Reflections on "Instant In-between": Fairy Lake

"We have a conventional definition of time, and time, to a large extent, seems appropriate. However, in reality, nobody knows what time really is, and no one will ever know." — Jed McKenna

I perceive the "Fairy Lake" series as an extension of "Sky Blue," but it is more playful and challenges various elements—hide and seek, counting, reflections in the lake, tree trunks against the background—while tightly revolving around the theme of "time"—different tempos, repetition, loss, and reversal.

Firstly, there is the asynchrony of time. In the real scene and the reflection on the lake surface, the time it takes for the little girl to run out from behind the tree is different. We naturally interpret it as the time in the lake's reflection being slower. But this concept has a blind spot: what is the standard time? Why is the time in the reflection considered incorrect? Is it possible that the reflection's time is the real time, and the time in the real scene is actually faster? What defines the correct time?

Next is the repetition of time. This artwork, like "Sky Blue," cleverly uses sound as a subtle inducement. The sound of the little girl counting suggests a linear progression of time. We may assume that she is circling the tree while counting, but careful observation reveals that the video is continuously replaying. The sound creates an illusion of time moving forward. This echoes the carousel imagery in "Carousel Waltz."

Then comes the loss of time. The little girl lies on the tree trunk counting, and suddenly, the sound disappears, and she stops moving. However, the leaves around her continue to sway with the wind, as if time inexplicably detaches or disappears only from the girl until her voice and the swaying of her skirt are "returned" just before she finishes counting.

This is intriguing and makes me think of the concept of "sleep." We assume that time continues during our sleep, but this is ultimately a hypothesis that cannot be proven because, during sleep, we are unaware of anything. It might be similar to "The Truman Show" or "Night at the Museum," where actors take a break, or books and lotus heads start talking.

Lastly, there is the reversal of time. Despite the seemingly random counting by the little girl, we still assume that the time in the video is progressing linearly. However, halfway through her counting, the video starts to rewind. The ripples that were expanding outward now unnaturally contract, as if time in the video is symmetric, which is quite fascinating.

This "Fairy Lake" series challenges our "linear perception" of time, the basic preconception we have about time always moving forward like the hands of a watch, perfectly sequential without any errors, indicating the phenomena of sunrise and sunset, the gradual decay of molding fruits, and even human life—birth, aging, illness, and death. But is it really like that?

Is the so-called linearity of time only valid as a conceptual construct? Is the past and future an absolute reality, or do they only exist in our consciousness?

I have an interesting friend who once had a thought: Maybe I was implanted with memories about my past by extraterrestrials just a second ago, so before that second, I wasn't who I am now. Or, similar to the proposal by Nick Bostrom, a philosophy professor at Oxford, in his paper "Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?"—we might actually be living hundreds of years in the future, experiencing the daily life of someone in 2015 through a computer simulation without being aware of it.

Anita Moorjani, in "Dying to Be Me," mentioned that during her near-death experience, she observed our world from the afterlife and found that all moments exist individually, seemingly sliced, and linear time does not exist. Every moment of every life from every world coexists simultaneously when viewed from there.

"Dreams" are also evidence that the linear perception of time might be unreliable. Sometimes we feel like we've had a long dream, experiencing several days, but in our so-called real world, only a few seconds might have passed. We argue that the time in the dream must be false. However, whether it's the perception of time in dreams or the perception of the so-called real world, they only exist within our consciousness. How do we prove which one is real and correct?

Note: This series of articles on "Fairy Lake" is based on the solo exhibition "Instant d'Entre" by Chun Yi Chang at the Crane Gallery. The series includes "Carousel Waltz," "Sky Blue," "Fairy Lake," and a conclusion. Below are related links.

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