(Original language: Cantonese)
PAK SHEUNG CHUEN: Wandering around the city is like writing poems. When I walk past certain places, I might see a scene and capture it. It’s like finding beautiful words in a poem that can describe the scene. But my work is not poetry. My work is created through intervention, so my actions are like lines in a poem.
Every day I choose a grid on the map and wander around. When I arrived here at Tonkin Street, it was almost night time. When I looked up, I found this building to be an object of its own, standing out. I found myself having a connection to it. The whole thing seems like just one single object when you look at it, but every light represents a household. It was like I was interacting with one family at a time, using lights as signals. When they felt sleepy and wanted to turn in, they flipped the switch and the light went off and they went to sleep. The lights connected me with the daily routines of a group of people.
While I was waiting, a romantic idea came to me, which was to stay up with this group of people until they slowly went to bed. I kept waiting with a kind of anticipation. I’d only leave after everyone had gone to sleep. The interesting thing was that there was one last household; one person who did not turn off the light in their flat. So, in the end, this notion of ‘one’ appeared, and it reflected me, waiting alone on the street. It was a one-on-one situation.
One day, I was in the Kowloon Tong MTR Station. An idea popped into my mind. If I kept waiting here, how long would it take for me to bump into a friend? I started standing here to give it a try. Finally, after around four hours, I bumped into a friend I had spent three years with during university but hadn’t seen for the last two years, after we graduated. We were pretty close back then. His name is Jacky. We took a picture together.
You can imagine the situation when I was waiting. I really had nothing to do during that whole day. I had to set some conditions for myself so that I would find the time I spent meaningful, but I’m still not sure how much of that time actually was meaningful. It felt like I had fulfilled a mission, and the mission offered me meaning. I’d describe it as such: through constant creation, my works are like markings along the timeline of my life. But when a work is finished, it becomes something else. Ten years on, this work has become an important foundation upon which my friend and I developed our friendship. I have built on this foundation to press ahead with my creations.
In this video, Hong Kong artist Tozer Pak Sheung Chuen takes us to the locations documented in his artwork Waiting for a Friend (without Appointment). The piece consists of three performances and a resulting installation.
For each performance, Pak waited in a public space in Hong Kong for a friend to pass by or for something special to happen without planning or prior arrangements. He waited nearly four hours in the Kowloon Tong MTR station for as long as it would take to see someone he knew until a friend happened to walk by. Pak greeted his friend, saying, ‘I’ve been expecting you here for a long time!’
The subject of time is at the centre of Pak’s artistic practice. Early in his career, responding to his mother’s view that he was spending too much time at home, he created projects involving hours on end spent in public spaces. ‘My works are like markings along the timeline of my life. But when a work is finished, it becomes something else. Ten years on, this work [Waiting for a Friend...] has become an important foundation upon which my friend and I developed our friendship,’ reflects Pak.
This approach to art-making is also evident in another performance within the same series. Pak stood in front of a residential high-rise as night fell in an attempt to wait until the lights of all the flats had been switched off. His action concluded in the early hours of the following morning, with one light remaining on.
These performances, documented in photographs, exude warmth and connection, contrasting with the anonymity of city life. Pak draws on inspiration from everyday life, creating thoughtful and playful performances, instructions, and experiments that explore notions of coincidence and uncertainty. Staging a seemingly meaningless situation can trigger multiple connections and meanings while using humour to interrupt daily life’s normality.
The installation concludes with the statement, ‘Time justifies its existence during the course of waiting’.
- Produced by
- M+ Video Production
Chris Sullivan, Jaye Yau, Elaine Wong
- M+ Curatorial Research
Isabella Tam, Ethan Cheng
- M+ Transcript and Closed Captions:
LW Lam, Ellen Oredsson, Amy Leung
- Special Thanks
Pak Sheung Chuen
This video was originally published on M+ Stories. This text draws on Pak Sheung Chuen’s entry written by Chloe Chow in the M+ Collections Highlights book, available from the M+ Shop.