how are we still alive here? what about there?

Description of the exhibition

“how are we still alive here? what about there?”.

The exhibition space is a white studio with white curtains dividing the space into a spiraling corridor. Before you enter, you will perhaps first notice the installations of chains hanging from the ceiling over a hospital bed furthest from the entrance or the mannequin dressed in a bee suit closest to the entrance. As you take off your shoes, put them onto the provided shoerack, you may enter the white space. After passing the mannequin there would be a projection of a dance video on the floor. A rhythmic minimalistic music showering you from up top, you see the snowy cityscape of Helsinki, the huge pile of coal afar covered in snow, the chimney keeps churning white smoke, an empty street with a person dressed in a bee suit dancing and traveling in somehow robotic and dynamic movement echoing the music. You can choose to view it standing or at the chairs nearby. Next to the chairs is a tea table with a printed photo album of the same bee suit person. The album starts with a poem that was written when I first arrived in Helsinki. (show the poem and pics) Only by going through the whole album can you see the person's face underneath the veil of the bee suit. As you move on, the music fades away, you get a closer look at the chains and bed. The lights illuminate the entangled chains and create a dark web of shadows on the white curtain behind, giving a stronger presence of the chains. Next to the bed is a small fishtank with a little orange fish. You can hear the flickering sound of the fish which might be strange at first, but if you take a closer look, you realize that it is a mechanical fish and that explains the strange sound it creates as it “swims”. The light beams on the water and creates a rainbow reflection. You start to hear another music, there is a hanging frame with another projection of moving images. What is shown is different fishes in an aquarium, you decide to move to the corner and sit to watch the whole video. The music accompanying the lively fishes is cheery, reminding you of a music box from your childhood. Then the music gradually changes into something more mysterious, along the projection of some black and white images of a city unknown to you, you see closeups of a person’s skin, the skin is marked with ink, the camera works like a probe circling closely around the skin, you can tell it is windy by the hair blown in the air. You turn to your right and see an old chunky TV at the dark corner, you walk over and see a remote control and a headphone. Putting on the headphones you start to look at the menu of the media files and notice that they are the dance documentation of Christy and Vincent’s journey. Although you cannot see the face of Vincent, you can tell his aesthetics through his cinematography. Leaving the corner, returning to the main path of the exhibition, you walk to the last area of the exhibition, between the curtains, you can already hear the dialogue from another projection. But before going there, you see a blackboard, similar to what they have in school. On it are different handwritings, it takes you some time to realize that the writings are responding to this question “how did the pandemic affect you?”. You notice how things are different at different places for different persons. Then you turn around and continue to walk further inside, it is a comparatively bigger space than the corridor, there’s a sofa at one side where you can sit down to watch the projection or you can go towards a small desk with a little desk lamp lit there. You decided to take a quick look at what else is on the desk first, there are a few books, papers, and a cassette recorder. You then move on to the sofa and look at the video. The video is in Cantonese with English subtitles. There’s one part where Christy gives a monologue in English, looking into the camera, talking about suicide, speculating near the threshold between life and death.


   another video documentation of the exhibition with my voiceover.  

   A series of dance and film diaries shown on the old TV.  

   The vertical projection content.  

   The first projection on the ground.  

   20211229 @Merihaka, Helsinki.  

   Broken Bike.  


exhibition info

Description of the performance
“how are we still alive here? what about there?”.


