IN SESSION 3 - Enoch CHENG
IN SESSION 3 –
from July 6, 2015
now, since Nov 2015
Enoch CHENG is an artist, writer and self-taught director. He received his MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmith, London and BA in English Literature and Art History at the Univeristy of Hong Kong. His practice involves the moving image, installation, theatre and performance. In 2015, he has premiered his film Operation Pina4 in Hong Kong and film installation Last Time at Mancunia in Manchester.
He had a lot to tell after switching from art archiving, programming, and interpreting to creative writing. Above all, he realizes he has re-learnt how to learn.
What if art is not a show?
March 28, 2016
This is a beginning of thinking through what Enoch Cheng has made happen. There is no end in sight yet, but I hope to catch up with the beginning of your experience in situ, from March 28, 2016, to see what I can also do by living in and laying open another temporality.
The delusion that every street, corner and crevice lit up could be clearly seen comes with the delusion that we are safe (from harm, from crime, from the unpredictable). The deliberate policy of letting light rule so that our city-dwelling experience is totalized and secured as an experience of browsing products for sale comes with a cost – we fear darkness, and perhaps more so, the transition from brightness to darkness; that is, we also fear change. How can art compete with the obscenity of decorative light spilling over Causeway Bay? How can we see art when our very capacity to see is systematically thinned out?
Enoch Cheng chose from the beginning not to compete, but to converse. His process began five months ago, when he was on the road. With the help of Jeff Leung in Hong Kong, the façade of A3 was covered with blue glossy paper. It was intended to be a test of how dust might settle. It reminds me of ancient like Aristotle who wondered about specks of dust floating in sunlight, their movements – does movement indicate life? Later on, a blue rectangle was projected onto the wall opposite to A3. This experiment that he had to put himself through, the mental labor that came with it, revealed a secret, perhaps an open secret: the shop front is fully exposed by being on the streets that are not designed to be friendly for art; in fact, even apathetic to it. Enoch had to confront this challenge – the space no longer spoke to him, aloof and distant from what he wanted it to be, unmoved. He began bringing fellow human beings to the shop front, to sit with him and have conversations. This became the second phase of the project. I don’t know what each conversation was about, but at one point, Enoch asked me how a journalist might start asking questions, tapping onto my experience of being a journalist stone age ago. It occurred to me then that Enoch was on fast track trying to extract meaning from A3 for as long as it took. As he told me about the variety of responses from his invited guests – from feeling offended for A3 being part of the artistic ecology in Hong Kong, to being fascinated with the transaction of attention made possible by the obliqueness of A3 in relation to its surroundings, I sensed the demands from the outside he admitted into his mental labor, bearing upon his creative process. They brought both possibilities and suffering, at times resulting in a temporary kind of dread, even horror, for having to live with accomplishing nothing, or making something of no consequence. I felt for the blows he had taken standing in front of A3, trying to protect it, and for this I will be forever grateful.
Somehow, though, things began to transform, too, out of a combination of many things – friendship, trust, courage, spirit of exploration, and lots of walking… All these are the art: art isn’t a show; art is when everything is connected as the artist presents them to be, when not everything is known, when no destination is in sight. A3 itself, for Enoch, transformed from being utopic-dystopic – at once a stage made of its being a window beyond the shop and a windowless prison closing onto itself, to many other things: a playground for him and his friends, a room for his solitary contemplation, and returning, I would argue, to a nomadic co-presence relative to the many other stations that the artist has been touching in Hong Kong and overseas. Emotionally, his process with A3 moved from joy to suffering, powered by all kinds of dilemma any artist goes through in wondering, thinking, making... It is one piece of a big puzzle he has been holding up as an artist. Alternatively, one might also propose that all these are happening together simultaneously, unevenly bearing upon the artist’s understanding of his own situation and A3’s, depending on his peregrinations.
Among all the contributing factors to what Enoch has A3 now, I think of love. However cynical we may be of all forms of sincerity including love in our world today, it is clear to me how Enoch’s love of art – as everything and nothing – has kept him going. His love of art shifts from wanting to be loved, to giving love (an insight of Plato in the Symposium), from wanting to receive love to actively giving his love of art, which becomes a source of his strength.
