LEE : I am happy to talk about the contemporary art of Hong Kong. How did you start your art activities in Hong Kong? How does this metropolitan inspire you?
KO : I studied Fine Arts at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and graduated in 2009. Since then, I continue my art practice throughout the years. There are a lot of things to see around the city. I specially put my attention on man- made objects, and infrastructures of the city. These creations are made by human according to their needs in pursuing a better life. They exist for a specific purpose that provide me a way to learn about the living style, standard, and desire of the people here.
LEE : I want to hear more about 'creations are made by human and pursuing for a better life' that you have seen with interest.
KO : For example, in the work < One day, workers replaced the traditional high pressure sodium street lights with the new LED ones >, I first noticed and attracted by the image in the news online, showing old style street lights are being replaced by LED ones as the LED technology are said to be mature enough. With the LED lights, the colour tone provided changed from orange-yellow warm tone to cool white tone, claiming to have a better visibility of the street view. This pursuit reveals a persistence longing to look at things in a clearer way, and to fight against darkness. Other example like the work < Modern Home Collection >, I searched for home decorations appeared in different interior design settings, cropped and enlarged them, the pixelated printouts respond to my doubts about the functions of these objects, whether their existence are only for upgrading people's home.
LEE : Your work to show the way Hong Kong life is very abstract. What kind of message does the abstract want to convey?
KO : I think somehow the works need some background to understand them better. Abstraction is not the result I determine to have. Some of the works may relate closely to Hong Kong’s social situation, like the solo exhibition < underground construction: failed > in 2015 is derived from the Express Rail Link, a massive construction in Hong Kong, as a subject to investigate the contradictory relationship between development and destruction, and question about the collective vision projected in this case.
LEE : What is the Express Rail Link?
KO : Express Rail Link is a high speed railway linking Hong Kong and China, to be more specific, Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong. It is a controversial project since a huge amount of money(HKD$84.4 billion) is input. With many negative issues like clearance of villages in North East region, over budget, mislead of the location of Guangzhou station, co-location arrangement, etc...The government still reiterated the project's necessity as it can have enormous economic benefits, but it is more like a political choice to further integrate Hong Kong with China since the beginning of the project.
▴▴ Welcoming curves, Electrical tape, archival inkjet print, plastic carpet, 2017
▴ One day, workers replaced the traditional high pressure sodium street lights with the new LED ones, 2017
LEE : So, sometimes political issues inspire your work. However, sometimes you work differently?
KO : Yes. some works may sorely base on conceptual idea like “For a wider view”. A convex mirror is being cut into six pieces in order to reach wider angle. It works as a component of the exhibition in discussing reality.
LEE : You said in an interview that you want to highlight the gap between expectation and reality. What is "reality" to you? And "utopia"?
KO : I think reality is what we can achieve with our ability. Utopia may go further beyond that constraint. The interesting thing is, expectation is like a medium showing how people estimate their ability. I think people have expectation towards something somehow based on what they believe they deserve, or at least they believe they might deserve that. It is like a self-assessment process. When it comes to my work, I am highlighting situations while expectation doesn't match with the reality. If the society fails in fulfilling expectations, one's ability cannot be proved and only personal frustration remains.
LEE : How does < 無敵海景 > incorporate reality?
KO : In the work < 無敵海景〉(meaning: spectacular seaview), I adopted a four-character description about an industrial unit found in property agency (in Hong Kong, it's a tradition to describe a property in 4 chinese characters, to pinpoint the feature of the flat) and made it into a neon. Audiences are looking at texts that indicate a scenery but they could only use imagination to complete the picture.
▴▴ 無敵海景, Neon light, 145cm x 35cm, 2015
▴ For a wider view, Convex mirror, stainless steel structure, Dimensions variable, 2017
LEE : The work using CRT TV such as < Reminder >, < Steady ground >, and < Planet > is outstanding. what does vintage technology mean to you?
Ko : CRT TV was very common for every family when I was young, so it’s never an unfamiliar medium for me. I am using it not because of nostalgia, but I feel normal to show my videos with it. I like the way they stand out as individual objects and have a heavier volume which enhance some of the works. The world is changing too fast, the growing popularity of LED monitors makes CRT TV an old-fashion object, but honestly I am a person who find difficulties in adapting new technology, therefore I stay at the “old” stage. This kind of doubts actually is a foundation for me to create the work < The world of yesterday >.
LEE : As you said, there's a lot of concern about the new environment and the old technology in < The world of yesterday >. I think I need an explanation.
KO : The work < The world of yesterday > is a double-channel video inspired by an image found on Wikipedia about the definition of 1080p(Full HD). The image uses full colour to indicate the Full HD format while the other smaller resolution formats are filtered by red and blue respectively. This is like an implication that only a higher resolution is the correct way to represent reality. Starting the video with this image, the two channels continue with video clips that followed the red and blue part's resolution, with narration of thoughts about time and speed, changes and adaptation, etc.
The world of yesterday, Double-channel video, 7 min 50 sec, HD, colour, no sound, 2017
LEE :I want to talk about the art scenes in Hong Kong recently. Art is approaching a rapidly consumed event rather than focusing on deep conceptual thinking and formal research. How does your work relate to the younger art generation in Hong Kong?
KO : I think conceptual thought is always the core for me. For artists around me, they have a wide range indeed, working in their unique ways. Actually, It’s difficult for me to stick on one medium. It’s just something I can’t do essentially. And I also don’t have any particular criteria in choosing the media, though it may link with my working status and habits within a certain period. Nevertheless, when I am using different media in one exhibition, I like to build up connection between works that each of them can complement one another.
Collecting light Acrylic, archival inkjet print on canvas, 2014
LEE : Do you have any special episodes that you remember in the process of creating your work?
KO : There must be some, for example when I was carrying out my project “Collecting light”, I’ve been visiting houses (pretended I was going to rent one) with my Taiwanese curator in order to see the interior environment of the residence of local people. Another remarkable experience is, when I was filming in construction site for a work, I went there many times and finally reached a more ideal location to take the video on 1st January, a public holiday that no worker had to work.
LEE : Thank you. lastly, How are your works changing from initial work to current work?
KO : They change from time to time, but some thoughts remain the same......I concern more about instructions and regulations that sort of things in the beginning of my art practice. People are inclined to trust and rely on authoritative things, but I always wonder what if they failed me? What if they’re being used as a tool to gain credibility? In the later time, my observation shifts to other images and objects that have similar nature, like advertisements, objects contain particular functions, etc.