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Hong Kong Design Institute's "Hylozoism" offers a glimpse into unseen realms of art and tech

The latest group exhibition hosted by the Hong Kong Design Institute and its affiliated HKDI Gallery, "Hylozoism" delves into the intersection of technology and art, and how it shapes the relationship between humans and nature.

From now until April 2, the Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) and its affiliated HKDI Gallery are showcasing an international lineup of media art, titled “Hylozoism: An Arts & Technology Exhibition.” This exhibition, taking place both at the gallery and online, delves into the intersection of technology and art, and how it shapes the relationship between humans and nature.


As part of the institution’s mission to “promote design education and facilitate dialogue among industry experts, students and design enthusiasts,” the exhibition serves as an extended learning opportunity to stimulate curiosity and generate discussions on the relationship between art and technology, as well as on our virtual and physical worlds.


In this exhibition, five international artists present a vision of hylozoism for the future, drawing on the coexistence of different organisms in nature and the symbiotic concept of lichen. The collection is representative of the new ecological systems created jointly by humans and machines.


Sensing Streams 2022 -invisible, inaudible by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Daito Manabe

Through their data visualization installation Sensing Streams 2022 -invisible, inaudible, Japanese music legend Ryuichi Sakamoto and media artist Daito Manabe set forth to highlight the importance of understanding the unseen forces that shape our world.


Viewers are given the opportunity to experience electromagnetic waves that are imperceivable to humans — which are made visible and audible through an antenna that collects electromagnetic waves in real-time and translates the data through a self-luminous, high-definition screen and speakers. 


Furthermore, they can manipulate the experience by changing the wavelength frequency with a controller, so as to explore the various coexisting yet perpetually changing electromagnetic waves. 


F10ra 0 by Ellen Pau

In F10ra 0, homegrown artist Ellen Pau offers a multisensory experience that immerses viewers into artificial intelligence. 


Based on in-depth research on the Bauhinia x Blakeana Dunn (a tree species found in Hong Kong), the installation utilizes musical adaptation of the tree’s DNA, creating nature, artificially, bit by bit. 


In investigating the idea of “DNA as the language of God,” the installation raises questions about the interplay of existence and essence, and if it could be decoded for a deeper message from every creature. 


TTTV Garden by Keith Lam

Inspired by TV Garden created by Nam June Paik — widely known as the “father of video art,” Hong Kong-based artist Keith Lam’s TTTV Garden is an interactive installation that blends technology and nature. The installation mimics the agricultural technique widely adopted by indoor vertical farming, in which a spectrum of LED lights is used to optimize plant growth. 


The piece features a pop-up garden that analyzes and learns from the motions and color spectrum of 24-hour news, in which the computer simulation transmits and televises this data on an overhead screen, thus creating an interaction between virtuality and reality. 


Artificial Botany by fuse* Italy

Artificial Botany by fuse* Italy is an ongoing project that investigates the relationship between technology and art through the use of machine learning algorithms. 


Before the invention of photography, botanical illustration was the only way to visually record the many species of plants. Such images were used by physicists, pharmacists, and botanical scientists for identification, analysis, and classification.


The project collects botanical illustrations from public domain archives, featuring works from some of the greatest artists of the genre such as Maria Sibylla Merian, Pierre-Joseph Redouté, Anne Pratt, Marianne North, and Ernst Haeckel. These digital archives are then run through a machine learning system (Generative Adversarial Network) to create new, morphed images that are extremely similar to the originals.


The interpretation of the learned data aims to create a new system of relationships between colors, shapes, details, and textures that are totally new and independent from the previous ones — one where previously unheard of species, classes, and morphologies are possible. 


Grove by Living ArchitectureSystems Group / Canadian architect Philip Beesley

Previously featured in Venice Biennale 2021, Grove by Living Architecture Systems Group / Canadian architect Philip Beesley offers a vision of the world transformed into a gathering place for plants, animals, and inert matter alike. 


Through the use of visual projection and audio environments, the installation creates an intense experience of multiple worlds falling into chaos and rising again in new life. Instead of rigid, bounded, and closed territories that separate us, the work presents open and perpetually shared worlds. 


The installation reflects on the current world state — still impacted by the pandemic — and explores the possibility of living in a future of continuous growth, endless transformation, as well as of interdependence and harmonious symbiosis.