Here is Khalil Gibran’s poem for all those (Enoch included) who are threshed naked by art and choose to keep going.
Then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.
And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And When his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And When he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and mediate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
In Out of Time, Out of Place: Public Art (Now), Claire Doherty says it is disappointing that “public art remains cast in the collective imagination as either the uninvited guest or the mass entertainer. The successful public artwork continues to be judged against its ability both to galvanize popular opinion and to contribute positively to place-making on the basis of immediate impact.” (2015:12) Instead, she suggests public art be understood primarily as artistic strategies of unsettling notions of time and space and place, which cannot be exhausted by the idea of place-making.
True, but I would like to propose that before strategies become strategies, artists wrestle, which is also part of artistic labor and not to be exhausted by looking only at what artists do as conscious intentions and results. With his wrestling, has Enoch achieved patience that lasts longer, but not too long? Has he lived with the impatience that comes slower, but not too slow? Has some form of peace been attained? I am not sure, but because of all that comes into artistic labor, perhaps there would be more of an interest in the life of an artist’s mind, as always already connected with her world, our world.
“This could be a happy space!“ He said when we had the first chat – well, more accurately, him pouring worlds and worlds and worlds opened up before him in the past two years over steamed pork cake with salty egg and fried chicken filets with celery. Of all, i share his excitement in learning how to learn again.
E: Enoch CHENG
Y: Yang YEUNG
On first encounter
Y hey stranger, it's like meeting someone entirely new enoch! perhaps we haven't actually met each other before.
it's like listening to an almond crackling open.
thanks for last night, as always, i enjoyed your genuine attitude to live.
i have half slept on it and I know something is brewing. Please give me two days to sink in deeper a little more. Will go there and spend more time today. i need to imagine outside my paradigm as much as possible about what the space can be... More soon.
RETREAT/ RESEARCH/ SEARCH
Continuing long emails as Enoch travels between Hong Kong and Berlin
E As promised, I would write you something in two days. After further thoughts, I love the potential of your space. And I think my initial ideas have to do with light, whether it is an object to emit light, or as an object itself, or even the source to allow what can be seen/ not-seen and also the very nature of projection itself. But with light, it goes hand in hand with color, so I cannot help but continue my hunch that we should not compete with the surrounding, but instead, we shall think about how it can be a place to have a soothing effect (even momentarily), which I think is an urgent need for Hong Kong and its people. I am also thinking of how to connect: with myself as someone using the space for two months; with the very nature of the space; and of course of passers-by.
Next step, I will go back to the basic and start researching on color theory, as well as the evolution of light to see where this will lead me. Meanwhile, I will also pay special attention to light as an object - there are a lot of light shops on the same road across the street. And then I can take it from there to see how and who and what I'd like/ I can work with.
This is an exciting process.
If you don't mind, and since we are in the 21st century, I can take this project into two phases, when the first phase may not require my physical presence. In that sense, I am truly imagining a space from a distance, which is an exciting way to think of a space with the mind-space.
Y Great! Have something meaningful to think through while in the air. Get back to you when I have settled down near the Lightning Field.
[Two weeks later…]
Y Hi enoch, I’m finally done with the intensive course in Santa Fe. Super inspiring. Your color idea - have been studying Aristotle's On the Soul, in which he talks about how our senses work. Roughly, for the eye, he says it is a sense organ that has the potential of seeing color. But to see color, it also has the potential to perceive what's transparent. The potency (or potential) in transparency is set to work when there is light. With light, we see color. Then I spoke with a fellow seminar participant - she said, her friend who has this synesthesia ability tells her she is the color purple.
I am still thinking about communicating what's happening in A3 - my hunch is that I want to tell people about what's being brewed as the beginning of some process, rather than having an 'opening' for people to come see complete work…it's not easy to communicate this. One possibility is, for instance, that as a process that we have already started/ you have already started, I could 'announce' the project beginning as questions the artists are asking. I need something like a cluster of nodes that present roughly what artists hinge on, when they think thing through, eg. Questions, Exercises, Getting Lost, Being Found….something like this. Let me think more.
