Wouldn’t it be great if a problem can be solved by just taking one pill?
E.A.T. here carries two meanings – “eat”, as a verb, means consuming food; the three letters “E.A.T.” stands for a look back at history. “Experiments in Art and Technology”, a nonprofit organisation founded by a group of artists and engineers in 1960, is dedicated to exploring the possibilities between technology, media, and arts. The most talked-about “9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering” is a wildly ground-breaking experimental theatre project. Known as the pioneer of media installation art, its innovative and exploratory spirit has inspired so many creatives. And it comes to the festival theme this year – E.A.T., what do we put in our mouth? Fine foods, provision, medication, poison, or our environment and our future? The experimental spirit will shine through and develop in the exhibits and curation of this festival.
Too many to start with — where does the human crisis come from? The world’s population has reached 7.7 billion by 2019. The overpopulation has led to countless problems on multiple fronts, including air pollution, food overconsumption, global warming, resources exhaustion, lack of clean water sources. Let us try to tell the story of our home and see how you feel. Do you really think that the freedoms in our lives can be taken for granted, like breathing fresh air or opening tap for clean water? “Smog Tasting, Take Out” tells otherwise. The Center for Genomic Gastronomy draws participants with good food. The team uses egg foams to explore the different extents of air pollution in the city and provides a simple Smog Tasting kit to create meringues, “the exhibiting work” will be a fresh Hong Kong edition. Having breathed in the such “air” every day, why should we be worried to eat and swallow them? And we always think of restaurant/dining table when it comes to dining, what then are the other possibilities of a restaurant?
Here we have three “restaurants”. Firstly, “the Cantine Orchestra workshop” is an experimental, collective creative café led by “head chef” Tapetronic. Everything in the laboratory can be a tool or an instrument. The restaurant/bar embraces the experimental spirit of spontaneity where everyone can enjoy and participate in unleashing their senses. “To Flavour Our Tears (TFOT)”, another installation by The Center for Genomic Gastronomy, adapts the model of an experimental restaurant to put humans back into the food chain counterintuitively. We can depart from here and ask several questions — what do small bugs exactly taste like? What does your dead body taste like to bugs that eat you up? Can humans change their habits to make themselves tastier? Moths that drink human tears, microbes that eat dead humans’ skin, fish that eats feet skin can all be possible.
Sometimes you can’t just look at your own plate, you have to look at others’ too. When eating is a habit as well as a culture, the food consumption, environment, social responsibilities should be looked at besides exploring the roles of species in food. Times have changed and so have humans’ choices of food. Manchu Han Imperial Feast of the Qing Dynasty, for instance, serves at least 108 dishes that merge the Manchu and Han Chinese culture. “New Ultimate Imperial Feast”, a collaboration of Taiwanese artist Kuang-Yi Ku and Hong Kong designer Adelaide Lala Tam, is a series of new media dining experience that incorporates biotechnology with traditional agriculture technology to explore the future possibilities of food ecology. Viewers can experience the work while learning a series of ethical dilemmas that urgently needs our attention including environment pollution, animal cruelty, large-scale ecocide.
Along the path to the future built by the works, we can easily discover the fact that humans are perhaps not the centre of the world. Many exhibits and projects of the previous festivals have touched upon artificial intelligence. Another artists collaboration “S.A.M. The Symobiotic Autonomous Machine” by Arvid&Marie brings up a lot of important questions. As the world heads towards an era of technology, a home, a restaurant, an enterprise gradually include more and more machines in their operation. We should learn to coexist, instead of control. Cyborg that has widely been discussed in many years ago, the future world in movies are just an arm’s away. “S.A.M.” precisely displays the possibilities of coexistence with AI robotics in society. Let me conclude with a more sentimental piece by Artist Tomoko Hayashi “Tear Mirror”. “Tear Mirror”, a “story” project Tomoko discovered in her earlier years, captures precious memories of tears-turned-jewelleries. The mystery of tears lies in its existence between science and sentiments. Tears are therapeutic to the body and the mind. The work does not only demonstrate the stories and jewelleries of tears of the artists collected overseas, three Hong Kongers are also invited to compose their stories with tears. The tears in the story leave a red line that connects the satellite exhibition at Openground – Project Room. “Your Exile & My Rove” by Ipa Chiu uses Transmedia technique to narrate the exile of her grandmother and the wandering of herself. Two award-winning short films by Huang Pang-Chuan “Return” and “Last Year When the Train Passed By” are also screened to make possible an unspoken dialogue between the three works. The other side of E.A.T. is fully illustrated through taste, thoughts, and home.
The Chinese title of E.A.T. (煙．起．天) means the lighting of beacons on different fronts to warn against escalating tensions. Humans always use every possible way to alert their peers in circumstances of tension, not only to seek help, but also to inform nature. The message of the earth is now circulated and spread on social media almost instantly. It is everyone’s business, no one can keep themselves out. E.A.T. aims to light the first match and inspire viewers to behold our future under the lens of our bold, curious predecessors. One can only do so much, but more than one can create infinite possibilities. Let’s conclude with the myth of the Tower of Babel – the reason why humans speaking different languages in the world. If we want to build a tower tall enough to reach the sky, we must have a common language to consolidate communication and avert separation.
E.A.T. 可一字雙意，eat字面解作食，分開三個字母就化作一段回顧的歷史之路。「E.A.T.」全稱「Experiments in Art and Technology」，是在1960年成立，由一群藝術家與工程師所創立的非牟利組織，旨在探索遊走在科技、媒體與藝術之間的可能性。其中最令人津津樂道的就是《9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering》，裡面盡是前瞻狂野的實驗劇場，攜帶著探險探新的精神，至今仍影響著許多創作人，視之為媒體裝置藝術的始祖。那麼來到今年的主題E.A.T.，讓我們談談放進嘴巴裡的東西可以是什麼？是美饌是果腹乾糧是醫藥是毒還是我們的環境與未來？這些源自老祖宗的實驗精神將會在這次藝術節的參展作品與計劃中延續延伸。
E.A.T 又名煙‧起‧天，喻意烽煙四起，是局勢緊張的警號。當環境節報緊張，人類便會用盡不同方法去通報同仁，這不單純是求救，也是讓天地上下知情的方法。天若有情，地上環境的訊息現以社交媒體以高速散播，沒有人可以置身事外，無分你我。煙‧起‧天為主題點起火源，願觀眾以前人的冒險探究精神看待當下展觀未來，一雙手可以做的事有限，但攜手可造的就是無限。讓我們以巴別塔的故事作結；一個關於人類產生不同語言的起源，如願觸天，以此寄喻 — 如果要建造通天的城塔，我們需要有共同的語言，絕不能打亂天下人的溝通，絕不可分散。