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〉


一:《團隊實驗室的大球》

撥開漆黑的厚簾,筆者踏進這裝置空間的同時乍見漲澎澎的氣球,排山倒海一樣轟立眼前。氣球數目之多連跋足起步亦呈現障礙。這是好一個量度幽閉恐懼徵狀的現成實驗室。焦慮屏息過後,部份參觀者已開始踽踽而行。面對充溢著氣的泡泡,部份懸掛、部份滾動,眼睛彷彿被置於體內的微窺鏡上,等待奇形異物隨時撲出。

同場互動的光演及鏗鏘的節拍無疑是錦上添花,但相對這震懾的概念,只這些配備能充當點綴的角色,賓主之義不應混淆。這個有聲有色的創作為我們提供反思個體存在的契機,箇中引發的感覺有回溯到「前語言」甚至「胚胎期」的自身境界。置身於這個裝置內,參與者直接體會影響人類行為模式的原始空間,純粹的官能感覺蓋過思考或其他反應。其實這感覺往往受當前環境所支配,不管是天氣或各特定情景。因此,我們沒有理由壓抑官能感覺。

從「團體實驗室」的引言裡,讀者不難得悉他們努力不懈去帶出群眾力量的正面訊息,反映時下對社交網絡的倚重。放眼這團隊對科技的熱愛,意向思維確實不言而喻。但回顧人類歷史干犯的過失,作者則不盡認同團隊的良好意願。按個人選擇,作者們的主觀訊息比較剛剛論述的原始空間反應,實屬副角


二:《排隊100

假設「團隊實驗室」的互動空間可充當為一個遊樂玩意,古普塔創作的沉鬱齒輪裝置肯定沒有為玩樂而構思。這個機械制動的人龍,縱然咯咯作響,卻沒有顯著功能可言。古氏的作品只是聚焦及反饋「期待」這兩個字:一個人類獨有而飄忽的意志狀態。

這個聰慧的裝置沒有刻意經營漂亮的外觀。要喜歡這貌似蓬亂的造型委實需時;同理,要窺探排隊這行為內裡隱藏的寓意亦需注入不少耐力。就聲音效果而言,與「團隊實驗室」的大球對比,《排隊100》的機動聲響彷彿是刻意製造厭惡感,這東西表面上一點兒的喜樂亦欠奉。

一如在印度次大陸(即作者的原居地),排隊這個習以為常的現象在世界各地域不無一樣。推而廣之,「期待」這概念亦普遍存在;帷它的存在模式具變異性,包括真實或虛疑、有形或無形。它是驅動人類活力的重要環節。如果沒有期待或渴望,我們的生命只能停留于困在死胡同的苟廷殘喘。

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。


因資源所限,除上述兩個出色作品獲得評論外,其他同塲的展品只能附以基本介紹。歡迎讀者於意見欄留言,分享感受


Distilling Senses - Art and Technology in 
Asian Contemporary Art
亞洲當代藝術結合科技展覽
由二○一三年十二月十一日至
二○一四年一月十二日
香港藝術中心展出