E Great to hear from you and learn that you have been inspired by the course. I have been going to Causeway Bay a lot these days, and been thinking of how valuable a space like yours is in many layers. There are something worth pursuing in this particular time and space and the very condition we live in. I am not going to go into details about what we have touched on before, but here are a few things that I treasure or will try to naively persist as much as I can if I don't give up:
a. A place for making, instead of production
b. A place for fun! Think about the notion that A3 is a place in Causeway Bay which defies the business out there and aims for fun!
c. A place of ‘advertising’ ‘no advertisement’, but really aiming for fun - how very political!
For c. I have been thinking, like I told you before, how the windows themselves can be a magazine. We can project image (sometimes moving) to the window and make it a serial(連載) magazine, novel (小說) or whatever you call it. With this in mind, I am thinking about Tozer Pak's early work at Ming Pao and also another Thai project, which also uses the window as a magazine of works from different contributors. I am in between both. And it is a good way to do something which can function on its own with / without me being here. And that distance is important. There are a few lines of thoughts about what I can potential think of doing:
1. I was recently invited to contribute a page to my great book maker/ artist friends. And from their research, they found that the furthest object made by human is a space probe (sent outside the Solar system) which contains 115 images and a variety of natural sounds as well as musical selections from different cultures and eras, spoken greetings in fifty-nine languages. This inspires me to think about how romantic, beautiful, naive, contrive, and unrequited (一廂情願) this object was. It also represents our very desire to communicate, but the distance of communication, or miscommunication is very interesting and complex for me to think about. Will it contribute to my project? I don't know yet, but it is a nice metaphor. With art, instead of verbal direct face-to-face communication, there is always this distance beyond space and time.
2. I am considering your space as a Room, and perhaps through my image, I can create the fragment for the room via image. Indeed, I have been specifically visiting a few rooms (some hotels) before knowing what I was doing, but just to think. And I have been collecting materials loosely. With this, I am also thinking of Elizabeth Price's video where she makes a video about a house in relation to a (semi)fictional man: http://www.stanleypickergallery.org/programme/elizabeth-price-2/ But of course, my approach would be quite different because the Room does not exist. Look, I am aware that I am playing with terminology now and I am turning A3 into a Room now, and I have been calling A3 a place, sometimes a space. But of course, this is also not new (private and public) but now I cannot help but think of all those brothels in Amsterdam or all those IKEA rooms, or all those window display (think of all those light retail shops near A3).
At this point, it may be apt to share with you what I am constantly brewing in my head these days, so that you can see how it fits together with many other things because I believe most artists don't think about a fixed project and all different projects constantly feed into or even merge into each other.
1. Dance, I want to choreograph a dance piece. But when I use the word choreography, I know I am only borrowing the term - it is not like the way we think about Pina Bausch, or the Cunningham type of movement. But I think (I am still thinking) it is closer to Non-dance, but I am also in between, I am more inclined to think about how one dances. I need to speak to you more later as I know that you used to go out a lot to dance parties, haha.
2. I am developing a few music pieces with a few musicians. I had an 8-hour meeting with a few musicians yesterday to begin the conversation, and our project may have to do with something performative and possibly theatrical (not necessarily about scale). I have also been currently working with a musician in London to develop scores for my upcoming short film. We are doing these soundtracks with the idea of an album in mind. See, this is my way of working, when I do one thing, I let it merge into another form, so as to utilise the resource, and the very opportunity of collaboration, brainstorm together. There are different songs that I want to make: some epic, some operatic, some techno, some pop, some jazz, some don't even have a name. But it is not just about the experimentation of sounds, it is a way for me to understand something inexplicable and communicate to my audience, to tap into some sort of memory in them or just to move them a little bit. I am not a musician who knows music theory per se and I usually start with something unknown, but all musicians I worked with for my previous works would know that I am very precise about something I want despite that something being rather abstract.
