Microwave Festival 2014

Motorised feathers, self-propelling charcoal, 3D sound waves – that’s just a sampling of some of the unique media on display currently at Hong Kong’s curiously named 2014 Microwave International New Media Festival.

The annual celebration of multimedia art form – the first and only of its kind in Hong Kong – will enjoy its longest run to date this year, holding 15 events over four weeks in venues across the city.

“It’s really exciting because we worked with Independent Curators International this year to involve curators from around the world,” said Mandy Wong, communications manager for the event. “We have 35 curators who have each hand-picked a ‘must-see in your lifetime’ piece, so it’s very diverse this year.”

What began as an offshoot of the local video art institution Videotage in 1996, the Microwave Festival quickly established itself as a bastion of new media creativity, artworks founded in cutting-edge technology.

“We were a bunch of artists here in Hong Kong, but we wanted to see video art from around the world,” explained festival founder Ellen Pau. “That’s actually where the festival name comes from, because video signals were transmitted by the media – satellites and microwaves. That was our platform to exchange art and ideas.”

And while some legislators may lament the recent occupation of its downtown core by a generation of Hong Kong’s younger inhabitants, this year’s theme is all about an open interaction with the city.

“It’s ‘Living Architecture,’ how we interact with buildings and architecture,” said Wong. “All of these vertical plans of structure, it’s really art. Like frozen music all around us.”

Pau described this year’s festival as “the art of material and structure from algorithms – we think about how digital technology changes how we build and how we live within that architecture.”

Events will include exhibitions, film screenings, artist symposiums, and a variety of workshops on topics like urban gardening. Featured guests include cult classic European architectural filmmakers Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine.

But although this will be Microwave’s largest event to date, it’s unclear if pro-democracy demonstrations will hamper attendance rates. Last year’s festival, a space-themed ‘‘Terra 0’’ exhibition that incorporated astronautic materials and simulated “scents of the moon,” had an average of 2,000 visitors a day, according to Pau.

When asked about the possibility of Microwave Festival losing numbers this year, Pau said she isn’t too worried. “There could be less people because of the protests, but then again there’s less traffic,” she laughed. “We have banners and posters…This year we’ve got ads in the MTR. If people know about it, they will come.”

Festivalgoer David Farmer said that’s exactly why he’s there. “I’m just here for the week on business, so I didn’t really know what to do. I saw a poster for it somewhere and I like this kind of art so I came out. It’s visually very impressive.”

“We really have developed that ‘arts festival’ feel since we first began, “ explained Pau with a smile. “Every year we try and get more flexible; we see more different people coming out.”

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