NGS Critique — Passage Moist Beings

Overarching Theme

This Particular work was curated under the Exhibition Space : Time Passes. The Overarching Theme/Concept for this Space was set up as an ode to the middle chapters of Virginia Wolfe’s novel, ‘To the Lighthouse’. ‘Care’, ‘Connecting Past and Present’, ‘Closing a Loop in Time’, ‘Compromise and Attention’ and ‘Human Intervention’ are certain themes encapsulated in these chapters and the curated works aim tore interpret and appropriate these same themes, in light of the way our interaction between each other, between us and the environment (both organic and inorganic) has been altered by the Covid-19 Pandemic.

‘Passage Moist Beings’

‘Passage Moist Beings’ by Yeyoon Avis Ann, is a personal documentation of the Artist’s habit of caring for snails she comes across in her path, removing them from harm’s way by displacing or shifting them into a safe space. It is an extrapolation of her personal experience an a seemingly normal phenomena, to explore the way humans interact with our environment, from her lens.

1.  Initial Thoughts

The work itself is life-sized and is realistic in the way it mimics the natural habitat or environment in which she would possibly have encountered the snails. It’s stripped down, raw and literal representation is powerful considering the space it is set in. When one walks in, they are immediately drawn to the tactfully placed ‘puddles’ of objects on the floor. We are beckoned to take a closer look, and have to kneel or crouch to clearly see the objects embedded in the ‘wax like’ ‘puddles’. This very sudden shift in our space when we kneel instead of stand as we usually would when appreciating an ‘art work’ immediately transfigures us into the artists’s perceptual and conceptual space. We are then momentarily transported away from the psychological space of the bigger exhibition though we are still very physically present within the walls of the gallery. The space between the puddles also allow for the audience to slowly manoeuvre their way through the work. There is a very real fragility attached to the work, further highlighting the idea of Snails being in harm’s way. We then are inherently forced to be careful with the way we approach the work and move through it so as not to touch or damage its elements. By forcing us to be ‘careful’ and ‘mindful’ it emphasises the idea of intervention and care.

2. Treatment of Materials

The artist uses minimal materials to translate her message. The use of soil, gravel, twigs, leaves juxtaposed with traces of human waste — paper, cigarette buds, plastic enforces the idea of intersecting of two very different environments. It shows how human activity and our daily habits have creeped into, pervaded and degraded the natural habitat that occupy our space. Rather than being occupants and being ‘outsiders’ to nature (which we have modified and altered to clear space for our own architectural and infrastructural pursuits), we have come to a point where nature is now the ‘outsider’, forced into crevices due to our presence. The idea of snails being in our path, especially during the rainy weather and our very nonchalant disregard towards their presence, highlights this desensitised and normalised attitude we have adopted towards organisms that share the same space as us. When we do step on a snail (most of the time unintentionally) we simply shriek/wince, clean our shoes and continue walking. It is important to ponder or consider if our act of wincing stems from our ‘pain’ from hurting the snail or rather the ‘disgust’ from having slime all over our shoes. Hence Yeyoon’s work beckons us to internalize and revisit this phenomena. Personally, I too have the habit of picking snails in my path and moving them into bushy or protected areas.

3. Representation of ‘Snail’

The artist documents some of the snails she encountered in the process of this exploration/work and this is displayed in a simple back to back series of videos on IPads, within the set up. They provide a powerful and real context for the objects on the ground. It is significant to note that she did not use any sort of physical representation or models for the snails.

Neither was the damage or the traces of broken shells apparent within any of the ‘puddles’. The only snails are the ones in the video — virtual on screen but albeit real snails. This choice to provide background context while omitting the use of the main subject matter within the other parts of the work allows for us to form our own narrative or thoughts/opinions. Rather than being confrontational about how we destroy or affect the environment around us, her subtle approach eases us into reflecting on that topic intuitively. Personally I found the translucent silicone puddles to be a sort of visual ‘double entendre’ — the first representation being the puddles formed during rainy seasons and the second being the residual slime left behind a snail’s path or left behind when their shell’s are crushed. Whether this was intentional or not, it certainly crossed my mind and the idea of making the remnants of the snail present while maintaining its non existence, enforces the idea of life in transience, while also reminding us that, that very mutable nature of life can leave behind very permanent marks.

4. Concluding Thoughts

When I stood back up and left the work to move on to the next work, my mind was still reflecting on it. The fact that it is relatable and so common, embeds in our minds or subconscious very easily and it is the way the artist engages with the viewers by playing on their intuition and personal experience, that beckons us to ponder about the way we ‘care’ or could care better.

Artist Background

Yeyoon’s works range from interactive digital works to installation art. Her works often involve the juxtaposition of the natural and man-made or organic and inorganic. Her intentional intersecting of ‘spaces’ by displacing objects and creating unexpected experiential spaces, while re creating a familiar scene or set-up, has a subtle yet powerful affect on viewers. By threading on the line between the familiar yet ‘uncanny’ she destabilises our perceptual space and leads us into introspection and wander at the same time.

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