Algae Dream
Kwan Q Li
10' 03" | 4:3 | 2020 | mp4
We live in a time when masks are rewriting wearable protocol but in dire shortage. Masks protect, hide and morph the identity of the wearer against surveillance capitalism. How could we take these entwining narratives around masks to speculate on the symbiosis between the masked and the mask? Amidst all-too-familiar dialogues and interrogation of mass consumption, futuristic fashion, as well as the toll this takes on earth and society, how can future masks subvert the Anthropocene, instead, by provoking sharing, individual agency, and communal production? How about a mask that breathes, that is, made by organic raw materials? As we confront and question narratives of our new normalcy in the year of hindsight and the time of pandemic, these frames have coalesced in a vision of the mask as an emblem for open-source eco-consciousness- functional, accessible DIY living wearables made with biomaterials, such as algae.
Project ‘Algae Mask’ explores the symbiosis between humans and other beings, layered as second skins. The video Algae Dream rides on the prospective prototype and the sleek languages of market economy to smudge the fine line between fiction and reality. In the bricolage of source videos and original footages, motivational video mock-up and authentic presentation documentation, the video challenges audience in a multiplicity of narrations stemmed from discourses of business and science, displacing viewers within the muddy ground of faith and evidence: is this a real happening, or just utopian rhetoric?

About algae…
Algae is found in a vast range of objects from medical usage to food, furniture, and beyond. Chlorella pills made out from fresh water green algae, for instance, are gaining currency in alternative medicine, with their many purported health benefits including detoxifying heavy metals (according to a rumour during the days of heavily tear-gassed Hong Kong). Increasing disquisitions show algae to be a biomaterial, a self-regenerating energy source that is exceptionally minimalistic. New imaginations and methodologies around algae include algae type photography, algae-bioplastic, and a prototype for a fully algae-powered building (though too expensive to be commodified -- alas, another capitalistic excuse). 

Algae also has a queer spirit. It has an all-encompassing means of reproduction, from vegetative, asexual to sexual, and its extreme versatility allows it to persist through the whirligig of time. In fact, the name ‘algae’ does not have a specific indication; it loosely refers to a polyphyletic, non-cohesive, and artificial assemblage of oxygen-evolving, photosynthetic organisms; it is an umbrella term, a metaphor. A term that still feels distant to many of us, but from the many instances that algae have interwoven biological and ecological histories into discourses of food, medicine, design and more, we might as well realise that we are all just a bit algal.

Original licenses

CC BY-NC-ND (Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs)
Full credit list

Project Development : Michelle Lai

Hong Kong artist Queenie Li is dedicated to lens-based media coalesced with writing, performance and installation. Her multidisciplinary practice explores post-colonial intricacies and ideological alternatives within the neoliberal context, with research interests spanning across speculative ecology, healthcare culture and emerging spatial prototypes.
Li holds a Fine Art degree from the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford and a B.B.A. in Global Business Studies from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. At Oxford, she was awarded the Stuart Morgan Prize for Art History 2019, the school’s most commended dissertation prize. Currently, she is pursuing her master studies in art, culture and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston on a teaching fellowship.
Former exhibitions include performance / lectures at the AI&Society Journal conference at the University of Cambridge (2019), the BOOKED: Hong Kong Art Book Fair at the Tai Kwun Contemporary (2020) and the IdeasCity residency co-curated by the NTU CCA and the New Museum (2020).
A current project investigates how geo-political impact of digital proliferation is instilled upon our spaces of bodily occupation through silent incubation of data centres, funded by Hong Kong Design Trust Seed Grant and the Council for the Arts at MIT, and will be featured at the Hong Kong Pavilion of the Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition 2021.

Keywords 關鍵字

Algae, Mask