An incoming storm was my reason not to leave the house today. After waking up averse to engaging with the outside world, the lost—forfeited—agency over my day was a comfort. I waited for it to hit, with others, it seemed, given the silent streets. Yet it turned out to be underwhelming, more of a tapering edge; a conveyor belt of cloud followed, with persistent, listless rain. The grey light shifted blue, then black, with the downpours and gusts rising only intermittently after dark. It (whatever “it” was, or is) seemed to temper the desired drama for those who stayed home and stared at their laptop screens.
Weather is a source of and texture to existence, but it is also information, something that builds intelligences and cognisance. Day to day, poor weather seems only inconvenient, perhaps an excuse to stop for a while (something briefly evocative of that novel temporality experienced in lockdown one, when parts of Fung’s work were made). It shifts, however, when thought of in its composite as climate, and all the unseen spaces and times affected. The pervasively banal—almost anachronistic—treatment of weather as phenomena (at least until fairly recently, as it gets more and more extreme in the global north) echoes the frame of climate change as an unfortunate run-off from our socio-economic model rather than actively and maliciously created; its indirectness seems to afford more licence to politically dither and let neoliberalism continue on its destructive path. The space between action and result leaves room for very profitable doubt and, importantly, something rather hard to fully grasp in individual human conception.
It’s with this in mind that the idea of “Climate Change in a Teacup”, one artwork in this show, can be felt as an art piece in stasis (chemicals, clean and crisp monochrome packaging, insulated glass mugs for two) and a darkly loaded joke: the pivot of power and impotence, personal responsibility, and implied actions in making this tea. Much of “God is Meditating: Still” is grounded in a tension of something forthcoming; suggested uses and their likely outcomes mix with a fitting obscurity, given Fung’s use of weather to consider communication, information demarcation and influence of time. There’s no closing the loop in having done what’s asked of you as a viewer in this show, when you have to rhythmically interpret what might be Brownian motion, or flit between considering a risograph as an aesthetic work and/or an alternative kind of gallery map, showing the coding of the space’s sound. The exhibition uses interactivity rather then resolving itself with it, toying with the awkward ways we operate in the gallery when asked to participate. By interacting, you can’t complete the art; there’s no “right” way to do any of this, similar to our own individual place in these wider systems. Rolling a die to then beat out a rhythm of zeroes and ones on wooden sticks according to my own translation, as in “Negotiating Laplace’s Demon”, feels exposing, a little embarrassing; audio equipment around it suggests something is being gathered, responded to, or emitted, not now but for some later purpose. Rumbles come delayed, hard to ascertain as made or as simple coincidence; what purpose does the viewer serve, in lieu of any that are not expected in art?
One trick of existence is holding out of constant view just how much of now is foundational on implicit futures. Looking at the past in order to know what’s forthcoming cements the known and what could or should be (and as a result, possibly controlled). Patterns can be located, disregarded, or entry points to new mechanisms of knowledge; memory can be ever-expanding recursive loops far more valuable than anecdotes or incidental backdrops of human lives. The associated apparatus of prediction has a veneer of banality, of being a necessity and always having been. Meteorological forecasting is so established it feels absolutely benign, not ideological, despite being embedded in the texture of prediction as socio-economic organisation. The mapping of weather enabled travel, domination, cost/benefit decisions made on an enormous scale and risk, and set in course, in the then-future, the logic of speculative financing.
The exhibition is both suggestive to view and fallible in how we treat it; perhaps it can be seen as an esoteric, open “system” in its own right. I can’t figure out how to use the sextant in which I can measure a distance in “The Super-Intelligent Angle”, and I never did see the white vinyl on the white wall that makes up a part of it, yet full experience doesn’t seem to be the point. The fact of not noticing it, in contrast, does. What’s not visible, or conceivable to us according to our own familiarity with the physics, chemistry and meteorology, is where the suggestion lies; and bearing in mind our capacity to know and project into our future is both aided and undermined by the super-intelligence of AI. Relating to it, human-scale, is curious and mystifying. The hand-drawn “Bit” sitting high in a tiny frame is like the fly on the wall, the unit of memory that has the most potency of all, autonomous, knowingly marked “not interactive”. As with so much else, this feels an affront to the binary of its language and logic: simultaneously true and false.
Edy Fung, “God is Meditating: Still”, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast. 15th January-19th February 2022
Dorothy Hunter is an artist and writer based in Belfast.