Joyce Ho’s Uncanny Wonderland of Contemporary Urban Life

Joyce Ho, Reception, 2019. Mixed-media kinetic installation. Dimensions variable.
Installation View of Joyce Ho’s
Joyce Ho, Reception, 2019. Mixed-media kinetic installation. Dimensions variable.
Joyce Ho, Osmosis, 2018. Mixed-media installation, 129 x 23 x 36 cm
Joyce Ho, A memo, 2019. Acrylic on panel light, 60 x 180 x 5 cm
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Descending down the stairs into the basement space of TKG+ in Taipei, viewers are immediately met with Joyce Ho’s (何采柔) solo exhibition, titled NO ON, a witty wordplay of equivoque that could be interpreted as “malfunction” or “noon”. At a left turn a projection of a video on a wall right beside the reception desk of the space, serves as a billboard for the exhibition. It begins with a girl’s hand stretching down from the upper edge to write the word “reserved” on a white table. Well, it’s not quite a table, it had a dado rail running through it, suggesting it might as well be a wall. The writer wrote the word upside down, making it easy to read – a gesture of service, indicative of the artist’s prioritization of viewer experience . Indeed, visiting the show was like going on an adventure following an invisible route the artist had set up deliberately for the audience, despite her physical absence.

TEXT: Isabelle Kuo
IMAGES: Courtesy of TKG+ and the Artist.

Installation View of Joyce Ho’s

 

Two waitresses in standard black and white uniforms subsequently appeared in the video to serve wine. Being so focused on their job, their professionalism overshadowed the seeming inaccuracy of their actions. One waitress kept on pouring wine till the glass overflowed, she continued doing so until the bottle was empty. While the futility of a wasted bottle of wine and soaked table cloth didn’t go unnoticed the entire performance was beautifully captured on film.

“I found it interesting how constant pressure makes people indifferent.” Ho said, “People seldom pay attention to the reasons behind seemingly standard procedures such as table service. Especially here in Taiwan, table service looks like a well developed standard operating procedure, but we don’t know where it came from. It might combine bits and pieces from the States, Europe and Japan, which could become groundless once transplanted to this place, but we never question how or why it is like this.” By bringing up the odds and errors of everyday life to stand out against a sleek and exquisite setting, the artist offers an incision where the viewer is invited to fill in with various interpretations.

Beyond the video installation, was a vast dim space with two pendant lamps hanging at the far left and fences on the right hand side. Behind this a few objects were scattered to form a garden of riddles about daily life. The pendant lamps started to swing, as if there was a strong wind blowing through the enclosed basement, indicating warning signs of instability. Following this, there were constant encounters characterised by imbalance, error, and ambiguity throughout the exhibition.

Yet an error or malfunction could lead to beauty. On the other side of the rocking fences, was the wine-stained table cloth seen in the video. When hung up to be displayed vertically, it almost appeared to be an intense monochromatic painting. The strings used to hang it up were almost invisible, it felt like a cloth floating in the void. “It was not my original intention to make the table cloth into a painting.” the artist admitted, “I found it so beautiful only after we shot the video and decided to develop it further. By lifting it up from the table, I wanted to transform it into a painting or a flag. The mistake of not stopping the pouring of wine became a part of a perfect ceremony in the video, and also accidentally turned the table cloth into something beautiful.” To Ho, completeness is composed of countless slips.

 

Joyce Ho, Reception, 2019. Mixed-media kinetic installation. Dimensions variable.
Joyce Ho, Osmosis, 2018. Mixed-media installation, 129 x 23 x 36 cm

 

Exquisite, alluring, and thought-provoking, what makes NO ON so distinct from Ho’s previous exhibitions is the reference to workplace and labour. It is about how perfection is achieved through repetition, well-practiced standard operating procedure, and flawless uniform which eventually homogenize people. Still, certain character traits leak through a standardized appearance, errors and accidents can occur. These were nodes the artist captured and manipulated – as neatly and precisely as surgical incisions – to bring up alternative meanings and trigger exploration. Thus in the video installation No Surprises, the labour of typing lyrics from a song was rendered with cadence, resembling the movement of playing a piano. On the innermost wall of the exhibition space was a triptych window view titled A memo. When the light shone from the back, a notepaper taped on the window glass appeared against the blurry city skyline far away, transforming the basement into a high floor office. When the light faded out, it returned to a switched of panel light in an enclosed basement again. There was an invisible gesture of opening and closing the window/switching on and off the light, and gesture indeed is the main focus to Ho’s practice.

 

Joyce Ho, A memo, 2019. Acrylic on panel light, 60 x 180 x 5 cm

 

Trivial, sometimes obscure everyday matters capture Ho’s attention. With a keen eye for detail, Ho particularly picks up on body language, possibly explaining her experience and involvement with theatre for many years. As a visual artist, she is more enraptured with ordinary people, making her work more intimate in nature. “All my works began with movement,” she states. Through the most subtle moves, she explores the restrictions, desires, and emotions people experience. The object or scenario she then unravels, reveals insights of the collective social-psychological state, and opens up a space where mistakes, errors and imperfections are allowed to exist and evolve into unexpected stories.

 

 

About the artist
Joyce Ho received her M.A. in studio arts from University of Iowa. She is an interdisciplinary artist with an emphasis in painting, sculpture and theater. Joyce Ho has exhibited at such venues as Kobe Biennale, Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, Today Art Museum and Museum of Fine Arts Shanghai, and Asian Arts Biennale, and Busan Biennale.  Since 2010, She has also worked as a script writer and theatre director. She has directed theater performances including Room 206Four Seasons, and Semi-transparent.

Integrating details of decomposition movements, epitomes of everyday habits, and rich and illusory light and shadow, Ho’s painting, installation, and video works always delineate the intimate yet distant relationship and tension between people and reality. Her unique and powerful creations simultaneously envelop her audience while keeping them in a state of being confronted, rendering the quotidian moment depicted in her work an immediate landscape or ritual.

 


 

Isabelle Kuo is trained in Biochemistry but later went astray into the fascinating field of Art History, Isabelle was a senior editor of Art Investment and is now working as a freelance writer.

 

 

 

 
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