In the 21st century, life is getting more tech-savvy. Technology becomes an important element in contemporary art creation. While we may have a sense that technology is somehow incompatible with artistic creativity for its lack of human touch, the exhibition Art Machines: Past/ Present at The Indra and Banga Gallery shows us that new media art is a very flexible creative channel and the emergence of machines has not changed the essence of art. 

展覽場內照片 Installation view at Indra and Harry Banga Gallery

進入展覽館,首先看到的是一道「歷史牆」,概括了藝術創作與機器之間長久以來的聯繫,並提供一個歷史框架,讓在我們欣賞展品前理解新媒體藝術如何融合到這傳統當中,觀眾可以花點時間仔細閱覽。其中螢幕重複播放著默片《摩登時代》(1936),片裡差利.卓別靈(Charlie Chaplin)穿梭在巨型齒輪,暗示著機器革命對人類生活和思維方式的革新。

The first thing we see in the exhibition is a “memory wall” that introduces the long-standing connection between artmaking and machines, providing a context for understanding how new media art fits within this tradition. Excerpts from the silent film Modern Times (1936) is played, in which Charlie Chaplin travels through giant gears. The film prompts us to reflect on how machines revolutionize our way of living and thinking.   

梁志和,Untitled (book flying and crashing),書本、機器(雙向馬達),2020 ​
Warren Leung, Untitled (book flying and crashing), 2020​
Book, machine (reversible motor)

邵志飛,The Spatial Pendulum,1999/2020,機動金屬結構,交互式軟件應用程序,電腦,用戶界面​
Warren Leung, Untitled (book flying and crashing), 2020​
Book, machine (reversible motor)

正式踏進展區,動能雕塑和魯布·戈德堡機械隨即帶來多重感官體驗:梁志和的裝置《Untitled》(book flying and crashing)中,一本書不斷撞向牆身,解體過程令場內充斥著暴力的機器聲音,留下聽覺衝擊;邵志飛的作品《The Spatial Pendulum》從空中懸吊下來,一顆巨型鋼球掛於馬達驅動滑輪,彰顯機械組件隨隨運轉之美,確為視覺享受;簡鳴謙及珍妮.普若芬特(Jane Prophet)的《Common Datum》隨空氣中的濕度變化而移動,我們一呼一吸所產生的水氣在不知不覺中被容器吸收掉。

As we enter the exhibited area, different kinetic sculptures and Rube Goldberg Machines offer us an intersensory experience: In Warren Leung’s installation, Untitled (book flying and crashing), a book repetitively crashes against a wall in a slow process of disintegration, filling the environment with a violent aural shock; Jeffery Shaw’s work The Spatial Pendulum comes with a large steel ball suspended on motorized pulleys that is hung from the ceiling. We enjoy a visual pleasure as we witness how the beauty of machine is best articulated when its parts are in motion; With Tobias Klein and Jane Prophet’s Common Datum, the water vapour from our breath is continuously absorbed by a series of suspended vessels without our notice. 

簡鳴謙、Jane Prophet,Common Datum ,2020 ,尼龍(黑色)、3D立體打印、玻璃、大氣水生成器、蝕刻黃銅​
Tobias Klein, Jane Prophet, Common Datum, 2020, Nylon (black), 3D print, glass, atmospheric water generators, etched brass

這次展覽最吸引人的,也許是各類互動藝術作品。當中劉燦與 Alvaro Cassinelli 的新穎裝置《Viva Voce》會收集觀眾的對話並加以數據分析,把字詞化為視覺形式,從面前的桌子邊緣滑行到中心。他們表示裝置會抽取重複出現的關鍵詞,出現率越高的就會存留越久,就像天擇過程(natural selection)一樣。不過作品暫時只作英語分析,不支援其他語言。通過與觀眾互動,新媒體藝術釋出現場觀感,為藝術家和觀眾雙方提供了一種新的思考和交流方式,觀眾不妨積極地與裝置作品互動。

The most exciting part of the exhibition is perhaps the various kinds of interactive art works. Particularly, Can Liu and Alvaro Cassinelli’s Viva Voce is an innovative installation that invites participants to enter conversation over a table. The words that they speak to one another are converted from aural to visual form and are projected onto the table. The artists express that any recurring keywords will remain longer on the table, acting almost like the process of natural selection. By involving the audience, interactive art reveals a new way of thinking and communication between artists and the audience so make sure to engage with these interesting works during your visit.

劉燦、Alvaro Cassinelli,Viva Voce ,2020,混合數碼媒介​
Can Liu, Alvaro Cassinelli, Viva Voce, 2020, Mixed digital media​


Sound Art is also one of the highlights in the exhibition. Coupled with dizzying flashes of images, the work of Ryo Ikeshiro creates an aural illusion in which the tempo seems to endlessly increase while repeating itself. We are encased within a microcosm of compulsive repetition; The work of Samson Young simulates the sound of lost instruments. Speakers of all scales surround us in a circle in which we can enjoy an all-around aural experience. The duration of these works may last up to 60 minutes so remember to reserve sufficient time for your visit for a more comprehensive experience.

Ryo Ikeshiro,Pika! Ppeonjjeog, Pika! Ppeonjjeog / Ppiikkaa!! PPppeeoonnjjjjeeoogg, 2015-16,沉浸式視聽裝置配合3D立體蝕刻及印刷​
Ryo Ikeshiro, Pika! Ppeonjjeog, Pika! Ppeonjjeog / Ppiikkaa!! PPppeeoonnjjjjeeoogg, 2015-16, Immsersive audiovisual installation with 3D-engraving and printing ​

楊嘉輝,Possible Music #2,2019,LED燈光系統、十六頻道聲音裝置;聲音,六十分鐘循環​
Samson Young, Possible Music #2 , 2019, LED lighting system, 16-channel sound installation; sound, 60 min loop​

展覽後半部分轉為較平靜、冥想性的氛圍,以黃炳培的《回到未來 / 太極》作結。因為科技的便利,我們因快,忘了慢。作品以一個機械人在打太極拳為主題,提出太極看似很慢,但厚積薄發時卻可以很快,從而探討時間和我們生存之間真正的聯繫是甚麼。展覽裡各個作品提出的疑問在我們腦海中縈繞不散,讓人在踏出展館後仍不斷反思與回味。

The later part of the exhibition presents a more calming, meditative atmosphere. It ends with Stanley Wong’s work, Back to the future / tai chi. The instant, immediate convenience and gratification provided by technology can steer the society’s life and living away from its normal course. The work is a 3D video with a robot practicing Tai Chi, which contemplates on the relationship between time and our existence. 

又一山人 (黃炳培),回到未來 / 太極,2014, 錄像 / 6’27″​
anothermountainman (Stanley Wong), back to the future / tai chi, 2014, video / 6’27″​


The questions raised by the various works linger in our mind even after we have left the exhibition hall, prompting us to reflect on the role of art made with and by new media in an age of unprecedented technological advance and its possible future development. As the introduction of the exhibition mentions, what makes something a work of art is not that it is handmade or machine-made, but the maker’s intentions that inform its creation. An artwork value lies in the success and coherence with which these intentions are communicated through the materials, bestowing upon the work its unique value.

「藝術機器 過去/現在」| Art Machines: Past/Present​
*Date: 2020. 11. 23 – 2021.5​
Time: Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 – 19:00​
Venue: 般哥展覽館​
The Indra and Harry Banga Gallery​
18/F, Lau Ming Wai Academic Building, City University of Hong Kong​

*需預先網上登記 Pre-registration required​

Photo courtesy of the artists and The Indra and Harry Banga Gallery

Text by Janice Chow

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