A thousand blades slice through the air, their cacophony reverberating around the room, bouncing off walls and colliding with themselves. The room, thick with heat, vibrates as messages gleam back and forth through a colossal undersea of cables, ricocheting off satellites that float in a vacuum. A glacial shelf collapses into the sea. $DogeCoin is trending. The world’s largest bonfire – an incomprehensibly large inferno; billions of people circling around it endlessly; NASCAR at the Kaaba, each one going a different direction.
The call to prayer plays while children learn a new dance. The border conflict between China and India intensifies. You have been committing microaggressions your whole life without knowing. You drag your finger across the glass.
The exploration of virtual space is not unlike walking through an infinite hallway. A procession through endless messages that confirm, contradict, and confound each other. Any stop offers only temporary respite you’re gestured towards the portal further down the rabbit hole – ‘If you liked that, then you’ll love this’. Digital pilgrimage is laden with intensity, absurdity, and banality.
This is Electric Dirge. A reverie mourning itself as it celebrates its own rebirth. All occurring simultaneously.
Forever twirling towards freedom.
Rel Pham is an designer, animator, illustrator and painter originally from Sydney, Australia but now residing in Melbourne. Known for a strong use of electric, vibrant colours and a penchant for surrealism. His work combines and contrasts old and new mythology. Whether through surreal portraits or paintings of monoliths, computers and objects that look like alien still lifes. Each piece explores culture and tradition, juxtaposing old world fables and rituals with new stories and ideas.
Electronic Dirge is commissioned by 4A and curated by the Curatorial Assistant for 2021, Marco Rinaldi, as part of 4A’s Digital Curatorship. The 4A Curatorial Assistant Program is supported by the Sally Breen Family Foundation.
Wishis an interactive audiovisual website which emulates the experiences of yearning for honesty, earnestness and intimacy on the internet. This artwork acts a response to Marcus Whale’s and Craig Stubb-Race’s Optic; where their work explores the ideas of identity and self discovery through screens as a slick, highly sensual experience, Wish is a hopeful dissection of the internet as a tool for expressing one’s self through vulnerability and tenderness. Drawing influences from early 2000’s tech aesthetics, Asian UI design, Super Mario Galaxy, Animal Crossing, Virtual Self, and the work of Mai Yamashita and Naoto Kobayashi, this work is an attempt to reframe the internet as a method of tracking human desires and hopes.
When users land on the website, they will be introduced to a starry night sky. Occasionally, glowing neon stars will tumble through the screen. Users will be prompted by a text box to enter their wish. As users type in their wish, sparse and cascading piano plays in the background, grounding them in the contemplative nature of the experience. When the wish has been submitted, stars will begin shooting through the sky, signalling their wish has been sent into the aether. In a section called the Wishing Tree, users can see wishes of others, displayed anonymously on rectangular tags, drawing reference to the custom of tying wishes to trees during the Tanabata festival.
Alvin Ruiyuan Zhong is a Chinese-Australian multidisciplinary artist working across illustration, projection art and CGI. His work often invokes feelings of nostalgia, wonder and child-like joy. He brings aboard a sense of schoolyard antics into his art-making, often blending the aesthetics of hyper-masculine rave culture and the saccharine cuteness in kawaii culture to investigate his surroundings.
Wish is commissioned by 4A and curated by the Curatorial Assistant for 2021, Marco Rinaldi, as part of 4A’s Digital Curatorship. The 4A Curatorial Assistant Program is supported by the Sally Breen Family Foundation.
Sail, Sail, for a Shared Myth is a generative text work that plays with the pirate as the bastard agent of the seas and the web. As figures with a rich inventory of language and materiality, their mythos becomes a means to reimagine our digital terrain.
Taking seed text written and generated with reference to the language of pirate and web speak, the interaction steals and scrambles to generate an infinite counterfeit myth.
Sail forth, in collaboration with the browser!
Sail, Sail, for a Shared Myth is best experienced on a desktop.
Janey Li is a designer and creative coder interested in the margins of possibility. Her work plays with collaborative technologies to strategise for new myths of body and space. You can see more of her work at janeyli.com.
I pay my respects to the traditional owners of the Land, Skies and Waters on which this work was created, the Bidjigal people of the Eora Nation, and all those it may reach.
Sail, Sail, for a Shared Myth is commissioned by 4A and curated by the Curatorial Assistant for 2021, Marco Rinaldi, as part of 4A’s Digital Curatorship. The 4A Curatorial Assistant Program is supported by the Sally Breen Family Foundation.
Reformat your nature practices cultural wellness through virtual oases: Inspired by the transformative history of the Vietnamese dragon, the 3D series reimagines its traditional identity, projecting its orbital presence over an awakening garden.
Responding to global isolation and racial climate inflected on Asian consciousness, the animation transports viewers to a tranquil micro-world, considering the screen as a mode of re-belonging. The spatial departure from urban structures reifies Buddhist ideologies on mindfulness, immersing in the environment’s open ambiance.
