天下莫柔弱于水, 而攻堅強者莫之能勝, 以其無以易之。弱之勝強, 柔之勝剛, 天下莫不知, 莫能行。
Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard.
– 老子 ｜ lao tzu
Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
– bruce lee
Life is surrounded by endless pain and suffering. The suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death is unavoidable. Following the loss of my father, I find myself growing as a person. My father’s illness and death have changed me in ways that will profoundly touch every aspect of my life. However, unlike me, my mother took quite a while to walk out of the grief. This has inspired me to draw a link to water and its flexibility – ability to adapt. Be it taking on any form or seeping through cracks, it has always been able to adjust to the object, finding its way round or through it. 若水 | What the Water Gave Me urges viewers to contemplate about life, encouraging them to come to terms with it. It serves as a form of emotion healing for those who have experienced the pain associated with these sufferings. Are you like water or the rigid glass that restrains it? Will you be like water, taking on a new form or simply be like the shattered glass, unable to mend? Will you be able to accept, adapt, and move on?
The project comprises of three deliverables:
1) Installation (Video Documentation)
2) Exhibition Booklet
Video documentation of how the audience can participate in the installation.
The sound of glockenspiel is reminiscent to glass bottles knocking against one another. The heavy breathing resembles the last few moments before death – the last gasp of air. The juxtaposition of the bell-like sound with the heavy breathing exudes a haunting feeling that fits the notion of death.
Water | metaphorical representation of human; the audience who participates in the installation; the ideal role model, which we are encouraged to be like.
Bottles | representation of different situations in life – each labeled with ‘birth’, ‘old age’, ‘illness’, and ‘death’ as described by Buddhist teachings as unavoidable sufferings of life. Labels blatantly shown on the bottles just like how these sufferings are evidently present in our lives and we are perfectly aware of them.
Being hung up | suggests how we are being tied down by the pain that we failed to pick ourselves up and break free from it.
The act of pouring | symbolizes flowing into the situations which life has decided to put them in. It enables audience to see how water adapts and fit the shape of its container.
The act of snapping and smashing | symbolizes the mental emancipation
Shattered glass | encourages the audience to contemplate on what they choose to follow: the water or the shattered glass. It urges them to break free from the situation that bounds them. Water takes on a new form and evaporates, while the shattered glass remains broken and can never be mended.
Booklet uses 160gsm tracing paper to achieve the same translucent quality as the glass bottles. Done in Japanese binding to achieve the look of ancient Chinese books but with a contemporary layout. The slash ( / ) on the translucent cover page was intentionally placed to cancel out the ‘just‘ word of the sentence “for those who just lost somebody” in the acknowledgement page – this book is dedicated to anyone who has lost a loved one.