STOP10 Sep 2017: 'The Name' & 'The Nameless' by Ho Tzu Nyen

  Ho Tzu Nyen's 'The Nameless' 'starring' screen legend Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Brought together by 4 regional artists, Ghosts and Spectres – Shadows of History, is an exhibition piece by filmmakers Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Singapore's Ho Tzu Nyen, Vietnam's Nguyen Trinh Thi and Korea's Park Chan-Kyong.  Although different in expressions, what they share in common is the strong engagement of political and cultural histories in their works.

Ghosts and Spectres – Shadows of History looks at how the notion of “ghost” is used in artworks to showcase histories within respective cultures that are obscure and not openly discussed. The meaning of “spectres” here is implied not only to violent histories and trauma, but also to a form of playfulness, especially in communities not widely known. 

'Citizen Forest' by Park Chan-Kyong

The exhibition focuses on works from Asia, highlighting the legacies of the post-war and the Cold war that still has its influence and effects on governance to certain degrees, and explores the impact on a national basis as well as in our daily lives.

As ancestral traditions is deeply embedded into local culture, each artist had their own critical way of understanding the social and political consequences resulting from their native country’s beliefs and traditions.

The exhibition integrates both films and videos as a medium. And with strong visual imaging, these artists and filmmakers question the juxtaposition of the same story presented in different ways.

Ho Tzu Nyen’s  The Nameless (2015), a montage of films presented within a film, was used in contrast to Ho’s The Name (2015). Fragmentation is used in the projection of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Fireworks (Archives) (2014), which stimulates the audience to edit the fragments of footage and piece it together on their own.

Stills from Ho Tzu Nyen's 'The Name'

List of films that appear in Ho Tzu Nyen's 'The Nameless'

Reference documents as part of the exhibition

Glass projection in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Fireworks (Archives) (2014)

In Park Chan-kyong’s Citizen’s Forest (2016), it suggests the reappearance of ghosts in what is left unresolved, as the gathering of spectres of recent calamities in South Korea’s political history. In Nguyen Trinh Tri’s Letters from Panduranga (2015), it questions the role of an “outsider”, as the two narrating voices (a man’s and a woman’s) are carefully authorised to tell the story.

The exhibition space is shrouded in darkness, making it feel like entering a psychological space rather than a physical one. As it consists of mainly audio-visual exhibits, each film is hosted in its own room. Ho’s The Nameless is the exception to this. Many visitors were particularly intrigued by the presentation of The Nameless. The Nameless tells the story of Sino-Vietnamese triple agent Lai Teck (acted by Tong Leung Chiu Wai, but are clips plucked from the famous actor's films in actual fact) and it is presented in an interesting way, with a room spliced into two even halves. There is a screen in each half, mounted back to back, and they are separated by a cloth so viewers in one half cannot cross over to the other side or watch both screens at the same time. The film being played is the same in both rooms, except for the voiceover. One is in Chinese and the other Vietnamese. Those watching the Chinese version would hear the Vietnamese audio as an echo from the other room, alluding to the doubled-nature of Lai Teck’s loyalties, who had over 50 aliases. The work is about the ambiguity of storytelling and the manipulation of narratives by official accounts.

This exhibition hopes to generate interest in history, as well as to drive home the fact that history is constantly being reinterpreted and rewritten. History does not solely refer to historical documents, but also the significance of personal and collective memories. What we see and experience gives shape to our history, which is then a multitude of narrations.

Ghosts and Spectres – Shadows of History is an ongoing exhibition from 1 September – 19 November 2017.  It is held at the NTU Center for Contemporary Art Singapore.

Written by Christine Seow and Jacqueline Lee

For the full list of September 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.
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