A New Dawn: Morning Song

In 1989 a monumental event shaped me and everything I believed in, that event was the Tiananmen Square massacre. Even though I was only 13 years old, my whole worldview shifted and I understood Democracy to be a fight that we must each take up the fight for. It wasn’t a given, it wasn’t a “right” in the traditional sense of the word, it was a privilege that many fight and die for.

Since then I’ve been a protest person. I protested with my fellow Hong Kong people for Tiananmen and I continued to do so in Canada when I moved back at 16 for many years. Even with disability I have tried to continue protesting in various movements like the Idle No More movement.

I used to think I was the odd one out. My family steadfastly loyal to the motherland and the partyline, I thought something was different about me but when I saw the sea of people around me with candles and lights… I knew that the passion of protest was in my blood as someone of Hong Kong heritage. I have always seen my people as fierce fighters.

Flash forward to the various Hong Kong protest movements such as the umbrella movement, the anti extradition protests and so forth going well into 2020. It makes me swell with pride that we have this solid tradition of standing up for what we believe to be right.

Originally Mourning Song was a complicated installation tableau with layering and multiple channels. As we built this piece around the education to the width and depth of accessibility in mind it organically became something different. As I continued to approach the project in a prayerful and ceremonial way, a different project slowly manifested into and installation portrayed through a short film.

What started as a “mourning song” as I felt the grief and sadness of watching the HK Protests become marginalized by history as Tiananmen Square massacre was, I continued to research and clarify to myself the ideology around the project. One of the questions that surfaced was what was the core message of this piece and I realized it was rooted in the feelings of hope not grief. I found sounds I captured and birds to enable a natural flow for background, communicating the hopefulness of this piece. The soundscape is punctuated by a winter soundscape barely noticeable during the protest sign tableau.

While I feel helpless and mournful about the state of the affairs in Hong Kong, especially as a Hong Konger in Canada, especially with the serious allegations coming out of Hong Kong, such as suicide cover ups for police murders/blinding of medics/journalists; elicit a state of mourning for the future of Hong Kong and our youth. At the same time, I am steadfast in this being hopeful and the stirrings of new beginnings, the fire lit from decades ago in Tiananmen Square. From the thousands of Tiananmen Square Protests there has blossomed millions who came to the Hong Kong Protests. And while tyranny may have it’s moment in history, there is always a hopeful future as the younger generation continue to fight for the people’s liberty.

These prayers I encapsulated by recreating an Ancestor Altar featuring a serene Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy), trying to mimic the street altars I grew up with my Grandmother in Hong Kong. Like the festival of Ching Ming I offer a feast to my Ancestors honoring theses prayers of hope, resilience and protection. Joss sticks, candles, offerings of meats, sweets and rice wine show my reverence for tradition of these prayers.

Thinking about the mantra from Turtle Island’s Indigenous uprising “Water is Life” and the Hong Protests mantra “Be Water” I am reminded of the resilience and the strength of Hong Kongers, like water, can overcome anything. I created a tableau of Hong Kong Protest signs that were dearest to me to document this monumental moment in history as someone who believes fervently in the new future. The youth have shown us that they are capable of leading us to the future and as long as our youth live, then hope never dies and like water we continue to flow into a future free of tyranny, free of walls and surveillance and assimilation. A future where our diversity is celebrated. Until then I present to you “Morning Songs” a celebration of hope and new beginnings while honoring the heart of Hong Kongers across the globe.


Teachings of Kindness

Growing up my mother always had something, a drawing, a statute, a picture she treasured of Kuan Yin. The one I think of the most; she is standing on a lotus flower in full bloom, her left hand pouring water from an elegant vase and her right holding a plant of some sort, usually a delicate one like wisps of willow or something like that.

Our family was not dictated by loving family moments. Being that my Grandparents lived in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation, they never really spoke of those times. Sometimes, in an out of place relevancy, my Grandmother would randomly teach me about making bark soup and how to sew jewelry in a jacket unseen should you need to “jow lan” (run for it).

