Everyday Scenes and Props
This exhibition of conceptual photography by Beijing-based Chen Wei is a sly blend of artifice, contrivance and memory, requiring the viewers to grapple with scenes that are highly theatrical and mostly surreal, and to develop their own narratives from the cues offered.
Chen's photographs probe the space between imagination and what we perceive as reality, putting old-fashioned, everyday items into strange juxtapositions to suggest times past and places abandoned.
In Method of Slumber, for instance, a metronome sits atop a pile of books on an old school desk - a cipher for sleep-inducing monotony if ever there was one, especially in Asian classrooms. On the chair, a dead crow, talons in the air, seems literally bored to death. The backdrop to this tableau is a two-tone wall that recalls an old schoolroom or a hospital ward.
Chen's wry, over-the-shoulder vision is of a past that we're never quite sure is merely imagined or somehow real. Rental Service (below) shows three booths and is a facility straight out of Chen's imagination rather than a reconstruction of anything that has in fact existed, a scattering of soiled tissues on the floor confirming that it's a sleazy peepshow.
Entrance of the Garden is also an absurdist theatrical set, another two-tone-walled space with a door through which a riotous tangle of vegetation threatens to invade, a dustpan and brush representing a frail means of defence against what filmmaker Werner Herzog memorably described as the 'fornication' of nature.
Other pieces in the show are by turns more forlorn and more surreal, and viewers may find themselves puzzled by the obscurity of some of the references. But even if the work at times seems a little formal in its representation of meaning and memory, at least it'll leave you wondering.
G/F, 1 Shin Hing St, Central, until Dec 5