Spectral Evidence – critic’s pick on Artforum.com

Spectral Evidence
by Doretta Lau

Unit 14,Cattle Depot Artists Village,, 63 Ma Tau Kok Road, To Kwa Wan, Kowloon,
July 15–September 5

View of “Spectral Evidence,” 2010.

“Spectral Evidence,” the first of two exhibitions curated by Steven Lam at 1a Space, features works by Lin + Lam, Sreshta Rit Premnath, and Simon Leung. The pieces in the exhibition use the media, materials, and language of documentation to create narratives that provoke us to question how we perceive the world. Premnath’s Horizon (all works cited 2010) is a group of photographs depicting various monuments to Christopher Columbus, but the statues themselves have been removed from the images, leaving only the pedestals. Alongside these altered pictures is a faux granite tablet bearing a line from the explorer’s journal that highlights the oft-present gulf between belief and reality: WE WENT SOUTH WEST UNTIL WE LEARNED THAT WHAT WE HAD THOUGHT WAS LAND WAS ONLY THE SKY.

Lin + Lam approach the use of photography in a different manner in the installation Tomorrow I Leave, electing to use an almost banal aesthetic, evoking the sense of a kind of offhanded, personal approach to documentation. The images, some of which were sent as postcards from Malaysia to the gallery, are scattered and propped up on white pedestals as if they were casual vacation snapshots. They are also placed among items such as rocks, wood, and scraps of paper gathered from the sites of former Vietnamese refugee and transit camps.

Leung’s video Time Museum Time, 2010, was shot in 2008, during the lead-up to the opening of the Guangzhou Triennial, of which he was a participant. It captures workers toiling under questionable conditions and a limited time frame to transform a raw space into a museum, in time for the opening. The video makes evident that the problems of colonialism, class, and globalization haunt the realm of art. In all eight works in the exhibition, there is a sense that we are viewing streets, public squares, fields, and buildings that represent the most visible layer of a palimpsest, the most recently written chapter of a history.

– Doretta Lau