Five Must-Know Works By Sigg Prize Winner Samson Young
Samson Young, Muted Situations #22: Muted Tchaikovsky’s 5th 2018, HD video, eight-channel sound installation, and carpet 45 min. Courtesy of the artist. Installation view at M+ Pavilion, Hong Kong, 2019. Image: by Winnie Yeung @ iMAGE28. Image courtesy of M+, Hong Kong.
Samson Young, Big Big Company (Mini Golf), 2019. 3D-printed PLA, resin, plywood, artificial turf, single-channel video, 12 mins. Dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist.
Samson Young, Pastoral Music (But It Is Entirely Hollow), 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.
Samson Young, Nocturne, 2015, on-site radio broadcast, video, performance. Image courtesy of the artist.
Samson Young, Possible Music #1 (feat. NESS & Shane Aspegren), 2018, 11-channel sound installation with subwoofer and ten powder-coated speakers; two colour videos (with sound, 62 min., 20 sec.; silent, 40 sec.); 3-D-printed acrylic with soft pastel; 3-D-printed nylon with soft pastel and coloured pencil, four parts; 3-D-printed rose gold; 3-D-printed brass with soft pastel; watercolour and soft pastel on paper, two framed sheets; costume with wool thread; artificial flowers; lamé, polyester, and silk flag; feathers with dye; and felt-tip pen on drumhead, dimensions variable overall. Image courtesy of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Collection, 2018.
Announced by M+, Hong Kong’s museum of visual culture in the West Kowloon Cultural District, on 13 May, multidisciplinary artist Samson Young won the coveted inaugural Sigg Prize, taking home the cash prize of HK$500,000 (US$64,500).
TEXT: CoBo Editorial
IMAGES: Courtesy of various
The Sigg Prize, established by M+ in Hong Kong in 2018, was formerly the Chinese Contemporary Art Award (CCAA), founded by renowned art collector Uli Sigg in 1998. The biannual award recognises important artistic practices in the Greater China region. For the inaugural edition, the jury’s panel was comprised of art world heavy weight personalities such as Chinese artist Xu Bing and Tate Director Maria Balshaw.
The Hong Kong-based artist Young’s 12-channel sound-and-video installation Muted Situations #22: Muted Tchaikovsky’s 5th (2018) made quite the impression with the jury for the way he used sound as a tool to unearth social and political dynamics. Young who is trained as a composer and known for incorporating elements of experimental music, sound studies, and site-specific performance into his practice, is no stranger to creating such breakthrough and incisive art.
Young was previously the inaugural winner of the BMW Art Journey Award at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2015. He has exhibited internationally across various museums, institutions and biennials including the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018); the Venice Biennale representing Hong Kong (2017); Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan (2015); Para Site, Hong Kong (2016); and Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany (2016), among many others.
The award winning work which caught the attention of the Sigg Prize jury members is the latest iteration of an ongoing project, comprising a video and 12-channel sound installation previously commissioned by, and presented at, the 21st Biennale of Sydney. The artist invited the Flora Sinfonie Orchester in Cologne to perform Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony while suppressing the pitched foreground layer of the musical composition, and emphasising the everyday sounds produced by physical actions in a performance such as the musicians’ focused breath or the clicking noises of the instruments’ keys. According to Young, “the act of muting is an intensely focused re-imagination and re-construction of the auditory—an aggressive energy that is the opposite of the Zen-inspired non-action in (American experimental composer) John Cage’s conception of silence.”
Big Big Company (Mini Golf) (2019)
Located on the third floor of K11 MUSEA, the recently opened cultural-retail destination in Hong Kong, this specially commissioned installation is a playful and fun space featuring landscaped green garden, 3D-printed monumental statues, colourful bench seats and strange sculptures with 12-minute video artwork by the artist featuring equally quixotic imagery. The brightly coloured sculptures with gradient colouring include elements of the human body and Greek sculptures enmeshed with vegetables, imbuing a sense of organic yet odd greenery into the work. There is also a four-hole mini-golf course with purchasable golf-clubs and balls. When visitors step inside, gather or start playing a game of mini-golf, the work is automatically activated, creating an immersive and interactive experience, exploring the concept of “play” and how it exists in the blurred boundaries between being an adult and a child.
Pastoral Music (But It Is Entirely Hollow) (2014)
This early work, also described as part of an ongoing series, explores the notion of borders and Hong Kong identity. The site-specific sound performance focuses on the location of Gin Drinker’s Lane in the city—a British defensive system that ran across the New Territories, constructed between 1936 and 1938 to defend against enemy invasion, but fell under Japanese attack in December 1941. Young visited all of the site’s remaining relics while singing the Cantonese nursery rhyme Of Forests and Pastures and recording himself doing so. Surrounded by highly reverberant concrete structures, the artist’s voice takes on a haunting resonance. This eerie atmospheric sound feels out of place yet strangely befitting the surrounding everyday sounds of the present such as bird songs, passing airplanes, water dripping. The artist astutely created a nostalgic environment, juxtaposing past conflict with present daily grind and the unknown future.
Originally presented in a solo exhibition at Team Gallery in New York, this work involved the artist himself taking centre stage. Young wore military garb and sat before an array of sound-effects equipment and a small monitor showing found footage of bombings in various war zones which took place in the night. Using different props to recreate the everyday sound effects in film and other media, the artwork featured sounds of explosions and gunshots as they took visual form on the monitor before being broadcast through a localised FM transmitter. This sound installation seemed to crystallise the artist’s recurring explorations and extensive research of the historically entrenched relationship between violence and sound.
Possible Music #1 (feat. NESS & Shane Aspegren) (2018)
Commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum and created in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh’s Next Generation Sound Synthesis (NESS) project. Using algorithms to replicate sounds, Young created a diverse line-up of digital objects comprising physically impossible and otherworldly trumpets. These digital creations were presented in the form of a multi-layered sound installation incorporating 3D–printed sculptures, drawings, and animation.
Viewers expiring the hard-hitting nuance typical of Young’s work were not disappointed. The sounds were activated based on a strict schedule used for military bugle calls. On a nearby video, drumbeats were played by Hong Kong–based, American musician Shane Aspegren, clad in a marching band uniform, at an abandoned schoolyard located on a historic battle site involving natives of Hong Kong’s New Territories and British colonial forces. Young did not stop there. The work also includes a recording over the PA system of God’s Gonna Cut You Down by the 1950s gospel group Bill Landford and the Landfordaires, a song that warns of God’s wrath.