Born in Hong Kong in 1979, Samson Young received his BA in music, philosophy, and gender studies at the University of Sydney before obtaining an MPhil from the University of Hong Kong in 2007 and a PhD in music composition from Princeton University, New Jersey, in 2013. His compositions, drawings, installations, radio broadcasts, and performances touch upon topics such as military conflict, identity, migration, and political frontiers past and present. Sound and its cultural politics are at the heart of a practice that interlays multiple narratives and references.
The relationship between violence and sound is a recurrent line of investigation in Young’s work, which is often based on extensive research. In Nocturne(2015), presented in a solo exhibition at Team Gallery in New York that same year, Young dresses in military garb and sits before an array of sound-effects equipment and a small monitor showing found footage of nighttime bombings in various war zones. Like a Foley artist – who uses various props to replicate everyday sound effects in film and other media – he recreates the sounds of explosions and gunshots as they appear on the monitor and then broadcasts them through a localized FM transmitter. In Canon(2016), Young wears a 1979 Royal Hong Kong Police Force uniform and projects the distress calls of birds through an LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device), a nonlethal sonic weapon often used to disperse protesters. The sound is targeted at individual audience members, who sit in a distant room filled with paraphernalia related to the 1979 Vietnamese refugee crisis, when 2,700 refugees were forced to remain onboard a cargo vessel for four months after being refused entry to Hong Kong.
Young has had solo exhibitions at Goethe Institute, Hong Kong (2013); Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (2015); and Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2016). His Songs for Disaster Relief was presented at the Venice Biennale (2017). Select group exhibitions include Innovationist: The Spectacular Journey of New Media Art, Taipei Contemporary Art Museum (2013); The Wizard’s Chamber, Kunsthalle Winterthur, Switzerland (2013); A Journal of the Plague Year, Para Site Art Space, Hong Kong (2013); 48HR Incident, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney (2015); Retrograde, Logan Center Gallery, University of Chicago (2016); Documenta, Athens, Greece, and Kassel, Germany (2017); and One Hand Clapping, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2018). Young was a recipient of the Bloomberg Emerging Artist Award in 2007, and the BMW Art Journey award in 2015. He lives and works in Hong Kong and maintains an active practice in classical music composition.