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1038 / Performance, photographs / 2021

***The artist’s intention is to have both videos below play at the same time, and replay it if either one ends.

1038 – Part1
1038 – Part2

1038 / Performance, photographs / 2021

How do we have a difficult conversation? This question has been in my mind for a long time. The difficulties exist in many forms and ways, and often they cannot be easily reconciled in or by the conversation. We all have our own experiences and perspectives that lead us to have different understandings and opinions on things, and inevitably it becomes hard for us to find common ground because of our own limitations and bias. Therefore, many difficult conversations are avoided even before we start them so that we don’t have to expose ourselves to an uncomfortable or unfamiliar environment. Yet, the difficulties don’t go away just because we shut our mouths and turn our back to them. This becomes something that catches my attention, and I want to create a work that pushes both my audiences and myself to face, think, and get involved in difficult conversations.

The work comprises two videos recording the performance and a series of photographs that document the process. Through the first part of the performance, I use a water-based pen to write numbers on my whole body – as much as I can reach. The numbers are written in Chinese, and I count them out loud as I write. I start with one on my left toe and end with one thousand and thirty-eight on my face. In the second part of the performance, I wash off the ink with water and soap in a tub. The ink – though mostly washed-off – is still visible on some part of my skin. The performance takes place in a studio where I am the only person in the space. This isolation environment, on the one hand, minimizes distractions as much as possible. On the other hand, it also intensifies my emotions through the performance.

As a creator, I experience the emotional stage from being cautious and performative to exhausted and angry during the performance. I try to reflect on myself and look inward to figure out why I am making this work, but I can’t find a direct answer. The physical actions and the feelings triggered by these actions dominate me during the performance. It is when I finish the work and look at it as an audience that I start to realize the meanings it might invoke. I begin to make associations between the work with the external world, and interpretations appear. Meanings generate from the numbers I am counting, from the action of writing on one’s body, and from other aspects of the work. These meanings then initiate conversations related to some broader and more complicated issues depending on one’s own experience and response. Even though now that I finish the work, I still can’t explicitly state the meanings of the work. However, I think the conversations that generate by the work will lead me there one day.