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Various artists

Algorithmic Art: Shuffling Space and Time / Hong Kong City Hall / Dec 27 – Jan 10 / Valencia Tong /

As I casually strolled into the dimly lit space of the group exhibition at City Hall, I considered a number of issues: the relationship between art and technology; how artists explore contemporary issues through the use of technology; whether machines can be creative – and whether machines that can think will threaten human existence.

Advertising Positions: the China Edition (2018) by Daniel C Howe. Interactive digital installation with machine learning and gaze-tracking 65” monitor standing upright with Kinect.

The sale of an art work generated by artificial intelligence at Christie’s in New York for almost US$500,000 sent shockwaves across the art world, as it tried to grapple with what the identity of an artist meant. So the exhibition Algorithmic Art: Shuffling Space and Time, curated by Hong Kong Arts Development Council 2017 Artist of the Year in Media Art Linda CH Lai, was a timely one. Coinciding with the exhibition, scholars and artists from around the world gathered at the School of Creative Media at the City University of Hong Kong, known for bridging art and science to foster creativity, for four-day conference Art Machines: International Symposium on Computational Media Art. They presented innovative works and cutting-edge research as part of the School of Creative Media’s 20th- anniversary celebrations. Topics in the symposium ranged from machine learning to bioart, and a salon featured works by PhD students that used technologies such as virtual reality, 3D scanning and 3D printing.

At the Algorithmic Art exhibition, Daniel C Howe’s recent work Advertising Positions: the China Edition greeted viewers near the entrance. The digital installation explored the mechanisms behind surveillance capitalism in the contemporary Hong Kong context, using technology to react to viewers’ gazes. In another section of the exhibition, Iwai Toshio’s Time Stratum II, a mesmerising motorised sculpture from the 1980s inspired by the zoetrope, a pre-cinematic optical toy, demonstrated the transformation of images through the motion of spinningand rotating as the strobe light from the video monitor changed. It exemplified the connection between new media and the moving-image arts. Particularly eye-catching was the section of the exhibition dedicated to artist Tsai Wen-Ying and the signifcance of his 1979 show Cybernetic Art of Tsai Wen-Ying, one of the first media-art experiences in Hong Kong. His kinetic work offered a glimpse of what the artist envisioned as the marriage of art and science. 

By opening the black box and creating a dialogue with the public to deepen their appreciation for machine-made art, the exhibition went beyond sensory experiences in the process of viewing art; it gathered the brightest minds in media art from around the world and brought computational thinking to the fore.

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