Art Gene, Bath Street, Barrow-in-Furness,
Cumbria, LA14 5TY England, UK
PATHS TO UTOPIA (GAME)
For On Repeat artist Ting-Ting Cheng shared one part of her wider research project Paths to Utopia. This simple interactive game uses left and right arrow keys to navigate a figure towards an island in the middle of the ocean.
Partly inspired by two activists in Bangkok, who swam to parliament from Kiakkai Pier to get around police barricades during the anti government protests in November 2020, Ting-Ting considers the potential of swimming as a process for social movement.
Through researching phantom and fictional islands, Ting-Ting is interested in how the concept of islands exists in our collective imagination; and how they have come to represent desire and idealism. With adjectives such as isolated, tropical, excotic, mysterious, and unknown often being used to describe them, islands are seen as both dangerous and alluring.
Paths to Utopia brings the concepts of islands and utopia together to question how the notion of a perfect world exists within our collective consciousness. The term utopia was first coined in a novel by Thomas More to describe a fictional island, and the association has continued, with islands being seen as spaces that we can project our hopes and visions of the future onto.
This tendency often positions islands as a blank slate for the imagination, reflecting a Western-centric colonial narrative where existing structures are manipulated, rejected, or destroyed. As islands have a clear boundary, or outline, marking where utopia happens and where it doesn’t, the body of water that surrounds it is outside of these ideals, representing existing society and the status quo.
Given that utopia by definition is non-existent, the island similarly becomes elusive. In her research, Ting-Ting proposes to redefine the concept of utopia, translating it from a noun to an action. So if utopia is an island we can never reach, then we are constantly swimming towards it.
Paths to Utopia was developed through an online residency with Jim Thompson Art Center and Hong Gah Museum in 2020-21. Ting-Ting also created: a large world map that reimagines continents with phantom islands that represent different versions of utopia across different eras; and a single-channel video that combines found footage of a boat approaching the island, Koh Phi Phi Leh in Thailand with audio from the movie “The Beach” by Danny Boyle.
Find out more about the whole Paths to Utopia project here, or watch Ting-Ting present her research, in conversation with Vipash Phurichanont, here. Paths to Utopia (Game) was created with technician Fabio Sayegh.
We shared elements from this exhibition, and the rest of our programme across our digital platforms. To get a sense of the live programme check out our highlights on Instagram.
Ting-Ting Cheng is an artist from Taiwan, graduated from MFA Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, London. She likes to reinterpret archival and found materials to construct narratives in the current context.
She has exhibited in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Spain, UK, and more, including a solo exhibition at Taipei Fine Art Museum; group shows at Jim Thompson Art Center (Bangkok), Daegu Art Factory, Hong-Gah Museum (Taipei), Künstlerhaus (Vienna), ISE Cultural Foundation (New York), National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art, and National Art Museum of China.
She was the resident artist at Iniva (London), CFCCA (Manchester), Zero Station (HCMC), MMCA (Seoul), to name a few.
Cumbria, LA14 5TY England, UK
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