8.Back Words

© susan pui san lok 1997-2004


Always compelling is the desire to unlearn and thwart all artistic and discursive forms that attempt at laying hold of its object. A creative event does not grasp, it does not take possession, it is an excursion…[1]

Writing down, writing up… seesaw… committing to paper, completing; the latter imperative perpetually forestalled as verticality and momentum summon cumulative strokes of columnic script to mind: Chinese breaking English into a sweat, inducing mild vertigo as lines cross-hatch in my head. I look sideways, side-long, aslant, and veer at times into Chinglish, experimental tanglings, or tango-ings – gliding, pausing, stumbling – that double and couple a practice bound up with mis/naming, dis/locating, and un/translating. (Not mending nor mourning the always already broken; who’s afraid of the frayed?[2])

Looking backwards, these ‘back words’ – residing, edging, sliding in-between works – may be backward or back talking, somewhat reticent, or irreverent. In post-ambles that pursue the temporal and spatial slack succeeding objects and events since dematerialised, returned to in-progress (the perennial predicament of installation and performance), I re-visit and re-site, approximating and shadowing, attempting to coax and vex the parameters and scenes of encounter, the sometime stagings of departures or ‘excursions’ into partial view, and imaginary earshot. Re-wording scenes already traversed by the verbal – transcribed and translated, written and spoken, sung and echoed – the recurring play of text across a disparate ‘pidgin’ practice at turns visual, spatial, filmic, sonic, poetic and performative, occurs to me belatedly, in still-blinkered retrospect or hindsight (such turns of phrase exhibiting the habitual submission of the temporal and textual to the visual). Striving towards a difficult, distracted mode of attention, an interludic space and language where sights crawls, eyes feel, and ears graze on the near, I yearn for “a wonderful moment… on the verge of sleep,”[3] echoing and anticipating the day’s hazy break, an asleep-awake myopic dawn and easily shattered “fragile region,” where writing “knows neither limit or hesitation.”[4]

I cannot write without distracting my gaze from capturing. I write by distraction. Distracted.

When I go off (writing is first of all a departure, an embarkation, an expedition) I slip away…

When I am in pursuit of a thought which bolts off before me like some marvellous game, my eyes see only the neutral and empty space where its shadow darts away.[5]



No magic in my slippers, but still I put them on, on stepping over a threshold. If home is “anywhere, and everywhere, except the place from which we began,” [6] that place for me is several, an itinerary that precedes me, sings and speaks me, names I remember in order to depart:

[CANTONESE/PINYIN, English] YU WU, WING WU, HUIYANG City, HUIZHOU District GUANGDONG (Guangdong Province) CHUNGGUO (China); SHEK KIP MEI, GAU LOONG (Kowloon), HEUNG GONG (Hong Kong); CHENG SAN DAU, GAU LOONG (Kowloon), HEUNG GONG (Hong Kong); HA YEUNG, SUN GAI (New Territories), HEUNG GONG (Hong Kong); Sheung Sze Wan, SUN GAI (New Territories), HEUNG GONG (Hong Kong); FATGUO (France); LIK MUT PO (Liverpool), HE LAI FOOK (Hereford), LIU KAR SO (Newcastle), SAR FOO YAN (Southend), EH PING (Epping), HA LO (Harlow), LUN DUN (London), YINGGUO (England).

I carry the ghost-bones of no-longer-homes not yet forgotten, though perhaps mistranslated; places sharp-shaded in tastes and smells, long hardships, small pleasures, partings and deaths; topographies worn to smooth-pebble details and dates. Places that now and then, now as then, displace me, dissuade me from settling, and draw me across.

A young-black-british-anglo-asian-hong-kong-chinese-southern-english-yellow-red-white-brown-blue-artist-writer-mother-(oldest)daughter-(elder)sister-(‘Dai-Lui’-‘Gar-Je’-)… ? Traditional Chinese terms of address signalling kinship and respect for paternalistic order, fail to stick to us second generation siblings, un-adhered to community. Like our parents before us (their solitary, staggered arrivals at odds with metaphors of ‘mass influx’ in ‘waves’) we adapt, invert, anglicise or sinicise, and extrapolate our identities in more or less makeshift ways, at least nominally, each name-track a schematic of encounters:

Yeung, Yuet Ying / Yeung, Fu Sing / Yeung, Yuk Ying / Lok, Yueng Yuk Ying / Ah Ying / Yuk Ying Lok / Judy Yuk Ying Lok / Judy Y. Y. Lok / Judy Lok / Y. Y. Lok / Mrs Lok / Lok Tai

Lok, Lai Chuen / Ah Chuen / Lai Chuen Lok / James Lai Chuen Lok / James L. C. Lok / Jim / Jimmy Lok / Lock / Locke / L. C. Lok / Mr Lok / Lok Sang

Susan Pei San Lok. Susan P-E-I, S-A-N, two words, no hyphen, Lok, L-O-K. Or Lok Pei San. Or Luo Pei Shan. Or Susan, Lok Pei San. Or Susan Lok. Or Susie / Sue, or Su-without-an-e. Or Susan Pui San Lok – Pui San – two words, P-U-I, S-AN. Or Susan, Lok Pui-hyphen-San. Or Susan Puisan – one word, no hyphen – Lok. Or Susan, Lok Puisan.[7]


Unravelling (1994) [Fig.111][8]

Too many yet tongue-tied, I oscillate between excess and silence, naming lengthily and pithily, proffering signatures and later, a legend, ‘SPSL,’ or retreating, drawing blanks. In an early work, Unravelling, a handful of childhood photographs from a scant family archive were submitted to scrutiny via dissection, disintegration and dissemination, their multiplication and partial obliteration intimating the shortfalls and compensations of memory/making by such objects; attempts to stay the failures of identities and histories to unify and cohere, submissions to delusory beginnings cast adrift between partial and indifferent narratives. Reproduced and degraded through a copier, image-fragments cling to the surfaces of wooden blocks scattered among custom-made yet ill-fitting boxes, in shades of blue (‘the colour of interior life’[9]). Elevated onto a shallow plinth or false floor, Unravelling evokes child’s play, playing out the fetishisation of unknowable image-objects, magnifying and making intimate details simultaneously distanced by repeated mediation, as well as implicating and frustrating voyeuristic, tactile and narrative desires, by refusing interaction and reconstruction.

