Enoch Cheng

Hong Kong based artist Enoch Cheng takes key archetypes within South African mythology to re-imagine new connections in the broader context of our world. 

The Story
is in the Air

Artist: Enoch Cheng
Curator: UNDERLINE projects

Where is the starting point when telling a person’s story? What constructs one’s identity? Considering South Africa to be a place for creating new stories, this project merges some of the archetypes – such as the first skull being found in South Africa’s cradle of humankind; and the reintroduction of the Quagga, the extinct zebra – as models with which to create new myths. The focus of this approach for artist Enoch Cheng is to take South Africa as a point of departure and re-imagine new connections in the context of our world. Following on from his film installation trilogy and lecture performances which linked his grandfather’s migration history from Hong Kong to South Africa on a container boat in 1960s, to the larger context of the natural history of other lifeforms, this project will continue to use film as its medium, with the addition of textile and performance.

Considering the long tradition of African fabrics as a form of storytelling and expression using colours, patterns, motifs, and icons, here they serve as part of the projection screen for a film. The fabrics are carefully selected and collaged with different materials, acting as part of a new canvas, hence becoming a surface of story-depiction. Combined with the ephemeral aspect of the moving images which are projected on them, the form of the story varies from time to time, allowing for a non-linear temporality and the contemplation of the unstable nature of ‘story’ itself.

Furthermore, in the commercial context of the UNDERLINE show, this project further opens up the process of a transaction as a method of exchange. Apart from the monetary exchange, this project asks the collector to contribute their stories as material for the artist to create new stories in the future. In this process of transaction, the collector is not only a consumer, but an interlocutor with the artist in order to inspire the new artworks. It is also a way to permit the telling of a story to not rest in a singular version, but to continue as a plurality for accumulation and further elaboration. While keeping one version of the story that he/she has bought, the collector’s story will also be further developed for subsequent collectors. Therefore, such a mode of transaction would create an ecology of art-making, based on the grounds of “passing-on”, as oral-history has been shared in the past through human connections in the hope that it would endure. This project intends to discover various interpretations of story-telling. Apart from only concentrating on narrating fascinating stories, it is also interested in the notion of narratology – ‘how’ a story can be told. By employing various tools — the moving image through projection, collaged fabrics, performative interlocutions — whose characteristics all possess a level of fluidity, this work aims to overlap multiple interdisciplinary mediums to conjure different readings in the formation of one’s identity. The purpose is to question how we can understand our stories, and through these, envision the possible futures for our world.

Enoch Cheng is an independent artist. His practice spans moving image, installation, curating, dance, events, theatre, and performance. Concerned with the everyday subtleties in contemporary urban lives, his works explore recurrent themes of place, travel, fiction, memory, time, migration and extinction. His recent film installation trilogy on mythology, different species in nature, and identity, which has been shown in France, Germany, Hong Kong and USA, has been developed into a performance and was recently presented at the Taipei Arts Festival. He received his MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, London, and BA in English Literature and Art History at the University of Hong Kong. He has also lectured at Hong Kong Art School. He is the recipient of the Award for Young Artist at the Hong Kong Arts Development Awards. He was an artist fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, and artist-in-residence at Zagreb Center for Independent Culture and Youth in Zagreb; Cité internationale des arts in Paris; and Stiftung Insel Hombroich in Neuss.