This book is published in conjunction with the 15th solo exhibition:
We have all heard about it, some of us have actually been there, some of us have even enjoyed ourselves a little - digital art is very much in vogue these days... but to be perfectly honest - there is nothing quite like this out in all cyberspace: Lin Hsin Hsin's Art Museum.
In an era of tiring mass-production, easily replicated and regurgitated art work on-line and off, and unrelenting duplication it is good to find an oasis of authenticity in the delightfully pleasurable pixel-fest of Hsin Hsin's Art Museum. But why would any art lover choose to spend valuable leisure time in a virtual museum when there are so many concrete museums out there beckoning to us in the real world?
Through the ages, there have always been those who lead and those who have been lead, in science, technology, literature and art. Hsin Hsin is a trail-blazer, pushing the envelope for us in unchartered seas, this time in cyberspace. Through her marvellous collections of original oil paintings, paper works, ceramics, sculptures and digital art Hsin Hsin has created an entirely new experience; the virtual museum. She has tweaked this metaphorical space into an all encompassing experience, reminiscence of a real art museum, with not only tour guides, video theatre, cafeteria and shop but with a wealth of original art works that exist solely in their digital medium and are a delight for the eyes.
Through this comprehensive museum metaphor, Hsin Hsin is able to establish a convincing environment to present to us her art, her very special blend of images and texts. Poetry has always been thought of as being the more lyrical of all written texts but Hsin Hsin has left these traditional boundaries far behind her in her reinvented mode of writing that emerges through the vehicle of her electronic stage. Pixels are her building blocks of her poetry where they just as easily manifest themselves into new stanzas as they do into her art.
Throughout Hsin Hsin's museum, we are propelled through gallery to gallery and from shop to theatrette via her poetic html links. Peppered through her poetry we are bounced from image to image, and from word to word in a way that has become strangely familiar to us recently through World Wide Web travel, yet it takes the soul of an artist to imbue these connections with a keen sense of aesthetics that are in keeping with an art museum.
If only pixels could speak .. ..ahhh but they do - and not only do they speak they come alive for us from Hsin Hsin's enthralling electronic tableau. Back to Future, 1997 is a new exhibit in Hsin Hsin's repertoire, it is in a Web site of a series of five that incorporate her poetry and visual imagery, including her Ode to Travel, State of the Net and Concerto for Shit. Hsin Hsin takes us on many journeys through her animated series of Net Voyageur, Dare to Dream, and her Resonance Series drawing us into digital places that seem more to belong to science fiction than they do to art in her Astronomie Series.
Complementing her animations, web-sites and series are three exhibits which are more digital installations than traditional visitor/screen works and invite the visitor to be part of the space rather than be a passive onlooker. Through the artists' concern for the environment she has addressed such issues as recycling, all be it in a digital mode, with creations in metal, paper and plastic - all virtual!
Even the spine-chilling robots & crawlers that roam cyberspace, gobbling up Web sites where they go, serve as a source of inspiration for the artist in her work entitled robots & crawlers- friends or foes ?, 1997 and reminds us as even as we are watching, those crawlers may be out there following our every move as we the visitor click our way around the images.
In have pixels will travel, 1997 a further installation, one notebook and two mini-notes, have been transformed by the artist, in their physicality as well as in their functions. The artist questions the reason that some of us need to carry around with us these attributes of the Information Age - is it to show the world that we are, informed/involved/in step with the technologies or is it merely meaningless decoration - the latest status symbol of our digital times.
Canvas without oil
Digital artists are a fairly new phenomena amongst the ranks of traditional artists. While in the past, artists have been able to study from the masters of previous centuries and have had the luxury of of time and experience from which to hone their skills, digital artists, are very much creating their tools on the fly. Hsin Hsin is a true inventor here magically calling up new techniques out of the blue, new ways in which to manipulate the mouse and the screen.
The lines of a maobi evolve from a lifetime of patient practice. How can a contemporary digital brush artist ever hope to equal this skill. In Hsin Hsin's series of Chinese Calligraphy and Chinese Painting, new variations of the maobi emerge out of the lama paper. In Internet, a series of Chinese proverbs, there is a reference to the scholar who doesn't need to leave home to receive the news. This reminds us of the newspaper and it's more contemporary contemporary, the Internet. Butterfly, 1997 calls up echoes of Chinese silk, others like Thai silk or batik and only by dint of perception are we reminded by the glass wall that we are peering through, that this is no traditional hand-printed fabric but simply an electronic glimpse into the virtual. In Hsin, 1997 we return to the solid maobe origins of traditional Chinese calligraphy, yet it is by the skill of the artist's deft mouse movements that the black "ink" flows, and not through the texture of a hand held hair brush.
