Taking inspiration from her everyday surroundings, Nicole Wong conceived this exhibition as one that pokes fun at failure’s comical face. The humor and futility of failed attempts may not manifest themselves in the beginning but could eventually dawn on the person in hindsight. This resembles the structure of a comedy as these unintended after-thoughts often overthrow the original failure. Speaking about After Nothing Happens, Wong notes, “I want the exhibition to work as a deadpan joke – one that is not funny enough but still manages to make people laugh because it fails at making people laugh.”
Among the exhibited works, Etudes (2019–20) is a series of musical scores in which the notes are transcribed from recordings of piano practice sessions. Inspired by the sound of her neighbor’s piano lessons, Wong aims to redefine what failure means to different people, revealing the dark comedy between the differences in perspective. Wong describes her neighbor’s practice as extremely repetitive, with minimal progress, and that it suspends the listener’s expectations indefinitely – yet to the pianist it may be the only way to improve. For Wong, the consistent practice and the player’s unyielding spirit is documented within the mistakes and variations of each musical sheet, mimicking the human spirit of trial and error.
Dark Waters (2020) is a set of bulletin board cases where their original contents are replaced by dark-coloured fabrics whose fluidity and the sheen resemble the surface of dark water. Wong then etches a line of text onto the glass panel of each case, with excerpts ranging from personal memories, myths about water, to unfulfilled prophecies. In doing so, Wong converted the found bulletin boards into milieus of suspense, establishing a visual interplay between form, function, text, and the innate qualities of materials.
Still Fountain (2020) is a freestanding bookshelf where the shelving units are filled with ink. The dark matte metallic finish of the bookshelf blends in with the reflective surface of the ink. From afar viewers will not be able to tell that ink has left the furniture nonfunctional, and only upon close inspection would the viewers be able to realize the subversion of the intended function of a bookshelf.
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