Sea City Clam Tower is a sound installation that takes its inspiration from the Chinese phrase formirage, 海市蜃樓 “Hoi Si San Lau.”The breath of clam-like creatureswas once believed to create visions of Penglai, the mythical island home of the immortals. In the installation, an ambient soundscape links underwater acoustics with sounds reflecting Macao’s relationship with the sea and its traditional fishing industry. Physical materials from Macao’s Inner Harbor, wet markets and local seafood restaurants are contrasted with dreamy mirages created through the projection of 3d animated fish and other local seafood. An aeration system brings a further layer of play between the virtual projected images, the movement of the water and bubbles that evoke the breath of clams.
The installation creates an otherworldly ambiance and opportunity to consider Macao’s history and its future development. It hints at environmental changes on the horizon, such as those arising from land reclamation, commercial fishing and other forces impacting the marine environment.
Artists: Crystal W. M. Chan and Benjamin Kidder Hodges Material: Fish tank, air pump, tubes, Styrofoam containers, barrels, wood flats, audio devices, projected 3D animation Dimentions: variable Year: 2021 Venue: Macao Contemporary Art Center - Navy Yard No.1
In Chinese, the character 島 (pronounced “Dou” in Cantonese) translates as “island,” it’s logographic characters form “bird on top of a mountain”, and represent a “mountain surrounded by sea”. An island is a place people run to and from which they escape.
This exhibition is a sound and installation work that centres on the ‘Macau New Urban Zone’ project which consists of five new islands currently being constructed through land reclamation in Macau. This special administrative region of China and (modified) archipelago at the mouth of the Pearl River Delta is bound by tight geographical constraints so has historically expanded through land reclamation. A new development project has been launched to specifically meet the future housing and infrastructure needs of the growing population. In the exhibition, two sculptural works and a unifying sound art piece evoke the affective landscape of these developments by highlighting the tension between environmental concerns and desires for new public and private space.
In the history of Macau’s development, land reclamation has played a significant role. Macau was once a fishing village but its population has increased throughout history due to various reasons. In 1557, the Portuguese came and made Macau the first trading port between Europe and China. Since the nineteenth century, people fled from mainland China to Macau in a few different waves, during the Opium War, World War II, and the Cultural Revolution. Refugees also came from South East Asia because of Anti-Chinese movements and for other opportunities. Macau is also a place to which people escape for other reasons from leisure to work. Given that the sea around Macau is shallow and the size of Macau is small, the idea of expanding by reclaiming land seems inevitable. In 1863, the first land reclamation project was undertaken by the Portuguese government. Nowadays, two-thirds of the land in Macau is reclaimed land and reclamation remains an ongoing project.
Mountain Surrounded by Sea is a collaborative sound and art installation by Crystal Chan and Benjamin K. Hodges at Creative Macau from May 19, 2020 to June 6th, 2020.
This exhibition contains two parts:
5.0 Surround sound:
The surround sound is meant to bring an atmosphere of the city, sounds recorded in a typical dim sum restaurant, on the bus, and on the street are combined with improvised original music. This sound piece is roughly 2 hours long and is played through five transducer speakers made of pink insulation foam which are installed above and behind to create an immersive experience.
1. Yum Cha 00:00:00 2. The Next Stop is… 00:15:00 3. Lament 00:25:00 4. Farewell 00:40:00 5. The Fish in the Aquarium 00:55:56 6. Ilha Verde 01:00:36 7. Ilha da Montanha 01:16:40 8. The Sun Climbing Off the Mountain 01:25:30 9. Unmoored 01:44:00
On one side of the exhibition venue, there are stage flats painted in a pale green, which is a typical domestic house color in Macau. Together with a patterned carpet on the floor, this set recreates an imagined Macau apartment. With these flats and a fake window, a domestic interior space is created to imply the home that people are trying to build on the newly reclaimed land. Behind the window, there is a sand mountain. The sand mountain is a scene taken from the current reclamation projects along Macao’s shores.
On the other side of the room, there are styrofoam containers filled with water and a projection from the ceiling onto the surface of the water. Styrofoam containers are used by fishermen to keep their catch fresh. These containers are also commonly used in front of seafood restaurants to display fresh seafood from which customers can choose. 3d animated seafood is projected on the water. The interaction of the 3d animation and the surface of the water to represent the disturbance of the environment during reclamation.
Makeshift Home is intended to provoke people to think about the domestic spaces in which we live, the makeshift homes — the dwellings, the belongings and the space dividers. I’m using bed sheets to set up the installation, mimicking the drying of bed sheets and blankets in outdoor public space. The old bed sheets here are from my parents that they have kept for decades. They are worn down after many washes and much sunlight drying them. My mother picked these cloths at a fabric store and sewed them herself to turn them into bed sheets. The blue shirt is the uniform of the shop where my father was working until he retired. They are now hanging inside the gallery by the window. Letting the sunlight shine through them again. Behind the bed sheets is an audio device that plays the sounds of domestic household labor, the work that I do at home.
I have definitely spent more time at home since the start of the pandemic, which has been a year now. For people living in cities, it’s not that usual to have to spend that much time at home. People in urban environments are used to going out, to parties, museums, gallery openings, dining out, walking around in the street. Now most activities are done at home. But domestic life is often not talked about; it gets undervalued. And when it is talked about, it is sometimes dismissed as just something trivial. The amount of time I spend on a daily routine on preparing food, taking care of the plants, doing laundry, sweeping and vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, is to maintain the home as a place that I want to return to, in which to feel safe and find comfort. I want to capture the sounds of domestic life that I have spent so much time with yet at the same time seem so insignificant to anyone but myself.
With all of this, I want to question about the idea of home and the specific Chinese term for happiness — 幸福 “hangfuk" — the happiness comes from being together and being loved. What’s the home we are trying to build and maintain? What will you sacrifice? How’s the ongoing repetition? Does it bore you?