Made during my time as an art student, this work no doubt reflects the influence of Helen Chadwick, and such work as Ego Geometria Sum (1983) and Of Mutability (1989). The relationship between the sculptural plywood boxes of the former, covered with photographic images of her own body  and objects from childhood, and a companion photographic series on paper, Ego Geometria Sum: The Labours I-X (1986), is tentatively echoed in the correlation between Unravelling and Mute (1994), in which polaroids of sets of image-blocks and box es are individually shrouded in thickset red fabric-covered frames. Memorialising an act of memorialising, the title underscores the notion of voicelessness or silencing of the other, pertaining to the lapses and omissions in cultural as well as personal memory.[10]

Un- (1996) [Fig.112,113][[11]

One of these photographs, originally black and white, was later enlarged and reproduced through a colour copier in the composite colours required to render a mechanical ‘real’ – black, yellow, cyan, magenta (again taking a cue from Chadwick). Un- cropped and re-touched the visual fragments, tinted and then juxtaposed with passages traced from a 1960s textbook, ‘Teach Yourself Chinese,’ among them truncated instructions on Chinese customs (as interpreted by Westerners for Westerners), including the euphemistic, business-like arrangement of a marriage. The image details refer to a Chinese couple, the woman in traditional dress, the man in a Western suit, whose look and cut suggest the late 1950s. Cotemporaneous narratives of union and exchange are invoked: of marriage, culture, language, dress, and address, as modes of partial encounter, incomplete transaction and mistranslation.

exercises in travel

… arms thread, they stand on a verge…

(                             ) a clue in parentheses, undone
my hesitation the question
mark, cut and paste cut and paste cut and paste
to and fro to recover

… ‘Un-‘ less than titled
but not quite un-named
a contrary pre-fix
annulling, depriving, releasing, displacing
causing to be no longer

No truths to ‘unravel’, only fictions, fabrications. The resistance to naming, fixing, and narrativising the visual is pre-empted by the title, and enacted in the disjunctures between image and text. The formal arrangement of faux-calligraphic and pictorial markings may recall traditional scroll paintings, or indeed the popular contemporary counterpart often neighboured by its classical reproductions, the Chinese supermarket calendar hanging in many a Chinese household, but for the disharmonious narrative at odds with the anticipated confluence of image and text (whether literary, numerical, or signatorial). Gestures in emulsion and ink hint at signatures in the form of self-negating painterly flourishes (white on white) and paradoxically hand-drawn seals or chops, signalling ownership, authenticity, and cultural difference, but also, upon the revelation of their inconsistency, the instability of such notions. Following mixed traditions of artistic self and pseudonymic invention and ironic valorisation,[13] these slight, quiet performances of identity and self-authentication play to expectations of cultural insiderism, which unsettle as the mimicry persists and selves become plural. In turn, the purported ‘outsider’ authority of the dated textbook is perpetuated by its painstaking copy, but also diminishes through its disintegration; its ‘quaintness’ is glimpsed and indulged, or scanned for the relations of power made apparent by historical shifts in knowledges and politics. Meanwhile, bilingual inscriptions traced from the photograph’s reverse offer names and dates that float and catch in the fractured peripheries, a rhythmic annotation that doubles and un-anchors, un-couples the couple, on a verge, or verges.

Un- (prose-fiction, pose-friction) (1998)[14]

Invited some time later to give a gallery talk on an exhibition of contemporary Chinese art, expressly as a ‘British Chinese’ artist recently returned from a newly post-handover Hong Kong, I struggled to articulate a position in relation to the disparate collection of works whose array of cultural references I could read only cursorily, suspecting expectations to the contrary. Anxious not to play the authenticating ‘insider,’ to lend a seemingly appropriate voice, accent or physiognomy to the artists and curators in their absence, but to speak the difficulties of translation via narratives marginal to spot-lit historical and artistic ‘scenes,’ I multiplied voices as I had previously done with signatures. Scripting a ‘dialogue’ for two voices that also mimed twenty others, where first and third person interviews interweaved personal reflections and English was continually interrupted by Cantonese and Chinglish, the half-hour long spoken text comprised repetitions and circularities in a superficially linear, numerical order. Inverting political directives and impulses to ‘count down,’ to arrive at a zero, a nothing, a clean slate and break, I counted up, accumulating, in continuity.

two speakers, eighteen voices
auto-fiction-bio-graphy made up
of memories made up;

… a multitude of ‘I’s speaking
in turn, the etiquette;
or conversing with others, absent

… we talk to / at you

behind and ahead of us, before you a
square of light, full
of expectation
after so many translations (we’ve lost track of beginnings)

… learning to gain from the ‘losses’[15]


Un- (prose-fiction, pose-friction) was the first occasion on which I approached the ‘artist’s talk’ as a performative mode, whereby expectations and assumptions of artistic or cultural authenticity or authority, and the voice as a medium of veracity, could be tested. Alerted to the politics of interview and translation, in particular by the work of Trinh T. Minh-ha, my ‘set’ owed something to her filmic stagings: a darkened gallery, two chairs, a table, a matching Chinese teapot and cups. Backlit by an empty slide projection, two seated figures sip and speak, voices similar in pitch and timbre now separating, now mingling, now indistinct. If the square of light draws attention both to the conventional format of punctuating talk with visual evidence or distractions and relationship – the framing of practice as dissipated object or undocumented event, and the compensatory, explicatory, or authenticating function of its spoken narrative representation – my later ‘talks’ explored the status and potential of the projection beyond verbal ‘prop,’ rather, as a discursive plane across which correlations and divergences between the visual, verbal and linguistic could be played out. Thinking about the ‘artist’s talk’ as a performative process of positioning, a live oral archiving, de/constructing meaning and authority (Hayley Newman’s fake documentation of incomprehensible lectures delivered with a mouth numbed by local anaesthetic spring to mind), I have begun to see this hitherto tangential activity as an intrinsic strand of a wider, necessarily theatrical installation practice; a practice based on the visual/verbal assemblage of found and custom-made objects, pre-recorded voices and sung or spoken word, staging and orchestrating of cultural, linguistic, conceptual and visceral encounters with props, sound and light effects, and sometimes reluctant players.

Writing, listening, speaking, translating, watching, wondering, and wandering; sounds track and disrupt the visible and legible, signs mislead and diverting from the audible; voices and noises are multiplied, disembodied, displaced, inhabiting and invoking other temporalities, in tandem. Such tactics are discernible in the work discussed below, made over a five year period, from the site-specific interventions for the group show ‘numbersix,’ to the installations commissioned for ‘DEAL’ and later, ‘The Translator’s Notes,’ to the interim two-week projects, ‘Lean To,’ FCHKUK,’ and ‘Elements of Drawing Blind.’


