Interactive sound installation

The documentary of ” Making of Tino” can be seen under the [photo and video] button on home page.

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The sculpture of an elephant head placed on the ground is 15 ft. in length, 5 ft. in width and 4 ft. in height, assembled with more than 300 pieces of plank divided by computerized cutter. Commonly used in furniture, the plank is made from used wood boards and MDF, materials combined with wood residuals and glue, forming panels when pressure applied. The use of synthetic material conforms to the idea of collective memory–the synthesized individual experiences. The elephant head is placed in a container liked “tunnel”, 7.5 ft in width/height, 20 ft long.

Assisted by Peter Fung, we first scanned a clay sculpture of an elephant’s head and produced a 3D drawing, based on this drawing, more than 300 pieces of plank divided by computerized cutter. The installation assembled with plank tries to convey by multimedia that each step in the process of growing up is filled with choice-making and the happiness or sadness that comes with ( individual or public ).

Sound effects include human conversation and musical instrument/synthesizer performance. Musician Dominic Chung and Tats Lau is invited in the music section.


Tino, where memories go   Q&A

Following is questions and answers regarding to the installation “Tino, where memories go “ .

Q: “Tino, where memories go” is an interactive sound installation. Where did the inspiration come from?

A: Most likely from the childhood memories of my time spent in the cinemas and in the Amusement Park ( in Hong Kong ) where there were tons of mechanical games with neon lights to attract children. Induced by these childhood memories, I employed a lot of multi-media with acoustics effect and image projection in my art work. The theme of the work “Tino, where memories go” is primarily about my mother. It was put together between 2010 and 2013. The funeral of my mother in 2006 was the origin of the idea. When I was collecting her photographs, bits and pieces of my childhood memories crawled back. Many memories were on the scenes of feeding the elephant at the zoo in the Amusement Park. This leads to the conceived idea of creating an interactive sound piece in the form of an elephant.

Q: How are Memories, Sound, and Elephant linked together?

A: It started with a somewhat fairy-tale like memory: mom took me to the zoo to feed the elephant named Tino. She said to me,” Feed it with tender loving care, it will remember you forever. Even when you grow up, the elephant still can recognize you.”

Following the passing of the elephant, the demolishing of the Amusement Park after it was closed, and missing the opportunity to see mom for the last time at her death bed, this fairy tale also was buried in passing in time.

While packing up my late mother’s belongings, I retrieved piles of photographs kept in boxes. These pictures serve the purpose of calling up scattered life stories hidden in memories – reminding me of the old times of mother and our family. These life stories are closely knitted with the political atmosphere and social environment prevailing in those days.

Q: Using the head of an elephant as the presentation, what are the cause and the underlying meaning?

A: At the Amusement Park, children could only reach as high as the fence to feed Tino and the head of Tino was all they could see. Besides, my deepest impression was that Tino used to bow its head to ask people for feeding. Unfortunately some jerks tried to fool the elephant with garbage for food. In the history of Hong Kong, Tino was the only elephant, and the only biggest animal that was allowed to be approached by spectators with feeding. Sadly, Tino, before or after its death, never was given the amount of dignity commensurate with its body size. In 1989 when pneumonia took its life, it ended up being dumped into garbage dumpsite for disposal. In the artwork, the shape of the elephant’s head looks just as of Tino emerges from under the landfill, gives a sense of resurrection. The material for constructing the elephant’s head is Medium Density Fiber, or MDF. This sheet comes from deadwood, mixed with debris and glued together with recycle materials. It also carries the meaning of “resurrection”.

As a Chinese Canadian from Hong Kong, Tino the elephant is also a symbol in my work, it reflects on how immigrants values the past. Are people so busy with making a living that today’s happening is all that matters and let bygone be bygone? “Yesterday” gets overshadowed by “Today”. Neglect in the systematic preservation of traditional past brings about the disintegration of our collective memories.

Q: Why is the head of the elephant rested in tunnel-shaped structure?

A: With the help of a structure shaped in kind the time tunnel, it brings out the idea of looking back into history as well as looking forward to the future; then the symbol of conception in the ovary leads to contemplation about the body of the mother. Where did we all come out of in the past? And where are we heading to in the future? What does history tell us? Is there any vision available to us to see into the future?

Reorganizing fragments of memory is the main theme of the work “Tino, ,where memories go”. Through the physical structure of the elephant head and the tunnel case, starting with recollecting the memories of mother and the family, it progresses and leads to investigating the collective memory gaps across the generations of immigrants.

Q: There is a sensitizer installed at the nostrils of the elephant trunk, why not at other parts?

A: This piece of work is intended for fun yet with significance. When someone brings a hand close to the tip of the elephant trunk, the sensitizer sends out ultrasound that triggers off the sound tracks of British and Chinese politicians . The closer the hand is to the trunk, the louder the sound. This motion is similar to the act of feeding the elephant. Utilizing this interactive technique, it allures the audience to recover aspects such as parents-children relationship that are subconsciously neglected in daily life.

Q: The entire piece of work is composed of layers of wood plank. What is the purpose of this idea?

A: There are close to a thousand pieces of wood plank in this work. It is an allegory of the recollection of lost memories, which only after reorganizing can make meaningful sense.

This sound and motion interactive composition can be interpreted as a series of sequential recollection. When the various recollected fragmentary pieces are rearranged and linked together by chaining in a meaningful way, then these jigsaw pieces of lost memories may fill in the memory gaps. Such presentation then forms a directional beacon for us to project into the future.

In putting up or taking down the layers of wood pieces, there are no shortcuts to the creation but diligent work. Besides serving as an allegory to the gaps in memories and human value across the generations, the layering functions as a tribute paid to the diligent, practical, persevering, and enduring characteristics of the past generation, especially Chinese Canadian.

Q: What about the inclusion of the sound tracks of some politicians such as Margaret Thatcher, Chris Patten and Deng Xiaoping?

A: Broadly speaking, words coming out from the mouths of these people may determine the way people live, and may also affect the decision ordinary people make. Both the southward migration of the past generation to settle down in Hong Kong, and the migration of the subsequent generation from Hong Kong to Canada are reaction to political environment. Aligning the speeches of these Chinese and British politicians in time sequence is also a helpful way of guiding the audience in looking back into history and seeing into the future.

Q: With the passing of Elephant Tino in 1989, and the closing of the Amusement Park and Zoo in 1997, do you find these two years particularly special?

A: I arrived Canada in April 1989, Tiananmen massacre happened two months later. In 1997, the world focused on The transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China. Not only to me, but to the majority of the people from Hong Kong and China, 1989 and 1997 are the two years tagged with an important turning point. I am very much interested in knowing how the young people born after 1990s look at these two years in retrospect.

Q: The size of the head of Tino in your work is close to the actual size of a live elephant. Why did you choose to make it that way?

A: Simply to actualize as much as possible my childhood memory of feeding Tino. In fact, feeding Tino is also part of the memory of most people in Hong Kong. Throughout the Exhibition, I saw some parents holding up their children to activate the mechanism, and then told their children about the story of Tino. I feel almost visualizing the resurrected Tino in real life standing up to play the role of drawing the children closer to their parents. I was deeply moved by these parental-children relationship revival moments.


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