Tate – Descent Essay

In this essay, I will be exploring a couple of artists and their artwork which was exhibited at The Tate Gallery (Located in Southbank), which related to the theme of ‘descent’ in which we were originally exploring during the first week of rotation week here at Ravensbourne. 

When visiting the gallery, there were various pieces which I thought were very interesting. There were a list however which we had to focus on, and out of the many that were displayed, the exhibition that stood out to me most was, ‘A Travel Without Visual Experience (2008)’. images of everyday life sightseeing within malaysia.

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(Pak Sheung Chuen: until 18 November 2018 – Display at Tate Modern | Tate . http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/display/performer-and-participant/pak-sheung-chuen) 

This piece was created by the Artist, Pak Sheung Chuen (1997), a photographer who’s known for working around the everyday urban environment, involving subtler interventions. 

The series of ‘A Travel without Visual Experience’ was based within a dark room with no light, and the only way which viewers where able to see the installations was to use a flashlight from our mobile phones. I thought this was a very effective way which would make the audiences focus on the very little details being portrayed within the images. 

The way that he had taken these photos were having his eyes closed, and wearing dark glasses throughout the 5 days that he was there, capturing images without being able to see through the help of his mother and tour guides to express what he was able to capture, using a simple point and shoot camera. He had quoted ‘’During the trip, I was still doing all the sightseeing and took many photos, but instead of seeing, I only used my body to sense and experience my surroundings’’. (Pak Sheung Chuen: until 18 November 2018 – Display at Tate Modern | Tate . http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/display/performer-and-participant/pak-sheung-chuen) 

I think it’s a way of allowing us to gather the same sense and emotions as he was feeling when taking the photos, unaware of what the photos will look like once it is revealed as he takes them unknowingly of where he is or what it is that he is taking.

My immediate reaction was that it was beautiful, and I was incredibly amazed by how organised, true and authentic the photos were. It definitely showed the cultural identity of those living in the area/country. What I loved most about the pieces were the similarities, and the feeling of being ‘home’ when observing the photos, seeing the props which were used in the photos as well as the sceneries, as I am Vietnamese, and our culture is very familiar to Singaporeans and malaysians. 

One of my favourite pieces which Chuen captures was the photo of a family having a meal together around a red table. It felt like pure love and sweetness, and a sense of a relatable feeling. I feel it is a cultural tradition which has been passed down for generations as it is a sign of respectful mannerism to eat dinner around the table with your family, and this is something which I do everyday. Where as within the western country, it is okay for children to take their food up to their rooms and eat whenever they are hungry. As you can see also, the side dishes are placed in the middle of the table; this is so that everyone around the table is able to grab the food to eat with their ‘rice’, another typical food which all asians eat. Noticing also that they are using chopsticks, which again is something which has been passed down for generations, as kids within the asian culture are taught to use them since a very young age, whilst the Westerns would use cutleries like a fork, spoon and knife. Another final thing to notice is the fact that these people within the image are eating by a bowl whilst people within the Western usually eat using a plate, with one whole serving meal. 

Another favourite of mine from the collection is the photo of what looks like a middle aged man standing randomly to the side of the image wearing sun glasses, and a bucket hat with sandals. What I specially liked about this image was the rawness of it being taken without adjusting the perfect angle or lighting with no filter to it which captures the trueness of what the scenary is. If you look at the sky, you see that it is a light hint of blue with mostly clouds and I like that it isn’t pigmented as if it was edited. 


In conclusion, the reason why I had chosen Pak Sheung Chuen series of art is because I thought it was one that related to the theme of descent most. It represented the asian culture as a whole well even though he had only visited malaysia. In the majority of the photos which he had taken, it wasn’t just a still image of people standing in it, but to me there was a story behind it, or a reason as to why an object was there within the photo. It links to descent because its a capturing movement of traditional events, objects and lifestyle which people within Asia continue to carry throughout the years of their lifeline in order to pass it onto the younger generation to come. 


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