For the joint artist-curated ‘numbersix’,[16] I responded in part to the ghettoisation by ethnicity practiced by much arts programming since the eighties, such as the tendency to time showcases of ‘ethnic artists’ to coincide with cultural festivals. Contacted in late 1997 by Erika Tan, then arts worker for London’s Lambeth Chinese Community, along with Anthony Key, Yeu Lai Mo, Mayling To, and Tony Ward (having come across each other’s work in a recent spate of exhibitions between London and Manchester[17]), we discussed the possibility of exhibiting together, and tactics for avoiding pigeon-holing as a culturally novel, ‘Chinese show’ for Chinese New Year. Under the moniker, ‘numbersix,’ which referred to the reductive coding of mass consumed culinary ‘exotica,’ and by extension, the question of naming, classification, and differentiation, we declared our aim to “explore and invoke the contradictions of so-called ‘British-Chinese’ culture, within a dislocated, immigrant, diasporian landscape.”[18] The negotiations of exhibiting space that followed reminded me of ‘The Thin Black Line’ over ten years earlier, whose title served as a curatorial comment on the ‘accommodation’ of work by eleven black women artists in a narrow corridor-like space of London’s ICA, a situation reflective of their wider historical institutional neglect.[19] Initially welcomed to install and make work throughout the newly renovated TS2K Brixton building occupying several floors, ‘health and safety’ concerns eventually ushered our ‘thin yellow line’ into a waiting room and café/bar. A corridor linked these refurbished public spaces to the back of the building: private, unused areas including a closet, stairwell, and small rooms off a dank labyrinthine basement; our interest in these additional, out-of-sight spaces raised eyebrows but no objections.


Untitled (Walls Have Ears / Trans-it / Remains) (1998) [Figs.114-117]

Unseen perhaps, but walls have ears… I marked the corridor with waves of black crosses and red circles, perfunctory signatures and empty chops skimming and grazing the emulsion, claiming the border-territory-skin, with no-name names of absent parties, lurking, listening, gathering into a loose dragon-shaped swathe, heading for a sign reading ‘exit’… A succession of transitional spaces: The end door opens onto a small landing between stairwells, and another door, marked ‘Private.’ Handle and lock removed, standing slightly ajar, train sounds emanate from the unlit interior, crowded and interrupted by tannoy announcements inferring that one is now in Hong Kong / London / Hong Kong; the absence of a lock is taken by some as permission to ignore the prohibitive signage, yet, jammed from the inside, a boundary is activated, and the act of listening transformed into eavesdropping… Steep steps descend into the basement, its turns following the cable and light of a solitary bulb illuminating the space under the stairs, for things remaindered, that have no place elsewhere. It brims with blank till rolls, unravelled, records of exchanges deleted, impeded, disposed of or forgotten, scrolls unadorned or faded, untranslated.[20]

These paper strips reappeared soon after, along with a proliferation of signatures and slogans, as part of new work commissioned by the 198 Gallery. Having met one its curators a year earlier (the artist Godfried Donker), and approached Mayling To about showing together, ‘DEAL’ – a contract, a pact, a transaction, an imminent gamble – was conceived as an opportunity for exploring in dialogue our respective relationships to Hong Kong and Britain as second generation immigrants, in light of the return of the colony to Chinese sovereignty.[21] I had spent several months in Hong Kong in the period preceding the Handover, meeting with artists and curators for whom questions around local, migrant and diasporic identities, cultures and histories were evidenced across work that played – through the use of sites, materials and text – on and off official ‘standards’ of language, of culture, of history (against which Hong Kong had often been derided as falling short or lacking). Living with my sister and maternal grandmother, I listened to the minutiae of tales told between English, Chinglish accents, and Hakka and Cantonese dialects, receding from our mother’s to her mother’s tongue. Occasionally freelancing for a couple of US newspapers, I also listened for vox pop sound-bites to furnish history-in-the-making, sentiments peppered with proverbial imagery made striking, or exotic, in translation. Back in England, the tables were turned when I met with expectations to testify to the ‘Historical Moment’; unable to reconcile the history validated in print and images, with the half-heard and unheard, semi-literate stories circulating between our three generations, my ambiguous positionings were thrown into relief: as a sister-daughter-granddaughter-resident-insider-outsider-visitor-stranger-tourist, with ancestral, familial, cultural and linguistic ties and knots,

Witness (1998) [Figs.118-120][22]

A year later, my work for ‘DEAL’ explored this dilemma, sharing tactics with those predisposed by the history of Hong Kong to “border” or “parasite” practices, “the tactics of those who do not have claims to territorial propriety or cultural centrality.”[23] In the second gallery, irregular in shape and windowless but for a small skylight, I began to suspend a line of paper, blank strips of till roll. The ‘wall’ blocked the already narrow entrance, thickening slowly into a mass and filling the gallery, but for walking space about its perimeter. Making a temporary territorial claim without claiming territory, a para-sitic ‘border’ slowly eroding its field of habitation, without usurpation, I sought to evoke location yet deny locatedness, to invoke a presence at once oppressive and overwhelming yet without fixity and weight; an encounter with a city and its histories, at once permeable, invisible, excessive, intangible, monumental and weightless.

Distrusting my own testimony, nor wishing for others to trust it, I mimed others’, speaking again the testimonials transcribed and edited for the earlier Un- (prose-fiction-pose-friction). My stage-whisper delivery a theatrical intimacy, the truth-value of opinions made questionable, conspiratorial, gossip-like, I layered these with Dictaphone recordings, rough sound-shots as counterpoints to the familiar picture postcard imagery of neon, skylines, and junks, which celebrated power or stereotyped otherness.[24] Sounds set the stillness of images and objects into motion, into contexts of activity: out of a window, cooking noises are carried up with their smells, the scrape of a wok-chan clashing with the cymbals of a radio opera; subjects move between neighbouring floors and blocks, twenty times twelve, as taxis, minibuses, trams and trains hum and drone. Reverberations and distortions exaggerate and condense the words, whispers and rhythms, mixed into a six-minute loop: silences alternate, bracketed by sounds.

The inner gallery, obstructed: a wall of paper. Follow it – not a plane but a mass, a body. No windows, but light glimmers in slivers; the blank forest hovers, translucent. Till rolls, no, ticker-tape, no, scrolls… a sober commemoration, transactions, exchanges, bribes, stripped bare. Verticals descend, relentless, harsh fronds, like canvases cut up. No marks, no gestures, everything and nothing to be said. It stirs with the movement of bodies, and parts, rustling, like a papery sea.

Deep, the papery sea swallows sounds, casts them back, unperturbed by rough-audio roars, shotfull of noise, rush-hushing the space. Trains, planes, rockets, voices and dragons, swerve invisibly, disappear; muffles and echoes return to engulf.

