Translating Emoji – Beijing Light Show

So if you don’t follow the work of The Creators Project, you simply must. I’ve been an avid consumer since it started…a collaboration between Intel and VICE celebrating the hybridity of art and technology by pushing the boundaries of expression. They seek to innovate, inspire and  foster creativity internationally through every creative realm from music to visual arts…architecture to web design…fashion to gaming…with unique and original vision, premiering cutting-edge works with cutting-edge artists, showing you the possibilities of what is and can be created. The Creator’s Project is most recently famous for its involvement with Daft Punk’s album “Random Access Memories’.

This week they posted a new work that was unveiled last month taking place in Beijing (China)…an appropriation of the Beijing National Aquatics Center int he Olympic Park, engulfing the facade of this iconic “Water Cube” as it’s known colloquially, that I saw in the flesh back in 2010. How has it been that long already? I must go back to Beijing soon. SOON! It is an all-encompassing technologically minded project that brings together Chinese texts and social media to make “divine” comments on the future of China…a subject that is actually quite difficult to tackle in China. The culmination of this project is a giant light show on the Water Cube’s exterior by artist Jennifer Wen Ma and lighting designer Zheng Jianwei’s – ‘Nature and Man in Rhapsody of Light at the Water Cube’. It uses a computer programme to translate the I Ching, Chinese classic texts, and the collective mood of the Chinese people, through the emoticons they use on the micro-blogging site Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter but with a much greater voice), into a real-time light display on the building’s blistered exterior. Using custom software millions of emoji (ideograms/smileys) are gone through and selected, in parallel with texts from the I Ching, which then inform the colour, tone, and movement of the light. Jianwei notes how, through the unpredictable interplay of light on the building’s membranous form, the whole structure becomes an embodiment of the I Ching’s philosophy of chaos and interconnectivity….and Ma states how the piece juxtaposes the old and the new and is also a representation of nature and man and a symbol of society.

It is an expression of the Chinese people into a visual light format, the aura as such of a Chinese sensibility and emotionality…an attempt at giving the Chinese people another public voice, and in this case one that cannot be censored…the full statements, words, messages, or implications of what is actually, truthfully, being said…they are in parallel being censored in another way. In my view it’s like trying to shout but instead of words coming out it’s just air…or trying to write but the pen doesn’t quite work. However, instead it gives you a more instinctive viewpoint that needs less translation as there are no words or characters to decode, just a colour that hits your eyes with instantaneous reactions. We are overwhelmed by words in today’s media-filled culture, at every single turn…and colour too…but the power of colour alone is something else, something that reaches into the core of your soul…as all UK-ers know at the moment with the sunshine rays that are bleeding down onto us. Read a full article here about the more technological aspects of the project.

It is a juxtaposition and combination of the old and new…a symphony of light re-washing the water cube, showing the character of nature and man’s society of any given day…the day that just happened…the day is a combination (a harmonious relationship) between the nature of the day and the people’s experience. We know the nature of the day thanks to the I Ching…the nature of the day is the foundation…there is an unpredictability to the work similar to the I Ching’s nature…that sense of chaos, grandiosity, interconnectivity, is dialectic in nature…the water cube is a cell, we are all cells, connected in this society.

Ink painting for the fire theme. Courtesy of Jennifer Wen Ma

Ink painting for the fire theme. Courtesy of Jennifer Wen Ma

The finished lighting design for the fire theme. Photo courtesy of Wang Xin

The finished lighting design for the fire theme. Photo courtesy of Wang Xin

Ink painting for earth theme. Courtesy of Jennifer Wen Ma

Ink painting for earth theme. Courtesy of Jennifer Wen Ma

Earth theme on the Water Cube. Photo courtesy of Wang Xin

Earth theme on the Water Cube. Photo courtesy of Wang Xin

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