At Art Basel Hong Kong this year, a shared attentiveness to the politics of land – and, by extension, an engagement with the landscape as a sphere of relational aesthetics – is evident among multiple, research-led projects. Across Asia, artists are engaging with nature to comment on issues ranging from environmental justice, sectarianism, and spirituality, to infrastructure and agrarian labor, all while diversifying the notion of Asian indigeneity by articulating folk traditions and traumas of the region.
A comparable interest in scalar play is seen in Alice Wang’s research into the imperceptible dimensions of reality, which led to the development of her new project ‘Quantum Dream Machine’ (2023), presented by Capsule in the Discoveries sector, with coming presentations at Kling & Bang in Reykjavík and UCCA Dune in Beijing.
The origin of Wang’s project – a picture of a quantum computer resembling a chandelier from some extra-terrestrial civilization – triggered the artist’s vision of a quantum computer as a crystal ball. This vision effectively became the prototype for the sculptural objects that constitute her latest work, Untitled (2023). Cast from 3D-printed models of the basic geometrical components of different atomic orbitals – the probability distribution of electrons around the nucleus – the sculptures composing the work are made in pairs. With one element ultra-matte black and the other reflective stainless steel, each duo animates the surrounding space by doubling the viewer’s sensorial experience.
Wang’s sculptural pairs materialize the poetic phenomenology of quantum computing by offering an analogy between subatomic and celestial bodies. Together, they cultivate an interscalar landscape that perhaps resides only in the dreams of the quantum machine itself. A series of images of quantum computing technologies rendered on glass sheets through the wet-plate collodion process extend these dream-like landscapes. Framed as transparent sandboxes, they give a glimpse into superimposed spaces and times.
These superimpositions of time and space resonate with the way contemporary artists in Asia are exploring landscape as a material, political, and technological arena of redistribution and realignment, rather than ideological and political abstraction. Accommodating a more-than-human sociality as they move from representations of reality to sociohistorical analyses and mappings of metaphysical realms, their artworks locate the category of relational aesthetics within the land itself.