Large-scale Urban Media Arts Festival

Curatorial statement

A city is never a passive environment: it is an echo chamber for all the vibrations constantly created and modulated by its inhabitants. Being aware of these vibrations enable people to keep track of how they connect to their environment, and to learn about themselves.

The selected artworks make use of electronic sounds, urban screenings, interactive sensors and streamline video’s connections. Above all they deal with the human dimension that is the primary component of these new technologies. The vibrations can be understood as expressing the living part of the city: they make it possible for people to find some space for freedom and creation beyond the limits of technology, the rigid way-of-life frameworks and even beyond rational urban planning.

New media art constantly plays with the notion of reality in order to bring people to its very boundaries, thus extending the field of the possible. If technology enables us to reveal what is hidden, it also allows us to distort, and even invent reality. What does this mean when dealing with human vibrations? Turning visible the unseen vibrations that are shaping the city raises the question of the perception of these vibrations, but also of their identification, interactions and possible manipulations.

In a time when people cannot anymore trust their common sense to judge and apprehend reality, the connection between each other might matter more than the capacity to sort out between illusion from projection or a so-called reality. Yet the issue of control remains: individuals tend more and more to be identified, labeled, and formatted.

Working with different medias, and coming from very different backgrounds, the featured artists formulate new visual languages to deal with this increasingly complex reality saturated with signs, norms and data. All of them are searching for a path that would expose us to its human and intangible expression.

The artworks will be displayed within the public space so as to be integrated to the urban fabric and to question this public space itself, whether it offers appropriate room for allowing these vibrations to develop and to integrate harmoniously.

At the core of Hong Kong, the ICC tower façade converted into the largest screen in the world looks like a mirror reflecting the city. Yet, Christa Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau chose to display flying digital flies, turning the tower into a strikingly living organism. Their work is an invitation to enjoy the present time: fly high and don’t be afraid of chaos as it leads to new births.

These flies continue to be humanized thanks to technology in the artists’ interactive video Portrait on the Fly where they act as painters. Tracking the presence of a visitor, they compose his/her figure in a large screen. The portrait is never still as the busy flies keep flying. This on-going process reflects the essential frailty of human beings and the impossibility to actually capture anyone. This work celebrates the ephemeral moment of self-portraiture and conveys the artists’ interest for change, transience and impermanence. It also points out the constant monitoring we are living with and the role of new media in that contemporary pattern.

For Isaac Chong Wai, technology operates at the service of connecting people. His living performance One Sound of the Futures is taking place simultaneously at Kai Tak, Hong Kong, Gwangju, Korea and Wu Han, China and a streaming will enable visitors from these three cities to watch them in real-time at the same moment. Lined up in a stringent formation, the participants in these three cities synchronically and loudly tell us how they imagine their future. Through the sharing of personal dreams or expectations, the present, future and the past of these particular places will interweave and give birth to a unique moment in history, resounding in a spoken noise created by hundreds of voices.

With the development of an audio app, Cédric Maridet creates another kind of network: based on new technologies and scientific algorythm, this eco-system generates a community of listeners who connect to a sound composition echoing their own voices and city sounds. His installation, operating under the form of a sound walk, enables everyone to experiment this on-going composition, and how it varies according to location, movement and according to the number of people connected.

Human vibrations seem to vary constantly and change shape. 25 minutes older by Kingsley Ng questions these changes by taking the audience into a journey back in time. The artist transformed a tram into a ‘camera obscura’, an optical device from the Renaissance that ultimately led to the invention of photography. Through a simple hole, it projects the urban landscape on the tram inner side, upside-down. This mechanical process points out the ingenuity of the ancestors of media art, and reveals a new face of our daily urban fabric, converted into lights and inverted: its poetic appearance reminds us the impermanence of human vibrations as a permanent flux of energy flowing from any society.

Listening to a city’s vibrations means also listening to some marginalized voices. I am listening, heartbeating, handworking by Jaffa Lam is an installation made from recycled plastic water pipes and fabric from umbrellas. Since 2009, the artist has been working with the women of the Hong Kong Women Workers Association, an association of former workers in the Hong Kong textile industry. Every Saturday during the festival, these women propose workshops to the public, sharing their knowledge and techniques.

Caroline Ha Thuc