Walk between walls, firm and infirm, to a walking-stick mirage: an abandoned, forsaken guide. A pattern of corners glint softly when sunned, invisible photographs fading. Retreat into a recess; light fills and filters through clouds beyond a skylight, now bright, now dull; look up and a low-rise cluster peers back. Something familiar, unfamiliar. Here, somewhere else.


live, heavy, and light
Hong Kong in Popo’s flat

a great wall of paper
an opaque gift
I listen
a difficult transmission

leaving again

out of the window
a little England, fraught with lines

bound by hours striated
by earth, all watery stains
this movement, belonging

the sky is rueful, route-full

live, heavy and light
here not here in flux
speak don’t-speak mis-quote
air dense with un-
and not-yet said

blind, she sees differently
near-seeing, I am deaf

too many words
dry leaves scorched to dust before I can gather
soft, soft hands make up
make up

I feel the terror of loss

here I am
no, there

at the / of the very moment


Monumental Bargain and 97 Proofs (1998) [Figs.121,122] [26]

In the gallery’s adjacent shop space, I placed a tower of T-shirts onto a plinth, a miniature high-rise repeatedly endorsed with a self-appointed legend, ‘SPSL,’ my earlier, evasive, empty chops displaced by a bold brand, a touch-in-cheek authenticity. The tower stood before a wall of framed slogans, in the manner of commemorative plaques or memorial walls found in Chinese temples, or minimalist multiples. Monumental Bargain and 97 Proofs inject a hybrid specificity into the citation of Western art historical grids and stacks, the customised collection of belated mock souvenirs, original takes and authentic fakes, playing on the ubiquity of ‘fake brands’ in Hong Kong rendered in Chinglish, whose commonplace acceptance skewer notions and values attached to the authentic, ‘genuine article’. Some invoke clichéd perceptions around Hong Kong and China, and Chinese in Britain, others commemorate ambivalent sentiments relating to the Handover. Referring to the abundance of souvenirs encountered in commemoration of something that was yet to happen (in the temporal if not political sense), these pieces comment on the handover as an event to be consumed as well as remembered, or remembered by consumption; and on history and art (in a ‘YBA’ and global capitalist climate) as market-savvy nostalgia. Buy a T-shirt, choose a slogan:

abacuss  /  addedass  /  agnes d.  /  asian flew  /  b&g  /  broken bond  /  brute lee  / buck choi  /  bunk of china  /  catty specific  /  china churl  /  china droll  /  chinese junkie  /  chinese tease  /  chink in armour  /  choice sum  /  commie hilfrigger  /  coolie britannia  /  counter revolutionary  /  custom maid  /  dim sum  /  dkhk  /  donna sharon  /  fakeaway  / free delivery  /  fried quid  /  fruit of the boom  /  gavin klein  /  golden phallus  /  good buy  /  handover fist  /  home bride   /  home pride  /  hong kong bunk  /  hong kong foolery  /  huge boss  /  kow loon dis-ease  /  levy  /  male ordered  /  martial art  /  mind the gap  /  nicked  /  orient tally  /  pc tips  /  revel on  /  rolf lauren  /  set deal  /  show gun  / some sang  /  spring roll-over  /  sweat & sour  /  tally ho  /  typhoon T  /  vagrant harbour  /  vitreous china  /  well hung  /  won ton  /  wrangle  /  yellow pearl[27]


Siting, Sightless

‘Lean To,’ ‘FCHKUK,’ and ‘Elements of Drawing Blind’ were all two week projects which took place between 2000 and 2001, the former solo exhibitions, the latter a group show, each approached as a short-term residency. While ‘Lean To’ and ‘FCHKUK’ resulted in installations that explored the very notion of residency as ‘home’ (both hosts, the East London gallery and Stuff, an artist-run space in Bethnal Green now coincidentally defunct), ‘Elements of Drawing Blind,’ responded performatively to an invitation to participate in a drawing residency in the West London-based artist-run Central Space.

‘Lean to’ refers to a makeshift, add-on shelter; as such, I viewed the gallery as a space in which to stake a short-term claim, to fashion a temporary accommodation for the temporary articulation of an ambiguous subject on the move.[28] Recycling and assembling found materials and objects as composites of an installation, marking and testing the property and propriety of the space – its boundaries and ownership – I assigned these to myself: chalking steps, tagging doors with stickers. Signing my ‘self’ as both infinitely reproducible (a badge to be worn), and unique and “special” (according to my jewellery). Remembering Ana Mendieta’s silhouettes and Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ candy spills and screens, ‘SPSL’ was also offered up as a palliative for bite-sized consumption, while ‘susan’ departed amid sugar-coated barbs.

Lean To: Killing Me, My He/Art / Your Sleeve, Wall; Space 1999; Susan’s Room, Mobile, Take Me Away, Wait (Walk / Don’t Walk) (2000) [Figs.123-134][29]

On the steps outside the building, chalk outlines denote the passing of a body – the artist at work  faking a death. Double-doors lead to double-doors plastered with ‘SPSL’ stickers, a territorial gesture, an exercise in public relations, or quality assurance. Beyond, a bowlful of badges and chocolate hearts offer to placate, a placebo as greeting with instructions (a request) on their consumption and dissemination: “Tell Me Where You Go With My He/art…” A curtain of paper strips, weighted with pennies, creates a foyer-like area. On another wall, a bright orange box warns, ‘beware of the dog.’[30] A mediatory site of correspondence and exchange, the milk/letter box is emblematic of a nostalgic landscape of sub/urban living, couched in ‘trust,’ while the warning suggests a mistrustful present, where ‘home’ is a territory to be defended, and ‘the community’ both subject and object of surveillance. Adorned by a surplus of dysfunctional locks and handles, a doormat, and a string of fairy-lights glowing outside and in, audiences and trespassers will be welcome, or bitten.[31] Two milk bottles contain, respectively, sea salt, and a boat: a milky waterway evaporated, a red envelope-note in the empties – a ‘Lucky Money’ vessel bearing wishes for good fortune and prosperity in the New Year, stranded. A little green man, a cartoon-ish alien, waves from inside the door, before a familiar image of the earth seen from outer space, suspended in blackness; a mirror inside the lid aligns viewer and alien within the same frame as temporary visitor, voyeur, tourist, or potential intruder.

The false wall reveals dilapidated doors leaning against the far wall, unhinged and unlocked, entry and exit points to undisclosed spaces. A business-like plaque designates informal ownership of a place – ‘Susan’s Room’ – whose parameters are unclear, and inhabitant absent. A polaroid shows a pendant in the palm of a hand, ‘Someone Special’: bought second-hand, a sometime a mass-produced declaration of affection, uniqueness, and difference has been withdrawn, or a self-bestowed moniker relinquished, or acquired.

Specialness as a soporific soothes, anaesthetizes my sense of justice… Now i [sic] am not only given the permission to open up and talk, i am also encouraged to express my difference. My audience expects and demands it; otherwise people would feel as if they have been cheated…[32]

On the floor lies a carpet or bed of six-inch spikes, of the kind found in restaurants and bars, a reference to the trade that brought the majority of Hong Kong Chinese immigrants to Britain in the last century. Each bears a sail-like paper bill, a miniature fleet heeding those who came before (meal tickets for dreams of meal tickets?) and cautioning those coming after, in search of exotic escapes, or escapes from the exotic. Each bill bears multiple signatures, fake chops and kite-marks, all false-verified versions of ‘SPSL.’ Another wall carries three abstract life-sized figures cut from artificial grass, frozen strides heading left and right, towards and away from an ‘exit.’ In the centre of the room, bulbs blink about a cluster of ill-matched shoes and boots suspended from the ceiling; a lantern of sorts, illuminating journeys past and future, or a mobile, going nowhere.

