Portrait of the artist, Andrew Luk


I am Andrew Luk and welcome to my virtual studio. I am a sculptor and installation artist from Hong Kong who was trained as a painter, but has never painted since. I am mainly fascinated with history and how certain civilization-building mythologies and ideologies unknowingly transpire and are unwittingly express themselves, which has lead me into some very diverse territories of research. Often this means working with ideas surrounding preservation and entropy as well as working with the false binary between natural and the man-made.

During my time here I will be working on “Leave Your Body”, a virtual residency that takes place in the computer game Minecraft, with the Hong Kong based organization, Videotage. I expect this will be challenging as it involves learning about an entirely new reality with its own integrated aesthetic, parameters and limitations. Not only do I plan to update my know-how of video games and world building, but I plan to undertake a project that will explore my recent research about the subterranean as well as infrastructure and processes related to Hong Kong’s relationship with geology and resource extraction.

Please feel free to have a look around and please do not be shy; make yourself known. Comments and questions are encouraged.

Thank you very much for stopping in,

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Art Space Designation + Digital Preservation

Thinking about the in-game recreation of the Ma Tau Kok Towngas Center as an architectural piece of defunct, publicly necessary, but privately-owned infrastructure made me consider the Cattle Depot Artist Village next door. The cattle depot is a pre-war slaughterhouse turned heritage site, turned art space – a strange series of designations that I imagine reflect the needs and desires of the inhabitants of the neighborhood as well as those managing it. Sometimes at Cattle Depot Artist Village it becomes apparent the softness of art spaces is their greatest asset. The art space wraps around and slips between the overtly functional slaughterhouse architecture of the heritage site (which they are not permitted to make alterations to), making the most of the situation. This then begs the question, can multiple designations of a heritage site provide a plethora of interactions, leading to a more robust case for its preservation? Does art’s concern with history mean art spaces are well-positioned to become protectors of heritage? In the case of Ma Tau Kok Towngas Center, there is precedence, a quick Google search reveals several other formerly defunct gasometers repurposed as art spaces: Gasworks in London, as well as Gasometer Peorzheim and Gasometer Oberhausen in Germany. Tank Shanghai also has a similar story.

The Leave Your Body Minecraft map already contains a recreation of the entire Cattle Depot Artist Village. Metaphysically interpreting an artifact into data allows it to transcend time and space; to be called upon a screen from anywhere at any time – as a ghost, it becomes fluid and flexible. In the last two decades, there has been a remarkable concerted effort towards creating digital preservation archives of the world’s most significant and at-risk cultural heritage. The impulse toward digital preservation includes a desire to record an artifact in its current state, implying doubt that the artifact will remain as it is. Digitization also suggests distrust in the very material from which it is constructed. Within the act of preservation there is a sense of precarity as if in the face of inevitable and irreversible change.

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Digitizing The Gasometer

The Towngas Ma Tau Kok Control Center has been recreated within the Leave Your Body world. Its worth mentioning that this was built with the help of a very talented Minecraft Architect, and consist of the exterior only – but wow is it beautiful.

A site recreated within the aesthetics of Minecraft is similar to how most 3D scanning and digitization projects – the information extracted is for “skins” and “shapes” and how these two types of information interlink with each other. The material of the site cannot be calibrated, and the material of the project becomes the medium in which the information is expressed – light emitted from a glass surface.

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Portals are familiar tropes used as convenient plot devices in fantasy and science fiction stories. This convenience serves both the storyteller and audience by removing prolonged travel and any otherwise necessary scientific/technological/magical explanation.

The character enters a portal from our world and emerges into an unfamiliar one governed by different systems.

The moment of intense change between the two sets of existence is described as liminality. In sociology, liminality is defined as a civilizational shift. While in anthropology, it refers to undertaking a rite of passage. In architecture, it refers to anything from a doorway to an airport. In regards to the landscape, beaches serve as the liminal space between land and sea.

When used in science fiction, the portal is a device that develops themes that makes audiences consider the human condition through the juxtaposition of the old and the new normal. The use of portals emphasizes liminality as both a creative and destructive process. To enter the unknown, something must be confronted or sacrificed in the old self or the old world for the new self or the new world to come into being. Itself a symbolic abstraction that compresses and concentrates experience and meaning, the portal becomes a threshold of acute conflict.

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I played Minecraft for the first time and can confirm it is not bad.

Minecraft is a sandbox video game that was first made public in 2009 before being released in 2011. It has since become the best-selling video game of all time. A game with over ten years of development and lore is intimidating to step into. Instead of just releasing a video game with the possibility of sequels like a movie, the recent trend in video games is to continually make improvements and add complexity over time, through updates. Added complexity retains the interest of hardcore users, and updates keep up with current trends to absorb new users. Developers consistently introduce new skins, maps, items, stories, missions, etc. As a maintenance format for the medium of video games it works. One can’t help but think what other systems could benefit from similar forms of continual improvement and incentivizing.

