Good vibrations

| Trista Yeung 10 Jun 2016

LOCAL ARTIST Jaffa Lam Laam's floral installation I'm listening, heart beating blooms amid the urban setting of Statue Square Gardens. And it's not just for show: each flower has a speaker attached, which is connected to the ground.

"I would be thrilled if people could stop a while and listen to the environment speaking to them," Lam said.

The canopies are pieced together from old umbrellas by a group of former textile workers from the Hong Kong Women Workers' Association. Lam said the work is a continuation of her ongoing art project Micro Economy, which she started eight years ago.

"It all started by coincidence. I received a rare funding of HK$15,000 from the Subvision Festival of Hamburg in 2009. I was unsure what to do with such a large amount of money. I wanted to share with others and the ideas just hit me when I met these textile workers in an artist- residency program in Hong Kong," she said.

She soon realized it was a perfect way to involve the local workers, who had great skills and craftsmanship, but were forced to change their career in the 1980s.

"The closure of large-scale manufacturing industries really made many local workers idle. They used to take pride in their jobs as textile workers, but many were frustrated as their craftsmanship is not appreciated today. I wanted to provide other ways to show that their skills still have value to society," she said.

For this particular artwork, Lam also invited local blacksmiths to forge the old pipes that form the backbone of the piece.

"Even though the blacksmiths are in their 60s, they are still very passionate about what they are doing. I really want to shed more light on their expertise and show it is something worthwhile to be passed on to the next generation," Lam said.

Her work is part of the showcase of the fifth Large-scale Public Media Arts Exhibition: Human Vibrations by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Five multimedia art pieces are spread around the city to encourage interaction with the public.

Curator Caroline Ha Thuc said that although it is difficult to define new media arts - given that things that are new today won't be new tomorrow - she wanted to raise questions for discussion.

"I try to expand the concept of new media arts, to go beyond technology. I try to focus on the human facet of the artwork, while a creative form of interactions and communication among people already suggests the using of new media," she said.

This may explain why she not only selected artists using cutting edge technology, but also those dealing with human relationship.

Lam's work is one. Others include 25 Minutes Older by local artist Kingsley Ng, who transformed a tram into a camera obscura by projecting urban landscape on to the interior, and One Sound of the Futures by Isaac Chong Wai, a recording of a public art performance by 100 people simultaneously talking about their imaginary futures at Kai Tak Runway Park. Chong's work is on show at the K11 Piazza.

"Thanks to technology, we are able to enlarge art performances and show art through different platforms. At the same time, I try to raise questions like how technology changes our perception of reality and how technology modifies the way we interact with each other and also with the environment," Ha Thuc said.

Other works include People on the Fly by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, at K11 Piazza and Archipelodio by Cedric Maridet, at Central Pier No 9.

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