Reshaping History With Art Tech

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Blending art and technology, the Hong Kong Palace Museum features a total of 53 multimedia projects with projection mapping installations, interactive and digital exhibits, soundscape experiences and video installations to provide unique experiences for visitors to appreciate traditional Chinese art and culture. 


There are nine galleries at the museum. Seven of them will host thematic exhibitions and the remaining two are devoted to special exhibitions. 


Among them is the largest Gallery 2 “From Dawn to Dusk: Life in the Forbidden City”, where visitors step back in time to experience court life in the Qing dynasty.


Poetry in motion


One of the multimedia projects showcases the annual tea parties held by Emperor Qianlong in the Palace of Double Brilliance, where he composed poems with his officials to maintain a harmonious relationship with them. Visitors can listen to the poems at this exhibit.


Qing dynasty rulers also appreciated art and calligraphy. Emperor Qianlong was a big fan of the work of calligrapher Wang Xizhi and visitors can try their hand at copying the emperor’s calligraphy through the interactive exhibits.


At the end of the gallery visitors can watch a projection of Emperor Qianlong’s poem Dream on the ceiling, which he wrote after the death of his wife, Empress Xiaoxian Chun. Devastated by his loss, the emperor composed more than 100 poems dedicated to her and Dream is one of them.


Inspired by the poem, Baptist University Academy of Visual Arts Chair Professor Prof Jeffrey Shaw and artist Sarah Kenderdine created the multimedia installation Dreamscape.


It features a dragon representing the emperor, a phoenix for the empress and two butterflies symbolising the two lovers. The artists had also filmed contemporary calligrapher Wang Dongling writing all the characters of the poem.


Jeffrey Shaw said: “Without art tech, you would present the poem possibly just as a document. I can take these historical objects and give them a new contemporary digital art tech identity. And in the process of that appreciation, I want people also to return to viewing the original objects with new eyes, with a new understanding.”


Another Jeffrey Shaw exhibit in Gallery 4 “Encountering the Majestic: Portraits of Qing Emperors & Empresses” gives visitors the chance to experience the ancestral ritual used to venerate ancestor portraits.


Before leaving, they can pick a costume and create their own imperial portrait.  


Protected pieces


The museum’s nine galleries contain 914 treasures on loan from the Palace Museum in Beijing, with 166 of them being grade-one national treasures.


A special environment for the storage of various cultural relics has been set up as they are very fragile and easily affected by temperature, humidity and light.


Hong Kong Palace Museum Conservator Lyu Zhichao, who is responsible for the 2D objects, explained that the glass of the display cases prevents UV rays from damaging the objects. There is also a control system to regulate the environment inside the case.


“Different paintings have different conditions. If the humidity is too high, it may cause more mould. But if the humidity is too low, sometimes the paper may crack.”


Hong Kong Palace Museum Conservator Jessie Liang added that the conservators can check real-time data using an app on their mobile phones.


“We have a mobile phone app which tells us the live condition inside (the showcases). We also have set up (an) alarm. If the environment changes out of range, it will alert us.”


The museum opens its doors on July 2 and will be open from 10am to 6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. On Fridays, Saturdays and public holidays it will be open until 8pm.


General admission tickets for adults are priced at $50, while it is $120 for a special exhibition ticket.