The Dream Machine 夢幻機器 (2018)
Machine-based collage-installation, 2nd-order cybernetics
An object sculpture with 5 modular components, each an assemblage of old and new electronic/digital mediums
Floor space: 5m diameter open space
The Dream Machine is a physical object-collage. The artwork can be described as a second-order cybernetics system, inspired by one story from Chang Shi-kuo’s Nebula Suite (1980), whose title literally means “the romance of a snipped dream.” The story describes a time in the future whereby a “dream service,” blending neuroscience, virtual reality and dreaming, gains popularity among a city’s residents. Through its plot and dialogues, Chang’s story opens up themes about art, creativity, imagination and technology.
How does “the future” as it has been imagined by our predecessors differ from that in contemporary thought? Have we really “become” one of the futures from the past? The Dream Machine is an installation that features a machine-based collage of dreamscapes developed in response to Chang Shi-kuo’s “Dream Snippers” from his collection of short stories, Nebula Suite. Extending the concept of Retro-futurism, the installation uses a media archeological approach: we integrate audiovisual contents into a spectrum of technical devices, analogue and digital, a reimagined system that echoes the original short story. The whole system can be described as second-order cybernetics with the theme of dream recurring in the individual units of the modular system. By fusing a spectrum of machines, of analogue and digital mediums (e.g. audiovisual, text, programming), with a patching system, the installation seeks to propose a possible reading of the original short story. It addresses the specific content of dreams and personal identities as audiovisual content. It raises issues of autonomy, censorship and surveillance through processual rules and principles embedded in our design of panel control. We highlight the cross-disciplinary requirement in setting up a dream surveillance room — through the design of interfaces, consoles and the overall connectivity of the installation.
Our on-site exposition begins by describing the conceptual starting points (input) of the system, followed by details of how the system works and its overall mechanical structure in each of the modules. The endpoint of the physical installation will be the closing summary of our findings.
What is it to dream? What desires drive us to dreaming? Why do we dream at all? In lieu of raising arguable, and perhaps predictable, questions such as these, the discourse of this installation inclines to a more nuanced, complex investigation of what we might ask of dreaming and machines, and asks, instead, the following questions:
– What triggers our attentiveness towards the state of dreaming?
– What might be the possible ideologies implied by the dream snippers?
– What is the role of such a machine in terms of altering and generating a possible future within a human mind?
The composite installation, The Dream Machine, brings together a series of dreamscapes that provoke experimentations beyond the realm of intuitive imagination. With varied media formats such as animation, video and text, we delve into the rich qualities and multiple layers of dreams which become the dream sequences visitors see. Some dreams are “ideal situations” with reference to our observation of everyday life, some bring forth abstract textures, or form visual motifs. Some raise an alternative way of looking at dreams, as when visual perception is no longer restricted to the structure of our eyes. These elements form a mosaic for stretching the visitors’ assumptions about dreams, tying back to the theme of struggle between the subject of imagination, art and controlled dreaming in the original story.
It is crucial to note that the audiovisual content in The Dream Machine does not suggest a direct simulation nor interpretation of the worldview in Chang’s story but, rather, an adaptive machine as the artists reimagine it. With analog and digital systems working together, a cluster of inputs (formerly noted as currents) illuminate the procedural state of the machine and its system flow.
Apart from constructing the multiple latitudes of a dream, another critical aspect of this installation constitutes a control room with a monitoring panel for the surveillance of dreams. Piecing together a possible reading of the literary work as a basis, and regulations from the Hong Kong Information Technology and Broadcast Bureau, a set of principles and rules is established for the operation of the control panel. Despite the concise instructions, it cannot exist without an element of doubt, knowing there is also the presence of a dream snipper. What is it to be a professional dream snipper? When is the perfect moment to unleash the dragon and cover up dream scenarios which are crossing the line? What is the reason behind a design that allows censoring sound bites in these situations? Is it just a beep, or could it be a more characteristic sound effect that smoothly obscures the border between dream and reality without awakening the users? The planning and arrangement of this panel not only aims at creating a room for reading, but also tries to raise a hypothetical passage, almost a proposal of an alternative aesthetics, in shaping and sculpting a dream through the act of snipping in both the visual and the audio aspect.