Hsin Hsin has presented in her exhibition an entire series of oil paintings, printed out on high quality canvas, including references to digital elements and concepts that create a dialogue with the technology in which they were conceived. Hype, vaporware, gold, idea generator, pixels for thought, alpha, beta, 1997 and digerati, 1996 nurture electronic terminology and manifest themselves into an explosion of colour and vibrancy. Hsin Hsin's digital oils are only one of her myriad of palettes that she shares with us in this 15th solo exhibition.
Ode to travel, 1995, an exhibit for the Springtij Festival in Utrecht relates to to a visit to a Paper City. Hsin Hsin tells us that "well, we're supposed to be in a paperless world, but the irony of it all is: the amount of paper we use can build a city!'
Less earthbound are her out of planet, Astronomie, 1995, works. Spectacularly executed in luminescent colours against a pitch black background, denoting such galactic entities such as her purple, spiralling planetoid, the green apparition of orbit in and the flash of eerie light in electricfying. It is well apparent how Hsin Hsin's choice of medium contributes to the electric quality of these unworldly images yet equally interesting to note that this very same pixel palette can persuade us that we are witness to a wealth of textures in her Net Voyaguer Series, 1996 Green Coralline Algae, Rose Anemone, Atlantic Purple Sea urchin 10 and sea-saw? all tantalise our eyes in their surface textures and remind us more of etchings than digital art.
Particularily through her texture of into the deep-end!, 1996 tranquillity and cascading, 1996 our sense of entering the depth of a deep blue ocean is surprisingly convincing.
The Resonance Series, 1996 almost sings out to us through the blue and black wave images and serves to create visually, a semblance of sound presented here a range of different pitches, from cool sounds in le vague, a more even staccato sound in piano, and an almost visible choreography of sound and movement in les danseues x, les voiles and in the vibrant l'orgue.
Dare to Dream, 1995 Hsin Hsin cajoles us, and I for one am more than ready to join this particular journey into her dreams. This spectacular series takes us from take-off, dare to reach the sun, mid-air tango, on into the rain in Space. Our journey continues with is prospering in theSpace and on through zooom!.
From out of the black screen, images emerge and sparkle before our eyes, fill up the space with dazzling electric pinks and blues and through a pink and white flash leave us with a zooom!
While each of these series incorporates the very same digital space, electronic palette and identical dimensions, surprisingly each one presents a whole different range of aesthetics, in their composition, texture and dynamics. Each one takes us on a separate journey, through numerous paths and provokes for the viewer a wealth of contrasting sensations.
"Is experiencing art still as esoteric"? 'Are pixels still exotic"? Even as Hsin Hsin poses these questions to us, she is answering them by providing visual solutions for us in her series of minimalistic and humorous graphics. These applets of typographic virtuosity such as, "from surreal to supperreal' flow out from the black screen, here as a clear purple flowing form, containing the written statement and echoing the concept through it's visual vehicle. Rather like a child's schoolbook where the message is conveyed as much by the imagery at the written word only on Hsin Hsin's site, we are dealing with far more subtle concepts than in any child's schoolbook.
Back to Future
"from sculpture to ceramics" reminds us of the open-ended dialogue that takes place in the contemporary museum gallery on such weighty matters as the role of the artist versus the craftsman/the rightful place of the ceramic and the (ceramic sculpture) /the medium versus the message. Hsin Hsin's doesn't try to resolve these issues for us, rather hints at them and reminds us that if these issue are still not resolved how can we start thinking about those that arise with the emergence of virtual art that is quietly ebbing in. Hsin Hsin reiterates the conundrum presented to us that we are already perceiving her ideas, at her Web site somewhere out there in cyberspace, wherever that is anyway "from it's physical space into its virtual space". This concepts conveyed to us via the eerie purple graphic that somehow reminds us of a x/y axis chart and ghostly plots for us that strange place that we are already in... but is it real - is it virtual.? Are we here the "x" or the "y"? Or are we here at all? We had better make up our minds quickly as these new entities, such as an entire virtual museum are going to soon engulf us "@a sonic pace".
By letting the "pixels speak' for themselves Hsin Hsin has allowed us to playfully question the route taken from "hieroglyphics to graphics" and how we have left one pictorial mode of communication for the new, yet all in all have found ourselves "back to basics" in a human endeavour to find new ways to express our ideas though word and image. Not only are we back to basics we find ourselves back to future, as the title of the Web site suggest in an never ending cycle of creation and recreation and reflects a timeless urge to investigate, integrate and to communicate our world to one another. In our visual world today, we are constantly being bombarded with masses of visual data: from television, newspapers, advertising and the Internet, we are awash in reams of visual images that are often kitsch and sacred at the same time, a juxtaposition of cartoons and lyrics, often garbled and incoherent.
