices on inflated balls of 75, 120, 150 and 180 cm, 2013

When one of the balls is being touched, it immediately spreads the signals, and turns the rest of the balls into the same colour, forming unity in a split second. The balls are a metaphor for people in the world: seemingly like individuals, they are actually closely connected. People as the medium for information and communication, are all capable of transforming the world as one.#

Some balloons hung from ceiling while others 
roamed freely on ground.

Full height mirrors used on most walls.

Taken by surprise through the dark drapery at entrance, one is confronted with inflated balloons so tightly spaced as to deter the next stride. This is a ready-made laboratory to measure claustrophobic symptoms. Paranoid receded, one still hardly finds any room to negotiate a clear path. Watching the giant bubbles levitated in mid-air, the eye feels like an endoscope lens in an internal organ, waiting to see the unexpected ahead.

The interactive glow and pulsating chimes add up to the installation but not much more than dressing-up on a powerful concept. The spectacle, with a touch of pre-language or even prenatal existence, offers a strong re-examination of our very being. Primeval sense of space, something that shapes human behaviours, is tested on location. Pure sensation dominates all reactions including the intellect. Indeed, our basic responses are governed by the immediate environment, be it the climate or any specific call of occasion. There is no reason to suppress the senses.

Citing the statement above, teamLab begs to bring out a positive message on the power of consolidated efforts especially in the age of networking. This is understandably so given their passion for technology. But for someone who has seen the failings of the human species like me, the good intent is purely peripheral.

Video of work.

A modestly sized work in relation to the human scale.

Shilpa Gupta, 100 Queues
Photo-based mechanical installation, 2008

Queuing, a typical scene in a metropolis. Photographs of one hundred queues are aligned and mounted on spindles. People moving backward mechanically suggests the end of the queue is no more than the start of another, expressing endless desire and waiting.#

Spindles of people in eternal motion.

At either end of “100 Queues”, there is nothing. Is Gupta’s very point pointlessness?

If teamLab’s set-up is essentially a joyride, Shilpa Gupta’s gear work of the mundane phenomenon is never meant to be a pleasure to fathom. Constructed as a long queue of mechanical movements that never gets anywhere, Gupta’s work is an inspiration to reflect on the elusive human condition of anticipation.

Her clever installation seems to be put together with minimal visual appeal. Its unkempt manifestation takes time to fall for just as it requires much patience to deduce the morals of being part of the queue. And in full contrast to teamLab’s work, even the audio – dreary monotonous clicking seems to be designed to annoy rather than to please.

The everyday event of queuing is no more different in the Indian Sub-Continent than anywhere in the world. Waiting can take many forms of presence, whether they exist in the real world or in cyberspace, they are tangible or intangible. This is what drives human. To live without longing or anticipation is living at a dead-end.

To be honest, I get more out of this work than the previous one, not because it is more thought-provoking but truthful in her observation of what makes us tick.

Video of work

Only the above two installations are reviewed due to their outstanding quality. As limited resources are available, the rest of the exhibits are introduced without comment. Readers are welcome to review by posting in the comment box at will.

Takashi ISHIDA, A White Room
Film installation/4-channel video, 2012

Rooted from the dissatisfaction with ‘painting stops upon completion’, the artist creates an art form that integrates painting with video – “showing pictures”. The video documents the painting all over the wall and on the floor frame by frame by stop-motion photography. It is then synchronized and displayed in the form of film installation, as if giving the painting a second life.#

CHANG Yung Ta, Signal.Flow 2.1
Bulb lamps, speaker, computer and DMX controller, 2011

The system runs programmes that process the hard disk’s activities and computer’s inner temperature, which then generates signals that alter brightness of the light bulbs and volume of the speakers. Presenting the invisible signals through light and sound, the work draws audience’s attention to the details they overlooked in everyday life.#

Work comprised of audio and visual presentations.

Sound recording photos in the backdrop of a school visit.

Samson YOUNG, Liquid Borders Series
Graphical notation (ink and watercolour on paper) and sound installation, 2012-Present

Walking along the restricted zones, the artist sonically archives the disappearing Hong Kong-China border. Sounds of the vibrating wired fencing are collected by contact microphone while those of the running Shenzhen River by hydrophones. They are then rearranged into compositions, and re-transcribed into graphical notations. Through sound art, we can hear the sounds we missed out amid hustle and bustle and re-discover the potential of the sense of hearing.#

Nam June, PAIK, One Candle
Candle on tripod, camera with zoom lens, signal converter and five 3-tube projectors, 1988

One burning candle. A video camera follows its progress, casting its image onto the walls. The flickering image is magnified in myriad projections. Reality interweaves with illusions. The tranquility of this work brings audience into a state of meditation.#

Nam June PAIK, Charlie Chaplin
Video sculpture with vintage televisions and monitors, 2001

With a series of robot sculptures, Nam June Paik explores the harmony between human and technology. This robot made up of vintage televisions and monitors is named after Charlie Chaplin, echoing Chaplin’s masterpiece Modern times, which depicts a capitalist society dominated by machine civilization and satirizes the loss of humanity.#

WANG Ningde, 39x18%
LED lights, speakers, filmstrips, lens single-chip micro-computer and transformer, 2009-10

Photos, capable to capture the momentary nature of our life, now become transient in the work. These thirty-nine projectors are designed by the artist with each uses flashes as the light source and projects only one image. It makes audience re-think the ‘transience’ and ‘eternity’, ‘unreality’ and ‘reality’ about ‘image’ and ‘memory’.#

LEE Yongbaek, Broken Mirror
42” and 72” monitors, mirror, stereo speakers and Mac mini, 2011-2013

The mirror breaking in front of you is a two-way mirror attached to an LCD screen, an illusion crafted by the artist, accompanied by mirror-breaking sounds. It encourages self-reflection: What is real? What is not? This work not only stimulates people’s senses but also challenges their perception towards reality, manifesting the power of art and technology.#

Miscellaneous props leading to the traditional 
alter table above which the main event – image projection is installed.

Open scroll to generate video imagery.

WONG Chung Yu, A Transiting Cycle of Dualism
Interactive digital media, ink on paper and wooden installation, 2013

Under the influence of the concept ‘commentary existence and non-existence’ of Taoism, this work explores the dualistic relations between matters. From a ‘surface’ to a ‘cube’. From ‘nothingness’ to ‘existence’. The transit of matters circulates infinitely in this work.#

#All artist statements (in full) from official exhibition brochure.

Distilling Senses – A Journey through Art 
and Technology in Asian Contemporary Art
Pao Galleries
Dec 11, 2013 to January 12, 2014

Distilling Senses - Art and Technology in Asian Contemporary Art》〈中文摘要〉









誠言,總結以上兩個作品,筆者從《排隊100》裡得著較多。這並非它激活思考的能力,主要原因是古普塔的觀察力與及她帶出真摯的生存大道 — 這股令人忽略但不可或缺的原動力。


Distilling Senses - Art and Technology in 
Asian Contemporary Art

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