Fortune Telling

By Vivian Chan (Music, Zurich University of the Arts), Wen Qing Kwek (Fine Arts, LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore), Star Sijia Liu (Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong), Mei Yan Miley Wong (Digital Art, Academy of Visual Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University), Ingjerd Ytterdal Holten (Painting, Academy of Visual Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University)


Young people are increasingly turning to fortune tellers for help. The increasing interest in Fortune telling may be interpreted as a basic need in the human condition but could also as a cultural and social symptom of a society questioning the roots of its technological pragmatism, a society in search of its personal and human identity. It might also be viewed as a symptom of a society that has lost faith in science and medicine seeking out alternative healing and knowledge from Fortune telling and other Occult rituals.

Aphek and Tobin write in “The Semiotics of Fortune telling”(5): “the basic elements related to persuasive communication (e.g., motivation, intention, imagination) underlie man’s need and search for the mystical, the occult and magic in general and Fortune telling in particular.”

This works aim to explore the viewers own relationship with Fortune telling. Is it real? Is there something to it? Whether he or she believes it or not, we leave it up to each individual to interpret on their own.

Concept and Process

Topic: Numbers & Language. The process started with a vague idea to explore Fortune telling in general and Numerology in particular. We debated whether it should be an immersive experience and if so, what would be the artistic idea behind it. Our process and research included self-developed excercises of drawing and performance to elaborate and evaluate instructions that resemble the ritualistic instructions of Fortune telling. After an initial brainstorming phase we agreed on working with the meanings of numbers.

For example: 6: Luck (Chinese); 8: Wealth (Chinese); 4/14: Death (Chinese); 99/1314: Love forever (Chinese); 666: You are good, genius. Everything is great. (Chinese); Odd numbers: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9… Funeral/ bad luck (Chinese); Even numbers: 2, 4, 6, 8…Wedding/ Red Pocket (Chinese)

Further research on the methods of fortune telling (related to numbers), eg.:

1. Visiber

2. Birthday Numerology

3. Blood type personality theory

Artist references:

Bruce Nauman – Day (2009), see:

Sol Lewitt, see:

Drawing excercises

“The size of shapes and lines which are undefined” (Abstract style)

Preparation: reservation of two rooms, decision on exercise instructions (no talking, body language is allowed), draw/paint/perform within the set time frame

Examples of the instruction (extract):

Wen Qing

1.   Draw an oval approximately 50cm in
diameter. Repeat and do this 8 times such that the ovals overlap slightly,
forming a flower pattern.

2.   Make 8 marks at random surrounding the
flower pattern, consisting of a mixture of short diagonal lines as well as
dots, all of different thickness and sizes.

3.   Connect them using squiggly lines, making
sure not to overlap the flower pattern when doing so.

4.   Draw 3 lines running through the flower
pattern, that are thin, medium and thick.

5.   Draw small shapes from the bottom to the
top, such that they gradually dissipate towards the top.

6.   Shade 6 sections.

7.   Draw lines at random.

8.   Complete by adding 3 different shapes and 8
positive and negative sections.


1.   Draw a big circle in the middle of the

2.   Draw 2 big dots in the big circle, one is
on the left, another one is on the right.

3.   There is a “U” under these 2 dots.

4.   2 smalls triangles on the top of the big
circle, one is on the left, another one is on the right.

5.   Then, there is a mini triangle inside of
each triangle.

Result of the drawing exercises (extract):


Performance exercises

Based on the following instructions (ref. Sol LeWitt)

  • Focusing on Racism and the fact that it is still around us
  • Historic reference to World War II
  • Referencing colonial times in HK
  • Questioning what is performance art?
  • Questioning what is art?
  • Mission: to invite people to reflect.

Examples of the instruction (extract):


1. Organize your group in a straight line according to the color of
your skin.

2. Take one step forward if you know how to speak german

3. Take one step to the right if you know how to speak Chinese.

4. Sit down if you are blond.

5. Stand on one foot if you are asian.+

6. Take one step forward and lay down if you are European.

7. Jump up and down 4 times if you are 170cm or smaller.

8. Move to the right side of the room if you have brown eyes.

9. Move to the left side if you have blue eyes.

10. Find a partner on the other side of the room and give him/her a hug.

Further ideas: Rimini protocol – Do we want to show something? Or do you want to tell someone what they are? How about a dating service? Should we make use of a Crystal bowl? How can we make a setting which sets the mode to mysterious, magical, eerie, dark room? Audience is invited to go in and enter the interactive experience through computer. After some further research on Numerology we decided to focus on the idea of the Birth Path Number.

What is the Birth Path Number and the meaning of basic numbers in Numerology?

The birth path number suggests your overall path in life and place in the world  is based on your complete birth date. (eg. Birthday: 4-5-1997, 4+5+1+9+7+7 =33 =3+3 =6 >> Birth Path Number: 6)

Number One: One is the leader. It indicates the ability to stand alone, and is a strong vibration. Ruled by the Sun.

Number Two: Two is the mediator and peace-lover. It indicates the desire for harmony. It is a gentle, considerate, and sensitive vibration. Ruled by the Moon.

Number Three: Three is a sociable, friendly, and outgoing vibration. Kind, positive, and optimistic. Three’s enjoy life and have a good sense of humor. Ruled by Jupiter.

Number Four: Four is the worker. Practical, with a love of detail, Fours are trustworthy, hard-working, and helpful. Ruled by Uranus.

Number Five: Five is the freedom lover. The number five is an intellectual vibration. These are “idea” people with a love of variety and the ability to adapt to most situations. Ruled by Mercury.

Number Six: Six is the peace lover. The number six is a loving, stable, and harmonious vibration. Ruled by Venus.

Number Seven: Seven is the deep thinker. The number seven is a spiritual vibration. These people are not very attached to material things, are introspective, and generally quiet. Ruled by Neptune.

Number Eight: Eight is the manager. Number Eight is a strong, successful, and material vibration. Ruled by Saturn.

Number Nine: Nine is the teacher. Nine is a tolerant, somewhat impractical, and sympathetic vibration. Ruled by Mars.


Result/State of play

In the course of developing our idea we started to aim for the merging of Chinese and Western rituals. What resulted from that aim was a performance/installation during approx. 30 minutes and involving both contemporary “Western” and Chinese approaches to Fortune telling.

For that reason, we decided to merge the somewhat Western idea of the Birth Path number with Chinese rituals of oracle and Fortune telling. One of the Chinese rituals that inspired our installation/performance was the Peach Garden Oath. It involves cheering with alcohol and saying: “We might not be lucky enough to be born on the same day, yet I wish we can end our life at the same time.” 

We decided to form a Mandala-shaped ring of stones and to serve “blessed” water at the entrance to introduce the visitors to our performance/installation which involved the video projection of the above Birth Path Number instructions and was accompanied by meditation music, a soothing use of lights and the give away of handmade paper fortune “cookies” after the ritual. The setting was meant to be highly immersive, interactive and person-centered.

Photos by Claudio Rainolter