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Thursday, September 1, 2016, 22:09

Hakka kung fu meets digital art at Heritage Museum

By Wang Yuke

HONG KONG - A 3D digital media exhibition about Hakka kung fu promises visitors a time and space journey through the origins, evolution and prospects of Hakka martial arts, which have had an enduring influence in Hong Kong for three centuries.

The exhibition, “300 Years of Hakka Kung Fu: Digital Vision of Its Legacy and Future”, is the highlight of this year's Hong Kong Cultural Festival. A range of cutting-edge new media technologies are heavily employed in the exhibition, helping to present the art form in an animated, aesthetic and interactive form.

Hakka kung fu originated in eastern Guangdong province and traversed to the hinterland of the Lingnan region, which covers Guangdong and nearby provinces in southern China that share the Cantonese culture.

Due to Hong Kong’s proximity to Guangdong, Hakka kung fu has profound influence in Hong Kong and has been recognized as the oldest and most important martial art in southern China.

As few grandmasters are still alive, the influence of the age-old art is weakened. Concerned that it was in danger of extinction, the organizers of the exhibition decided to focus on the Hakka martial art with the aim of preserving a valuable artistic asset, according to Sarah Kenderdine, one of the initiators and curators.

Holographic techniques, as an important strategy of documentation, are harnessed in the exhibition in order to create a tangible vision for the viewers. Apart from figures projected on the hologram screens in 1:1 scale expertly performing the art for viewers to admire, visitors can also get an idea of how each weapon and training tool functions.

To showcase the highly dynastic movements of Hakka kung fu, motion capture techniques are favored by the curators. One of them is Jeffrey Shaw, director of the Centre for Applied Computing and Interactive Media at City University of Hong Kong.

"We tried to render the movements from different angles, forms and approaches, to spatialize the movements, and ultimately to present the motion in space through time," Shaw said.

Wearing virtual reality glasses, viewers can observe the trajectory of Hakka kung fu movements, tracked and highlighted by colorful lines. Some artists have gone even further, making use of novel media technologies to show the movements in sculpture form, or adding a haze of particles in the wake of the movements, or using various colors in lightening streaks to represent the strength of each movement.

Thanks to diversified digital approaches, people can have a well-rounded experience and better appreciate the gracefulness and sophistication of the intangible cultural heritage, Shaw said.

Shaw has been a leading figure in new media art, celebrated as being in the vanguard of the avant-garde in incorporating the latest digital media technologies into the fields of virtual and augmented reality, immersive visualization environments, navigable cinematic systems and interactive narratives.

The exhibition is open to the public from Sept 2 to 30 at Hong Kong Heritage Museum.

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