- Cindy Huang
Dreaming of Home: ‘(...) Forgot to Remember to Forget (...)’ at Gerald Moore Gallery
Please see below for Chinese translation
Sometimes I wake up from sleep almost drowned by sad dreams. I am always about to leave for long journeys in those dreams. I pack up many winter clothes and say many goodbyes. I wake up feeling hollowing pain in my throat.
I know where these dreams come from. Too many times I had to pack for leaving – leaving my parents, friends, my family house, the city I was born in, the language I grew up speaking and the food I seek comfort in. Again and again I had to leave home, and the pain of those departures has secretly stayed with me. I stopped feeling homesick long ago and can’t remember why exactly I was sad, but the pain sometimes creeps back into my body when I am asleep.
Home has become a blurry thing for many of us who have been too far from it for too long. It has dissolved into an abstract swamp filled with muffled sounds, hazy faces, distant smells and objects that no longer exist. Co-curated by Yueh-Ning Lee and Sixten Liu, ‘(...) Forgot to Remember to Forget (...)’ at London’s Gerald Moore Gallery urges us to entre this swamp and stay with sticky memories of home. Bringing together nine artists’ works, the exhibition is a meditation on nostalgia, attachment, longing and belonging.
Home can be many things, often it is imagined as a place – in a room, a house, a residential area, or a city. ‘(...) Forgot to Remember to Forget (...)’ explores the bodily experiences of being tied to and simultaneously rejected by the space of a ‘home’. Semin Hong’s installation, Spatial Nostalgia, “Homeness” (2021-2022), builds a tender dreamscape reminiscent of a once homely yet now estranged space. Three textile collages depict domestic windows seen from the outside. Gauzy fabrics hide the darkened background, resembling white curtains and blinds. Small earth-tone patches bring to mind free-standing photo frames placed on window sills with their backs turned to the street. The viewer is only a passer-by—they might be allowed to peek into the windows, but the abstract and flattened images of home keep denying their entry and eluding their full grasp.
Daniel Rey’s Courtyard of Forgotten Memories (2022) also creates a paradoxical zone of memory and belonging that allows no one to set steps in. The installation is a wooden structure with a mantle of banana leaves laid at its bottom. Made of natural materials already in decay, this ‘courtyard’ is a precarious space instead of a durable home. It alludes to a welcoming tropical patio, yet simultaneously looks like a cage from which the prisoner has gone missing. Hanging from the wooden beams, pencil drawings on yellow papers depict boats, palm trees, silhouettes of travellers and the outline of South America’s map. The installation is lit from right above. It casts huge shadows around itself. Like a mysterious magic lantern, it whispers a story of forced mass migrations and haunting memories of home.
Rather than a warm and safe shelter, home sometimes reveals itself to be an ambiguous illusion. Many nostalgic travellers might suddenly realise that the home they so desperately seek to return to is in fact never there. Wenxuan Wang’s No Such Person Found (2019-2021) reflects on the moment when the promise of the ‘sweet home’ is destabilised. The artist takes as a starting point her discovery that her place in the family genealogy has been taken by an auspicious male name. She is erased and replaced by a non-existent son who, perhaps, fits better than a daughter and granddaughter in the patriarchal imagination of a happy family. In No Such Person Found, Wang’s family chart is printed on a thin sheet of rice paper. The translucent paper turns the names of family members into faint fragments. The genealogy is further obscured by resin stains and a thick layer of dirt. To the right of the barely legible chart, two photographs printed on rice paper show a baby held by two adults and an older child. However, what are supposed to be photographic (and thus trustworthy) records of cherished childhood and familial love become an uncanny image of absence and damage. The artist erased the sitters’ faces using her fingers and water, leaving nothing but cracks and tears on the moistened rice paper.
Through reactivating her family archive, Wang foregrounds the ambiguity of ‘home’ as a construct of ideology and power. When the once affectionate home is found to be deeply entangled in a web of structural and ideological injustice, where should all the love and homesickness and longings go?
Similarly destabilising the concept of home, Yarli Allison’s work, In Virtual Return You (can’t) Dehaunt (2018-2021), asks if the ‘home’ we are so attached to is only a romanticised image in our memory. Separated from the exhibition space by wooden panels, the three-channel video reconstructs four queer Hong Kong migrants’ past homes in VR. The four individuals, all born in the 80s, are prompted to reflect on their life stories by the question ‘to which house do you most wish to return?’ Based on the four interviewees’ recollections, the artist makes VR reconstructions of the ‘homes’ they left in the past but yearn to revisit. Although filled with meticulously reconstructed traces of domestic life – a carton of Vita lemon tea on a teenager’s messy desk, for example, or a white statue of Guanyin Bodhisattva in a home shrine – the VR homes are nonetheless eerie and uncertain spaces without living inhabitants. In Allison’s work, home exists only in the exiles’ nostalgic memories, no matter what attempts have been made to replicate and resurrect it. The home is born and shaped by the journey away from it.
