The Perfect Desire for a Description of an Image

Inserted for the review of Found & Lost. Images courtesy of the artist, all rights reserved.


One expects text to accompany video art; the reading of one akin to reading movie spoilers before watching a movie. An image speaks in visual terms, sometimes independent of the written word. Sometimes, the written word is a subterfuge, misleading the viewer. Often, it points like a compass to the magnetic north, and never at true north, suggesting an interpretation of the work but never nearly does it.

The image of a sunset probably resides in any photo album, any where else in the world. Every sunset is unique, if one looks hard enough and therefore worthy and not demeaning to attempt one. Any self-respecting camera owning person would have attempted one. Today, any phone camera owner might have attempted one too. The sunset, is like a moment of flirting, a courtship between the sun and moon. The transition from day to night is intriguing, filled with dramatic cloud chase scenes, or the ordinariness of day and night that begets an exciting new tomorrow.

The two video pieces The Perfect Desire, and Description of an Image by Cheong Kah Kit for the event of the exhibition Found & Lost, begets the consideration of the universal appeal of image making, and subsequently the poetic gesture of an attempt to deconstruct an image – the signifier, the signified and the signs. The grandeur of a darken projection room allows the private contemplation and conversation of the two pieces, and the sound was decisively omitted. A video diptych, might have been possible, forging new narrative.

As challenging as Matthew Ngui’s Chair, we are given a mirror to observe ourselves, finding the perfect desire to snap the most extraordinary photograph out of the most banal; finding the right words to describe the roles images and words play in our understanding of the world, only to realise they are a different sense and cognition altogether.

Description by the artist
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“The 1st work (the perfect desire) has 2 parts; a photograph of a sunset (taken by me) and a video showing a group of people taking images of the sunset. For a long time, I am struck by how modern technology has rendered photography so easy, accessible and almost effortless (digital cameras, handphone cameras etc.) Unlike say, 8 years ago, where photo taking is still very much a physical process (buying the film, loading it, limited 36 shots and sending it for development) with applications like facebook, flickr, picasa and many others online, photographs have gone from something very private (family albums) to becoming very public (online). I find this explosion of image-making / images most intriguing. It’s like a mass obsession that’s unstoppable. For every million images processed daily, there are millions more awaiting to be made. My experience with the group of people taking images of the sunset as well as my own sunset photo is a reflection of this obsession of ours.”


“The 2nd video (description of an image) is an exercise in reclaiming a political image (a censored one in this case) as an image again, minus the political content. Often, when we look at a political image, its quite impossible to comment on it without making references to its social content. I had a conversation with a swedish classmate, where I asked him if he thought it was possible to separate content from image. I documentated the entire process and showed those quiet moments where he ‘confronted’ the image and considered his position in relation to it.”


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