We didn’t talk much as a family, most of our words and feelings for each other truncated by trauma. But I knew that my mother had a great reverence for the Goddess of Mercy, perhaps praying for mercy from the hard life she had lived. I don’t really know the actual teachings of why she’s standing on the lotus or the water or the plant she holds. I do, however, know there are teachings about each element, her poses, her hand mudra’s etc

As I prepared for the final elements of my ever changing movie “Morning Song”; I knew I had to find the right Kuan Yin for the shoot. I had already went from a beach shoot from sunrise to sunset to an at home shoot due to lock downs. We learn to bloom despite it, resistance creates resilience. I found my Kuan Yin 3 days before the lock down, perpetually looking for “the one” and only succeeding in the most unlikeliest of times.

The Kuan Yin to grace this installation doesn’t stand on a lotus but she sits on it, she holds a water vessel delicately in her left hand, with a teaching mudra in her right hand. What strikes me about her is the serenity in her face. It is framed by a flower in her crown and a spiral on the top of her head. Some of these elements land for me and I have no idea why. I’ve searched for the perfect Kuan Yin in years and never quite found one that resonated with me like this one.

As I think about this piece and my intentions of love and kindness through prayer. I think about all of us who need mercy right now and how she reminds me to be steadfastly serene during this time of great turmoil. She is often portrayed in a state of prayer, an act of compassion and kindness, her expression is always loving. I hope this piece brings love and light to the world like she does.

Working with Tangled Art + Disability

I was nominated for Vital Capacities via Tangled Art + Disability. My journey with them started with the exhibition Thaumaturgy. I believe it was our 2nd or 3rd meeting that accessibility training was conducted, in depth instruction was provided so that our exhibition was developed on a foundation of accessibility grounding our direction from day one to be accessible to people of different abilities.

Here is a list of documents they shared with me to help me understand accessibility needs of people living with disabilities:

– Audio Description – 3 Core Skills by The Audio Description Coalition

– AEB’S Guidelines for Verbal Description by Elisabeth Salzhauer Axel, Virgina Hooper, Teresa Kardoulias, Sarah Stephenson Keyes, and Francesca Rosenberg

– Fundamental of Audio Description by Joel Snyder

– Basic Steps to Describing Works of Art (reprinted with permission: Gerson, Making Visual Art Accessible to People Who are Blind and Visually Impaired)

– Interpreting Works of Art by The Audio Description Coalition

– Reading A Painting by The Audio Description Coalition

– Audio Description for Exhibits by Bill Patterson Audio Description Solutions

Here’s a resource list from Tangled Arts Training – Toronto, March 2017

LIST OF RESOURCES

Axel, Elizabeth Salzhauer and Nina Sobol Levent, eds. Art Beyond Sight: A Resource Guide to Art, Creativity, and Visual Impairment. New York: AFB Press, 2003.

Grambs, David. The Describer’s Dictionary: A Treasury of Terms and Literary Quotations. New York: WW Norton and Co., 1993.

Horowitz, Alexandra. On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation. New York: Scribner, 2013

Howell, Busser. 20/20 Blindsight. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.

Levent, Nina and Alvaro Pascual-Leone. The Multisensory Museum: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Touch, Sound, Smell, Memory and Space. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Mendelsund, Peter. What We See When We Read. New York: First Vintage Books, 2014.

Snyder, Joel. The Visual Made Verbal: A Comprehensive Training Manual and Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description. Arlington VA: American Council of the Blind, 2014.

ONLINE

artbeyondsight.org

audiodescriptionsolutions.com

vocaleyes.co.uk

cnib.ca

perkins.org

Charge

The symbol that represents the physical concept of ‘Charge’ from the Dutil-Dumas message.
A peaceful herd of cows gather near the symbol of 'charge'. This is a top aerial view. The black sign is seen on grey concrete ground. On the top left corner of the image are some brown granite and a metal fence, hinting that Cattle Depot is on the left side of the image.
The symbol of ‘Charge’ outside the virtual space of Cattle Depot. A peaceful herd of cows gather near the symbol.

CHARGE: an official claim made by the police that somebody has committed a crime (Cambridge Dictionary)

Example sentence:
• Peaceful protesters were charged with rioting.

