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The Third Script: Boo Junfeng & Linda C. H. Lai at Pearl Lam Galleries

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The Third Script: Boo Junfeng & Linda C. H. Lai at Pearl Lam Galleries
Film strips from "The Scene at the Train Station" (2016) by Boo Junfeng(Image courtesy of Pearl Lam Galleries)

Pearl Lam Galleries presents The Third Script a two-person exhibition featuring works by Singaporean filmmaker Boo Junfeng and Hong Kong artist Linda Chiu-Han Lai. Curated by David Ho Yeung Chan, a curator based in Hong Kong with an MA from the Centre for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in new York, The Thid Script aims to look at two different ways of deconstructing a narrative - through a site-specific installation by Lai and a time-based artwork by Boo.

Boo and Lai both question the nature of authorship in their own roles as artist and filmmaker, by rendering their practices in a way that would be transparent to the viewer. In doing so, the demonstrate that our individual memories are often fraught with instability and thus, are unable to form a collective history. Experimenting with the construction and use of micro-narratives enables us to question the way in which we form our identities through our memories of the past. Read on to find out more about their processes and thoughts in our interview with the two artists and curator.

 

Could you start off by telling us a bit about the exhibition and the reason behind the title The Third Script?

David H Y Chan (DC) This exhibition is about using micro-narratives as a way to explore different ways for thinking about the relationship among history, social memory and self-identity. Hong Kong and Singapore artists have very few opportunities to collaborate before. Given there are quite a lot of similarities between the two cities and that Pearl Lam Galleries has outposts at both locations, we want to try this collaboration. Their commissions by Boo Junfeng and Linda Lai provoke a very interesting dialogue.

A video still from "The Scene at the Train Station" (2016) by Boo Junfeng
Image courtesy of Pearl Lam Galleries

'Mnemonic Archiving: A Dispersive Monument' by Lai is a site-specific installation that embeds fragments from old Cantonese movies, as well as found and personal footage from different periods into furniture and objects using small tablet screens. Tell us more about your inspiration for this work and the creative process in producing it.

Linda C. H. Lai (LL) I didn’t really start my videography for art exhibition purpose. It was out of a love for cinema and forms of language in general. The earliest video fragments were made of the about-to-be-demolished Walled City in Hong Kong in 1991 when I was a journalist. It has always been a key incentive for many years, now that I look in retrospect, to feel compelled to preserve the “surfaces” of our urban space. My method, then, can be described in a way as keeping a fragment of disappearing surfaces in the form of sight-and-sound-rich documents, and leaving them open for future performative uses. I have not confined myself to just videography. I now understand that in my creative writing, mixed media and digital art practices, I have always been following the same quest – collecting and archiving finding their way to experimental historiography, and that is exactly what my academic research is also about. I find it really liberating to be able to substantiate my artistic pursuit with the practice of theory, and even more so to make research work more heterogeneous with art as resources. Art gives us a rich language to articulate what other forms of knowledge do not afford. Art is a unique form of rationality propelled by imagination.

A detailed shot from "Mnemonic Archiving: A Dispersive Monument" (2016) by Linda C. H. Lai
Image courtesy of Pearl Lam Galleries

Back to Mnemonic Archiving… It contains video fragments from my video diary archive from 1991 to 2016, phenomenally an uneven coverage. Here and there, since I was trained as a film scholar, I also included found footage from mainstream cinema: the earliest one made in 1934 and the latest from the 1990s. I archive in order to remember. What’s worth remembering, and has not been remembered in circulated historical discourses – that’s my historiographic quest.

An installation view of "Mnemonic Archiving: A Dispersive Monument" (2016) by Linda C. H. Lai
Image courtesy of Pearl Lam Galleries

The other work in this two-person exhibition is 'The Scene at the Train Station' by Boo that is taken from a short film '7 Letters – Parting'. What was the decision for using this specific clip, as opposed to any of the other ones in the larger body of work?

