Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Portrait of the Jungle People / 山芭佬 (San-Ba-Lou)
Portrait of the Jungle People / 山芭佬 (San-Ba-Lou)

“Since I was a child attending the Ching Ming Festival, I knew that my grandfather’s portrait on his gravestone was wrong. I later learnt that his tomb was empty. All we knew about him was that he left his family and ‘entered the jungle’ to fight the British. We call him a ‘jungle person’ — Sanba-lou, a Cantonese term used to describe the communist guerrillas. As a member of the MCP, he likely died at the hands of the British colonial forces. And without a photograph, nor records of the man, we may never know whose portrait is on the tombstone.” Portrait of the Jungle People explores both the artist’s family history and the family ‘rhizome’ to honour the offshoots who can neither be traced nor mapped through a series of fragmented narratives and post-memories. The art combines neural networks with language processing models to generate images from text. By combining the predictions of the two models, the artists can use common phrases (prompts) to paint pictures of its underlying concepts, walking through the latent space formed by the training archives’ speculative, fabricated visions. The work is about the ways in which humans and machines make sense of each other, and how this process transitions between co-construction of indigeneity, identity and myth. It emerges from a conflation of machine learning algorithms and postcolonial discourse, presenting the MalaysianChinese narrative as fluid and hallucinatory.

Single-channel video
15 min
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Eddie Wong
About Eddie Wong

Eddie Wong (b.1982) is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher. He earned an MA in Computational Arts from Goldsmiths, University of London, in 2018–2020. His work spans a diverse range of media, including writing and computational creations; his research explores the interplay between narrative, contemporary issues, and data surveillance through machine learning, video art and installation. In his practice, Eddie uses mythotechnesis (machinefictioning) as a method to delve into personal memories, probing postcolonial conditions, and traumatic historical aspects of his own cultural heritage.

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