INTERACTIONS [Landscape]

I think a good landscape should be enticing and thought-provoking. The power of landscape design is immense and should never be underestimated. As I mentioned before for this reincarnation of Tuner I plan on bringing it back underground to grow the sense enclose, need for air and to assist in the game plays interactions of fish collecting practices.

SCANNERS
The Scanner is like a radar mechanism, when found and attached to the boats roof hook, all 3 of it orbs rotate about their orbits, at each turn displacing a line to their nearest corresponding subject, ie Fish, Junk and Rockets. All these three orbs speeds can be controlled individually sonically creating an ever phasing sequence. Initially this control was access via the Midi protocol each orb having their own physic knob here on earth. But now the foam of interacting will need to be re-designed into the GUI interface.
The scanner is also a lantern for dark zones epically when the internal torchlight fades due to the boats’ strength depletion . I will supply the new scanner in operation (video), here below are some (blurred) old in game shots.

DRAINERS

The world’s past that Tuner inhabits is not totally know but one thing for sure was it that it is a relic of a vast manufacturing of some sort. A kind of off world mass production station that has now been abandoned. In parts of the landscapes we find Drainers, they are often the source of where fish are. They are forms of filter mechanics and it is here we find fish trapped but also in surrounding zones the caretakers the ‘Staff’. In order to re ignite a Drainer we first need to find a Staff member. Some Staffs are often imprisoned when found bribing off drains by-products. So it is a combination of freeing staff taking them to their machines and then saving fish. The story of staff being imprisoned by making profit off machines spin off resources is a remark I would like to grow upon of our own worlds manufactured waste.
After the Drainers are re-ignited the audio has a chance to become more rhythmic through the pumping and cycling act of the devices freeing fish everywhere. This worked OK during live performances but I want to design the act of freeing fish to be more Intune with the landscape design. The fact is these initial Drainers look to out of place and I got to fix this.

PRISONS

The idea of prisons was meant to be a fun way of story telling via the interactions of the prisons’ architecture (locks, passages) and freeing of staff members!
It is an ace way of utilizing a landscapes form to entice immersion through it’s designed structures. Currently, there are only three designs two being purely static cages and one (pictured above in blue) the rotated causing the timing key to be able to grab a staff member. I plan to construct classic lock systems and distractable forms that push the in game physics’ engine creatively. Physics is another key aspect of the project. In an early version I ran the program on an experimental Nvidia branch that allowed for real-time physic based liquid simulation and hi fidelity destruction. Due to instability issues and limited platform portability I’ve declined these but still can get great effects from the classic internal physics (+chaos) 😉 .
Here is an image of the now static cage Prison that used to fall apart when trying to entire a staff member out.
Above image of lone staff member poised in pool beside a mackerel and bush at night. The way staff members were originally designed was so that their four feet and tail like neck could bounce and flick them about and it does quite well, layered with audible collisions the staff member when awoken can dance to work.

BINS
Bins are used to rid of junk floating in the water works. By ridding of Junk and sending them to a bin they get processed and in turn feed the boat. The boat never really runs out power. but some internal elements (such as boost, torch, laser, radio power and scanner) require elements recycling in order to function 100%. Above is the corkscrew and cross box below is the Gate Crusher.
The idea of a gate having a crushing system was that the energy from waste was being shared also in other structures and in turn will allow the gate to open forcing the player to learn their good ways.

ROCKET
The Rocket is the life pod for each “fish” and ascends them to a safe place far far away. The project has gone through different version in all aspects and still does, but one thing I will admit is strange, but in its bizzar nature I like, is that the act of freeing a fish by air I find symbolic considering they are already in a world of water (toxic on non-toxic). In this day and age we humans have become so God like how we think of other species that the act of teleporting an animal is not so far-fetched in the amount of constructive change we need to give back to our planet right now.

INTERACTIONS [BOAT + INTERFACES]


The boat in Tuner has a couple functions in addition to its moveability it currently contains 6 other operations such as Its fish Basket (safe), four feeders (to temp fish), a Missile and Laser system (to access uncharted areas) and telescopic neck adjuster (to see into crevasses) plus a radio!

