Hong Kong appears to us as a green island. The city exists as a niche between the evergreen of the hills and the ever-grey of the water. We look out into the green around us: is this real wilderness or just wallpaper decorating the countless architectural sins of this city?
The idea of wilderness is exciting to us. But there is no space for wilderness in our highly styled and controlled life. The ground we walk on is reclaimed land taken from the sea. The mountain slopes are cast in concrete. The hiking trails are secured and well maintained. The playgrounds use green rubber flooring as a substitute for grass. What is natural in this nature? Indeed, where is nature?
We find nature in Hong Kong Park. A park is nature perfected. But the nature in the park is a construct. Everything – from the trees, shrubbery and flowers to the turtles – is placed carefully to create a surrogate of wild nature. This park has been created to give us a place of saved wilderness.
I question this construct with my work ‘Simulacra Naturans'. In three locations along the artificial lake of Hong Kong Park, I place 3D scans of the very same locations. These artworks are simulacra. They imitate nature. They are copies of an artificial image space we have constructed as a consequence of our longing for a totally controlled form of nature in an idyllic park.
Within the designed and therefore unnatural world of the park, my works of art are foreign bodies. They offer moments of disorder. They represent wilderness. They call on the viewer to visualise how the boundaries between wilderness and park, between reality and illusion are not heavy as a turtle, but light as a butterfly. As Hong Kongers, we should not forget this.
Tobias Klein, Dip. Arch (Dist.), M. Arch (UCL), was born in Bonn, Germany. He studied architecture in Germany and Austria before completing his master's degree at the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL in London. He is currently an assistant professor at the School of Creative Media of City University of Hong Kong.
Experimenting with media in the most diverse way possible, Klein generates a syncretism of contemporary computer-aided design (CAD) techniques and CAD/ computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technologies with site and culture-specific design narratives, intuitive non-linear design processes, and historical architectural references. Klein's works have been exhibited around the world, including at the V&A, the Bellevue Arts Museum, the London Science Museum, the Museum of Moscow, Venice Biennale of Architecture, ModeMuseum in Antwerp, AIL in Vienna and Industry Gallery in Los Angeles.
Taken at face value, computer-aided architectural design (CAAD) merely performs within the domain of what is best described by the German term technik (combing technology, technics and technique). The truth is that CAAD overcomes the dichotomy between techne (craftsmanship) and poiesis (art). Although digitally driven, the work in my research and also within my artistic expression, in architecture, in art and in interactive design does not succumb to the pervasive allurement of ‘parametric digital modernism' – the unspecified whitewash (actually grey) of 3D surfaces, the universal Sachlichkeit (objectivity) of algorithmic design techniques and the mechanistic vision of input-output interactivity.
Date: 4.10 — 27.11.2017
a vision of wilderness in an unnatural park