The performance takes place in the same space as the exhibition but the white curtains in the middle are gone and audience seats are set up. It is a small space which can accommodate a maximum of 30 audience members. After all the audience is settled, the blackout signifies the beginning of the performance, the first light is on and casts a silhouette of the head of the performer onto the white curtain at the upstage area-the performer starts a monologue with the sentence “how do we stay alive? Or shall we even try?” As she utters the words, we can see her movement from the silhouette. She then comes out from behind the curtain, being amongst the audience, then gradually moves towards the stage as she continues a monologue of some 30 minutes in length. She starts with talking about her suicidal thoughts and how this experience has led her to realize that her life does not completely belong to herself- she support this account about her feeling of lack of autonomy with the experience of the pandemic. She gives examples of uneven distribution of vaccines and healthcare resources, talks about how citizens are obliged to follow pandemic prevention measures in a situation where their own moral judgment does not really matter to the decisions of the policies. She shows pictures on how the Chinese government welded metal bars to residential buildings so that no one can exit. She questions whether her life belongs to herself, her family and friends or the country which she was born in. She then talks about her identity as a Hong Konger. She was born before the Handover when Hong Kong was still a British colony before passing the sovereignty to China. She lives her life in this post-colonial time but yet she could not identify with the Chinese government either. The stage becomes all red and seemingly taking up all her courage she shouts out: ”My life does not belong to me. I don’t have sovereignty over my life.” As she exits the stage, we can still hear her voice but in a slightly distorted way as if she was speaking through an old telephone and saying: “The promised ‘One country, two systems’ will end in 2047. In 24 years from now, Hong Kong - my home - will eventually be ‘just another city in China’, the clock is ticking. If I choose to stay in Hong Kong, eventually I must become or admit that I am already a Chinese national. Do I have to? By then, it will probably be a taboo to call myself a Hong Konger.” Walking back on to the stage from the downstage left corner, the audience can then see her and a shadow of her full body casts on the white curtain. At the end of this sentence: “But taboo or not, in the end even the government cannot forbid me to kill myself, perhaps that’s the least sovereignty I can have.” she stops walking, with her back facing the audience.

The soundscape transforms. Several pinging sounds come from the distance closer as if they were bouncing around the room. She then looks up and towards different directions searching for the source of sound that takes various paces and rhythms- she both actively searches for the sound and sometimes it looks like she is pulled or pushed by some invisible force. There is a lot of movement that seems to be initiated by the mind, her reflecting, and some of arm gestures rised up diagonally. She then transformed into another figure with a round back, hands in front of her body with her wrist dangling, resembling a mysterious vibe of an old creature. This creature walks slowly in a straight line, making sharp 90 degree turns at each corner, as if it is trying to trace a square with her footstep. The performer then grabs her right foot with her left hand, giving herself a limitation in movement. She then rolls smoothly on the floor in a circular motion. The audience can notice something slowly lowering from the ceiling, it is a rope with a carabiner clip attached to the end. The performer showed curiosity towards the rope, she holds it with one hand and leans away from it, creating a sideway “Michael Jackson pose.” She then walks in this antigravitation position. As she slowly walks around the rope, the soft music fades out. Suddenly a loud and irritating sound effect rings in the air, she lets go of the rope. It is a shocking change from the peaceful vibe, she then tries to grab onto the rope again, the sound effect repeats and becomes a dynamic music, where the movement also develops and looks like she is challenging the rope and resisting something invisible. She gives up and surrenders, she moves toward the rope, onto the chair and attaches herself to the clip. She is standing on the chair, attached and grabbing onto the rope. She then falls forward and hangs in the mid-air. She struggles and kicks down the chair, then she stops moving. Just hanging, hanging from the ceiling. Then she lets go and falls to the ground, where she begins a set of graceful movements with the rope- It turns out that the rope is a bouncy bungee. The elasticity affects the way she moves and she continues exploring the space and the movement with the bouncy bungee. Then the music changes again and it looks like she is reminded of something, her movement becomes more isolated and robotic. Instead of following the pulling and rebound of the bungee, she tries to resist it, to jump, run and escape. As the music develops, her movement becomes more violent, the lights create a strobing effect. She flies and reaches towards the audience but the bungee always pulls her back. She gets very close to the audience and at one point some of the audience members try to grab her as she is reaching towards them. It is more like a reflexive response at the sense of danger, or an unconscious act of trying to help. The audience can hear her strong breathing clearly- They can see her struggle and her exhaustion. She tries to continue her movement even, but then at one point she comes to a stillness, just hanging there again, with her limbs touching the floor but her pelvis hung up by the bungee. A peaceful piano music comes in, the light changes into a soft pink color. She is still hanging, then you hear a voice singing to the music. The lyrics go like this: “hang me oh hang me, I’ll be dead and gone..” She slowly reacts to the music, trying to move her fingertips, trying to get up from the floor. There are a lot of circular and spinning movements in this part where it gets quite hypnotic to see her spiraling in the repetition of movements. She tries to fly. One may wonder if the bungee is a limitation of her movement or an assistance as she can really hang herself in the air- She looks like she is flying and enjoying the suspension in the air although she is only around 30 centimeters off the floor. As the music comes to an end, she slowly transforms back to standing. She grabs the chair and gets herself off the bungee. The audience is still lingering on what it saw and only starts to applaud when she bows.

   programme notes.  


   performance script.