Play and Loop V

Blindspot Gallery is pleased to present Play and Loop V, the fifth iteration of our summer video screening program, a unique platform dedicated to showcasing moving images by established and emerging artists. Running for a period of six weeks, the program this year will be divided into two thematic scenes, each lasting for a duration of three weeks. The gallery space will be divided into multiple screening rooms, each with an artist’s film playing on loop. Throughout the entirety of the program, Angela Su’s This is Not a Game, and works by Andrew Luk, comprising a new sculptural installation Saudade Chandelier and mixed-media works Techno-Reliquary 1, 2, will be on display in the gallery.
Scene 1: The Floating Years | 18 July to 5 August 2023
After the easing of China’s zero-COVID policy at the end of 2022, long after the rest of the world had moved on from the virus, the long-awaited return to normalcy was finally within reach. However, the impacts of three years of isolation and displacement had taken a severe toll on people’s mental and physical wellbeing, both within the mainland and overseas. The first scene of Play and Loop V, titled “The Floating Years”, brings together artists, Li Shuang, Jiang Zhi, and the artist collective 楔Xiē comprising of members Hao Jingban, Shen Xin, Yunyu “Ayo” Shih, and Qu Chang. The video works featured in Scene 1 are a testament to the detrimental effects of the zero-COVID policy on people’s sense of belonging and connection, the impacts of which are geographically unbounded.

Li Shuang’s Déjà Vu (2022) playfully intermingles two videos from hidden camera footages, one from a camera mounted on a duck and the other from spying goggles worn by performers captured in one of Li’s performances. Déjà Vu constructs an intimate interaction between two seemingly disparate yet closely knit worlds – the animal realm and human civilization. The film begins with a group of performers dressed identically, all adopting the persona of the artist Li Shuang. The focus soon shifts to a raft of ducks interacting with one another in an animal rescue center in Geneva where the artist was based when return to China were prohibited. The view interchanges repetitively between the perspective of the duck cam and the goggles. The artist narrates through the subtitles, speaking acutely of a void that is metaphoric of humans’ inability in comprehending and coping with a pandemic world.

A stand-alone security checkpoint appears on a deserted seashore, setting the stage for Jiang Zhi’s The Waves (2022). A man carrying a suitcase emerges from the sea and approaches the seashore, being subjected to a series of security checks. He is examined for whether he meets certain standards, even whether he is human. Security checks are undoubtedly an exemplification of social institutionalization and politicization. The physical contact in security screening is an expression of authority. The cognitive process seeks to gain knowledge on the subject, and is one that exerts dominance, revealing the lust for power and control. Over time, people have succumbed to security examinations. Their subconscious have been disciplined, moulding them into people who comply with “safety standards”, rejecting those who do not conform. The film shows how physical contact between two bodies can become a catalyst, materialising the symbiotic relationship existent between them. The dynamic between the security guard and traveller dramatically transforms; as they interact, the power structure between them starts to collapse. 

The name of the artist collective 楔 Xiē’ (Hao Jingban, Shen Xin, Yunyu “Ayo” Shih, and Qu Chang) is the Chinese character of a wedge, a tool used to keep two objects stable or to create a new space. 楔 Xiē embodies a collective response to an unprecedented and traumatic time, cultivating a space for new and meaningful collaborations during the global crisis. Filmed respectively in New York, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Taipei, 楔 Xiē’s What Makes a Home? (2022) consolidates videos from its four members preparing a meal on an ordinary day amid the pandemic. While cooking, each individual reflects on the environmental cues that are subordinated to these four cities. The other video work by Xiē: X learns to talk to the land on a frozen river; Y’s thoughts are interrupted by exercising jets overhead; Chang finds webs woven with branches in the mountains; Ban says some are confined, and some knocked down the barriers. (2022) consists of footages from Xiē and videos found on the internet. The film shifts from footages that show people’s anger in response to prolonged lockdowns and military aircrafts flying low over the city, to the tranquil calmness of the natural landscape and serene aerial drone footages. The work intimately encapsulates the collective memories of trauma, illustrating people’s experiences of the pandemic.

SCENE 2: Alternative Dimensions | 8 to 26 August 2023

“Alternative Dimensions” compiles a selection of works by Jen Liu, Yan Wai Yin, and Chris Zhongtian Yuan. Threading through their works is a common construction of fictional realms as vessels to delineate observations around labor, migration, queerness, communal histories, and loss. From the synthetic pink factory line operated by women laborers in Liu’s Pink Slime Caesar Shift: Electropore, to the forest for displaced souls traversing memories in Yuan’s All Trace Is Gone, No Clamour for A Kiss, to identifying blind spots in one’s life while mourning the loss of a companion in Yan’s Localized Blindness, these unspecific realms become conduits for us to contemplate on collective and personal themes that permeate through the everyday. Angela Su’s This is Not a Game, and works by Andrew Luk, comprising a new sculptural installation Saudade Chandelier and mixed-media works Techno-Reliquary 1, 2, will continue to be on display in the gallery.

