TREVOR YEUNG: (Cantonese) These works look at the ideas of ‘review’ and ‘move on’. Dealing with one’s emotions is also about reviewing and moving on. To me, these two ideas refer to problems about making art or living life that I will need to resolve.
When I kept fish as a child, I learned that if you didn’t know how an aquarium’s ecosystem worked, the fish would die. You may not know everything about the fish you keep, but you do know that if you did something wrong, the entire tank would die.
Just because you seek to understand a system doesn’t mean you’re trying to control it but rather explore how to thrive in it. Many of my works are about interpersonal relationships. I find it difficult to communicate effectively with people. Some people ask me about my relationship with plants in my work. I often say they are performers. They participate in my creation. With them, I deliver my message.
If the money tree is just placed on the ground, you might not realise the braided trunks are pressing against one another. As the plant looks static, you won’t see the tension within it. But with these strings, the way they intertwine extends and becomes a tension beyond the plant. So, when you look at it, you see that the trees suffer hanging up there. The trees are actually pressing against themselves.
Take the pandemic; it is beyond our control. When you are hung in mid-air, however, you move even when it is as if you almost fall. You don’t really fall. The trees are in this state where they have not yet moved on.
Many artists have created many works about COVID-19. As for me, I experienced the SARS epidemic, and what I found unique about that is that it made us react less drastically this time to COVID. Instead, we thought about ways to handle problems or rather, we looked inward for themes or ideas. The works I made were about our quarantine experiences and the uncertainties we faced in Hong Kong, and that touches on a greater issue. For viewers outside Hong Kong, they might see the changes that are pertinent to their regions. The entire world is actually facing the same problem.
In Red Brighter, there is a billboard playing commercials on a loop, lighting up the whole of Victoria Harbour. It is about a kind of repetitiveness. As we look once again at a billboard playing the same thing, you might feel that the commercial becomes so imprinted on your mind you won’t find it strange anymore.
There are two paths for viewers; one requires you to queue up, and the other one doesn’t. The former leads to a room where two works are Mr Cuddle in a Hotel Room and Wall of a Hamster Cage (Mira Moon). That was like the queue you had at immigration waiting to be quarantined. If you choose not to experience it, you can walk right through it as if you didn’t leave Hong Kong these past few years. Night Mushroom Colon (M+) is actually the best way to reflect as we move on.
I am on my own, yet I am not in solitude. I am just being alone. It is about how you handle being alone and the way you adapt to it. The adapter is a metaphor for how we adapt to a space. What I now need to do most, or think my work needs to do the most, is getting its viewers to consider how they perceive their situations or how they deal with their emotions.
Everyone is experiencing all of this repeatedly. It comes down to how much reviewing you can do and how far you can move on. But then maybe you will never move on.
Trevor Yeung’s art excavates the inner logic of human relations. Fascinated by botanic ecology and horticulture, Yeung features carefully staged objects, photographs, animals, and plants in his mixed media works as aesthetic pretexts to address notions of artificial nature. These delicate and ironic arrangements allow him to exert control over other living beings, including plants, animals, as well as his audiences. Yeung often projects emotional and intellectual scenarios onto living substitutes in his work, translating his own social experiences into elaborate fables through which he continues to explore failure and imperfection. By manipulating the rules of the ecosystem, he undermines accepted ways of thinking and builds poignant metaphors for the subtleties within human relationships.
Inspired by his experience of travelling across borders during the height of the pandemic, Yeung made The Queue, which, together with four other works, recreates the isolation and anxiety of quarantine. This presentation in the Sigg Prize 2023 exhibition reflects Yeung’s practice of drawing from his own experiences to capture the nuances of human emotions in an ever-changing environment.
- Produced by
Moving Image Studio
Kenji Wong Wai Kin, Angel Ng Wan Yi
- Director of Photography
Lau Tsz Hong, Rex Tse, Ip Yiu Tung Zachary
Lau Tsz Hong, Kenji Wong Wai Kin
- Transcript and Translation
- M+ Video Producer
- M+ Curatorial Research
Isabella Tam, Ariadne Long, Chloe Wong
- M+ Text Editing
Amy Leung, LW Lam
- Special Thanks
Trevor Yeung, Chris Sullivan