Maurice Benayoun

City University, Hong Kong

­Critical Fusion: Fiction Fighting for Reality in the Urban Battlefield


The war for attention in the urban battlefield started with urban advertising, which has now become a city planning challenge. Sneaking in between glittering advertising and dull institutional self-branding, the artists claim their place. Attention is a key part of the survival process. Being alternately the prey and the predator, the citizen is bombed by consumerist injunctions.

What is the role of the artist in such an unbalanced conflict? How has the city, host of billboards, LED screens become a medium of its own? Supporting power, the corporation, the institution, the city now reflects the fabric of urban society. This fabric is a skin with an urban impact. As human skin preserves the intimate organization of the body, the outer skin has become an interface perceiving weather conditions and displaying messages to the city. By doing so, it alters the very nature of the public space that becomes a virtual shopping mall when surrounded by explicit advertising, a theme park when in the middle of playful cosmetic attractions, or virtual art gallery when surrounded by meaningful artworks.

Artists chose their position: entertainers, players, poets, social activists, and political fighters. Large-scale presence and interactivity have drawn some artists to play a role in cosmetic, playful entertainment. They practice the “fusion” of fiction and reality, accepting the power deal: Bread and Circus! The price of social peace based on status quo and consent.  Contemporary society is based on submission and “gamification of consent”. Is the artist’s game about playing consent for praise?

Beyond the cosmetic improvement of the urban set, paving the way of the global fusion of fiction and reality, I am promoting “Critical Fusion” – where fictions overlay the real, physical world, to make it more visible, more understandable. This is a permanent fight where long term stealth action with long tail impact can be destroyed by one-shot self-promotion. This is the story of the Open Sky Project in Hong Kong.


Artist, theorist and curator, Maurice Benayoun (MoBen, 莫奔) is a pioneering and prominent figure in the field of New Media Art. MoBen’s work freely explores the boundaries of media, encompassing video and virtual reality, perfume and sculpture, interactive art and large-scale public installation. MoBen’s work has been widely awarded and exhibited in many major international museums including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the museums of contemporary art in Lyon, Montreal, Seoul and Helsinki, Eyebeam and Museum of the Moving Image in New York, the Machida Museum, the ICC Tokyo, as well as the permanent exhibition inside the Arc de Triomphe, Paris.

From the Tunnel Under the Atlantic (VR installation 1995) to NeORIZON and major works like World Skin, a Photo Safari in the Land of War (Golden Nica, Ars Electronica 1998) and the Mechanics of Emotions, MoBen’s work tries to exceed technology, exploring new ways of creating meaning through experiencing intense metaphorical situations. MoBen has won more than 20 international awards, including the Villa Medicis Hors les Murs, more than four Ars Electronica awards (including the coveted Golden Nica), Siggraph, Imagina, SACD and four International Monitor Awards. In 2014, MoBen was nominated for the Prix Ars Electronica Visionary Pioneer of Media Art award. MoBen is currently a Professor at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong and Chair of Graduate Studies Committee and PhD Program Coordinator.