Andio Lai 

LEE : Could you give me a brief introduction?
ANDIO : I am Andio Lai, base in Hong Kong. My art-making is about sound objects and machines. Since my study in Sound Art, I am interested in using electronics and readymade objects as my medium. Besides working on Sound Art, I enjoy drawing comics art as my main medium.

LEE : Hong Kong has a serious social problem with housing. Artispace is likely to be affected, so is the non-profit space open to young artists? Also, please explain the new space that the younger generation of Hong Kong is making.
ANDIO : Yes, availability of space and rent price in Hong Kong are issues on living, business and art. There are some spaces for artists and institution to apply, but the demand usually is very high. There are also some newer spaces opened by artists recently, some featuring Design and craft, photography, sound art and music. Some of these are private, some are funded by institutions.

About studio space, artists usually make their work in shared studio, its like in school days. In fact, even for school’s art faculty, there may not be a lot of long-term studio space provided for art students, it really depends on the schools and courses arrangement. Usually young artists share their studio spaces.

LEE : Is the young artist welfare fund system active in Hong Kong?
ANDIO : There are supports by the Art Development Council for artists and curators to apply for holding different events and projects. Besides, there are some funding for projects like film and animation. Recently, there also are some events and festivals that openly accept proposal, but these are usually medium-specific and limited by the theme. There are now more artists experimenting with the possibilities of crowd-funding platform.

LEE : Do you think your generation is different from the previous generation?
ANDIO : I can see there is a very strong differences in generation of artworks. I think every generation has the “medium” that talks.For ‘talks’, I mean audience would willing to connect and relate to. Video Art and Net Art, Media-centric and Interactive work is a growing medium and current generation is experimenting with them. Conceptual Art were quite a growing medium for the previous generation. Understanding the material and context of the medium deeply was something I learned from studying the previous generations of works. For artists, I think today most artists do work on an meta-media condition. There are more cross-generation and collaborative works in today . Of course, I can only conclude it from my own experience, what I learned in lecture and books during study and research.

Pyxis44 2017 version, Acrylic,Wood, Electronics, Arduino platform, Mixed Media Installation, 2013-2017

LEE : I'd like to talk about your art work. What are the attractions of the artistic method of using machines?
ANDIO : The attractions come in different aspect . I think what attracts me the most in the use of machines allows me to spend time reading,understand the historic context of them and I really like the form that the medium inspires me to keep creating.

I started out making musical instrument(sound objects), then I realised my interest is in machine and spent quite some times taking a media archeology approach towards musical instruments, computers and video game consoles.

As everyday machine such as the phone is now made so sleek and minimal in design, the hand craft method of making machine feels so different in terms of the form and look. Thats the aesthetic I enjoy in handmade electronics.

Besides, I grew up near Shum Shui Po in Hong Kong, it is a district in HK that is famous for having a lot of shops related to electronics and textiles. There is a particular area that has a lot of computers shops, video game consoles retailers, second hand obsolete tech pawn shops. I enjoy Cyberpunk and Sci-Fi stuff, comics too. In Art related terms, I realised I am living in the kind Metropolis that the Futurists appreciated. Machines was a big thing for their art, and its been a subject matter back there.

LEE : From your earliest work, I could see human instruments and play.
ANDIO : For my generation, some physical toys were quite popular, such as the 4WD toy cars, BDAMAN. There were quite a lot of technologies fitted inside. Interaction, gesture and the form of these toys are so inspiring. 

As I talked quite a lot about Media machine and Toys. They are instruments that entertain us. There is a lot to learn and explore on an instruments. For example without reading a manual, the interface may suggest us to operate them in different possible ways. But for me, Musical instruments are the major subject matters that I really get inspired at the early stage of my practice.

LEE : < Pyxis 44 > was interesting. You mention the new media theory with Pandora's mythology and Black Box in your work. How does this concept specifically relate to your work?
ANDIO : The Pyxis 44 rooted from the work Pyxis. Its a greek word of “box”, or “container”. It was inspired by the Pandora’s myth that she opened the box out of curiosity. and a lot of bad things coming out, when she closed it only “hope” stayed inside.The idea was much earlier than my first instrument built, and its my first assignment in art school to use coding and development board as a creative medium. My idea was to have the code generate random numbers that is linked to prepared words that require some form of “lucky draw”. The oldest version just had one word inside...hope when triggered. It was an assignment for a class called “New Media Art Theory and History”, in which we studied ideas such as cybernetics, computing and new media .

