de Sarthe is pleased to present its second solo exhibition for the Hong Kong-based contemporary artist Mak Ying Tung 2, titled, Home Sweet Home. It is the artist's first solo show in Hong Kong with the gallery. Featuring a new interdisciplinary body of work that spans installation, painting, and video, the exhibition explores the existential spectrum of postmodern human beings, the inconspicuous integration of simulation into reality, and how layered unrealities have come to comprise her home, Hong Kong. Home Sweet Home opens on November 23, 2019 and runs through January 11, 2020.
The appeal of a simulated experience is its ability to operate beyond the boundaries of physical actuality, which enables one to pursue what real-life prevents. From gratifying our fantasies in games to decorating our homes with imagery of an imagined, perfect lifestyle, we are able to mask unfulfilling reality with simulated facades. Mak Ying Tung 2's A More Perfect Sea (2019) comprises a shower curtain and a line of bath mats depicting sand and sea, and a window overlooking a running stream. While the combination of beach, ocean, and palm fronds is the epitome of imagined paradises, the bathroom accessories on which they are printed suggest domesticity and fixture. The intention behind one wanting an ocean-print curtain is obvious —they wish to shower next to the ocean. Yet, the curtain is merely an simulation of the ocean, an association of the ideal that one can project into one's home.
'Home Sweet Home' (2019) is a series of triptychs composed using the popular life simulation game 'The Sims' and materialised by painters on the Chinese e-commerce platform-Taobao. Lacking in specific objectives, 'The Sims' allows players to design their worlds however they find ideal and for the artist, as well as many others, it represents a form of escapism used to circumvent reality. Through its simulated gameplay Mak Ying Tung 2 constructs dream-like home environments using bizarre and nonsensical elements, which the game renders perfect and immaculate nonetheless. However, as her digital home environments are translated into reality via paint and brush, the outcomes become unpredictable owing to interpretive inconsistencies, different skill levels, and varied materials. By enabling external factors to intervene in the actualization of Mak Ying Tung 2's individual vision of home and for the act of painting itself to occur within Mainland China, Home Sweet Home not only elucidate the inevitable disparity between fantasy and reality, they craft a comment on how reality is construed and constructed within Hong Kong.
In the multi-screen installation Fake Laugh (2018-19), Mak invites her friends to feint laughter in front of a camera. Although the laughter is superficial, the irony, sarcastic humour, and intimacy created through the exercise are genuine, and the artist asks: Does the realness, or the lack thereof, of a source affect the authenticity of its effect? Are there things that cannot be faked no matter how hard we try?
Mak's investigation of simulation's capacity for mimesis is continued in the video work Robot Mak 2 (2019), in which the artist simulates herself. Utilising full-body image synthesis technology, Mak superimposes her face onto online footage of robot Sophia, an AI machine designed to act and look as human as possible. By reversing the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence technology, in which AI predominantly poses as the impersonator, the artist raises questions regarding our willingness to be subsumed under alternative forms of being and the value of existing as a robot vis-à-vis a human. She questions whether looking or acting robot-like affords her more 'realness' than being completely human.
In the video installation Out of Body Experience (2018), the artist recaps her experience attending a group exhibition in Los Angeles for free through purchasing witchcraft online that enabled her soul to leave her body. Using metaphysical occurrences as a metaphor, Mak conveys how the global mobility of the Internet accommodates an imagined ease of living in the prevailing conditions of our era. As she ships her soul to Los Angeles via the online network, she overrides the demands of reality and how others expect her to live.
In Home Sweet Home, Mak Ying Tung 2 examines the ways in which simulation is applied in postmodern escapism. In light of rising costs and growing responsibilities, humanity has adapted to face the escalating hardships of being. In lieu of futile negotiations, we settle for satisfying our needs through fabricated substitutes. Yet, to what extent can simulated replacements compensate the void of actuality? In an unrelenting world, does subsisting on hyperreality diminish our existence as living beings? In a city where these questions are common place, how do we cope?
Press release courtesy de Sarthe.