The Theory of Five Elements or Wu Xing (Chinese: 五行) is a fivefold conceptual scheme that deals with the interactions and relationships between phenomena.
These five elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water, and each denotes an aspect of a dynamic process accordingly. Now imagine this as a cosmic agent of change rather than a mnemonic to describe natural substances. For instance, Water represents contemplation, calmness and a period of retreat, where stillness and storage pervades.
This doctrine delineates that material things in the material realm consist of a single or a combination of the Five Elements that transmutes into a sort of governing structure of every facet of life—from medicine, music, martial arts and military strategy.
Atl-Aequus Blueprint: A Solo Exhibition by Chong Yan Chuah charts out an immersive experience that brings these elements and the idealistic (or otherwise, depending on your stance) visions of the metaverse era in perfect alchemy.
The exhibition explores the depths of his inner subconscious and conscious workings, nudging the audience to sail through a dream-like state through video-based installations, physical artefacts and computational artworks. And sail I did.
I think it’s neat that the gallery attendant handed paper talismans to guests as they were about to enter the exhibition. She had later explained that it ought to ward off malicious spirits for those who dare to embark on a journey into the dark crevices of the artists' dreamscape.
It’s hard to miss this sprawling, red altar cloth on the floor. Here lie Chong Yan’s initial rough sketches that helped materialise the world of Atl-Aequus—which is deeply influenced by his Buddhist-Taoist upbringing—into what it is today.
Chong Yan considers these used electronic devices of his as somewhat a gauge of his work in progress and a cheeky testament to his multifaceted creative identity. And now I’m toying with the idea of covering my old phone and laptop with cryptic doodles.
Since I had the floor all to myself, I took the time to bask in this enormous display of 3D bodies on top of 3D bodies on top of 3D bodies... you get the idea. For some reason, the projected images kinda remind me of HBO’s Westworld, and I guess it’s not too far-fetched for me to draw parallels between them—both of these carry real existential weight.
What will happen to humanity in the future not so far away from now, when we finally reach the intersection where physical becomes digital, and reality unravels into something unreal?
Trust me when I say that I really wanted to climb the ladder to take a closer look at the piece up top, but fearing that I might fall down and injure my spine due to clumsiness, I settled with zooming in and out using my phone’s camera.
I did, however, examine the set of hyper-stylized iPhone emojis called Our Futur3 Skin. There’s something to be said here about social media’s obsession with highly curated online identities, which then becomes the root cause of having a distorted view of self-perceived identity. But I think it’s best if you swing by and ponder on this by yourself.
Atl-Aequus Blueprint: A Solo Exhibition by Chong Yan Chuah runs from 24 June to 24 July at aants.world, PJ. You can also catch his interactive piece, Atl-Aequus and the Five Phases happening now till 23 October at Ilham Gallery, KL.