Video installation in collaboration with Robert Cahen and John Conomos
The debate over whether art is useful has persisted throughout the 20th century. While some modernists argue that art should be devoid of utilitarian function and should be made strictly for art’s sake, sensing the growing unease and tension in our society, more and more I think about the relevance of artistic practice in the world at large.
The Etudes project was embarked upon to rope in different practitioners for this conversation. As the first part of the exhibition, Etudes for the 21st Century is an introverted deliberation on art making in our time. At that time, I was reading Lu Ji’s “Wen Fu” (“On Literature”). This classic from the 3rd century gives a well-structured framework for considering creative processes. Some details, such as the balance between refinement and mass appeal, are still essentially relevant. I shared the text with Robert and John. We all agreed that this classical text could be used as a basis for our collaboration.
A selection of film segments from their oeuvres was projected onto a 30-meter long oscillating string. The images are visible only when the string-in-motion becomes a screen. Seeing how everything vanishes when the vibration stops, I thought about ephemerality and the inevitability of disappearance. How can art meaningfully resist the erasure of time?
Special Thanks to Osage Art Foundation and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, with technical design by Jason Wong