FCHKUK: Protection, FCHKUK, FCHKUK (Slow Island Hop) (2000) [Figs.135-141][33]

Intermittent echoes of a song float down the staircase leading up to Stuff’s fifth floor gallery space. Inside its entrance is Protection, a found hat-stand, a skeletal figure that I decorate with a devil-horned hat and scarf covered in ‘SPSL’ badges; authenticity as accessory, or armour. The space is dominated by several suspended sheets, suggesting perhaps sails, flying carpets, or ghosts; props for childhood games that might transport one by water or air into other realms, or protect one from others. A bucket and spade lie amidst a sea or shore of spikes, a perforated border. Fluctuations of light offer a measure of temporality, through windows half-covered in pink tissue, casting occasional hints of a rose tint.

Je ne sais pas où est ma maison, la maison où j’ai grandi.
Où est ma maison? Qui sait où est ma maison?
Ma maison, où est ma maison? Qui sait où est ma maison?”[34]

The title ‘FCHKUK’ expands on one of the slogans from 97 Proofs, appropriating a well-known clothing brand to insert ‘Hong Kong’ into ‘French Connection UK’, or an acronymic French connection between Hong Kong and UK. Francoise Hardy’s “La maison ou j’ai grandi’ evokes nostalgia for a childhood home and laments its loss, its sentiments and sentimentality resonating with the yearnings of my younger self, and the persistent pull of Hong Kong, where I first heard the song. Where one might habitually read dualities – Anglo-Franco / British-Chinese – ‘FCHKUK’ alludes to the triangulation of histories, temporalities, geographies, and the sometimes less than transparent connections that weave cross-culturally and cross-linguistically; an attempt to disrupt tendencies to imagine ‘home’ in opposition to ‘away’, and to question longings for a no longer or never was ‘safe place’, a haven, or ‘havent’.

Song evokes the ‘quotidian’ possibility – and impossibility of not – configuring memory, identities and histories complexly, perhaps unpredictably, across hierarchical distinctions usually underpinned by a logic of ‘the West and the rest.’[35] Thinking of the conventional uses of sound and music in the articulation of body, space, mood and temporality in film and television,[36] I looked upon the gallery as a comparable theatrical and fictive space. The track plays over and over, trailing away into silences that alternate with and equal the song’s duration. Its apparent function as musical commentary or ‘voice-over’ may be taken as straight or ironic, jarring with or enriching disparate contexts with the sudden power “to change the setting, to call up a thing, moment, place… at will”.[37] Yet any illusory cohesion of sound and environment is regularly dissipation of the sung narrative, the fleeting coincidence between the recollection of a no-longer place re-imagined in the song, and those remembered and tentatively conjured up in the gallery space subsiding with its imposition, fading out.[38] The accentuated convergence and divergence of the visual, aural and spatial repeatedly brings the opening night audience to the verge of dancing. However, unlike the song and dance sequences in musicals, where “utopian space[s]” or “moments of escape into a mode of emotional expression” that cannot be enacted elsewhere are made seamless by the gradual expansion of instrumental and rhythmic variations to match the image narrative,[39] escape and reverie are repeatedly curtailed, checked by awkwardness when the music recedes, and the ‘set’ remains.

In the bar adjacent to the gallery, a monitor is set up for FCHKUK / Slow Island Hop, a short piece that finds the opening sequence from Wong Kar Wai’s 1992 film, Chungking Express, re-edited, and its soundtrack replaced by my own. A home video recording of a copy of a copy transmitted on television, three times degraded and removed from its source, the sequence is dirtied, decelerated and truncated. Subtitles are edited out and the resulting one and half minutes are drawn out into five. Where music might otherwise safely propel bodies as they stop / start through frames, their slowed, halting fragments remain floating, unanchored by text nor synchronous sound. The disjointedness of the visual track is compounded by the sonic navigation, dislocation and mistranslation of place: faint echoes of song are interrupted by whispers and laughter, in between the condensed whir of traffic, while feet hit the ground in a solitary game of lines and square landings.

I was interested in the film’s romantic evocation of Hong Kong and its illusory symmetries built upon repetitions and displacements, non-events and mis(s)-es (non-coincidences, non-meetings, mis-registrations, mis-understandings, mis-recognitions), and the enunciative slippages as camerawork and editing combine to condense time and space, compressing bodies into claustrophobic, discontinuous and disorientating spaces heightened by a humid saturated palette. The cumulative visual and narrative loops and reversals have a strange and ambiguous effect; there is little transition, in the sense of plot progression, only sudden changes in the circumstances and look of things that go barely noticed by the protagonists – ignored, misheard or misread. In a densely populated city of some seven million, the question of how subjects negotiate space and each other recurs; my sampling of the film aimed to undo the unifying, cohesive work of the soundtrack, bestrewn with nostalgic pop songs, to accentuate instead the irresolution of pursuits and dislocating encounters in a “fractal city,” whose ‘centre’ proliferates in the repetition and displacement of itself – a self without centre – giving rise to the levelling out, the collapsing and skewering, of the temporal.[40]

dropped into a dark narrow street made narrower with bodies, birdsong punctures the silence, heralds a head-rushing dive into noise

the opening scenes unfold, adulterated, the decelerated footage slowed further: an Asian woman disguised in dark glasses and blonde wig forces her way through the crowd, sharp movements made deliberate, the abruptness drawn out

cut from claustrophobic ground to a twilight panorama of roof-tops, skies soaked in polluted blues: a moment of stillness

bursts of birdsong ring clear against indistinct swathes of subterranean rumblings, traffic and building works, perhaps

voices weave and clamber, crawl over, beneath, sometimes looping – a distant megaphone, some whispered confidences, the shaky phrases of a song

acoustic debris and visual noise cling like hair drawn by static to a balloon; source locations blur, spaces layer, compress, dimensions multiply, exaggerating echoes where before there were none, all the while, if sometimes submerged, a rhythmic smacking of the pavement as feet hit the ground

Jump – Hop – Pivot

figures blur as the camera picks out a young man, plotting nuances of body, limbs, clothes, stopped in motion; he brushes past the camera, the woman in the wig, pursued / in pursuit of another, in a paper bag mask; he swerves into a building, its cursive pink neon sign waving, wavering, teasing, twisting; into labyrinthine corridors of eyes and elbows, glancing, grazing, and out again, slowing and stalled as he brushes the woman as before, and sounds recede, and each spins towards the other

hear a final

Jump – Hop – Pivot

a sudden connection, face to face for a second drawn out to five; fade to black[41]


of Drawing Blind (2001) [Figs.142-145][42]

After a year’s break from making work, I saw the invitation to participate in a short-term drawing project as an opportunity to resume, by reflecting on and engaging in what I had always considered, with little questioning, to be somehow fundamental to my practice. If the place of drawing in the Western academy has long been seen as having a preparatory, ‘in progress’ relation to finished works of art, a notion accompanied by the heavily diluted transmission of Ruskinian values in my training as an artist, l was also aware of a Chinese visual cultural – and Western modernist – heritage in which drawing and writing, in the form of calligraphy, could inhabit the highest artistic and literary spheres of value, integral rather than subordinate to the disciplines of literature and painting.

