WHEN CONTEXT LASTS: Lilien Li

ASN MA DEGREE SHOWS

 

We see

We see different colours

We think

We think of the difference between what we perceived

We imagine

We imagine what we are not able to perceive

We doubt

We doubt our perception

We discuss

We discuss if we are all having the same doubt

We return

We return to where we were at the beginning and see

 

I return

I return to a place where I cannot see, think, imagine, doubt and discuss

 

Language & Visibility

Birds cannot see glass.

Cats and dogs cannot see all colours.

Human see limited spectrum, especially in the dark.

 

Flickering rainbows in Luskentyre Beach, west coast of Harris, and lively air travelled from the Atlantic Ocean surrounded us. We are climbing boundless rocks and mountains. A beautiful primary layer of colours is in presence.

When I was taking a minute breath on a minivan, an exotic road sign yells. Indeed, road sign speaks in native language and my eyes are the only exotic. The layer perceived is flipping.

In the book ‘Reading the Gaelic Landscape: Leughadh Aghaidh Na Tire’ [i], John Murray uncovers another layer through the lens of language, which embedded multiple implicit layers entangled with lives and minds.

It is the process to embrace the horizon with sensibility and notice the visible clue from intertwined context, which involves play and debate between surrounding environment and ‘the flesh of perception’ [ii]. Finally, the layers overlapped and united in aesthetic.

Witnessing my first language of Cantonese has been weakening dramatically in my hometown Hong Kong during the last decade, I recognised the importance to preserve traditional languages in front of dominant powers. What Gaelic has encountered resonates with the situation of Cantonese.

There is no way to recover an extinct language and its connections with culture, mentality and value of ethnicity over time. As a multilingual, I identify flaws in translation and represent them through visuals. Not all Gaelic words could be translated into English, and not all colours could be translated into language.

The work title GLAS is a colour name in Gaelic. In one of the Gaelic-English dictionary, it is translated as ‘Become grey, pale or green. Make grey, make pale. Dawn.’, which has become the statement of the work.

 

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GLAS, 2019

 

Visibility & Vision

May our vision be cured, while context of contemporary world is obscure.

 

In response to climate change, I wonder how human being sees that foreseeable but unseeable layer of emergency and how our difference in vision and perception creates distance and conflict.

Where I inhabit, social movements prevails, observed distinctive and divergent points of view reflects the significance of vision, as well as how difference could people access to context and ponder the issue. Hence, my practice is a reflection of relevant observation.

 

between cognition and consciousness

between you and where you are

between today and too late

IMG_1848@

BETWEEN, 2018

 

Visible & Invisible

Some distances extend beyond physical.

Some existences stay beyond material.

 

My memory has sealed the last rotten glimpse of your shadow in an envelope. Perhaps when the chandelier falls, you may still find me alive, yet shattered in its aftermath, a remnant of a former existence remains with the archived phantom.

It is my sentiment of an intimate relationship in the past, and a narration of a post-colony.

Dreaded by the book-burning history of China and concerning the absence of archival law in Hong Kong [iii], archive is a universal concept along with my practice. As an archival material, paper is a strand linking up my works.

Instead of mark-making, I cut poems out of paper to echo grief entailed with ‘absence’, ‘missing’ and ‘disappear’. It represents material interruption, which metaphorically embodies radical but quiet vanishment of culture.

‘absence’, ‘missing’ and ‘disappear’ is a family of ‘books’. Each of them consists of 10 pages, and each page is a line of poems, which would never be integrated as a typical book form but alternately with a hope to travel in different directions and dimensions beyond time and space.

artistbook1

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ABSENCE (page 3), 2019

 

Space & Being

‘The perception of the world is formed in the world, the test for truth takes place in Being.’ ― (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1968) [iv]

 

With consciousness on context, space is no longer perceived as space itself. When an artist as a container of memory collides with context of space, works of art emerge and evident in that intersection. As long as our consciousness and perception connected with space, the world is subjectively vivid in our eyes.

Journeys to Scottish landscapes Lewis and Harris, the Flow Country and the Blackwood of Rannoch, are emphasising the time immersed in nature and in time itself, and are depicted in forms of art and symbolised life and practice as a process until a day we would be in situ under the soil.

 

In the forest

In tranquility

I observe subtlety

In situ

 

In the gallery

In tranquility

I observe subtlety

In situ

t3

TRANQUILITY, 2019

 

Within & Beyond

color (n.)

from Latin color “color of the skin; color in general, hue; appearance,” from Old Latin colos, originally “a covering” (akin to celare “to hide, conceal”), from PIE root *kel- (1) “to cover, conceal, save.” [v]

If colour is a physically attractive skin of the world, what does it conceal? ‘Colour is the worldly correlate of visibility.[vi] When human being situates ourselves at the centre of the world, how well we understand our capability of seeing?

