Boedi Widjaja
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Black—Hut

The series looks into the psycho-physical architectures of dwelling. Its primary gesture is in the act of building site-specific, sonic proto-structures with concrete membranes. Recurring materials in this series include salt-infused concrete to coax the phenomenon of salt bloom (efflorescence) over time, and sonic piece Datum, a series of pulses composed from inverse gamelan sounds.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut
2019-20. The second of a site-specific proto-structure diptych separated by time and space. Co-commissioned by QAGOMA and the Singapore Art Museum. Presented at the Singapore Biennale 2019: Every step in the right direction at the National Gallery Singapore. SB 2019 Artistic Director: Patrick Flores. Supported by LWC Alliance.
Black—Hut, Black—Hut
2018-19. The first of a site-specific proto-structure diptych separated by time and space. Co-commissioned by QAGOMA and the Singapore Art Museum. Presented at Asia Pacific Triennial 9 in the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane. APT9 Curatorial Manager: Zara Stanhope.
Black—Hut
2016-2017. Solo exhibition. Singapore Biennale Affiliate Project. Commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, a site-specific architectural and sound installation at Earl Lu Gallery, ICAS La Salle. Curated by Melanie Pocock and Bala Starr. Supported by LWC Alliance.
Notes

A Singapore (meta) hut: thinking about ‘home’ in virtual reality

Where do we begin to think about ‘home’ in virtual reality? If dwelling in the physical world prerequisites “a genuine relation to a place”1, how do we similarly form meaningful relations to a ‘place’ in the virtual world? Complicating the question further is the issue of perception - if a physical place is perceived through embodied experience, how do we dwell in virtual reality? The pandemic has accelerated the global trend towards the digital simulation of physical reality. Immersive virtual reality will be an inescapable dimension, with a time frame sooner than we imagine. In this context, A Singapore (meta) hut is founded on the urgency to imagine strategies to locate and ground ourselves in a simulated dimension.

Building a tropical virtual ‘hut’

“...the very idea of dwelling inevitably brings with it an essentially topological mode of understanding…and, together with this, of notions such as belonging and identity”2

Boedi’s art practice looks at notions of place, identity and embodiment. Primarily inspired by his migration experience to Singapore from Indonesia, many of his works engage with questions of home, belonging and memory. Through the architectural installation series Black—Hut (2016 - ongoing), Boedi has been investigating the physical and psychological architecture of home by looking at the built form and materiality of the tropical dwelling typology, and the stories and histories embedded in them. Central to Black—Hut is the evocation of ‘place’, a somatic, site-specific experience that the artist has designed for visitors to his architectural installations, through strategies such as activating micro climate3 and directing ultra-focused sound. 

If Black—Hut contemplates on dwelling by building (an installation) in the physical world, A Singapore (meta) hut does that through building a (meta) dwelling in virtual space, in the form of computer generated renderings and animated videos. Building on his technical knowledge in digital architectural modelling, Widjaja will explore parametric modelling to develop a virtual ‘hut’ that interfaces with real world data (light intensity, temperature, humidity, GPS, etc) through the use of various digital sensors and microcontrollers.  

The research-based project extends from the following questions:
1. How do we think about concepts of ‘place’ and ‘space’ in virtual reality?
2. How do we determine a ‘site’ or ‘locus’ in virtual space?
3. How do we think about the identity of a place in virtual reality? 
4. How do we discuss tropicality - the representational dimension of the tropics in the virtual space?
5. If “the tropics is as much an imaginative and representational space as it is a physically located” space4 that is entangled with historical sociocultural contexts, how do we manifest these entanglements in the virtual space?
6. If environmental or climatic conditions are the prime determinants for the forms and materiality in tropical houses and housing, what would be the  implication to site a tropical dwelling in virtual space? 
7. Given the site-specificity of tropical houses and housing that results in diverse architectural expressions, does the virtual space suggest a digital vernacular for a (meta) house?
8. Phenomenology argues (that) human existence is described and understood as embodied, and socially and culturally embedded as being-in-the world5. However, regardless of advancements in immersive technology, the virtual world remains, at least for now, “unnatural” to our perceptual system, complicating and even challenging our mental mode of embodied experience in the physical world. How will this technically impact the strategies for the “construction of newly experienceable places”6 in virtual space?

- Jun 2022

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