ARTISTS

Shinseungback Kimyonghun is a Seoul based artistic duo consisting of Shin Seung Back and Kim Yong Hun. Their collaborative practice explores technology’s impact on humanity. Shin Seung Back studied Computer Science in Yonsei University and Kim Yong Hun completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Sydney College of the Arts. They met while studying at the Graduate School of Culture Technology in KAIST and after completing Masters in Science and Engineering, they started to work as Shinseungback Kimyonghun in 2012. Their work has been presented extensively, including the Ars Electronica Festival, Vienna Biennale, the ZKM and MMCA Korea.

ABOUT THE WORK

The structure here recreates the wave breaking on the stone.
Come in, and become the stone.

Stone, a 2017 project by the joint artist involved picking a stone in the island of Ulleungdo, rigging it with water sensors and recreate the shock waves, vibration, sound and sensory experience. In their project “Stone”, Korean artists Shin Seung Back and Kim Yong Hun examine this persistent human interest in “self-improvement” through technological prostheses—applying this theory of “perception extension” to something as inert as a volcanic rock. The project consisted of 64 water sensors, 64 solenoids, wooden panels, arduino, computer, custom software, speakers, screen and projector.

In their exhibition at the Department for Culture and Education of the German Consulate General in Shanghai, they have re-created this experience building a structure with solenoids which viewers can sit inside to experience the relentless pounding of the sea.

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE WORK

Shinseungback Kimyonghun (SSBKYH) has been interested in these boundaries (usually undefined) and the perception of ‘humanness‘ as seen through their use of AI and Facial Recognition. Our burgeoning connection between our lives and machines can be paralleled with our intertwine with nature as humans, in which machines are slowly becoming not only integrated, but affixed into our existence as humans. Technology, through extensive usage, has became ingrained in our culture and socioeconomic sphere. In Stone, we question our humanness in technology, and how our senses can be stimulated by the uses of sensors that replicate the experience of being a stone. This inert object challenges our complexity as human beings; putting aside qualities such as culture, relationships and emotions that makes us ‘human’ and detaching from them to build a spiritual relationship with machines. SSBKYH explores identity and relationship with earth by allowing us to be immersed in nature, without having to be physically present in the setting, although one might ask how this reflects truly having a spiritual connection in a makeshift setting.

Posthumanism, as expressed by our artists, is a philosophical perspective of how change is enacted in the world. SSBKYH provides audiences with thought-provoking questions, such as ‘What makes us human?’ by creating other New Media installations and pieces that contrasts us with animals, sometimes drawing both similarities and allowing us to interpret for ourselves the differences. One such example is Cat or Human, where Artificial Intelligence is employed through algorithm but fails to differentiate the physical appearance of the two. Posthumanism in this work comes into play as AI and humans identify the inconsistency of technology to recognize human, thus dehumanizing us. However, SSBKYH does not explicitly identify this as a negative. Dehumanizing through various forms such as a Stone representation, does not focus on the Stone as the subject matter (or any sort of human representation), but rather our interaction with nature through the Stone, aided by mechanical means. Creating a sophisticated space that engages our sensory organs reenacts our physical experience through a virtual one.

‘Stone’, to simulate shock vibrations.

Secluded space where participants can sit in the ambience of waves crashing onto the Stone.

Live streaming of the Stone, the waves and its interaction with the conditions at sea.

I admire the intricacies involved in making this project successful; the visual, touch and sound sensory have been engaged in adamantly raw manner. The artists do not translate its motions, participants are free to form their opinions on the artists’ intent in engaging them in such a simulation. More so, we as ‘omnipotent’ beings are being humbled to take on the form of a Stone, an inert object that ‘exists’, such as how we as humans also simply ‘exist’. Our role in the world may continue to be a cloaked mirage that we constantly seek to find an answer for.

