The Cartography of Heart Strings (AGO)

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@ AGO First Thursdays, Feb 4, 2016.
Duration: 2 hours
More Photos:
All photos by Kelly Lui

The Cartography of Heart Strings is a durational performance in which the artist sings a selection of Cantonese and Mandarin pop songs, all of which are themed around the melodrama or sentimentalism of love and relationship, to homemade karaoke videos created for each song. English translation of the Chinese lyrics is embedded in the music videos as karaoke-style running subtitles. Translation was done by the artist line by line with consideration of comprehensibility, cultural differences, poetics, and the number of syllables in the original version. Despite of meticulousness in dealing with the languages, the meanings of the songs can still very much be lost in translation.

Karaoke is something that one lives as a teenager in Hong Kong. The 24/7 nature and private room setting means it sets the scene for all kinds of memories – meeting someone, dating someone, crushing on someone, breaking up with someone. The performance resonates with the artist’s sleepless nights caused by feeling of displacement, loneliness, confusion, and grief. The piece invites the audience to witness a cathartic obsession and to participate in an act of performing dysfunctioning through taking part in the karaoke singing. Linguistic gaps will be filled by failed attempts to perfect the singing of each song in the colonial language of English.

Like in many karaoke videos, the semiotics of the visual might not seem to coordinate with the semantic content of the lyrics. The piece invites audience to make connections between the content and the moving image in order to peek through the artist’s personal history situated within a wider sociopolitical context of growing up in British-Hong Kong and witnessing and experiencing the handover of the city to China.

Photo: Kelly Lui
Video: Henry Heng Lu & Erin Howley
Tech: Chuck Yachun Li
Make up: Wy-j Kou
Hair: Paddy Leung
Tremendous thanks to Bojana Stancic and Johnson Ngo at the Art Gallery of Ontario for their input and support.