What if we could free ourselves from the constraints of time?
While this may seem impossible, it is the question that moved curator David Ho
Yeung Chan to bring together the work of South Korean sculptor and installation
, Singaporean photographer
Chinese performance artist
in “After Time
” at Pearl Lam Galleries
Kong. Each in their own way, these three contemporary artists reflect upon our
relationship to time and make work through which they aim to give pause,
providing a space to think about how it acts upon us.
Nowhere is the pace faster than in Central, Hong Kong, with its
beguiling crush of people, traffic, architecture, tropical trees, and commerce.
In the heart of this mix is Pearl Lam Galleries, its space now serving as a
counterpoint to its neighborhood surroundings. David Ho Yeung Chan has divided
the gallery into three distinct zones, one for each artist. In her area, Erica
Lai’s mid-scale, color photographs, drawn from “The Garden Series” (2007-09)
and “The Observatory Series” (2008-14), set a quiet, mysterious mood. At first,
it’s hard to tell what you are looking at. For her “Observatory” project, for
example, the artist traveled to tourist destinations worldwide and photographed
not the sites themselves, but the nondescript platforms from which tourists are
meant to view them. These platforms represent the structured confines of the
tourism industry, which moves at a pace as fast as workaday life, discouraging
lingering in favor of pushing throngs along for quick glimpses.
While Lai suggests that tourism is not the way to escape time,
Morgan Wong manages to step out of time in his video, Frustration of Having
More than Two Choices to Make in Life (2013). Here we watch as the artist
negotiates his self-imposed, 48-hour isolation in a room supplied with nothing
but a steel bar and a hand file. These objects serve as references to a
traditional Chinese allegory about will and determination—qualities bound up
with how we manage and respond to lengths of time—centered upon the seemingly
endless task of filing a steel bar down to a needle. We might do well to keep
such an allegory in mind, Wong suggests, in a world where impatience and
instantaneity are the norms.