Home Interview “What really surprised me were the green spaces”

“What really surprised me were the green spaces”

The ‘Macao Garden Dot Cloud’, created by French-American artist, Clement Valla, is one of six works of public art presented at this year’s Macau International Art Biennial. Developed in collaboration with local curator, Lam Sio Man, it represents local flora and gardens in a collection of 3D digitized point data. To create this installation at the Former Iec Long Panchões Factory, Valla delved into Macau's botanical history and identified the most intriguing and culturally significant plants. The outdoor art installation is at Iec Long until December 10

Sara Lo

– What is your first impression of Macau? What do you think of local green areas?

Clement Valla – It was very interesting to visit Macau for the first time in July. I had already heard and read about the city, and knew that it was the gambling capital of Asia. What I didn’t expect and what really surprised me were the city’s green spaces. I found Coloane very interesting and the old town of Taipa wonderful. It was really interesting to see the ways in which Macau developed and evolved. I spent a lot of time just walking, exploring the various parks, places, the history of trees and plants in the city, which have a lot of history too.

– Macau is a small and crowded city, with very limited natural areas. Local residents miss nature. What is the intention of the ‘Macau Garden Point Cloud’?

C.V. – One of the objectives of the ‘Macau Garden Point Cloud’ is to observe the difference between technology and nature. Many people think they are different experiences, but I think that, considering the problem of climate change, if we want to move forward, we have to stop thinking about these clear distinctions between city and nature, between culture and nature, between technology and nature.

I think the Old Iec Long Panchão Factory has done a really interesting job of maintaining all the different layers of a built and natural environment. It’s the interaction between the two that’s really interesting. This kind of urban pressure, which a small island like Macau suffers, can be excessive, but I think it becomes an interesting ground for some of these ideas about nature and how perhaps we need to change our perceptions and think of it as something that integrates the our daily lives.

– Could you explain the concept behind the ‘Macau Garden Point Cloud’ and how it first came about?

C.V. – I’m really interested in the different ways machines, computers and humans see the world. It’s this difference that I find really interesting, with real potential for poetry or new aesthetic experiences. As for the installation itself, it is a work in which I predominantly use 3D scanning technology.

This technology is the current basis for many of the ways machines see the world. Whether in autonomous cars or systems that detect objects in space, it is necessary to track the world in 3D. The first step in this process is to transform the visual field into spatial data, something called by computer scientists as a ‘point cloud’.

I think a point cloud was never really something made for humans to observe, it’s more of an underlying layer of technology. I thought it was really interesting to take this vision usually reserved for machines and basically show it to humans as well. I don’t think these technologies were made to look at nature necessarily, but I love the idea of a machine in a garden and the kind of poetic resonance that that can have, allowing humans to look through the machine’s eyes a little bit.

– The ‘Macau Garden Point Cloud’ is a tailor-made work for the city. Why did you choose Iec Long as the place to present your work?

C.V. – The ‘Macau Garden Point Cloud’ ended up consisting of two gardens. The first, which we call Jardim Transparente, focuses on the Iec Long space. I find the way they renovated the factory, how they decided to leave the buildings as they were and the integration of the space into the city very interesting. I love that you can see the casinos from a little hideaway.

I focus on Iec Long’s architecture, something different for me, because during the five or six years I worked on the project I never included architecture, it was practically just gardens. When I arrived here, I realized that I had to incorporate architecture in some way. It’s called Transparent Garden because we are placing a transparent screen in a courtyard where a banana tree is growing in the architecture. I want the image to float and integrate into the location. The concept behind it is really how this place integrates the new, the old, the man-made and the natural.

On the other hand, Jardim do Vento is much more about Macau and less about this particular location. It was inspired more by my explorations of the city and is a kind of journey through the different gardens of Macau. When I came in July, I visited all the gardens and practically all the green spaces in the city, carrying out some scans and absorbing their different styles. There is something really pleasant here in Macau, as we see very traditional Chinese gardens, but then they also have the influence of Portuguese gardens and this type of landscaping. Jardim do Vento was an attempt to combine all these elements into a larger garden, almost like a collage. As if a virtual gardener and I had taken little pieces of each garden and built this bigger garden.

– What is your opinion about public art?

C.V. – Public art is always very interesting to work on, because when we work in an institution or gallery, all visitors are somewhat volunteers. They enter into a type of understanding or come to a gallery already with a specific frame of thought. In public art, we are involved in a place and there is an interaction with visitors and spectators who perhaps don’t care much about art in general, or have a very different relationship with art. It’s a way of boosting and I always find that very interesting.

When I’m working in an institution, it’s very easy to target art to a specific audience. It’s an art audience I’m used to, and conversations I’m used to having. Then I can more or less insert elevated artistic ideas through a particular language. When I produce public art I don’t want to lose any of that. I think art still needs to speak at higher levels, and the hope is that anyone who passes by can understand a little of what we are trying to say. Maybe not the precise details, but I hope you have time to consider and reflect on nature and technology, or even notions of time, excitement, or reflection. Maybe it’s not as explicit as in an institution, but I hope the same ideas are there. I think art perhaps needs to be more open and broad to invite the whole world.

A very specific thing about Macau that interests me is having screens everywhere, for example, giant screens all over Cotai. Everyone has a specific rhythm and speed, very fast, in fact. All these screens are made to grab attention and keep it as long as possible. I hope this work of public art can show a completely different kind of screen. I hope they are much quieter, that they shine in the corner of your eye and catch our attention, but don’t demand it in the same way. This for me is really interesting, working in public with an art that is already so prevalent here and perhaps playing with these differences.

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