Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Everyday People

We exist in a world of movement, individuals are no longer static and confined, the geography of our lives is expanding and overlapping with the movements of many others around the world, none more so than in our cities. It is these ever changing urban environments that we now try to make sense of, fast paced and unpredictable interactions with others have replaced longer more organic development of our sense of place and identity, moments are snatched when once longer dialogues with our surroundings and the people that inhabit them took place, we stand still for some brief seconds and the city goes rushing past in a blur, we hope to make a mark for ourselves but are often hidden in the chaos. In the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton four Hong Kong based artists have been invited to respond to these concerns and explore their city, this series of explorations, chartings and interventions created for the exhibition are titled ‘Everyday Anomalies’ and show us some different approaches to the codes and patterns of urban society.
The exhibition provides a varied selection of art works but one thing in common is a playful but most importantly slowed down interaction with their surroundings, they have all taken their time to look afresh and renew their view of the world around them. It is this indulgence of slowing down, stopping and looking once more that creates art of great power, it is not the overt and noticeable that is significant but as in the very title of the exhibition the mundane, hidden, partially seen or everyday fabric of the world around us. Kwan Sheung-Chi’s fake sculptures are obvious and not so obvious recreations of existing objects, an apple juice carton is screwed up and looks ready for the dustbin but looking once more we imagine in its scrunched and screwed form the discarded apple core. In its imagery we see the space between the real and processed fruit, are we being encouraged to look once more ourselves to determine the real and fake around us?. On the wall adjacent to the apple core juice carton is a dead mosquito, its body and legs splayed as if squashed violently and on the wall traces of blood oozed and dried by its side. On closer inspection it seems this is another fake created from the artists own blood and hair, the artist seems as fragile as the mosquito, perhaps we are too. Luke Ching is an altogether more robust character, he has a playful way with his art, within the cities noise and movement he wishes to make a mark. In silence but with actions that laugh and chatter at those who see them he charmingly mocks our unblinking, unthinking movements and embraces those who see and act with him. In Ching’s video and accompanying photographs we see him in a shopping mall, he carries a helium balloon, seemingly accidently the Disney character balloon slips from his grip and floats upwards until it stops contained by the ceiling of the mall. Some notice, many don’t and in his photographs he returns every day to see the fate of the balloon, until on the seventh day it is no longer to be seen, hope gives way to the inevitability of change. In the gallery space itself Ching has created other interventions and actions, in a hollow in the gallery floor we are asked as visitors to ‘take a nap if you want’, a small mattress and pillow are provided. As the Brighton traffic rumbles past the window outside we could relax, bury ourselves for forty winks and become a living piece of art, why not?, Ching would do so if he were in the gallery with us.
Rather than stillness or rushing urban movements it is the gentle forces and objects outside our atmosphere that fascinate Kam Lai Wan, using star charts and rescaling them onto the world around us we can create a series of actions and journeys somewhere between predictable and unpredictable. Recreated from an antiquarian star chart is a braille chart, journeys taken into the stellar atmosphere in our sighted imaginings can be re-imagined by those without sight. In another work Wan has taken a series of journeys that are once again determined by the stars, transposing and rescaling constellations onto maps to create the route. At each point at which a star would occur a stone is collected and added as a document of the journey, a large and unknowable cosmos is travelled and charted on the familiar land we know but perhaps guiding Wan to unfamiliar places along the route. In Wan’s final series of constellation inspired works a number of modified music boxes have been created, each constallation now chimes in its own unique way as we turn the handle, it is an audible and predictable sound created from something vast and unknowable.
Finally it is the potential for the significant in the seemingly insignificant that interests
Pak Sheung-Chuen, the simple act of shopping is turned into a method for giving messages, the collection of items purchased by Pak are scanned and in the receipt that documents the purchases messages appear. The work entitled ‘Love Letter For LC’ is a message contained in the first character of the title of 4 books bought by Pak, on the receipt when read top to bottom the first characters of each line can be translated into the words “I am thinking of you”. ‘Miracle of $136.70’ creates a biblical message in the second characters of each line, the supermarket items listed top to bottom can then be read as “whoever believes in Him should have eternal life”. Pak’s world is hopeful, we live in a hopeful world where our predictable everyday lives may be leading us to something better, to happier and improved circumstances. It is in Pak’s video ‘Breathing in a House’ that we see this ability to create something better through the everyday, from the 1st to the 11th of September 2006 he created an artwork in an apartment he had borrowed from a friend. In the speeded up video Pak occasionally travels the city but mostly just lounges around the apartment, we see him cooking, eating, sleeping and watching films on his laptop but amongst this mundane domestic environment he is creating and accommodating his artwork. Breathing into clear plastic bags and tying them closed he creates a balloon like installation of hundreds of bags, as the days continue the bags accumulate until finally the apartment is full, floor to ceiling, front to back, it is a beautiful construction which bounces light off the transparent reflective surfaces of the inflated bags. In all these art works the simple act of breathing and being becomes something beautiful and significant, then again it always was but sometimes we need the likes of Pak Sheung Chuen, Kam Lai Wan, Luke Ching and Kwan Sheung-Chi to remind us.


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