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Pleasure Dome and Trinity Square Video are pleased to present the Canadian premiere of Ho Tzu Nyen’s multi-channel theatrical installation The Cloud of Unknowing (2011, 28 min.) following its critically acclaimed run at the 2011 Venice Biennial. The Cloud of Unknowing is titled after a fourteenth century mystical treatise on faith, where the cloud paradoxically acts as a metaphor for both an impediment to, and reconciliation with, the unknown or the divine experience.
Shot in a decaying block of vacated apartments in the remote outskirts of Singapore, The Cloud of Unknowing is fittingly flooded with ghostly presences. Ethereal clouds infiltrate and invade the homes of the eight characters, culminating in hysterical confrontations with inscrutable specters. Each vignette is based on characters drawn from Western European artworks by such artists as Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Francisco de Zurbarán, Antonio da Correggio, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, and René Magritte, as well as the Eastern landscapes of Mi Fu and Wen Zhengming.
This blending of cultural, historical, and philosophical references is prevalent in Nyen’s practice as he speaks to the predicament of representing and interpreting contemporary art discourse through a Southeast Asian lens—more specifically from Singapore-based perspective (where he was born in 1976). Through this incorporation of Eastern and Western cultural, historical, and philosophical references, The Cloud of Unknowing collapses binaries through vaporous reinterpretation and integration of cultural narratives.
Drawing from historical events, documentary footage, art history, music videos, and mythical stories, Ho Tzu Nyen’s films and installations investigate the construction of history, the narrative of myth, and the plurality of identities. Nyen often collaborates with theater professionals, and the lighting in his films is meticulously orchestrated, the compositions highly aesthetic. Ho also practices painting, performance, and writing, exploring the many possible relationships between stills, painted images, and moving images. His first feature film, HERE, premiered at the 41st Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009. He has exhibited widely, including at the Bienal de São Paulo (2004), the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (2005), the Singapore Biennale (2006), the Dojima River Biennale (2009), and the Singapore Pavilion of the Venice Biennale (2011).
The Cloud of Unknowing , Ho Tzu Nyen