Rice Performance Series – Hourglass
Performance: 3 hours at Concourse Gallery, Vancouver, 2010
This performance was performed at Internationales Festival für Performance in Mannheim, Germany (2013), M:ST Festival in Calgary, CA (2012), Visualeyez Festival in Edmonton, CA (2010), 221 A Artist Run Centre, Vancouver, CA (2010), and Concourse Art Gallery, Vancouver, CA (2010)
I set two 14 inch bowls, two pairs of small brushes, and tweezers on a table. I begin painting white rice with black ink one by one until the amount of black rice equals the amount of white rice. The audiences are invited to sit down in front of me, and we work together.
“Hourglass” is a rice-based performance that examines “deterritorialization” and “disessentialization” in the Taken-for-Granted world through exploring oppositions as manifestations of fundamental existential concern in Chinese philosophy. The action of constantly painting white rice to black is a metaphor of hourglass. Sand in hourglass cannot flow without rotation as if power cannot shift without struggle. Too much power is concentrated on one side seems to be a main factor causing disharmony, confusion and dislocation, which embody on the social turbulence that we see and feel in our daily lives. In fact, power doesn’t bring growth unless we understand the essence of sharing the power.
The gesture of painting white rice to black is a political gesture, a democratic process of negotiations between citizens and established power. It reveals my desire not only to negotiate and transform everyday political life to art, but also to install a model for social transformation that possibly could create a new way to look at utopia and future. For me, political gesture doesn’t have to be radical, and process of social transformation does not have to involve violence. In fact, it could be done through meditative way or even meditation because meditation itself is intervention: a method of protest, a strategy of negotiation and a way of speak-out. This performance is more relevant to open conversation about how to transform social and political landscapes, examining relationships between the citizens and the place they live, between what they have lost and what they have gained in the rapid changing city. This rice performance provides an opportunity for participants/ citizens to meditate their situations while working together on a mutual goal: reconfigure the established centralized power system in order to create an equal, fair and balanced world.
A scientist did a math, there are about 333,000ps grains in the bowl, it takes 20 seconds to paint a grain. As a result, if two people together paint 24 hours/ day, it needs 500 hours to paint half amount of white rice to black.
Since 2010, I have created a series of performances that uses rice to address issues related race, gender and diaspora. “ Hourglass” is the third piece of this series. For other pieces about this series, please see links below
The Other Words (2016)
Come Home (2015)
Another Witness (2011)
Invalid Testimony (2011)
The Other Words (2010)
It is a Way of Being (2010)
Photo courtesy of the artist