If you are one of those people (like me) who see coding as difficult and purged of any humanity, you might find yourself approaching “Interweaving Poetic Code”, the latest exhibition at the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile (Chat), with some trepidation. Curated by artist Taeyoon Choi, the exhibition looks at how computer language can weave together textile art, graphics, fashion and interactive displays to explore notions of collaboration and production. At the heart of it is the idea that coding can be a model of care, the means for community support. It is an ambitious venture. After all, we live in an era where centralised systems – be they governments, schools or technology – are likely to evoke anxieties around control and surveillance rather than being seen as symbols of compassion. Two works at the start of the exhibition emphatically humanise the internet and the action of coding. CPU Dumplings (2021), by Choi, elegantly translates the inner workings of a computer system into dumpling making, a palatable yet poetic symbolism. It is accompanied by a workshop on May 30 which promises to teach participants about the fundamentals of coding through the act of slicing vegetables and making dumplings. Distributed Web of Care (2019), a video of a collaborative project that Choi conducted at the Whitney Museum of Art, explores the idea of agency in a computerised world. This is shown in a gallery where computer parts are turned into art in Handmade Computer (2015). From a silly old bear to a world record for Winnie the Pooh collector In 2016, Choi partnered with deaf artist Christine Sun Kim to investigate how technology can be used in a way that respects those with physical disabilities. There is a video of the lecture performance they gave and 20 drawings by Sun with irrelevant phrases like “Future Tells Bad Knock-Knock Jokes” and “Future Gets Paranoid”, making fun of the seemingly incontestable authority of technology. Another installation touches on real-world implications that coding might have for the blind. A few textile cut-outs are tacked to a stand and when activated with touch, send a signal to the overhanging chimes. Two years ago, Choi spent part of a Hong Kong residency working with students from the Ebenezer School and Home for the Visually Impaired to generate programming codes and translate those into textile patterns, now sold as products in the Chat shop, with part of the proceeds going to the Ebenezer School. The exhibition also touches on the controversy of AI art. A recurring question asked in the show is: if art generated by artificial intelligence leads to new ways of conversing, of connecting cultures and communities, is it then art? For example, Indian-American artist Aarati Akkapeddi has trained a piece of AI software to create new textile patterns. The outcome resembles the art of Anni Alber, who was blurring the lines between traditional craft and art a century ago. The exhibition has a few interactive displays which prove effective in demystifying coding. In Coded Texile I (Matter and Memory) and Coded Textile II (Matter and Memory) (2018-2020), Mexican artist Amor Munoz coded two sentences into two woven tapestries and invites viewers to decode them with help of a decoder sheet. Meanwhile, the same artist’s Morse Code Gameboard 2020 asks individuals to code their own ideas, a phrase, a photo, and send it to friends to decode. The exhibition ends with a collection of poetry, manifestos and drawings along a corridor. Spelling out hopes for a future rid of hierarchy, and based on kinship and justice, they look like protest signs. But it is an unapologetically optimistic show, and “Interweaving Poetic Code” is best when the conceptual is underpinned by textures, either poetic or visual. “Interweaving Poetic Code”, Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par St, Tsuen Wan, 11am-7pm, Wed to Mon. Until July 18.