Nature’s interconnectivity with rebirth and spirituality is formatted into the virtual oasis, neutral violet plants and geology materialising under pink skies. With soft calm sounds harmonising in the backdrop, the landscape offers meditative introspection by the glass pagoda.
In providing cultural agency towards Asian communities through digital constructs meld by past and present, the garden invites momentary comfort and growth. The garden is open to access, and made for wellness.
Jesse Vega is a contemporary visual artist based in Sydney. Working across photography, video, sound and 3D animation, his visual practice treads between commercial culture, hybrid identities, and digital ecosystems. Exploring post-internet worlds through 3D technologies, Vega taps into transformative fantasies and its agency towards cultural histories. His debut 3D series “Mourning the burned house” speculates the underbelly of post-natural landscapes, creating conscious hybrid formations implicated by material de- sire. Undertaking a Bachelor of Design in Photography from UTS, Vega has locally exhibited at Goodspace Gallery, Airspace Projects and Babekuhl Gallery.
Reformat your nature is commissioned by 4A and curated by the Curatorial Assistant for 2021, Marco Rinaldi, as part of 4A’s Digital Curatorship. The 4A Curatorial Assistant Program is supported by the Sally Breen Family Foundation.
Scroll to continue is a response to Optic by Craig Stubbs-Race and Marcus Whale, but looks at the perversion of the internet in contemporary times. The work hypothesises that we are so attuned to motions such as swiping, scrolling, and tapping that even when these motions are abstracted from their context their origin may still be readily recognised. The interactive experience has the audience observing these motions from the other side of the glass, as if from within the device. More is progressively revealed as the audience further explores the space.
The interactions presented may defy what is expected from user interfaces and 3D spaces, and is designed to unsettle, reflect, and breach the surface for a self-aware moment of clarity amongst the sea of endless noise that is our habitual scrolling, swiping and tapping, zombie-like, dream-state. The artist admits he is an avid user of the internet and social media data harvesting platforms and insists he can quit at any time (he just doesn’t want to).
Callum Howard is an interactive media artist and software developer based in Sydney. His art practice includes tangible electronics and virtual generative experiences. His works touch on themes of interconnectedness, post-humanism and artificial life, and will often invite the user to uncover more by probing and exploring what is presented.
Prior to his current job Callum was a VFX Lighting TD on three feature films at Animal Logic, and prior to that a developer in the creative arts studio Code On Canvas. Callum is always on the lookout for new tools, technologies, skills and collaborators that can help bring new ideas to life.
Scroll to continue is commissioned by 4A and curated by the Curatorial Assistant for 2021, Marco Rinaldi, as part of 4A’s Digital Curatorship. The 4A Curatorial Assistant Program is supported by the Sally Breen Family Foundation.
Cybermancy 2 is an interactive webcam experience based on Chinese face reading, an ancient fortune telling practice that predicts a person’s personality and luck based on their facial features. This work is a continuation of Cybermancy, which is a palm reading experience which presents the user with targeted advertisements and content based on their estimated demographic.
Chinese face reading has had lasting impacts on the standards of beauty and gender roles in East Asian society. For example, small, full lips usually correspond to positive face readings, which women supposedly desire. In this case, large lips on women indicate that they are prone to gossip and spilling secrets, so the opposite is preferred
Underneath this non-scientific exterior, analysis is done by AI known as neural networks. The AI generates facial landmarks and predicts age and gender. With this data, the user is presented with generalised information that might fit this demographic, not unlike what advertising tries to do with analytics.
Cybermancy is a demonstration of the modern problem wrapped in the guise of an ancient practice. It is hard to say whether we are being successfully read by others or we are conforming to the predictions presented to us.
Jane Fan is a software engineer and digital artist based in Sydney, Australia. Her works span a variety of mediums including illustration, 3D computer graphics, generative and interactive art. She employs web and game technologies to create her works, assisted by webcams, 3D cameras and microphones if they are interactive. Her artworks tend to have cyberpunk and algorithmic aesthetics, concerned with current and future implications of emerging technologies.
Cybermancy 2 is commissioned by 4A and curated by the Curatorial Assistant for 2021, Marco Rinaldi, as part of 4A’s Digital Curatorship. The 4A Curatorial Assistant Program is supported by the Sally Breen Family Foundation.
To open our 2021 program, we would like to explore how much of our identity is found through digital validation through an audio-visual experience. Optic will be at the core of our 2021 digital program with the remaining artists responding to the work as the central theme.
