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"SOFT WHISPERS OF THE CITY", 2020


Project Link: https://www.instagram.com/kayleigh.goh/ “Soft Whispers of the City” is a series of five parts painting installations created through urban wanderings and engagements with three sites around Melbourne city.

Curated into an online Instagram exhibition, the online show invites audiences to wander their personal journey through the Instagram map and excavate glimpses of small findings hidden within experiences of the city. Each series of paintings/installations/photographs is derived from short reflective internal monologues in response to the different sites. Short Monologue “Counting Rocks one Step at a Time”

Rock, Soil, Clay, Ceramic, Cement, Volcanic Ash, Slate, Coral Skeleton, Eggshell… The wonders in the smallest matters, together forming the greatest skeleton and structures. Strolling around, running about throughout the city. Built-up, tore down. Experimenting with the approach of becoming-city, becoming-sites, becoming-objects, the reflective monologues tries to trace the movements of the encountered objects through an attempt to think from their lens. “Counting Rocks one Step at a Time” started a new research through the simple act of following what are ‘rocks’. These works study the formations and properties of rocks, including cement ‘man-made rock’. With knowledge tracing, the project has allowed further findings in contribution of cement to the environment protection; that they are used in support of the growth in coral restoration projects . The research has allowed discoveries in different ways of looking at the material, while still recognising its negative impacts to the environment. Answering to the call of affirmative ethics, in “reworking the negativity and pain in the pursuit and actualisation of positive relations.”


Short Monologue “Gestures around the River"

Follow the river when you are lost in the forest, It will lead a way.

Follow the river when you are lost in the city, it will too lead a way.

Plants and Petals fall, when I remember this life,

“The wind, town, and flowers, we all dance one unity.” Through another following trail, “Gestures around the River” looks at the fallen leaves and petals around the river. Further research into the materials has led to a discovery of the term Bio-chrome, biological pigment. The term describes the natural colour pigments in plants and animals, and further studies have shown that these pigments in plants have an intimate relationship with animals. For an instance, the colour of the floral petals can communicate to the bee of its nectar availability in them. With this, the bio-chrome either invites the bees to help pollinate the flower or hint them to search for the next flower. The research has uncovered another understanding of plant and animal relationship through a post-anthropocentric wandering.

Short Monologue “Take a Deep Breath”

“I was reminded of that horizon the first time I saw the islands of the Seto Inland Sea from the train linking Okayama and Takamatsu; that rather than dividing up the world, the ocean forms a loose connection between adjacent landscapes.” - Miyanaga Aiko (Artist)

The ocean lines take you home, from Melbourne to Johor-Singapore. Following the river reaching upon the port. If we recollect, we understand the known fact that the blue is of the reflection of the sky. How to become-water? I think about Braidotti’s becoming-others at the same time together with Lao Tzu’s Taosim idea of becoming-water’. To be flexible, adaptable, still, open to change.


The series of paintings attempt to become-water. Formed by multiple individual smaller units of paintings, they are interchangeable, flexible to be re-arranged in different installation arrangements. Made of mirrors and lens, they reflect the physical surroundings, like how water reflects the sky, merging together with the sites. Blurring boundaries in the notion of what is a painting, can fluid groups of assemblages (instead of a rectangular framed canvas) be still seen as a "painting"? These paintings turns into water, shaping into different forms as they meet different vessels (installation spaces).


Short Monologue “The Night Waves”

Shiba Kokan 1796 - Hokusai 1830 - Van Gogh 1889 - Hiroshi Sugimoto 2017

“…we hardly realise how fast we will grow old…

Whether life is long or short, there is always an end.

The future generations will look upon us, just like we look upon our past…”

- 兰亭序 LanTingXu Chinese Poem excerpt

Beyond each wave, each horizon could be a psychological time-space portal, allowing us to meet the same eyes that have once looked at the same waves. Eyes of Shiba Kokan, Hokusai, Van Gogh, or eyes of our multiple younger selves, each time we look at the waves. Location and time easily become fluid in face of bodies of water. As when “Take a Deep Breathe” triggers imagery of fluidity in location, “The Night Waves” reflected imagery that paints the fluidity of time. The role of the landscape that has inspired writings, reflections, artistic representations of them has created ‘time portals’. Portals that allow us to reimagine how humans relationships with the landscapes change through time differently, how each individual living in different times and places have seen the same natural phenomena differently or similarly.


Posthumanist New Materialist thinking then extends this fluidity into considering water’s relationship and connection with our body. “Water extends embodiment in time – body, to body, to body. Water in this sense is facilitative and directed towards the becoming of other bodies. Our own embodiment, as already noted, is never really autonomous. Nor is it autochthonous, nor autopoietic: we require other bodies of other waters (that in turn require other bodies and other waters) to bathe us into being.” That water flows in and out through different bodies, passing through time. Perhaps part of us, is part of another past body and will be part of a future body, deeply connected.

Short Monologue “Looking through the Window”

And now, Breathe and Pause.

The whispers continue to dance. Ending the journey, returning home. The light shines through the window like messengers, continuously bringing those whispers back into the room when we weren’t allowed to wander around with the city lock-down. A temporary pause in the wandering journey. In becoming-light with Artist Rei Naito, “Light envelops us with grace, coming from nowhere, showering upon us unconditionally.” That the world has showered human bodies with so much care, how can we in return protect these natural forces collectively?

In exploring the concept of psychogeography, “Soft Whispers of the City” is a series of artistic mapping, listening, observations, investigations, and reflections, looking into different sites around the city. Engaging city as a post-human flâneur, the wandering process seeks to engage the environment in learning with the environment, listening to their voices, with an attempt to escape a dominating lens. “Soft Whispers of the City” are series of smaller paintings, assembling into a whole larger painting installation. They are trying to reconsider traditional humanist sense of self and consider a sense of self as becomings and assemblages, self as a subject that “never masters but merely inhabit, always within a community, a pack or an assemblage.” It anthropomorphises the city, seeing it and the material and forces that form the environment as alive. They are moving organisms, the project follows traces of the formations and movements that occurs within and around the sites. Trying at best to understand beyond mere physical attribution of the landscapes. With reciprocal foraging, deeper understanding, acknowledgements are given to the materials, from origins of their sites. With these approaches, the project seeks to further understand the different relationships human have with our physical environments. Hoping that in each different findings, they can encourage us to see ourselves as deeply embedded with and affected by spaces and places, and open up discussions in how we are in connection and co-dependent with our material world. How can we then give a better care of the world? ‘we-are-(all)-in-this-together-but-we-are-not-one-and-the-same’ - Rosi Braidotti

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