Captain’s Log Entries On Days With No End
6 -23 May 2009
Admiral Cheng Ho (1371-1433) is a man remembered for many great reasons. Among those, his role in the development of Islam in both Indonesia and Malaya, albeit possible syncretism. Explorer, diplomat, fleet admiral as well as Hui Chinese mariner, his legendary voyages throughout 1450 to 1433 are known as the travels of ‘Eunuch Sanbao to the Western Ocean.’ Spreading of the Islamic faith according to the Hanafi school of thought in the Chinese language, he was believed to be a man of great patience, encompassing trust in the workings of an intangible God entirely beyond mortal manipulation. I’d like to believe these were reasons for his great success in voyages taken around a globe that hadn’t yet claimed itself concretely for all to understand.
Inspired by the legendary voyages of Admiral Cheng Ho, Singaporean artist Jason Wee first formed the skeletal of RUINS: Captain Log Entries on Days with No End during his residency at the Artspace Visual Arts Center in Sydney. Founder of Grey Projects, an alternative art space and residency that focuses on emerging and nascent practices, he is also editor of softblow.com. An artist who is best known for his exploration into the distortions of identity, his intelligent ability to both inquire and simultaneously propose a suggested solution through mediums of art are again apparent in his latest exhibition at Valentine Willie Fine Art. The entire collection of photographs was digitally created with the aim to transport viewers to a time in the history of the world when discovery was entirely possible, enthralling and selective in its finds.
A written surviving excerpt written by Admiral Cheng Ho during his travels:
We have traversed more than 100,000 li (50,000 kilometers or 30,000 miles) of immense water spaces and have beheld in the ocean huge waves like mountains rising in the sky, and we have set eyes on barbarian regions far away hidden in a blue transparency of light vapors, while our sails, loftily unfurled like clouds day and night, continued their course [as rapidly] as a star, traversing those savage waves as if we were treading a public thoroughfare… — Tablet erected by Zheng He, Changle, Fujian, 1432. Louise Levathes
A time of myth making and incredible possibilities without the desensitization of contemporary realities, each piece is an experience of the horizon that those on board the ship must have had to comprehend with. With only the changing light to mark the sum of time that has passed, the need to spot land must have been maddeningly anticipated, rimmed evenly with a sense of despondence at its lack thereof. This constant search and yearning for what is believed to lie ahead is still very much the state of humanity.
Haseena Abdul Majid
This article was first posted on the original Arteri site on 2 June, 2009.