“Play & Loop II” Nira Pereg at Blindspot Gallery (Hong Kong)

July 13, 2020

Play & Loop II | Week 3: Daily Phobia | Patty Chang, Nira Pereg

The human psyche abides by the law of fear. Fear is a bodily function, very much like hunger or sexual arousal. It is engrained deeply into our reptilian brain through ancient evolutionary biology, directing creatures from potentially harmful encounters. For our ancestors, being fearful means survival, being fearless meant death. Nowadays, humanity has endured countless talk therapy sessions and mindfulness apps to alleviate debilitating anxieties and dysfunctional phobias. However, on a structural level, society continues to rule our beings through fear – the fear of rejection and loneliness regulates normative social relations, the fear of death and the unknown regiments our spiritual and religious practices, the fear of punishment underlies our adherence to laws old and new, be they unreasonable or brutal. Week 3 of Play and Loop II, themed “Daily Phobia”, features Patty Chang’s Milk Debt Hong Kong 8 Jun 2019 (2019), and Nira Pereg’s 67 bows (2006) and and Melancholy (2009), to enumerate the many fears which become the new normal.

Patty Chang’s Milk Debt Hong Kong 8 Jun 2019 is a video documenting a public performance in Tai Kwun, Hong Kong. The artist collected lists of fears from different individuals in the local community, which are turned into a script and read by a performer who is pumping her breast milk. These fears take many forms and levels, ranging from relational insecurities and private terrors, to systemic oppression and collective trauma. The work is a psychoanalytic exercise in vocalizing the fear we share, yet do not recognize or discuss every day, that which is universal and bound us all in a cycle of inevitable suffering. An essential Chinese Buddhist concept underlies Milk Debt, a dualism that governs filial relationality and reciprocity. On one hand, one is forever indebted to one’s mother for being fed her breast milk, and on the other hand, motherhood is a repayment for debt from unresolved karma in the past. Perhaps the greatest fear is the fear of entanglement, of an irrevocable and ever deepening kinship with a chaotic world.

Unlike Chang’s stream-of-consciousness invocation of endless human fears, the two selected works of Nira Pereg’s create repetitive moments of neurosis and phobias seemingly devoid of human presence. 67 bows captures a scene of flamingos wintering indoor, where the artist manipulated the movements of the animals with games and overlaid a provocative soundtrack imitating gunshots. The resultant illusion is one where the herd of flamingos collectively anticipates and reacts to an imagined threat, such as the sound of a gun loading, even though shots have not been fired. and Melancholy depicts a first-person perspective of someone repeatedly jumping off buildings in Tel-Aviv, autobiographical places where the artist has lived. Acrophobia, basophobia and vertigo, these fears are valid because we all must fall to the law of gravity. Like the Nietzschean acrobat or the Kierkegaardian believer, to overcome is to take a leap of faith.

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