Initially educated in glassmaking, Fan’s follow in expanded sculpture merges a regard for the haptic qualities of type with a radically transdisciplinary strategy to analysis and materials experimentation—usually incorporating unstable natural compounds akin to intercourse hormones, pores and skin pigments, and different organic brokers. Whereas his earlier investigations centered on the granular deconstruction of organic essentialism, Fan’s latest work has turned away from these considerations to have interaction additional with organisms and ecosystems past the human. For “Websites of Wounding,” Fan returns to Hong Kong to analysis native species that generate treasured supplies by processes of contamination, penetration, and incorporation. In a sequence of latest works, he explores the affective resonance of those woundings as they relate to each the generative potential and the psychosomatic trauma of colonial subjectivity.
The primary chapter of Fan’s challenge takes the Pinctada fucata oyster, a species native to Hong Kong and key to a number of historic native industries, as its level of departure. Pearl formation may be considered an primarily defensive mechanism which solely coincidentally occurs to supply the precious byproducts we devour as luxurious items. Occurring when a overseas object lodges itself contained in the oyster’s susceptible physique, the host slowly secretes layers of nacre, neutralizing the foreig matter and absorbing it into its personal physique. Fascinated by this quasi-alchemical transformation—the transmutation of the grotesque and threatening right into a fraught sort of hybridized magnificence—Fan started to conceptualize pearl formation as an prolonged metaphor for colonial topic formation in Hong Kong—discovering a form of poetry within the linkage to the island’s pre-colonial pearl farming industries and it’s anglo-imperial moniker “Pearl of the Orient” [東方之珠].
Staging the investigation of fabric historical past as a form of private and cultural mythology, Palimpsest (2023) poetically paperwork an almost three year-process the place Fan collaborated with native scientists from the College of Hong Kong to domesticate oysters and implant them with the person characters—東, 方, 之 and 珠—which compose the aforementioned phrase. Within the course of, the mollusks are compelled to alter the construction of their very own our bodies with a purpose to survive—an enterprise with parallels to Fan’s earlier exploration of biohacking and physique modification as strategies of eclipsing normative gender ecologies. The shells ensuing from this course of carry the inscribed traces of this violence within the type of ideograms etched into their pearlescent inside surfaces. Merging with, or maybe overwriting, the oyster’s pure patterning, Fan’s gesture might be interpreted as a type of perverse calligraphy, a form of traumatic writing the place the bottom of which means is inseparable from an originary violence.
Displayed in a steel armature harking back to these present in pure historical past shows, C is for you presents a collection of particular person shells which have been embalmed in glass. Kiln-fired along with glass sheeting, the ensuing natural types encase deposits of ashes, proof of the place the shells have burned away. Fan has described his course of of fabric experimentation as being each haptic and led by an curiosity within the shifting power states of supplies. On this case, the summary juxtaposition of acquainted mom of pearl shells—redolent with associations of luxurious and empire—and their charred and blasted counterparts reads nearly as a spontaneous compression of historical past.
These thematics are echoed in a sequence of latest aqua resin, glass, and metal sculptures. Rendered in mottled shades of pale teal, mauve and olive, these works prolong and refine Fan’s technique of originating types from casts of dwelling our bodies—which he then abstracts additional by hybridization, sequencing, and repetition. The ultimate items without delay bear the residual traces of their corporeal sources whereas additionally transmuting them into types extra animal or mineral in nature. Sequential composition akin to Left torso, 4 occasions, acceptable a vocabulary of lowered serial gestures with a purpose to counsel processes of molting or metamorphosis and kind of circadian temporality. Different works, akin to Left and proper knee, grafted make express reference to mollusk types, framing their accompanying glass globules as doable outgrowths of unfamiliar origins. Likewise, in Bivalve I and Bivalve II, the style by which cyst-like glass types appear to dangle and ooze from shell-like resin basins gestures in direction of an ambivalent relationality of survival, symbiosis and extraction.
Uniting the works in “Websites of Wounding” is Fan’s deployment of fabric analysis and experimentation as a technique for working with and thru the concurrently damaging and inventive potentials of contamination. Relatively than rendering these processes in purely adverse phrases, Fan’s works find emergent magnificence inside these ambivalent websites. Past a direct articulation of post-colonial ache, his vividly realized woundings categorical the resonant multiplicity of the colonial topic present process and processing trauma which is without delay bodily, in addition to cultural and historic.
at Empty Gallery, Hong Kong
till June 24, 2023