Singapore Biennale : Zai Tang Escape Velocity III

I am always intrigued with the concept of visual scores as everyone has a different way of breaking down sounds and expressing it with a visual medium. It translates with the theory of visual rhythm, in the way certain shapes mimic a sound in terms of it’s accent, flow and expressiveness. Tang’s approach to translating sound seem to be more of an atmospherical one where there isn’t a strict translation of a certain sound to appear as a certain motif. Instead, he uses an overarching theme to describe the sound, through the choice of medium and subject matter. The piece that describes the natural side of the story featured organic materials such as charcoal as well as fluid and free form illustrations, while the opposite featured pen ink illustration with structured patterns of lines and repeated shapes. It’s hard to tune in to a certain sound and see it’s visual representation in the piece, therefore I felt like the visual score was an accompaniment to the sound. The visual score itself was not successful in communicating the idea of the presented sound piece.

This leads to the part that did not work out for me, the lack of visual heirachy to the installation. The strongest element of the work was the way Tang manipulated the sound to express both sides of nature and the urban occupation.

Due to the multiple elements of two contrasting illustrations and physical turntables, the audience becomes distracted. Visual objects attracts a viewer’s attention from far and they would be the first to be assessed and interpreted. The illustration is already fighting for attention with the moving turntables. Both illustrations and turntable have very contrasting metaphors in terms of how it visualises the soundscape. With so many elements to a work, it is challenging for the viewer to process all of it at one go. Being in the space, I was unable to pick up that the speakers were playing two different tracks.

I found the method of which he recorded and manipulated the sound with AI fascinating and hoped that the visual cues were directed to visualising that manipulation of sound in contrast to an uncut, raw recording. This installation is a good case study on how audiences approach multi-media works and the importance of deciding what elements to include in the experience. With more visual and kinetic objects, the mind often gets distracted by it. If the emphasis of the work is in the sound and the subtleties of it, the work should have placed more importance of the communication of that element to the audience.

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