Hsin Hsin reminds us that often these images, be it the Mona Lisa with the Marcel Duchamp moustache or our favourite cartoon character in our daily newspaper can well be images that have been eclectically looted from unknown sources and have been chopped and rehashed in the frenzy of a copywriter's deadline. As a fellow electronic artist, and in stark contrast to all of this, I am particularly struck by Hsin Hsin's dedication to authenticity and originality. It is clear that her art is not plundered, tweaked or filtered in a bid to conceal their source but rather each new idea, each new image is spontaneously devised by Hsin Hsin through her very own and-crafted pixels.
It is this refreshing originality that flows through her Web site and via her electronic creativity that has allowed the pixels to speak, or in the case of the littler ones, to "squeak" out for themselves.
Hsin Hsin asks "is experiencing art still as esoteric"? in the opening of the back to future site where we are launched into her loop of text and image, by typographically focusing on one idea at a time, we are urged to ponder this question. Can esoteric experience include the kitsch? How dare the unknown artist propel himself to fame through the vehicle of famous people in his art work? Hsin Hsin only partially answers this through her art and provokes us through her reference to kitsch and images of famous people. This must be the antithesis of all that is esoteric yet has become the accepted sacred of our time; our new mythology, our new religion. Every day we watch unknown individuals rocketed to fame by what Andy Warhol would have recognised as everybody's right to 15 minutes of fame as anonymous accident victims flash past our TV screens in the news, film actors and rock stars are worshipped on par with royalty and the Mona Lisa, the once pivotal embodiment of all that is esoteric is disfigured, derobed and recycled.
Seeing is Touching
'As the meaning of art we continuously ask, what then is aesthetics"? There is no doubt to Hsin Hsin's sense of the aesthetic, her use of colour and composition are impeccable, her imagery compelling, but we are introduced here to a new sense of aesthetics, when real becomes virtual and the virtual the new reality. The artist Hsin Hsin creates not only two dimensional art with her digital palette, but also three dimensional, almost tangible almost solid objects.
In her glassware series, we are bewitched by almost all our senses into perceiving the digital snuff bottle as a real object. In smell IT! 1996, we are again pulled in to Hsin Hsin's semantic playfulness as we are reminded by this exquisite digital object that we are really in the magical grips of IT (information technology) and serves as a reminder of all those Internet security sniffer programs.
One of my favourites works from Hsin Hsin's Art Museum is her ocarina, 1996. A quasi shell, luminescent in digital light in much the same way the pearl surface of the real shell would sparkle in the sunlight. It is this ability to capture form and texture that is quite outstanding in Hsin Hsin's imagery and constantly reminds us that we are perilously standing on the seam between the real and the virtual. Snuff bottles, teapots and bowls shine out to us in their succinct beauty yet they have never taken their place in the real world as real objects and never can. How does this reflect on our sense of ourselves in this already fragile world where fine art works can be magically materialised in minutes at the click of a mouse?
Whether Hsin Hsin is working with three dimensional digital objects as in her ceramics or glassware series or musing about the visual dimensions of a singer or cellist in her Concert Series, 1997, the pixel speaks out to the visitor. Pixel by pixel the conductor emerges from the rainbow background and through his cartoon-like attributes emerges to take his place on stage.
Cyberspace is a place where anything can happen and if it hasn't happened already, Hsin Hsin will make it happen tomorrow. By combining sound and light, the real and the surreal Hsin Hsin takes us on voyages of the not yet discovered.
I have spent many hours in her Virtual Art Museum and I know that I will return many more times to find out if there is anything happening because if anything new is happening in the world of digital art, it is happening in Hsin Hsin's space. The visitor is always made welcome at the Museum, and not just computer geeks, nerds or other computer lovers - all are welcome and as Hsin Hsin says "from occasional to serious geeks in virtual space they cohabit"
Many museum activities that contribute to the total museum experience are on-line here, the cafeteria, Intermezzo Bar, musical toilet and the shop. Most museums sites around the world have included these museums functions on their Web site, the only difference being that in every other museum Web site we visit on-line, museums represent a shadow of the real museum, a digital reference to the the concrete. Ironically at Hsin Hsin's Museum, the collections are "real. Created and delivered in the medium intended, the pixel stage not merely being the vehicle selected for presenting to us the art but the very essence of the art itself.
There are so many things to experience at the Art Museum that it would be advisable to check the map before you set off. This is a place to bring the family, to spend a few pleasant hours browsing the collections and smiling a little in the poetics of Hsin Hsin's html. Don't forget to read between the lines - there is not a single wasted pixel out there - and they are all well versed in what they have to say when their own turn comes.
We will never forgo the joy of visiting a concrete art museum in the real world but in all the hustle and bustle of the new Information Technology this virtual museum is a new kind of joy.