Control

Until now the interactive medium to control the boat (and virtual world) has been via MIDI. In order to gain more user-friendly experience and accessibility I am wanting to redesign the entire user interface system.
Thou it will (at least still at this stage) require a mouse, I plan on creating a simple an on screen clickable GUI interface!
Initially I was going to go about this utilizing physical based locomotive animations ie 3D hinges / sliders, but found out the current way the boat floats is causing too much feedback in the boat’s buoyancy! Here below are images of this initial 3D design (Basically a steering wheel).

The design incorporates leavers, knobs, sliders and buttons. Representing these classic interactions is an essential element of the immersion and one I respect deeply. As I mention before though unfortunately due to time I will currently only be able to construct these via 2D widgets that’ll Ill share here!!

The Basket

Basket design , intended to be larger!


An essential part of the boat is a safe storage place for the fish! The current design of the basket is simply a liquid orb. This is great for solo passengers (fish) not for updated intended use of collections of fish. The idea of a collection of fish in a basket is so (as one would have needed to before) run back to the fish source for each successful fish send (rocket departure) . Now with a larger basket design a batch load can be saved more gradually.
(will update this with new design)

Radio

Sketch’s of portable Radio
Mock radio in hand and in water

When I started creating the audio samples for Tuner, I entered my bad habit of making new music from them. When ever creating a new library of sounds the temptation of putting them through a composition is irresistible. So as a result the initial performances of Tuner have played these tracks. Some are pure ambiances some are more rhythmic driven and these would play moving through the space mixing as we go automatically.
An Idea of an ambient score will still be present, But ever since I started a mobile lite version of the project (just back before UK lockdown) I had to bring the radio into this project. It will act as a companion player the old scores and also a teller of stories as we enter different regions (FM).
A key part of Tuner is of course the sound. It is why initially it is called tuner as the project was mainly a testing ground for ‘tuning’ audio synthesis in the game engine. Though the project does touch upon Unreal engines in built granular synthesis most of the audio is pre-recorded and prepared for manipulation via animation values.
What it means when a sound is associated with an act, event or moving gesture is immensely important and fundamental to the project.

So, what’s this risograph thing?

Outline image of risograph printed in pink.
An outline image of a risograph machine

As the work I’m developing moves towards the print stage, it’s time to explain a little more about the risograph process.

My print and printmaking experience started with etching (particularly photo-etching), letterpress, and developed to include screenprinting, and various relief processes, before the transition to digital. Last year, I got the opportunity to develop some work with my friend and collaborator Ruth Jones, who suggested we learn to use the risograph process. This post uses images from developing that work.

Risograph is sometimes described as a hybrid of photocopying and screenprinting.  Like a photocopier, the image you are printing is placed on the glass bed at the top of the machine; paper feeds in from one side and comes out printed on the other. Inside the machine however, the printing process involves creating a type of stencil (referred to as the master). The stencil leaves gaps where the ink is pushed through creating the image. Risographs can also hold two colours of ink and the cartridges can be swapped, so it’s possible to print in one colour, then reload the paper and overprint in a second colour.

An orange repeated pattern printed on white card
Single colour print, waiting for the second print process

Riso uses soy oil-based ink and is low energy, so has some strong green credentials. Like many print processes, it’s possible to create very simple or much more complex prints, meaning it appeals to a broad range of artists who might create their source imagery in many different ways.  Because you’re using limited ink colours, colour mix becomes a bigger part of the creative process – for example, what might be blue in your original image could be printed as pink. The way the stencils and paper feed mechanisms work means that there’s always a degree of variation between prints, something printmakers are used to, but which is avoided in commercial print processes. You also get the sense of the way different machines operate, and the variations – something that printers and printmakers work with.

The machine I will be using at TOW currently contains two colours – black and orange – so I’m developing my imagery with this in mind. What I have to do is create a black and white positive for each colour layer – one that will print out black, and one that will print out orange.  Digital techniques can make producing these colour separations a bit easier, but a physical print process will always produce a different outcome to how something looks on a screen. Again, working with these variations becomes part of the creative process.

