Suki Chan: Interval II
10 October – 22 December 2008
Suki Chan’s film premiere Interval II explores our transient relationship with our built environment through symbolic periods in history. Chan juxtaposes two contrasting types of architecture that mediate our relationship with our surroundings from a cast-iron pier in Northwest England to a roundhouse in Southwest China. Chan uses time-lapse to accentuate the transitory movement of light over the structures, highlighting their physical form within the altered landscape. Shifting from micro to macro, she investigates traces of human presence within the buildings, as well as the social and cultural shifts within the respective societies.
An icon of industrialization, cast iron piers are reminiscent of the Victorian era and its grand vision for the advancement of humanity through science and technology. Boldly stretching out over the sea towards the horizon, the structure brings us closer towards the elements of nature, as well as being a site of cultural activity. During the 20th century, travel by rail was increasingly more accessible for the working class, bringing them to the seaside and the popular destination of the pier. Today, many of the piers have fallen into disrepair and a new community has taken refuge – thousands of starlings return to roost at the end of each day, marking their arrival with mesmerizing swarming formations in the sky.
The roundhouses designed and built to protect its inhabitants from the elements of nature were historically inhabited by the migrant community of Hakkas or otherwise known as “guest people”. The round fortress-like form made from rammed-earth is a result of the blending of the Hakka culture, local building materials and techniques. The form of this traditional dwelling articulates a collective spirit and an aspiration for security of the community. The round shape maximizes interior space whilst ensuring an equal split between the occupants, usually several generations of a large extended family. As China modernizes many members of the family move away from these vernacular dwellings to the city in search of new opportunities.
The built environment is organized in terms of our binary perceptions of space, inside and outside, physical and psychological, sacred and profane, culture and nature. Buildings are the remains of human endeavors to mark and change the wider environment. They remind us of our fundamental need to create refuges, as well as our desire for progress.