《重见》premiered as the final work in the artist's solo exhibition Path. 6, Unpacking my Library 。书城，commissioned by the Esplanade, Singapore's largest arts centre.
重见 is Chinese for “re-seeing” and also a Chinese homonym for “re-building”.
I invited my father and my daughter to join me in making 《重见》. My father read excerpts of “The Iron Man” (a book from my daughter's library) to me at Bras Basah Complex. My daughter and I excavated three books from cement blocks at the same spot where the work is being shown.*
*The original plan was to have the three of us in the same space. That was to happen during gallery set-up, and the performance documented on video, to be projected in the same place that it was shot. The work was modified as my father was unable to be present in Singapore on the scheduled filming dates.
"How many cities have revealed themselves to me in the marches I undertook in the pursuit of books!" - Walter Benjamin, Unpacking my Library
The first part of the exhibition title Path. 6, Unpacking My Library 。书城 is drawn from Walter Benjamin’s essay of the same name. Benjamin wrote in praise of collectors’ adoration of books. Bookending the title is 书城, Chinese for “City of Books”, and also the nickname of Bras Basah Complex in Singapore. The exhibition is a result of Widjaja’s reconsideration of his personal library through the gaze of Benjamin’s “collector”. Every book contains more than one story – that of the authored text written on its pages, and those embedded within the personal memories triggered by the book… memories of the whiff of freshly-printed books, the familiar grounds of a beloved bookstore, or, for the artist, the memory of childhood visits to the “City of Books” with his father.
From the age of nine, the artist lived apart from his parents, sent to another country to escape ethnic tensions in his hometown. Air travel was very expensive then, and the artist’s father visited his children in Singapore once or twice a year, staying for a week each time. As the artist’s father loved books, the family would spend their time together in bookstores. The physical separation between child and father was bridged in the City of Books. Yet, towards the end of the week, the same place also became the family’s parting grounds. Thus, Widjaja’s memory of the City of Books is complicated and emotional. Like airports, the City of Books contains both reunions and separations. The place signals ARR/DEP. In reconsidering his personal library, the artist has realised that embedded in his books, regardless of genre and content, is this latent memory of the problematic City of Books.
In Path., Widjaja seeks to build a (hopeful) future through the recasting of the past. The exhibition starts with three books taken from libraries across three generations - the artist’s, his father’s and his daughter’s. The books, randomly selected, are studied. Comparing them, we see similar motifs and themes, such as steel, displacement, acceptance in a new place, emerge. Drawing out these connections is a way for Widjaja to transform these formerly isolated, personal libraries into shared ones, before bringing them into the community. The exhibition presents the outcome of Widjaja’s investigation into his library in its material, aural, spatial and temporal dimensions. Through the process of making the works, and the “liveness” of the public events, the artist dismantles and reconstructs his memory of the City of Books, a memory deeply lodged in his library. The artist looks to a rebuilt library, containing books with the promise of new stories.
Commissioned by the Esplanade
2014 Path. 6, Unpacking my Library 。 书城, Jendela Visual Arts Space, Esplanade, Singapore (solo exhibition)
2015 Boedi Widjaja. "Paths of Memory, Identity, and Belonging" Singapore Insights from the Inside Vol II Ed. Richard Hartung. Singapore International Foundation, 2015.116-119. Print.
2014 Trent Davis. Chat: Boedi Widjaja. juice magazine. 28 Nov 2014. Web.
2014 Mark Leong. Retracing Paths. catalog magazine. 26 Nov 2014. Web.
2014 Think Big Case Study - Bridging Distance Bridging Generations. Canon. 24 Nov 2014. Web.
2014 Pooja Makhijani. Path. 6, Unpacking my Library . 书城 by Boedi Widjaja. notabilia. 7 Nov 2014. Web.