Hong Kong artist Fung Ming Chip explores writing as technology in Galerie du Monde’s “Meme”.
In Fung Ming Chip’s solo exhibition the artist presents new sculptural works based on the written word. Art Radar takes a look at the artist’s practice.
Hong Kong artist Fung Ming Chip’s research into the history of ideograms and pictographs, especially in relation to Chinese calligraphy, seems increasingly relevant in a media saturated world in which the image is most definitely the message. The title of Fung Ming Chip’s current solo exhibition “Meme” at Hong Kong-based Galerie du Monde seeks to frame just such a reading of the artist’s work.
Produced over three decades during research and production around the various histories and philosophies of the written word, Fung Ming Chip’s visual art is forwarded as a means of gaining an insight into the culturally and historically complex relationships between speech (or sound), representation (the written word), and the set of human actions and relations established around their pragmatic use in a given context.
Language in space
Far from subscribing to a particular linguistic or semantic theory, “Meme” reveals how Fung Ming Chip’s interest lies in the physicality and materiality of language, a question that has often led the artist to materially construct the language, characters, words or figures he is working with. Fung Ming Chip’s tendency to “spatialise” language is made evident in “Meme”, where a large amount of the gallery space is dedicated to Fung’s sculptural work.
For this exhibition Fung Ming Chip has produced three stone steles. In Western culture the ‘stelae’ were slabs of stone used as far back as the ancient Greek and Roman eras for commemorative purposes, government notices or as boundary markers deployed to mark borders or property lines. Traditionally the surface of the stele would have text, ornamentation, or both. It is perhaps this curious mix between text and image that interests the artist, who has often worked with the forms of language that have an obvious function across social spaces – signage, monuments or tombstones.
One of the steles entitled Female’s Desire (2016) is a bright red wood stele engraved with the golden coloured words “diamond”, “chocolate”, “selfie”, “keep fit”. The juxtaposition of such contemporary slang with the traditional and monumental nature of the stele form gives a terrifying gravity to the casual phraseology of contemporary life. The artist’s critical reading of relations between contemporary language use, technology and subjectivity are revealed in a phrase inscribed on the side of the sculpture that declares:
Desire equals energy; Possession is all.
Writing as technology
Also included in the exhibition is a site-specific pictograph mural installed across the gallery walls. These pictographs also appear in Fung’s wood seal carving works – a repetition designed to trigger in the viewer questions around the relationship between medium and content, medium and message, content and modes of distribution.
In this mural work as well as his sculptural steles, Fung Ming Chip operates as a kind of new media artist, using artistic practice to materialise the unseen social and relational effects of the intensification of the pace and level of technological mediation of communication.
The title piece MEME positions the character ‘元’ in the centre of a petite red and gold plaque, similar to memorial tablets found in traditional Chinese shrines. Meme is a neologism coined by the science writer Richard Dawkins, originally referring vaguely to any idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. Fung links the idea of meme to ‘元’, which translates as “origin”, thus probing questions around the genealogies and politicised histories of current social habits or contagious behavioural forms.
It is an apt title for Fung Ming Chip’s current body of work, which proves the artist’s decades long exploration of writing and communication to also have been an exploration of the relations between technology and human subjectivity, body and representation. Fung’s departure from writing, even in its ancient form, as technology offers innovative perspectives on the current relationship between sign, sound and human behaviour.
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