Outlaw, the opening exhibition of the purpose-built new media gallery at Sydney Modern, (the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s new extension) features Howie Tsui’s mesmerising multimedia installation, Retainers of Anarchy. On a 27.4-metre long, 3.85-metre high projection, which simulates the form of a scroll painting, hundreds of images hand-drawn in ink are animated into a kaleidoscope of supernatural severed heads, grotesque tortures, and characters familiar from wuxia (martial arts) novels and television series. These fantastical images jostle with motifs of everyday life in Hong Kong and iconic figures from the pro-democracy protests that culminated in the Umbrella Movement of 2014 and were later to erupt in the all-out rebellion in 2019 and its violent suppression by Xi Jinping’s government.
Working at the cutting edge of new media exhibition practice, Tsui has collaborated with sound designer and computer programming whiz Remy Siu to develop the images into the 5-projector, 6-soundtrack installation. Tsui’s original drawings were digitised and animated by a small team of animators and then fed by Siu through an algorithm that delivers the images to the screen in random and unpredictable combinations, so that no two viewings are the same.