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Essay: Proposed title: 21st Century Inferno

Works and thoughts during stage 1 reflect a state of mind of lost and delirious. Bounded by identity and “purposes”, as if they imply responsibilities, could lead to one’s ignorance of one’s own emotions and the need to take care of oneself. This on “the-brink-of-losing-it” state of mind is what to be developed during stage 2, under the broader context of constant exchange of ecstasy and desperation of humans in the 21st century amidst wars, dictatorships, deteriorating environments and the powerlessness of being a spectator of all these for most of the times.

But first of all, I have to heal myself to be able to continue making art, as the great contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama does. As what must be expressed is the product of first-hand and second-hand traumatic events in Hong Kong, of which the first hand ones are now unspeakable. It grew out of guilt from witnessing miseries in this modern, advanced and fancy world. Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Iran, Ukraine...etc. On one hand one should be grateful and live a happy life while one is not trapped in some hopeless place but if it is also extremely hard to accept the reality, that none of the actual most pressing issues is addressed, other than climate change. Anyway, as described by the quote “Delirium is the dream of waking persons” (Sauvages ,1772 cited in Foucault, 1989), let the moral struggles become the delirious reality as if it is all a dream.

Fig. 1 Face of Youth (2015)
Fig. 1 Face of Youth (2015)

Kusama’s work has been innate because it is her way to deal with her psychological

experiences and hallucinations (Wan, 2019). I have a similar way to create work and probably

have no way other than that (See Fig. 2 - 4). The works of Kusama propose alternatives to

think, experience and encounter not only art, but also “the world in which the object — and

we as subjects — lives” (Applin, 2012:28). As the world enters a new age of chaos, it is

hoped that there is some redemption through sharing emotions……

Fig. 2 Underworld Beneath My House (2022)
Fig. 2 Underworld Beneath My House (2022)

Fig. 3 Etching Print of Part of Underworld Beneath My House (2022)
Fig. 3 Etching Print of Part of Underworld Beneath My House (2022)

Fig. 4 Doodle (2022)
Fig. 4 Doodle (2022)

Emotions are a key to creating works and found objects also carry some emotions, which is

why the works “Underworld Beneath My House” (See Fig. 1) and “I just want to see you

again. (To the dead and unknown faces behind the masks, and to the past and to the future)”

(See Fig. 4) were possible. For “Underworld Beneath My House”, the bagasse board

provided the touch of rawness and coarseness. The painting on glass, “I just want…to the

future)”, is held up high in the air when displayed and the audience are allowed to see

through the opening. The old window carries its own language and story. Yet, in some cases,

found objects’ own “aura” (Benjamin, 2008:7-10) does not matter for the projects as it can

steal the emotions’ thunder.

Fig. 5 I just want to see you again. (To the dead and unknown faces behind the masks, and to the past and to the future) (2022)
Fig. 5 I just want to see you again. (To the dead and unknown faces behind the masks, and to the past and to the future) (2022)

On the other hand, as to keep abreast of time, some A.I. aesthetics has been applied to the

work and sketches (See Fig. 4 - 6) and this will continue for the works in the next stage. It is

totally inspired by the news story of artist Mr. Jason Allen using A.I. generated artwork (Fig.

7) to win an art contest (Roose, 2021) and stir up a controversy over creativity (originality)

and ownership of A.I. art. Whether Mr. Allen’s action is ethical as an artist taking part in that

particular competition is irrelevant to my interest, since Damien Hirst also did not paint his approximately 1,400 spot paintings but instead most of them were “commissioned” to a

group of assistants (Bowley, 2013). And Allen’s A.I. art is undoubtedly much more intriguing

than Hirst’s works.

Fig. 6 Sketch of Past and future and the awakening dream? (2022)
Fig. 6 Sketch of Past and future and the awakening dream? (2022)

Fig. 7 Black hole and white hole (2022)
Fig. 7 Black hole and white hole (2022)

Fig. 8 Théâtre D’opéra Spatial (2021)
Fig. 8 Théâtre D’opéra Spatial (2021)

We as human artists should bow our heads to A.I. in my very humble and honest opinion.

People in the mind games’ world (including myself as a high rank amateur Go player) did it a

few years ago already—drop the ego and accept the reality that AlphaGo has beaten human

professional Go players and it would only get better. So now Go players see A.I. as a teacher

who has not ceased to open our mind and take us further to new places.


