2012. Digital print on rice paper, 6.5 x 0.6m. Coding by Jacky Boen
In He Zhi Chu (“at the river’s beginning” in romanised Chinese), the artist works with digital technology as a myth-making apparatus, and reveals the long line drawn from the mythical diagram Yellow River Map to the foundation of computational technology - binary notation.
The Yellow River Map is a numerological diagram of lines and dots, symbols of the cosmos, and emerging alongside the beginning of Chinese civilisation through the first mythical Chinese Emperor Fu Xi. The 64 hexagrams from the I Ching, one of Chinese oldest classics (Zhou Dynasty, 1046 - 256 BCE) with an unusual influence over major branches of knowledge including Taoism and Confucianism, were believed to have been generated from the Yellow River Map’s diagrammatic elements. And when father of binary notation Gottfried Liebniz (1646 - 1716) saw the 64 hexagrams, he interpreted them as binary numbering of geometric progression, and a validation of his theory of a universal mathematical language that reveals the presence of the Divine Maker. In fact, Liebniz underscored this connection through the full title of his seminal 1703 essay, "Explanation of Binary Arithmetic, which uses only the characters 1 and 0, with some remarks on its usefulness, and on the light it throws on the ancient Chinese figure of Fu Xi"
Made shortly after the artist’s visit to the Yellow River in Yinchuan, West China, the work consists of 16 varying hollow and filled dots. The dots are arranged randomly using computational algorithm, suggesting an encryption process. Conceived as infinitely scalable, the implication is of a work whose full entity can never be completed, nor can it ever be grasped in full view. Its presence as a print and as space take place alternatingly, and at once. The artist, part of the Chinese diaspora, is following a long line of the Chinese tradition of deriving diagrams from earlier sources. As he contemplates his cultural heritage, he is drawn to the geographic origin of the Yellow River Map and its mythic, coded abstract form - akin to his gaze of contemporary China. Operating in between reading and sensing, coding and writing, He Zhi Chu emerged as a way to inscribe new formal and spatial meanings.
2018 Rivers and lakes, Tanah dan air, ShanghART Singapore (solo exhibition)
2012 Sungai, Sejarah, 河流, 历史, 源, YRAC S-base, Singapore (solo exhibition)