Ever at the forefront of innovation and taste, The Peninsula Hong Kong demonstrates its commitment to the arts once again this spring by playing host to a beguiling installation by pioneering British artist Conrad Shawcross RA. The second instalment in the hotel’s ongoing creative collaboration with the esteemed British institution the Royal Academy of Arts (RA), Shawcross’ The ADA Project combines the tenets of sculpture, robotics and music to create a unique and dramatic visual performance that will be on show in The Peninsula’s iconic Lobby from 22 March to 6 April 2016.
Timed to coincide with the fourth edition of Art Basel Hong Kong, the installation marks the latest chapter in the “Love Art at The Peninsula” initiative, the hotel’s groundbreaking programme of exhibitions and events that celebrate creativity in all its forms, most notably with the commitment to public art. Reflecting Hong Kong’s thriving position on the global arts scene and growing importance as a cultural hub, Love Art has previously featured works by Tracey Emin RA, whose My Heart Is With You Always graced the hotel’s tower façade in 2014, and Richard Wilson RA, whose groundbreaking installation Hang On A Minute Lads, I’ve Got A Great Idea is widely regarded as a pioneering public artwork of a scale that was unprecedented in Hong Kong, for the launch of The Peninsula’s partnership with the RA in 2015.
Comprised of a series of collaborations between Shawcross, the youngest Royal Academician, and leading contemporary musical composers, The ADA Project turns the traditional commissioning process on its head by using a re-programmed industrial robot as a catalyst for the creation of music and choreography. Taking an industrial robot arm that is most commonly used on automated assembly lines, Shawcross re-programmed ADA to perform four different predetermined choreographed routines, before playing respective routines to each composer to inspire their musical response.
The installation, which was first exhibited at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, in 2013 and at MONA, Tasmania, in 2014, sees the resulting compositions played to accompany the robot’s choreographed sequences.
In creating this work, Shawcross drew inspiration from Ada Lovelace, the 19th century mathematician, and daughter of Lord Byron, who is credited as being the world’s first computer programmer. Working alongside Charles Babbage, who is often described as “the father of the computer”, Lovelace predicted that Babbage’s proposed counting machine – known as the “Difference Engine” – could, one day, “compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent”, and wrote an algorithm that many consider to be the first ever computer programme, although it was never put into action in its day.
The ADA Project will be on display in The Peninsula’s Lobby from 22 March to 6 April 2016, encompassing four live performances by the British composer Mira Calix, at 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm on 23 March coinciding with the hotel’s iconic Afternoon Tea service and on the evening of 24 March at the hotel’s Art Gala. The installation will be in “Salon Mode” at all other times, as a spellbinding robotic jukebox, performing all four musical sequences at other times during the day. In addition, The Peninsula will exhibit a series of accompanying prints by Shawcross for the duration of The ADA Project. On display in the hotel’s first floor exhibition space, the prints offer additional insight into the artist’s unique thinking and the philosophical, mathematical and theological processes behind the installation.