Kem Zeg Fen Seg: An Exhibition of Visual Thinking of Material Life

Chan Kai-yin, Dave Hung Keung, Charmaine Leung Chu-mei, Ng Hoi-chi, Kith Tsang Tak-ping, Miranda Tsui Ngai, Fiona Wong Lai-ching, Verele Vorstman

Feb 19 – Mar 14, 1999

Reconstructing the design of a home, creativity, living and the visual experience.

This exhibition is the idea of a group of designers and artists - it has the aim of both depicting people's living styles within the home and to use very common household objects.  

"Kem zeg fen seg" is a Cantonese saying which literally means 'no money to buy a quilt, so use a bamboo mat; no money to buy a pillow, so sleep on a rock'." Para/Site Art Space has been set up to resemble the layout of a typical home and decorating the rooms of this home (living room, toilet, kitchen etc.) are objects that have been 'reconstructed' and used in a form that is different from their original purpose. Each object has changed its appearance so its 'commonness' will be newly interpreted within this new context - even the aesthetics of each object will be reassessed.  

The Living Room
Chan Kai-yin has painted a pool of water on the floor between two sofas and there are speech bubbles representing conversations spoken in the living room by its inhabitants. Located on the wall are three window frames - in each window is (ironically) another window frame with the sky painted on it.  Hung Keung has constructed lamps without light-bulbs; however, each lamp is lit by light from the adjacent video. The image on the TV is created by visitors to the exhibition being filmed by a camera. Hung's work combines aspects of the normal functions of a television, mirror and lamp.  

An exhibition wall for the exhibition artists' to display their favourite objects has replaced the usual setting (found in most living rooms) of a stereo system or television in front of a sofa.  

So, this fictional space not only creates a 'dialogue' between the different objects in the living room but it also maintains the functions of the living room (e.g. for conversations, entertainment etc.).  

The Kitchen
The kitchen is usually a place for food preparation that contains many utensils - however, our kitchen has become a place for storing different sized jars containing oil and folded plastic bags. Kith Tsang was inspired to do this work after noticing that his family's Filipino maid folded plastic bags to save space in his family's small kitchen - she has, thus, creatively transformed a common household object.  

The pragmatic kitchen is generally not considered an exciting room in a home -  however, in this exhibition it becomes a fictional space for a private collection.  

The Bathroom
Fiona Wong has constructed a shower, bath, toilet and basin - she imitates the appearance of a bathroom, but she tries to change the function of each object from the observer's viewpoint. The bathroom becomes imaginary by using familiar objects in an unfamiliar setting: for example, in her bathroom the shower-head is made from lotus which is then attached to a steel tube; and, the bath is constructed by using a big wok.  

The Toilet 
Footprints on the platform depict the position in which a man should stand when urinating. The habitual routine associated with the toilet can be seen as a type of measurement or ruler - an example of the mundane daily activities undertaken in our lives.  

The Bedroom 
Miranda Tsui and Charmaine Leung are both fashion designers.  They have transformed the upstairs exhibition area into a very private space for a clothes collection.  Underwear and socks hang and block the way of viewers when they try to pass through to the most intimate space in a house - the bed.  This bed has been constructed by Kith Tsang. The wooden boards (which were traditionally the base for Chinese beds) used to be the height measuring board for his daughter as she grew taller.  But they have again become a bed.  The intimacy between the bed and the human body in shown by the dual functions of the wooden boards being used as a bed and as measuring item used while a child is growing.  

There are shark bones in the square - representing personal experiences of both Kith Tsang and Charmaine Leung.  They have both suffered from severe backache. Leung's X-ray of her back-bone is displayed in the light box on the wall - turning a personal experience into a picture on the bedroom wall.  The bedroom's design is directly related to the artists' personal experiences. Chan's speech bubbles appear again - on the ceiling.  They represent the whispers between two people in bed and the clouds are their dreams. The bedroom is the one space where sleeping and dreaming both occur - activities that happen in both a real and imaginary life. 

The subtitle: 'an exhibition of the visual thinking of material life' has inspired the exhibition artists to rethink the role of materialism in Hong Kong.  The simulated home and daily objects of this exhibition can be an extra-ordinary visual experience for the viewer.  It is different from our normal response to our daily life: the 'living' experience and creativity combine in this exhibition while all the depicted objects have been juxtaposed, allocated and simulated by the artist.  

There is no difference between the concepts of 'design' and 'creation' when an object can have both its own function and also an aesthetic value as a visual experience for the viewer.   

"Kem Zeg Fen Seg" is a Cantonese saying which literally means "no maney to buy a quilt, so use a bamboo mat; no money to buy a pillow, so sleep on a rock". Para/Site Art Space wat set up to resemble the layout of a typical home with living room, toilet, ketchen, and decorated with objects that were "reconstructed". Reinterpretations of the aesthetics of each object presented a rethinking of that which is taken for granted.