If you’ve ever admired someone doing tai chi in the park and felt like you could see and touch the energy they were creating in thin air, then check out this video by Tobias Gremmler.
With delicacy and precision, Gremmler has brought kung fu variations to life on screen with images that bring all sorts of comparisons to mind, from calligraphy to gaming to Issey Miyake’s signature pleats.
The Munich-born artist and academic used the latest technology to manifest the art of two kung fu experts, Master Wong Yiu Kau and Master Li Shek Lin, in his short film. ‘I was deeply inspired by the dynamics of motion and philosophy of kung fu while working on this project,’ he says. ‘Visualizing the invisible is always fascinating.”
There was no automated process for creating the visualizations. ‘It took me 10 days to create the different variations,’ Gremmler says (the motion-capturing data was pre-recorded). ‘Unfortunately there’s no magic script for this.’
The work was commissioned by Hing Chao, the Hong Kong shipping heir and pioneer in cultural conservation whose causes include helping save nomadic culture in China’s northeast, and traditional arts, particularly intangible cultural forms such as martial arts that cannot be touched or stored in physical form.
Hing Chao himself is a martial arts fanatic. He holds a second dan black belt in Shotokan-style karate, is a qualified kickboxing instructor and has studied several styles of southern Chinese martial arts. In 2008, he co-founded the International Guoshu Association dedicated to preserving and reviving Chinese martial arts. He is also one of the movers and shakers behind the annual Hong Kong Culture Festival.
Gremmler also has a strong connection with Hong Kong, where he has lived for the past several years, and his film will be shown at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in September 2016. When asked how his travels have influenced his work, he says: ‘I guess every artist is influenced by his or her environment. China is rich in design inspiration that resonates with my own personal aesthetic. But to create an artwork relevant beyond a particular culture, you have to peel back the layers of culture or tradition to reveal the universal characteristics.’
Photo: Tobias Gremmler