ArtAsiaPacific: Nov/Dec 2017
New Currents | Sarah Choo Jing by Piers Masterson
The potential drama of a couple in a hotel room is enacted in Sarah Choo Jing's latest video, Wear You All Night (2017). Filmed like a slick commercial, the work shows a man and a woman preparing for a night out in an upmarket city hotel. A discordant soundtrack crackles and pops with gunfire and the moody film-noir-style setting builds tension. However, despite their yearning looks, the silent pair never occupy the same space. The drama is created only from revealing details of a hotel room in split frames.
Surveillance and the idea of artist-as-voyeur are potent topics for the Singapore artist. In one of Choo's earliest multi-channel video works, The Hidden Dimension (2013), viewers are allowed access to the Choo family apartment, where they observe several generations of relatives in composite scenes. Despite their proximity, each family member is isolated and engaged in a private act. Positioned as the invisible onlooker in these scenes, the viewer feels uneasy and intrusive, fearful of being caught. During her Master's degree at the Slade School of Art in London, Choo inverted the position of onlooker, and explored the spectacle of the city as subject. This resulted in Nowhere Near (2016), a video where the city, seen through Choo's eyes, is shown as a stage and all the figures glimpsed through doorways and windows are rehearsing. Themes of city-as-theater and practiced ritual are also present in Art of the Rehearsal (2016), which was commissioned by the National Museum of Singapore last year and is now showing in Palazzo Bembo Venice until late-November. In this work, multicultural performers act in a fantastical, fictional backstreet in Singapore.
In a way similar to how performers warm up for theater, the man and woman in Wear You All Night are seen preparing for their roles as a couple. As they gaze into their respective mirrors, there is a recognition of the strangeness of gender psychology and conformity against the backdrop of the familiar anonymity of a hotel interior. The violence suggested by the soundtrack alludes to the illusion of the polished civility of the Singapore hotel environment, reminding us that the room reflects the repressed desires of the city.