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Tech tonic

By Joyce Yip | HK EDITION | Updated: 2022-07-23 16:04
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Dreamscape, by Jeffrey Shaw and Sarah Kenderdine, attempts to reimagine the life and times of Emperor Qianlong. Projected on the ceiling, the video installation can be viewed by lying down on a circular bed, shared with fellow museum visitors. PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Digital enhancement

Museums trying to lure audiences by creating spectacles around the exhibits is now a worldwide trend. While this seems to be working, to an extent, the focus on trying to engage audiences by giving them something to do has attracted criticism.

In her book Contemporary Art and Digitization of Everyday Life (2020), Columbia University academic Janet Kraynak writes about museums being "reconfigured after the internet" - presented to visitors like consumer products that come with "pleasurable, non-confrontational subjects, often emphasizing interactivity". Increasingly, museums are becoming "indistinguishable from any number of cultural sites and experiences as all become vehicles for the delivery of content," Kraynak argues.

Like with many other museums struggling to hold their own against the odds, one of the major challenges faced by HKPM is to be able to make good use of the new technology at its disposal while guarding against turning into an entertainment theme park.

Hong Kong Baptist University's vice- president of research and development, Guo Yike, says the digital invasion in museums is inevitable. He believes the criticisms, including uninformed ones, about mediocre works finding their way into museums because tech-powered art is trendy might actually be a good thing. They make sure new-media artists take their job more seriously.

Besides, packaging education as entertainment has its obvious benefits. For instance, an AR experience in which an animated digital image of a Chinese emperor gives viewers a lowdown of his life in the palace "is not necessarily entertainment", Guo says.

Shaw agrees, pointing out that new media is only a tool that needs to be used intelligently to create meaningful experiences.

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