Multi-media artist Ho Tzu Nyen’s latest solo show PYTHAGORAS at Michael Janssen Gallery in Gillman Barracks is a compelling hodgepodge of video art, installation and music. He tells us about the inspiration behind the show.
How did you come up with the name?
Pythagoras was supposedly the first philosopher, but he was also the founder of a religion, where the disciples had to listen to their master's teachings from behind a screen or a veil of curtains so that one was able to focus entirely on just the voice without any visual distraction. This was the starting point, or the organizational principle for this exhibition.
How was it conceptualized?
The show is essentially built around four works. The first is a 2009 piece called “NEWTON” (named after the scientist), the second is a six-minute fragment which I extracted from my 2009 work called “EARTH”, and which I renamed MILTON (after the poet of Paradise Lost). The third is a 2013 piece called “GOULD” (after the pianist), and the fourth is the new video work made for this exhibition, called “PYTHAGORAS”, which involves the projection of curtains onto a set of automated curtains. Then I worked on creating a system which allows me to show all four works in a single space, choreographed in such a way that they resonate and react with one another.
Tell us more about the video piece.
I find curtains to be highly fascinating objects. They are screens that veil but are, at the same time, screens for the projection of desires. They make known the presence of wind, passing through openings and cracks. But I'm also obsessed with the voice—voices in the head, voices hidden behind veils, disembodied voices, voices of authority and trickery.
What fascinates you as an artist?
I'm interested in sensations that can't be named.