In the information age, it's all too easy to sit at one's computer screen all day and night, clicking from one link to another, going with the flow, surrendering oneself to the overwhelming deluge of facts and opinion -- taking leave of one's physical existence in the here and now.
So as to remind people of their physical existence, 37-year-old artist Tao Ya-lun (
The title has paradoxical meanings for Tao. "Consciousness in Vacuum is the letting go of your [information-absorbing] brain and taking a look at your body and the things around it. It also means the continual taking in of rapid streams of information, which propels the brain to function so fervently that it breaks down altogether."
With this paradoxical concept in mind, Tao takes an ambivalent attitude in showing his installations. The piece that greets viewers in the gallery is a video projection of a series of changing images from a "sticky" 1m2 space on the floor. From the opening of the exhibition to the third day, the images have turned from small bubbles on a white background to amorphous dots on a grey background. Few visitors, Tao said, knew that the images they stepped across on the sticky floor were the miscellaneous bits of dirt which their shoes had just left behind on the glued floor. By fixing a microscope lens on the camera directed at the glued floor and projecting the image onto it, Tao has created images of a constellation of dirt against the background of real accumulated dirt.
Having provided a minimal introduction to his piece at the gallery, most have mistaken it for pre-recorded images.
"[Dirt on one's shoes] is something that is always present, and yet always eludes one's consciousness because it's infinitesimal," Tao said.
Although the way Tao's camera and projector are set up gave viewers no clues as to what they were looking at, if they found out they were said to be baffled at first, and then struck by the realization that there are some physical existences around them they never noticed before.
"Optic fiber and the illusion of distance made possible by the technology, particularly regarding images, have gradually obliterated our awareness of concrete objects and of our body. It's like the invention of perspective in painting replaced our tangible sense of vision during the Renaissance. There has been a gap between the brain and the body," Tao said.
The other piece may not as inspiring but is just as intriguing. Using a similar imaging device, an image of a glue-tipped needle moving to and fro inside a pinhole is magnified and projected onto the pin-holed wall. Complete with sensors, the projection appears only when the viewer has walked up to the pinhole on the wall.
Well-known for his mechanical petroleum pool installation, which simulates the circle of life and death in nature, Tao in Consciousness Vacuum is making another attempt at "ascertaining the spiritual through coming face to face with the physical." This looking at the physical requires viewers to slow down their habitually frantic pace, as Tao's works are rarely active and vivacious and offer the least possible amount of information in terms of images. They require a lot of feeling and the letting go of the thirst for information.