A Review: To Whom It May Concern

A Review: To Whom It May Concern

Sedition actively seeks emerging talents and strives to present pioneering digital art practices. Our approach entails vigilant observation of artistic experimentation across physical and digital realms. Today, we seize the chance to highlight an exhibition in London called To Whom It May Concern. This exhibition serves as a stage for novel viewpoints, with a special emphasis on a collection of artworks that intriguingly straddle the divide between the digital and physical domains.

A Review: To Whom It May Concern

Everything’s seeping to the surface now: the slow or hidden violence of late capitalism, the concealed cruelties of immigration removal centers, the secret acts of racist police..." - Olivia Laing

It’s very true. It is all exposed now and leading to an even bleaker future. From a broad perspective, the UK now appears as a crumbling edifice – persistently exorbitant costs of living, unrelenting housing and energy crises, the distressing absence of social mobility, and the ongoing repercussions of repressive educational and immigration policies. When the state of exile is a shared experience and the very concept of home is challenged by unyielding forces of change, an exhibition – To Whom It May Concern  unfolded as an introspective reverie, a collective contemplation on the ephemeral and elusive notions of belonging. Through drawing, moving images, new media, sculpture, and installation, that spanned both floors of a derelict Victorian house, each artist found a temporary space to grapple with the intricacies of memory, transience, loss, and the surreal absurdities that pepper our lives. 

The Dovecote by Amy Ken Chen & Leonardo Eddé

Visitors to this presentation first encountered Amy Ken Chen and Leonardo Eddé's new creation, The Dovecote. This mixed-media installation was captivating in its exploration of our contrary longings for stable ground and the limitless sky. The incorporation of decoy pigeons suspended within the piece speaks to the tension between the innate urge for familiarity and the allure of uncharted territories. The historical context of the Romans, who built dovecotes for pragmatic rather than sentimental reasons, adds an intriguing layer of depth to the piece. Reflecting the dual roles that migrants often embody – seekers and contributors – The Dovecote resonates as an eloquent metaphor for displacement and an unsettled home. 

Let Talk: Fxxk Your Fake Decency by Carina Q Tint

On the other side of the room, viewers are faced with Carina Q Tint’s documentary installation, Let Talk: Fxxk Your Fake Decency. The work consists of three elements – her original costume for the performance, a five-minute-long video, and scattered sheets of white paper. Together, the installation forms an evocative assemblage extending the artist’s public performance from November 2022, a time when she was under a social control regime in China. The video was constructed through footage fragments – displaying the artist holding a pile of blank paper, mouth taped shut and arms chained, eyes locked with the viewers’ – collected from diverse sources, including prominent channels like BBC. Tint’s potent message met with resistance in 2022 and even resulted in an arrest as it revealed a clash between the authenticity of self-expression and the confines imposed by societal norms. Her act, and the subsequent response, laid bare the inherent struggle of maintaining one's individuality in a world that often demands conformity. 

A Still from Innermost by Bolim Jeon / Installation View 

On the other side of the wall, a suitcase casually lays in the corner wide open, implying the owner’s temporary residency, be it a recent arrival or an imminent departure. It is the focal point of Bolim Jeon's video installation Innermost, a visual and sonic exploration of the spatiality of intimacy and love. Inside it, the artist’s collection of cherished letters that constitute her notion of home is now materialised as a 3D rendered environment. Adjacent to it, a CRT TV sits atop a variety of plants, nestled in the earth below. Jeon weaves and expands the delicate physical spaces she found engraved through words, paper, and emotion into a music video. The grainy footage delves into the nuanced layers of each handwritten letter, capturing the distinct depth and emotional weight behind the addressers' then evanescent feeling. Embodying the tentative and tender of true belongingness for herself, Bolim's ingenious interplay between visuals and sound conjures a visceral melody sung in the artist’s own voice. Lyrics appear on the screen emulating a Karaoke video, resonating like a familiar tune of nostalgia.

Three other artists, Xi ChenZijing Xia, and Zhenyi Zheng, have also skillfully depicted the lingering aftermath of Covid-induced isolation in their home countries or in the UK. Xia's ongoing project Christmas Tree Byebye emerged when she was taken aback by the sight of discarded Christmas trees on empty streets during London’s city Lockdown, the fleeting nature of celebration. Her response was to initiate a collective child-like engagement, inviting people to share condolences for their once-beloved festive companions both online and in person. 

A Still from Christmas Tree Byebye by Zijing Xia

Zheng's approach to reflection embraces a more intimate scale, s series of delicate pencil and watercolour drawings and toylike objects that breathe life into the solitude and fragments of existence within familiar surroundings: window, table, plant, and bedroom. Drawing from the artist's own experience of a 14-day quarantine, Xi Chen's A Day takes the form of a video installation that captures the cyclic nature and the illusions borne from confinement. 

A Day by Xi Chen / Installation View

Within this video, a figure with tousled hair, draped in pajamas and indoor slippers, repeatedly tips over and restores empty plastic water bottles scattered across the floor. Through the superimposition of various temporal moments, an uncanny effect ensues, evoking the unusual passage of time and the paradoxical continuity and uncertainty of her actions within the constrained space. The video is situated in an uninhabitable room shielded from daylight by two pale pink curtains, with empty water bottles hanging suspended from the ceiling, creating an ambiance that encapsulates the poignant sense of displacement and powerlessness experienced by an individual across borders. 

Illustrations by Zhenyi Zheng, Installation View

Within another dark, enclosed room, Jiuming Duan and Lin Wen-Ben both anchor themselves to past catastrophes. Duan staged his Interval, a theatrical set-up that combined an analog radio, an electric kettle, a wooden chair, a hanging lamp, and a table lamp, morphs into a contemplation on the temporality of chaos and the remnants it leaves in its wake. Through the deliberate introduction of intervals between each sound element, this multimedia artwork encapsulates the devastating fury of Cyclone Lothar, subtly provoking viewers to contemplate the impermanence of human constructs in the face of nature's unforgiving whims. The juxtaposition of the digital and the tactile plays out exquisitely in Lin Wen-Ben's RIP 9-5. Through hand-drawn and 3D animation, the artist creates a narrative that dances on the edges of the apocalypse, a Y2K-infused world where the ominous underbelly of binary code and monopoly capitalism unfurls. This transient reality finds solace in a 14-inch CRT TV, an artifact of the past, with DVD boxes resting atop it.

Stills from RIP 9-5 by Lin Wen-Ben

The title of the exhibition, named by the curators Ankita Mukherji and Jiuming Duan, was reflective of a unifying experience – the ceaseless bureaucracies of inquiries, applications, and letters when applying for visas, jobs, housing, loans, schools, funding, residencies, and so on. It alludes to a sender with a tenuous hope of being heard by unknown recipients who hold their fate in their hands. This also resonated with the nature of the gallery itself. This was my fifth visit to Safe House in just a year and a half of residing in this city. Despite its weathered appearance that offers a raw and distinctive backdrop for exhibitions— a former house intentionally left stripped-down and empty, managed by a limited company for commercial leasing. What message does it convey to hire a place during a time of rental scarcity? While it shares a commercial art structure, it still seems a far cry from the major galleries, as they are too busy expanding their own resorts and premises, catering to asset-owning affluent clients, thereby shaping market value. Who, then, is taking note of an exhibition like this, which casts out a soft, collective yearning for acknowledgment? And how does one make themself heard when everyone attempts to raise their voice during an ever-difficult time, amidst the cruelties of the socio-political climate? I couldn’t stop pondering these questions as I left.

Interval by Jiuming Duan

Review by Renee Xinying Zhong