Dr susan pui san lok
Reader in Fine Art
susan pui san lok is an artist, writer, and an editor of the Journal of Visual Culture. Since the 1990s, her exhibition and publication projects have ranged across installation, moving image, sound, performance and text, evolving out of interests in notions of nostalgia and aspiration, place and migration, translation and diaspora.
Projects include Altar Notes (2012), a short play premiered at Hong Kong's Yuen Long Theatre as part of a cycle of nine 'micro-dramas' commissioned and produced between Hong Kong, Beijing and London; Lightness (2012), a multi-channel work commissioned and curated by Film and Video Umbrella and De La Warr Pavilion, funded by the Wellcome Trust; and Citius, Altius (2012), a single-channel video commissioned for the Samsung IOC Olympics Media Art Collection, screened at De La Warr Pavilion and exhibited at the Holden Gallery, Manchester, as part of AND Festival (Abandon Normal Devices). Faster, Higher (2008) was commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and the BFI; DIY Ballroom / Live (2007-8) was a Cornerhouse Bigger Picture national touring commission; and Golden (2005-7) was an exhibition/residency at Beaconsfield, London, and Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester.
She has featured in various group exhibitions including at Café Gallery Projects, SPACE Triangle, Hanmi Gallery and the Hayward Gallery, all in London; regionally in the UK at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, Holden Gallery, Manchester, and the Gallery at Winchester Discovery Centre, Hampshire; and internationally at Shanghai Duolun Moma and 798 Space, Beijing; Gallery 4A and Art Gallery New South Wales, Australia; and SITE Sante Fe, New Mexico.
Publications include three artist books: Faster, Higher (2009), Golden (Notes) (2007), NEWS (2005); a guest-edited issue of Journal of Visual Culture (v6, n3, 2007), on 'Hong Kong, and Other Returns'; a co-edited issue of Journal of Visual Culture (v11, n2, 2012) to mark the 40th Anniversary of John Berger's Ways of Seeing; and various book chapters, articles, visual essays and reviews.
Forthcoming projects include solo exhibitions in Montreal and Seoul (2014).
Lightness was one of four moving image works commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and De La Warr Pavilion for the project, Everything Flows: The Art of Getting in the Zone (De La Warr Pavilion, 1 July – 16 September 2012).
Lightness focuses on the pole vault, as a metaphor for the human urge to defy gravity and reach up and take flight. In competition, athletes must set the bar ever higher, and always feel confident about exceeding their target. Following the double-Olympian British pole-vaulter Kate Dennison over 18 months, as well as young pole-vault hopefuls in the early stages of their careers, Lightness explores the rhythms and psychology of this complex event – its cycles of training and competition, the recycling of past and present to imagine the future. Switching between 3 video screens, the piece follows the nuances of their preparations and motivations, in the same way as its shifting angles and camera-perspectives dissect the mechanics of the vault itself. Meanwhile, 4 audio channels present the perspectives of athletes and coaches, reflecting backwards and forwards over weeks, months, and years. More on Lightness here.
A visual essay produced for the Journal of Visual Culture’s Ways of Seeing 40th Anniversary Issue, v11 n2, edited by Raiford Guins, Juliette Kristensen and susan pui san lok. The issue features contributions from Adrian Rifkin, Ben Highmore, Broomberg and Chanarin, Clive Dinot, Geoffrey Batchen, Griselda Pollock, Guy Julier, Jennifer Gonzalez, Jill Casid, John Berger, John Timberlake, Julian Stallabrass, Juliette Kristensen, Laurie Beth Clark, Lisa Cartwright, Louis Kaplan, Marita Sturken, Martin Jay, Mieke Bal, Peter Lunenfeld, Raiford Guins, Sonia Boyce, Tara Mcpherson, and Tom Overton.
The images are collaged from archival material belonging to film-maker Michael Dibb, who directed the television series, Ways of Seeing (1972), and went on to produce the eponymous book publication in collaboration with John Berger, Sven Blomberg, Chris Fox, and Richard Hollis. View the full essay here.
