The unreal world looks like a doughnut - and that's the hole truth

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 March, 2005, 12:00am

Technology has become so developed that we can now recreate reality. 3D effects in video allow us to enter virtual worlds of our own making. But how many people stop to question how we actually see the world - and realise that our perspective is rectangular?

A show that opened earlier this month at the Para/Site art space in Sheung Wan is questioning such basic assumptions about how we see the world.

The exhibition, titled Take a ST/Roll: donut fantasies, is a multimedia production of video work and interactive workshops, put together by two master's of fine arts students from the City University of Hong Kong's School of Creative Media and their curator and supervisor Linda Lai Chiu-han.

They've spent the past year working with equipment and software that usually is used to produce 360-degree video. But they've turned the process inside out.

The result is 'a circular square,' says Reine Wong Shun-kit. Her collaborator is Kong Khong-chang (who's just published his second comic book under the name Kongkee).

'I wanted to misuse the market selling point of the apparatus,' says 24-year-old Wong. I'm making this circular, doughnut image - so you can experience a different world.'

Many people probably have encountered the sort of effects usually produced by the sort of lens and software Wong and Kong used, which allows video footage to be projected around you to recreate 360-degree views.

Wong and Kong played with the raw footage, which shows the world in a doughnut shape of two concentric rings. The result is a play on 'the hyper reality that people are obsessed with', says Lai. 'We have all these new media products whose purpose is to make things even more real. So that was the original purpose of this game: to not follow the rules.'

Wong spent a year experimenting with the 360-degree lens, filming streets, lifts, MTR stations and shopping centres.

The results are eye-like depictions that are strangely beautiful in their play on the ancient Chinese affection for the circular, but in a modern way. Straight lines are warped into curves, rendering places virtually unrecognisable. It becomes a challenge to figure out where the film has been shot. 'The most fascinating ones to me are the images in the lift and on the escalator,' says Wong. 'Those are such normal places for us, but the perspective is totally different.'

Twenty-seven-year-old Kong was responsible for adding narrative to the project.

The Para/Site exhibition moves through a variety of scenes captured in this weird doughnut perspective. On the ground floor is Experimental Drama: 12 Robes/ 4 Couples/ 1 Cycle. Three projections are aimed on to the floor, with narratives interacting between the moving circles. Viewers are invited to step around them 'like a fish pond', says Wong.

At the back of the gallery is Archival Space, where Wong presents the research that makes up much of her master's thesis.

Upstairs is a five-minute video, Interview with the Queen. - the queen in this case being the one from Snow White. In this piece, Wong and Kong experiment with the problems of negative space created by the doughnut.

As if to propel audiences even further away from their normal perspectives, the exhibition includes the interactive works of fellow City U student Eric Siu Chi-man - who has created tools from everyday objects that distort people's vision.

One example is a helmet with monitors connected to tiny cameras the viewer wears on their fingers - the result being that you see what you touch. Such works are the subject of a workshops next Saturday, at which participants can make their own devices.

The exhibition moves to the Sub-Station art space in Singapore next month.

Take a ST/Roll: donut fantasies, Para/Site Art Space, G/F 4 Po Yan St, Sheung Wan. Ends Apr 10; workshop Mar 19, 2.30pm-4.30pm. Inquiries: 2517 4620