Situated at the junction of art, technology, and architecture, the practice of Ashley Hi (b. 1999, Singapore) concerns itself very much with the exploration of materiality and motion, which, in turn, informs subsequent contemplations on the nature of medium as it pertains to the articulation of artistic intent(s).
Suffused with a wry sense of wit, Ashley's works, many of which take the form of kinetic sculptures, draw into question both ideas of representation and manifestation as they pertain to natural phenomena. In A Video of Pigeons (2019) for example, lenticular prints of pigeons are animated mechanically, subverting both the traditional audience's position in needing to move to fully perceive the lenticular effect and the notion of the moving image by quite literally moving a physical image to create illusory motions within the represented objects of the pigeons.
These ideas are similarly examined in Big Wind (2021), reworked for and presented in ON/OFF/SCREEN. Likewise a kinetic sculpture, this time emulating a collection of branches mechanically oscillated, Big Wind further expands on Ashley's investigation into the agency of object-hood and the gaze—where a live feed from cameras attached to the wooden sticks essentially reverses the dynamics between what is ostensibly an active watching audience and the passive watched artwork; here the artwork watches the audience too and creates a suspended space where hierarchical conceptions of visuality temporarily do not apply.
What were some of your inspirations for Big Wind?
For Big Wind, I was looking at nature, particularly tree branches. I think it is very interesting that if you don't really think about the utility of motion or a type of movement, it is in a sense a specific kind of collective memory that everybody has. With Big Wind, you can probably associate it with memories of certain occurrences in nature that you've seen before.
I'm inspired a lot by the materials that I work with. With another one of my kinetic sculpture work, I was in fact purely inspired by the specific material that I used. There was this one time when I went to an electronics shop, and I found this component—a limit switch—and it was very satisfying to just click it, and click it. And continually clicking it. It felt so satisfying that I just had to buy it, and at that moment I knew that I had to make a kinetic piece about it.
For me, a work rarely starts with code, it is almost always the material and the thought.
How have you been spending your time?
I actually spent a lot of time doing things such as watching YouTube tutorials and reading documentation of certain softwares, in order to figure out how to use something I need for a specific project. A lot of technology needs to be self-taught if you want to use them and turn them into a creative practice, because many of them are not intended for that purpose. So, you have to find a way to hack it yourself to make it relevant to you.
In terms of reading books, I’ve been reading a lot of Smithson even though land art may seem quite far apart from my practices, in terms of technology and art. Still, I think that there is a sort of relation in terms of the ways I work with repetition and moments of halt—something that I feel Smithson means in his elaborations on entropy.