By Silas Kutschmann (Music/Pop, Zurich University of the Arts), José Eduardo Yépez Pino (Electroacoustic Composition/Guitar, Zurich University of the Arts), Leonard Kai Fung So (Fine Arts/Theory, Academy of Visual Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University), Yu Rainie Liu (Art and Theatre Management, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts), Xinyun Juliana Zhu (Choreography/Dance, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts)
In the age where information is being flooded by information, the value of such deflates to a state in which they are highly accessible yet at the end worthless. We are only a few effortless clicks away from this infinite ocean of information. We have become selective of what information means – many of us believe that we enjoy a freedom of choice – but lost our power to reject information. Media constructed how and who we are now without us realising it.
We are not interested in giving any judgements on the truths of these informative contents but to accentuate what media itself means. As victims of the medium, we are only able to be strapped on the operating table of information and be reformed by the scalpel of media.
We had a mutual concept of taking media as our theme. At first we had different ideas and perspectives upon media: how do different audiences interpret media such as news and information? Authenticity and truths? Social contribution on building up the media? Eventually we came to think about media itself as a research topic, as most of the questions raised above has been asked and answered many times, the media itself and its meaning have been put aside from the discussion. Has media itself lost its function over time?
“The medium is the message.”
Marshall McLuhan brought us back on focusing on the effect of media, how it influenced and structured society. Are we really free to chose what we want to read and believe? We question the limitation of choice and whether the information available is enough for us to understand the world. On the other spectrum, how useful for us is all this information really?
At the beginning of the working process, we have chosen some traditional forms of media, newspaper and radio. We like the physicality of newspaper, a material object which audiences can touch and feel. Then we decided to include a modern source of media, the internet.
As our group members were communicating with each other through the net, uploading data in exchange, we realised we ourselves were responsible for producing the amount of online information that we are confronted with. Opposing the limitation of information led to too much information on the internet. And we are responsible. Especially when any event that happened and any single action that has been done are inerasable on the cyber space (as long as the server or host wish to maintain them). So we found a bunch of videos from youtube which have no views whatsoever, and we became the first audience ever to access that specific video and link. We wonder how many more internet rubbish is out there – lost in the cyber space.
After gathering all these visual and sound elements, we decided that we needed something that can bring these elements together. We have always been interested in making interactive work, it brings the audience directly into becoming a part of the artwork. We also realise we need to figure out how to utilise the space we were given, using the environment to react to our installation and at the same time bridge our concepts and presentation.
A poster design was also proposed by one of our members. If creating a virtual reality work is our response to the already overwhelming cyber universe, a printed poster may be a response of traditional media material.
Result/State of play
The layouts of the columns, photos, heading, advertisements etc. in the newspaper has created a swamp of information which is visually suffocating. We cut out all the printed information on the newspaper, leaving just the lines and blanks, creating a fragile structure, stripping down the power of such a powerful tool. The cut out area has turned into “windows” which we could look through. Now, we can look out into the world without being feed with information that was before provided by the media.
We made a big mesh with the cut newspaper and hanged them in front of the wall. Then we projected a video of funny cat moments on the background compiled with a contrasting video, in a smaller window, of ISIS questioning a group of hostages before decapitating them. It flows and flashes around the projection, as other videos and photos flash and intervene. These includes scenic photos, McDonalds TV ads, videos of a screen scrolling on internet shops, a song “Chop Suey” by the band System of a Down etc. generating a visualisation of randomness which may be happening in the cyber space in this very moment.
Another video we projected was a screen of some youtube videos with no views since they were uploaded. We connected it to an AV control panel where two knobs of the channel could trigger the effect of multiplying the screens and wrapping the videos into two sphere forms. The videos were morphed into abstract forms and became a junkyard of videos on the projected wall.
Sound is a very powerful tool as hearing is the only sense that we can not completely shut off from. It interacts with our sense and emotion in the most direct way. We have streamed radio stations from around the world all at once alongside some sound samples and white noise. The sound becomes undefinable, audience can no longer pick up details of the radio interviews, information has become just a wave of noise.
One channel of the panel determines what radio you chose on one of the speakers. The other controls the sound level of the speaker, while there is one speaker that can not be completely muted by the panel. The audience is forced to listen to some noise within the space.
Besides the speakers placed around the main installation, we also placed a larger speaker at the open area downstairs. There are buttons on the panel which trigger short sound samples downloaded from the internet. The sounds were really loud and audiences may press all the buttons at once and trigger all the sound at once. These loud noises functions like a wall which suppresses the audience and then collapses all at once.
We also designed a poster for our work, it was constructed with geometrical blocks of dark brown contrasting the light beige background creating a divergent negative and positive space, like windows of darkness. We used tapes to tape down these geometrical forms on the posters, which serve as a response to the cut out windows on the newspapers mesh on the wall.
The overall installation creates a chaotic environment which confused the audience as almost none of the original source information used can be clearly comprehended by the viewer/listener. They went from information to solely sensory excitements. Or maybe this is what media is after all.