Snippets: Accelerated Intimacy @ Yeo Workshop, Singapore

The lack of electronic security, feels like an aberration, in this city-state. Having stayed in different hotel rooms for four consecutive nights, turning a door knob becomes an unfamiliar act, before stepping into another room with view(s). Spotlights illuminate a floor plan and dark azure walls, while the glow from five video projections irradiate acrylic constructs resembling furniture. Seductive neon colours disperse across the room, creating a mysterious enclosure that describes Sarah Choo Jing’s installation “Accelerated Intimacy”. Each video is 5:55 minutes long and runs simultaneously, where one first hears a line from The Godfather, then a violin composition (played by a boy in concert getup), and ends with a cacophony, then a synchronized door knock.

Installation snapshot

Listening in for a while, it becomes apparent that the dialogue is spliced from famous films. Quotes from Tootsie, Lost in Translation, The Conversation, Skyfall, Leon the Professional, Avatar, are interwoven with one-liners from Taxi Driver, Jaws, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, etc. In ‘Gerald’, a rotund man sits slouched in front of a flickering television, a black suit and a large trunk lying on the bed (are those pills on the bedside table?) The protagonist picks up the telephone and speaks in a soft, barely audible voice, declaiming screen dialogue from Dead Poet’s Society, In the Mood for Love, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, As Good as It Gets, monologues from Citizen Kane and Her, then rambling on with lines from Inception, Schindler’s List, Fury, Back to the Future, and Macbeth.

Snapshot from Accelerated Intimacy: Veronica Foo [picture from exhibition catalogue]

The audio hotchpotch draws attention, to the images portrayed. Besides ‘Gerald’ and boy-with-violin ‘Joshua’, the other characters consist of sexy ‘Brenda’ in shorts and stilettos, typical jeans-and-t-shirt dude ‘Matthew’, and the elegant ‘Veronica’ clad in laced dress standing in a luxurious bathtub. One pentagon-shaped window in ‘Veronica’ identifies the backdrop as The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore; Other room features contribute to stereotypical perceptions of each character. The artist relays in an interview her fascination with hotel rooms – “(t)he anonymity of strangers living next to each other, and that intimate moment of being in the same hotel and different rooms, and wondering about the narratives and the people you’re sharing the space with.”

Installation snapshot

This exhibition features a pop-up bar and a vinyl record player, yet I unexpectedly stumble upon Sarah on a Sunday afternoon, at the gallery counter. The artist recounted about her painting training, how she used watercolours to create a distinct atmosphere, and confirmed the use of emotive movie quotes in her videos. I passed on the thought, of asking the artist for a drink at the bar. My busy Chinese New Year schedule had displaced me sufficiently from the familiar, and I needed to return to my hotel room soon. From the static wide-angle perspective, to an active engaged view. From scripted dialogue, to colloquial language. From painted-over set pieces, to peeling and chipped furniture. From closed distance, to open proximity. From digital, to analogue.

Snapshot from Artist talk on 22 February 2018 at Pop Up Art x Whiskey Bar (with Louis Ho) [picture from astromelian Instagram page] 

As implied by its exhibition title, “Accelerated Intimacy” immerses the visitor into a virtual experience, yet the simulacra amplify questions about perception and reality. Is mystery invoked and perpetuated by oneself, worth deliberating upon? Will witnessing gestures and expressions, fill the hollowness of the onlooker? The hotel room becomes a container for experience; Are art galleries not the same? A generic enclosed space thrusts people in it, to seek for a familiar sense. Without shifting, the intimate is found, then lost when one moves again. Watching what is imagined, in a society watched by the imagined. As ‘Brenda’ quotes, with reference to The Prestige, “are you watching closely?”

Installation snapshot