Written and recorded by Marcus Whale and animated by Craig Stubbs-Race, Optic is a poem chronicling Whale’s experiences of finding oneself through the emerging technology of Web 2.0. The artistic thesis reflects upon the physical sensory experience of sitting at a desktop computer and the mental escapism the seemingly endless world the Internet provided for users in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Marcus Whale: I’m part of the last generation for whom communicating on the internet was a new, exciting and mysterious thing. For me, instant messaging applications were the arena for some of the most significant moments of my life. The popularity of MSN Messenger, for instance, fits exactly with the period of my adolescence. For better or for worse, my development as a person is deeply tied to the specific conditions of the internet before social media as we know it dominated how we communicate, in which presenting yourself as anonymous or as an avatar was commonplace, where everyone could be anyone. There are two sides to this condition – I’m someone who, like many people my age, were interacting with adults or catfishes in potentially dangerous ways. In this work, however, I’m more interested in pulling out the romance of the 2000s internet, in an effort to evoke the intense sensuality of my teenage experience. Drawing from my many, many experiences of longing after unknowable people and things, Optic considers desire as a generative force that pushes beyond the mundane and into the realm of the fantastical.
Craig Stubbs-Race: The piece is purely a visual response to the poem. The frame sits at the appropriate 5:3 ratio, the common monitor screen used during the time of the artists’ exposure to online chat forums and worlds. Within this box we witness a soul travel through cyberspace, taking on the form of what we can perceive as data flowing through the system. Fibre optic cables come to mind. These sparks travel a lonely dark highway seeking input and information. From here we discover what the soul wants. Sex as a raw image. Many other souls drool and slide over the bodies of the web, slowly drifting over every contour and line, taking in and absorbing the visual muscle. The ‘views’ and clicks are adding up, overwhelming the content to the point where it is hardly visible. Only soul. Upon our trip into cyberspace, we encounter another being, although there is no body to go with it, only their words and presence. Together they travel the internet highway together, seeking content. The introduction of a device, a new eye, takes the web by storm. No longer is content anonymous or needed. All our being and presence can perform for the webcam. The device is desire. Our souls celebrate.
Marcus Whale lives and works on Gadigal land in Sydney, Australia. His work across music, performance and text focuses on the blurry intersection between desire and religion, often with reference to the poetics of memory and ghostliness. These works often stage encounters between camp performance styles and the heightened drama of traditional mythology, scripture and liturgy.
Recent performance works, including Praise! (with Eugene Choi) and the Lucifer series (with Athena Thebus & Chloe Corkran), have been presented by Sydney Opera House, Asia Topa, Next Wave, Performance Space, Sydney Contemporary, Sugar Mountain Festival, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Underbelly Arts Festival and Art Month Sydney. He has performed in and composed for works by Agatha Gothe-Snape, Harriet Gillies, Ivan Cheng, Martin Del Amo and Jess Olivieri. His poetry has been published in book form by subbed in and Ruin Press.
As a musical artist under his own name and with groups Collarbones and BV, his recorded output primarily forms an electronic world around his singing. Ensemble Offspring, The Song Company, Zubin Kanga, Claire Edwardes, Synergy Percussion and others have performed his compositions across Australia and internationally.
Craig Stubbs-Race is a digital designer based in Sydney. With a background in filmmaking, he draws upon his passion and enthusiasm for cinema and the associated graphics that come with it to create elegant designs. This enthusiasm and interest extend into the associated typography, aspect ratios and many graphic elements of cinema. Occasionally he will draw inspiration from the creation of CJK (Chinese Japanese Korean) letterforms and its usage in commercial contexts.
Optic is curated by 4A’s Curatorial Assistant for 2021, Marco Rinaldi, as part of 4A’s Digital Curatorship. The 4A Curatorial Assistant Program is supported by the Sally Breen Family Foundation.
4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art is an initiative of the Asian Australian Artists Association Inc. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Commonwealth Government through the Visual Art & Craft Strategy and the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body; the NSW Government through Arts NSW and the City of Sydney. CHAMPIONS;
The Neilson Foundation.
The Neilson Foundation.
Sue Acret & James Roth;
Oranges and Sardines Foundation;
The Sky Foundation;
Ah Xian & Ma Li.
Geoff Ainsworth AM;
Edmund Capon OBE; AM;
Daniel & Lyndell Droga;
Richard Funston & Kiong Lee;
Johnson Pilton Walker;
The Keir Foundation;
Brooke & Stephen Aitken;
Julia Champtaloup and Andrew Rothery;
Penelope Seidler; AM;
Lucy Hughes Turnbull AO;
Dr Dick Quan;
Dr John Yu AC.
Professor Ien Ang;
Simon Chan Art Atrium;
Maree and Andrew Di Pasquale;
Dr Gene R. Sherman AM;
Brian Sherman AM;
Aaron Seeto and Jane Somerville;
Ursula Sullivan + Joanna Strumpf;
Abdullah M I Syed;
Fung Yeh Lee and Ngar-yi Ho;
John Young and Kate Mizrahi.
CAOA - Contemporary Arts Organisations Australia;
Art Monthly Australasia;
4A would like to acknowledge the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the land on which our Sydney gallery is situated. 4A pays respects to Elders past and present.