#InTheNameOfArt: Chong Yan Chuah On His Experience In Creating Atl-Aequus And The Five Phases

Chong Yan Chuah is a multidisciplinary artist whose body of work includes digital art, drawing, painting, sculpture, and installation – often communicating with one another.

With an architectural background, Chong Yan is intrigued by the intersection between the physical environment in which we live in, and the fictional worlds that he creates, challenging the perception of space, reality, and experience. 

In Atl-Aequus and the Five Phases, audience members can take turns exploring the mythological world, interacting with surreal landscapes and future artefacts/digital installations as if they are time travellers teleporting to a mythical perspective of Earth. 

Utilising Unreal Engine 5, Chong Yan experiments with the temporal dimension by envisioning a society abundant with future mythologies and prospective artefacts without the constraints of location-specific (dependent) culture, ethnicity, and spiritual identity that we are familiar with today. 

What led you to explore world building as an art form?

A lot of my art revolves around the idea of world building, and through it I explore questions of digital identity, digital anthropology, and all the nuances of digital now. Even though this is the fourth world that I designed, it’s the first project where I tapped into my roots.

I was looking into the idea of the Five Phases, and I really liked the beauty of it. These are elements that are crashing against one another, but through the mediator of the soil, they can connect with it. I’m intrigued by the concept of interconnectedness, or “hyper-linkage”, as I’d like to call it. 

It’s quite beautiful because one structure or one foundation can be applied to different allegories or storytelling. For instance, people use the Five Phases to understand philosophy, medicine, the stars, forecasting, and all these amazing things.

It’s the idea that one foundation can be reinterpreted multiple times for different purposes, and I started using it as a structure to design the world within the game. 

What do you take away from your experience in creating Atl-Aequus and the Five Phases?

Let’s say you think about this game as the environment that everyone is going to be in the near future. It’s going to be our social media, where we shop, all that kind of stuff.

The position of the architect that designed the game holds a lot of power, because it leads you to think about the idea of digital shamanism and techno paganism. A position where the architect has implanted all the easter eggs in the game, he knows every single gateway, he knows every single cheat code of the game.

Essentially, he’s playing God. And that’s a very dangerous environment to be in because it affects social behaviour, right?  

I started to think about the idea of “meta gods”. In essence, I designed five different “meta gods” that embody the five elements and have them trained by artificial intelligence. So, every ten minutes, you listen to a story that’s generated by the “meta gods”, which is trained by the same technology as GPT, which is a storytelling learning model.  

It’s a fascinating relationship between me and the “meta gods”. The deities are more like machines, and I’m influenced by them to craft the universe.

A poetic way to look at it is that the “meta gods” eventually become a collective manifestation of the society that’s in it. Society is constantly evolving, the data set is getting stronger, and the “meta god” evolves by reacting to how society develops.