HOME X, a new live digital performance was commissioned by British Council Hong Kong for the SPARK Festival 2021.
CAN artists are working together simultaneously in the UK and Hong Kong to create these two interactive free public performances on 23 October 2021.
Audiences enter a virtual world as an avatar that changes and grows as they interact with this strangely familiar but altered place full of trees, flowers and birdsong. In this virtual world they encounter characters created by the dancers and singer, performing together live using VR technology. No longer either in Hong Kong or the UK, we all exist together in this virtual third space.
HOME X explores themes of roots and belonging, destruction and renewal. What happens when you tear up your roots and move away. What is lost and what can be made again? Where, or what is home?
Original music by CAN Artistic Director An-Ting Chang and choreography by Si Rawlinson in the UK joins choreography by Suen Nam and the voice of Lam Wing Wing in Hong Kong. The virtual environment is designed by Donald Shek and holoportation technology developed by Ian Gallagher in the UK.
Team - uk
Donald Shek, with assistance from Graeme Wallace
Produced by: Chinese Arts Now
Commissioned by: British Council Hong Kong
Sponsored by: Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, London
Realtime streaming technology supported by Millicast
HOME X was designed by artist Donald Shek, from the initial visual concepts to building the world using Adobe Fresco, 3D computer graphics software Blender and video game engine Unity.
Mythological and yet futuristic at the same time, HOME X is a whole new timeless, circular landscape, linking two separate cities together - Hong Kong and London. Parts of this colourful world are more influenced by the UK and others are more Hong-Kong based in terms of the types of trees or the nature and birds you encounter.
This slideshow is an idea of the progression from concept visuals to the finished environment.
DEsign: Audience AvAtar
When you enter the world of HOME X it will be as this avatar!
This character is reminiscent of a tree root and inspired by the idea of kodama, spirits in Japanese folklore that inhabit trees.
Your avatar can walk around, climb, high five, cut down trees…and more!
As you explore the HOME X environment your avatar will change and grow as you interact with the world, other audience avatars and the performers.
Dancer + Choreographer in London
Dancer + Choreographer in Hong Kong
Creating the movement for HOME X is one of the most exciting parts of the project. Si is in a studio in London and Suen in Hong Kong both studios are equipped with cameras. When they put on their VR headsets the camera footage of each is ‘holoported’ live into the HOME X digital world. They can see, interact and move with each other despite being 6000 miles apart on different continents.
It’s a duet in cyberspace!
In HOME X they will also guide and interact with the audience avatars.
This short extract from interviews with Anna Clart, Assistant Director on HOME X, gives you a flavour of their extraordinary experiences.
Si: Choreographer + Dancer
I’m choreographer on HOME X, an exploration in the form of ‘Game Theatre’, of home and loss of home, and the different feelings and attitudes that go with that.
Suen and I both have backgrounds in hip hop, but also other styles, as well as lots of kinds of performances in theatre. It’s really interesting taking these skills and trying to collaborate across thousands of miles and then also implementing new technology, where we are being three dimensionally projected into a game space. When I look around through the VR headset I really see the inside of the game.
I’m used to making dance theatre, but in this piece it’s much more focused on simple and clear storytelling, especially early on when the audience come in as avatars and they’re seeing a completely new environment. The need for clarity, of us being able to set up what’s happening in this world, then giving them essentially the idea of what to do, means that the
choreography we start with is fairly simple – building up concepts that the avatars can then follow, and then later it starts developing into something like a kind of dance.
We’re mixing performance and game mechanics, interacting with audience avatars and Colette Wing Wing Lam, the singer, and trying to tell a story at the same time.
Suen Nam: Dancer + Choreographer in Hong Kong
I am a Hip-hop dancer, street dancer, freestyle dancer and it’s the first time I have used VR to make a show and make
choreography, it’s very exciting!
It’s fantastic when Si and I are in the VR world, and we try to punch and play and high-five each other. And I look around the world – the big tree, and some of the small trees – and I’m just like a giant in the world!
My favourite part is when I look around and think wow, it’s the VR world and it’s real for me. I can make a real connection with Si – he is in London, I’m in Hong Kong, but we can see each other and we interact and dance together in the internet. It’s very amazing for me, because we’re so far away –– but when we get into the VR world, it’s very close for me. Just oh, Si is here! And then we can talk, we can play.
I think the audience will just have a fantastic moment when they see the VR world, and the dancers, the singer, the animations, and just enjoy the moment, enjoy the game.
Director/Composer HOME X
Artistic Director CAN
The soundscape in HOME X is created from the natural field recordings. It includes 38 kinds of birdsongs from UK and HK, the land sound from Portugal Evora and a drum set. I was inspired by the richness of the natural sound and desire to share it with people. Birds and other animals naturally create layers of sound which put the acoustic world into a harmony. Dawn is the most beautiful music ever for me
After finding the harmony at dawn, I added an electronic drum set and multiple layers of audio effects where human civilization takes over the natural world.
The music will all be performed live in HOME X. I collaborate with opera singer Colette Wing Wing Lam thorough Jamulus and Ableton live and stream the sound through OBS, Millicast to Unity where the game takes place. Wing Wing interprets the poem ‘The Sea’ by one of the emperors of the Three Kingdom, Cao Cao, in Cantonese on top of the soundscape. The music uses natural sound, electronic drums and the emperor's poem to explore humanity's ambition and complex feelings about home and roots.
The technology for HOME X is developed by our Creative Technologist Ian Gallagher.
HOME X uses the gaming engine Unity to create a three-dimensional, virtual world.
In separate studios in Hong Kong and the UK depth-sensing cameras capture 3D video of the performers and “holoport” – that is, insert – that video into the HOME X world in real time.
The performers see and immerse themselves in the digital environment using virtual reality headsets, so although they are not in the same place physically, they see themselves and each other together inside the 3D game world.
The audience also enter the same world as avatars.
Using music software Jamulus and WebRTC technology, HOME X connects the London and Hong Kong performers in real time, which means the artists can act, dance and interact with both their digital selves and the audience avatars.
The capability to stream in realtime to a large global audience was kindly provided by Millicast.
CAN & spark festiAl
CHINESE ARTS NOW
CAN presents to the public, in greater London and on tour, innovative and contemporary performing arts exploring Chinese themes, stories and art forms and work that blends Chinese and other contemporary art forms. By developing and presenting this work, we aim to raise public understanding and appreciation of Chinese and other perspectives and art forms. The work we programme and produce focuses on performing arts including music, theatre, live art and dance.
Spark Festival 2021
Creating connections across cultures. From 20-23 October 2021, the British Council Hong Kong will be hosting a series of online events across art, music, dance, education and more. Celebrating connections and inclusion, SPARK offers a platform for cultural exchange between Hong Kong and the UK by showcasing the best of digital culture amongst its creative partners.