Reference:

http://ssbkyh.com/works/stone/

  1. Briefly share your experience going through Dialogue with Time. What were some of the feelings, thoughts, challenges and insights gained while role playing an elderly person?
  2. Drawing on your experience, can you think and list some of the benefits inherent in the design research technique of role playing? 
  3. Can you think of some contexts where role-playing can be useful to help discover and define design challenges or contribute to the development of design solutions? 

1. I felt that the experience did not feel grim; the reality of ageing may seem daunting but the design of the exhibition made it feel otherwise. The challenges seem trivial at first, but seeing things from a different point of perspective made me realize that there was so much I had not known, or rather, had not paid much attention to. I also felt that I had to be careful with my words, somehow being called ‘old’ can have a negative connotation as I accidentally said ‘you guys’ while conversing with our guide, and some people had caught me for my words and laughed. Being pulled away from the focus of attention in society(feeling almost sidelined) and having to sit out on most activities, I can’t help but notice how an elderly person would feel in that situation. Dialogue with Time provided me with fresh perspective of how healthy aging people can be stay positive and have a happy life.

2. Role playing uses first hand experience to allow users to empathize with elderly people. Placing the users in simulations aided by machines, they are challenged with similar problems an elderly faces. I was able to understand the severity and constraints of the disabilities that come with ageing, provoking me to think further on design that would be of possible benefit to our elderly. Role playing was also a clear and effective method to impart knowledge about elderly people to all age groups, regardless of race and language. This design research technique benefits both the participant and the audience, as it incites imagination to ‘think out of the box’ and provide creation solutions to the existing issues. Role playing, with the correct context, will greatly benefit the design problem as it reveals the intrinsic and encourages designers to be proactive to think further about the issues.

3. As I am working on obesity as one of the social issues, discovering how obesity can be tackled requires one to put him/herself in the shoes of someone suffering from obesity. This way, designers could empathize with them and come up with viable solutions that may not be too difficult to achieve. Instead of presenting figures, creative solutions can include benefits or rewards given to them as they complete each task required. Role playing is able to reveal both functional and emotional aspects to a design problem. Another context could be designing something that represents a certain group of people. For example, I designed a vest for PTSD veterans in one of my previous projects, which required not only extensive research on what PTSD is like, but also how one would act in a situation of a PTSD trigger. This gave me better perspective not only on their behaviour, but also understand how they might feel with each attack.

 

 

1.Current Issues

Obesity

Most Singaporeans are unconcerned with obesity or commonly known as being ‘fat’. Being slightly overweight does not count as being obese; it is having too many fats in your body that will lead to many health problems, including deterioration of joints and bones, to diabetes, heart attack and increased risks of stroke.
Potential health problems:
Diabetes
Heart disease
Liver disease
Many types of cancer

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/health/obesity-a-growing-worldwide-epidemic-9296734

https://www.hpb.gov.sg/article/1.7-million-singaporeans-already-at-risk-of-obesity-related-diseases

https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/am-i-obese#1

 

Mental Health

Depression; the common cold of mental illness. It is diagnosed as a brain disorder, and there are still many who do not understand what it is like to go through depression. In today’s society, cyber-bullying in the case of Korea has lead to many k-pop idols taking their own lives, as it exacerbated and worsened their depression.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/mental-health-youths-suicide-depression-listen-11994612

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/getting-a-close-look-at-mental-illness

 

Visually/hearing impaired in Singapore

Despite having many considerate designs on MRTs, LRTs and buses, Singapore still lacks in many aspects the consideration for the impaired in common spaces. In fact, most Singaporeans are clueless when it comes to how to communicate and help the impaired. 