3. A shop. I am thinking of the idea of a shop, a real shop (again I can talk more to you about your previous experience of habitus- right name? later on) which 'sells' objects/ service. But the very act of selling has a performative element: by entering the shop, it is not just a relationship of consumption, but it is a site to create encounters (be it with human or objects) and meanings. The shop-keepers almost have to be performers. And the objects are all carefully selected. I don't have specific details yet, but am thinking. I am thinking in between TinoSehgal's performance in art spaces and Christine Hill's shop as an art form: http://www.eigen-art.com/index.php?article_id=119&clang=1
[Y: I can think of Sunday Lai Long-sang’s Selling at the Daily Rental Shop in Taipo, Hong Kong: http://www.lailongsang.com/images/slide/gallery/coming_soon.jpg]
4. A garden. I don't know when and where and how. Obviously I cannot keep a garden given that I have no space (or long long time) to dedicate to it as much as I want, I do still want to consider how this is possible or how much is (not) possible, and whether that impossibility can be a different kind of garden. All our Chinese or Japanese gardens have great philosophy. Your A3 glass house makes me think of that!
5. A film about a museum or an art/ film or whatever festivals as a site for memory. (There's a chance I may do that about the Manchester library as I told you before about its dome structure.)
The list goes on. And I am out to Yau Ma Tei to research tonight... More soon. Feel free to bounce back whatever you see fit. I am comfortable with how A3 is communicating. Will let you know how I feel as the project goes. And Aristotle's On the Soul is on my list.
Y Flowing, flowing, flowing. So nice. See, it's an awful lot of waste if I am the only one reading all these. Thank you for the sharing. I will keep walking. Do you know this poet/ typographer's writing? http://www.amazon.com/Everywhere-Being-Dancing-Twenty-Thinking/dp/1582434387/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 More later.
E Yes, keep walking, walking the line like how Richard Long does it, a path whose line only becomes visible after enough walks have been walked. Will check out that book.
But huh, something you should know about me, there are three things that I am very bad and don't even have a language/ mindset/ feelings, or whatever to really appreciate: Dance/ Poetry/ Opera. I have seen/ read big and small ones by big and small figures, but it is rare (it did happen before) that I am moved by the form...
Keep walking and dancing, YY, and tell me later which ideas resonate with you...
[Two months later…]
Y Have an idea! Would you like to make your work performative, ie.respond to/ add onto Ah Hei's installation? This suddenly comes up in mind - Hei is saying when he is in a living space, he starts 'making things' and 'doing things' to the place. and your idea of light...another way of perpetually qualifying a place.
E Yes, I am actually thinking of something performative too, also with light. I saw Jeff the other day and had a chat. As his friends, you and I both know that he has been trying to reinvent himself for a long time. And after chatting with him for a night, I thought of 'directing' him in my work, so that he can explore himself, and I can also be challenged. This begins to make sense given that I am not doing a conventional theatre per se, or ‘performance art’. Plus, I feel even better for Jeff to come into my work when I am away since he knows how an artist works...
Y Sounds wonderful Enoch. Thank you for being around when i am running around, just as you are running around.
[Two weeks later…]
E Finally got time to rest in a productive sense and the residency in Manchester has allowed me to begin to release my head to a different sense. Everyone I met has been inspiring and generous with their thoughts which have helped to set my ideas forward. I am still in the midst of conceiving what I will be doing in December, but this time gap is very good for me because I can allow my ideas to grow, and distil. And meanwhile, I am starting/ continuing other projects because in this way, I can let my brain work in other directions, thus in this light, each project would eventually also feed in together in the larger picture.
I have been thinking a lot about your nameless space, about what a storefront can do. And I am going to write you the note as the train runs.
Remember I was saying that this would be an interesting platform to advertise no-advertisement, and it can offer a soothing window for the local passersby to have a gap in the city to not be bombarded by images and messages (mostly commercial). And I was thinking about colors. When I was spending a few nights standing by the alleyway, allowing my senses to wander, thinking what I could offer, I had the initial thought of bringing the Shanghaiese Lu Lu Restaurant (上海鷺鷺酒家)’s neon sign as a starting point. I could just use the colors of red, blue and green as the springboard.
Remember I was talking to you then whenever the space is not used, we could just try out something as a trail, and I think it works very well when “I am not there”because it challenges me how to “make” things (ideas?) with/ without a presence. And when I am not there, of course, my physical presence is then missing (which can technically be a setback), but I must also think how I could then enable something else which I could not otherwise achieve. And this brought me to Jeff!
