My Last Adornment by Shing

empty instant photo booth

Renowned jewellery designer Shing, of cult label Argentum, creates her second installation My Last Adornment, using jewellery to reflect on themes of vanity and mortality. Viewers are invited to step into the installation and put on their last adornment inside a photo booth and contemplate the transience of life. This act becomes less about vanity and more a reminder of their mortality and how precious lives are. (curatorial text lifted from the Substation Website)

The wall with the only window had suicidal text written by Sylvia Plath, amongst others, contemplating the last act of death, debilitating one’s will to live, and to some extent, questioning existence/existentialism.

The soft churn of a LCD projector stood in the path of the wall, to a curious ardent cold glow of light emitting from a booth wrapped in thick, white fabric, beckoned by 2 pairs of queue stands.

The booth, on close inspection, reveals an instant passport photo machine, with a seemingly out of place noose, delicately and intricately assembled from jewelery trinkets inviting the viewer to toss $6 for a set of photos with the silvery noose as a face-frame. Not quite your Kawai neo-prints, signing the substation’s photography disclaimer seems like signing a part of you away.

To appreciate the installation by Shing requires acquired taste, especially if the manner in which the work is marketed/themed surrounds death. Reminisce of the Portrait of Wu Xiao Kang and an earlier 2008 exhibition featuring Joshua Yang, in its nonchalant sub-cult(ure) interests. While more is desired to be seen, as a minimal piece it seems a stark, weaker contrasts to John Clang’s treatment of his photograph-book booth. The audience interaction component does not fit well with the jewelery piece (the noose), as the use of the squeaky clean commercial photo booth distorts the darker aesthetics of the sub-culture.

What did work, deliberate or not, was the smell of decaying flowers in the gallery, perhaps a better reminder of death than the photo booth and pencil-graffiti wall added together.

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