⟨ Art ⟩

The Whispere’s Product Catalog

Prototype by Martin Cheung

Words / Phaedrus Lam
Translation / Fanny Chan

「如果這真的是一個商品型錄,它會是哪個品牌的型錄?」

「這問題也太難了,讓我再想一下。」

“If this is really a product catalog, which brand’s catalog will it be?”

“This is such a difficult question. Let me think about it.”

五年前我們也約在上環訪問,從他在墨爾本留學時創作,現為美國「針孔資源中心」藏品的〈duckcam melbourne〉聊起,一直聊到針孔相機的「被動性」,以及針孔相機與人類記憶的共性等;話題總圍繞在針孔相機上打轉。

這次我們又約在上環,地點在他即將要辦展的Fab cafe。誠然對於一個十餘年來,只專注在推廣和鑽研針孔相機,多年來鮮有攝影作品發佈的藝術家來說,這時候突然隆重發佈一輯攝影作品、一場展覽,是多麼不尋常的一件事。

Martin and I met in Sheung Wan five years ago. I can still recall our discussion at that time revolved around pinhole cameras; we talked about his work Duck Cam – Melbourne that was created during his college years and was later on collected by Pinhole Resource in the United States, and we also discussed the “passivity” of pinhole cameras, as well as the common characteristics between pinhole cameras and human memory.

Five years later, we met in Sheung Wan once again. This time at the FabCafe where his next exhibition is going to be held. For an artist who has been focusing on promoting pinhole cameras and has rarely released any work in the past ten years, it is quite an unusual move for Martin to suddenly release a series of his new work, and not to mention to hold an actual exhibition.

《原型》是這次展覽的題目,一行十二幅的人像作品,當中展出九張實物大小的人物,在咖啡室淨白的空間內,就宛如有九個人、九雙眼晴挨在牆上,直盯盯地看著每個來客。而每幀照片上,每個模特兒的造型各異,乾淨平實的光線和構圖,使作品更像是一本商品型錄。

Martin說這次展覽的,其實是一個「抗疫的眾生相」,而環視每個模特兒均戴上口罩,有些甚至配備眼罩和保護衣,說是「抗疫」主題自不為奇,只是仔細察看後,卻會發現更多玄機,例如有模特型刻意把手收攏在背後,彷彿雙手被綑縛;又有模特兒全身宛如潛水裝扮,嘴勺花朵往天空游動;另外就還有一個女模特兒,突兀地赤著雙腳。

「如果這真的是商品型錄,我想到那可以是Maison Martin Margiela,或者是Alexander Wang。我欣賞這些帶有解構主義思維的品牌,把一個主題解構後再加以重構,似乎對應得到這次的作品。」他沉思良久後,終於這樣回答到。

The new series by Martin, Prototype, includes twelve portraits of models in varied attires. Among which, nine of them are showcased in the FabCafe exhibition in actual life-size. Stepping into that perfect white space of the FabCafe, it is as if nine pairs of eyes are staring at you. The simple lighting and natural composition create images that are similar to those in a product catalog.

According to Martin, this series of works aims to show how HKers are dealing with the pandemic, thus it is no surprise to see the models wearing masks, goggles and even protective clothing. However, if you look closely, you will see that there is a lot more being conveyed; you can see a model who deliberately put his hands behind his back as if he is being tied, there is one who is dressed in a diving suit with a flower in her mouth gesturing to swim in the sky, and there is also a female model who is baring her feet .

After a considerably long pause, he finally came up with an answer to my initial question, “If this is really a product catalog, I think it would be Maison Martin Margiela’s, or Alexander Wang’s. I admire these brands, the ones that carry a deconstructive notion. The idea of deconstructing a subject and then reconstructing it seems to echo my own work.”

回到這輯作品檯面上的主題《原型》,在展覽文案中Martin是這樣寫到的——「原型,在工業生產的角度上⋯⋯(省略),多數用素色製作,在正式生產前作評估測試的可行性樣辦。」

而對應在現實,描繪的是抗疲下,或者某種對抗下香港人的眾生相,那所謂被測試的可行性的樣辦,不就是「香港人」本身?「我是旨在探討各種裝扮在香港當下生活的可能性,也為新香港的藍本作引子。」文案中又這樣寫道,當中的「新」字可堪玩味,有太多重的詮釋空間。

經歷這一年多的蹉跎,城市的背境音樂從喧鬧到沉寂,而對於本身就不愛說破的藝術家,作品到底是更張狂,抑或更內斂;要更符合日常,抑或要突顯非日常;到底是向前,抑或後退,都是不易解答的難題。

“In industrial production, a prototype…… often in plain color, is a sample of a product made before the full production to test the manufacturing feasibility,” Martin wrote in the exhibition statement.

In the time of pandemic, or in a time when we need to steel ourselves against confrontation, we are put to the test to see if we can survive against the odds; aren’t HKers a prototype in that respect? Martin further explained in the statement, “I want to find out if people can live a life in the present Hong Kong wearing those clothes and costumes. That could act as inspiration in building a new Hong Kong.” The word “new” can be used to represent multiple meanings allowing a lot of room for interpretation.

After a year of turmoil, the city has gone from noisy to quiet. For an artist who embraces ambiguity, it is going to be a tough call to decide on whether to create a work that is forthright or subtle, more in line with the mundane or highlight the extraordinary, or, a work that is advanced or off the pace.