Boo Jun Feng (BJF) The scene at the train station is a film within the film. It is a moment in Parting where Ismail’s illusions and reality collide. And the blurring of lines between what’s real and what’s fiction is one of the things I love most about filmmaking. Both actors - Cheryl Tan and the late Ashmi Roslan - were very generous with what they had to offer in that scene.

A video still from "The Scene at the Train Station" (2016) by Boo Junfeng
Image courtesy of Pearl Lam Galleries

In the digital, post-photographic age we live in, technology has allow us to manipulate visual information in order for us to create new juxtapositions and create new narratives for the viewer. How do you think the works in The Third Script employs this new technology to achieve its goals?

DC The juxtaposition of images is particularly evident in Linda’s artwork. It is one thing that we juxtapose images and quite another the manner in which Linda does it. Linda considers herself an archivist/ historiographer and has over the years amassed a huge collection of images that cuts across different subjects and topics. The juxtaposition of images and videos is a way for Linda to reconsider her own biography as an artist or as someone bearing witness of social and environmental changes. Through theses objects and moving images in this exhibition, she has realised a phenomenon of emergent presence and to try to come to terms with it in a formal and personal manner.

A detailed shot from "Mnemonic Archiving: A Dispersive Monument" (2016) by Linda C. H. Lai
Image courtesy of Pearl Lam Galleries

In some way the works evoke the notion of Roland Barthes’s seminal text ‘The Death of The Author’ whereby the Barthes argues for the separation of a work from its creator in order to allow for a freedom of interpretation. Do you think the two works Mnemonic Archiving: A Dispersive Monument and The Scene at the Train Station attempt to free their works from the authority of the author? In what way do the works achieve that?

DC Yes absolutely. The artwork is nothing without an audience and his/her active engagement. The relational aspect of an artwork is paramount in opening up new forms of artistic/cinematic production and the potential for art to initiate different ways of thinking and seeing our world. Both artists are actively questioning their own working process by making it totally transparent and open for the viewers to interpret for themselves.

LL Barthes’ “Death of the Author” describes the problem of interpreting a work solely based on biographical and contextual background. I take Barthes’ thesis as coming from a post-Structuralist paradigm, that every utterance has already been uttered elsewhere by someone else, perhaps in a different way. It also points to how an artistic creative moment or act is also connected to the rich resources and heritages, known or unknown that surround us. Gerard Genette would say that every text is one way or other a hypertext, linking us to something that pre-exists that text. In my work, I think along such line of connectivity, and let varied and repetitive elements form a patterning site. As visitors walk through the site, they are encountering not just me as the connector, or the author of an assemblage, but also the many “authors” of lived experiences and lived entities.

An installation view of "Mnemonic Archiving: A Dispersive Monument" (2016) by Linda C. H. Lai
Image courtesy of Pearl Lam Galleries

Both artists use deconstruction as a way of looking at the subjectivity of truth in terms of collective histories and the impossibility of this endeavor by looking at the instability of personal memories. However, do you think that at the same time it is possible for a collective history to be one that is multiplicit and made up of many – at times even conflicting – memories?

DC Whenever we hear a definitive master narrative, we need to be aware of what is spoken is always at the expense of the silenced.  A collective history can contain multiple and conflicting voices and we must not stop at that. Identity is what makes us feel safe and secured, we must remain open and try to accept different value systems. If you look at the situation of Hong Kong at this moment, there is a huge resurgence of redefining what is native. Being native is not about isolating oneself, but rather to acknowledge the contingency of our identities and constantly trying to gain a broader understanding of who we are.

 

 

'The Third Script' is on from 7 May till 19 June 2016 at Pearl Lam Galleries, 9 Lock Road, #03-22, Gillman Barracks, Singapore 108937. Open Tue-Sat 11am - 7pm and Sun 12 - 6pm. For more information click here.

 

 


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.



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