Cover In the Metaspace Galaxy room (Image: Xcept)

Wonder what Mars smells like? Or what it’s like to be sucked into a black hole? Find out in this Hong Kong artist’s new exhibition Orbstellar Metaspace, where you can shoot asteroids from a spaceship to forge your own NFT planet, and ponder the mysteries of the universe

Space-lovers are rewarded with their own NFT for exploring the cosmos in a new art installation and retail experience at Pacific Place this month. Orbstellar Metaspace is an immersive and interactive digital art exhibition created by Hong Kong new media studio Xcept which features black holes, galaxies and planets.

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Orbstellar Metaspace, open until October 9, was created by Chris Cheung and his new media studio, Xcept, and commissioned by Swire Properties as part of their 50th anniversary arts and culture programme. Stunning digital visuals make for otherworldly photos, but Cheung hopes visitors come away with more than a new Instagram post.

Visitors walk through a glass gate in the shape of James Webb space telescope to find themselves at the Cosmo Gallery to shop for products created by Hong Kong brands for the exhibition: from scented candles created based on Nasa data on what other planets possibly smell like, glow-in-the-dark aroma stones and storage boxes to biodegradable masks that link to a space AR filter on Instagram.

In the exhibition space, guests can design and mint their own unique planet NFT, sit in a spaceship commander chair at the Space Station and play a Mining Game to shoot and unlock minerals to add to their planet, and walk through the Black Hole, a dark tunnel of moving laser lights, which leads to the Metaspace Galaxy room. Inside, visitors float around the space to admire the vibrant constellations and look for their own planet, which has been added to the display. At the end, the White Hole expels cosmonauts back to earth.

Cheung, who also goes by h0nh1m, who has always been more drawn to spirituality than science, says this exhibition isn’t about trying to recreate an astronaut’s journey. He says the point of the exhibition is to create an immersive space in which people are inspired to reflect on their understanding of the world. The exhibit blends real scientific data and understanding  with artistic imagination and philosophical reasoning of the universe: for example, the concept of the black hole, which absorbs, and white hole, which repels, parallels with the Taoist understanding of yin and yang. “The show isn’t about the outer space that we conventionally understand,” Cheung says. “It’s an internal, spiritual exploration.”

Cheung understands first-hand how technology has changed the way we experience art. Ten years ago, when he first set up Xcept, the confluence of art and technology was not well-explored. However, as Web3 has grown to more mainstream popularity and NFTs have evolved the way that digital art is viewed and valued, the public has become more receptive towards digital art. Xcept creates art experiences that bridge the digital and the physical and engages visitors. Space Station, for instance, is designed to gamify the concept of NFTs: visitors participate in the game to acquire digital minerals or scan a QR code on the display wall to transfer real stones to a virtual planet.

What’s next after space? Cheung says Xcept’s next show, coming in 2023, will be about travelling back to the Devonian period—420 million years ago and before dinosaurs existed—and focusing on ancient giant mushrooms. He says that the prehistoric era, in which the earth could not yet sustain life as we recognise it today, is a good entry point for visitors today to reflect on climate change. Cheung’s art exhibitions are certainly Instagram-friendly, but he hopes visitors are inspired to imagine what their future is like through feeling inspired by the past. “These are questions that our future generation will face,” he says.

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