This preface explores into Tang Kuok Hou’s works from three aspects: anthropology as a method of “self”; confronting the “sight-seeing society” by rendering everyday objects into “landscape”; the motive of non-aesthetic and implicit writing metaphors.
In his book “Artists as ethnographer”, Hal Foster pointed out that contemporary artists who use anthropological methods and documentation types often fall into the “myth” of “realism” while emphasizing the objectivity of creation, or they are unconsciously constructing the notion of “the other” within their own inner world.
As an artist with a sociological knowledge background, Kuok Hou is reflexively reinventing himself with the “in-the-field method”. The capturing process of the images takes place as if in a “questionnaire”. Such as collecting different scenes on a certain theme, or photographing different aspects around a target area—without prior involvement of subjective intent. Subjective and mostly external methods are used to suspend subjectivity, and the mandatory repetition of the patterning process makes control of the works ineffective, so that the most inevitable and deepest sense of Self is revealed in a residual way.
The “Practice: Statement-Classification-Preset-Example” series, which is named after the rigorous empirical method steps, was reflected in the process of re-composition after the filming, deliberately setting the space for allegorical association and interpretation.
The so-called “landscape” originally refers to the reality of the consumer society’s fragmented ready-made life, guiding the eyes and consciousness of the crowd to the deceptive gigantic illusion. Kuok Hou redefines the concept of “landscape”: the everyday objects that are not watched are called “landscapes”, or become the center of gaze through the formal language of images, or they are obscured by new perspectives of alienation. The meaning is renewed with uncertainty and new connotation…
Take the case of a work as an example:
As a common object in the middle of the historical-cultural representative field, the core of the ritual is produced with a specific composition…
The artificial reservoir pond transforms into a natural blue sky through reflection, and the blue sky is turned upside down like a manmade landscape in the scene…
To adjust the area of large-area color steel fences, construction sheds and surrounding small plants in the picture, the composition triggers its illusion within a large area of vegetation…
The continuation of this idea, in the composition of “#Object: Floating Object”, Kuok Hou’s self-reported “floating object” is a variable-size object, which creates an imagination of the huge variable of the city as a sea, while the floating object is under observation among them. It is the artist’s method to measure his “city.”
We know that allegory is a way of euphemistically using words and sayings, and we cannot make an interpretation of symbolic meaning out of it. The wonderful metaphor of Kuok Hou stems from his dispelling of textual description of the background information. The motive of this kind of metaphor is not aesthetics, sensation, it is rather an implicit writing after self-examination… The way in which the meanings are understood but the words are twisted is also a form of art.
In the “#Notes:” series that continues this line of thought, Kuok Hou uses the term of Durkheim wittily to name the public sculpture that uses the handshake symbol mechanically as “Organic Solidarity”. By being rendered into “landscapes”, the objects regain the central position. The umbrellas are named instead as “Mechanical Solidarity”. The work “Establishing Symbols” can refer to the deep structure of universal culture in anthropology. It can also refer to the ideology in a particular cultural system. But in the case of Kuok Hou, it may also be referred to as a “symbolic deficiency” of the current society: where a word can only correspond to one thing, the symbol with rich connotation has lost its validity. And the author knows that it is impossible to be force the transformation and yet he can only try.
Therefore, Kuok Hou named his own exhibition as a note that can be a trial where mistakes are allowed. It is a trip within a trip; deconstruction, in order to re-structure.