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/still-many-hurdles-in-world-of-blind-people

Gender Inequality

Gender inequality is still prevalent in our society. Despite claiming to be unbiased, we still possess many gender stereotypes, social norms that are prejudice against women. In Singapore, the gender discrimination when it comes to leadership in the workforce and society is severe, and as much as we choose to not acknowledge it, it is only fair that facts be presented to support gender equality.

https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/gender-equality/

https://www.businessinsider.sg/singapore-ranked-worst-place-for-women-to-work-among-top-gender-equal-nations-with-about-20-less-pay-and-savings-than-men/

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/sep/29/women-better-off-far-from-equal-men

 

2. Why is the Issue important? Who does it affect and how?

Obesity has been constantly addressed by Health Promotion Board (HPB), events such as Walkathons and food pyramid infographics, healthier choice options made available throughout Singapore in schools. This issue affects more people than we think, as it is not limited to people who are obese, but also those that may be in danger of becoming obese. Tackling this issue in the earlier stages of life and educating the youths about the importance of being fit/healthy would reduce the risks of being obese. In recent studies, 36.2% of Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 are overweight. Obesity affects not only the person, but family members around them as they provide emotional and financial support to them as they fall ill, which highlights how this issue is much bigger than it seems. 

3. Who do you need to communicate to, and why?

The target audience are youths around 10 to 18. As teens, they are able to make their own conscious decisions on their food choices, and change their diet and lifestyles to prevent falling into the risks of being obese. This includes all teens, whether obese or not so that I can educate them on the dangers of obesity. Being obese has became socially acceptable, and that might contribute to why people who are obese might not feel any pressure or need to change their lifestyles to be healthier. According to National Health Group (NHG) report in May, 2019, 7 in 10 children are likely to stay obese through to their adulthood. As their BMI increases, it is absolutely crucial to educate them on the dangers of their diet and lifestyle as obesity, unlike other medical issues, can be prevented. 

4. How has visual communication contributed to address the cause?

Singapore Cancer Society on Obesity and lifestyle management

https://www.singaporecancersociety.org.sg/learn-about-cancer/cancer-basics/common-types-of-cancer-in-singapore.html

Pros: Direct; call to action that provide a solution to people suffering from obesity.

Use of colours red and green to indicate ->

Red -> Danger

Green -> Positivity, the change needed.

Cons: 150 minutes appear to be a daunting task, using fear factor may or may not work in this case as people tend to think that they can find other methods to stay healthy besides exercising as it is a mentality.

Hypertension, The Silent Killer, Singhealth (healthexchange.sg), Poster, Ng Hui Hui

https://www.healthxchange.sg/high-blood-pressure/essential-guide-to-high-blood-pressure/hypertension-the-silent-killer

Pros: A persuasive infographic which provides a call to action and lists down the facts of hypertension, coupled with how hypertension could be tackled.

Cons: The use of colours are very minimal, the orange and black infographic may seem dull and uninteresting, and the uniformity of the poster makes it seem wordy and hard to read.

Singapore Heart Foundation, Poster on Obesity and Overweight

Modifiable Risk Factor: ObesityFor a person whose body weight exceeds his recommended weight range by 20% or more, the…

Posted by Singapore Heart Foundation on Friday, 22 March 2019

Pros: Poster is posted on a facebook group belonging to Singapore Heart Foundation, where the moderators will reply facebook users who have any enquiry on the call to action. The platform is a good way to actively keep tab and provide support in any way, shape or form. The colours used are red and green again, with the same intentions as mentioned above.

Cons: Unlike the poster by Singapore Cancer Society, the call to action is not as straightforward but instead, it presents facts and information on obesity, where one can spend time to understand more about the issue and raise awareness such that a change can be brought about.

 

Interactive telecommunications force a re-evaluation of what we have learned from television

Lovejoy talks about the juxtaposition of cyberspace, technology and humans, and how the formal has changed the way we interact. This reflections summarizes my notion of individualism that emerges from the creation of cyberspace, critically analyzing how the disappearance between private and public boundaries disrupts culture, social structure to create a blend of identity that is transcends categorization.

Erosion of social structure and culture

The emergence of cyberspace in the year 1982 by author William Gibson, which he coined in a fictional book and now become reality. Much so, the cyberspace, which largely consist of online networks and the internet had altered its position from being an escape from reality in the early 2000s, to reality being an escape from cyberspace in our current modern era. We were fascinated with what the internet had to offer, its possibilities were never-ending and our curiosity led us deeper into the world of cyberspace that we had unknowingly caged ourselves in a space we do not fully comprehend. Yet, we are so comfortable in this virtual space that we are blinded by its dangers; or choose to turn a blind eye on it.

