Chuan Khoo introduced his speech with a short biography of himself. He devided his speech and also his work in three parts: „Happiness“ (yes in quotes), Control and Hope.
Happiness and Control can be strongly related to Singapore nowadays. Singapore was ranked in the happiness index on place 1 for the unhappiest country in the world. And when walking around Singapore Control is no question anymore… „People follow a path which is programmed.“ Chuan Khoo said.
The first project he showed at the seminar was his own „Happiness Index“ (2006) and is a „critique on modern society’s manic obsession with quantitative analysis“(1). In this projet Khoo ran an algorythm over RSS feeds of news headlines and gave values to each word. Values from -100 to 0 means unhappy, and values above 0 til 100 means happy. With ranking all the words he created a database of words and could compare in the end days among each other.
The Happiness Index, Artist: Chuan Khoo, Source: http://chuank.com/art-digitalmedia/happiness-index/
„Cathartic Machine For Personal Events“ was his second project of the category „Happiness“. Actually it was just a LED clock but which did not count the time, then rather counted time backwards. He entered a death date, and the clock counts down the years, days, hours and so on, so that every time he looks on the clock, he can see how much time is left for him. The machine can be also set to any event you can think of and is important for yourself.
Cathartic Machine for Personal Events, Artist: Chuan Khoo, Source: http://chuank.com/art-electronicsculpture/cathartic-machine-for-personal-events/
The next projects he presented were from the category Control. A project which is easy but on the same time astonishing is „Folded meanings“ (2008). Everywhere you go in Singapore there are forbidden signs. Khoo printed the forbidden signs on paper and lay on top a grid for his folding.
His aim was to vanish the slash in the forbidden sign through folding and somehow give the folded sign a new meaning. He then labeled the new folded meanings and pinned them on a wall as a critique on the society’s sometimes rule-based approach.
An even more obvious project related to Control is „Mother, Lala and me“(2008) which was an art installation with two robots in a room. Lala as an inquisitvie robot locates people in the room, makes a photo of them and sends them to mother to explain them to her. Mother looks like a big black box and has access to the whole human knowledge represented of Wikipedia. Mother then answers Lala with any information out of Wikipedia.
Mother has two cables which represents arms to stop Lala from going out of the room. Even tough Lala managed to escape one time…
For me the project represents the mother figure, which is wisdom for every child. On the other side, she has control over her child and can educate them in the way, she wants to. The child is therefore dependent from the mother.
Mother, Lala and me, Artist: Chuan Khoo, Source: http://chuank.com/art-electronicsculpture/mother-lala–me/
The last part of the presentation was dedicated to the word Hope. This was the most impressive part of his presentation because the work he showed was so poetic and also sad, when thinking about the meaning behind.
He showed us his work „All we wish is to see the stars“ (2007). It consists of five little robots which run on battery power and a starfield (a few LED lights) above them. The miniature machines sing to the stars to light up. For this to happen the robots have to sing in union, which just happens in random. Sometimes in a few minutes, sometimes it needs a whole day.
The stars then descend and the robots have a brief moment of joy, until the cycle starts again…
All we wish is to see the stars, Artist: Chuan Khoo, Source: http://chuank.com/art-electronicsculpture/all-we-wish-is-to-see-the-stars/
The last projects showed that people see robots as humans and interpret their behaviour as human behaviour. It’s like Lala is the child of mother and also people suffer with the small robots in „All we wish is to see the stars“ for the stars to light up… even though the robots didn’t look like humans at all..
Chuan Khoo summarized his presentation in encouraging the students to question everything and awaken themselves in the world. Thank you for a great presentation! For more information about Chuan Khoo visit his website!