Daily Archives: September 2, 2007

Wu Xiao Kang (1979-2005) at Mitre Hotel

In Need of More than a Dose of Light

A Dose of Light 

(pictures taken with the kind permission of the artists/gallery sit)

I have always wondered about the burden of Materialism, objects are only valuable because of the price tag or memories attached. Wu Xiao Kang (1979-2005)  questions the viewer the value of art and photography and the value of the site — Mitre Hotel, a soon to be demolished site. The intend of the photo-documentary lie, was to place photography in a position of criticism – between evidence of memories, fact-bending and photo documentary. If you had been to dingy parts of London, unsanitised Mitre Hotel would not scare you much. It perhaps adds sympathetically to the critique of the Roland Barthes’ death of the author, that “… argues against incorporating the intentions and biographical context of an author in an interpretation of text; writing and creator are unrelated”. But it far romantises what artists make. Artists do not just display somebody else’s piles of junk, as much ready-mades made just about anything acceptable in the West, as art. Japanese artist Tomoko Takahashi, who lives and works in the UK will agree that the aesthetics of consumer culture, will be the unseen and disregarded, the mass that we discard in order to continue buying.

The guerrilla tactics and antics of the exhibition resembles Jean-Michel Basquiat and Tsang Tsou-choi (The king of kowloon). Like graffiti, it felt like the works were officially not suppose to be there. The exhibition itself, felt like a ‘found object’, pinched between condominiums and private estates, near the eateries along Killliney Road. There are a five ‘screens’ scattered across the ground floor of Mitre Hotel, amongst the piles of junk scattered by the owner in the derelic building. The photographs in the exhibition on the other hand, are staple studies of texture, colour, shapes, composition of doors, passage ways, walls and such. The usage of monitors, television screens and projections seem to suggest that the site is probably more important than the ‘photographs’ as prints are not available to view. A pity if you are here to see photographs, and not face an installation of a fictitious character’s existential rant of art and life. The only physical remnant of photographic film, is a length of slide film placed on a light box pedestal, which one has to climb a few steps to peek from above. It seems to suggest that photography here, has that higher place than the rest of the objects.

So perhaps the exhibition is less about photography, but more of a site-specific installation. A hearse was part of the opening event of the exhibition, and the fictitious funeral photograph of Wu Xiao Kang (see above picture) seems to be key to the lie – it is an illustrated graphic image. The artist group has deliberately embroiled the myth of the artist into the context of soon-to-be-demolished building, as a schizophrenic hero preserving his own vision, or way of seeing. While this tactic of subtefuge to exhibit may irk many, it is nonetheless publicity for the work and artists. If that’s the case, in Singapore’s context of continual urban renewal and redevelopment, there is indeed a cause to be worried, losing something physical and replacing them with incomplete pictures as memories. 

A Dose of Light at Mitre Hotel

6.0 of 10 stars. Remember to click on the link Wu Xiao Kang (1979-2005)

Exhibition at Mitre Hotel, 145 Killiney Road (entrance before 147 Killiney road along a small path), extended till Sep 3, 2007  

Other links:
Organisers’ website, last accessed Sep 1, 2007.