Samson Young's Liquid Borders project aims to preserve natural sounds

I wanted to see everything: The Liquid Borders Project 2012-2014

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2014, 10:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2014, 10:52pm

Samson Young Kar-fai's latest project is prompted by the government's 2012 decision to gradually reduce the closed area near the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border by opening it to public access.

Since then the sound artist has visited the formerly restricted zone eight times in an attempt to collect and archive sounds around the neighbourhood, as well as objects that separate the two cities.

By attaching some contact microphones to record the vibration of the wired fencing, and using hydrophones to capture sounds of the Shenzhen River, Young captured a variety of abstract, low frequency recordings that he edited into sound compositions, which he then transcribed into graphical notations.

His audiovisual exhibition features sound compositions and graphical notations alongside images from his field trips, and maps showing his trail and visiting dates.

"I Wanted to See Everything" implicitly references my initial intention when I started the project," says Young, who is also an assistant professor at City University's School of Creative Media. "At the time there was a rise of political issues such as the anti-mainland travellers sentiment.

"Walking along the border and recording its sound is like a ritual for me to reflect on those issues. I was thinking, if there are so many issues concerning the border and our relationship with the mainland, I may as well look at it for myself."

He deems the first field trip a thought-provoking one. While the border guard refused to let Young attach his contact microphones to the wired fencing within his vicinity, the artist could do whatever he wanted outside the guard's view. There, he noticed a lot of the wired fencing was left unattended and even significantly damaged.

"If nobody cares about the integrity of the border's physical structure, why would the border guard care about me in the first place?" says Young.

"The conversation I had with the guard was interesting because it reflects how we've no idea why the border is so significant, and as real as our anxiety is, the reason is less perceptible."

As the wire fencing transmits sound very well, he sometimes recorded what was on the other end of it. Be it somebody chatting round the corner from him, or the sound of birds, he would hear without seeing them. "If it's windy, the sound recorded will resemble that of a moving train, which is another unexpected coincidence," he says.

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