A stack of white cards printed with orange image and black text
A duotone print example

Using the space safely at the moment means minimising my time in the TOW print space, so I’ll be producing my colour separation positives at home, and I’ll only have short print runs. But I’ve got hold of a really nice paper recommended for riso printing, so am looking forward to some hands-on printing again!

TUNER

Tuner an audiovisual piece originally designed as an experimental live AV project showing initially at Somerset House Londons AGM 2018 festival (since performed at Club Adriatico, L.E.V. Festival, Genot Centre, MK Gall, Xolo,Bleep) and has endured various reincarnations. Now as part of Vital Capacities residency I am developing it to be playable piece as a download and also a recorded showcase! The project has primarily been designed from a solo performance point of view. Programming all the input events and actions via audio instrument protocols with MIDI and OSC. This was to allow a unique haptic setup where I could control multiple elements live and be more at home, as it is part of my music practice also, recsund!
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Interview with Jaene Castrillon

Installation view of an exhibition. On the left of the image is a tree-shaped collage of many, many black and white images (it's not very clear as the images are small, but some are portraits of people) - they are lit in a sunshine yellow light. The floor of what is assumed to be a gallery is chrome, and reflects the rest of the room. 12 TV monitors make a wall on the right of the image, on 2 screens are an animation of a man drinking from a bottle, on another is a hand touching the screen, other screens are whited out or unclear. On a On the wall and written over the photos in large handwriting is written: I don't want to alarm anyone but I think there's a lil alkyhol in the..." unreadable from there.
Jaene F. Castrillon, Perpetual, 2015 (installation) – image courtesy of the artist

Jamie Wyld (Vital Capacities director): Thanks for being part of the Vital Capacities residency programme! Can you say a little about yourself and your work, perhaps in relation to what you’re thinking about doing during the residency?

Jaene Castrillon: I am a 2Spirit interdisciplinary artist, activist, author & award winning filmmaker who explores my relationship to the world through Indigenous teachings, ceremony and the wisdom of the land. I describe myself as a settler to Turtle Island of mixed heritages (indigenous Colombian & Hong Kong Chinese) who was raised on the teachings of Elder Isaac Day of Serpent River First Nations.

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Interview with Damien Robinson

Main image shows a collection of hexagonal and abstract patterns in shades of blue and aqua. To the right are two smaller images showing a wooden, dark lacquered box, with a red panel, in the middle of a panel is a triangle showing an image of blue hexagons.
Damien Robinson, Chimerascope, 2010 – courtesy of the artist

Jamie Wyld (Vital Capacities’ director): Really great to have you as part of the Vital Capacities residency programme! Can you say a little about yourself and your work, perhaps in relation to what you’re thinking about doing during the residency? 

Damien Robinson: Hi Jamie! Thank you for asking me to take part!

I’m Damien, I’m a visual artist working with mixes of digital and non-digital approaches. My practice was originally print-based and I used to make three-dimensional work; over time I began incorporating digital processes, particularly around using discarded technologies and open-source software. I was lucky enough to get the chance to work with Mediashed, which was really forward thinking in terms of artist collaboration and teaching us about free media concepts. As a deaf artist I’d had little access to formal learning; even during my degree I wasn’t allowed to learn about or use huge amounts of equipment because I apparently constituted a health and safety risk, so I went about a lot of things the “wrong way”. The Mediashed experience involved thinking differently about hardware and software, so I began enjoying mis-using processes and technologies, something I still do now.

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Interview with Clifford Sage

CGI image of a sci-fi style landscape designed by the artist. To the left of the image is an enormous wall of rock is in the distance with an archway, through which can be seen further gigantic rock arches. The landscape is orange, like the orange of sunset or an atmosphere that's on fire.  To the right side of the image, closer to the front of the image, is an abstract green object, which could be a vehicle, shaped like a boat. At the back of the vehicle is an orange engine with wires and pipes leading to what might be a fueling station. At the front of the vehicle is a spider-like looking extrusion, above which floats a smoky sphere.
Clifford Sage, Tuner, 2019 (image still) – courtesy of the artist

Jamie Wyld (Vital Capacities’ director): Thanks for being part of the Vital Capacities residency programme! Can you say a little about yourself and your work, perhaps in relation to what you’re thinking about doing during the residency?

