Tuning up the Sounds of Zhang Peili|調校張培力的聲音

Installation view of Zhang Peili: Broadcast at the Same Time (1999.12.31 night), 2024. © Zhang Peili. Photo: Annabel Preston 張培力《同時播報1999年12月31日夜》展覽現場,2024 年,© 張培力。攝影:Annabel Preston

Can you recall the sounds of the last day of the 20th century? That was a time before YouTube and iPhone, when betacam was the main way to record video and cathode-ray tube (CRT) televisions easily found at homes. For Kate Gu, Associate Curator of Digital Special Projects, and Sindy Mak, Associate Conservator of Digital and Media Art, they hope to inspire the audience to consider these topics with the installation of Broadcast at the Same Time (1999.12.31 night) (2000) by Zhang Peili, who is one of the most influential Chinese video artists of our times. 

The installation is made up of a ring of CRT televisions loop-playing news footage from around the world on the last day before the arrival of the millennium. Walking into the circle, you immediately get a peculiar impression that the televisions are talking to and drowning out one another simultaneously. Audiences of all ages can form distinctive connections with the installation based on their personal experiences. Kate believes Zhang actually foresaw the problem of over-saturation of information, critiquing this phenomenon through archiving a collection of videotapes across the globe. 



Kate Gu, Associate Curator of Digital Special Projects (left) and Sindy Mak, Associate Conservator of Digital and Media Art (right) in front of the installation. Photo: Annabel Preston 在裝置前的M+數碼特別項目製作副策展人辜雪婷和M+數碼及媒體藝術副藏品修復員麥瑞淇,2024年,攝影:Annabel Preston

To fully convey Zhang’s artistic vision, Kate and Sindy have collaborated extensively with the team of technicians to install the work at the M+ Main Hall. One of the major challenges has been tuning the sounds to an appropriate level, creating the impression of hearing the voices blended together yet being unable to distinguish the exact information. They came up with the solution of using soundbars so that it is possible to adjust the volume while responding to the conditions of the exhibition space and respecting the integrity of the artwork. 

It is perhaps fitting that the works of Zhang, which is preoccupied with the flow of information and time, also faces the inevitable challenge of technological obsolescence. Though the content of the tapes can be preserved through digitalisation and technical migration, institutions will have to consider alternative modes of displays with the inevitable decline of CRT televisions. Zhang’s work illustrates the challenges museums, artists, and collectors face in preserving and exhibiting time-based media works against the flow of time.

Broadcast at the Same Time (1999.12.31 night) is now on display at the M+ Main Hall from now to summer 2024.




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