I literally saw him just before I left, as I needed to go to Sham Shui Po to think about colors (from all the neon light shops), and he was also around. So I spent a night with him to understand his current state of ‘wellbeing’. Well being as in his being as a person, and also he being in the ‘art’. From my perspective, he is constantly trying to find ways to fit in as a curator, and his latest activities with all these eating events where he almost wants to play the agent of performance interests me. Since he knew my experience working with actors, we talked a lot about performance. I initially had the idea of building a ‘confessional room’ for him, so he could just let go of whatever holding him back, but of course the idea was too crazy. But later on, as we were discussing another idea came up, and he could be the best performer. And I have been sleeping on it in the past few weeks. The idea is this:
I would set up a project to project an image of a color (red, blue or green). It may be color from an image or just a color, a still image or a moving image. Because the room is quite narrow, so I imagine, the image projected onto the wall might be distorted, which is good. But to build on that, I can use a mirror to reflect that color onto the opposite wall. So imagine: color coming from the room extends itself and widens its occupying space into the street. Call it light ‘pollution’. And if you notice, the alleyway is a spot for smokers to take their cigarette breaks, so I am also creating a set for mise-en-scene onto the street. And Jeff, as the curator-turned-performer will be there to engage the passers-by on the subject of the color (red/ green/ blue). We will then see what we can learn from it at the end…I think it is a good idea to try because:
1. He is an experienced art practitioner who is in the middle of many transitions, so the performative element has the potential to allow a different kind of language to emerge—this is something I look forward to.
2. His experience as a performer to engage with the audience would be good to challenge me to think about what I can do in next year when I am back. And instead of doing the performance myself, collecting first-hand information from a third party would also engage me into another level of thinking which I treasure.
3. He is experienced in setting up artworks and playing along.
What do you think? Feel free to help me shape it. I am now going to read this book Art & Advertising by Joan Gibbons whose other book Contemporary Art and Memory I’ve just read. She is quite a good writer: straight to the point, clear, bringing discussion into what seems obvious but is still yet to be discussed. Let’s see what I will find out.
That’s all for now on the train from Manchester to London.
[Two weeks later…]
Y I am ready to respond. I reviewed the several emails you sent, narrowing down to the 'light' idea. Let me just list out my ideas and questions:
- the inspiration from the Shanghaiese restaurant next door sounds fun - red, blue, green
- projecting this light reminds me of course of Derek Jarman's Blue, and the idea of ‘video black’ by Bill Viola. Both I don't know well, but this makes me think of the followings:
1. The potential in doing this in the A3+back alley space is tremendous, for being uncertain...what if the projection isn't just on the wall and reflected/ refracted to the opposite wall, as you mentioned, but also spilling into or deliberately inhabiting the backlane? When you say light pollution in the city, which I totally suffer from and have organized a talk by World Wide Fund's Chu Hon Keung to help us understand it during the first Around festival 2009 in Lamma Island, I think of how the excessive light divides between what is valuable/ worth illuminating and what is not. Hence, lighting up/ conferring light upon/ giving light to what the city does not want to see is a critical and beautiful act! I also remember a phrase I learnt while in Spain stone age ago – dar a luz, which literally means 'to give light', but also a phrase to mean to give birth.)
2. Following 1, perhaps you sense how I am more interested in your exploration in relation to art and in relation to city space. I am also figuring out how it may speak to Hei's work - it's interesting how we deal with the lighting at our home...some like to flood it with light while others like to have it dimmed in variation etc. But on the streets, we no longer see how people orchestrate the various ups and downs of lighting at their home, because it's all shops and all of them are bright (giving the impression/ illusion of see-all). I always think of images of paintings (which I can't specify) that show various light sources within an interior...I guess Rembrandt would be famous for that and I remember very well that So Yan-kei told me she is still awed by the way he does it, and it has always been in her art thinking. And now, I live for the first time on the G/F. I struggle between curtaining up, even partially, the French windows of my living room that faces directly the path my neighbors pass every day, or just leaving the window transparent and bare, so others would be able to see me/ my stuff inside. I eventually put a big plant to mediate that transparency a little, while not blocking the light altogether. I was thinking maybe a little light from a house that is lived would contribute a little bit to the habitat we share. I may be slightly going off track... but your thinking inspired me to think about all these.