Turning to John Ruskin’s classic 1857 book, The Elements of Drawing,[43] I invited an ex-Ruskin Art School lecturer to dictate and record the first part of the text onto audio-tape, preliminary lessons in the form of a series of letters to a student. Accompanied by a Dictaphone, I proceeded to followed Ruskin’s instructions and exercises towards achieving the skills deemed attainable through a commitment to hard work and time: an artistically authentic “innocent eye,” capable of seeing past an increasingly industrialised ‘culture’ and back to ‘nature’s’ unsullied truths. Working blind-folded to the pace of the spoken text, its painstaking, meticulous course accelerated, I endeavoured to draw and make notes on Ruskin’s exhortations, handling the crude commercial tools of corporate presentations – OHP markers, an overhead-projector, sheets of acetate – unsympathetic to the gentle, delicate work demanded by Ruskin, a far cry from the slow, quiet world he exalted.

Unlike the mid-nineteenth century English ‘lady painter’ sometimes addressed by the Victorian teacher of beauty and morals, for whom competence in drawing might complement piano-playing as a means of entry and acceptance into Western high culture, I appear to be somewhat dis/advantaged by the pervasive myths of coarseness that colour my background: late twentieth century cultureless Hong Kong farming stock meets tacky working class Essex. In the process of two rehearsals and an opening-night performance, I produced three books of fifty-something drawings, and a ten-metre scroll that subsequently tore under its own weight: the unwieldy outcome of an inevitably ‘corrupt’ enterprise.


How do we read the references behind the scroll, the blindfold, or the display of the artist herself, unseeing against the white gallery walls?

… While there can no longer be any faith in a single perspective of truth, or in cultural superiority, the blindfolded artist suggests that the blindness conferred by one viewpoint also offers a particular vision, and that the passages between different viewpoints are not always blocked, but may be illumined by provocations such as these.[44]


In contrast to the short timescales of these last three projects, Notes On Return (2003) [Figs. 146-148] developed over a two-year period, and takes up many existing thematic and conceptual concerns. Approached to contribute to a group exhibition, ‘The Translator’s Notes,’ I was asked to consider the gallery as ‘a blank page,’ and a quote from Jose Ortega y Gasset 1937 essay, ‘The Misery and Splendor of Translation,’ as a point of departure:

… speech is composed above all of silences. A person incapable of quieting many things would not be capable of talking. And each language is a different equation of statements and silences. All peoples silence some things in order to be able to say others. Otherwise, everything would be unsayable. From this we deduce the enormous difficulty of translation: in it one tries to say in a language precisely what that language tends to silence. But, at the same time, one glimpses a possible marvellous aspect of the enterprise of translating: the revelation of the mutual secrets that peoples and epochs keep to themselves and which contribute so much to their separation and hostility.[45]

Prior to this, I had happened upon a second-hand bilingual edition of a collection of poems, Forms of Distance (1994), by the Chinese poet in exile, Bei Dao. Struck by a particular poem, ‘Folding Procedure,’ I went on to make audio recordings of readings in English and Cantonese with my mother and father, each speaking the texts independently in both languages, and reciting them after each other, line by line, phrase by phrase, according to our differing degrees of fluency. A year later, I went back to the recordings, plotting the layering and to-and-fro movement of imperfect bilingual ‘speech melodies’ between three voices, eighteen tracks, and four speakers.[46]

One by one.
The sounds. The sounds that move at a time
stops. Starts again
all but exceptions.
Stop. Start. Starts.
Contractions. Noise. Semblance of noise.
Broken Speech. One to one. At a time.
Cracked tongue. Broken tongue.
Pidgeon. Semblance of speech.
Swallows. Inhales. Stutter. Starts. Stops before
About to. Then stops. Exhale
swallowed to a sudden arrest.
Rest. Without. Can do without rests. Improper
to rest before begun even. Probation of rest.
Without them all.
Stop start.
Where proper pauses were expected.
But no more.[47]

In the meantime, I spent a month in Hong Kong filming intermittently with a digital video camera, recalling the abstract images, rhythms and silences of these poetic text(s), and attempting to translate these “by eye and by ear”[48] into a visual-poetic that listened and cautiously spoke back to the text, editing the footage several months later.

A)    In trying to recall a certain poem, to translate forward from unrememory and language removed, a few words prevail; most fail me, or rather, I fail them…

B)    Notes for awkward movements, trans:

1. Come back, go back, give back, get back; 2. Exchanges – game, if uneasy; 3. A dash, rush to fill it; 4. The space is a euphemism (unsaid); 5. Blankness, a palimpsest, again, rubbed smooth; 6. Nonplussed but speechful; 7. Brimful of noise; 8. Not lost but displaced.[49]


In Notes On Return,  I navigate space and language to find a location, a place, via dislocations.[51] I am ‘home’ and ‘away’ and somewhere else, looking for meanings in the coincidences across and between registers, performing ad lib translations between word, sound and image, glimpsed, heard and spoken. Reading, looking, speaking, and moving, I stumble to connect up the concrete and abstract, futures, pasts, future-presents, the could-be and the vanished. My gaze is sometimes so close as to be myopic. (Myopia – a common condition, in which distant objects cannot be seen sharply; myopia: a lack of foresight.) I scale heights with my eyes. I stare hard at water and watery panes, surfaces that appear soft, harsh and malleable, transparent, luminescent, opaque. I look back and backwards, to find a way forward; compelled to look closely to ‘see’, ‘everything’ eludes me. In a state of suspension, yet perpetual movement, edges and parameters bleed and soften. I get used to my vision being muddy, which shifts my attention to the textures of places, of voices, of wordlessness.

