When Stamping was exhibited in 2006, I installed a living room in the exhibition space with furniture and home appliances (sofa, tea table, TV stand, TV set, clock, and etc.) which were commonly seen in every living room. When viewers first walked into the exhibition space, they would have to look for the “artwork” if they held the belief that “every object in the exhibition space has its purpose” (an idea similar to the “retracing effect” – what I describe viewers’ participation in cinematic narrative).
In most of the cases, the space-balance and the visual focus of living room furniture arrangement begins with the opposite positions of TV and sofa. I also followed the same rule when I installed a living room in the exhibition space. As viewers first stepped into the space, they would soon focus on the sofa, which was the nearest object to them, and their gaze would be directed to the TV screen on the TV stand in the front. In the practice of contemporary art, “screen” is often understood as an artistic medium like canvas or pedestal to carry the work. However, when viewers looked at the TV screen, their first observation would be “it is a turned-off TV.” The dark screen was like a mirror to reflect the whole space and the objects. If viewers tried to adjust the objects in the space to make sure what they saw on the TV screen was merely a reflection, they would find nothing to contradict their first impression and suffered the frustration that “they found no artwork here.”
In their understandable search, they might have two behavior patterns: the first was to accept the “deception” of the two sofas and to sit in one, while the other case was to walk around the space and to further search for the possible existence of other artworks. Either the first or the latter, viewers would eventually be attracted by the tinkling sound from the TV and turned their attention to the TV screen. At this moment, viewers would take a more concentrative and serious stand on the screen reflection and their previous observation. Soon, they might notice the minor changes in the “reflection.” For example, the clock hung on the wall behind the TV in the real space, against any physical law, illogically appeared in the “screen reflection.” Viewers might also notice the moving shadow on the safe, which was like some animal and even jumped off the sofa after a while. They would soon realize that it was a cat, and the tinkling sound was from the bell around its neck as it jumped off the sofa.
In fact, the “turned-off” TV was not turned off at all. It was always on, playing a video with very low brightness – almost as dark as a turned-off screen. The only things shown in the video were the clock which should not be there and the cat. It was why no matter how viewers moved the objects in the room they would still see the corresponding reflection on the screen. Meanwhile, the two sofas and the TV were placed in accordance with the law of reflection (the angle of incidence and the angle of reflection were the same), so no matter which sofa viewers chose to sit on, the cat would appear at the other sofa.
In this work, I have made every effort to hide the “artworks” and “images” within the exhibition installations, trying to break away from the secured association between the images and the real scenes. The only means is to penetrate the “reality” validated by the viewers, making the reality a barrier to place an illusionary world of images within and to disturb the quiet surface of the reality. Here, the transformation not only takes place in the reality of the present moment but also allows images to go beyond the screen. The narrative “being visualized through a particular medium” is thus merged into the various possibilities of Reality.