31.5.08

no vultures here!

life&death (生死)
One of these things is not like the other...

A colleague at a meeting termed some of us sitting around the table "the culture people". I hope he means it positively... If you are in doubt whether you are a "cultured people" or somehow still a stewing mess of incoherent DNA, amps give you here a simple "culture, you're no vulture!" test in 2 parts.

Part 1:What do you do when you encounter something you don't normally see/hear/experience or understand?
understanding (明)
Matthew Ngui's "seeing may be believing but not always understanding"

Last Thursday I found myself with complimentary tickets for The Architecture of Silence at the Esplanade.

Behind me were 2 young women in their office attire who probably also held complimentary tickets. After some 20 minutes into the performance, they started whispering and giggling, mocking the dance and music - or rather the juxtaposition of the two. Another 15 minutes later, one of them exclaimed louder than usual - "this is so weird" - and they left.

Beside me, a mother with complimentary tickets had brought her 12 year-old daughter. After the performance, the girl quietly asked, "what was it about?" Someone offered an opinion. She nodded, mouthed an "oh", and whispered something to her mother.

Part 2: Just how many different points of view can you take?
MN (視)

Sunday afternoon, J and I decided to brave the crowds at the museums for the International Museum Day to visit Matthew Ngui's "Points of View" exhibition.

Ngui's works do not threaten with their abstract propositions, but beckon the viewer with seemingly basic questions of what is home, what is real, what do you see, how do you see, who are you, what is this space... heck, what constitutes a good lap in freestyle? Of course, these questions are deceptively simple because there is no one answer, since perspective and context are factors which form variants. Of course, Ngui does not settles for the easy and trite "it all depends on how you look at it" line. Instead, his works (my favourite is still the interactive wall installation at the National Museum the building remembers/remembering the building) work to bring you to across several vantage points until from wherever you are, you can - if you want - still reconcile a view.

At one of the works, an old woman sat beside her daughter watching the video capture of exhibition visitors criss-crossing the forest of pipes and the title text. She watches for a long time and remarks about the work to her daughter, then gets up to walk deliberately into the video camera's line of sight on the other side.

But it's not always "weird" and sometimes, there's only really 1 unerring reality.

Saturday night, we listened to J's nephew play some listenable tunes in his school concert band and enjoyed the expressive, dance-like conducting, together with a whole theatre of parents and teenagers. That same evening, argentum opened her show "The last adornment". In the gallery is an instantmatic photo booth with a noose woven from all kinds of chains, necklaces, trinklets from her past works - whatever it is you are adorned with in this sort-of momento mori, death - now a photograph, a thought, an idea, an installation, a joke, a morbidity, a romance, a word - is certain.

conduct (傳)
choreographer of a band

Last week, J had a chance to spend 2 days with a group of students for an art workshop. I asked him when in the workshop did he feel happiest. He said it was towards the end of a workshop when one of the students, after finishing painting her part of the artwork, voluntarily picked up a pair of the scissors to help on another part of the artwork.

OK, I'll get to it. My point in this meandering account of the week is simply that it's really not that hard or too far a stretch to think of art as yet another thing a human being makes to communicate, enjoy, trade, learn, live, show-off, contemplate - and of culture partly as a sum of these practices over time.

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p/s. If you have an hour to spare on a weekend:
> Argentum's The Last Adornment is on until June 15th at the Substation (Armenian Street, off Stamford Rd).
> Matthew Ngui's retrospective is on at the basement gallery of the National Museum until late June.

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