The world has seen the furthest contemporary art can reach actually. If an artist wishes to

change society, he/she can learn from the Hong Kong artist Luke Ching Chin Wai, whose

recent protest art has actually put art to its non-existence limit. He was employed as an

outsourced janitor working in Hong Kong MTR railway stations. This “performance act” is to

fight for the cleaners’ rights. Even himself questions if it is art or not, but he believed that

“Art is not real art if it only has a role in the market economy” (Ching, 2021 cited in Tsui,

2021). However, his standard is too hard to follow for the time being.


Back to my 21st Century Inferno, which will be as whole-hearted as Luke Ching’s art, is to

be driven by emotions like agony, guilt, puzzlement, anger, sorrow, benevolence, bravery

originating from the tragedies, injustice and sacrifices made. The works themselves will be

paintings and drawing on various materials but mainly on canvases, paper etc. of different

sizes. They would be simply hung on walls or placed on some racks, or sometimes with

things coming out of the surface, like Anselm Kiefer’s paintings. All in all, the essence is still

the emotions that should be felt in commonplace and link people together.

 
List of Illustrations

Fig. 1 Kusama, Y. (2015) Face of Youth [Acrylic on canvas] 194 x 194 cm. At:

https://wepresent.wetransfer.com/stories/yes-but-why-yayoi-kusama (Accessed 04/02/2023).


Fig. 2 Chung, W.Y. (2022) Underworld Beneath My House [Painting on bagasse board] 21.9

x 29.5 cm. At:

https://wai-yi-123.wixsite.com/waiyichung?pgid=kroqohvt-0097b108-dea0-4098-b1b9-1411e

c14df36 (Accessed 04/02/2023).


Fig. 3 Chung, W.Y. (2022) Etching Print of Part of Underworld Beneath My House.

[Printmaking paper] In possession of the author: Farnham.


Fig. 4 Chung, W.Y. (2022) Doodle [Ink on paper] 29.7 x 21 cm,

At:https://www.instagram.com/p/Ckf5YG-I4df/ (Accessed 05/02/2023).


Fig. 5 Chung, W.Y. (2022) I just want to see you again. (To the dead and unknown faces

behind the masks, and to the past and to the future) [Painting on glass, photo] At:

https://wai-yi-123.wixsite.com/waiyichung?pgid=kroqohvt-aa4ee690-e3a0-49c2-98e4-076d7

e22cd40 (Accessed 03/02/2023).


Fig. 6 Chung, W.Y. (2022) Sketch of Past and future and the awakening dream? [Drawing]

At: https://www.instagram.com/p/CoNzZYQLwaK/ (Accessed 03/02/2023).


Fig. 7 Chung, W.Y. (2022) Black hole and white hole. [Drawing] In possession of the author:

Farnham.


Fig. 8 Jason Allen (2021) Théâtre D’opéra Spatial [Digital painting] At:

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2022/09/01/business/00roose-1/merlin_212276709_3104aef5

-3dc4-4288-bb44-9e5624db0b37-superJumbo.jpg?quality=75&auto=webp

 
Bibliography

Applin, J. and Lewis, M. (2012) ‘Psychotic Art’ In: Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Room -

Phalli's Field. Cambridge: Afterall Publishing. pp. 21-28. At:

http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucreative-ebooks/detail.action?docID=3339526

(Accessed 2023-02-04).


Benjamin, W. (2008) The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. London:

Penguin Books.


Bowley, G. (2013) ‘Hirst Counts the Dots, or at Least the Paintings’ In: The New York TImes

12/6/2013. At:

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/arts/design/damien-hirsts-spot-paintings-the-field-guid

e.html (Accessed 28/01/2023).


Foucault, M. (1989) Madness and civilization: a history of insanity in the age of reason.

London: Tavistock/Routledge.


Roose, K. (2022) ‘An A.I.-Generated Picture Won an Art Prize. Artists Aren’t Happy.’ In:

The New York Times 13/09/2019. At:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/02/technology/ai-artificial-intelligence-artists.html

(Accessed 26/01/2023).


Tsui, E. (2021) ‘Protest art latest: Luke Ching goes underground on the MTR subway

network in Hong Kong as a station cleaner to highlight low-paid work of a silent army’ In:

South China Morning Post 06/12/2021. At:

https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/article/3158637/protest-art-latest-luke-ching-goe

s-underground-mtr-subway (Accessed 05/02/2023).


Wan, K. (2019) ‘Yes, But Why? — Yayoi Kusama’s impact explained by Tate curator Katy

Wan’ In: WeTransfer: WePresent 18/04/2019. At:

https://wepresent.wetransfer.com/stories/yes-but-why-yayoi-kusama (Accessed 03/02/2023).


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