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Waiting Adds Meaning to Time

Speech at the opening ceremony of Making (Perfect) World at the Hong Kong Exhibition of the 53rd Venice Biennale on 4 June 2009

Pak Sheung Chuen


The works here are all related to my personal life or my imagination about life. A part of it deals with my experience of life in Hong Kong, and the other part my experience overseas.


Across from where you are is a horizon brought here from Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour. I first drew a straight line across a map of Victoria Harbour. Going along the line, I filled a bottle with seawater at every 100-metre interval. Each bottle holds the same volume of water. When I placed the bottles of seawater at home, I became the owner of a genuine horizon. It belongs to every Hong Kong person. Over there is the sea and over here are mountains. I picked up stones at various locations in Venice – on the streets, those fallen out of houses, in churches…. I divided the stones into two groups. The group with the bigger stones is slightly heavier than the one with the smaller stones, which is why the latter is suspended in the air. The total weight of the two groups of stones is 63.4kg. I weigh 63.4kg. The title of the work is Half Soul, Half Body. There is the sea and there the mountain. Friends from Hong Kong say that the fengshui here is excellent. This is what my work is like, basically. I wanted to create the most comfortable environment with the least effort, so that I can become one with my surroundings.


If you look at my work very carefully, you should be able to see that I had recorded the date and time of each work with great care. The two large photographs you see just as you walk into the exhibition hall are called Waiting for a Friend. I walked into Kowloon Tong MTR Station one day and stood at one corner of the concourse to wait for a friend – any friend – to appear. I wanted to find out how long it took to wait for a friend. I stood there from 12:47pm to 4:38pm. After four hours of waiting, I finally saw a classmate from university whom I had not seen for two years. I rushed up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. “Hello, Jacky!” I said. “How did you know that I would be here?” he asked. “I didn't know, but I have been waiting here for you for a very, very long time,” I said.


Time was wasted because of the waiting, but time had also acquired meaning because of the waiting. That moment in time is still deeply etched in our memories.


There is an art work here that is related to this very day. The balloons at the back are called Rising and Falling Together. I have tied up twenty balloons together and they all share the same fate: either they go up or come down together. I use this work to remind myself of something that I must not forget. Perhaps some people may have forgotten it or are not even aware of it. Some people want to forget but can't… Today is 4 June, the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Incident.


Message from the Commissioner

The Venice Biennale is undoubtedly the most important event on the international contemporary visual arts calendar. Artists from all over the world bring their artistic creations to the Biennale to showcase their cutting edge style and individual eye for the arts under international limelight. Full Article

Opening Remarks by Mr Louis Yu
Chief Executive, Hong Kong Arts Development Council

Honorable guests and friends of the media,

I am pleased to welcome you all today for joining us and sharing a precious moment with our artist Pak Sheung-chuen and curator Tobias Berger. Full Article