The spying; the breaking down of barriers between private and public space for an individual was identified by Lovejoy as she denounces the cyberspace for this erosion. We tune in to our social domains and internet so often that we become ‘social’ by being ‘anti-social’, which is so ironic as we lose our sense of genuine, face to face communication and we rely and depend on the internet to hold our social interactions instead. We are unknowingly data-mined on a daily basis through our web browsers (cookies and service providers), spied on with our webcams and even voiced recorded and analyzed through machine learning to ‘personalize’ our user experience on Google, to receive advertisements on products we seem to voice out through our computers. Imagine having google ‘read our thoughts’, that is how the internet space is becoming.

We break the traditional perspective of hierarchy, as we are able to communicate to just about anyone with different statuses, different backgrounds and social standings.To further emphasize on this change, our culture has been eroded in a matter of years due to globalization and cyberspace interactions. Some cultures that took centuries to create are often neglected as they become obsolete in the cyberspace, as the internet becomes a borderless space that embraces every individual. People on the internet do not bond their traditional cultures per se, instead the main stream media has repudiated the idea of culture by promoting pop culture. A new, widely accepted culture that becomes a norm for everyone, regardless of nationality and race. The idea of promoting self was created by pop culture as a way to liberate ourselves from the stresses of having to conform to society.

Cyberspace as a venue for validation

We have created a persona, an impression that we wish to convey, a front made to convince others that this is actually the real us. Many seek validation online, through platforms such as Youtube and Instagram, as they constantly monitor their likes and shares on these social media platforms to validate their self-worth. It has become such a big issue that Instagram change its policies recently to remove the number of likes being displayed.

Social Media Influencers often provide the opportunity for people to live vicariously, to experience the crazy experiences such as travelling and living in luxury. ‘Followers’ tend to support these influencers in their lifestyles by ‘donating’ to them, and feel the satisfaction of seeing their influencers have the opportunity to live a lifestyle ‘funded’ by them. Unbeknownst to many living in such manner, we are guilty of doing so as we indulge in hours of drama on netflix, youtube surfing sports cars and house tours of mansions, amongst many other forms of entertainment. The availability of entertainment may cause some to stop short of living their own experiences as they are able to do so through others.

Individualism

We do see the social commentary on proprietary models that emerged from the 20th century through the form of WikipediaArt. WikipediaArt is a performance artwork that critically analyses the nature of art, knowledge and Wikipedia, a collaborative project by Nathaniel Stern and Scott Kildall.

Wikipedia Art

Although I appreciate and support the challenge against ownership and champion the idea of an open source thinking, it provokes me to think about individualism that arises from participation of WikiArt. Specifically, the fact that individuals are able to contribute to an artwork in an open source setting such as Wikipedia, and subsequently seeing it being taken down just 15 hours after its creation confirms that a sort of proprietary model still governs the open source platform. The backlash by the online community made me question: was the commotion really about criticizing ownership, or because expression by individuals were subdued? This expression makes me ponder about the people’s perception of contribution and ability to impact the cyberspace which they are actually concerned with, rather than simply denouncing Wikipedia’s ethics. The problem of individualism arises again as I believe people may be genuinely obsessed with their ability to create and impact on the cyberspace. The open source space of peer to peer interaction may be a mirage of peer to peer validation.

Conclusion

We live in an era where it is difficult to identify the long term benefits and consequences of engaging in the cyberspace. The disconnect from reality by communicating through the cyberspace and erosion of culture leads us to validate and identify ourselves in ways that we may not notice, and thus communicates our growth of individualism as we are reorganized through globalization. We will continue to find ways to belong and exist on the cyberspace as we inculcate in the young the need for technology.