A refrain of repeated returns speaks to the movements and cycles of change in the tangible and intangible; nothing is fixed. In flux, I read my and others’ estrangement from a cultural past, my and others’ disorientation and isolation in the coterminous present. I recall the words and rhythms of concealment and retreat – leaping, secluding, hurling, deluding, stepping back – which re-cast my relation to familiar unfamiliars, to my dearest, distant, to distances, displaced. If what emerges is a somewhat mournful relationship to space, to places and people – absent but for the feet of a seated shopkeeper, and an elderly woman lying prone, head and body turned away – it is an undisclosed subtext of a sudden death, coinciding with my flight from Hong Kong, that colours the tone of this piece. Yet Notes On Return also speaks to an ongoing endeavour to negotiate the discordant simultaneity of histories, geographies, and cultures, and the impossibility of ‘return’; permitting difficulty, regret even, in the face of inevitable disconnections and discontinuities. The patient doubling, tripling and stumbling of tongues tail awkward and necessary transformations across unstable terrains, between generations, mediations ridden with silences and voids, that remember the comforts and wounds in translation, as intimacy across distance, which must come with departure.

Cats return to where they began
Battle fish
Leap beyond clerical heavens
And the soprano goes into seclusion
I return to where I began
Quixotic sand
Hurls itself against window-glass
That crowblack mask of cloud
Stones return to where they began
Dreams of good fortune
Grow into trees towering skyward
Like ink seeping into the map
Meanings return to where they began
The rainbow deluding this world
Is a glorious person’s autobiography
[S]he steps back in to childhood[52]

[1] Trinh T. Minh-ha, ‘Cotton and Iron,’ in Trinh, When the Moon Waxes Red (London: Routledge, 1993), pp.11-27.

[2] I am thinking here of Spivak on translation: “By juggling the disruptive rhetoricity that breaks the surface in not necessarily connected ways, we feel the selvedges of the language-textile give way, fray into frayages or facilitations” Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘The Politics of Translation,’in Michèle Barrett and Anne Phillips, eds. Destabilizing Theory: Contemporary Feminist Debates (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992), pp.177-200, p.178.

[3] Maxine Hong Kingston, To Be The Poet (Cambridge, Mass., & London: Harvard University Press, 2002), p.11.

[4] “Critical work requires a difficult mode of attention: one sees and listens to it happening; one plays (with) it as one experiences it in/as an activity of production. One does not really catch it, nor does one speak about it without contingent detours and demanding patience.” Trinh, ‘The Other Question,’ op.cit., p.234.

[5] Hélène Cixous trans. Eric Prenowitz, ‘Writing blind: conversation with the donkey,’ in Stigmata: Escaping Texts (London & New York: Routledge, 1998), pp.139-140.

[6] Salman Rushdie The Wizard of Oz (London: BFI Publishing, 1992), p.57.

[7] From ‘Notes to Let You Down,’ artist’s statement, ‘Retrospectre / Un- (part 6),’ solo exhibition, Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, 22 November 1996 – 6 January 1997. Like most of my Hong Kong-born contemporaries, my name comprises a Chinese name in Chinese script, the anglicized version of this, and an English name. If in the early years of colonisation, English names were adopted to accommodate the ruling authorities, enabling the British to address the Chinese without having to speak Chinese, by the later twentieth century, such names came to represent a willing capitulation and identification with contemporary Western culture. Recent trends away from conventional naming practices also complicate the simplistic hierarchical opposition of English and Chinese cultures, or the detection of geographical or cultural hints of place. When playful and serious fabrications comprise “made-up words, Japanese names and a combination of the two… such as Yuki, Zany, Eona, Ranma, Juko, Sanni and Taki,” or “nonsensical names from a variety of languages” such as “Windy, Baton, Fritz, Bebeanna, Boniface, Dis, Benz, and Amen,” names may no longer be ‘given’ or ‘proper’, but throwaway, disposable, impermanently tied to person or place. Annie Hau-nung Chan, ‘Consumption, Popular Culture, and Cultural Identity: Japan in Post-colonial Hong Kong,’ in Studies In Popular Culture, 2000, vol.23. no.1, pp.35-55.

[8] Unravelling (1994), installation with photocopies, emulsion, wood.

[9] William Gass, On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry (Boston, MA: David R. Godine, 1976).

[10] Mute (1994), Polaroids, perspex, timber, fabric, staples.

[11] Un – (1996), wood, laser copies, tracing paper, emulsion, ink, 36 parts.

[12] Artist’s notes on Un-, 1996-1998.

[13] Recent examples in mind include Annette Messager’s Collection to find my best signature (1972), album-collection no.24, 92 ink on paper drawings, Lesley Sanderson’s Negative (1988), and Gavin Turk, Title (1990), pigment on canvas.

[14] Un- (prose-fiction, pose-friction) (1998), slide projector, screen, teapot, cups, table, chairs, performance with Annie Lok at the Cornerhouse, Manchester, 20 September 1997. Closing event to the exhibition, ‘Reckoning with the Past Contemporary Chinese Painting,’ 2 August – 21 September 1997.

[15] Artist’s notes on Un- (prose-fiction, pose-friction, 1999.

[16] ‘number six,’ TS2K, London, 27 February – 27 March, 1998.

[17] Such as ‘Links 96,’ Chinese Arts Centre and Yang Sing Restaurant, Manchester, 1996; ‘Far from the Shore,’ Pitshanger Manor and Gallery, London, 1998; and ‘Another Province,’ Watermans Arts Centre, London, 1998.

[18] ‘numbersix’ press release, written by myself in consultation with the other artists.

[19] Lubaina Himid, ed., The Thin Black Line (Hebden Bridge: Urban Fox Press, 1985), exhibition catalogue. Curated by Lubaina Himid, artists included Brenda Agard, Chila Burman, Claudette Johnson, Ingrid Pollard, Jennifer Comrie, Lubaina Himid, Marlene Smith, Maud Sulter, Sonia Boyce, Sutapa Biswas, Veronica Ryan.

[20] Untitled (Walls have Ears) (1998), China marker and endorsing ink on walls; Untitled (Transit), doorstop, Dictaphone, speakers; Untitled (Remains) (1998), lightbulb, paper.

[21] ‘DEAL,’ 198 Gallery, London, 30 June – 15 August 1998. By exhibiting at 198, established in 1988 to support the work of black artists, our presence would also be seen as an implicit or explicit challenge to the definitions, affinities and territories suggested by notions of ‘blackness.’ When Mayling To put up fake bill posters on the gallery’s outside wall, these were seen by some as an affront to the community, a form of trespass, as they (temporarily) covered up a mural work (also temporary) that the gallery had long-intended to paint over.

[22] Witness (1998), till rolls, sound, light, lasercopies, photograph corners.

[23] Rey Chow, ‘Introduction,’ in Chow, Writing Diaspora: Tactics of Intervention in Contemporary Cultural Studies (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993) pp.1-26. In addition, Ackbar Abbas asserts that Hong Kong is “less a site than a para-site, in that its dominance in its region is due largely to its geographic proximity to China, together with its accessibility to the rest of the world… The para-site therefore connotes a position that in some strange way is both autonomous and dependent at the same time, a position in which autonomy is paradoxically a function of dependence.” Ackbar Abbas Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), p.74.

