KINGSLEY NG+22° 16’ 17" +114° 8’ 59", 2008. Single channel video. Courtesy Osage Soho, Hong Kong.

KINGSLEY NG, +39° 54’ 20" +116° 23’ 29", 2011. Single channel video. Courtesy Osage Soho, Hong Kong.

KINGSLEY NGSolitary Light, 2011. Four-channel video. Courtesy Osage Soho, Hong Kong.

A Thousand Plateaus

Kingsley Ng

Osage Soho
Hong Kong

Kingsley Ng’s first solo show at Hong Kong’s Osage Soho, explores the artist’s interest in light and the environmental implications of Hong Kong’s built environment. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Ng’s recent new media works frequently refer to its iconic Victoria Harbour silhouette to draw attention to the overlooked ecology struggling beneath our metropolises.

Ng includes two new single-channel video works from his exploration of camera flashes and contemporary society’s obsession with taking photographs. One, + 22° 16′ 17″ + 114° 8′ 59″ (2008), depicts the Hong Kong skyline, while the other, + 39° 54’ 20" + 116° 23’ 29" (2011), pictures Beijing’s city center on vertically-oriented rectangular flat-screen monitors. Ng has recorded the lights in the scene, set in white against a black background. Aside from depicting the buildings’ lights, the works also reveal bright, split-second flashes from digital cameras, reflecting the psychological implications of photography—namely the ability to artificially “capture” a transient moment and possess it forever.

In his earlier work, Record: light from +22° 16′ 14″ +114° 68′ 48″ (2008), first presented at Osage Kwun Tong in October 2008, which similarly examined such flash effects, the image was projected through an altered record player. In his new works however, Ng chooses not to display the projection device; presented as single-channel videos the artist ensures the viewer focuses on the spontaneous camera flashes rather than the installation’s underlying mechanics.  

Solitary Light (2011), a four-channel video installation, further explores the impact of light on Hong Kong’s built environment. Projected on a horizontal line of four screens, Ng juxtaposes a silhouette of the darkened Hong Kong skyline and the Victoria Peak behind it with digitally manipulated footage of native fireflies (some actual, others digitally animated later), resulting in a dynamic mass of moving light in front of the strangely still cityscape. The choice of medium also seems ironic: a complex site-specific media installation to draw attention to the beauty of nature. However, Ng is only able to highlight the existence of fireflies after the city lights have been artificially dimmed, as the insects’ luminescence is usually overwhelmed by the lights of the business district. 

In an email conversation, Ng explained to ArtAsiaPacific: “There lies an irony in the work that, when the Hong Kong Island cityscape completely disappears, the natural landscape remains. The landscape is reclaimed by natural habitats—in this case the fireflies—and demonstrates a similar vibrancy as that which we are used to viewing over Victoria Harbor.”

Though awareness of nature seems like a strange theme for a new media art show in a white-walled gallery space, Ng believes that precision is the best way to showcase the spontaneous. “There exists a constant negotiation between chance and control. The precision of control allows for the visibility of the ‘un-controllable’—the ecology of our city and the rhythm of life.” In this way, Ng’s technology-driven works call attention to nature, which is often forgotten amidst the chaos of urban life.