Let’s start with the centerpiece, If Only The Cloud Knows (2005–18), which is also the title of your show. What is this project about and how did it begin?The main reason is to discuss digital media and our reliance on external memory. I’ve had a growing feeling that I’ve uploaded my memories to the cloud. When I browse the photos and texts on my phone, the whole momentum of a certain moment is recreated. Since I lose my phones and computers quite often, I have found a lot of missing files on the cloud, as if “only the cloud knows.”
I started to wonder how it compares to our parents’ generation; when they look at old photos, do they feel such strong flashbacks? Some of the earliest research on photography was about physicality, about weight. A piece of photo paper was light enough, but now a digital image literally weighs nothing, except the storage space it takes up.
How do you conceive of the relationship between tangible and digital materials?
It’s the screens. The gesture of printing a photograph on paper still embodies a sense of ritual. But nowadays, we look at screens, work on screens, and daily events all happen on screens. This erases the boundaries between physical life and virtual life, and therefore increases our reliance on external memory, which partially explains why a digital image can recall a past moment so vividly.
The website is designed to look like a bedroom from a voyeur’s perspective, and the homepage says “Welcome to the Glass Room,” like it might be referring to a hotel with glass walls. The on-site installation also recreates the room; viewers need to peek through a sheer layer of curtain to see the work. Why this setting?
When I was a kid, my bedroom was next to the living room, and my parents took down half of the wall and replaced it with a big glass pane so that they could watch me 24/7. It was literally a “glass room.” I am used to being watched and I always know that somebody is watching me. This concept was realized thanks to Dre Romero, the web designer, and Prodit, the web developer.
There is a concept in philosophy, “non-place,” meaning a space where everyone is in transit and loses their identity. I think every place could be a non-place—an airport, restaurant, bar, and now Airbnb, which promotes a homogenized aesthetic across the world like Ikea. Once, I went to a city for the first time and received an email from my Airbnb host that said, “Welcome Home.” It was too absurd.
Do you think your website is a non-place too?
Now that I think about it, I think it is! Yes, it’s a place that you can enter and exit anytime, anywhere, and remain anonymous. It’s not permanent though. It will close when the show is over but will reopen again when there’s a chance—until everything is deleted. Then the performance part of this project will be over and it will turn into another installation.
Your work has a fragile spontaneity. It strikes me that you are willing to put yourself in such a vulnerable position, allowing people to intrude into your private domain.
I didn’t intentionally do that, but thinking back, I might have been influenced by artists like Yoko Ono or Marina Abramović. Also, I want a restart in my life. Growing up as a gamer, I wanted to bring the delete-and-restart system from games to real life. But I have to admit that I never dared to look at people deleting my photos or messages except once.
On my website, you must leave a message before deleting anything. Eventually I want to use these messages to make a new installation. To continue the feeling of peeking into someone’s privacy, I want to recreate the bedroom setting where those messages cover up the entire wall.