Sources:

https://wikipediaart.org/

Vaidhyanathan, S. (2005). Open Source . In Open Source (p. 25).

 

Plakatstil, also known as Sachplakat, is German for Poster style, originating from Germany in 1900s. It was started by Lucien Bernhard, who was also the director of Das Plakat, a monthly German art magazine. Plakatstil turned away from the complexities of Art Nouveau, into a more modern outlook on poster design.  Since it was a style, there were certain distinct characteristics found in all Plakatstil posters, such shapes and objects being simplified as plenty of negative space to guide the viewer to focus solely on the subject matter. The posters were usually accompanied by bold lettering that grabs the attention of the viewers. Lucien Bernhard believed in minimalism, in the ‘less is more’ approach. Plakatstil became universal style that did not have any association to any specific school or art movement.

The colours used were usually reductive flat and distinctive, eye catching colours. Bernhard was 15 when he attended the exhibit in Munich of work and walked away ‘drunk with colours’. He attention was caught by the flat, eye catching colours he had seen, which jumped at him. This was when he came to the revelation that design could be minimalistic and clear; clutter and intricacies of design was not necessarily vital to bring forth a message. In Bernhard’s poster for Priester’s matches of 1905, his original idea consists of cigar, dancing girls and a table; which he felt reflected Victorian style, something he did not want to achieve. After reduction and compositional tests, he removed the elements one by one and was left with a the matchbox and matchsticks. This gave the poster a minimalistic approach and the message was straight to the point. In this new era, shapes and objects were used, rather than full-on illustrations.

Poster for Priester matches, Lucien Bernhard, 1905.

Typography was usually created by hand as part of the illustrations. Although Bernhard preferred using classic book typefaces for setting text, he designed a number of display typefaces, including Bernhard Gothic, Bernhard Fashion, Lucian, Bernhard Tango, and Bernhard Brushscript. There was no limitations to what kind of typefaces could be used in Plakatstil.

Poster for Stiller shoes, Lucien Bernhard, 1912

Plakatstil was a style that was not art for art sake, rather it had a function, a purpose. The purpose was to capture the audience and entice them to desire, and therefore purchase what was reflected in the posters.

Poster for men’s ready made clothing, Ludwig Hohlwein, 1908

Minimalism, less is more concept of Plakatstil was unfortunately derailed in 1914 by WWI.

As artists, we are constantly being in the loop of trial and error, finding the best way to communicate our messages on advertisements to the viewer without distracting or distortion from the original message. The Eureka moment struck Bernhard as he developed the idea of using a minimalistic approach to his design, influencing many others such as Ludwig Hohlwein and Hans Rudi Erdt. Although there wasn’t a definitive style that followed in Plakatstil’s footsteps, artists such as Nancy Stahl, who designed the 37-cent Snowy Egret definite stamp in 2003 drew inspiration from the style and evolved it to integrate into her own art style. The bold and graphic stamp was made in a reductive, flat-colour style, drawing resemblence in colour to that of Hans Rudi Erdt’s ‘Opel poster’.

FUTURE WORLD

is an interactive space consisting of numerous exhibitions where visitors can interact and immerse themselves in a ‘magical’ environment. High-tech interactive artworks in Future World are created in collaboration with teamLab, a renowned interdisciplinary art collective. It is here where we see a fusion and removal of boundaries between art and science. How appropriate it is to be held at the Art Science Museum!

INTERACTION.

It is defined as a reciprocal action or influence, involving two or more objections or persons.

As we previously learnt, interaction come can in many forms, namely:

Man-man interaction

Man-machine interaction

Machine-machine interaction

In future world, we are able to see all of these types of interaction happening. Man-man interaction is displayed through the observation and reaction to other people’s input onto the interactive screens, which I will discuss further. Man-machine interaction occurs when the visitors are required to sketch a drawing, move closer to the installation or follow an instruction to receive a reaction from the machine, in this case the installations. Machine-machine interaction is displayed when we move an object, for example in the City In a Garden – Giant Connecting Block Town, when a block is moved to a different location, the map recalibrates and reflects the current location of the block in the virtual map.