The relation to Black Box is a theory taught in the course. Its an idea about computing and interface. For example , in today smartphone interface...there are layers of abstraction in these technology when we are using it. The OS is the one we see, but actually there is a lot of software and hardware layers within a simple action such as opening an app.

LEE : The sound your machine makes is also interesting. What inspiration does the sound that a machine makes for an artist?
ANDIO : Sound under shaping process , operation , moving, particularly Noise.
As I mentioned the Futurists. They noticed the potential rise of machine and tools. They made a lot of works based on the idea.Cars, factories and cities are their major influences. Some of them picked the topic of noise and speed as those are the obvious matter.

Look at history of technology development. Its from the noise to ubiquitous that interested me... If we look at todays technology, machine noise is going away, from Hard disk to Solid State Disk , from mouse clicking to touch screens, from Electric Car, railway today is so quiet comparing to train, with LED signs Neon light and Fluorescent buzz is going away. Machines noise is moving towards silence. Even the cameras come with electronic shutters nowadays. Living in cities, we are communicating digitally heavily. On the other hand,from wondering about the laundry machine to owning mobile computer, the everyday noise is slowing evolving into digital signals. We understand the world through the Tweets,Facebook news, posts, comments.

There was a particular Sound Art practice that focus on the nature and ambient sound. Noise was something For me, the Synthesiser is the most inspiring machine human ever invented. Its a musical instrument containing possibilities of all sort of noise. I imagine the Futurists would really really enjoy using it in their composition or works if one was sent back to the Future with a Delorean.

⬆︎⬆︎  Twelve, a sound and dance performance for "Away" created by Yip Kai Chun, 2015
⬆︎ Trio Set, Interactive alternative instrument for performance, 2016.

LEE : < Trio Set > In the work you showed the collaboration of the music band.
ANDIO : The set was called “Trio Set” just because its a set of three instrument. Its a project with XCEED, a local art group, together with Cat Fung and Janice To. I worked with a group of secondary school students for a Art Ambassadors education project. These ideas of built were created and developed with the students. They had to perform with the instruments on stage.

LEE : In 2015, you participated another performance work curated by Yip Kai Chun. What inspired < Twelve > to do?
ANDIO : “Twelve” was a collaboration sound and dance piece happened at Mur Nomade. We performed it inside the gallery space. The original location we wished to play at was an empty level of a building, but for technical concern such as power and light supplies, we picked the exhibition space.

The dancer Son worked with me in the piece.The piece was much inspired by Fluxus and contemporary dances. As the theme of the exhibition was about “death” , the idea is about dancer disconnecting the audio devices. There are everyday objects set up like altars around the space.

LEE : Your work appears to be an attempt to reinterpret theory, thought and imagination into a mechanism. Is there a machine that does this type of work?
ANDIO : I think I am more into practicing some theory through imagination. The sense of Reinterpretation happens in the formal qualities or probably the variation of materials involved. The mechanic is Interaction for most of them. And only an interaction completes the experience. Quite often I started with theory and research, such as the study of instruments and Sound Art leading me to work on the “Found N Sound” projects. The process its like, I imagined the form and to realise them , crafting with today technology. I did a lot of sketches, with pencil and paper for each work.

Other machine that help imagination... I think Games like Minecraft, toys such as Lego systems work very well to do this type of works. They inspire. If we look at other inventions, maybe pen and paper is the best machine for such task. For my biased answer... my favourite, will definitely be the synthesiser.

LEE : Do you have any memorable exhibits?
ANDIO : For Performance, with the Spray Can group (with Dom & Green), we did it in different spaces. Its my first DIY instrument project. The most memorable one was 2014, the first time to play a Sound Art performance with the Musical Interface class outside the Hong Kong Art Center for a street performance. For show, it’s the Toy as Medium show curated with Kel Lok at the Floating Projects, 2016. I just didn’t want it to end.

LEE : Thank you. Lastly, What are your future plans?
ANDIO : I will keep making some sound art and instrument builds, but I am preparing to work on some comics art and composition projects.