Reflecting Locations

Hong Kong

The increasing ubiquity of live video feeds from all parts of the world has a similar effect as the legendary Blue Marble photo, which NASA produced and distributed in 1972. In both cases one’s immediate perception of the world is challenged by images that suggest different scales. But while the orbital view has remained a privileged one, the possibility to see in full color, motion and real time what is happening at the other end of the world has become available for everyone who is equipped with a computer or smart phone and has access to the Internet. Satellite transmissions of foreign correspondents on television used original backgrounds to attest themselves credibility. And the fact that these sites were often added by technical means changed little about this. Today live video has turned into a casual add-on for private conversation over Skype. Google Streetview or Google Earth deliver images of even the remotest parts of our planet. The fastest growing part of the internet are (moving) images. We seem to have access to as much visual information as any generation before. As different international protest movements in the last years have shown, this also has a political dimension because of the affective power and the solidarity, but also the control and misuses that may come with it.

Reflecting Locations is a research project with students from Hong Kong and Zurich that reflects on the ways that such dispositifs shape our understanding and our imagination of places where we have never been. Which mental images do we develop of the “other” (places)? On the basis of which information, projections and imaginations? How are these mental images related to media images we are getting of the physical and historical world? And what are the effects of the confrontation between mental images, media images and a physical presence on the “real” site where images (or in the case of compositing parts of them) have been shot?

Starting points for this inquiry are on the one hand the artistic practices of the participating artists and on the other hand historical trajectories that can offer alternative view on the implicitness on contemporary media practices. One of the relatives here is the genre of ethnographic cinema, which pursues the scholarly method of participant observation of more or less familiar cultures/ethnicities by audiovisual means. This is contrasted with the practice of commercial Hollywood cinema to engage small teams (so called second units) to produce moving backgrounds for studio sets. In the course of second unit practices two locations, two perspectives are merged into a single moving image. The emerging images of “the other” are necessarily projections or collages and not or only partly a result of an involvement with the other. This is exactly what the ethnographic cinema strives for. But also here previously conducted research, assumptions, and scales of values take effects. The filmmakers inscribe themselves through their perspectives, formal decisions, and selections into their images of the other. Both practices of dealing with the other have sustainably informed our visual memories when it comes to the represented places and people and may serve to bring our contem­porary forms of audiovisual telepresence into question.


Over the course of the project small teams of students from Hong Kong and Zurich will develop their questions regarding aesthetic, technical, and ethical issues of remote representations. They will first engage in an exchange over the Internet experimenting with formats, narratives, and technologies and log their findings. In a second step bilateral visits will facilitate the teams to intensify and revise their research.


  • October 1/2, 2015, Kick-off workshops in Hong Kong and Zurich
  • October 2015 to January 2016, mentored project development in bilateral student teams
  • January 25-29, 2016, joint project discussion and development in Zurich
  • February 1-6, 2016, joint project discussion and development in Hong Kong with a final presentation at Connecting Spaces Hong Kong


Reflecting Locations is project initiated by Thomas Schärer and Birk Weiberg, Zurich University of the Arts, and realized with Linda Lai, Hector Rodriguez, and Chung Lee Kai, School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, and students from Hong Kong and Zurich.

Thomas Schärer

Lecturer at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), Departments of Cultural Analysis and of Design, and at the University of Basel. Direction of and cooperation in several research projects in the fields of cultural and film history. At the moment member of the research project “Film experiments from Switzerland 1950-1988” at the Institute for the Performing Arts and Film at ZHdK. Author of three film historic monographs. PhD on Swiss ethno­graphic filmmaking. Fields of research: film history and theory, practice and theory of oral history.

Birk Weiberg

Lecturer and research associate at the Institute for Contemporary Art Research at the Zurich University of the Arts. Previously research associate at the Specialization in Media Arts, scholarship holder of the Swiss National Science Foundation, and visiting scholar at the California Institute of the Arts. Studies in art history, philosophy, and media arts. PhD on the development of optical effects in Classical Hollywood Cinema at the University of Zurich. Fields of research: media art, contemporary art, film, and practices of technical images.

Linda Lai Chiu Han

Ph.D. in Cinema Studies (NYU) and Associate Professor at the City University of Hong Kong’s School of Creative Media (SCM), Linda Lai has been a writer, transdisciplinary artist and independent curator for contemporary media arts. She was the Expertise Group Leader for the School’s Critical Intermedia Studies (2002-2010), and currently the Leader of the Bachelor of Arts in Creative Media. Her video art, installation and digital works have been shown in funded exhibitions in Hong Kong, and in art and film/video festivals in Oberhausen, Hamburg, Berlin, Paris, Birmingham, Barcelona, Madrid, Taipei, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Kaohsiung and Seoul.

Hector Rodriguez

Associate Professor at the City University of Hong Kong’s School of Creative Media (SCM), PhD in cinema studies from the New York University. Hector Rodriguez is a digital artist and theorist. His animation Res Extensa received the award for best digital work in the Hong Kong Art Biennial 2003 and has been shown in India, China, Germany, and Spain. His essays about film theory/history and digital art have been published in Screen, Cinema Journal, and Game Studies, and he has participated in various art and technology conferences. He was Artistic Director of the Microwave International Media Art Festival, where he has also taught workshops on Java programming and organized an exhibition on art and games, and is now a member of the Writing Machine Collective. At SCM he has teaches courses on game studies, generative art, software art, media art theory, contemporary art, and film history.

Lee Kai Chung

Master Fine Arts from School of Creative Media (SCM), Research Associate at SCM. Lee is a Hong Kong based artists who has been exhibiting his internationally since 2006. He investigates the construction of Hong Kong’s history and his wider interests consider individual gestures as forms of political communication and transgression, like in The History of United Front (HMS Tamar) (2013), where he attempted to gift the sculpted characters “人民” (Citizens) to the Hong Kong headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army, and was (predictably) rejected. In 2014 he presented his ongoing project Archive of the People at Art Basel Hong Kong; in September 2015, he will showcase “The History of Riots” series in “Asian Art Biennial 2015 – Artist Making Movement” in National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts.