Friday, March 07, 2008

Q&A Session with Chow Chee Yong, 30th Feb

Hi everyone, the transcript for Q&A Session of 30th Feb with Chow Chee Yong is up!

Kay Ngee:

Hello everyone, I’m Kay Ngee, thank you for coming today. Photography is something we encounter much in Singapore, but seldom surrealistic ones like these. Surrealism, or Dadaism, when it comes to mind, we frequently associate with Andre Breton, Lius Brunuel, Dali or Magritte.

Like Dreams, we often see our true self, or the sub-conscience in a lot of these images.

So when I first saw Chee Yong’s prints, I was shocked at the images, which have a real spooky, alienating feeling, there is something quite dark about them. So how would someone that seems so cheerful, a father with four kids, to do something like that?

We are most delighted to hear from Chee Yong this evening, sharing his thoughts, his experiences and technical knowledge of how the works in “30th Feb” were put together. As we know these prints were done over the course of 15 years, Chee Yong will bring us all into his dreams, or nightmares that haunted him over the last 15 years.

and now, over to Chee Yong.

Chee Yong:

I want to take this time and thank Kay Ngee for believing in what I want to do and what I’m doing, because I have shown these works to a gallery a number of years back, and they said no, we don’t want to show these. But I really thank god that it didn’t happen, as at that time I feel that I wasn’t even matured enough to show the whole collection and talk about it. It has just been really timely, so I would like to thank Kay Ngee and everybody else here.

Was really overwhelming last night when there were people outside hoping to come in, and inside everybody was so packed that they can’t move, so it’s quite exciting to see something like this happening, in Singapore and in photography. Tonight’s talk I really want to make it more relaxed, like what Kay Ngee said, to bring you into my mind… How? How did these even come out from my mind?

Uh, I think we dream more when we were younger. As we grew older, we forget our dreams, sometimes we intentionally forget our dreams and don’t want to think about it. I remembered when I was a kid, I never speak to my parents since the age of four, then I was taken away and so, from four till today, I’ve never spoken to my parents. They are like strangers to me. I had a guardian then, my guardian was very strict with me before and I couldn’t get out. If I have to walk out of that door, I have to ask their permission. To open the fridge and drink cold water, I have to ask their permission. Everything was like that, I felt I was in prison.

So I will be in my room crying, looking out of the window, like this. And I really felt like I was in prison and then I’ll start to dream what if I could just walk through these bars and do my escape. That happens very often and sometimes when I was lying on my bed, I thought I could just lift up my mattress, go in and I’ll be in another world.

My mind was filled with thoughts that I just want to get out of this place. I couldn’t get out of here. Just before my O Levels, I packed my bags and make a call to my dad telling him, I’m getting out of this place, I ‘m moving over to a friend’s house. And that’s what I did. So for many years, from 15 till I’m married till today I’ve been living on my own.

And that’s my life, it’s important because that’s how it affects me in the series. And so escapism was always on my mind, I want to be a magician, in the way I do things.

First Encounter with Dali

In 1991, the very first experience, I find myself in the St Petersburg Florida. I actually went there to play la (laughs), at Disneyland, Orlando, which is just about one and half hours drive. But on the way, my friends and I had this idea, hey! Let’s check things out. Let’s drive around. We started driving and oh! There’s Dali Museum here. Ok, let’s check it out. So I went in, looking at all the Dali paintings, drawings, sketches and whatever they have there, the sculptures. My jaws dropped, and I stayed the entire day there, I couldn’t get out. It was a very small museum, perhaps just about three times of this place. But it really provides me a lot of works in there.

And I started to ask myself, as I’ve been using photography for quite a while already. What if, I can do something like that in photography? How will people react? And so I ask my friends questions like, do you know how to do this? But they said, no I’ve never done this, you go and try it. So I thought, oh no, that’s not very good. So I started spending day and night, all day in the darkroom just to try to make things happen, putting images together. Now, this all started in 1990s, Photoshop came out in 1993. So this was pre-Photoshoping, there’s nothing you can do to merge images. I don’t think Photoshop was any good, till maybe about 5 years ago.

So, when I started merging these, things start to come to my mind. Things from the past started to surface. My dreams of walking through walls, through the window bars to escape my childhood prison, just like David Copperfield. Always wondering what if I could walk through impossible places, what will be on the other side? As you can see in these images, there’s always another side surfacing. But we don’t know, what’s going on the other side, we’re not told, of another side of life, of images.

How did I get my ideas? I said that I went to Dali’s Museum, back in 1991, and I understood the works of Escher. They were all surrealists, so I was really excited by the works of these artists, before being introduced to photographers. The works of these painters really affected me, so I was like, ok, let’s see, what can happen down the road.

And, the questions of ‘what ifs’ challenges us, just of how it goes about challenging us when confronted with these possibilities. So, I look at paintings a lot, sculptures a lot, to get ideas, I read books, flip through magazines. Sometimes, people think that I’m crazy with my fascination with things, like that towards a rock.

As you can see in my images, I used these four elements a lot: The rocks, water, the sky and windows. And these are symbols I’ve used throughout the images. And if I was to be at the beach and I saw a rock that intrigues me, I’ll start staring at it and take my time to examine it. So any passer-bys who saw me would be thinking, “This guy must be crazy”.

So whenever I passed by anything that interested me, I would stop and start examining carefully, which brought about many attentions from the passer-bys (laughs) a crowd of people will start gathering around me. When I start looking at these objects, I actually start seeing images. When I see them, I see Dali’s paintings, who actually painted something like that with the ants moving in and out of it. And I will start speculating, what if it is something else, these are maybe aliens.

So, I started to draw my imaginations on these objects which could possibly be impossible.

(to be continued)

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