AN INTERVIEW WITH THE SHOPHOUSE, YOSHIROTTEN AND WING SHYA
Hong Kong is one of the most fast-paced metropolises in the world. Since its founding in the 1840s following the Opium Wars, it has transformed from a fishing village to a global financial centre. The hyper-layering of people, culture, and infrastructures have contributed to Hong Kong’s signature skyline and unique vernacular typologies. In a city where consumption patterns are fleeting, people become forgetful as the new and shiny replaces the old and become the past. At the same time as technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous in our lives, we are able to capture moments in time, in pixels, and time travel through the flattened dimensions within the multi-planes of our mobile devices. With our increasingly hybrid world where technology connects, distracts, and becomes an addiction at times, a new appetite emerges, permeating our contemporary culture today. Moments in time are no longer fleeting and lost, new possibilities for contemplation, selection, and preservation arise where the past, present and future can be ingrained in the digital realm.
When we think about time, we often think of time in the linear term – the past, present and future. What if they all exist in a single moment of life? What if we can stretch, bend, fast forward, move back, speed up, slow down and pause what we perceive as time? What would these fragments of time look like? Which moment would you capture and how would our memories of it change over time?
In recent years, the global pandemic of COVID-19 further exacerbated our online lives, making “IRL” events rare spectacles of the past, and then a come-back. With our changing context and increasingly digital circumstances, we spoke with Alex Chan from THE SHOPHOUSE, and their featured artists YOSHIROTTEN and Wing Shya, about our digital past, present and future, as well as their creative process.
Alex Chan (AC), YOSHITROTTEN (YR), Wing Shya (WS)
THE SHOPHOUSE is a rare gem in Hong Kong, housed in a 1930s Grade III heritage building, the juxtaposition of the old building with the new context, makes it especially unique. As our everyday lives evolve and transform increasingly digitally, how do you see this shift being reflected in the art we see today?
AC: It’s true that more and more technology is integrated into our everyday lives, and this can be reflected in art, whether they are artists inspired by digital culture, or in terms of their application of technology in their work. For me, digital is a convention and it’s not replacing the physical; in a way it makes the physical more difficult to come by, and hence a higher level of appreciation when it comes to the physical. At the same time we are also seeing a resurgence of artists who employ a more raw and handmade approach as we navigate between the material and immaterial.
At the Digital Art Fair 2022 Xperience Edition, THE SHOPHOUSE presented two series of works – the WAVE series by YOSHIROTTEN (Yoshi) and CITYSCAPE RESOLUTION, a collaboration between YOSHIROTTEN and Wing Shya (Wing), could you tell us a little bit about the two series?
AC: CITYSCAPE RESOLUTION is an ongoing series where Yoshi reinterprets images of his own and sometimes of other photographers. The series began with a collaboration between Yoshi and Daido Moriyama in 2020 at the He Art Museum (GEM) in Guangdong China and ZiWu Shanghai. In early 2022, we invited Wing to work with Yoshi to give context to Hong Kong and its audience.
WS: For me it all started at THE SHOPHOUSE where Yoshi, Daido and my work were presented. I am always interested in doing new things, I don’t like looking back into the past. For this series I passed my photos for Yoshi to select and edit without any interference. This is what makes it interesting.
AC: What’s also interesting about this collaboration is the way art is able to communicate beyond the boundaries of language. Instead of directly communicating, the artists communicated through images, and sometimes unspoken thoughts, feelings, and intentions are expressed in ways as if the artists can read each other’s minds.
Yoshi, for the CITYSCAPE RESOLUTION series, there is an emphasis on digital manipulation: stretching, painting, dissecting, and playing with the ideas of resolutions. Could you tell us more about your creative process?
YR: Working digitally can feel like diving into a sea of pixels, or rather, like manipulating the soil and air of pixels to create a landscape. With the advent of smartphones, people now see images through interfaces and resolution, which is a false image, it’s an image of an image. In a sense, we may be able to call it reality if we have an understanding of it. What prompted the series is how we can move people's hearts through digital technology. For me, art can approach this question from an interesting perspective.
Wing, how do you see your work being reinterpreted by Yoshi and how do you see the transformation of art in the digital age?
WS: It’s much more interesting for me to see the newly reinterpreted work than the existing photos after 20, 30 years. The emotion associated with the work is completely different. Everyone will have different interpretations and everything has its own destiny. This is the destiny of these photos – with their new interpretation and meaning.
Do you think digital techniques create new opportunities in human expressions and storytelling?
WS: I have always been reluctant when it comes to the digital. Even in the early 2000’s I wouldn’t give up my analogue camera. As we grow older I think our attitudes shift and now I want to try new things because the new always offer a different perspective.
YR: For me, I believe that images, sounds, and technical expressions have the potential to broaden the senses. Just as when music is played in front of a scene, digital technology adds something to the landscape and is able to move our emotions in some way. Not all digital technology is a tool, but sometimes it can be a way to unite different media as a whole.
Apart from employing digital techniques, Yoshi, your work itself is also influenced by concepts such as resolutions, glitch, bitmaps, and the network world itself. What is it about these ideas that fascinates you? Could you tell us more about the WAVE series?
