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Mixed-mode art exhibition lights up Hong Kong cultural service in post-pandemic age

In face of the declining visits due to the public gathering restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hong Kong cultural sectors seek innovative solutions by delivering online/offline art programmes to the audience. 

The Fest Box program, launched for free by the Leisure and Cultural Service Department on Nov. 1, enables the public to enjoy and immerse in various cultural programmes by simply clicking on the programme's website at home.

"The online world allows us to explore more possibilities," said Addy Wong Ngan-ping, Senior Media Coordinator of Muse Fest HK in a promotion video of the Fest Box. Facilitated with advanced online technologies, the team was able to create a chance for global audiences to appreciate artworks at any time.

The Fest Box is not the pioneer of the virtual exhibition in the arts industry. Statistics from HK01 show that since the implementation of the restrictive policies amid COVID-19, 94.9% of art performances, festivals, and venues have been cancelled or postponed during the first quarter of 2020. As a result, many local art exhibitions, art festivals, and venues have switched to online mode.

From March 18 to 25, Art Basel Hong Kong, one of the local signature activities that were originally cancelled due to the epidemic, set up the "Online Viewing Rooms." The initial form was so welcomed by the public that online visitors increased by three times to 250,000 compared with the previous offline ones, according to the statistics of HK01.

As the LCSD announced on October 28, the limit on the number of visitors in each facility of LCSD museums, performance venues, and parks was relaxed from 50% to 75% starting from Oct. 30. In response, some art service providers started to organise both online and offline cultural activities.

The Hong Kong Space Museum presented the "Univers/e" virtual reality exhibition from Nov. 6 to 16. In addition to providing immersive virtual reality exhibits, the museum also held an inaugural conference on zoom inviting French astrophysicists to introduce the latest advances and challenges in space research to local visitors.

The exhibition "Wu Guanzhong: Sketching from Nature" hosted by the Hong Kong Museum of Art also showcased Wu Guanzhong's artworks throughout mix-mode technologies. 

"The purpose of visiting the museum is not only to appreciate the artworks but also to feel the artistic atmosphere," said Xu Yangqing, a 23-year-old art lover who studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. 

She has visited both the online and offline exhibitions of "Wu Guanzhong: Sketching from Nature." Although the online experience is better for reviewing the artwork's details after a visit, offline appreciation can leave a more significant impression on viewers through the light and design of the hall, according to Ms Xu.

However, Gan Chuchu, a 22-year-old Hong Kong University student, has different opinions. "Online mode is more flexible. You can view it no matter where you are without any limitations," said Ms Gan.

As for promotion strategy, both Ms Xu and Ms Gan agreed that online mode lacks interaction with the audience and thus without much actual sense of visiting.

Alongside the museum collection, extra activities have also been designed for visitors at home. For example, a special learning kit is made available online to give the visitors a chance to understand the techniques and concepts that Mr Wu applied to his art creation. 

Following the trend, the Fest Box has carried out a series of on-site seminars such as "Reading with Curators," a sharing workshop of books and stories. Other than offline workshops, The Fest Box also sets booths in Tsim Tsa Tsui to deliver VR glasses for a wholesome Virtual Reality experience.

"The Fest Box is relaxing and magical," said Ms Xu, who saw the Fest Box exhibition via her phone and a pair of VR glasses.

A visitor is watching the live dance in the Fest Box on VR glasses.

However, Ms Xu still found some drawbacks of the Fest Box when playing an interactive game called "Your own 3D city" with it. After choosing your favoured city elements in the game, users can only view their works by scanning the "artwork" QR code. But if the phone is moved even just a few centimeters away from the QR code, the art image will soon disappear. 

Viewers can scan the QR code to view "Your 3D city," a game for artwork design in Fest Box.

"It is too tiring to keep my arm in one position for a long time," said Ms Xu.

"As the Fest Box is the first-ever attempt of mixed-mode arts, it is still on its way," said Joanna So, Fest Box project manager. She believed that the Fest Box represented a new direction of art presentation in the post-pandemic age. 

"One plus one doesn't equal two, but more than three," said Hong Keung, the news media artist of Festival 2020 — Text session. He believed the combination of multi-layer visual concepts in the Fest Box could lead viewers to a new direction.

One needs to put the phone inside the VR glasses to watch the live dance on the Fest Box.

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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