Clifford Sage: I’m Clifford, a CGI artist, currently working with moving image through animation and interactive worlds.  My work is often sound-based and audio generative.  I am interested in using game dynamics in my practice and the potential of virtual world building and non- linear narrative through story-telling. My hope is to use game mechanics to generate an immersive audio experience, utilizing and experimenting with alternate timelines. 

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Interview with artist, Angela Su

Four black and white images from Angela Su's film 'Mesures et Demesures'. Top left corner: four portraits of women in eight frames are having tests taken from skin and ears. Top right corner: a woman bends over backwards, wearing a long billowing skirt and bodice shirt (Victorian era). Bottom left: a blurry photo shows people sat in two rows posing for a photo. Bottom right: a group of people stand as though in the clouds, floating.
Angela Su, Mesures et Démesures, 2015, Single-channel video, 5’ 59”

Jamie Wyld: Thanks for being part of the Vital Capacities residency programme! Can you say a little about yourself and your work, perhaps in relation to what you’re thinking about doing during the residency? 

Angela Su: I am an artist who wears many hats. I make drawings, videos and I’ve also worked on a couple of publication projects. Science, the history of science, the impact of technology and the transformative body are the recurring themes in my work. As gaming and activism collide in recent years, I’ve become interested in the world of gaming and the idea of how coding can change not only the laws of the virtual world, but people’s behaviours in the physical world. On the other hand, as gamers provide entertainment and content for video games, the boundary of work and play has thus been blurred, these game labourers are often unpaid because the owners of the game often gain economic benefits from players’ contributions. I am fascinated by all these different aspects of gaming. It’s a huge topic.

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The virtual site of Cattle Depot Artist Village in Minecraft

Photograph showing the entrance to Cattle Depot in Hong Kong. The entrance is an archway inside a red brick building on two storeys, with two smaller outbuildings either side. The roofs of the buildings are covered in a dark rough tile, which is in parts covered in a red moss. Behind the buildings are tenement buildings, each approximately 10 storeys high; the one on the left is pale blue and grey, the central one is cream with orange stripes running beneath the windows, and the one on the right is pale salmon-orange/pink. The sky is overcast, pale grey-blue.
The physical space of Cattle Depot Artist Village in Hong Kong

Cattle Depot Artist Village was originally used as a slaughterhouse from 1908 to 1999. It was renovated and developed into an artist village in 2001. It is now home to around 20 art groups including the media art organisation Videotage.

For its first digital residency program, Videotage recreated in one-to-one scale the virtual site of Cattle Depot in the sandbox game Minecraft.

Screenshot of the virtual site of Cattle Depot in Minecraft. Buildings in digital red brick showing the Cattle Depot, with grey roof tiles and trees in the courtyard at the centre. 
Behind the Cattle Depot is a small park with trees. And to the left of Cattle Depot is another red brick building with a dark green roof. Buildings a re a mixture of one and two storeys in height.
A grid structure was built in the sky above the site by the previous resident artist. This forms a matrix against the blue sky.
Screenshot of the virtual site of Cattle Depot in Minecraft

I downloaded Minecraft today and got into the realm of Cattle Depot. What you see here is the aerial view of the site. The glass grid structure was build by the previous resident artist. I basically wandered around, tried to get familiar with all the keyboard commands, broke a gate by accident but managed to find a very hidden passageway that led me to the top of the grid.

Intro to latest artists in residence

Artists work from top left, clockwise: Damien Robinson, Angela Su, Jaene F. Castrillon and Clifford Sage

Our second residency programme on Vital Capacities brings together artists from the UK, Canada and Hong Kong, taking place between 2 Nov and 10 Dec 2020. Artists will be exploring ideas across the period, sharing work with audiences. Find out more about the artists in this programme…

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