Chooc Ly Tan

French born, London based artist Chooc Ly Tan works in text, video, performance, installation and sculpture; exuberantly crashing into, pulling at, and bouncing off notions of scientific truth in a way that feels intentionally slippery. Her work delights in throwing around enormous scientific questions and idiosyncratically investigating new technologies, without ever arriving at a concrete answer…as you would expect from a relatively recent Goldsmiths MFA graduate, any solid realities she investigates melt into air.


In the feverishly paced video piece New Materials in the Readingof the World (2011) Tan revels in quasi-scientific pronouncements, her distinctively accented voiceover optimistically introducing us to the manifesto of the fictive ‘Oublist’ movement. On the screen flash a rapid succession of erratically edited found images (graphs; a lion with 3D glasses; skydivers in mid air…) and film clips, backed by a synth/electronica soundtrack. This feels like a 21st century answer to Dadaist Alfred Jarry and his pataphysics movement at the dawn of the last century, similarly beguiling in its energy and enthusiasm and exulting in some seriously grandiose hyperbole.

I first saw the piece installed as part of her MFA degree show in 2011 (it was later shown in a slightly different form at Transmission in Glasgow), along with a mixed media installation comprising breeze blocks, spanners, projectors and broken glass; all linked by lengths of wool to create something resembling a 3D drawing. Emails dated 2165 that are apparently from one researcher to another, enquiring about an ‘Oublist structure’ were pasted around the space, adding to the intriguing narrative in the video piece.

Her 2012 show at the Carlos-Ishikawa gallery – It Depends Mostly On the Slant Of Interplanetary Magnetic Field Lines, pushed into similar terrain. This time she used semi-obsolete technologies to create her post-Andre sight lines; the innards of VHS and audio cassettes stretched from pieces of plexiglass to music stands, and tiny figurines on a miniature island in a vitrine filled with water.

Tan’s bewitching fascination with the limits of science’s ability to answer the most mind bending questions of all has actually led to some ‘serious’ collaborations – ones that seem to be throwing her more and more into the path of ‘proper’ scientists. The 2012 group show Beyond Ourselves placed one of her playful sculptures in the midst of a space that is about as loaded with the history of scientific discovery as it is possible to get. The show highlighted the similarities as well as the differences between scientific and artistic process and enquiry – Tan’s Problems (2012) consisted of a pile of papers with scribbled and typed scientific research and mathematical equations which was stopped mid fall, confounding and humourously prodding at the certainty of the earth’s gravitational pull. She has also just completed a residency in Cambridge University’s computer science laboratory in which she was invited to experiment with the possibilities of Raspberry Pi technology, as well as recently organising her own events whose speakers included artists, electronic musicians and a quantum physicist.

Tan’s irrepressibly energetic and quirky trajectory seems to be a gravity-defying upward one…. keep your eyes on the skies.

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