Through her exploration with hallucination, the artist questions the perception of reality and how she positions herself in these uncertainties.
The solo exhibition showcases Angela Su’s newest works, which include drawing, video, hair embroidery and installation.
“The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers” is Hong Kong artist Angela Su’s first solo exhibition at Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. Her drawings, video, hair embroidery and installation at the show are the manifestation of her research on mental illness and social control. The exhibition is on view at Blindspot Gallery from 20 May to 30 June 2017. An event featuring a conversation with the artist is held on 24 May 2017.
Angela Su’s background in science informs her art practice. She is known for her scientific drawings, as well as works with the element of performance. In 1990, Su received her degree in Biochemistry from University of Toronto in Canada. After that, she decided to obtain another degree in Visual Arts from Ontario College of Art and Design University in Canada. Her works have been exhibited locally and internationally, including at Gallery EXIT, Grotto Fine Art and Goethe-Institut, Hong Kong; CAFA Art Museum, Beijing; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Saatchi Gallery, London; He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen; and Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. Her works have also been collected by M+ Museum, Hong Kong and CAFA Art Museum, China.
Hallucination, mental illness, doppelgänger and artificial intelligence
The protagonist in the artist’s film The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers is named after a stranger of the same name. It all begins with a Facebook message which Su has received that says:
How are you?
My name is Rosy.
I’d like to know you better.
Inspired by this message, the artist creates a virtual character who explores the notion of inner self, including doubling, hallucination and virtual reality. Meanwhile, external structures in relation to psychiatry, social control and resistance are also exposed.
The film reveals Rosy’s life experiences in a self-reflexive manner. From her early fascination with spirals to her experiences with hallucinatory psychedelics, the film explores limits of the mind-body duality. Other parts of the film also feature schizophrenic episodes, joining Socialists’ Patients Collective (SPK), and the uploading of her consciousness to cyberspace to live her life as an animated character.
Psychiatry and scientific biological drawings
Su’s scientific drawings are featured in this show alongside her video work. These are drawings in perfect bilateral symmetry, which reference the famous psychological test named Rorschach inkblot test. The biomorphic forms are depicted over two overlapping layers of drafting films, as if engaging in word play with the idea of “twin” and “split”. Spiral, vegetative and floral forms mingle amongst structures that resemble human organs. Viewers can interpret them according to their intuition. The process of viewing them is similar to going through the diagnostic test for schizophrenia.
Speaking about her the audience she has in mind when creating works of art, Su once mentioned in an interview (PDF download) done in 2014 at Asia Art Archive:
My audience can be anybody. It’s the general public. And I don’t really think about my audience when I do my work. […] I think this is also the beauty of art as well. I mean the audience is free to make their associations, they are free to take back to create different meanings out of the work. It’s the ambiguity that intrigues me sometimes about a piece of work.
Therapy session and doubling
In Please tell me what’s been bothering you, the female patient expresses her anxieties about having a doppelgänger. The conversation between her and her therapist is a frustrating one, as the work alludes to the generic conversations between patients and ELIZA. ELIZA is a first-generation AI computer psychotherapist from the 1960s created by German-American scientist Joseph Weizenbaum of MIT University. It is a chatbot that responds in a fashion that is similar to that of American psychologist Carl Rogers, speaking in open questions. The therapist only mirrors what the patient has to say with keywords, which eventually embodies the patient as their doppelgänger.
Hair embroidery and the body
In My sincere apologies, a phrase is embroidered onto the stark white bed sheet using human hair. The phrase seems to be coming from a woman with mental illness, as it reads:
Since I am a troubled woman, I cannot help but produce yet another piece of art with the bed. Please accept my sincere apologies.
Through this apologetic line, viewers can delve into the artist’s state of mind to explore the notion of autonomy, agency and empathy in her daily struggles.
In the same AAA interview, Su commented on the labour-intensive process of her hair embroidery artwork and drawings:
Long, hard, laborious process. Because when I do, for example, my embroidery, it’s labour-intensive. When I first started to do labour-intensive work ‒ whether it’s drawing or embroidery ‒ I, again, I romanticized the idea. I wanted to be contemplative. […] Sometimes it’s painful to do labour-intensive work. But for some reason I think I really enjoy doing it in a way. It’s sort of masochistic. Every time I finish something, for example an embroidery, I would think, “I’ll never go back to it! I’ll never do another piece of embroidery again!”. But for some reason, I will always go back to something bigger and do something even more complicated. It’s a very strange sentiment that I have. You know, it’s stitch by stitch, stroke by stroke, 14 hours a day, day after day and week after week.
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- A Diorama Museum: father of computer art in China Feng Mengbo at MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai – June 2017 – Feng’s “Museum” features a series of miniature scenes depicting the contradictions inherent in a socio-political environment like that of his native China
- “91 Square Meters of Time”: Taiwanese video artist Wu Chi-Yu at TKG+ Projects, Taipei – May 2017 – the Taiwanese artist creates moving image works that resurface lost memories and reproduce oral history and myth
- Exploring Buddhist cosmology in ceramics: China’s Geng Xue – artist profile – May 2017 – Art Radar has a look at her current exhibition as well as her artistic practice.
- “Drawing in the Dark”: Indian artist Shilpa Gupta at Bielefelder Kunstverein, Germany – June 2017 – the exhibition runs at Bielefelder Kunstverein in Germany until 16 July 2017 and will travel to Le Centre d’art Contemporain, La Synagoge de Delm in France
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