I am embarking on the early portion of the adjustment period and wondering how long it will take to where the game feels intuitive. The controls are still uncomfortable and there are too many types of blocks to know what to do. Luckily I can stand on the shoulders of giants and channel the wisdom of millions before me by watching Youtube tutorials. So far I have figured out how to build a tunnel and put some light in it.

A portion of straight tunnel, followed by a curvature
…suddenly bats began appearing inside the tunnel within minutes

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The Subterranean

My interest in subterranean spaces is not recent. I had previously made two pieces several years ago about forgotten tunnels dating back to the Second World War. In one, titled Autosave: Redoubt (2017) I worked with two other artists, Peter Nelson and Alexis Mailles, to rebuild the Shing Mun Redoubt in the popular game Counterstrike. Below the video is a link with a lot more information.

Introductory video of Autosave: Redoubt, an art project by Andrew Luk, Peter Nelson, and Alexis Mailles in which second world war fortifications are recreated and interrogated within a video game

The second project consisted of a small monitor placed into a sculpted capsule. On the monitor was a POV video of someone crawling through a tunnel. The sculpted capsule was a framing device that separated the image from the environment, and in doing so, also extended the walls of the tunnel into physical space. Its placement on the floor required viewers to get on their hands and knees to peer into the capsule similar to how one would enter the tunnels. Information surrounding these tunnels is scant (even their existence is only known by a handful of history enthusiasts) but it’s been suggested that they were excavated by local slave labor during the time of Japanese occupation – meaning that although these tunnels are not associated with any actual fighting, they nevertheless are heavy with the suffering and deaths caused by wartime imperialism, racial dehumanization, and subjugation of forced labor (estimates show the population of Hong Kong dropped from 1,649,000 in 1941 to 600,000 in 1945).

Title: Traversing Hollow Ground,  穿越虛空之地 (2020)
Dimensions: 120 x 77 x 60cm
Medium: Insulation foam, video, video monitor, media player

In the tunnels, none of this is immediately apparent. The stone surfaces in the dark appear utterly austere aside from the cave centipedes shuffling across the ceiling. As the eyes adjust, surfaces becomes textures, and the textures becomes mark making. Then it hits you – the entirety of the tunnel interior is carpeted in neat little rows of parallel lines cut by hand chisels. Crouched in the dark, it dawned on me what must have been the scale and process of such an excavation. I found myself enveloped within a systematic repetition of little slashes, each one a uniformly incised unit of hurt etched into stone. Overwhelmed and devastated.

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Wartime Island Cave

As with the current semi-lock down in Hong Kong, just as in most other lock downs, people develop an inexplicable bubbling primal urge for greenery and sunlight. So this last weekend my partner and I took our poodle to do a short hike on Hong Kong’s outlying Lamma Island.

Although I had seen it before, I somehow completely forgot about this sizeable man-made hole in the hillside along the hiking route, that dated back to the Japanese occupation (1941 – 1945). It is said that this cave was used to hide boats ladened with explosives that would have been launched into unsuspecting enemy ships. There is a small stainless steel plaque near the cave describing it as a “kamikaze grotto” along with some information. However, I have found some speculation on if the caves were ever in use or if the boats and their operators were intended to be sacrificial.

In thinking about the city’s relationship with the subterranean this instance is unique in that it supports a larger historical narrative and also takes on the significance of a landmark. What is essentially an empty hole, contains within it so much thick tension through the power of absence. Somehow it manages to be a very “heavy hole”

To assist in thinking about this I found this quote from Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane:

“We all carry trace fossils within us – the marks that the dead and the missed leave behind. Handwriting on an envelope; the wear on a wooden step left by footfall; the memory of a familiar gesture by someone gone, repeated so often it has worn its own groove in both air and mind: these are trace fossils too. Sometimes, in fact, all that is left behind by loss is trace – and sometimes empty volume can be easier to hold in the heart than presence itself.”

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Studio Introduction Video: Andrew Luk



My name is Andrew Luk and i am a Hong Kong based sculptor and installation artist. My work primarily begins with historical research and by tracing connections I look for ideological underpinnings and their expressions. Its a process that can be multidisciplinary and sometimes leads into unknown territory. Themes that arise in the practice are entanglements between the natural and The man-made, preservation vs. entropy, historical narratives and science fiction narratives.

I am interested in irregular fragmented connections, things that don’t quite make sense. Art is the discipline of creative exploration, its a process, that leads to different perceptions or a better well – rounded comprehension. My work is not a form of self expression, but as a process of searching, learning and sharing.

Thank you.

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