Ng Tsz-Kwan: Off-duty Gods
Exploring a contemporary Chinese tradition of relocating old religious statues to street corners, Ng Tsz-Kwan asks questions about abandonment, rituals, and objects. For the symposium, Ng builds an installation at Northing, reflecting on collective worship points spontaneously created in public spaces, and runs a series of workshops and individual performances, investigating how we deal with outdated beliefs, ideas, and ceremonies.
Opening of the installation: 9 November 19:00.
Installation opening hours: 10–20 November 12:00-17:00.
Individual storytelling sessions: Six spots available – 11-13 November, 10:00 and 11:00. To sign up for an individual session, email email@example.com.
Behind this project is a tradition that exists today in China, which can be called “Off-duty Gods”. Everyone has religious sculptures in their homes, and when for some reason statues are not needed anymore, people choose to bring them outside to street corners, instead of discarding them. These corners thus turn into new constantly growing worship places, as more and more people put down their statues or stop by for a prayer there. The more people join this action, the more it eases their feeling of guilt for discarding a god. At the same time, being moved out from their houses, the gods no longer carry the duty of taking care of homes and families and can spend their time simply enjoying being gods.
Drawing on the Tibetan tradition Kagyu (“Whispered transfer”), which – believing that writing down any story or idea necessarily distorts it – only allows oral knowledge transfer, Ng invites senior citizens of Bergen to a workshop on storytelling. With verbal and nonverbal exercises and practices, the participants will reflect on ideas of ritual, abandonment, and sacral objects and select their own stories about old myths and beliefs to be shared with the public in one-on-one storytelling sessions during 11-13 November. With these intimate meetings we wish to grasp and experience a fragile, fluid and complex moment of the oral knowledge transfer, that according to the Kagyu-school preserves the truth of a story and places the responsibility to keep and carry it further with a listener.
The project is organised by BEK – Bergen senter for elektronisk kunst, and Northing.
Ng Tsz-Kwan is a multimedia artist using video, interactive design and performance to explore the reflective possibilities of a poetics of language, while drafting critical narratives about modern Chinese society. His projects are often realised as immersive, multisensory installations based on decontextualised, fragmented images and motifs. Ng holds a MA in fine art from the The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. In 2006, he co-founded multimedia design company Yucolab. His works have been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, such as Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, Sheung Wan Civic Centre in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Palace Museum and others.
THE ONLY LASTING TRUTH IS CHANGE
The Only Lasting Truth is Change is an expanded symposium investigating current and future configurations of art, technology, nature and power, and taking place in Bergen and online 9-13 November 2022. The detailed programme will be announced on 12 October at www.bek.no.
The symposium is organised by BEK with support from Norsk kulturråd, Fritt Ord, Bergen kommune and Royal Norwegian Embassy in Beijing, and in cooperation with Northing, Hordaland kunstsenter, Ekko, Østre, Nuts And Bolts, and Entrée. Graphic design by Vera Gomes.
Photos: Ng Tsz-Kwan.