〈 福利社區運動中心 〉Free Yourself，2014
Swimming in the Bathtub: New-York Chi’s Alienation Skill
Written by Sandra Tung
I still remember when I was still a child, before I learned how to swim, I always imitated the movements in the bathtub, pretending to dive in the water and to swim forward until it took no more than one second to reach the end, and my body would continue to “swim” without noticing the limited space. However, I lost the skill in my first diving experience right after I learned how to swim. I had no intention to move at all, with my body immersed in the borderless fantasy. I felt I was closer to myself than ever. As a person who has gained fifteen kilograms in four years after moving to the south, I did not consider myself to be the right one to talk about New-York Chi’s recent works. However, thinking of how Chi mentioned “the inspiration of my works originated from Glutinous Rice Turtle” when we talked about our previous works, I realized both of us could look back to see if we fell beautifully.
Here, I want to make clear that New-York Chi’s works have never “had a fall.” We can always see the prototype of “Glutinous Rice Turtle” as well as the essence of its context, including the substantial shape, the relationship based on mutual sharing, and the subject which has disappeared after being shared, in the narrative of his previous works. However, this time, New-York Chi again alienates the corresponsive relationship between body and space through the extension of transitional time and the works which remain in sight. We may begin with last year’s Exercise Trilogy Series. Exercise Trilogy includes Chi’s Blooming without Reasons, a work created during his artist residency at Treasure Hill Artist Village in 2013, Triangle Table at Crane Gallery, and Octagonal Circle at Howl Space. In these works, the artist examines how body varies in different spaces (the crowed hill with fragmented space, the geometric structure, and the meandering streams and alleys respectively) through sports such as badminton, table tennis, and hula hoop.
Each of three sports, created as the response to the space, reminds us of a strange pleasure originating from the alienation caused by the disappearance of certain space. They also echo New-York Chi’s self-description of how he “loves wandering” and extends a multiplication technique beyond one’s experiences through a progressive path of “multi-perceptive complex” as one “frequently practices to avoid precision.” In some aspects, the sports evoke the unrestrained sense of time and physicality which we were once familiar with, like how we used to walk out of the door or the classroom to play badminton with friends, dig a hole and draw an arc to play marbles on the ground, or string the rubber bands together to practice rope skipping. We enjoyed the empty space by running, jumping, waving our arms, or chasing each other right at the moment when we entered the space. (Perhaps we had too many empty spaces so we were always warned by parents that we should not go to these places if not necessary). It was a time of physicality when we could fully enjoy the outer space and interpersonal intimacy as we enjoyed a homemade dinner.
About eight years ago, New-York Chi switched from the training in painting to site-specific art and performance art. He was developing the alienation skill inward and outward at the same time. During the sharing process, he waited for any kind of changes to take place. The circular pool table, triangle table tennis, one-person golf, two-person curling, aimless darts, and two-way pinball in the artworks demonstrate the transitional bodies and the sport skills which have been deprived of a sense of space/direction in the specific space. It liberates our imagination of “body in sports” in a self-restrained public space, revealing the instinct reaction as he attempts to awake body to confront the constantly changing environment as well as the healthy movement/disturbance in any specific relationship and space in modern life. We might try to deal with all the expected circumstances with our living bodies which are both familiar and strange to us, but this month, let us alienate our gestures in the unknown world, walking out of other’s bathtub to embrace our limbs.