New Media Art @ Hong Kong Palace Museum

The prestigious Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM) opened on 3 July 2022, as the latest addition to Hong Kong’s arts and cultural offerings and the West Kowloon Cultural District. The Museum contains a treasure trove of more than 900 works of art on loan from Palace Museum in Beijing alongside exquisite pieces from the Louvre.

Together with Jeffrey Shaw and our team of collaborators, eM+ were honored to create five new interactive, algorithmic and animated artworks to be embedded among the series of profound object exhibitions. This was a wonderful opportunity to grapple with the profound issues of articulating cultural heritage through new media.

We celebrate the superb team at HKPM for their sensational achievement bring this museum alive!

Several of these works are described here to articulate the intimate connection between cultural heritage and its translation as publicly accessible digital art.

Flying Mythological Horses: Digitally modelled and animated, mythological winged horses fly across the airspace of the gallery, their flight paths determined by a bird- flocking algorithm. Projected in real time on four translucent projection screens that are hanging high in the gallery, fantastical horses from Chinese, Greek and Iranian antiquity.

Lenticular Procession of Tribute Horses: Ten tribute horses that Jean-Denis Attiret (Wang Zhicheng, 1702 – 1768) painted after Giuseppe Castiglione’s (Lang Shining, 1688 – 1766) Ten Steeds were digitally extracted and brought together in a monumental procession. This 10m wide and 5.5m tall composite image imparts a 3D effect created by lenticular printing that amplifies the horses’ corporeality.  Wending their way through the Chinese landscape, they arrive life-size before visitors.

Dreamscape of the Qianlong Emperor: This immersive artwork gives visitors the opportunity to share the Qianlong Emperor’s love and longing for his long-deceased wife Lady Fuca. Lying on its circular bed, visitors gaze at 5m diameter circular projection screen and journey together into a narrative imaginary inspired by one of the emperor’s most poignant poems. The work’s iconographic aesthetics, populated by dragons, phoenix’s, butterflies and other symbolisms, and the calligraphy by the contemporary artist Wang Dongling, expresses the correlative language of Qing thinking and feeling, and illustrates the ontologies of Qing court life, its history and culture.

Two other works, Eight Interactive Steeds and The Hall of Imperial Longevity: Venerating Ancestor Portraits on Lunar New Year’s Day complete this series.

Eight Interactive Steeds: The eight mythological steeds in this installation are line-drawn animations based on the motion capture data of real horses. Drawn in the style of Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shining, 1688 – 1766), the horses live their simulated lives moving about naturally in a 10m wide projection landscape. A hidden array of sensors enable these horses to also subtly react in real time to the presence, location, and movements of visitors, and interact with them.

The Hall of Imperial Longevity: Ancestor portrait worship in China has been a crucial form of ritual performance used to articulate family lineages and Confucian ethics. Projected in 180-degrees and 12K resolution, this 3D animation takes the viewer on a flight over the Forbidden City to visit the Qing dynasty Hall of Imperial Longevity. Once inside one experiences the Lunar New Year ancestral ritual performed by the Guangxu Emperor, and the entire panorama of portraits of the emperors and empresses located there.