Part I : Art & Science Crossover

Datarium

2022-ongoing

Datarium is a series of generative animation/video installations. In this series, I imagine a digital world (digital world #05A35) inhabited by digital creatures. Many portals, some of them appear to be screens and some of them look like everyday objects, bridge the gap between our reality and the digital domain. Each portal offers a unique glimpse into specific areas of the digital world, revealing diverse ecosystems teeming with digital life forms.Datarium is the result of a series of extensive studies on diverse natural ecosystems, especially aquatic ones. It is a re-interpretation and re-imagination of the world we occupy, an exploration of alternative forms of organisms, and a question of the essence of life.

More information about the series can be found on the project’s website: https://johncheung.art/datarium.

Datarium04A53

2023, installation, 140cm(W) x 140cm(L) x 300cm(H)

Datarium04A63 is a portal connected to the digital world #05A35. It appears to be underwater. Multiple digital creatures of various species and families have been recorded from this portal, including several species of Plasmodata as well as entities of Platystomata and Ommatoporifera. It (or the creatures inside) seems to be sensible to the people surrounding it.

More information about this work including more images and video can be found on this page:

https://real-john-cheung.github.io/Datarium/04A63.html 

Installation view of Datarium04A53 at RCA2023

Installation view of Datarium04A53 at RCA2023

Installation view of Datarium04A53 at RCA2023

Installation view of Datarium04A53 at RCA2023

Datarium055BB

2023, installation, 50cm(W) x 50cm(L) x 300cm(H)

Datarium055BB is a portal connected to the digital world #05A35. It appears as a small shallow goldfish tank filled with crude oil-like liquid. It points to an area mainly occupied by Platystomata and thin variations of Plasmodata.

More information about this work including more images and video can be found on this page:

https://real-john-cheung.github.io/Datarium/055BB.html 

Installation view of Datarium055BB at RCA2023

Installation view of Datarium055BB at RCA2023

Installation view of Datarium055BB at RCA2023

Installation view of Datarium055BB at RCA2023

Plasmodata

2023, generative animation, size various

Plasmodata is one of the (families of) creatures presented in Datarium.

Plasmodata is based on the study of slime mould. For most of their lifetime, slime mould are free-living single-celled individual entities. However, to reproduce, they will gather and form a plasmodium. Through evolution, those simple cells developed a very sophisticated system of communication using acrasins which is highly similar to the nervous system of animals. In a sense, the slime mould cells form a coordinated “brain” which appears in highly intricate structures. Inspired by recent studies of how slime mould transmit information, I digitally simulated their behaviors. These simple virtual lives collaboratively generate convoluted and aesthetically pleasing visuals.

Installation view of Plasmodata in WAAITT2023. Video of it can be found on https://youtu.be/q6Itnf7qp30.

Screenshot of Plasmodata

Platystomata

2022-2023, generative animation, size various

Platystomata is the first creature created for Datarium.

When creating Platystomata, I took inspiration from various aquatic organisms, including jellyfish, coral, and spirogyra. The aquatic organisms themselves already look quite alien to us humans. They live in a very different environment from us and thus have evolved radically different strategies to survive. To make Platystomata more exotic, I exaggerated the movement of its inner structure. The design of those shrinking and stretching strings came indirectly from the DNA double helix.

Screenshot of Platystomata, video of it can be found on https://youtu.be/Vys_OjQsGNQ 

Image of Platystomata Poisoned (public installation, 2023) on Southmere Lake. Video of it can be found on https://youtu.be/R8evSSkKS3A 

Ommatoporifera

2022-2023, generative animation, size various

Ommatoporifera originated from a (cheesy and classic) nightmare, in which I was stared at by thousands of bleeding eyes. The multi-cell structure of it takes the reference of sponges. For a period in the history of taxonomy, people were confused about whether a sponge is a group of cells gathered together in symbiosis or an organism with differentiated tissues. The ambiguity of its identity being an individual or a community invoked a lot of thinking of mine. To give Ommatoporifere a unique characteristic that natural lives can't possess, I coded an algorithm to allow the cells to merge into one. It creates confusion about the direction of time and questions our presumptions about reproduction. Ommatoporifera is also presented in Datarium.

