In Time

Chang Chun-Yi、Chang Kai-Chun Group Exhibition

When you jump on top of a moving train, you land on a different spot. But when you jump inside a moving train, you land on the same spot.

A Pale View of Hills starts on the moving train—quite literally. By the entrance of the exhibit, Chang Chun-Yi’s work is projected on the screen of a darkened room. “Châtelet II” is one of the first video pieces Chang made in Paris. It is a grid of trains. There are nine squares, each a video of a different Parisian metro station. You wait, and you see the trains come and go from the frame, linking together at times as if they were one and breaking off again. It is in the wake of this stopping and going, the passing of time, that you enter the main exhibit.

Once you step inside the doors, it is like stepping into a time capsule. We are inside the train now. The whole room is lit up—almost blindingly bright. On its four white walls, Chang Kai-Chun’s works reflect, refract, and capture the light. Time seems to stop in this room. The kaleidoscopic rainbows, spots of color blended together, are all reminiscent of a specific moment in time: the colors behind your eyes when you squeeze them shut after staring at the glaring lights of a screen; the filtered sunlight through your fingertips as you try to catch dust particles in the air; or a memory you can only remember through a certain emotion. It is a difficult task, to translate the formless into a form. Yet Chang does this masterfully. His acrylic paintings capture light in various ways—seen through glass, on an iPad screen, as rainbow specks, or unfocused and geometrical. Light slices through Chang’s work with sharp clarity, as if the original source itself had shattered into all its different forms on the walls.

As you wander deeper into the exhibit, you’ll start to hear a little girl counting. She counts, but not consecutively—at times skipping numbers and at times pausing. Her voice is layered—sometimes two will speak at a time, sometimes none. Following the mesmerizing sound, you enter a dark room. Four projections encircle you on three walls. They are part of Chang Chun-Yi’s series titled “Mare Aux Fées” (Fairy’s Lake), the last work she made in France.

It is a game of hide-and-seek. A little girl in a red dress is circling a large tree, surrounded by forestry. A sparkling lake that reflects her image rests by her feet. She stops to face the tree and counts, “eighty-seven, ninety-seven, twenty-seven…” Each of these videos is of the same scene, but shot at different angles—behind the trees, across the water. You are the hider, peeking at her. Each video is also edited so that one certain aspect is highlighted. One video delays the reflection in the water, making the girl on land always one step ahead of her reflection. Another video freezes the frame only on the girl, while her surroundings continue to move. The effect of these layers—video, and sound—is hypnotizing. It surrounds you, makes you listen close, and entices you to observe every detail. It loops in a never-ending cycle and the longer you stand in it, the more it feels like déjà vu. What is real and what is just a trick of the eye?

The question of reality is central to A Pale View of Hills, a novel by Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro and the exhibition’s title. The novel explores the relationship between memory and time through the experiences of a Japanese woman who immigrated to England. Her grief and guilt translate into her memories, leaving the reader unsure of what really happened and what was just a figment of her imagination. Memory is subjective and often unreliable, especially with time. It is also formless, like light. It is a specific moment in time that stands alone, separate from the linearity of our life. Yet it moves, dances, and morphs. At times it feels elongated, like the little girl, counting forever. At times it is frozen, like the specks of light suspended in the air. At times it is circular, like how Chang Chun Yi’s first work starts the exhibit and her last ends it. We can feel like we’re flying backward or landing on the same spot. But in the end, we’re all still on the moving train, chugging forward.

Judy Chiu is a rising junior at Columbia University studying East Asian Language and Cultures. She was a contributing journalist for Naive Magazine, which is based in Barcelona. Her articles focus on fashion and culture, with a focus on East Asia. She is currently based in Taipei.