Artistically, technically and structurally speaking, this composite installation is a modular machine system, divided into five modules (sub-systems). The first one is a household module, referencing the original story’s depiction of how dreamers with a subscription plug themselves into the network from home. Next is the surveillance panel, which carries a programme that processes audiovisual materials, allowing the users to listen to the censored dreams. The third and main module is the control room, the central processor of the installation, from where dreams are distributed (or delivered) to the monitors and screens of the entire installation. The panel features an analog patching machine that connects with a video mixer. This provides a tactile experience for the visitors. The fourth module is the display of dreamscapes, which contains partly a projection on a curtain, as well as a structure featuring a rig of monitors. Each zone acts as an anchor to bridge smaller components into the final assemblage of the whole system, which provides the audience with different perspectives in engaging the idea of dream discussed in the story. The artistic re-imagination of these modules draws from the original story whereby dreaming (or, plugging in to a dream console) becomes a form of consumption and mass social media service. The formal set-up of the machine can also be understood as a mixed media installation with purposeful eclectic combinations of different media and hardware materials. The design of each module, or zone, is the result of team members’ dynamic collaboration through discussions and on-site trial and error of physical assemblage of installation components, a process in which concepts such as machine aesthetics, software art, the media art of moving images and sound art were scrutinized and thoroughly worked through.
我們當下所想像的「未來」 與前人有所不同嗎？我們真的成了昔日的「未來」的一部分嗎？《夢幻機器》以一組由機械與夢境拼貼組裝而成的裝置回應張系國《星雲組曲》一作中的「翦夢奇緣」。這組裝置意圖運用媒體考古的方式延伸對復古未來主義(Retro-futurism) 的一些想像：將視聽內容融合一系列數位與類比的技術設備構建一組假定的系統，與短篇故事互相呼應。整個系統可以被描述為以二階控制論配合「夢」為題的多頻道錄像重複出現於模塊化系統的各個單元。
Dream Team L306D comprises 8 members with a wide palette of skills ranging from painting, woodcraft, film and photography to programming, music composition and interactive system design.
翦夢小隊 L306D 由八名成員組成，涵蓋從事不同媒介（動畫、木工、影像、攝影、編程、音樂作曲與互動系統設計）的藝術家。
DING Cheuk-laam 丁卓藍 [artist’s website]
DING Cheuk-laam encountered experimental videography in 2015, and realised its nature could reflect the status of society as well as our lives. From then on she decided to use it as her core means of artistic creation/exploration. She continues to elaborate, extend, combine and divide the aesthetics of poetry, performance, drawing and life in her art practice.
LAI Chung-man Andio 黎仲民 [artist’s website]
Andio Lai is interested in making sound apparatus and machine art, some of which are built to be used in performances. Through referencing media archeology and looking into tool development and its relative history, his works focus on the subject matter of musical instruments, music playing and human-machine relations. He has participated in numerous projects including Contemporary Musiking and exhibited at galleries including Mur Nomade, Para Site, Hong Kong Arts Centre and Asia Society Hong Kong.
黎仲民 喜歡創作聲音裝置和機器藝術，其中有些會於表演使用。透過媒體考古學，研究媒體工具的演化及其相關歷史，作品的主題關注如樂器,遊玩以及人同機器間的互動關系。邀請展出作品的機構有現在音樂，Mur Nomade，Para Site，香港藝術中心，與亞洲栛會香港中心等。
LAM Kin-choi 林建才 [artist’s website]
LAM Kin-choi focuses mainly on the intimate aspects of daily life, while also seeking elements of mystery. As well as visual art , he won the First Prize in the Children’s Picture Book category, Creative Writing in Chinese in 2016 and published his first children’s picture book in 2017. His artworks have been collected by private collectors from Hong Kong, Australia, Italy, the US, Lithuania and Sweden. Lam won the People’s Choice Awards, Derwent Art Prize 2018, London, UK. Lam won the People’s Choice Awards, Derwent Art Prize 2018, London, UK.