3. Now, performance and Jeff's involvement. We have very, very briefly spoken about your idea of him being there and chatting with people. While you guys are still thinking, my hunch is this may not be the best space to do this kind of work. First, Jeff isn't a smoker. So it's difficult to chat someone up with the excuse. Second, A3 is both inside and outside...to have someone as if belonging/ popping out of the shop window to those passers-by taking a rest is a bit odd - and I think the smokers, especially, already have a rest spot by nestling in the lane. There is no need to aim at offering another comfort spot for them...they (me included) need light and darkness at the same time (which means in fact, if the backlane is lit up too much, we may disturb them...so perhaps we should think about their well-being as well). Third, I am not sure what kind of responses you would expect from passers-by? Perhaps some 'methods' have to be thought of, creatively, to engage them? But being not very creative with such things, I might be totally wrong. Fourth and last, overall, I have this imagination (when you talk about the color light projection in relation to the city) that with the 'imaginative participation' of others (anyone whom you might like to invite, including passers-by), inviting their linking your projection with other parts of the city, we could have a different perception of where we are, as connected with or alienated by light...I don't want to use the term 'map' because it could be misleading, as if there is one external vantage point from which we could see all, but I am thinking about some geography of light. Lots of such things have been done in the map form already, to show where light on earth is, but your project seems to promise something else. And I think of Maya Lin's What is Missing? http://www.whatismissing.net/ This was one of the first inspirations we had for The Library by soundpocket, as our editor Mui (Law Yuk-mui) first introduced it to the team.
4. About engaging jeff is your project in general - this of course is up to you both! I am not sure the points 1-3 that you listed out as his strengths are in fact put to the best scenario in the project you currently describe it to be.
OK, I should stop and prepare for class. Hey, keep talking!
E Had a quick read, but will read further again. I am reading The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, which covers a lot of things that we are talking about.
Y I am reading Bachelard currently, too! Let's have a conversation on that later.
E I am on the train again from London to Liverpool. HOW ARE YOU? I have been on the road both physically and mentally. My ideas keep evolving, into something of a shape which I can grasp more solidly and I enjoy this process a lot.
Thank you very much for your email, it feels like, together with Jeff, that there are some good people to bounce off ideas, which is another important aspect for an artist. I have digested what you said and below is my idea thus far:
Funnily enough, many of my friends who have heard of my projects instantly associate the color blue with Jarman's. Perhaps it has to do with it abstractness of a film. And I like how quickly many people can already attached a work with the history of art. In this vein, BLUE indeed has a long(er) tradition which is something I’d like to explore before the completion of this work. I was initially thinking of Yves Klein’s blue in his monochrome painting. I can also argue, how historically it has paved way for us (at least for me) to think of Jarman's blue because it was almost the first time when we can think about the color of blue as the content of an artwork. It is equally, if not more, abstract as Jarman's blue. I keep using the word abstract, not because I’d like to think about the blue in these two works as pure abstract art, but it has opened up a space in which we can go further than the face value of thing, just like A3.
Recently, I have watched a documentary which briefly talked about the original of blue in (Western) art. Blue, being a rare color in the nature, was a precious color to possess. In early paintings, it came from the stone in Afghanistan, and it had taken thousands of years of process for the chemical effect below ground to allow the color to form in the stone. So for whoever owning the blue stone, it was a symbol of wealth. That’s why in many of the religious paintings, we can find blue used in the robe of Virgin Mary.
Other association of blue include the film BLUE, the wave in Virginia Woolf’s work (which is something I’ve been researching and would like to make a work about). The list goes on, but again, I am thinking of the color for us to think beyond.
SHOP/ STOREFRONT:I am tracing the history of artists using the shop as a medium. And many associate the beginning with Oldenburg, although some may also say Fluxux also used the shop. Historical accuracy is not crucial for me at this moment. But there are a few markers which help me to think of this specific medium of a shop. A. Christo’s wrapped storefront. B. Maurizio Cattelan’s Wrong Gallery which the visitor has to pipe through a door to see the work (he also has a work where the artist is not present!). C. Nickle Cinema/ Theatre https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickelodeon_(movie_theater). I think I am interested in these examples because they are all about a matter of seeing / not seeing. Another thing which is crucial for an artist to think of the shop as a medium (not just another ‘alternative’ site) is the mode of transaction. And I am very interested in this idea of audience’s transaction with the artwork/ artist.
