Fragmented and fleeting glimpses of London at its rawest and most vulnerable

Suki Chan: Sleep Walk Sleep Talk (2011), lightboxes commissioned by Museum of London. Film originated as a commission by FVU, part of FREE TO AIR, a four-year programme funded by London Councils and Arts Council of England.

Suki Chan: Sleep Walk Sleep Talk (2011)

Fragmented and fleeting glimpses of London at its rawest and most vulnerable

03 December 2014

By Pamela Kember

As part of Asia House’s ongoing exhibition series Drifting Dérive, we are pleased to present one of Suki Chan’s beautiful light boxes, which was recently on show at the Museum of London Docklands.

The light box, currently on display in the Asia House Reception, contains a film still taken from her hypnotic video Sleep Walk Sleep Talk (2009), which depicts the urban sprawl of London from dawn to dusk and from places and angles that we rarely spare the time to stop and engage with. The film is shot both in real time (events take place simultaneously with the viewers’ experiences) and in non-real or fast forward time.

Below is a two-minute clip from Suki Chan’s Sleep Walk Sleep Talk:-

Hong Kong-born London-based artist Suki Chan has spoken of her interest in the ideas of the 1960s Japanese Metabolists, a group of city dwellers from Tokyo who perceived the modern city, not in terms of its architectural forms, functions or inhabitants, but as a complex environment where the city beats to different rhythms and no matter what time of day or night it is observed, it always offers up something to contemplate or engage with.

Capturing the transitions that people make between home and work throughout the day and night, Chan too takes part in an observational wandering of her city capturing what she sees without her subjects being aware they are being observed.

She also shows how technology has undoubtedly changed the way we interact with and respond to our urban environment – the ubiquitous yet often unnoticed CCTV, that follows our every movement.

Such a panoptic yet unengaged technological eye as the CCTV camera makes Chan very interested in the notion of the possibility of wandering unhindered and not watched through the city. This enables a raw real-time encounter with people, but only fleetingly, showing how everything changes very fast, and how our relationship with the city can be extremely transient. It is also in those interstitial spaces – the narrow passageways and slithers between buildings – that we encounter the everyday minutiae of movements, regulations, and violations that make city dwelling appear at times to be, for Chan anyway, more about how much we try to overcome nature.

In an interview about her work, she remembers feeling surprised at the rate at which New London Bridge House (where some of the scenes in Sleep Walk Sleep Talk were filmed) was demolished and the process in which it disappeared – one level at a time, seemingly without creating any debris. When a huge building disappears literally without a trace, in a matter of weeks, such a loss changes our relationship to the city in quite a fundamental way, yet often happens unnoticed.

In Paul O’Kane’s review of Chan’s Sleep Walk Sleep Talk video for the art journal Third Text, he sees a film which takes flash points and counterpoints of the city of London, comparing it to Chan’s  roots growing up in Hong Kong and it is perhaps significant that both Hong Kong Second Wave filmmaker Wong Kar-wai and cinematographer Christopher Doyle have spoken of the need to make films extremely quickly in Hong Kong to reflect the fact that it changes and runs at a faster pace than most.

Suki Chan's light box on display in the Asia House Reception

Suki Chan’s light box on display in the Asia House Reception

For more information about Drifting Dérive click here.

Suki Chan is represented by Tintype Gallery, London.