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[ Grumble ]

7. In the Gallery

[ 8.December.2017 ]

The work is being shown in the ground floor space and I am sitting in the basement. I have been separated from the work, Not Really Really (17-SS-4). I will soon need to walk upstairs to refresh the egg yolk. And every time I walk back down into the basement, I worry about the egg yolk. Is it still perfectly placed on the monocle plate? Has it fallen off? Has it broken? Should I go and take a look? Will I cause the gallery inconvenience while I am sitting here? Questions and suspicions echo nonstop in my ears.

The gravity of my life is shifting to give priority to facilitating Not Really Really (17-SS-4) in the gallery and I feel unstable. I am confused about the reality of my current life. I can’t have other plans during the gallery open times (Wednesday to Saturday, 1 pm to 6 pm) because I need to be in the gallery. No one has asked me to be in the gallery all the time to change the egg yolk, but I have an imaginary enemy telling me that I have to stay and make these changes. I am looking at myself as a victim, a tragic labourer for the artwork. I am telling myself that I have no choice but to stay in the gallery. I also convince myself that I am a very important element of this piece of work, mumbling that I am the only person who can replace the egg yolk. But maybe the truth is that I don’t allow myself to be replaced. I feel awkward about disliking the experience of showing this work but, at the same time, I believe there is a part of me that deeply enjoys the uncomfortable nerves and questions this produces. At times this even extends to a migraine, which keeps punching my mind, adding to the form of the artwork but one that is not directly exposed to the viewer.

Yun-Ling Chen, Not Really Really(15 - R - 3,
Cement Board, Chinese Rice Paper,Nail, 2015 

I situate myself in the basement of the gallery because I want to separate my presence from the work on the ground floor. This separation allows me to not act as a performer for the work, who is always present and, in contrast, to be more like a servant for the work. However, even when acting as an object (servant) to serve the subject (master object - artwork in this instance), I still retain my consciousness, and this is what facilitates the split subject. So, in the gallery, the servant (myself) will need a private space for dealing with my personal life but when the master (artwork) rings the bell, I will immediately throw away who I am and go to serve the master. This chimes with Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s master-slave dialectic (1807), ‘It felt the fear of death, the absolute master. In that feeling, it had inwardly fallen into dissolution, trembled in its depths, and all that was fixed within it had been shaken loose.’[1] In Not Really Really (17-SS-4), an uncanny master-slave dialectic relationship has built up between myself and the artwork. I am a servant attending to the master (artwork) and my life is chained to the absolute master through this servile and preoccupied consciousness. I am forced back into viewing myself, searching for who I am. 

The term/concept of master relies on the term/concept of a servant, for without the servant the concept/position of the master will not exist. This master/servant narrative in Not Really Really (17-SS-4) exposes that the assumed binary distinctions between subject/object are actually a relation, which can be manipulated and changed. This relates to Edward Said's concepts in the book Orientalism (2003), which claims that through colonial discourse and analysis the colonisers represent the colonised cultures as radically Other, in order to create a stronger colonial identity. The colonisers are tied to the colonised through this relation. Therefore, each binary (Occident/Orient, Coloniser/Colonised, Master/Slave to Subject/Object) includes both oppositions and binds the two terms together. 

Said questions one of William Robertson Smith’s comments in relation to another culture in his Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia (1885), ‘Yet many of the prejudices which seems to us most distinctively Mohammedan have no basis in the Koran… The Arabian traveler is quite different from ourselves,’[12] The word “us” and “ourselves” deployed by Smith in this sentence clearly defines the writer as speaking from a coloniser's vantage point. “We” are this, “they” are that, explicitly uses the binary oppositions of coloniser and colonised. Within an anthropocentric environment, human has unconsciously treated things in relationn to humans as exiting in this master/slave dialectic. However, when we realise this a constructed relation, we can ask ourselves: what if a human is just a thing? I aim to subvert this master (human)/slave (object) narrative, by taking away the usual markers of classification in order to bring the human and thing onto the same plane in the encounter.  When viewers are lost in the unknown of Not Really Really (17-SS-4) that is the moment which brings both human and thing stands equally side by side.

I accept my nerves that continue to surface and disrupt my thoughts, as a process of transforming myself from a subject into an object. During this process of transformation I feel uncomfortable and lost, as I am flooded by an uncomfortably anxioussituation. My daily life becomes centred around Not Really Really (17-SS-4) and all of my activities, decision making and emotions, are affected by the work. This also often leads me into losing my self-confidence and identity, of not believing who I am. During the period of showing the work, I rarely think of myself but rely on Not Really Really (17-SS-4) as my emotional support. I make most of my decisions based on the master (Not Really Really (17-SS-4)).


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