To respond to your earlier comment about whether Jeff should be there. I think one of the reasons for Jeff to be ‘present’ not because he is there to ‘disturb’ the people, but I feel like he is there to ‘perform’ the work, and he is there to collect the ‘transaction’ on behalf of me. Sometimes he does not even have to talk to people, but he can be there to activate the work in different ways (which I will explain later with the concept I have). But one more important point that I’d like explore now as an artist with this project is for me to make things when I am not present. I think it follows with AhHei’s idea when he ‘pretends’ to live there, and the next project is the artist is not there. I’d like to open up a space, a gap even, for myself to be vulnerable in the sense that I cannot take complete control of my work at this stage, whereas later on, when I am back for another stage in Feb/ March stage 2, I can take Jeff’s experience to go further. I feel like now when I make art, I want people to get involved. Perhaps it has to be with my experience in film and theatre. Also, I think most works that I like, there is an element in which the aesthetic of the work can be vulnerable; it can literally fall apart if the external factors are not coming together. I wouldn’t call it relational aesthetics right away for whatever the term means, but the reason I’d like to have someone else to get involved because I think the unknown is crucial to this stage of my development as a person/ artist. My work in Manchester will also continue with this process of unknown and collaboration. Also, I enjoy this connection with collaborators, because I can open up my work, and I can access to other kinds of experience/ knowledge which I cannot otherwise learn from. This is a valuable process for me to make art—to create this room where ideas can flow. And I just like to prolong this process of making a little bit more, instead of having an idea and then produce.
Speaking of the prolonging time, time is the thread for this work. I almost would like the shop to activate itself. I don’t have the complete idea all mapped out now because I want the unknown to be part of it. Yet, there are a few small stages for this work. Following upon what I have been discussing about the idea of advertising, I am thinking of wrapping the shop (indebted to the super Christo whose shop I have seen in Frieze Master last month), with poster size photograph printed in blue (hopefully in Yves Klein’s blue). So there is this advertisement of one single color, like how posters appear at night when the banks close in areas such as Wanchai, Causeway Bay, TST etc. I haven’t figured out whether the photo/poster should be hung inside the glass or outside yet. And I don’t know what would happen and how people would react (perhaps people would start to think that they can paste their posters?). I hope by exposing the photo/ poster under the daylight, the color of each photograph would start to change. I don’t know how long it takes and whether it would work. Or maybe it would gather dust too. But this change is like a canvas having its own color over time. And Jeff, when each time setting up the work, or going there from time to time to check it out, can interact with people around, should the circumstances be right. There is different status quo that he has to ‘perform’ based on our discussion. Again, working or not? We will see. But this is also based on Jeff’s shifting roles, and psychology at this stage of his life, which I am interested in as a person.
As time progresses, we will take out one photo/poster, leaving a hole where people can peep in. And there will be projection of the blue. People may not find the projector, but they will more or less see the shop bleached with blue. Funnily enough, the light of the projector when it starts, is usually blue!
Slowly the blue light can be channeled out to the opposite wall, with the aid of the mirror. By then, perhaps we can also have sounds (I have some idea actually) coming from the shop inside.
And before it finishes, there will be a period where the color will leak into the rest of the alley or the image has to be moving image? Or a work related to Virginia Woolf? This to be confirmed as we proceed.
And so, I’d like to see how the shop performs itself through time, how it moves. And how through time, it builds up expectation of the everyday audience, or not. And Jeff can bear witness of the process, which is great as a third party semi-inside/ outside the work. He may even sit inside the shop at some point—to be discussed.
Alright, long email… But hopefully it makes sense, and it can intrigue your imagination too. Hopefully it clings onto your mind and brings some more unknown, some curiosity, some joy… just to slow down your time, for a little bit more. This is what I hope to do with the audience at A3, to borrow their time for a bit, even for one more second of looking and wondering. Let me know your thoughts.
Y Enoch!! A beauty. Let's go!Shall I fetch Jeff to pass him the keys?
E Yes please. Am on the train again, but let me write further and simpler about how to take it forward practically. Thanks!