“Lucida & Lucida II” at the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art (CFCCA), Manchester, looks to the rich territory that can be explored when art and science meet.

The departure point of Hong Kong-born, London-based Suki Chan’s show is the human eye, a topic that pushes further the artist’s long-term interest in light.

Suki Chan, Lucida (2016) Installation shot at CFCCA, Manchester. Courtesy the artist.

Suki Chan, Lucida (2016) Installation shot at CFCCA, Manchester. Courtesy the artist.

The exhibition “Lucida & Lucida II” at the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art (CFCCA), Manchester, sits not at the single point where art and science intersect, but looks to the rich territory that can be explored when the two disciplines enmesh. Running until 30 April 2017, the departure point of this solo show by Suki Chan is the human eye. As well as being a central concern of art, science and the ‘demystification practices’ that surround these disciplines, the topic of ‘the eye’ pushes further the artist’s long-term interest in light.

Suki Chan (b. 1977, Hong Kong) lives and works in London, having studied at Goldsmiths, University of London and Chelsea School of Art. The first time Lucida (2016) was shown was at Tintype gallery, London. In Manchester having slightly more space has meant the opportunity to show two works together for the first time. Lucida II (2016) occupies the smaller, light filled ‘shop front’ project space and Lucida fills the larger gallery, which has no natural light, at the back of the building. For both works, the physical presence of the audience engenders the experience. In Lucida II, the work ‘happens’ when someone sits on a chair in front of equipment that scans the eye. A representation of the optic nerve moves anxiously across the screen as if powered by telekinesis.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

To view Lucida, the audience turns the corner into an immersive blackness out of which emerge three screens. When a person enters it triggers a soundtrack combining sounds composed by Dominik Scherrer, and interview recordings with scientists and other people who have stories to share relating to eyes, seeing, vision and perception. Chan’s work, the result of a research phase of over a year, could be understood as a ‘portrait of seeing’ or a ‘portrait of perception’.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Chan’s interest is not only the eye itself, but also the three-stage process from the poor quality inverted image received, to the correctly oriented completed picture filled in by the unconscious mind. The video imagery that takes this journey across three screens in the gallery includes footage the artist shot in the library at Senate House. For Chan, libraries are a “repository of knowledge and memory” comparable to the brain itself; but also the way her camera lens travels through the halls and tunnels of the library architecture metaphorically represents information transmitted via the optic nerve. Somewhere between crackling sounds, heterotopic tunnels and eye imagery beget a horror movie inflected experience.

Suki Chan, Lucida (2016). Installation shot at CFCCA, Manchester. Courtesy the artist.

Suki Chan, Lucida (2016). Installation shot at CFCCA, Manchester. Courtesy the artist.

The project has strong research credentials, supported by the University of Salford, the Centre for the Study of the Senses, University of London and Wellcome Trust. When Art Radar met Chan, she was energised by the opportunities that had arisen through the Wellcome Trust to entwine her practice with scientific networks and discourses. This sense of collaboration is infused through the work on display. More of the raw material from her research process, including transcripts, audio files and imagery, is available on her blog.

Technology is a theme that runs through the project. Chan compares the eye not to modern camera technology, but to the ‘camera lucida’, an optical device that owes its origins to the 17th century. She pinpoints a moment of reflection during the exhibition of her artwork Obscurer (2014), which led on to the creation of Lucida:

When I stood in the darkened space and I was looking at this image of the outside world upside down, I realised that this is what is happening all the time inside our eyes… our eyes are darkened chambers…

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Suki Chan moved to the Unitd Kingdom from Hong Kong when she was a year old. Exposure to different cultures reveals itself in subtle flickers through her artistic inquiries. On her blog she writes:

I conducted some research and looked into the etymology of the word ‘computer.’ The term came into use in the 17th Century to mean a human being who “computes.” It is formed from the Latin verb computare, meaning ‘to count, sum up; reckon’.

In Chinese, on the other hand, the etymology of the word seems to have originated from the commonalities between the brain and the modern day computer. The Chinese word for computer, 電腦 translated literally is: “electric brain.”

Perhaps the boundary between human and machine is not so distinct after all?

In the first incarnation of Lucida at Tintype gallery in 2016, the artist reproduced a Chinese eye chart and this can be found within the interpretation materials at CFCCA. The artist’s blog suggests a rich repository of material with potential for future development of the “Lucida” project or future outcomes as yet untapped. Perhaps we are seeing only the beginning.

Linda Pittwood

1616

Related topics: Video art, Events in Manchester, art about eyes, Hong Kong artists, gallery shows

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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