Keith Lam is a Hong Kong-based new media artist, co-founder of new media creative team Dimension+, and one of the minds behind common room & co, a multifunctional space consisting of an exhibition room, a café, an independent bookstore and a co-working area. The reason for establishing common room & co was that he hoped to help preserve Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po area while also providing a communal space for local creatives to exchange ideas and exhibit their work. Recently, we dropped by the space to chat with Keith about the ins and outs of being a new media artist.
Thinking back on how he first started working with new media art, Keith recalls that he’s been interested in art since middle school. However, after receiving stellar examination results in accounting, he found himself majoring in information systems. Serendipitously, a friend introduced him to new media art during his second year of university when he was on an exchange program in the United States. It was then that Keith discovered his chosen field of study could be assimilated with his love of art. After graduating, Keith was invited by the same friend to the City University of Hong Kong and worked as a research assistant to a professor of new media art. The decision to pursue this opportunity brought him closer to his dreams. Now, Keith has fully devoted himself to the world of art.
Explaining what a new media artist does exactly isn’t easy, Keith admits. When people ask him about his work, he instead describes the theme of “energy transmutation” that he often explores. To put it simply, it’s when one medium is transformed into an another, such as reinterpreting sound into a visual format. Then, in the conversion process, he imbues new meanings into the original work. Below, we take a look at three of his past interactive installations to better understand Keith’s process of “energy transmutation.”
说起新媒体艺术，Keith坦言要向人解释自己是做什么的，的确不是容易的事。如果真要解释的话，更愿意告诉别人他的作品中经常出现的概念就是 “能量转换” 。简单来说，就是将一种媒介转化为另一种媒介，例如声音变成画面等等。在转化的过程中为原来的媒介赋予新的理念。如果你还是觉得抽象，不如和我们一起走近Keith过往的三件交互作品，来看看到底什么是新媒体艺术中的“能量转换”。
Straw in the Wind
Straw in the Wind is an installation that debuted at Hong Kong’s Taiwan Redesign event. The installation is inspired by wind, specifically wind that flows from the Taiwanese city of Taitung to Hong Kong. Keith and his team collected meteorology data from select locations in Taitung, which they then used to manipulate the movement of the straws on display in Hong Kong. By using the faraway and unseen winds of Taitung to create visible movement in Hong Kong, they echoed the mission of Taiwan Redesign, which was to introduce the beauties of Taiwan to Hong Kong.
Landscape of Cloud
Landscape of Cloud is inspired by our modern-day online cloud storage services. The installation allows visitors to place any object they desire onto the projectors, which then analyzes the object’s colors through built-in sensors. By turning the handle next to the machine, the analyzed objects project colors up into the floating cloud. Keith describes this process as “uploading,” explaining that when we upload photos onto Facebook or Instagram, we’re projecting our personal condition online – it may appear beautiful but is completely imaginary.
One Day Social Sculpture
In order to create this installation, Keith collected data from various online forums and comment sections, which he then fed into an electronic cutting machine that used the information to create a tangible object out of formless digitized data. Originally, Keith had just intended to create a series of sculptures, but he realized that these sculptures accurately presented the state of today’s society as a whole. A look at a sculpture made with data from Hong Kong’s House News website revealed when discussions intensified according to societal affairs at the time
《One Day Social Sculpture》