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Isaac Chong Wai: If we keep crying, we will go blind at Zilberman

May 17–July 30, 2022

Zilberman Istanbul is pleased to present Isaac Chong Wai’s third solo exhibition If we keep crying, we will go blind. in the new venue, Zilberman Selected at Piyalepaşa from May 17 to July 30, 2022. The solo presentation features an entirely new body of work, including a large-scale installation, a two-channel video, a series of silk prints, a lightbox, and a performance. The opening will take place on May 17 at 5pm and the performance Controllable/ Uncontrollable Tears (2022) at 6pm on the same day.

The conceptual, political, and performative qualities of Isaac Chong Wai’s practice are incorporated by an interdisciplinary approach, processing the exigency of societal shifts and global phenomena. His subtle, poetic, and yet critical works infiltrate the systems of meanings, inviting viewers to reexamine his edited representations of the body, powerlessness, violence, collectivism, leaderlessness, and mourning—among other themes.

In response to the transnational grief of our contemporary reality, Chong points at the urgency of collective mourning and scrutinizes the performativity of sorrow. In his previous solo exhibition Leaderless (2021) in Istanbul, Chong envisioned a future without leaders by challenging us to construct a world where centralism lost its validity. In his current exhibition, the artist delves into the death of leaders and the instrumentalized personal feelings of those in mourning, revolving around the topics of controlled emotions, state funerals, and public mourning. If we keep crying, we will go blind., as an advice to prevent us from disregarding what forces us to cry, addresses the hazard of self-blinding when individual expression of grief is politicized.

Chong’s motive to bring public space into the gallery is embodied by his large-scale installation Crying Streetlight (2022) in the heart of the exhibition. The hollow metal street lamps “cry”—as conceptualized by the artist—and evoke the perceptions of emptiness and transparency, referencing the public lights in the squares of the mausoleums in Tiananmen in Beijing, China, and the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, North Korea. Standing as silent witnesses of historical events and public mournings for historical figures such as Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il, and Mao Zedong, the lamps are incapable of weeping for the public or the deceased. Conjuring up a crying street lamp, Chong affixes cable chain necklaces onto the installation in which every delicate ring of the chain resembles a teardrop. As if the chains attempt to hold and trace every single drop of tears that evaporates in time leaving no mark behind, the contours of the “tears” remerge on the structure of the monumental lamps.

In the colossal funerals of totalitarian leaders, numerous people manifested patriotism through the act of mourning: weeping, wailing, screaming, and hitting the ground. Hysterical demonstrations of grievances in the funerals contagiously spread among mourners captured by international media for staging the mythmaking of grief, meticulously narrated by the state. Pondering the fine line between the dramatic and the over-exaggeration in his series of silk prints, Chong drops artificial tears on the faces of the mourners by using retrieved images from the internet. He prints their excessive expressions and the animated-like tears on paper, partially veiled by a floating curtain made of cable chain. The mix of explicit artificial tears and crying faces, being simultaneously personal and impersonal, struggles between the exhaustion of emotional labor and the emotions of the state. Since it is impossible to verify the authenticity of the tears, Chong rather takes an interest in the representations of grief and the rupture among narratives, expressions, and one’s states of mind and titles the work Crying People (2022), instead of “mourning people.”

Reevaluating the historical events and reading them from their unseen sides in the exhibition, the public streetlights and nameless people push their limits to overplay the sorrow that the authorities demand. The trajectory of history alters with emotions, while the undefinable spheres of thoughts and expressions might shift us away from collective blindness.

Zilberman Selected:
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İstiklal Mah. Piyalepaşa Bulvarı No: 32C
Beyoğlu / Istanbul

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