External View, Internal Vision
A look at Eason Tsang Ka Wai’s New Landmark (2014), and one is surprised by the unique perspectives and poetic cityscapes in the images. The dense and horizontal steel forests of Hong Kong are transformed into deserts, ocean waves and the sky. In embodying the pressing desire for escapade of the city dwellers, the images also reveal the hidden anxiety about excessive modernisation in our urban space. The architectures in these works are rich in visual intrigue, and they offer a kind of route for viewing to the power of re-examining individual space.
However, Tsang’s work is not limited to a romanticised expression of urban sentiments, or a purely visual aesthetic preference. As Debord says, “All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.” In this consumer society filled with representation, images as a kind of re-manifestation of vision already undercuts the realness of material existence and the sensitivity of human senses. Tsang’s image-based works aptly utilise the reflexivity of images, rendering it an artistic language that runs through their execution. For the 2013 series Floral Fabric, he used real flowers to restore the patterns on the industralised product of floral fabric, and photography as a two-dimensional mode of re-manifestation to blur the boundary between the real and the illusory. This blurring is particularly pronounced in the new series Housework (2016): videos of a hand reaching from the outside to clean the inside of a TV set are replayed on the TV screen; visuals of a moving mop on the ground from an elevated view are given a graphic re-manifestation, as projected on to wooden floorboards paved with sand paper. The visual illusion subtly confounds the viewers’ perception, and creates an intriguing realm of self-examination.
His works inspire in the viewers a sense of familiarity, or evoke similar experiences one has lived. That is not only because the subjects of his works are mostly taken from daily life, but also because of his unique perspective of “interior viewing”. For the installation series Internal structure (2016), the mechanical assembly of LED light tubes inside the light boxes is photographed, and the slides are installed on the exterior of the light boxes. The momentary capture of the light tubes’ interior mechanism and the installation of actual light boxes reconstruct a subtly fascinating combination. The cleaning of the inside of a TV set in Housework No.3 (2016) follows the same vein. There is no distinction between subject and object in these works. They start from the internal mechanisms of the materials to reveal, intervene or even recreate an internal automatic system, which accentuates the complexity of the structure.
In this solo exhibition “Powerless”, Tsang renders social mechanism as a structural whole. In the series A failed light box (2016), trivial and useless objects such as abandoned dummies, plastic films, and scratches on steel planks are combined with light boxes that flash in parts, questioning the inclination towards pure functionalism that prevails our materialised society. The exhibition constructs through the showcased works a realm for the transition between day and night. The neatly arranged and exposed Redundant cables (2016) points to the inseparable conflicts, paralysis and aphasia that arise when the individual is faced with the internal/external divide in everyday life. “The light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” (Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot) Just as we cannot calculate the duration of the intersection of night and day, the absurdity of life is revealed in this powerlessness.
Leo Chen Li