Well Hung Pixel Art

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ken hung
Appropriately enough for someone who renders the spectacle of Washington in such gloriously mutant pixels, Kenneth Hung’s first exhibition in Australia will be at the White House gallery as part of ‘Straight Out of Brisbane’. Kenneth seems amped too about participating in a range of workshops and talks at that festival too ( Aug 15-20) and was happy to do some Pacific Ocean Ping Pong:

60×1? What is behind the name of that URL?

Back then I have already got my TINKIN.com, and it serves as my main portal. I got bored to have a very routine looking site and one day, I decided to have another web domain that is crazy enough that I don’t need any search engine to promote it- I was thinking of testing the viral marketing aspect of the web and see how many people will come to my site just because of the name. I want the site to be in the ultra corner of the web, which the surfers will not accidentally come to my site because of pure typing mistakes. All of a sudden the name “111…111.com” pop into my mind because in Cantonese (my mother language, I was born in Hong Kong), “Sixties’ One Dot Com” sounds roughly like “Number one shit eater gets the gold!” Because I was still in college at the time, with a very cynical mind about my life and surroundings and therefore I like the name a lot. Does that make any sense? I don’t know mate, that’s the power of stupid drunks get you. After that, as I promise myself, I didn’t put it in any search engine and see how it grows, and for some reason, some geeks find my site domain and start sending emails around, and then later when, I think around 2001, the WebBlogs became very popular, my site all of a sudden receive quite some significant visits thanks to sites like Metafilter.com and B3TA.com and the rest is history.

Artists are often passionately politicised, yet some say art+politics are like oil and water – they don’t and shouldn’t mix, art for art’s sake left untainted by our daily grind. What guides your decisions to make such overtly political art?
I think people always forget that there is already politics in the arts. As long as there is governmental and private funding in arts, there are politics attached to it. I think art for arts sake only exist when you make arts purely for yourself without any type of financial patronage and subsidy.

Here are some recent examples: Remember when New York’s ex-mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to cut off city funding for the Brooklyn Museum because of Chris Ofili’s “The Holy Virgin Mary”? Also Rupert Murdoch’s criticism of Hans Haacke’s “Sanitation” at Whitney Bienniel 2000.

From Picasso’ Guernica, Goya, Max Beckman, John Heartfield, Ed Kienholz to Guerilla Girls, Winston Smith, George Gittoes, Survival Research Laboratory to TheyRule.net, there are always politics involved in their works, not only in the subject matter but also the politics of how their works get into the museums and galleries. I believe these artists I mention above doesn’t start with a “art for arts sake” mentality, they start with a message, and they are able to get their sharp and precise political message across through taking advantage in the politics of art.

I started making political influenced artworks since September 11, 2001. Before the WTC bombing, I was just another young kids playing with Photoshop and trying to “make it” in the art world. Before the tragedy, I was very ignorant about the world’s affair. After the collapsing of the twin towers, I started asking a lot of questions. Why this happen? Why they hate us so much? All the answer I got is they hate us because of our freedom and our American values. I thought that’s bullshit. So I start doing research and read a lot of articles and books, and push me to a point that I have to do something about how the Bush cabinets is using media in to blindfold us with patriotism. The process change me a lot, not only in how I see politics, but also how I see arts.

What are you enjoying about the web today?
Wikipedia.com because of how it decentralizes the way we archive information from the control of elites and scholars. I like YOUTUBE because you can find all sorts of video on there but hate them for changing their “New” terms and conditions allowing them to sell whatever you uploaded however they want. For hobbies I like hiking and camping a lot and thus I love GeoCaching.com. I give a lot of respect to Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF.org) for protecting the freedom on the net. One of my newest favorites is KIVA.org, which you can loan money directly to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Where has net.art gone in interesting directions in the last 5 years?
I think in the last five years the net.art shift from script-oriented experiments that mostly existed in the net to a more user-experience based concepts that crossover between the virtual world and the reality.

3 common web design features you would be glad to have outlawed?
All web design features serve its purpose of communicating, including pop-up window, I can’t think of any thing we should outlawed. Oh, viruses and spam definitely need to be eliminated; they are the only web features that contribute nothing to the development of the web.

What would you enjoy / dislike about extending your art into 3D worlds & online gaming spaces?
I would definitely love to learn how to create arts in both 3D and online gaming. These two categories are the digital frontiers that make us create more powerful computers.

It would be great to learn Genesis3D and create my own game, which will be quite fun. However, I am more a visual person than a scripting person, maybe I can do some character design…

I am also interested in how politics use online/ offline gaming as propaganda tools, e.g. U.S.’s America Army’s, Hezbollah’s Special Force, Syrian’s Under Ash and Resistance Record’s Ethnic Cleansing. Also I see Joseph DeLappe’s project “dead-in iraq” a new way on performing activism.

What interests you about the moving image?
I started as a net artist, which I perceive the interaction and spontaneity of net.art apply a new dimension on top of the linear narrative timeline. Experimenting with motion graphics means that I disable the interactive part and solely focus on telling the story. The result is a more cohesive working mode and the storyline is totally much more straightforward. It is funny that I am actually backtracking to something that is not interactive. I have always wanted to do that but it wasn’t the time yet before, I remember 5 years ago I did a video project and it was pain in the butt to put it on the site, who would spend 2 hrs to download a 50 mb file with a dial-up connection? Now at this time thanks to the technology video files are much more accessible. I envision instead of webblogs, videoblogs is going to be around the world very soon (its happening very quick now). Imagine when everybody has their own video show on their own websites speaking whatever they want to say. That is going to polarize our communication system and post a great threat to the established copyright-oriented media conglomerates that are controlling our world.

Your theory about why Arnold Schwarzenegger is Governor of California?
There are several main factors. One is we have a very unpopular governor Gray Davis at the time. Second are the Republican strategists really taking advantage of the perfect timing and have a perfect candidate to sell. Thirdly, we do not have much choice in this two party system, when we are being presented a candidate that is unconventional and exciting, we tend to fantasize he or she can do a better job than normal politicians. Look at Ronald Reagan, Jerry Springer, and Jesse Ventura…etc. We trust their public/media images much more than those of the professional politicians. Besides, I think people vote for him just for fun too.

What’ve been some of your most satisfying online collaborations? (Why?)
I had the most fun with Dr. Optimator (aka Mike Ray) on the project “60X1.CAM™ Ultimate Interactive Webcam Surveillance System For Homeland Security”. Actually the projects was shown in Melbourne being part of the “Experimenta: House of Tomorrow- Homepage” exhibition curated by Rebecca Cannon. Due to the political climate in the U.S. at the time, it means a lot to us to poke fun of the homeland security issues we have, and also take a sarcastic look at how the government uses the media to generate fear and patriotism in order to control the social unrest.

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