WORKS (2019-20)

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Video, 1 Monitor, Color & Audio 07:30

It was a departing gift – the world’s first airport paved with the same material throughout, the innovation which later became the archetype of modern airport design.

It is standard procedure for designers to conduct a wayfinding mock-up, to make sure users can navigate intuitively a highly controlled and complex program. Their ability to transverse is facilitated by design. Their bodies are the loci of productive forces. They are the sites where large-scale organisations of power are linked up, oversimplified and encoded as consumable semiotics and innate cognition. When the future is predetermined and fates are scripted, is it possible to get lost, to break through the structure of a planned route, and escape from the linearity of the trajectory?

Along the landward-to-airward path in a countdown-to-the-future terminal, there are sudden turns into dreamy ruminations. The video is a rhizomatic diagram of backtracking. In mathematics, the method of backtracking is the most elegant among all, surprisingly ‘unintelligent’ – it is plainly, a laborious and recursive trouble-shooting process. Prolonged trials are the essence of success. Carl Friedrich Gauss calls it ‘tatonniren’, which means to feel, to grope, or to fumble around blindly, as one would do in the dark.

The instinctive urge to depart and fall is an exit strategy in the face of the haunting uncertainty of the future, and false promises of flight from the past. To be able to try continuously and backtrack from dead ends, you have to remember your way back. The bodily compass which guides one in wayfinding is not innate but learned, and thus can be unlearned. Semiotics can be undone, internalised and subverted, previously unseen alternatives will then emerge.

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