Nüshu: Echo Chambers
Negotiating one’s expectations of an exhibition with the actual experience of it is common in a time when we are so saturated with images that they often come to stand in for reality itself. Our perceptions are mediated by a surplus of visual information that can keep us one step removed from what lies before us. After viewing the promotional material for Yam Lau’s recent solo show, Nüshu: Echo Chambers, I was expecting to find myself in a room where scrolling text would be projected over floors, walls and any present visitors. Instead, the space I saw in photographs turned out to be virtual, appearing as one of two computer-generated rooms projected on the walls of an otherwise dim, empty gallery. Between loops, as I listened to the ambient hum of the ventilation, I began to wonder where the experience of art takes place. Curiously, this question might also parallel the spatial concerns in Lau’s project.
Lau’s installation is a call and response between two brief, monochrome animations projected at right angles and separated by a translucent screen. Seated on one of two white cubes in the space, I can watch one video and occasionally peer through the nylon-like material to see the other. Each pictures a rotating, spotlit chamber, over which scrolls a 3D script casting layers of moving shadows across its walls and floor. The text, to me, is foreign and indecipherable, as is the language of the two female voices that form the overlaying audio tracks. The voices, one young and one old, echo each other as the animations fade in and out. The only other objects in the gallery are found in an isolated corner, presented as artefacts under a spotlit vitrine — Lau’s photographs from China and current examples of Nüshu script in journals and embroidery.