Much Ado About Everything
Trust is the topic decided from the very beginning – how to build trust between two individuals? They meet, hang out and talk, then probably take months or years before reaching the consensus that they “trust” each other. Such scenario can only take place offline, how about the virtual world? How do we build our trust at a time where internet consumes a large part of our lives? Trust is an abstract, structurally complex concept that defies quantification or singular definition. It has been discussed widely in disciplines including sociology, psychology, economics and the unspoken consensus, whether between humans or between humans and animals, can exist even outside of linguistic systems.
When the application of biometrics began to gain momentum around a decade ago, some said that the changing structure of the world’s population ushered into an era of ageing society, some were excited by the potential and possible interests of developing a genetic database. The last decade has witnessed a revolution of people and a “transformation of trust” born out of our continuous pursuit of core social values. In view of our endless crave for technologies and the convenience and economic efficiency they bring along, how has trust changed in a digitalised society? Our trust no longer establishes solely on interactions and consensus as mentioned above, it also takes root in a virtual reality constructed by data and technologies. UBER, AIRBNB, Couchsurfing can succeed only because technologies allow us to place our trust on strangers. In what ways are we related to the latest technologies? Where will such technology-oriented social chain lead us to?
Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing centres on the philosophy of nothingness and ado that derives from dream-like nothingness. Interestingly, ado can also be about everything and technology can intervene in a way that turns nothing into everything, hence the saying “Much Ado about Everything”. New technologies of all kinds constitute networks and our contemporary society. The spaces where we live in are intricately linked to various technologies, which are showcased in the main room. The birth of artificial intelligence (AI) first replaced factory workers with robotic arms; then machine learning started to filter spam in our email inbox and analyse our browsing history and preferences online to suggest relevant advertisements and content; deep learning developed in recent years has overcome restrictions of many machines. The process of deep learning even allows the computer to automate data analytics. An experiment conducted by Google in 2012 took ten-thousand pictures from YouTube videos for deep learning analysis to differentiate the face of human from that of cat. Nowadays, computer can do much more than that. Recognition by Fabrica shows how machine learning can contribute to looking afresh at significant art works of the past through the lens of contemporary. The work uses AI image recognition to compare art from the Tate collection with news images of current events to identify those with similar composition and create a unique aesthetic that juxtaposes the past with present. American artist Kyle McDonald, who is also an expert at working in the open with codes, collaborates with other artists using the latest algorithms. His collaboration with Lauren McCarthy How We Act Together, one of our exhibits, focuses a camera on small gestures of social interaction and asks participants to repeat until exhausted to evoke discomfort.
Immersive technology offers a comprehensive experience to non-linear narrative. Continuum by French artist Olivier Ratsi reconstructs a room into a non-material space in a three-dimensional world with lights and shadow to illustrate one of the many possibilities of virtual expansion. Hong Kong artist John Wong contextualises Rui Shi (2018) in an age where big data is the new religion. His immersive installation invites viewers to put their own data in a program based on ancient Chinese algorithms to transforms the “Five Elements” into a mobile, colourful space for a “demystifying” experience. Interactive virtual installation I AM/WERE HERE/THERE by Wong’s team XRT, to be featured at our Project room exhibition with Openground, is concerned with the vanishing cityscapes in Hong Kong. Public viewers are invited to join in creating and documenting our evolving shared space. Hong Kong-based Chinese artist Vvzela Kook approaches the demolished Kowloon Walled City of Hong Kong with the Law of Accelerating Returns proposed by scientist Ray Kurzwell. The space of sci-fi narrative, created by transmedia storytelling, micro-interactive experience, installation, and inter-site performance, envisions the idea that AI will pose huge threats to the whole human society in the next thirty years.
