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Wimbledon-Hong Kong collaboration on show at SPARK 2021 festival

Screen shot of a virtual exhibition room which appears to be a large dome with a circle of lighting hanging from the ceiling. In the foreground is a large free-standing photograph of some bunting with Chinese characters on. Other works are visible in the background.
  • Written bySarah McLean
  • Published date 11 November 2021
Screen shot of a virtual exhibition room which appears to be a large dome with a circle of lighting hanging from the ceiling. In the foreground is a large free-standing photograph of some bunting with Chinese characters on. Other works are visible in the background.
Sound Envelope HK- London.
| Photograph: City University of Hong Kong/University of the Arts London.

Launching this month, you can hear Sound Envelope HK, a virtual exhibition of work by artists from Wimbledon College of Arts and London College of Communication, made in collaboration with colleagues from the City University of Hong Kong.

The online exhibition and cultural exchange project is part of SPARK 2021 festival, supported by the British Council and will remain online in the coming months.

Led on Wimbledon’s side by Dr Tom Tlalim, artist and Senior Lecturer in Creative Research Skills, the exhibition follows a month of international workshops between London and Hong Kong.

The project invited students to take part in a sound-based artistic collaboration. Using field recordings and listening, the project aims to encourage dialogue and cultural exchange between places that are geographically remote but nevertheless share a long history.

We spoke to Tom about how the project developed, and found out more about how his research interests feed into his work with students on the Performance and Design Technologies courses at Wimbledon.

Screen shot of a virtual room. Large and quite empty, in the foreground you can see what appears to be a free-standing photograph of a waterfall. In the background is a simiar free-standing image which is too dark to make out.
The virtual exhibition for Sound Envelope HK-London.
| Photograph: City University of Hong Kong/University of the Arts London.

Please tell us more about the Sound Envelope exhibition – how did it come about? Who were the artists that participated with you?

Sound Envelope is an exhibition of sound artworks by artists from London and Hong Kong which were developed during a series of workshops co-led by Dr Ryo Ikeshiro (SoundLab, School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong) and me, with András Blazsek and Dr Dawn Scarfe.

The project invited artists, students and academics from the 2 cities for 3 workshops where they were invited to produce field recordings in their vicinity, and to share these as a ‘sonic gift’.

Each participant created a soundscape from the shared field recordings. The sound works were presented within a virtual exhibition space where they are mixed according to the visitor’s location.

The online exhibition was realised in collaboration with the Hong Kong-based company, MetaObjects. They work with artists such as Samson Young who represented Hong Kong at the Venice Biennale, and the newly opened M+ museum of 21st century visual culture in West Kowloon for which a new commission in collaboration with Ryo is currently on display. They specialise in 3D modelling, 3D printing, and creating virtual environments for artistic purposes.

The project was supported by the British Council’s Spark Festival 2021, which promotes connections across culture between HK and UK, with a special emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusion. This year’s festival focus was online collaboration.

The participants in Hong Kong are András Blazsek, Hannah Choi, Deng Wen Xue, Gui Ren, Ryo Ikeshiro, Longman Luk, Shek Hoi Yi, Lina Simon, Charlotte Hoi Ting Yeung and Veronica Yiu.

The participants in London are Mathias Arrignon, Christine Bramwell, Dereck De Abreu Coelho, Matt Parker, Dean Powell, Dawn Scarfe, Tom Tlalim, Travis Yu and Allen Zhang.

Screen shot of a virtual exhibition showing a large free-standing photograph of a streetlight illuminating a tree.
Sound Envelope HK-London
| Photograph: City University of Hong Kong/University of the Arts London.

Can you tell us about collaborating not just with artists in the UK but in Hong Kong at the same time? What form did this take? What is valuable for you about this international work?

I’ve met Ryo Ikeshiro in London during our PhD study and we have collaborated on several art projects since. After moving from London to Hong Kong during the pandemic, Ikeshiro invited me to join the project and this collaboration became a platform for connection between the 2 locations, art scenes and institutions.

The project came from a desire for connection across distance and for dialogue and collaboration through sound. We decided to work with field recording, which is a particularly inclusive and accessible medium that can also be crafted into elaborate forms.

The title was given by Ikeshiro, in reference to the Asian tradition of giving money in envelopes, to wish for well-being and good fortune. The project is built on the notion of giving sounds as a gift, as a framework for artistic collaboration and exchange.

The project harnessed the virtual format in order to bring together artists who might have never met or collaborated otherwise. It gave them an opportunity to listen synchronously, give and receive sonic gifts, compose and present sonic environments.

The act of listening to field recordings as a group across a distance and through different time zones became a fascinating aspect of the workshops. Without the visual and verbal primacy of the conference medium, we became attuned to changes in our own environment and that of others.

Screen shot of a virtual exhibition room with a large free-standing photograph in the foreground showing a market stall in Hong Kong at night.
Sound Envelope HK-London
| Photograph: City University of Hong Kong/University of the Arts London.

Can you tell us a bit more about your role at Wimbledon in creative research? What do you do at the College and how does it relate to your personal practice?

I’m a Senior Lecturer in Creative Research at the Performance Design and Technologies programme at Wimbledon College of Arts. I joined the programme in January 2021. It was also at the start of the lockdown period in the UK which resonated really well with Ryo’s move to Hong Kong. I lead the Creative Research team, teaching students studying for BA and MA degrees, guiding them through research, theoretical writing and dissertations.

We have been introducing an increasing emphasis on practice-based and practice-led research formats such as films and live presentations, as a way of bringing theory and critical studies closer to the practical disciplines that students are following.

This mode of teaching and learning has strong ties with my own artwork and research on interdisciplinary collaborations that have a strong conceptual or research dimension. These works included collaborations with Research Architecture, and Forensic Architecture investigations on the impacts of drone warfare.

I have developed a sound art exhibition in collaboration with participants who use Cochlear Implants at the Victoria and Albert museum, and I’ve collaborated on a series of dance pieces that explore performative violence in embodied, sonic and vocal utterances in the Middle East, which was part of my PhD study as well.

Screen shot of a virtual exhibition room showing several artworks in a large space.
Sound Envelope HK-London
| Photograph: City University of Hong Kong/University of the Arts London.

Does your work at Wimbledon bring you into contact with students or any specific courses? How?

I have been fortunate to have lots of contact with students and staff across the Performance Design and Technologies programme, which is a dynamic set of courses at Wimbledon College of Arts where I do most of my teaching.

There are many exciting new opportunities for development afforded by innovative approaches to studio enquiry, which we are in the process of developing. Creative Research is an emerging field which has been described by social science scholar Helen Kara as including: arts-based research; research using technology; and mixed-methods or transformative research frameworks.

We’ve recently been involved with some innovative discussions with Professor Rolf Hughes at KU Leuven to strengthen our understanding of this research potential. This approach is incredibly open for interrogation and fosters the disruption of existing forms between art and design, humanities, science and technology through the use of creative practice.

With the volumes of creative research work being done within the programme, and the dedicated support of my colleagues in Creative Research, the Programme Director for Performance Design and Technologies Dr Esther Armstrong, and the Dean of Performance Arts and Foundation Prof. Jayne Knowles, we hope to develop Wimbledon as a leading Centre for Creative Research.