Real time change in location of objects, synchronized with the physical location of representation objects placed.

An interactive artwork should invite visitors/participants to think, take a step back and observe. It creates a personalized experience and opinion towards that particular artwork. We deviate from the typical need to critique and evaluate each artwork based on how ‘good’ it is, how it is able to accurately depict or evoke a certain emotion or get that certain reaction from its audience. Instead, we as the audience break down and digest the artwork empirically.

Certain level of understanding is needed before a viewer chooses to interact with the object. We as humans have the tendency to fear what we do not know and reject it. As much as we tend to give the audience the freedom to interact, we insert controls to guide the viewer, which does so much for us. These controls can help preserve our artwork, tailor user experience (albeit to a small degree), and most importantly ensure that the interaction becomes a positive experience. These ‘controls’ usually come in the form of instructions, or guides and hints that lead us to a certain action(that is usually unrestricted) that kick starts the entire experiential process. Without these controls, there will be little to no understanding from the viewer and thus restrict or compromise the experience. Let me provide you a few examples.

*170314_Sliding through the Fruit Field_nontelop

As seen in the Sliding through the Fruit Field installation, there is a set of staircase that leads people up the top of the slide, where they can slide down and observe the interaction beneath them. They ‘become a beam of life-giving sunlight, and as they glide down the slope, their energy is transferred to the fruit field, causing flowers and fruit to blossom and grow’. Even though the interactivity is the most important aspect of this installation, without the control(staircase), users may not be aware on how they should properly interact with the Fruit Field installation. Users may end up trying to climb up the slide via the interactive screen, which increases the chance for injuries etc, or end up not interacting with it at all because they don’t know how to.

At another installation, called the Sketch Aquarium, viewers see a set of tables and chairs, with a giant screen that displays the Aquarium. There is a set of instructions like this:

These set of instructions and description helps contextualize the artwork, and in my opinion, although done as an afterthought(so I would assume), it is a vital asset of the artwork.

As previously mentioned, the control acts as a guide and thereafter, the freedom of what to draw, where to touch etc. belongs to the participants.

I drew a gentlemen jellyfish and scanned it, adding it to the collection of fishes appearing in the Sketch Aquarium.

Video of my jellyfish

It was also natural for viewers to read and observe other viewers’ creations as well. One viewer had written on his fish ‘Free HK’, which reminded me that the content scanned and uploaded were unfiltered. This allowed the viewer to actively voice his opinion on the Aquarium, as part of the ‘freedom’ he was entitled in this interactivity. Could this be then considered a limitation of the artwork? After all, any viewer could exploit the use of the Aquarium.

SPACE – Crystal Universe

SPACE – Crystal Universe was strategically placed as the last artwork before the viewers finish up their tour of the FUTURE WORLD exhibition. The artwork consists of over 170,000 LED lights and a panel to walk through before reaching an open space that viewers can capture the entirety of SPACE. I believe that mirrors were placed on the sides, top and bottom of the lights to multiply the illusion of the countless LED lights that resembled stars. The concept of space and the unknown will forever be intriguing. The beauty of the galaxy and its vastness is reflected in pop culture, where movies are based in Outer Space. Although I did not linger in the art space, the interaction encouraged me to step back and think about the interactivity that it involved – the swiping on our mobile devices to change the light effects on the installation. The physical element of simply touching the artwork is removed, since we send our response through the internet. Will that, then, change the experience of the users when the element of touch, thus interactivity, is changed? The medium, in which we are able to interact, therefore affects greatly how we receive the experience.

 

Outline:

  • Who were they?
  • What did they advocate?
  • Summary and reflection

Who were they?

