Overflow is an artist’s project by New Zealand artist Yuk King Tan. This installation of found objects, photographs and video, builds on her past work and responds to Tan’s new home base in Hong Kong, where she moved in early 2005. Overflow contains objects sourced from markets in Hong Kong, mainland China, Germany and New Zealand. As Tan explains:
“The collection includes pieces that suggest status, control and power: designer goods next to copies of designer goods; iconic masks; toys of violent role-play such as guns, tanks, shells; figurines; models; replica money, paper tokens of symbols of wealth. There is a profusion of objects to make sense from, like the cornucopia of a market.”
Tan’s analogy of the marketplace to describe her installation is apt. It relates both to the work’s formal presentation in the gallery and also to the process of collecting objects. The gallery floor has been transformed into a mini marketplace with a plethora of objects for visitors to take in and visually browse through. The process of gathering materials and engaging with her new surroundings in Hong Kong—her new neighbourhood—is a key part of the project. Like an archaeologist of contemporary culture, Tan uncovers cultural artefacts and represents them to us classified and ready for re-consumption.
Tan’s two-dimensional snowflake works—Shock and Awe and Sunset Industries—form important reference points for the entire Overflow installation. Operating almost like two-dimensional diagrams of the floor work, they are structured as twelve-sided dodecahedron snowflakes. In Shock and Awe this snowflake pattern is made from images collected from Time magazine and the Al Jazeera website. These images depict a trajectory of recent world events expanding outwards from the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 to the 10 July 2005 bombings in London. Sunset Industries, by contrast, is made up of a collection of images of Chinese paper burial objects.
While Shock and Awe focuses on major world events, the video work Meeting and the photographic Loudspeaker series shift the focus to basic social encounters and individual experience. Meeting looks at the small gestures in social encounters. The fragmentary nature of the exchanges can be read as a manifestation of the push/pull, of connections/disconnections, that both bring people together and keep them apart in large cities. Tan has previously said:
“I am interested in the possible interconnectedness of everyday life. The way disparate events, situations and occurrences may lend themselves to speaking about underlying patterns of human behaviour. A casual conversation can become an orchestration of shifting power relationships and a small activity; a strictly governed site of behaviour.”
The sense of commonplace exchanges between figures in the video is disrupted by the placement of brightly coloured plastic buckets over their heads—introducing an element of the ridiculous to these social exchanges.
In Overflow, Tan provides us with a structure through which to navigate her work, but there are as many entry points into understanding the installation as there are exit points. As Tan, herself, says: “the thread that passes through [my work] is that there is nothing sure or easy that can be said. What happens is a multifaceted balancing act of finding associations…”.
– Sarah Farrar
Exhibition Curator, City Gallery Wellington
This exhibition is supported by Creative New Zealand and the Asia New Zealand Foundation. The exhibition catalogue has received additional support from Sue Crockford Gallery, Auckland and The Chartwell Trust. Yuk King Tan wishes to acknowledge the support of Tobias Berger, Richard Maloy, Kate Woods, James McCarthy and the School of Fine Arts, Massey University, Wellington.