Record: Light from +22 16' 14" +114 08' 48" at Osage Kwun Tong by Kingsley Ng. Patrick Lam
In the 28-year-old artist's work in the exhibition Site: Seeing, the music of Hong Kong embodies the city's history, as well as the world's perception of its identity.
Presented as part of October Contemporary 2008, Kingsley Ng's work, titled Record: Light from +22 16' 14" +114 08' 48" starts from the premise of Attr/Action, explores the notion that attractions of and to an urban space can propel actions from its inhabitants and visitors.
The dynamic is at work in Ng's nine-minute clip, which was filmed from 10:00pm to 10:09pm on September 30. Against the night view of the harbor, the clip captures the flashlights from visitors taking pictures from the Victoria Peak.
These flashlights were then translated onto the piano keyboard to create a soundscape for the clip. They were also etched into a 12-inch disk, a modern version of the Gramophone.
For Ng, the Victoria Harbour epitomizes Hong Kong's development, since it has been the site of commerce and tourism. It also contains the viewers' admiration and their private, dangerous desires for the city.
"The audience is looking at a record of record-making of our town," Ng noted. "Beyond the immediate context, you're looking at the history of Hong Kong, and the collective glance that falls on it from past to present."
Born in Hong Kong and nurtured by different cultures, Ng has both the insider and outsider views on the city. Ng moved to Canada with his family at the age of 14, where he studied art in university.
In his 20's, Ng traveled around Europe and lived in Denmark, France, and Italy for exchange programs and postgraduate studies. The nomadic existence came to a pause, when Ng returned to Hong Kong three years ago.
The intersections of different locales and times are the theme of Ng's work. He seeks to create art that resonates with the local community, and yet relates to global trends and developments.
Musical Loom (Metier a tisser musical), a production of Le Fresnoy - National Studio of Contemporary Art (France). 2004-2005 Tourcoing, France.
During his studies in France, for example, Ng turned a 250-year-old antique weaving machine into a musical instrument. The work touched on the past of a weaving industry in France, as well as the unfolding of world's history.
"The audience had a deep, personal relationship with the artwork," Ng pinpointed. "It also reflected on globalization, during which local industries have been uprooted and moved to faraway corners of the world. It's something that's shaped all our lives."
With this dialogue in mind, Ng aims for his art to be accessible to the public, in that they can experience the works with a sense of comfort. The set up of Record: Light from +22 16' 14" +114 08' 48", for instance, includes a sofa for the viewers to sit on.
As the audience becomes engaged with the artwork and responds to the local context, Ng stated that his work is open to interpretation of the viewers, who may have diverse understanding of the subject depending on their background.
"My goal as an artist is to capture what's overlooked and present it through a lens. An artwork is like a mirror that creates reflection of a context, and gives the viewers a better understanding of its history and culture."
Since his return to Hong Kong, Ng has participated in several exhibitions, including Digitalogue in the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Hong Kong Art Centre 30th Anniversary Exhibition earlier this year.
Time remains the major challenge for Ng, as he divides his time between art and a full-time job as a designer in an international experiential marketing agency. The path of a new media artist is also a sinuous one, Ng contended.
"New media art requires a bigger investment in resources than more traditional art forms, and the artworks don't tend to have any instant market value. For the artist, it's about the long-term prospects with galleries and collectors."
As it takes a lot of faith to follow the path, Ng believed an artist must know and believe in what he is doing. "The most important thing is to stay true to yourself, because that's the only way you can create unique art," Ng added.
Despite the difficulties, new media art is a fast growing presence in the Hong Kong art scene. Ng attributed the growth to the wide range of possibilities of the medium and its greater impact on the audience.
"Nowadays, the public is over-exposed to sounds and visuals, and simpler art forms may not have the same impact on the viewers as they used to. New media art also offers more layers of experience, and it'll advance along with technology."
For all his dedication, Ng is optimistic about the development of the art community in Hong Kong. While galleries are springing up, the local audience is generally supportive of artists' efforts.
"They're usually engaged in the works when they come into a gallery," Ng concurred. "Naturally, it'd help if they get exposed to artworks of different origins and mediums, so they can have an open mind toward local art."
The position of Hong Kong in the global art community is a unique one, since it is at the heart of the cultural exchanges between the west and the east, at a time when contemporary Chinese art is gaining worldwide popularity.
"We're a part of China and we have a close understanding of the country. Yet we can see what's going on in China and how she grows closer to the rest of the world everyday, from a somewhat detached point of view.
"It's crucial for artists to have this kind of broadened, objective perspectives on the world, so we can instill these insights about real life into our creation," Ng concluded.
Site:Seeing runs from October 10 to November 16 in Osage Kwun Tong.
Homage to Ando Tadao - interactive sound installation. 2006 Treviso, Italy. Courtesy of Kingsley Ng
(HK Edition 10/29/2008 page4)