Guest blogger for this week Gilles Massot, who will be presenting his solo exhibition “Love Hurts – Tales from the Heartland” at Objectifs Gallery from 23 Oct to 21 Nov, tells us how the idea for his exhibition started:
Having turned 40, my body couldn’t cope any longer with the ballet classes I had followed after coming to Singapore, so I turned to taichi. Much to my surprise, the gentle practice of taichi eventually developed into an interest in kung fu movies. I never was a big fan of action movies, much less fighting movies. However, this newfound interest in martial arts experienced from within led me to see Chinese kung fu movies and TV series with a different eye. I began enjoying them and even found myself hooked on a Taiwanese martial arts drama at one point.
Still, soap operas are soap operas and there can be a very silly side to them. My attention started being drawn to the relation between the subtitles and the images, at times just plain funny, at others poetically surreal, taking on a philosophical dimension when viewed out of context. I started taking photographs of these jarring audio-visual moments, with no clear intention in mind, but knowing that one day I would make something out of them. At some point, my interest even went beyond the realm of historical TV series to tap into contemporary TV dramas, a move that marked a new phase of my sinking into heartland culture. The Taiwanese show 爱 (Ai), or “Love” in English, had been running for quite some time when I began to be hooked on to the twists and turns that the nasty main girl character managed to create from one day to the next. I found myself going home and eager to switch on the TV to know what was going to happen next. And with this, the title song of the series, 我问天, (Wa Meng Ti), or “I ask Heaven” in English, became part of my life.
The decision to turn the song into a rock version came while jamming with my friends from the Artists Village in Pulau Ubin. I felt that the song, overtly cheesy in its original version, had the potential of becoming a real killer if given a different beat. I proposed the idea to Rif who liked it right away. We then talked about it with Ian Woo and Jeremy Sharma who were game for a bit of fun. It didn’t take much convincing to get Urich to agree to the crazy idea: to make a spoof karaoke version of the soap opera song that would turn into a funky rock music video. Because of heavy commitments in our respective artistic careers, the whole process took about two years to complete. But here it is at last to be shared with the public at the time of the 4th Singapore Biennale. While not part of the Biennale proper, it certainly fits the theme: If The World Changed.
Our approach with Urich was to take the formula of karaoke videos and soap operas and push them to their extreme, making it all a big joke in the process. I hope that instead of a work about heartland culture, Love Hurts will be perceived as a contemporary expression springing from the heartland. Beyond the seemingly light-hearted approach though, the work deals with much more serious topics than meets the eye. One of my intentions with Love Hurts is to hint at the idea that cultural identity is a social construct waiting to be transcended in each and every one of us, and with it, the illusion of belonging to a social group based on cultural identification.
The main character is very lonely and the video is filled with untold longing. A few years ago, much of the weight associated with that question of cultural identity was lifted when I realised that I had been, all my life, “a stranger in a strange land” and that coming to Singapore had helped me deal with it because the inner feeling was reflected in the outer social situation. Thus, we present the Tales from the Heartland.
What: Love Hurts – Tales from the Heartland: An exhibition by Gilles Massot
When: 23 Oct to 25 Nov, Mon – Fri 11am – 7pm and Sat 12pm – 6pm
Where: Objectifs Gallery
Love Hurts – Tales from the Heartland is a Parallel Event of the Singapore Biennale 2013 If the World Changed.
About Gilles Massot
Gilles Massot (b. 1955, Aix en Provence, France) studied architecture and photography in Marseille, France, and has been living and working in Singapore since 1981. Through the 1980s, he was involved in a string of seminal arts events in his adopted homeland, including the first editions of the Festival of Arts Fringe and the 1987 Ying Yang Festival. The 1990s saw him travel extensively across Asia, a way of living that resulted in many exhibitions on Asian cultures and cities, as well as an extensive photojournalistic work published in Asia and France.
With the new century, his focus shifted onto academia and research, first with the book “Bintan, phoenix of the Malay Archipelago” published in 2003, followed by an MA-FA completed in 2006, “Valbelle, Myth or Fiction”, tracing the birth of the photographic concept and the ensuing “society of images” in the 18th century. This venture into the fields of history and ethnology had a profound influence on his artistic work, which has since then often dealt with these disciplines while focusing on the photographic medium.This approach eventually led to the merging of his academic and artistic practices in the form of lectures-performances conducted under the alias “Professor Ma”. Based on the idea of “the space between things”, his work aims to establish links between disciplines, people, occurrences and parts of the world. Most representative of this approach was the exhibition Retro Specks Future Pixs, a multimedia installation about the now vanished train track between Singapore and Johor Bahru, presented in Sculpture Square in 2005, and the book by the same title, published in 2007.
In 2007, he was commissioned to create a public artwork at the Buona Vista Station, Circle Line, as part of LTA’s Integrated Art Programme. His work is part of the collection of the Singapore Art Museum and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. He currently teaches at the LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore, and is also a lecturer in photo history at the Nanyang Technological University and a member of the artist collective, The Artists Village.