While Hong Kong protests symbolized in black and yellow, there are some people against the protests wearing blue and white. When society is divided into colours, how much context do we see under the colours? Difference colours not only refer to different opinions and generations but also reflect how desperate the citizens feel. As of July 2019, four people have given up their lives for the issue. [vii]

space (n.)

1300, “extent or area; room” (to do something), a shortening of Old French espace “period of time, distance, interval” (12c.), from Latin spatium “room, area, distance, stretch of time,” a word of unknown origin (also source of Spanish espacio, Italian spazio). [viii]

 

Raised in complex cultures and context, I am inescapably attentive to context in every landscape. Context reflects the process of how entangled layers of the space evolved. Context takes over context over time. Behind colour, both context and time are inexplicable concepts existing in abstract and intangible form. Language, as a standard tool of archive, alone seems incapable.

To understand the long and complex history is to grasp the essence of the space. To admit our inadequate sight is the beginning to free our imagination on text recording the context and on numbers carrying the meaning of time.

While modern science tends to pursue rational investigation by standing outside of the story, staying within context and time allow you to crystallise its substance. ‘People are immersed in a world of places which the geographical imagination aims to understand and recover – places as contexts for human experience, constructed in movement, memory, encounter and association.’ ― (Christopher Tilley, 1994) [ix] This experiential element could never be replaced.

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SKETCH OF GREY, 2019

Space is simultaneously existential and nothingness. Dwell in the ambience of greyness and stillness, the shadow of the material change I archived is visible. When you are moving apart and seeing at some distance, you might discover yourself was once a part of that grey space in the certain pause of time. You are actually part of the work while you think you are looking at the work. I am creating an architectural space or space is always there without my interference.

The figure-ground and the subject-object relationship depends on the way of seeing. Some physical spaces, like natural landscape, widen space for thinking. Experiencing space is a process. After all, every process is organic. The process when what visible turns to invisible or when a place transforms.

The more the process is concerned, neither material nor non-material would stay permanent, the more I could realise myself as a tiny part of the process. When taking protests as a process of the city dying, my generation is born to witness and experience this process. Under this natural life cycle, what should I sorrow for?

 

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GREY, 2019

Of a colour having little or no positive colour;

Of a colour of dark hair turning to white,

As seen at some distance.

 

Become grey, wither.

 

Perhaps, it is not about seeing through colour in the colourful material world. It is about seeing through the universal process by objectifying life. ‘Being-in-the-world resides in a process of objectification in which people objectify the world by setting themselves apart from it. This results in the creation of a gap, a distance in space. To be human is both to create this distance between the self and that which is beyond’ ― (Christopher Tilley, 1994) [x]

 

I dress in black and face grey.

There is tear gas.

There is uncertainty.

There seems no light ahead.

Guns are pointing to our heads.

 

I return.

I return to my city, except my physical body.

The city is heading to an enduring winter.

I am just one of the fallen leaves,

Following the flow of freezing water.

 

When I am within a piece of greyness,

I imagine myself stepping out and looking back in a distance,

I realise myself being within a stage,

A stage of a process.

A process is towards where I cannot see, think, imagine, doubt and discuss.

 

 

References

[i] Murray, J. (2014). Reading the Gaelic Landscape: Leughadh Aghaidh Na Tire. Whittles Publishing.

[ii] [iv]Merleau-Ponty, M. (1968). The visible and the invisible: followed by working notes / edited by Claude Lefort ; translated by Alphonso Lingis. Evanston, Northwestern University Press.

[iii] South China Morning Post. (2019). Time to press ahead with archive law. [online] Available at: https://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/3008341/time-press-ahead-archive-law [Accessed 7 July 2019]

[v] Etymonline. color (n.). [online] Available at: https://www.etymonline.com/word/color [Accessed 7 July 2019]

[vi] Fóti, V.M. (2000). Merleau-Ponty: Difference, Materiality, Painting. Amherst, N.Y., Humanity Books. pp. 170.

[vii] Hollingsworth, J. Shelly, J. (2019). How four deaths turned Hong Kong’s protest movement dark. [online] Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/07/21/asia/hong-kong-deaths-suicide-dark-intl-hnk/index.html [Accessed 24 July 2019]

[viii] Etymonline. Space (n.). [online] Available at: https://www.etymonline.com/word/space#etymonline_v_23940 [Accessed 7 July 2019]

[ix] [x] Tilley, C. (1994). A phenomenology of landscape: places, paths and monuments. Oxford, Berg. pp.7-34

[xi] Brady, E. (2003). Aesthetics of the natural environment. Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama Press.

[xii] Saito, Y. (2007). Everyday aesthetics. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

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