If time could be kept forever – Morgan Wong

(原文刊於 Obscura Magazine 2017 年 6 月 6 日)
Translation / Ian Tsang

藝術家Morgan Wong 決定用畢生時間去把鐵柱磨成針。

如何看見時間的流逝?四季轉移、花開花落、陰晴圓缺。事物的變遷見證時間流逝 ,逝去的時光不可挽 —— 老調卻真實。Morgan 的作品試圖去表達挽回逝去的徒勞。2011 年在赴英國留學前,Morgan 受鐵杵磨針的故事啓發,這成就了他一件畢生的行為創作。詩人李白少時不願讀書,一天蹺課跑到河邊玩耍,看見老婦正在將鐵杵磨成針,李白認為這事不可能,然老婦回答:「功到自然成耳」,用功便可達成。故事談做事要有恆心,而恆心需經時間驗證。

Morgan 買了一支跟自己身高、體重一樣的鐵柱回工作室,

初時不知如何是好,獨對鐵柱,經過兩天的思考沉澱,典故成為了行為創作。Morgan 在一間畫廊內以行為藝術形式,在參觀人士面前把鐵柱磨成針。從公開表演到後來成為了個人修行鍛鍊,Morgan 後來更把過程中產生的鐵粉放進玻璃管中,是一個時間囊,也是藝術家留著逝去時間的一種方式。要將一支跟自己身高體重一樣的鐵柱磨成針,那可能要以畢生時間去完成,甚至窮一生也未能完成。Morgan希望從當中感受時間,雖然明知要挽回逝去的徒勞,鐵粉也不可能復原成鐵柱。

然而逝去是終究逝去的嗎?歷史是一去不返?時間過去是永不復還嗎?

Morgan 作品對時間的思考,讓人想起艾略特的詩歌《四個四重奏》,詩歌是一個超越時間的啟示

現在的時間和過去的時間
也許都存在於未來的時間,
而未來的時間又包容於過去的時間。
假若全部時間永遠存在
全部時間就再也都無法挽回。
過去可能存在的是一種抽象
只是在一個猜測的世界中,
保持著一種恒久的可能性。
過去可能存在和已經存在的
都指向一個始終存在的終點。
足音在記憶中回響
沿著那條我們從未走過的通道
飄向那重我們從未打開的門

- 〈焚燬的諾頓〉/《四個四重奏》

在詩中過去、現在、未來並不是線性,過去可能存在於現在,而未來是過去及現在的總和。臉上歲月的痕跡;被荒廢的建築;已忘掉但卻重現在夢中的人和事。在意識或無意識之間,過去一直與我們同在,時間是不可、亦不用挽回。

Morgan Wong, an artist, decided to devote his whole life to grinding an iron rod into a needle.

How can we see the passage of time? Changing seasons, flowers blooming and withering away, the moon waxing and waning, being dim or bright. Changing things bear witness to the passage of time, but forgone times cannot be redeemed — the same old tune but true nonetheless. Morgan’s work attempts to express the futility in reclaiming lost time. In 2011, before pursuing his studies abroad in England, Morgan was inspired by the story about an old lady grinding an iron rod into a needle, and this prompted him to create a lifelong performance art piece. When Li Bai, a Chinese poet, was little, he was not interested in studying. One day, he skipped classes and went to play by the riverside, and there he saw an elderly woman trying to grind an iron rod into a needle. Li thought that it was impossible, but the woman replied, “Constant effort yields sure success.” The story is about perseverance, and it takes time for it to bear fruit.

Morgan bought an iron pole as tall and heavy as his own self and brought it back to his studio.

At first, at a loss of what to do with it, he just spent time alone with the iron rod. After two days of deep thinking, he moved on to turn a classical story into performance art. In an art gallery, Morgan chose to use the form of performance art in grinding a iron rod into a needle. What began as a public performance turned eventually into a personal training. Later on, Morgan put all the iron powder generated in the process into a glass tube. It is at once a time capsule and a way in which an artist attempts to retain the passage of time. For grinding an iron rod as tall and heavy as his own self into a needle, it might take his whole life to complete, or perhaps it might not even be sufficient. From this experience, Morgan hopes to be able to feel time itself, even though he knows fully well that it is futile to redeem lost time, and that iron powder cannot be restored into an iron pole.

However, is once lost is lost forever? Does history go only in one direction, without returning? Can bygones times never be restored?

The contemplation about time in Morgan’s piece reminds one of the poem by T.S. Eliot titled Four Quartets. Poems provide hints that surpass the passage of time.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened

Burnt Norton, Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot

In the poem, past, present and future do not form a linear line. The past can exist in the present, and the future is the total sum of the past and present. Traces of passing years on your face; abandoned buildings; persons and things forgotten but reappearing in your dreams. Between consciousness and subconsciousness, the past has always been with us. Time cannot, and needs not be redeemed.

Image courtesy of Morgan Wong; Tintype Gallery

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