Roll On Roll On

Essay For Jo-ey Tang

I found myself writing poetry to Acadmieplein 1, 24 Nov 2016 - 11 Mar 2017 (2016) by Jo-ey Tang over the months it shared my studio with me. At least I found myself writing about clouds and notes sent into the sky, as I looked at his work, with the studio window as its backdrop. Ever changing. Ever moving.

On the riverbank, we read
Tucking our dresses under our knees
Dissolving yet materializing

Above us,
Reflected in the sequined rippling
Shifting but apparent

One of the nicest things that you can do for someone is to unexpectedly make them tea or coffee. Care is cupped within this gesture. It is a delight when I realise someone has thought of me. I think of this when looking at Jo-ey's work because it is next to where coffee and tea is made. Every time a drink prepared there is a little dance around it. Like the dance one does when negotiating the footpath with a stranger. Both go to the right or go to the left. Eventually, one stops so other can continue on their way.

They float low and bright
grazing our shoulders as apparitions
shifting yet seeming

I had been writing repetitive lines, but Jo-ey's work is not a repetitive work. Made out of guitar strings, Acadmieplein 1, 24 Nov 2016 - 11 Mar 2017 hangs from one nail in the ceiling and just grazes the floor. It is different with every interaction due to its slight movements caused by the body’s interaction. It is not like clouds as I originally wrote, but it does elegantly unfold itself in space, each string carries its own weight as well as its companion. It does not strain. It floats.

Whether like veins branching
Under translucent skin that are
Changing yet appearing

Holding up one’s companion is about trust and risk, but I don’t mean to say that the strings trust each other, but I have to trust that the material will hold itself together. Is this what I have learned about not knowing so far when standing next to Jo-ey’s work?

The lines that make up
The form of your hand that are
Changing and appearing

Acadmieplein 1, 24 Nov 2016 - 11 Mar 2017 is fully present even when it seems to disappear. Every time Jo-ey's artwork is shown it takes its name from the address and date of the exhibition. It merges with the room not mimicking but becoming part of it, hence its name. and it is not a lonely artwork, it is one of solitude. I think in the way that Svetlana Boym describes friendship: ‘[w]ith friends, one can take part in multiple dialogues and share solitudes. Arendt wrote that solitude is different from loneliness because in solitude we are in dialogue with ourselves and with the world, while loneliness makes us isolated and tongue-tied’[1]. Can I say that the strings are in dialogue with each other, holding each other’s weight, while in dialogue with me, and those that come to visit? Sharing a space together, in solitude.

[1] Svetlana Boym, ‘Scenography of Friendship’ in Cabinet Magazine, vol. 36, 2009/10. Accessed on August 3, 2016: