Indonesian wins inaugural art award

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 May, 2009, 12:00am

An Indonesian artist beat 17 other emerging talents and scooped the first SCMP/Art Futures award at ART HK 09 with a spiritual yet playful installation that invited spectators' participation.

The focus of Ay Tjoe Christine's winning work, Panorama without Distance, was a pair of ancient typewriters, one large and one small, attached to speakers and loaded with aluminium foil.

The audience was invited to kneel on a wooden platform and type on the machines, whose alphabetical keys had been replaced with numbers from 0 to 9. The characters typed on the foil did not correspond to the keys and were distorted, except the letters G, O and D.

After typing, participants were invited to search the resulting script for the word 'god', which might or might not appear amid the jumble. The tapping of the keys was amplified by the speakers to provide sound effects.

The judges' attention was caught by people queuing up to use the typewriters. 'The panel chose the work because it's a piece that's experimental and tries to explore a new dimension in contemporary art,' said SCMP/Art Futures judging panel chairman Charles Merewether, who is also the chairman of the art fair's advisory panel.

'It's exploratory, and this work is participatory. Watching people come here to type on the typewriter and this level of engagement in terms of the audience in producing the work is something we all value.'

Another member of the panel, Post arts editor Kevin Kwong, said he liked the work because it aroused curiosity. 'I've seen a steady stream of visitors interacting with it, trying to figure out what it all means. I like art that makes people curious,' Kwong said.

The 18 candidates for the award, sponsored by the Post, came from 11 galleries established for less than five years that were selected to participate in the inaugural SCMP/Art Futures section. The winning artist was given a cash prize of US$2,500 and an invitation to create a front cover for Post Magazine.

Deddy Irianto, owner of the Indonesia-based Langgeng Gallery that represented Ay Tjoe Christine, said he was surprised by the award and appreciated the exposure given to Indonesian artists. 'The greatest difficulty for us is that we have many interesting artists but they don't have a chance. At events like this they have a chance to appear at a more important art scene.'

ART HK 09 runs at the Convention and Exhibition Centre until Sunday.