Screenshot of Ommatoporifera, visit the generative work in live on https://real-john-cheung.github.io/works/Ommatoporifera/ 

Screenshot of Ommatoporifera Intoxicated, video of it can be found on https://youtu.be/fcVOur_vPIk 

DiVision

2021, projection installation, size various

In the installation, a customized projection system with prisms, beam splitters, and mirrors is used to create colorful and multi-layer immersive visuals from a digital projector projecting single-channel black and white images. Thanks to the optic characteristics of different materials in the system, the light beams coming out from the digital projector are divided and altered before hitting the walls of the space. After setting up the system with precise calculations, I composed the black-and-white computer-generated graphics with the concept of subdivision.

Installation View of DiVision, video of it can be found on https://youtu.be/rF4yphcrZmM 

Part II : Software Art & Net Art

流水落花 Floating Petals

2023, electronic literature, size various

A computer program continuously transcribed part of the poem by Polish poet Wisława Szymborska, Children of the Age, onto a webpage. After countless repetitions, the machine became tired, and typos and mistakes gradually appeared in the written content. In the end, it seemed to lose its mind totally and began to write nonsense. In the process, the word “political” emerges from the repeated letters, showing the quantitative characteristic of the text, then gradually gets buried under the random tokens.

Screenshot of 流水落花Floating Petals, visit this work in live on https://real-john-cheung.github.io/works/floating-petals

Leung Man Tao: “Naai Gong” or “Gang Du”

2021, software, size various

Related to what happened to the famous writer Leung Man Tao (梁文道) during the  social movement in Hong Kong in 2019, this work is a metaphor for the more and more divided society. With algorithms on social media and the instigation from some individuals and groups, the space for neutral opinions is lost. You are either part of us or the enemy.

Please follow this link if you want to read more about this piece: https://johncheung.art/works-leungmantao/ 

Screenshot of Leung Man Tao: “Naai Gong” or “Gang Du”, Visit this work in live on https://real-john-cheung.github.io/LeungManTao-NaaiGong-or-GangDu/ 

Internet Graveyard

2021, software, size various

A little bot, creating graves to memorize those websites that no longer exist and announce their death on Twitter. It works days and nights, but making a grave takes 12 hours, so it can only make two graves a day. At the same time, there are 250 million sites that are already dead, and this number goes up every minute. The job is never gonna be finished, but the poor little bot still digging, making a grave for every dead site, no matter how small it was, where it was registered in and what language it used.

Use this link to visit the graveyard: https://real-john-cheung.github.io/Internet-Graveyard 

Use this link to know more about the graveyard: https://johncheung.art/works-internet-graveyard/ 

Screenshot of the graveyard

E-Shredder

2021, software, size various

E-Shredder is a piece of code, which shows you copies of the most recently sold NFTs, and gradually “destroys” them.

More interestingly, it is an NFT too, so if you buy it, you can witness it destroying itself. You can read more about it following this link: https://johncheung.art/works-e-shredder/. There are also images and videos of the work on that page.

Screenshot of the E-Shredder in action

Screenshot of E-Shredder

Bio

I obtained a Bachelor of Art and Science (New Media) degree from School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong in 2022 and a MA Contemporary Art Practice degree from the Royal College of Art, London in 2023. I have shown my works in several museums, galleries and festivals in Hong Kong and the UK, including Tai Kwun (HK) and Tate Modern (London). For more details please see my full CV through this link: https://johncheung.art/download/CV.pdf 

Artist Statement

As an interdisciplinary artist, I seamlessly merge art, science, and technology in my creative practice. I examine media as the boundary/bridge between here and there, self and other, the tangible and the virtual, reality and imagination. With a primary focus on digital media, my works traverse multiple forms, including text, sound, video, net art, software art, generative art, and installation. My works concern mainly two areas of themes: the social, cultural and political impact of media technology and the crossover between art and science.

Drawing inspiration from the concept of the Digital Twin, I created a new framework called "Digital Parallel." Unlike a mere representation or simulation, Digital Parallel reforms, re-imagines, and re-interprets the original physical object or system. It is like a strand within parallel universes, originating from the same foundation as the physical counterpart but manifesting in vastly divergent forms, each conveying a unique narrative.

Under this framework, my recent works investigate the possibility of digital life and ecosystems. Based on extensive studies of various natural ecosystems, particularly aquatic ones, I develop algorithms that generate a digital "world" inhabited by digital "creatures" moving around and interacting with each other.

When we gradually extend our flesh to electronic gadgets, the impulse of neuron cells is no longer the only place spirits might reside. The integration of the digital world and the physical world has begun. It is a wild future that we might need to prepare for.

Website

https://johncheung.art