RETAINERS OF ANARCHY
Algorithmic animation sequence, 5-channel video projection, 6-channel audio
Vancouver Art Gallery
Project Lead / Creator: Howie Tsui
Image/Sound Programming and Sound/Music: Remy Siu
Animation: Sitji Chou, Roxanne Zagar, Kodai Yanagawa, Kerel Alaas, Amelia Earhart
Retainers of Anarchy is a solo exhibition featuring new work from Howie Tsui that considers wuxia as a narrative tool for dissidence and resistance. Wuxia, a traditional form of martial arts literature that expanded into 20th century popular film and television, was created out of narratives and characters often from lower social classes that uphold chivalric ideals against oppressive forces during unstable times. The people’s republic of china placed wuxia under heavy censorship for fear of arousing anti-government sentiment. However practitioners advanced the form in Hong Kong making it one of the most popular genres of Chinese fiction. The title work, Retainers of Anarchy, is a 28-metre scroll-like video installation that references life during the song dynasty (960–1279 CE), but undermines its idealized portraiture of social cohesion by setting the narrative in Kowloon’s notorious walled city—an ungoverned tenement of disenfranchised refugees in Hong Kong which was demolished in 1994.
Everything seen was originally drawn by Howie Tsui (the project lead and creator) and eventually animated. The animations were delivered to me, and together with Howie, we assembled paths for the figures and positioned virtual cameras. The final result is a work that does not "loop," but contains a "living camera" that is constantly choosing what to look at. I also built a custom sound spatialization solution that allows sound to emanate from their source along a 28-meter wall. As figures travel across space, and as the camera pans, the sound travels with them.
The whole work runs in real time, at 50 frames-per-second, creating a sense of presence and constant unfolding.