Jen Liu’s Pink Slime Caesar Shift: Electropore (2021-22) explores themes of gender, identity, labor, and resistance through the exceptional experiences of four Black and Asian womxn (a gender-neutral alternative to women). They form a closed system, a factory, saturated in matte millennial pink. Liu’s film features the four womxn as they navigate through narrow spaces, each confined within isolated rooms. They work mechanically and in beat, their perpetual labor engendering ennui. The womxn perform multiple tests to develop a pink slime which is based off electroporation, a real-life genetic modification method that introduces DNA through electroshocking living cells, a technique that exists within meat-grown laboratories. The womxn consume genetic modified burgers derived from the process, while continuing cyclically in their jobs. In this surreal simulation, Liu explores issues around labor injustices and exploitations.

Juxtaposing analogue film and digital animation, Chris Zhongtian Yuan’s All Trace Is Gone, No Clamour for A Kiss (2021-22) submerges itself into the realm of queerness, migration, and colonial histories. It centers on a dialogue between two exiled individuals traversing through a forest, caught in the liminal space between the mortal and immortal. Reminiscent of silent movies, the dialogue appears on screen in tranquility. The two persons strike up a conversation around family history, migration, loss, folklore, and queer intimacies. Divided into five chapters — “Mother”, “A Love Story”, “The Tower”, “Unknown Land” and “Haunted Island”, Yuan investigates personal narratives and collective memories linked to specific localities, exploring the persistence of the past in the present. 

Yan Wai Yin’s Localized Blindness (2019) invites us to a visual field test narrated by the deadpan voiceover of an ophthalmic technician, instructing us to pay attention to pictures and patterns that appear on the screen, diagnosing our blind spots in the process. The film is semi-autobiographical, comprising Yan’s internal monologues mourning the loss of a loved one. Glimpsing into a state of aphasia, the experience of living with blind spots is conveyed through a personal dialogue accompanied by fragmented footages. Blind spots arise from an inability to comprehend a close companion who is no longer extant, Yan speaks of the complex emotions and intangible experiences which are both subliminal and profound. The video ends with a poignant remark: “You are blind now, I will stay with you always…”

Also on view | 18 July to 26 August 2023

Andrew Luk’s Saudade Chandelier(2023) is a hauntological cipher for the city of Hong Kong as informed by its unique geography. Its coastal location, mountainous vistas, and proximity to water systems, form the basis of a cosmology derived from the elemental rhythms of water, air, and light. 

The two-meter tall sculptural installation is an assemblage of an up-cycled Taobao chandelier, oyster shells, temple pinwheels, and ancestral altar light bulbs. The work alludes to the primitive history of Hong Kong, when coastal and boat peoples thrived on the landscape, engaging in fishing, salt harvesting, and oyster farming. Much later, attracted by deep water ports and currents of wind and water making for advantageous oceanic trade routes, colonial occupation subsequently transformed Hong Kong from a regional outpost into an international trading hub.

Drop tear chandeliers were first introduced by the court of King Louis XIV, as a befitting display of wealth and power for the Sun King – a seemingly airy weightless entanglement of light and optics – a media phenomena. Initially, this up-cycled Taobao chandelier, resonates similarly as a signifier of class adopted from the West, but on closer inspection, its disrepair shows signs of cheap injection mould manufacturing. The chandelier in the piece hangs low, held up by disused bedside stands from the public healthcare system, allowing the chandelier to continue performing as media – reflecting harsh sterile beams of UV light off glass crystals like sun sparkle, and artificially animated pinwheels accumulating stockpiles of good fortune, the red lights associated with ancestor worship also turn away nonexistent aircraft. With a hindsight, Saudade Chandelier embodies a melancholic nostalgia for a bygone era, yet when looking forward it shows suspicion to the continuity of various systems.

Angela Su’s This is Not a Game (2021) speculates the history and future of gaming through interweaving film, personal narratives, and fabulation. Using excerpts of films from the 1920s, Su reveals to her audience the politics of board games whereby rivalry between different nations are materialized on a chess platform, functioning as a miniature of what happens on battlefields. Gaming progresses to prompt the development of AI technology. In 1996, the chess-playing system Deep Blue outplayed a world champion during a chess tournament, eerily revealing the capability of machines in outsmarting human intelligence. This is Not a Game provocatively forms a conjecture on the year 2029—as the title suggests, it imagines a future where a new genre of games become a rebel replication, blurring the boundary between real-life and virtual reality, infusing social conflicts into the gaming realm.