Royce Ng is an Australian artist based in Hong Kong. He often works with the anthropologist Daisy Bisenieks in the collective Zheng Mahler and is currently engaged in a project on the economic relationship between Asia and Africa for the Johann Jacobs Museum in Zurich, an institute for contemporary art and research focusing on transnational trade routes.


in collaboration with Daisy Bisenieks

2009, Hydroskull & What the Drum Said, mixed media, dimensions variable

This work is based on our inquiry into two theoretical concepts, Levi-Strauss's idea of the 'bricoleur' and its relation and use in art and Ron Eglash's work on African fractal mathematics. The bricoleur was developed by the French structuralist anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss and was used as a theoretical framework to distinguish the kind of invention and innovation that occurs in small scale societies living in conditions of material scarcity as opposed to the 'engineer' in the industrialized world.
Levi-Strauss says that the universe of the Bricoleur is closed, and he is often forced to make do with whatever is at hand, whereas the universe of the Engineer is open in that he is able to create new tools and materials.
The concept of the bricoleur is used by art historians to describe certain kinds of mixed media collage, sculpture and painting which uses recycled and found objects. In the works we created, Hydroskull and What the Drum Said... we made objects which approach the art historical use of the term and take it back to its anthropological origins and re-situate it in the context of the appropriate technology movement and the use of indigenous knowledge in contemporary development theory. We have created objects which live on the boundary between the two, craft objects which attempt to resolve certain problems of material survival but which are necessarily fantastical and non-functional thus re-inscribing the objects into the tradition of the cargo cult. The hydroskull is a design for a portable hydro electricity generator which is used to power a hairdryer that propels a hot air balloon that carries messages in much the same way a talking drum is used as a communication device.
Ron Eglash is an ethno-mathematician who has spent a number of years working on describing the indigenous mathematics used in various small scale and first nation communities around the world. In particular, his work in Africa has focused on the use of fractals, self-similar ,increasingly scaled repetition, in traditional architecture, textiles, sculpture, carving and painting throughout the continent. Eglash used the mathematical principles of African fractals to design computer software which can be used by communities to learn and utilize the mathematics inherent in their own culture and we have used this software to design a series of posters which borrow from the talking drum messages sent between tribes living in the upper Congo recorded by the ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey in the 1950's.

2009, Come, Come, Come... digital prints on relfex, 42cm X 59.4cm