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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Schaefer

All lives are bound in time

I occasionally apply to juried shows that don’t charge fees to submit. Charging fees is often primarily a money making scheme for the organization and not necessarily beneficial for artists. Also, artists provide thousands of non-artists with jobs, yet more non-artists make more money from art than artists.

Last year I applied to a show in Hong Kong about “identity” that didn’t charge fees. I was drawn to the concept of “identity,” which is an ongoing topic in Continuum Movement, a practice I’ve been doing for almost 20 years. However, the requirements of the show were specifically about identity as it pertains to Hong Kong. Never having been to Hong Kong, I invited Stanley Chow, an artist from Hong Kong to collaborate with me.

The following was our proposal, informed and inspired by Continuum.

“Positioned between cultural and the self, we, (Barbara Schaefer and Stanley Chow), artists residing in different cities, (Hong Kong and New York) have merged forms to experience an expansive way of seeing “identity”. As pertaining to the cultural identity -- and all its subcategories -- of Hong Kong, we have used “place” as the holder of “self” or human forms, disengaged from their roots or usual settings. We inadvertently ask questions as to the purpose of these figures that observe, hover and float through Hong Kong. Are they misplaced? Are they looking for something? Are they looking for a place to fit in within this rapidly growing city? Are they even aware of their surroundings?

All lives are bound in time. When you take a system far from its status quo, you increase the flow of information. We take these figures away from the redundancy of the entrapment of patterns to discover and build coherency. Symbolically, we have removed and displaced figures to increase their possibilities. We invite, capture and feature in these photos, the mystery of a suspended moment.

Identity can be a support or a glue that binds. In terms of fluidity, it is always in flux.”

On a personal level, I once had a physical experience pertaining to identity that still hovers over my consciousness. I was in a Continuum dive on the floor of my loft. Delicious sensations were pouring through my body, awakening feelings of expansiveness and fluidity. I had the sense that if I continued in this trajectory – feeling the sensations and opening wider -- I would become enlightened. Then, a voice quickly spoke up, saying “then how are you going to recognize yourself?” This caused me to continue asking myself questions: “Do you still feel dizzy when you move your head to the right? Do you still feel the little pain in your hip?” And so on. The little discomforts, problems and habitual responses of the body and mind are also how we identify ourselves, no matter if they are unpleasant. They keep us bound in our habitual responses, in our self-limiting, fearful states. The redundancy becomes the entrapment.

On other level, letting Stanley intervene in my work was an attempt to move out of my own self-limiting sense of identity. And to relinquish a bit of my ego by not claiming sole authorship.

To see more images of this work please visit the "identity" page of my website.

Many thanks for listening.



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