Faster, Higher (2008) is a multi-screen installation, commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and the BFI to coincide with the Beijing Olympics. The work interweaves archival material with original footage shot near the London 2012 Olympic site. Originally staged at BFI Southbank, London, it was re-staged for Hit the Ground at the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, as part of the 2009 Great North Run Cultural Programme. The exhibition was accompanied by the launch of an eponymous publication, featuring original essays by Adrian Rifkin and Chris Berry. The work was presented again in a solo exhibition at the Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre, to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics. A new version was commissioned in the form of a single-channel edit called Citius, Altius (2012), for the Samsung IOC Olympic Media Art Collection, and screened at De La Warr Pavilion, Spencer House, London, and Holden Gallery, Manchester. More on Faster, Higher here.
DIY Ballroom / Live (2007-2008) was one of four projects commissioned by Cornerhouse, Manchester and BBC Big Screens for the first Bigger Picture National Touring Programme, alongside artists Juneau Projects, Esther Johnson, and Perry Bard.
Comprising a video/audio work and related live participatory events, DIY Ballroom / Live was launched with the Urban Screens Festival in Manchester and presented through a related conference and screening programme, touring to BBC Big Screens in Norwich (_enter, Aurora Festival), Leeds, and Site Gallery, Sheffield. Video/audio material comprising amateur footage of amateur ballroom dancers, coincided with ad hoc gatherings of amateur dancers on the street, the former then alternating with a live camera feed of the latter. A version of DIY Ballroom featured in the exhibition, March 2012, at SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2012. More on DIY Ballroom/Live here.
Golden (2005-07) was a multi-stranded project, comprising a series of works across video, sound, installation, performance and text. Vistas is a video triptych; Songs is an audio triptych; Years is an alternating 2-screen loop; Lessons comprised of an installation and related programme of performances. Featuring exhibitions and a residency at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester and Beaconsfield, London, as well as curated events and a publication, the project sought to explore possibilities for a critical aesthetics and poetics of diaspora, approaching ‘nostalgia’ as a vehicle for negotiating ‘place’ in migration (against the ‘nostalgic’ as a mode of representation). The artist's book Golden (Notes) featured texts and contributions from Rob Stone, Gilane Tawadros, Mimi Lok, Joanne Morra, Sonia Boyce, and Irit Rogoff. More on Golden here.
Mobile Ballroom (2006)
Mobile Ballroom was a flash-mob inspired performance/intervention that took place at the close of Golden (Lessons), an exhibition and research residency at Beaconsfield, London (2006), punctuated by a series of live events. Golden (Lessons) constituted a strand of the umbrella project, Golden.
NEWS / REEL (2005)
NEWS and REEL were developed during an artist’s residency undertaken at the Media Archive for Central England (MACE), in September 2005. The residency was one of three organised as part Necessary Journeys, an Arts Council England programme that took its cue from the bfi’s Black World initiative. Necessary Journeys also saw Keith Piper in residence at Birmingham Central Library’s Photographic Archive, and Jackie Kay at the National Archives of Film and Television. The programme culminated in a symposium and book launch at Tate Modern.
NEWS reproduces around 30 cards from an idiosyncratic manual index system held by MACE, inherited with a body of regional ITV news footage. The selection plays on the ‘A to Z’ classifications of diverse news materials dating from the late 1950s, ranging from the prosaic to the curious, while noting the shifting preoccupations and elisions of the ‘foreign’ or ‘strange’ over three decades.
REEL is a short, alternating audio and video loop based on Central ITV news footage, developed in tandem with NEWS. The piece explores the tele-visual representation and rhetoric of dance as a means of ‘cultural display’, and its repetitions and variations in constructions of ‘identity’ as ‘local’, ‘regional’ or ‘foreign’. Sound and video are separated and looped, accentuating yet resisting the mutual dependence of audio and visual cultural cues in the evocation of an ‘other’ time and place. Audio clips are re-arranged to offer a compressed, chronological, cultural soundtrack, while shots are re-edited to focus on moments of anticipation and distraction, synchronicity and absorption: looks, glances, poses, gestures, leaps and turns that prescribe the spaces and boundaries of ‘cultural performance’ and consumption. Layered upon the archived gazes of filmed audiences and performers are those coming to the archive, belonging to voyeurs of the seemingly archaic, whose easy nostalgia is disrupted by uneasy juxtapositions. More on NEWS / REEL here.