Creating art from desert readings

Charis Pang Wai-yue, Year 3 student, Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Creative Media

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Fifteen of us from the School of Creative Media (SCM) embarked on an unforgettable study tour of the Mojave Desert in California in March. The data that we collected has been used to create multimedia artworks that were exhibited at the Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre in May.
In my project the wind creates the art. I wanted to convert the intricate desert winds into sound and images, and give the audience a sense of the variability of the weather in the desert.
I developed a drawing system for my project based on the window-cleaning mechanism used for car windshields. The system is driven solely by wind speed and direction using data collected from a weather station at the airport in the Mojave Desert.
The sound effects recorded in the Banshee Canyon in the Mojave Desert have been integrated into my system, too. Recording the wind was the most memorable experience for me on this study tour. The sound that the wind made when it blew through the canyon’s special terrain at night is said to sound like the wail of a banshee, a female spirit in Irish mythology that appears when someone is dying.
Recording the wind in the canyon was not easy. The wind blows when and where it wants, and sometimes doesn't blow at all. And just getting to the canyon was tough: the terrain was not designed for novice hikers. I almost got stuck when I climbed down a narrow gap. Fortunately, my fellow students pulled me up.

The desert that I imagined is very different to the one I experienced. There were a lot of technical problems to take care of, such as power supply, transportation of materials and the sudden changes in the weather. When things did not go as planned, I had to figure out immediate solutions. It was a tough test, but a valuable experience as well.
The dramatic weather changes within just one day offered us the best environment to learn how animals and plants adapt to living in extreme conditions. Nature is an artist with immense creativity: it paints a blue sky in the daytime, a beautiful starry sky at night. It is spectacular at sunrise, and a rainy day in the yellow desert is a haunting sight. The different colours and shapes of the desert plants have inspired me to improve my work.
During the trip I met many artists and scientists whose enthusiasm about their work deeply impressed me, encouraging me to work harder, too.
I wish to extend my sincere thanks to SCM for providing me with this learning opportunity. I am very grateful to Mr Scott Hessels, Associate Professor at the SCM, for his guidance and support.


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