Spook School was another name to describe the Glasgow four – which consisted of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Margaret Macdonald, James Herbert MacNair and Frances Macdonald. The four of them were famous for being pioneers of the Art Nouveau movement. Art Nouveau translates into New Art, an international movement dictated by an reaction against academic art, eclecticism and historicism of 19th century architecture and decoration. It was inspired by natural forms such as the sinuous curves of plants and flowers. The Glasgow four were painters as well as designers, and had drawn influence from Celtic Art and Symbolism. They developed the Glasgow Style, which was a fusion of influence of Arts & Craft movement, Celtic Revival and Japonisme. They were named Spook School, or in other words Ghoul School as their artwork was termed ‘derisive epithet’ which distorted and conventionalized human form.

The four met at the Glasgow School of Arts. MacNair and Mackintosh were fellow architect students and close friends, while the Macdonalds were day students at the school. They formed an informal creative alliance which produced innovative and at times controversial artworks which were essential to the development and recognition of the ‘Glasgow Style’.

The controversial artworks were considered to be breaking the norms of society – it was uncommon for female painters to paint nude woman in the 1890s.

The sexual tension that arose from the collaboration of the four was undeniable.

The Vienna Secession was the epitome of Glasgow four’s impact on the Art Nouveau movement. They had sold most, if not all of their works there and despite having parted ways after that, their exhibition remained important to the movement in its entirety. However, they had little to no influence on Art Nouveau post – Vienna. Mackintosh continued with his architectural works and went on to become the most famous of the four and was renowned all over the world.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) - Scottish Musical Review Poster. Circa 1895.

Reflection:

Their detachment from academic art gained recognition from the masses and other artists, they challenged the norms and shied away from the curvilinear art forms that dominated the art scene at that period. Their use of structural, rectilinear shapes influenced big time artists such as Gustav Klimt and Koloman Moser. Despite discontinuation of their alliance post secession, their influence was widespread and they were even coined as Glasgow Boys and Glasgow Girls for their distinct styles and representation. They were one of the most influential groups in Art Nouveau, which championed the use of linear, plant-like forms and drew from science, mythical history and modernity for inspiration.

Outline:

  • Origins
  • Content
  • Summary and reflection

Origins:

The Diamond Sutra is acknowledged as the oldest dated printed book,which was approximately 5.3 metres in length. Commissioned by a person named Wang Jie on behalf of his two parents, the Diamond Sutra has been translated, reproduced and its content has been spread throughout the Buddhist world. Dated in the year 868A.D., the text had been discovered in 1900 by a monk in Dunhuang, China, on an old outpost of the Silk Road on the edge of the Gobi Desert. The Diamond Sutra, a Sanskrit text translated into Chinese, was one of 40,000 scrolls and documents hidden in “The Cave of a Thousand Buddhas,” a secret library sealed up around the year 1,000 when the area was threatened by a neighboring kingdom.
In 1907, a British-Hungarian archaeologist by the name of Marc Aurel Stein was on an expedition mapping the ancient Silk Road when he heard about the secret library. He then bribed the abbot of the monastic group in charge of the cave and smuggled away thousands of documents, including the Diamond Sutra.

Content:

The book was named Diamond Sutra – The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion. Its intent was to help cut through the perception of the world and its illusion. It talks about emptiness(of the world) – among many things discussed as the Diamond Sutra takes the form of a conversation between Buddha’s pupil Subhati and his master.

Reflection:

It is interesting to see the first ever printed book had been poised for reproduction with a religious purpose – Wang Jie added a inscription on the lower right hand side of the scroll reading: ”Reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his two parents”. In Buddhist belief, spreading the image or words of the Buddha was a good deed and way of gaining merit. The Diamond Sutra was the only dated document amongst the thousands of scrolls hidden in the cave, meaning that there could have been an older scroll or book that was kept within the same library. The emergence of printing so many years before the movable type was invented – was proof that technology had been advancing at phenomenal speeds in China. Woodblock print as a method of printing on cloth, dates back to as early as 220A.D. However, the Diamond Sutra is the first completed book to be produced via this method. Moreover, the sealing of the Mogao caves, which prevented neighbouring kingdoms from ransacking and looting the sacred scrolls was proof that the religious documents kept within the caves had more than historic importance. The intricacies of the illustration elevated the beauty of the text – it was well contextualized by the painting, bringing to life the text and its meaning.

