Be my curious guest

Here is my tailing story:

On the same trip to Taipei, I visited Treasure Hill Artist Village (寶藏巖國際藝術村) after a long day of artist talks at All are Guests (read here about All are Guests). As it was quite late, most of the art spaces and studios were closed. In the playground by the riverside, a few neighbours were doing exercise.

Suddenly I saw a kitten, a golden brown one. It came out of nowhere and heading for someplace else. I decided to follow it and perhaps I could track down its home.

If I kept a pet, I would have known what happened. My prediction was innocent. As brief as three seconds, the kitten sensed my presence and quickly jumped to a high ground. It didn’t even turn to say goodbye. This time, curiosity didn’t kill the cat.

Tailing a cat, Wendy Wo, 2013

Tailing a cat, Wendy Wo, 2013

I wasn’t pissed off by the kitten at all; on the contrary, it made me realise something.

In Out of Place, artist Leung Mee Ping followed an out-of-place figure in a city with a camcorder. Shooting from her POV, the video was made as if a viewer was the one tailing. In the exhibition space, six videos of different cities were projected on white cloths hanging from the ceiling. Some cloths were perpendicular to one another, while some were behind. A maze of white cloths was fluttering in the air; the characters in the video virtually and involuntarily leading the way. Where were they heading to? What would they do next? Watching the videos one after another may get to the answer, but the captivating part was the videos were playing simultaneously, projection on cloth swinging, characters and viewers moving and sound of cities jamming. As a viewer, I started to believe the exhibit was meant to confuse my orientation and distract my attention.

It did distract my thought from being a viewer to being a participant. Would the artist, or I, get into danger? Would they turn their heads to her, or me? That was the moment I decided to secretly follow someone, well, or a cat to play safe. To compare my tailing experience, the duration of Leung’s video was notably long, implying insensitivity or numbness of the tailing targets. Leung memorised vividly her first encounter, “The man in Wan Chai walking on the pedestrian was the only one who didn’t lay eyes on the window of jewellery shops.” His pace had a big contrast with the busy traffic in Wan Chai. Unlike the kitten, he was reluctant to sense or respond. He withdrew himself from the surroundings.

Leung’s work features detached figures and lost souls commonly found in any cities. “Vagabonds in Japan were neatly dressed with embroidered shirt cuffs. It made spotting a target even harder. I was sitting in a café when a drunkard leaned against a lamppost, motionless. People walked pass him as if he’s invisible. All of a sudden, some pedestrians carried another man from the road to the sidewalk but he was so determined to crawl back to the middle of the road. Policemen intervened. An outdoor TV advertised a visiting concert; the majestic orchestral music became the background soundtrack. It was so dramatic!” Dramatic it may seem, but drama happens only in the eyes of the curious and the observant. Leung is such a person.

Leung admitted publicly that she has a habit of taking threads of hair and lint from strangers. She becomes so addicted that she keeps a collection of each at home. As you can imagine, one should have sharp eyes and guts to do so – equally observant to spot the person outstandingly “out of place” in a crowd and equally gutsy to follow the aimless people to unknown places. “Did you fear of getting into troubles or in danger?” It was my biggest concern but Leung replied “I’m afraid of getting lost rather, because I was so concentrated on the person thus I lost my direction. Yet, the scariest incident of all is: resting in a fast food shop, I found the Wan Chai man I had been filming for a few days was sitting right in front of me! I was thrilled until I realised he actually didn’t recognise me. Perhaps we started to connect.” Leung’s extraordinary acts not only offer such a beautiful work but also a resonance to the social issue.

Visited on Nov 29 – Dec 1, 2013 @ 2A, Huashan 1914 Creative Park

The article was also posted at The House News.

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