Hong Kong new-media artist GayBird teams up with filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang

Pair will present avant garde theatre show One Zero as part of Hong Kong’s New Vision Arts Festival

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2016, 1:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2016, 5:26pm

An acclaimed new-media artist and composer, Keith Leung Kei-cheuk, aka Gaybird, creates his own musical instruments and sound installations. The contemporary art form is not so much about the objects themselves but the process of performing with them.

“I am most interested in how the musicians connect with an instrument during a performance. So I will think about what bodily gestures are involved in playing the instruments or how to play them,” says Leung.

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“For example, I designed one of my instruments, Spinning Air, because I feel like there isn’t really an instrument in history that is operated with a spinning motion.”

Unlike traditional composers who collaborate with different musicians, Leung, who creates his instruments from scratch, seeks the expertise of people from different fields – engineers, programmers and most recently, award-winning filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang.

Leung worked with the director, who’s best known for his independent feature films, to create an avant garde theatre show, One Zero, for this year’s New Vision Arts Festival in Hong Kong.

The pair call it a visual music encounter – Tsai provides footage of three different themes (walls, ruins and his protégé Lee Kang-sheng) and Leung responds musically within the framework set by the videos.

“He [Tsai] really challenged convention and rules of the medium ... by altering the temporality of films,” says Leung. You have to watch the show in order to understand how it’s done, he adds.

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To custom-make two sets of instruments and two sound installations, Leung teamed up with Taiwanese techno artist Wang Chung-kun and Hong Kong mechanical designer Joseph Chan.

Though Leung has been to different countries for a taste of their digital music scene, the one in Taiwan surprises him the most.

“The industry is more mature. They have a lot of technical knowledge as well as musical talent,” he explains. “They focus more on the technical part of producing the instruments or the aesthetic aspect, and may be lacking a bit in novelty ... but they do have the resources and equipment to easily construct what I envisioned.

Leung spent a lot of time in Wang’s studio in order to develop the instruments.

While this will be Leung’s fourth show, he thinks he and his fellow new-media artists in Hong Kong still have a long way to go on their experimental journey.

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“There are a certain number of people [doing electronic music]. But everyone is still doing experiments and producing fragmented pieces of work. No one has yet produced a complete collection of work.”

Leung believes that cannot happen until the mainstream music industry brings electronic music to a wider audience rather than produce increasingly homogenous pop songs.

One Zero, Gaybird x Tsai Ming-liang; Oct 28-30, 8pm; Oct 29-30, 3pm. Hong Kong Cultural Centre Studio Theatre. HK$320. Inquiries: 2370 1044