Aspex Portsmouth

The Sea Changes Into Words, Bettina Fung 馮允珊

The Sea Changes Into Words is a durational online performance and text-based game created by artist Bettina Fung for Aspex’s 40th anniversary programme of digital commissions, Aspex (life begins) at 40.

The game invites visitors into a virtual building that is a reimagining of the new Aspex website. Using the style of a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book, players can determine their own route through the game to explore multiple rooms, and ultimately make their way to an online Gathering Space.

Between bookending opening and closing events on the 20 May and 20 June 2021, Fung carried out a durational performance; collating and sharing written contributions submitted by players of the game, and having conversations with participants who arrived in the expanding Gathering Space. On 20 June the Gathering Space was locked from further editing but it can still be viewed at the end of the game, until the end of the year.

Bettina Fung 馮允珊 is a Hong Kong born, British-Chinese artist based in London. In
The Sea Changes Into Words Fung broaches ongoing topics of interest including legacy, futility and progress. Players of the game are invited to be active participants in the development of the artwork, contributing their own ideas and dreams of the future, and joining events in the digital realm to meet other people and discuss these subjects in more depth.

Aspex and Bettina Fung (the artist) are committed to creating a welcoming, accepting and safe environment for all visitors. The Gathering Space is a collaborative space with contributions made by many participating individuals. Some views and opinions stated here may not reflect the beliefs of Aspex and the artist, and should not be deemed as reflective of their position. This is also a space that appreciates the coexistence of similarities and differences and again we encourage all participants to be respectful of different cultural practices, attitudes and beliefs.

The Sea Changes Into Words is best experienced on a computer as some features of the game may not work as intended on a tablet or mobile device.

Most players take around 30 minutes to reach the Gathering Space but you may want to spend longer exploring the building.
The game has been tested with some screen readers but if you are having difficulties accessing the work please contact or call the gallery during opening hours on 02392 778080.

Further Information

If you’d like to play The Sea Changes Into Words before reading the further information about the artwork, click ‘enter now’. Return to this page by moving your cursor to the top right corner of your screen and clicking X.

Did you explore all floors of the building? Even the basement?

Have you met the Resident and had a coffee and croissant in the cafe?

Did you return your visitor pass to the Receptionist?

Although the virtual building in The Sea Changes Into Words shares some physical features with the real Aspex in Portsmouth, there are some spaces described by Bettina Fung that are imagined physical manifestations of Aspex’s work, or which are entirely fabricated by the artist. Each player is able to have a unique experience of the game, navigating their own route up and down stairs, ladders and lifts to find hidden features; some of which only reveal themselves after other parts of the game are completed, and some of which are dead ends. Repeat visits to the building provide new passages.

Before the first lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic Bettina Fung’s practice primarily focused on the expansive and immediate nature of drawing; and encompassed live art, two dimensional and site-specific work. Responding to the unimaginable changes to the world around us in 2020, and more specifically to the impacts on her own livelihood, Fung began to explore the possibilities for performance in collaborative shared digital spaces such as Google Docs. These spaces have allowed the artist to play with the ideas of liveness, interactivity and collaboration that would usually be felt in her real life performances.

The Sea Changes Into Words is the artist’s first work realised as a text-based online browser game, although she originally studied Computer Visualisation and Animation. Created with an open source software called Twine, the artist uses devices such as (seemingly) live typing text and randomly generated shuffle sequences to animate the text and inject energy. Fung has also embedded intersectional feminist ideologies and a critical awareness of care and wellbeing in the work. The (ungendered) characters in the game are kind, helpful and forgiving, and in the Artists’ Residence we learn about an imagined alternate reality that affords all people with universal basic services and promotes the perceived value of art and artists.

The artist wants to encourage and support active discourse for peer-learning with and from other people. As part of the artwork Fung’s durational performance has been punctuated by a series of live events in the Gathering Space. These include publicly advertised happenings such as the Opening and Closing Events (20 May and 20 June); a Silent Reading Group (10 June); and a live conversation with Gabrielle de la Puente of The White Pube (15 June); as well as unadvertised meetings of community or special interest groups.

Launched as the first work in a series of four digital commissions for Aspex (life begins) at 40, The Sea Changes Into Words bridges Aspex’s four decades of gallery-based exhibition making with a more recent venture into digital commissioning. Invited to make new work responding to an exhibition in Aspex’s archive, Fung chose Suki Chan’s 2012 exhibition A Hundred Seas Rising, referenced explicitly within the game in the space described as the Archive, on the second floor of the virtual gallery building.

Bettina Fung has exhibited in the UK and internationally. In 2018/19 she was part of Syllabus IV, a peer-led artist development and learning programme delivered by six UK arts institutions, and in 2020 she was awarded an Artists Make Change Peer-Learning Bursary by Airspace Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent. Fung is also an Associate Member of the Asia-Art-Activism Research Network.

The Sea Changes Into Words was commissioned by Aspex and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. It is part of Aspex (life begins) at 40, a programme which also includes digital commissions by Hardeep Pandhal, Jaf Yusuf and NT.

Bettina Fung interviews Suki Chan

To complement the digital artwork Bettina Fung has interviewed Suki Chan about the A Hundred Seas Rising project and exhibition, and her practice and research more broadly. The transcribed conversation is available to read as a downloadable pdf or Google doc, and is the first of four recorded conversations between the artists commissioned in 2021 and the artists whose work they have connected to in the Aspex archive.

Digital Resource
The Words Change Into Pictures – an activity tutorial by Abigail Gilchrist

Watch the video and download the PDF activity

In response to The Sea Changes Into Words, artist Abigail Gilchrist has created an activity for people of all ages to get stuck into. This will guide you through exploring the work and having a go at your own creative response.

Abigail Gilchrist’s practice is centred around communication, consensus and collaboration; most recently making art as part of the collective stair/slide/space.