Choi Yan Chi, A Desk to a Forever Reader, 2013
Choi Yan Chi
A Desk to a Forever Reader, 2013
Ikea home office desk, books, oil, text on acrylic
Photos by Alain Kantarijian. © Alain Kantarjian.
Choi Yan Chi was 40 when The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 took place. She reminisces on how gravely people were psychologically affected in Hong Kong. During this time Choi kept having an image of being drowned, a continuous vision that was imprinted in her mind. Six weeks after June 4th, a group of cultural producers and performers, including Choi did an improvised performance and engaged in actions for three days. There was a shared deep sorrow, and a feeling of emptiness, imploring what is the meaning of art in such a context, and a questioning of what they should do. Choi’s first Drowned installation came about, whereupon she drowned books in water, in aquariums, which was later to be replaced by oil. Choi Yan Chi in collected the many ‘drowned’ books at various sites in 1993 in berlin after the fall of the wall, as well as flea market in China.
A Desk to a Forever Reader (2013) is very similar in appearance to Choi’s Drowned series (1989-97), but for this work the artist invited friends and acquaintances from differing ages to contribute with the title of two books that they find meaningful. Two main questions were posed to them; why did you choose these two books? And if you were not to drown them in oil what would you do to them?
One contributor describes the impact of a 1968 dictionary on their childhood; “中華新字典 was my childhood companion, I had a very lonely childhood, I always alone without sound and reading the dictionary was an enjoyable time. I was amazed by the specific meanings carried by each Chinese word. I like reading it a lot…and now, I really want my students to appreciate the beauty of each Chinese word. They always check meanings and phrases with online dictionaries which can not tell them how to differentiate the different layers of meanings of each word, and also make their vocabulary so weak. I feel sad about all this, and if I can pour something on it, I would like to drown it with old Chinese tea, because it takes time to make a good tea and you have to know about the differences between making instant tea and old Chinese tea.”
Curator Daniel Kurjakovic writes; “In Yan Chi Choi’s deeply melancholic piece A Desk to a Forever Reader (2013) drowning books take center stage, with bubbles hinting at some remains of air, and possibly spirit, evaporating. Originating in the deep frustration around the pivotal historical moment of 1989 in Chinese history, the book here is reappearing—in what is a memento mori of culture—as the question mark put behind the notion of material culture and its shifts in the present digital age: What does remain? What will persist? The computer table—an IKEA furniture/prop—contextualizes such questions.”
Drowned I ( 1989 ) Installation of fish tanks, bubbling water floating objects, fan and photocopy on wall
Choi Yan-chi (b. 1949 in Hong Kong) is an artist living and working in Hong Kong. She received her BA and MFA from The School of the Art Institute Chicago, USA, in 1976 and 1978 respectively. Her solo exhibitions include An Extension into Space at the Hong Kong Art Centre, in 1985, as well as [Re-]Fabrication, a retrospective at Para/Site Art Space in 2006. In 1992 she was invited to take part in the first Asia Pacific Triennial at the Queensland Art Gallery and in the same year was represented in a solo show at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Germany. In 2002 Choi helped to establish the Academy of Visual Arts at the Baptist University, and became part of the teaching faculty. Choi is co-founder of 1a space.