Memories collide – When Kim Il-sung meets Li Wang-yang

Travel Journal by Dino Wong

Travel Journal by Dino Wong, text on wall

How to measure engagement in web analytics? Repeat visit can be one of the indicators. For a unique visitor returning to your site, it definitely means he or she is either your fan or your competitor. Same applies to exhibition visit – in some occasions I do go back to an artwork  for a final glimpse before I leave.

Last Friday I went to the opening night of “A Five Sense Delivery” presented by a group of postgraduates. It was quite a scene. A work set on a staircase was always swarmed with guests. I was only able to secure the “best seat” on the fourth visit, but my persistence was rewarded. The sound installation Travel Journal was inspired from the artist’s experiences of travelling alone.  By playing sound recordings, Dino Wong intended to challenge our senses and take us to his vacations. “Capturing imagery seems to be a default for tourists but is there an alternative?” Dino invited visitors to come up with their own ways other than taking pictures at designated spots and uploading to Facebook. It reminded me of my North Korea trip in 2008 that camera was not equally welcomed like any other places in the world. For example, Kumsusan Memorial Palace (錦繡山紀念館, on google map) used for Kim Il-sung’s burial chamber was extremely sacred that no camera was allowed. As such, I could only memorise the place and faces I met, and did sketching and writing afterwards.

My drawing - North Korea

Monotonous faces in North Korea

But still, it’s a visual memory. How about other senses? I tried to recollect the smell and taste of North Korea which I never did, but nothing – I sensed nothing about the wood, the city, the food, not even the spring water I sipped in Kim’s birthplace. Would it because in my perception, everything there was an illusion, a set-up? The only smell I thought of was the air-conditioning on the coach – the tour mates once suspected it put us all asleep on the coach so we couldn’t know the direction (it’s a joke more than a fact XD).

Alright… back to the exhibition. As mentioned, I was able to sit on the staircase eventually and took my pace to enjoy. Some guests joined me, sitting down on the staircase and facing the same direction. Then the sound of Japan Railways announcement loomed in. That particular moment and that particular spatial relationship reminded me of another scene – travelling on an escalator. People in front of or behind me don’t know one another but there is one thing connected us – same destination of one level up or down. Meeting strangers during travel would be even more interesting because you would not know how things end up with (yes, I’m too absorbed in Before sunrise series and many more).

Another piece that hit my nerve was a sculpture series, The Limited Body by Fanson Lam. One man was forcibly suffocating or lifting himself from the ground. With his tense muscles, he was so determined to kill himself as if struggle was useless. Overlooking on the opposite side was one anxious woman and another man putting hands in his “flesh”, both of them looked still to the situation. The work blurred between reality and imagination. Probably it wasn’t the original intent but I couldn’t help thinking of Li Wang-yang (李旺陽).

The Limited Body by Fanson LamThe Limited Body - Woman - by Fanson Lam

The Limited Body by Fanson Lam

An art experience, be it the artist’s intent or a random happening, is meant to be inspiring and to associate memories or perceptions. Ultimately it may bring a new perspective to life, in this case, senses. I was pleased to be stimulated by art on a Friday night rather than numbed by liquor.

A Five Sense Delivery

Visited on Apr 26, 2013 at Koo Ming Kown Gallery, Hong Kong Baptist University

The article was also posted at The House News.

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