藝術家簡介: 黎仲民 | Artist Profile: Andio Lai
約翰百德 (John BATTEN)
at 3:32pm on 23rd February 2021
1.-4. 因歌而鳴，黎仲民、張靜瑜 : 現在音樂 聲音傳輸雙個展，句點，31.1.-21.2.2021。
''The birds sings, for it has a song'' joint exhibition with Andio Lai and Annisa Cheung,
organised by Contemporary Musiking Hong Kong, at Floating Projects,
31 January to 21 February 2021.
5. Andio Lai in his Fotan studio holding a toy converted into a theramin, November 2020.
All photos: John Batten
(Please scroll down for English version)
從澳洲回港後不久，黎仲民在理大的學習時期加入了一個結他樂隊，定期在城門河旁邊的公園一起演奏。在一位原聲結他前輩的免費課堂和鼓勵下，黎仲民愛上了原聲結他和Jack Johnson、John Mayer 和James Blunt 的音樂。他加入了樂隊三年，這種演奏音樂的能力後來帶起他對電子聲音的發展和興趣。
黎仲民於2012年9月開始在創意媒體學院讀書，那幾年令他認識了嚴肅的藝術、理論和思想，以及各種藝術創作方式，激勵他跨越傳統藝術的界限，認識了同樣想探索的同學。他參加的首個分組活動之一就是他所說的「噴霧罐」，活動目的是讓學生探索物件的功能。黎仲民和另外兩位同學開發了一件可以握在手中的簡單電子樂器，傾斜和移動時聲音會產生變化，按下按鈕則會加入其他聲音。這件簡單的物件至今仍深深吸引黎仲民，他後來的「噴霧罐」通常用透明的圓柱形阿加力膠製成，分為兩個活動部分， 有如萬花筒和一個按鈕。內部電子設備、電線和連接清楚可見，並經常會用LED燈裝飾，或需連接到他最喜歡的Teenage Engineering OP-1合成器、電腦或外部喇叭。他至今仍有在音樂表演中使用這些噴霧罐。
電影導演譚家明和電影歷史學家家明等老師在電影歷史、製作、導演和編劇方面都教授了對他影響力深遠的課堂，羅海德介紹了電影理論，而楊嘉輝則透過聲音進行實驗。課程探討了一系列的藝術： 達達主義、生物藝術和國際激浪派藝術家。激浪派向黎仲民證明了藝術可以使用傳統媒體發現和重用物件，藝術亦可以重新組合物體以產生光、聲音、影像或音樂。他的藝術疆界突然擴大，納入自己熱愛和著迷的玩具。 2013年，黎仲民加入了有其他五位藝術家的火炭工廈的工作室，至今仍為其中一員。隨著時間流逝，他的工作室夥伴予他支持，與他分享不同的藝術創作方式。
這點在他參與的「據點。句點」中最顯而易見。「據點。句點」由一群對電影、動畫、裝置、聲音、歷史和影像有興趣的藝術家組成，由創意媒體學院副教授黎肖嫻發起， 始於黃竹坑一工廈，現已遷至石硤尾賽馬會創意藝術中心的工作室。他們的首批展覽之一是由黎仲民共同策展極富創造力的「玩具之間」群展（2016年），探討玩具、玩耍和遊戲。有別於他平常的作品， 他安裝了一個由梳化、電視和電子遊戲機組成的裝置，讓觀眾玩任天堂的《超級瑪利歐兄弟》遊戲。裝置位於入口附近，仿如小朋友在玩電子遊戲，而父母則煩人地在屏幕前走動的情景，重現了香港狹小單位的常態。
黎仲民堅信觀眾可以令藝術作品變得完整。在正式展覽中，他經常需要用家積極與他的玩具進行互動， 用家可以操控玩具以產生聲音。他並不介意作品受損，反而認為讓他有機會修理、調整和改裝，因此他在構建的過程採用了粗糙的美感， 他的藝術重點並不在於外觀，而是其可玩性和樂趣。
「聲音下寨 #24 身聲控動」（2015年）是黎仲民其中一個早期的公開表演，由香港音樂團體「現在音樂」舉辦。他站在一張桌子後，擺放著已重組成樂器的玩具，再配上震盪器、喇叭、電腦和OP-1合成器。黎仲民的表演純粹是實驗性的聲音，但體驗還引伸至其他層面上。他使用的玩具看起來美輪美奐，表演富有經驗且與遊戲相關。事實上，他在演奏音樂時就曾提及過，他「喜歡玩，但不太喜歡所產生的聲音」。
Artist Profile: Andio Lai
by John BATTEN
Andio Lai’s path as an artist has refreshingly, in a world where easy is too often easily expected, been indirect. Each personal misstep and doubt forced a self-assessment and direction to where he is now. And ‘now’ is not necessarily as a visual artist. It is a label that sits uncomfortably for him, but if ‘artist’ is associated with musicians, cartoonists, gamers, players, and those that draw creative stories, then that is a little closer to being an accurate description of Andio Lai.