[24] Ackbar Abbas ‘Photographing Disppearance,’ in Abbas, Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance (London, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), pp.91-110.

[25] Artist’s notes on Witness, 1998 – 2003.

[26] Monumental Bargain (1998), 97 T-shirts, ink, plinth, barriers; 97 Proofs (1998), paper, permanent marker, endorsing ink, plastic frames.

[27] The 97 slogans featured in 97 Proofs, 1998.

[28] Formerly part of the University of East London, the East London gallery showed work by contemporary artists, among them university staff and practice-based doctoral researchers. As a combined practice/theory PhD candidate appointed to Aavaa, I hovered or oscillated between departments, inspiring, I suspected, at best confusion, at worst suspicion (where did my true affinities lie?). This subtext, imagined or otherwise, added personal resonance to ostensible concerns with notions of ‘home’ and territory, and expectations to speak of or from a singular yet conflated position of artistic and cultural authenticity.

[29] Killing Me (2000), chalk, permanent ink; My He/Art / Your Sleeve (2000), badges, chocolate, glass bowl, table, cloth, postcards, stand; Space 1999 (1999), MDF, paint, doormat, brass, glass, salt, paper, card, lights, mirror; Wall (2000), paper, coins; Susan’s Room (2000), doors, plaque; Mobile (2000), shoes, hanger; Take Me Away (2000), spikes, paper; Wait (Walk / Don’t Walk) (2000), artificial grass, foamboard.

[30] Space 1999 (1999) was originally commissioned by inIVA (the institute for International Visual Arts) for the exhibition ‘Cities on the Move’ at the Hayward Gallery, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Hou Hanru. Mediating a collaboration with artist Tsuyoshi Osawa, curator of the miniature so-called ‘Nasubi Gallery’ which takes its form from the once-common Japanese milk-box, the self-appointed ‘Smallest Gallery in the World’ was first launched in 1993 as a parody and protest against the prevailing commercial gallery system. inIVA invited nine artists to make work for the collection of portable exhibition spaces, which were then installed by Osawa in the interstitial spaces of ‘Cities:’ exhibitions within an exhibition, within an exhibition. Space 1999 was recently included in Osawa’s collection of new Nasubi galleries in ‘Osawa Tsuyoshi: Answer with Yes and No!’ Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 24 August – 5 December 2004.

[31] Possibly by a gallery attendant; in the context of ‘Cities,’ the Hayward’s lower galleries were crammed with banks of monitors nudging objects and installations with degrees of intended interactivity not always clear to the invigilators, let alone to audiences. Erring unsurprisingly on the side of caution, the presence of guards dotted about the overall monumental exotic spectacle of ‘Cities’ detracted inevitably from the notions of spontaneity and autonomy intrinsic to Osawa’s conceptualisation of the Nasubi galleries.

[32] Trinh T. Minh-ha’s essay, ‘Difference: “A Special Third World Issue”,’ in Trinh, Woman Native Other (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989), pp.79-116.

[33] FCHKUK, Stuff Gallery, London, 11-15 July, 2000, installation with sound, tissue paper, fabric, spikes, bucket and spade.

[34] Francoise Hardy, ‘La Maison Où J’ai Grandi’ (1966).

[35] Kay Dickenson, ed, Movie Music, The Film Reader (London and New York: Routledge, 2003) p.61.

[36] See for example Mary Ann Doane, ‘The Voice in the Cinema: The Articulation of Body and Space,’ in Elisabeth Weis and John Belton eds. Film Sound: Theory and Practice (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), pp.162-176.

[37] Michel Chion, trans. Claudia Gorbman, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (NY: Columbia UP, 1994), p.172.

[38] “[Film music] bonds: shot to shot, narrative event to meaning, spectator to narrative, spectator to audience… Overall, the two overarching roles of background music may be characterised as semiotic (as ancrage) and psychological (as suture or bonding).” Claudia Gorbman, Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music (London: BFI, 1987), p.55.

[39] Ian Garwood, ‘Must You Remember This? Orchestrating the “Standard” Pop Song in Sleepless in Seattle,’ in Dickenson ed., op.cit., p.115.

[40] Ackbar Abbas proposes the notion of “ex-urbia” in relation to Hong Kong’s ‘New Towns’: while suburbias develop in differentiation from, and marginal to, a metropolitan centre, “ex-urbias” find that centre duplicated in its entirety, razed and raised over and over again. Ackbar Abbas, ‘Hong Kong: Other Histories, Other Politics,’ Public Culture, vol.9, no.3, 1997, pp.293-313.

[41] Artist’s notes on FCHKUK/Slow Island Hop, 2000-2001, unpublished.

[42] Elements of Drawing Blind (2001) was part of the project, ‘Drawing the Central Space,’ curated by Ming Wong and Martin Newth for The Central Space, London, 1-17 June 2001. The other artists were Jenny Chong, Abigail Jones/Wendy Swallow, Thorsten Knaub, Nick Pearson and Sarah Warden.

[43] John Ruskin, The Elements of Drawing, originally published in 1857 (New York: Dover, 1971).

[44] Julian Stallabrass, ‘Elements of Drawing Blind,’www.chinese-art.com vol. 5, no.1, 2001.

[45] Jose Ortega y Gasset, ‘The Misery and Splendor of Translation,’ (1937) in Lawrence Venuti ed. The Translation Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 2000), pp.49-63. ‘The Translator’s’ Notes’ was curated by Irene Amore for Café Gallery Projects, London, 26 March – 20 April 2003.

[46] Paul Hillier, ‘Introducton,’ in Hillier ed. Steve Reich: Writings On Music, 1965-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2002), p.6. Hillier cites possible influences on Reich’s work, in particular his use of taped speech.

[47] Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee (Berkeley, LA, London: California UP, 2001), p.75.

[48] Filmscript for Trinh T. Minh-ha, dir., Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989), 108 mins, colour and b&w, in Trinh, Framer Framed (London: Routledge, 1992), p.80.

[49] Artist’s statement, ‘The Translator’s Notes,’ exhibition booklet, 2003.

[50] “… graphic-phonetic function-relations… and the substantive use of space as an element of composition entertain a simultaneous dialectics of eye and breath, that together with the ideogramic synthesis of meaning, creates a verbivocovisual’ sensible totality, so that words and experience are held in a close phenomenological juxtaposition, formerly impossible.” Augusto de Campo, ‘CONCRETE POETRY, A Manifesto,’ AD (Architecture & Decoration), no.20, November – December, 1956, São Paulo, cited in Between Poetry and Painting (London: ICA, 1965) exhibition catalogue, p.73.

[51] Notes On Return, 2003, DVD sound and video installation, 9 mins 38 secs.

[52] Bei Dao, ‘Folding Procedure,’ in Bei Dao trans. David Hinton, Forms of Distance (London: Anvil Press, 1994) pp.72-73.

A – Y