Musical mechanics: Conrad Shawcross’ The Ada Project sways in Hong Kong

Musical mechanics: Conrad Shawcross’ The Ada Project sways in Hong Kong

The Peninsula Hong Kong’s opulent colonial lobby may be famed for its legendary afternoon tea, but it is also fast setting a new benchmark for innovative contemporary art as part of its ’Love Art’ public programme.

Its current creative collaboration is with British artist Conrad Shawcross RA, whose spider-like kinetic robot performs a sensuous dance to four different musical scores in the middle of the lobby until 5 April. 

The mechanical sculpture – called The Ada Project – was initially conceived in 2010, inspired by the 19th century mathematician Ada Lovelace, who predicted that calculating machines would one day be capable of composing music out of binary numbers.

‘The project uses her story as a creative springboard to try to re-physicalise the music experience to an object,’ Shawcross explains. 

The robot, which sways about in time to music with a light at the tip of its ‘arm’, is not the art, says the artist. ‘The machine is simply the instrument. The artwork is the movement that becomes entangled with its music.’  

‘It is like a film score that is created for a scene that has already been created,’ Shawcross explains. ‘I want to keep complete control of the machine by using particular mathematical ratios that we use to create movements.’ 

The artist admits that he enjoys the visual contrast between the hotel’s luxurious traditional décor and the industrial machine-like ‘sculpture’. 

‘I like that kind of guerrilla form of art: the great thing here is catching people unawares,’ he says. ‘I like that it is not a museum or gallery but a room where you can relax and talk; where the robot can be part of the fabric.’

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