Home is where the art is: Kingsley Ng

Queenie Li considers the use of public transport in art

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Even for people with the least art literacy, it is unlikely for them to conclude contemporary art merely being created within traditional means such as paintings and sculptures today. Art has been striving to excite the world and break convention in all pluralistic means. Installation, performance, site-specific art, digital art, to name but a few. Art needs to be stimulating, shaking, startling in any imaginable form and venue. The prevalence of conceptual art in the mid-1960s placed the focus of art on the process rather than the outcome.

The way of thinking has since then become one of the most powerful tools to conjure up art. After ‘Fountain’ (1917) by the French artist Marcel Duchamp, the definition of art objects has been unprecedentedly widened. A chair, ready-made clocks, unfinished Coke in bottles… one would wonder how far the boundary could possibly extend? Kingsley Ng, a multi-disciplinary artist based in Hong Kong, affirmed that the line could at least be drawn beyond our daily commuting giant, the tram.

‘25 Minutes Older’ (2013) metamorphosed a moving tram into a camera obscura as a witty twist of the everyday object the locals encounter. Shrouding the upper level in absolute darkness, the artist created numerous pinholes across the tram body allowing external light to permeate through, casting a misty inverted image of the exterior environment on the tram’s inner wall. Participants were isolated from the crowd in this 25-minute journey and immersed into the gleaming light whimsically transited from day to night. The sensational experience was further charged by a magnetic reading of the renowned local novelist Liu Yichang’s TêteBêche, which was loaded with rich narratives illustrating the hustling city scenes in Hong Kong while juxtaposing the daily routines of a middle-aged man and a young and vibrant lady. Presented in the Fifth Large-Scale Public Media Arts Exhibition: Human Vibration in 2016 Hong Kong, ‘25 Minutes Older’ is a delicately enchanting art piece intertwining with the immorality of literature and the transformation of daily banality, embodied in Ng’s quote ‘“A city gets old. People get old. Something doesn’t.”

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Returning to the column’s title “Home is where the art is”, it seems to be a literal and sharp slogan signifying one of the essences of art—to embrace audience with the sense of belonging and originality grounded to the world through the connection with the art. Yet, it is equally interesting to think from the alternative angle, “Art is where the home is”. Here, the term “home” transcends our physical orientation but the perceptual ideology prevails. In other words, art is a way of seeing, and it is always electrifying to see how artists’ boundless imagination unceasingly inspires us.