Aspex Portsmouth

☰pa●○pa☴, Rae-Yen Song

☰pa●○pa☴ is Rae-Yen Song’s first solo presentation of work in the south of England and features an installation bringing together existing and new artworks.

Through sound, drawing, sculpture, costume, moving image and family collaboration, the exhibition focuses on the artist’s father, shining a light on a life that has resisted colonial realities and found an alternative way of being through paths of Eastern spiritualism, science fiction, video gaming, and 1970s psychedelia. ☰pa●○pa☴ reimagines the artist’s father as a new character: a voyager from Song’s multiverse; a shape-shifting figure – part avatar, part deity – inspired by Taoist notions of continuous change.

The exhibition features a new moving image work created in collaboration with Song’s father, using volumetric video filmed at the University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Creative and Immersive Extended Realities (CCIXR). Developed further through gaming technologies, it depicts the artist’s father practising his Tai Chi routine, wearing a costume and mask made by Song. These garments are multi-functional, serving as both robes and armour. They simultaneously imply performance and anonymity, exposure and refuge – and are exhibited here as sanctified relics. The moving image is presented as a view through a portal – a transportative opening which we can see but through which we cannot pass, tethered to this reality by four sculptural guardians.

These works are accompanied and illustrated by a series of new drawings, influenced by ancient Buddhist manuscripts, Yokai Manga, and illustrations from Dante’s Divine Comedy. The drawings reference 五行 (wǔxíng) – the five phases in Taoist philosophy, with its five elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. They are presented as five separate images – but could coalesce at any time to form a flowing circular whole, reminding us of the fundamental interconnectedness and fluidity of all things.

Finally, in a new sound work, the voice of the artist’s father is woven together with Song’s own vocal strains; a sonic meditation in which the distinct frequencies of different generations reverberate together to both witness and effect the passage of time. The sound work dances with the video, but also extends outwards, enveloping the exhibition space, weaving together its various elements, and vibrating through the viewer to nurture a fleeting, unified oneness.

pa●○pa☴ is free to visit. Aspex Portsmouth is open Wednesday – Sunday, 11am-4pm.

This exhibition is supported by the Henry Moore Foundation.

The press release can be downloaded here


About the artist:

Rae-Yen Song (b. 1993, Scotland, based in Glasgow) works expansively across mediums, including drawing, sculpture, installation, costume, video, sound, performance, and family collaboration. Song’s work explores self-mythologising as a survival tactic: using fantasy and fabulation to establish a richly visual world-building practice informed by autobiography, ancestral journeys, Taoist philosophy, family ritual, multi-species interdependency, and science fiction. For Song, world-building becomes a tool for imaginative self-definition, with familial logics becoming the foundations of an alternative reality untethered from linear conceptions of space and time. It allows Song to resist colonial tropes and conventions, crafting multidimensional personal records and offerings for the future. These narratives yield a mix of humour, empathy and absurdity, whilst speaking broadly and politically about foreignness, identity, survival and what it means to belong ― or not.

Recent exhibitions and projects include: Let the Song Hold Us, FACT Liverpool (2022); Meet me at the threshold, Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh (2022); Aggregate 2022, Freelands Foundation, London (2022); WORMB, Quench Gallery, Margate (2022); ▷▥◉▻ at Dundee Contemporary Arts (2021); wūûūwūûū, a LUX Scotland moving image commission for BBC Scotland (2021); Fabric of Society, Glasgow International (2021); ✵may-may songuu✵, esea contemporary, Manchester (2020);, a nascent online archive with videos previously commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival and Hunterian Art Gallery (2020 – ongoing).


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