Reversed Reality

by Stella Fong
Reversed Reality, published by Art in Hong Kong, Sino Group, January, 2009.
 
 
To write about Doris Wong’s work entitled “Flyers of Portland Art Spaces and Museums” is rather like reviewing copied paintings by the skillful workers in Dafen Village, Shenzhen. Familiar assessments of craft, style, and originality seem useless here. The painting is neither so skillfully rendered that we are amazed by the artist’s craftsmanship, nor so imperfect as to suggest the artist’s authorship. They seem to be a product of manual labor rather than gestural expression. And yet what can one possibly say?
 
To write about Doris Wong’s work entitled “Flyers of Portland Art Spaces and Museums” is rather like reviewing copied paintings by the skillful workers in Dafen Village, Shenzhen. Familiar assessments of craft, style, and originality seem useless here. The painting is neither so skillfully rendered that we are amazed by the artist’s craftsmanship, nor so imperfect as to suggest the artist’s authorship. They seem to be a product of manual labor rather than gestural expression. And yet what can one possibly say?
 
For the “Reverse Reality” exhibition, Doris reveals a selection of contemporary art publications that she grasped from the art spaces, galleries and the museum during her residence in Portland, the United States. Stretching across the wall, the publications are neatly framed in various sizes, and are divided into two reciprocal pairs with each pair juxtapose symmetrically along the axis. Upon a closer look, you will realize that one of the pairs is mirror-like painted reproductions that are made by the artist.
 
The essence of this work lies in its contradiction in nature. Rather than being a means to elucidation, it tends to foster obscurity. The contrast between “meaning and meaningless” becomes significant while perceiving the work. What at one glance seemed to us to have a meaning, we then see something completely meaningless. The artist disrupted things, and brought new orders and ideas through disharmony. The suspension between fact and fiction, real and counterfeit, sense and nonsense, has manifested itself as a state of wonder, or as a deeply unsettling condition. Doris’s work aptly deals with this uncertainty.
 
Another interesting feature is the subtle interplay between real and counterfeit, original and reproduction in the work. Today, counterfeit industry has bloomed in the global trade. Counterfeit art, on the other hand, is of no exception. Thousands of shipping containers leave Hong Kong for the United States, packed with products made in China, following numerous scandals between the world’s biggest consumer and producer. Among them, Chinese copy artists in one village export around five million paintings a year, presumably playing the role of the world’s biggest exporter of counterfeit art.
 
Being an unusual Chinese “copy artist”, Doris, however, does not intends to examine the aesthetics of copying in the contemporary art context. What interests me is that a fake or a reproduction becomes “real” in the artist’s creative endeavor. Strictly speaking, the artist doesn’t really “create”, she reproduces in a process of “cultural recycling” (Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction, 2002). Artists revive objects, reactivate forms, pirate copyrights, and manipulate existing social, cultural and economic systems. The recycling of existing objects or ideas, even fake or reproduced ones, eventually lead to unique art ventures. It also reminds us the famous Venetian casino where everything is a simulated copy: gondola, canal, historical building, sky and daylight. The irony is, the simulated scenery absurdly leads to a “real” experience.
 
For those who have seen the original exhibition in Portland, the re-staging of the show in Hong Kong is perhaps a reproduction or a replica. Likewise, the writing of this text inevitably differs from the first-hand experience of the original artwork. It aimed to be true to the artist’s practice and attempted to provide the reader with the primary evidence of the artist’s concepts and ideas. Yet, the text remains a secondary, if not a reproduced narrative of the original artwork by slipping into the cultural recycling “spin” after all.

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