 

Initial thoughts of the installation:

Entering the space where the exhibition was taking place, I was greeted with the sight of what I thought was coffee tables, with the audience occupying the seats and due to the limited seats, many viewers stood around as the live performance unfolded. I was perplexed by the setup, as I went in with little knowledge of what was about to take place. Random, loud noises could be heard at the installation and shortly after, performers accompanied the ‘chaos’ of the noise that filled the environment. The nonchalant performers dawned on a large mask/head set that impeded his vision. It was only later, after reading up on the artist and his thought process of creating such a niche field of art in media that I understood slightly better.

Set up:

The setting inhibited from ‘Disappearance, bar in the gallery’ by Lee Kang So in 1973 involves the display of Korean tables and benches placed in the gallery, as if to re-enact the scene of a Korean bar which involves distant chatter, laughter and shared experiences from daily struggles and accomplishments delivered through conversations. The presence of physical ‘history’, which included alcohol stains, dents and burn marks from cigarettes of the dine-in tables was missing, suggesting that the artist was moving away from the focus of reminiscence and the lingering effects of a location. More evidently, we could see that the artist manages to use the benches and tables not only as props but incorporating them to become an essential element of the exhibition. The bar serves as a place of socialization, a perfect scene for the artist to deliver his message across to his audience. As we continue to unravel the artist’s intention and art direction, we may find that the relevance of location played a crucial role in helping the artist express his thoughts through Life circuit.

 

Life circuit- concept:

Urich Lau, the artist in question takes on a tangible and performative approach to his artworks. His intention was to create a circuit – which consists of an input and output – between his audience and him through the introduction of an alternate space in which he navigates and ‘interacts’ with his surroundings. While being ‘impeded’ by sight and hearing, one questions whether this is really the case – he is somewhat able to weave through and make his way around by live feed and audio-visual information.

Communication and exchange with the art seems to manifest in a bizarre manner – the layering of ideas that the artist has constantly engaged in his artistic oeuvre where he addresses issues of surveillance and viewer participation(non-participation in this case). The presence of the viewer automatically translates into participation as he connects with them through the medium of his alternate reality – he projects live visuals of the viewers without their permission, which I believe is his way of communicating the lack-thereof privacy and discomfort in being under surveillance.

Critique on Singapore’s art scene – Life Circuit touches on the issues pertaining to the contemporary art and heritage in Singapore’s context. He occasionally flashes the National Art Council(NAC)’s mission statement, which baffled many of us who sat in for the performance work. However, it was not difficult to tell that the artist meant for viewers to question about it relevance and thus understanding the intention of the artist. To us it might have meant nothing, the seemingly abstract display of text actually delivers a strong message – to encourage us to challenge our perception on creating art in Singapore’s context and discovering how much or little we are able to exert our creativeness. Are we then restrained by the boundaries set by council that we are unable to seek a certain direction in art?

To champion the creation and appreciation of the arts as an integral part of our lives.

Commentary on the embrace of technology – we live in an era where mobile phones and social media become far more than simply communication. It is intertwined with entertainment, many of us are so used to this form of entertainment that we become indifferent to it. We are consumed by the visuals and accessibility provided by social media, as we slowly stray away from the need to have real, physical interaction that require effort and time. I asked myself this: in light of the 21st century, why did Lau’s Life circuit gadgets look old-school? He uses basic ear muffs, a gas-mask looking device and small projectors that replace his eye function. In this day an age, was it really necessary to attach the over-the-top amount of wires instead of using wi-fi and bluetooth to make his ‘helmet’ look cleaner?

In hindsight, that may be the whole point – to allow us to see the raw nature of technology – the amass of wires that leaves us wondering whether technology we integrate into our lives actually serves to benefit us or weigh us down.