articles/reviews | the hong kong agent

a r t i c l e s · r e v i e w s

From Ghost in the Shell to Hong Kong Express
By Edith Chiu
Robert lolini has made a profound connection with Hong Kong dating back to his collaboration with Dr. Phillip Mar to produce a sound work Hong Kong, City in Between in 1997 by mixing sound, conversation, commercials and Cantonese opera, although lolini had not yet been to Hong Kong then, the use of sound montage created a soundscape blending reality and fiction with a fantastic and alienated atmosphere encapsulated in a ghost like city, As a flaneur of great intellect and sentiment, Iolini came to Hong Kong for the tenth anniversary of Hong Kong's handover exploring sound and images in early 2007. He made acquaintances and conducted interviews with numerous Hong Kong people to get a thorough understanding of the city, resulting in the production of 18 shorts, collectively entitled The Hong Kong Agent, with corresponding and contrasting styes. The sound and visual montages expand a multi-dimensional space, interpreting the customs, politics, culture and history of Hong Kong and generate exuberant energy with a sense of sadness. It also tells touching stories with a tremendous amount of humanity. This multi-platform project uses a Bluetooth component through which visitors can download ten mlcro-sodes of The Hong Kong Agent to their mobile phones, MP3 payers and other handheld devices. By enjoying the micro-sodes with these devices at the HKAC and other specific locations, the individual may personalise any public space, thus enriching the art appreciation process with a completely new meaning and experience. Edith Chiu is an arts researcher and Programme Manager at Hong Kong Arts Centre

Hong Kong Economic Journal P33 | 文化 | 觀自在 | By 劉建華 2008-09-01
"In the context of the HKAC 30th Anniversary Exhibition Robert Iolini, a "flaneur" in Hong kong, has produced in his work The Hong Kong Agent, the most reflective on local life and political atmosphere." Excerpt from full review in Chinese

Art Collector Magazine | 24 June, 2008
Iolini coming to a phone near you
Robert Iolini has become one of the first in Australia to offer video art by mobile phone download. Visitors to Sydney's Gallery 4A are now able to download 10 micro-sodes from his work titled The Hong Kong Agent to their mobile or iPod, and 'mash' them to their heart's content. If you'd prefer to leave the mashing alone, you'll still be able to see the whole work in the gallery's front window from sunrise to sunset until 26 July.


GRETCHEN: Hi Robert, I really enjoyed the three episodes on Pool from your Hong Kong Agent project. Their sense of mystery 'works' and is quite compelling. I particularly liked Daimaru Ghost Bus... leaving from who knows where, to a place that no longer has the point of reference after which it is named - funny how we associate that idea with places of antiquity, or at least distant history - not shopping centres! Can I ask you a couple of questions about your process... As a composer, someone who's worked mainly in sound, when did you start using video? Do you find your sound experience gives you a 'different' approach?

ROBERT: Hi Gretchen, Thanks for your comments and questions. Apologies for the delay. Your questions are important and require lengthy discussion. However I'll do my best to answer them in an economical way:-) I began seriously working with images and sound in a non linear computer environment around 2001. During my artist residency at the ABC’s Listening Room in 2002 - 2003 I shot a lot of video and worked with sound archives and scripted text. I actually produced a 40 minute film, however I wasn’t satisfied with the result so I never released it. I was however, satisfied with the sound component which exists as a radiophonic piece, ‘The Sound of Forgetting’. My research during the ABC residency was invaluable and paved the way for this latest work The Hong Kong Agent. All my work is influenced by my studies in music composition. My approach to creativity has always been inclusive. Even when I was working strictly with music I was always thinking of narratives and images. When I began producing pieces for The Listening Room (ABC Classic FM) back in 1994, I was introduced to a new way of working with sound. I learnt how to apply music composition processes to spoken word, archival material, environmental sounds etc. It was a liberating experience. At that time I was influenced by film directors such as Jean Luc Godard and Peter Greenaway as much as by composers like Luciano Berio and Holger Czukay. When it became affordable to edit high quality video on a generic consumer computer I was able to experiment with images and sound simultaneously. To this day I approach editing video as if I’m composing a piece of music.

GRETCHEN: Practically, I know these projects have limited budgets - so with Daimaru Ghost Bus, did you set up the video yourself... and hope for the best?! or did you have help?

ROBERT: In this particular scene on the mini bus I had a volunteer assistant camera person Beatrix Pang. Beatrix is a Hong Kong visual artist working in the Arts Culture Outreach artist residency studio where I was staying in Wan Chai. During this project I was fortunate to have the support of various universities and orgs. For example the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong organised an intern to work with me named Ting Chan. He ended up ‘acting’ in various episodes eg, Daimaru Ghost Bus, and conversations we had we’re consequently incorporated into scripted dialogues. He also shot the PAYG Shamanic Mobile Service Centre episode. I was also offered ‘in kind’ support from the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre. They kindly gave me 'visiting scholar' status which meant I could access technical equipment and research facilities.

GRETCHEN: Did you write the script for the young man based on his history, or did you use an actor to read something that is entirely fictional?

ROBERT: The script is a mixture of Ting’s real family history, plus themes relating to Japanese cultural influences and social research around memory and place, plus my own highly subjective experiences ‘drifting’ through Mong Kok.

GRETCHEN: Did you know the effect you wanted beforehand, or did you decide what to do with it post-recording? These may be secrets that create the mystery and that you don't want to reveal of course - but they're also interesting approaches for Pool members to understand and learn from, if you don't mind sharing your process as well as your content!

ROBERT: I had an idea of the visual effect of the mini bus scene beforehand. The vox treatment came later. We overdubbed all the vox in post. The other visual material was collected knowing it would be used somewhere. All the elements came together quickly once I started editing each episode. If I needed something extra I’d just go out and shoot it. Seven months on location allowed time to collect enough material:-)