After finishing secondary school, Lai – as was expected by the traditional school he attended – began studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, on track for a career in business. Lai settled into university alongside close school friends from Hong Kong during his first-year foundation course, but the following year, the first-year economics degree courses were much less satisfying than reading the campus library’s selection of sci-fi books! Unhappy with these studies and realising he was not cut-out to be a businessman and mildly homesick, he returned to Hong Kong in late 2009.
Lai grew-up in a small Sham Shui Po flat in a supportive family, with two sisters who also shared his passion for stories, play acting and watching Japanese cartoons on after-school TVB. His father worked in the office of a toy company and often brought home samples for his children to play with: these toys were happily incorporated into fantasy, play and make-believe games, an influence in Lai’s current artwork with its playroom aesthetic. He first became interested in gaming and electronics through model racing cars, with his first racing-track bought by his father, who also modified a 4 wheel-drive model car – modifications of toys are central in Lai’s current artwork. In his primary school years, Lai played with LEGO and started modelling with wood: constructing objects became an early interest. As a teenager, he started learning guitar by watching YouTube lessons and joining online guitar forums. In Australia, it was the guitar that had been one of his “escapes” from uninteresting academic studies.
In November 2009 and back in Hong Kong, Lai’s hobbies, which were mildly associated with art and music, offered a direction in his personal and academic restart. Initially treading time, his quiet personality led him to the safe, studious environment of Hong Kong public libraries: there he self-studied photography, drew cartoons and joined online forums related to his interests. Concerned, still, with future job opportunities, Lai started (April 2010) an Open University short course in cartoon-drawing; learning practical drawing skills, aesthetics, the business of cartooning, lay-out and the storytelling of Japanese manga-style cartoons. This enjoyable course expanded his aspirations: to his surprise, he realised that Hong Kong cartoonists were capable of drawing just as well as cartoonists in Japan.
Putting together a portfolio, Lai also applied and was accepted (September 2010) into a two-year associate degree in design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He was introduced to industrial design, laser design and further improved his understanding of photography, comics, and art. Although the design course was generally unsatisfactory because he felt that “good designers don’t necessarily make good teachers”, a few teachers gave their students considerable encouragement “to be themselves” and for Lai’s unconventional non-formal design and non-mainstream approach to art, this sentiment allowed an open and personal approach to creativity. Graduating from this associate degree was a stepping-stone to formal art-related studies.
Not really understanding the requirements for entering a fine art course, Lai prepared a portfolio heavily weighted towards comics and cartoon-drawing (not the usual expected figure studies). He applied to all of Hong Kong’s undergraduate fine arts courses, but his sole offer was from the School of Creative Media (SCM) of City University of Hong Kong. SCM had an eclectic range of teachers – themselves filmmakers, fabricators, animators, and sound artists - who saw the quirky, nerdy, potential creativity in Lai’s drawn cartoon stories.
Soon after returning from Australia and parallel with his PolyU studies, Lai joined a guitar-playing group that regularly played together in the park next to the Shatin River. Led by an older devotee of the acoustic guitar who gave free lessons and encouragement, Lai developed a love for the acoustic guitar and the music of Jack Johnson, John Mayall and James Blunt. He was a member for three years and this ability to play music was to be carried into his later interest and development of eclectic electronic sounds.
Lai began studying at SCM in September 2012. These student years introduced him to serious art, theory and ideas, and various approaches to artmaking. Importantly, he was encouraged to cross traditional art boundaries, and met fellow students who similarly wanted to explore. In one of the first student group tasks in which he participated, the project resulted in what he refers to as a “spray can.” The project’s aim was for students to explore the functionality of an object. Lai and two other students developed a simple electronic musical instrument that could be held in the hand and whose sound would alter when tilted and moved, a button (hence the ‘spray can’ moniker) added another sound dimension when pressed. This simple object has retained its fascination for Lai and his later ‘spray cans’ are often constructed in see-through cylindrical acrylic that has two moving parts (like a kaleidoscope) and a button. The inner-electronics, wires and connections can be seen and are often embellished with LED lighting - variations might require connection to his favoured Teenage Engineering OP-1 synthesizer, a computer or external speaker. These spray cans still feature in his musical performances today.
Such teachers as film director Patrick Tam and film historian Ka Ming gave influential classes in film history, film production, film direction, and screenwriting. Hector Rodriguez introduced film theory, and Samson Young experimentations with sound. A range of art was discussed: Dada, bio-art and, importantly, the international Fluxus group of artists. It was Fluxus that demonstrated to Lai that art could use traditional art media, and found and re-purposed objects. Art could then be something else: reassembled objects to produce light, sound, video, or music. The boundaries of his own art suddenly expanded to incorporate his own objects of obsession and fascination, particularly toys. In 2013, Lai joined a Fotan industrial building studio with five other artists, in which he has remained a member. His studio-mates, rotating over time, give significant support and share their different approaches to artmaking.
After completing a BA(Hons) in Creative Media at the SCM, Lai wished to continue the momentum of further art-focused studies and applied for a MA in Fine Arts at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, graduating in 2017. These layers of academic studies have nicely underpinned his practical work as a performer, musical instrument maker and, currently, a teacher in a secondary school. His interests in play, audience participation, toys and sound have led to his self-described focus on “media archaeology, studying tools development and the relative history of interfaces, (which) focuses on the subject matter of experimental instruments, playing and human-machine relations.” This is best seen in his participation as a member of Floating Projects, a collective of artists interested in film, animation, installation, sound, history, and video.
Initiated by SCM teacher Linda Lai, Floating Projects began in an industrial unit in Wong Chuk Hang and now operates in a JCCAC studio in Shek Kip Mei. I first encountered many of the former SCM students, now artists, involved in Floating Projects at one of their first exhibitions, the wonderfully inventive Toy as Medium (2016) group exhibition that explored toys, playing and gaming, co-curated by Andio Lai. In a departure from his usual work, Lai set-up an installation of a sofa, TV and video game consoles; it was a space for visitors to play Nintendo’s ‘Super Mario Bros’ video game. It was intentionally located near the front door - as people constantly used the entrance. Lai had replicated the common situation of a small Hong Kong flat with children playing video games, while their parents annoyingly walked past and in front of the TV!
Lai’s usual artwork features reconstituted toys as musical instruments. Self-made, they are quirky, colourful and easy to play. For example, using the contours of a toy dinosaur, Lai rewires it with antennae to make a theremin, an early electronic instrument whose sound is controlled by the antennae sensing the relative position of hand movements to oscillators who produce different frequencies and volume broadcast over a speaker, these sounds can be further enhanced through a computer or synthesizer. Lai strongly believes that having an audience makes an artwork complete. In formal exhibitions, he often requires the active involvement of users with his toy objects: they can intentionally handle and play with them to produce sound. He does not fuss if a work is damaged – indeed, it then gives him the opportunity to repair, adjust and modify a toy! Consequently, he has adopted a ‘rough’ aesthetic with his constructions: it is not the look of his art, but its attraction to be playable, to be ‘fun.’
One of Lai’s early public performances was at Sonic Anchor #24 Interfacing Dynamics (2015) organised by Hong Kong sound group Contemporary Musicking. Lai stood behind a table fully set-out with his repurposed toys as musical instruments, variously rigged-up to oscillators, speakers, a computer, and an OP-1 synthesizer. Lai’s performance is pure experimental sound, but the experience has other dimensions: it is visually beautiful with the bright array of toys that he uses, and it is experiential, it is about play (the noun) and playing (the verb). He says that when giving a musical performance, he “enjoys the playing, not so much the resulting sound….”
It is refreshing that Lai’s approach to art is generally care-free and audience centred. His art brings a playful happiness to viewers and exhibition participants and fulfils a ‘space’ I search in any art scene: humour and enjoyment is as necessary as seriousness and gravity. There is a lovely lightness in his work; his experience as a performer can be genuinely replicated by his audience, who can play with the same repurposed toys in an exhibition, to produce similar sound effects, and enjoy the same pleasure of playing as the artist who made them.
This article was originally published in Artomity magazine, January 2021.