YR: The WAVE series delves into the avalanche of data and constant information in the network world. The vast amount of information is presented in an abstract way through digitally stretching and painting over actual images of clouds on digital media. The network is in a constant state of change, full of things to be grasped. It is an overflowing of information that may never be encountered. The fluid, intersecting and instantaneous images are created digitally as an abstract depiction of the network world, where this new landscape is neither a photograph nor reality but captures a moment in time.
There also seems to be a recurring theme of nature in your work.
YR: Since around 2017, I have been creating works under the theme of "FUTURE NATURE" based on the theory that when you look through different rays of light, different visibilities emerge. Based on the idea that existing objects are not the only possibilities and that there is the existence of other possibilities beyond our senses, I am fascinated by how this concept can expand the width of our imagination. Similarly, when a digital image has a bug and you encounter something that you were not supposed to see, like a glitch, I sometimes feel the same excitement as if I was allowed to see the unintended. Our physical world has been created long before the digital world, yet there is so much that is not visible to the human eye. This is what I try to convey through my work. It is like a photograph from the future. I think it may be the present.
The visualisation of things invisible – through digital means we are able to bring these to light, and that’s what you call “a record of light — data indecipherable to mankind”.
YR: The world that we live in is so big and expansive. Above all, we must not forget that we are living in nature, we have the sky, the sea, and the mountains. And nature is so beautiful, it is difficult for humans to create something to surpass – perhaps besides music, the creation of music widens our imagination and play. Going back to the topic, I think the beauty of nature cannot be expressed with just photos and videos. Through the play of light, it enables me to express something that cannot be seen by human eyes, like a floating aura that you can only feel but not touch, and that’s what I try to capture in the WAVE series, to express the subtlety of motion visually. And FUTURE NATURE is a series that uses nature as a starting point where we can expand our imagination.
How about you Wing, what is your view on the digital-physical world?
WS: For me, I don’t think the future is digital, because I would like to think that we are already living in the digital. Perhaps our life is a scripted game that is hyper-realistic, creating this illusion of reality.
Back to IRL – how important is physicality when we can capture the ephemeral and intangible digitally, and now that we can even make it immutable on the blockchain?
AC: The possibility of blockchain technology has definitely broadened everyone’s mind. In a way it has also made art more accessible, for better or for worse. What’s more crucial now is to have more people who understand and can decipher between the different types of digital art, to set benchmarks for the works.
YR: I think we are just at the beginning of an era where we are moving back and forth between the digital and the physical. We may be the first and last generation to enjoy both. It is important that you can experience art in the physical world. By seeing digital expression through physical means you can appreciate the benefits of both. And by omitting the self, the physicality, it presents an opportunity to think about what you really need and the way you wish to live in this era.
WS: If we are living in the digital world, there will be no difference between the tangible and intangible.
Whether we are living in the digital or the physical, what do you most look forward to in the near future, from an artistic, humanistic, and technological point of view?
YR: I want to keep trying new things. I would like to see a society in which the values of ideas are firmly attached to them. And if we all work together, I am sure we will be able to create a positive outlook.
WS: There isn’t much I desire, I think appreciating the present is important. There are so many nuances in life, it is constantly in flux and cannot be controlled. Rather than thinking about the future I would prefer to focus on the now.
AC: For me I hope to continue to make art more accessible, and to enable more people to understand art as an attitude. There isn’t a set form, nor is it always aesthetically pleasing. I think crypto and NFT challenges how people see art and it’s an interesting debate that I look forward to unravelling.
Written by Joyce Li
YOSHIROTTEN (b. 1983) is a graphic artist and art director based in Tokyo, he works across a wide spectrum of fields, including graphics, moving images, 3D works, installations and music. Besides his career as an artist in his own right, YOSHIROTTEN also serves as an art director and multidisciplinary designer for diverse clients, his works ranging from artwork for both nationally and internationally known musicians, to graphics for fashion brands, advertising visuals and commercial space design
ABOUT WING SHYA
Wing Shya (b. 1964) transmutes between film, art and fashion. Following his fine art studies at Emily Carr Institute in Canada, he founded the award-winning design studio, Shya-la-la Workshop. In 1997, appointed as the exclusive photographer and graphic designer; Shya began his collaboration with the renowned movie director, Wong Kar-Wai on Happy Together, In the Mood for Love, Eros and 2046. In 2006, Wing Shya was the first non-Japanese photographer to exhibit at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hill, Japan, with his inaugural show, Distraction/Attraction. Since then his work has been exhibited internationally including at the V&A Museum, London among others. Wing Shya frequently contributes to numerous fashion and art publications, including i-D (UK), Vogue Italia, 32c (Berlin), Numèro (France) and TIME Style and Design (US).
ABOUT THE SHOPHOUSE
UNVEIL the art in everyday life.
Built with the combined function for commerce and residence, a #SHOPHOUSE, or more referred to as "tong lau" in Hong Kong as well as in Southern China and Southeast Asia, is a type of tenement building prevalent in the late 19th century to the 1960s.
Housed in a 1930s Grade III heritage building, THE SHOPHOUSE explores boundaries between art, design, and everyday living.
Attuned to the social and cultural milieu of contemporary life, THE SHOPHOUSE is a culmination of artistic expressions by cross-field artists, makers and creative insiders. Inspiring new conversations and narratives in dialogue with its ever-evolving space, THE SHOPHOUSE revitalises its heritage through its stimulating programmes, and weaves together different forms of artistic expressions into everyday life.