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Samson Young: Sonata for Smoke
Hong Kong–based artist Samson Young’s practice centers on installation-based work stemming from sound and music. He interweaves cultural paradigms across media while focusing on poetic translations between the sonic and the visual.
Young has a doctorate in music composition from Princeton University, and his studies inform his artworks and their relationship with musical history. He often examines the difficulty of translating visual and aural material cross-culturally.
Through his work, Young asks us to ponder how cultural conditioning might affect aesthetic reception and challenges inherent assumptions about art being a universally shared or neutral experience.
The 2021 video Sonata for Smoke is a meditation on the symbolic and impermanent nature of smoke. Throughout the video, Young captures the ephemerality of smoke – in particular, the various sounds that accompany its fleeting appearance. He also references the religious significance of smoke through incense burning.
Sonata for Smoke, created as part of an exhibition organized and conceived while Young was an artist in residence at the Ryosoku-in Temple in Japan, consists of a sequence of actions and images that progress with forward motion across time and space, creating a sense of directionality. However, certain motifs and choreographies of events – including ritualistic sounds and actions – repeat throughout the piece. These consecutive, meditative acts were inspired by the temple setting and its arrangement as a sequence of rooms. Objects from the temple also appear throughout the film, including ceramics that bear impressions of its architectural features.