Hong Kong's Urban Cityscape Informs This Abstract, Interactive Sculpture

<p>Wendy W Fok&#8217;s <i>La Technologie Culturelle D’objet</i> represents the digital culture of Hong Kong.</p>

Artist, architectural designer, and urbanist Wendy W Fok conceptualizes structures with the use of digital design, optimization, and fabrication to challenge past theories, and create alternative and original designs for the future. She is the director and founder of the architecture creative group WE-DESIGNS.ORG, LLC, and simultaneously leads atelier//studio WF that focuses on her artistic explorations into mathematics, logics, and materials.

Similar to the unconventional functionality of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and drawing from a critical rhetoric and an obsession with digital media, digital property, labour, and tooling, Fok is known for her installations and structures that are flexible, and connect with our contemporary, technological culture.

Her latest project, La Technologie Culturelle D'objet was commissioned for an ongoing exhibition at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center titled Imminent Domain: Designing the Life of Tomorrow, featuring 12 artists working with various mediums to explore future of ways of living. Fok's piece for the exhibition looks at the dynamics between the technical and ethical aspects of life inspired by the theories of André Leroi-Gourhan. Through her interest in humans and the evolution of objects, she conjoins in her work, conceptually, the digital culture of Hong Kong with the function and interactivity of her work.

We caught up with Fok over email to learn more about the theoretical complexities and inner-workings of La Technologie Culturelle D'objet, and explore how through design, optimization, and fabrication she reinvents today’s notions of art and architecture.

The Creators Project: What exactly inspired La Technologie Culturelle D'objet or what is the concept behind the sculpture?
Wendy W Fok: This piece in particular addresses the trifold opportunities between techniques, object, and material culture within our contemporary digitally driven mechanic society.

Grounded within the concept of the material culture and the basis of technology and object, the driver of this design is interfolded through data-sourcing and data-housing. The stainless steel "objet" (installation) itself is an interpretative piece that focuses on the contemporary examination and contextualization between the theory of technicity, ethnicity, and the milieu of André Leroi-Gourhan. While geometrically, the piece is inspired by the impossible objects theory. An impossible object (also known as an impossible figure or an undecidable figure) is a type of optical illusion consisting of a two-dimensional figure which is instantly and subconsciously interpreted by the visual system as representing a projection of a three-dimensional object, although it is not geometrically possible for such an object to exist (at least not in the form interpreted by the visual system).

The LED lamps held within these interactive transparent acrylic rods represent the interchangeable activators and attractors of the city and its citizens, mapped into a singular location to be viewed at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center. Each LED is embedded in an acrylic rod and is accentuated individually or clustered into "units" of stainless steel geometrical modulars. The ultimate aim is to critically analyse the contemporary state of urban cities and their landscapes, the citizens within the cityscape and a progressive understanding of their roles within each metropolis.

Your work has a strong focus on both art and architecture. How did you go about combining the two in this work? Why do you feel their relationship to one another is significant?
The presence of art becomes an interlaced relationship that embeds itself within architecture, which for me, in particular, architecture, spatially cultivates itself through a narrative and critical analysis that is similarly demonstrated within the poetics of art.

Philosophically speaking, the theoretical implication of the relationship between the world of installation arts muster a very familiar discussion between the two, whereby, in some cases, installation arts is a way of architectural expression. For example, take the early works by Diller Scofidio and Renfro, much of their earlier built works were, in fact, installation and experimentation within the performance and installation arts.

Most of the work that drives the research of my work is developed through sensing and inspirations from outside architecture, and more importantly through the influence of art, geometry, logics, and mathematical convergence.

I know the work references the city of Hong Kong and mapping—is the work referencing its urban plan? How do you think your work plays a part in the lifestyle and design of the city of Hong Kong as a structure?
The piece La Technologie Culturelle d'Objet abstractly functions as a data-sourcing and data-mapping exercise that was conceptually realized through the idea of strategically collecting data throughout the city (and its habitants), through digital media. One could interpret this as a form of 'urban mapping' through a means of directly and influentially disturbing the urban plan; however, the intention was more to activate the public discourse and interaction with the piece outside of the confines of the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, and allow participants (who may or may not be in Hong Kong) to access and functionally 'direct' or 'be part of' the piece.

Intentionally, the piece was also a means to deterritorialize the familiarity of the institution and the traditional discourse of architecture, as a monumental confined space or structure—in a sense, asking participants or the inhabitants to critically explore outside of their comfort zone and leave their confined 50 square meter apartment building, or complex, to further explore the culture that is present in Hong Kong and beyond.

What techniques did you use to create this sculpture?
The piece itself is made of stainless steel, with a variable LED configuration that is fed into the acrylic tubes interlaced within the stainless steel frame. The original piece was double the size of the final, but was downsized due to budget and time constraints.
mbined with the surfaces blurred together formed by the myriad of LED lights is the formal housing that represent the "reflexive" nature of activated milieu.

What do you think is the future of artworks in public spaces? What goals should they head towards in the future, if any?
Living in the 21st century encompasses many conveniences of technological innovation beyond the natural means, and allows virtual communication and telecommunication through an altered state.

True innovation is the acceptance of both contemporary and historical philosophies and critical theories, and pushing the envelope to further these concepts into proactive projects that question the very meaning of the original theory. The ability to question and interrogate the larger meaning of innovation within the contemporary state requires a certain self-awareness of the past and realization of what history has theorized and analyzed.

Resilient design should be the future direction of design. Designing for the future should not only be about sustainability of buildings and materials, but also be about the resilient nature of design that encompasses the means of cradle-to-cradle design that surpasses the means of the basics.

Photos courtesy of Wendy W Fok.