In recent years, new vocabularies started to circulate in various media platforms and seminars – first cryptocurrencies, then the widely known bitcoin. Blockchain is probably one of the most important of all. Blockchain is considered as the next www, a world-transforming technology that can transform various industries and ways of living. A new trust system or even order will no doubt take its shape accordingly. Blockchain, as the name implies, is a chain of blocks and every individual can become a block. This founding stone of decentralisation precisely creates a hotbed for revolutionary changes. The new form of trust rewrites the nature of trust as we shift from believing in each other to trusting a system that links the world together. This philosopher’s stone of our contemporary gives media artists access to a whole new world. Canadian artist and software engineer Sarah Friend’s latest work Perverse Affordances (2018) features a new social network produced by incorporating numerical algorithms into a new machine learning model of image data. Brain Factory co-created by French artist Maurice Benayoun and German artist Tobias Klein gives a shape to human abstractions through Brain-Computer Interaction (BCI) and converts the resulting form into a physical object. The work is further developed with the help of blockchain technology and details of the next project will be announced at our festival’s Unconference. The Blockchain – Change Everything Forever, a short video by Furtherfield from the United Kingdom, will unveil the Unconference. We are excited to create a space for holistic experience and discussion for a number of experts dedicated to introducing blockchain technology to the creative industry, who will be joined by film practitioners, media specialists, artists and scholars.
“All things contrived are like dreams, like bubbles, like dewdrops, like lightning. Best to be seen as such.” Like the Diamond Sutra, like Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a world of technologies is filled with nothing but dreams and bubbles. Yet, it gives us all the more reason to live, to embrace. The dreams of nothingness do not necessarily lead to nothing. Our experience of illusion is, perhaps, the key to feeling the gravity of reality.
讀過莎翁的《Much ado about nothing》經典劇目，中譯《無事生非》，裡面談的是人生虛幻的哲思，如夢虛幻中所衍生的「非」。這個「非」就是裡面最有趣的點，稍一轉念，我們把此非化成萬有，之前的無事生非因科技的干預就變成萬有，所以才有「Much Ado about Everything萬有之間」之說。脈絡形成，各種新穎科技建構今日社會，人們的存在空間親密地連結著各種技術，主場當中讓我們一一細數。人工智能(Artificial Intelligence, AI)的切入，早期以機器手臂取代工廠勞工的雙手，然後到機器學習(machine learning)學會過濾垃圾郵件，分析人們在網絡上的行踪及喜好，投放相關廣告及內容，而近年的深度學習技術更突破了許多機器本來的限制。在深度學習(deep learning)的過程中更讓電腦自行分析資料找出特徵值，Google公司就在2012年做了一個實驗，在youtube的影片中抽取萬張圖片進行深度學習分析，繼而分辨出人臉與貓臉，電腦現時可辨認的更遠遠不止。Fabrica意大利傳播硏究中心的作品《辨認》正是探討機器能讓人們通過當今世界的鏡頭重新審視偉大的藝術的命題； 作品通過人工智能辨識圖像技術，把泰特美術館的館藏與當今的新聞攝影上作出對比，找出類近的結構分析，這樣艱深的重重分析對比，呈現古今交錯的美學。而美國藝術家凱爾‧麥當納則為開源編碼專家，擅長運用程式碼創作以及與其他藝術家合作以運用新的運算方法進行共同創作；是次參展作品《我們怎樣可以演好一點》與羅蘭‧麥卡錫共同創作，把鏡頭集中在一些微細的社交互動上，透過重覆直至疲怠而喚起參與者的不適感覺。
而沉浸式技術更為非線性敍事提供一個全面的經驗嘗試；法國藝術家奧利維耶‧哈齊的《連綿》，以光影重塑空間，整個體驗中模擬了三維世界中的非物質空間，提供了一個虛擬擴展的可能性。《如是》則是2018年香港藝術家的黃志偉創作；當大數據成為了當代的「大迷信」，他的沉浸式裝置以中國古老的運算程式為根基，透過觀者輸入自身的數據把「五行」化成流動的色彩空間，讓大眾感受「去迷信化」的過程。他的團隊XRT亦會在本藝術節與Openground的合作展覽中展出其互動虛擬裝置《我在/曾在這裡/那裡》，一個有關消失的香港城市景觀項目，透過群眾參與而共同創作、紀錄進而形成的共存空間。另一居港中國藝術家曲倩雯即進一步以香港（已消失）的九龍城寨為題，以科學家雷蒙德‧庫茨魏爾所提出的加速回報定律(Law of Accelerating Returns)，在未來三十年人工智能的反饋將威脅到整個人類社會的理念出發，透過串媒體技巧，以故事、微型互動經驗、裝置及連結現場演出，呈現一個科幻的敍事空間。