Bracketed by two ellipses, the palindromic title of the exhibition, ‘(...) Forgot to Remember to Forget (...)’, is like a confused utterance, or a fragment of a non-linear dream about home and memory. In this distant dream, home is something already lost, but it comes back to haunt the traveller’s reality in the form of memory and nostalgia. It is the impossible destination of our journey.
'(...) Forgot to Remember to Forget (...)' is on view at Gerald Moore Gallery, London, from 29 October to 5 November, 2022.
Visit the gallery's website for more information: https://geraldmooregallery.org/exhibitions/68-forgot-to-remember-to-forget/overview/
is a community organiser based in London. She writes about art.
离家太久、太远，家已变成一个看不清的影子。它已从一个具体的事物消解成一滩抽象的沼泽，里面充斥着闷闷的声音，模糊的脸，遥远的味道和早就不复存在的物件。李悦宁和刘策在伦敦的Gerald Moore画廊联合策划的展览，(...) Forgot to Remember to Forget (...) 领我们踏入这片沼泽，让我们在粘稠的、关于家和过去的记忆中暂停脚步。九位艺术家的作品织出一个关于怀念、依恋、思乡和归属感的故事。
家可以是很多东西，大部分时候我们想象它是一个地方：一间屋，一幢房，一个小区，一座城市。(...) Forgot to Remember to Forget (...) 中，游子既被家的空间牵绊，又同时被它排斥在外。艺术家Semin Hong的装置Spatial Nostalgia, “Homeness” (2021-2022) 搭建起一个虽然柔软，却又将人拒之门外的“家”。Hong用布料拼贴出三扇从外被看见的窗户，几块棕色色块让人想起窗台上朝内放的相框。透过窗帘似的半透明白纱，观众好像能窥见些许室内空间，却又无法一探究竟。在这些拼贴出的窗里，家的空间坍塌成扁平和抽象的形状。观众只能是窗前的过客，偶尔寻得机会向内瞟一眼。
Daniel Rey的 Courtyard of Forgotten Memories (2022)同样建造了一个矛盾的记忆空间。Rey的装置是一个木材搭出的结构，倾斜的底部覆盖着一层芭蕉叶作成的毯。构成这个“庭院（courtyard）”的天然材料已经开始腐烂：它是一个摇摇欲坠的危险空间，而非能为人挡风遮雨的家。虽然这个装置借用热带凉亭建筑元素，但它实则像一个空的牢笼。挂在木梁上的铅笔画里是由离港的船、棕榈树、旅行者的剪影和南美洲的版图组成的蒙太奇。这个“庭院”被正上方的光源照亮，向四周投下巨大的阴影，像一个走马灯，无声地讲述着被迫远走他乡的记忆。
我们有时会发现家不是一个安全的避风港。它的真面目更接近一个模棱两可的幻影。游子常会惊觉，他们魂牵梦绕的家其实从未存在过。王文轩的作品No Such Person Found (2019-2021) 捕捉的正是“甜蜜的家”之错觉即将倒塌的时刻。这件装置源自艺术家本人的经历：她在家谱中偶然发现自己的名字被置换成了一个虚构的男名。在父系家谱对“幸福家族”的想象中，她作为女儿、孙女被一个并不存在的“儿子”取代了。在No Such Person Found中，王文轩将家谱印在米纸上。薄薄的半透明纸张将原本清晰的人名化作幽幽的破碎影子。一层厚厚的树脂和尘土进一步遮盖了家谱上的家族脉络。在两张同样印在米纸上的照片里，一个婴儿被两个成年人和一个年纪稍长的孩童抱在怀中。但是艺术家用手蘸水反复拭擦，抹去了照片中所有人的面貌。每个人的脸上只留下的无助的空白和由于纸面被反复摩擦产生的皲裂。来自的童年的照片似乎应该承载温暖亲情和回忆，此时却变为布满伤痕的诡异图像。
林雅莉同样在作品“於虛擬的彼岸 迴魂（不）散” (2018-2021)中反思“家”的含义。Ta提出的问题是：我们依恋牵挂的家是否仅存在于我们浪漫化的记忆中？木屏风为这件三屏影像作品在展厅中隔出一个隐秘的角落。艺术家以“你最想返回哪个房子？”作为引子，让四位80年代出生的酷儿香港移民受访者回顾年少时的记的家，并基于他们的描述用VR重现了只在他们记忆里存在的那些空间。然而，尽管VR还原了大量细节——比如凌乱书桌上的维他柠檬茶，或是佛龛里供奉的观音像——影像中这些空无一人的“家”却透着不稳定的怪异。在林雅莉的作品中，修复、重建“家”的努力皆为徒劳，因为它只存在于背井离乡之人的记忆中。“家”是在游子步步远离它的旅程中诞生的。