林建才 創作媒介包括繪畫、錄像及裝置。林氏喜歡走路，作品常常啟發自日常生活及路上的觀察。他於2016年獲得中文文學創作獎兒童圖書組第一名及在2017年出版第一本兒童繪本。繪畫現由香港、澳州、意大利、美國及立陶宛的私人收藏家收藏。Lam 於2018 年英國倫敦Derwent 藝術比賽獲最受歡迎獎。
LAU Ching-wa Jess 劉清華 [artist’s website]
Jess Lau graduated with a BA in Creative Media from the City University of Hong Kong’s School of Creative Media. She received the Silver Award and the Best Local Work at the 20th IFVA Festival (Interactive Media Category) in 2014. Her artworks often explored the fading of time, memories and the ever-changing urban landscapes, with close attention to the the different media’s textural possibilities. Her works have been exhibited in Hong Kong, Zurich, Vienna, Stockholm, and the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria and the Pure Art Foundation annual show, Hong Kong, in 2015.
劉清華 2014年獲得香港城市大學創意媒體文學士（榮譽）學位。她以探索流逝的時光、回憶及轉變不斷的城市景貌為創作題材，著眼於不同媒介本身的獨特性及其質感之可塑性。作品涉及錄像、動畫、裝置等元素。 其作品曾獲「香港第二十屆ifva獨立短片及影像媒體節」新媒體藝術組別銀獎及本地最佳作品，又曾於奧地利林茨電子藝術節、瑞士、日本、台灣、芬蘭及香港等地展出。
LOK Man Chung Kel 駱敏聰
Kel Lok graduated from the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong in 2015. He was a core member of the artist group Moving Moving Image. Lok is committed to producing “low-fidelity” animation and strange installations. He loves collecting weird stuff on Taobao and learning new technical hand-crafting skills. He looks forward to showing the interesting parts of the world and interesting new worlds to people.
駱敏聰 於2015年畢業於香港城市大學創意媒體學院。他是動動象的核心成員。 駱氏致力於製作“低保真”動畫和奇怪的裝置。他喜歡在淘寶上收集奇怪的東西，並學習新的技術手工技藝。他期待向人們展示世界上有趣的部分和有趣的新世界。
WONG Chun-hoi 王鎮海 [artist’s website]
WONG Chun-hoi graduated from the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, majoring in Critical Intermedia Arts. Many of his works, shown and performed in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China, focus on sounds and electronics. In 2018, he received the Gold Award in the Media Art category of the 23rd ifva Awards. In November 2018, he completed a month-long double-solo on expanded cinema with Hugo Yeung at the 6th Edition of the Writing Machine Collective. As the artistic engineer at Floating Projects, he also provides technical support for various artists.
YAN Wai-yin Winnie 忻慧妍 [artist’s website]
Winnie Yan graduated from the School of Creative Media in 2016. She works primarily with animation and moving images, with a focus on visual motifs and repetition by means of drawing, writing and video recording. Yan is currently a research associate in the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong.
YEUNG Ming-him Hugo 楊鳴謙 [artist’s website]
Hugo Yeung is an emerging digital artist exploring the possibilities of algorithms and computation as artistic media to expand the audio-visual aesthetics of cinematic experience. He debuted his solo show in 2016, and showcased his work at GENERATE! Festival for electronic arts 2017, Germany. In November 2018, he completed a month-long double-solo on expanded cinema with Wong Chun-hoi at the 6th Edition of the Writing Machine Collective. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Science in New Media from the School of Creative Media, the City University of Hong Kong. He is a member of the Floating Projects Collective since 2015.
楊鳴謙，數碼媒體藝術家，為首屆香港城市大學創意媒體學院新媒體文理學士畢業生。作品主要以電腦演算探索電影美學的可能性。2015年起為「據點・句點」之成員，並於2016年發表首個個展，及後到德國GENERATE! Festival for electronic arts 2017參展。2018年九月，為賽馬會ifva影像嘉年華的參展藝術家。同年11月，與王鎮海完成「文字機器創作集」第六輯以「膨脹電影」為核心的雙個展。