The poetics of stone : Jason Lim

Fortner Anderson
October 11

For the last action of Day 3, Singapore artist, Jason Lim built a vast and imposing silence that encompassed the studio Jean-Brillant and enveloped the spirits of the public. Bringing together a few simple elements, he constructed this experience upon the open plain of the room’s collective consciousness, holding it together with feathers, a candle and the sense of fragile equilibrium of a physical world precariously balanced upon the mind.

The construction of powerful and poetic imagery informs the project of much of performance art. Having put aside the notion of communication of information, or the transfer of a message, or the imposition of identifiable meaning, this kind of work strives to build a concrete poetry composed of objects and their interaction with the body. When successful, the images formed are unclassifiable and their evocative force difficult to describe.

With evident control of the body and in the deliberate unveiling of the action, Lim evoked a number of these powerful images. With great deliberation, he filled with water, teaspoon by teaspoon, small cracks and indentations in the concrete floor of the performance space. With seemingly infinite patience, he worked his way around the circumference of the performance area. As he completed the circle , the floor scintillated with reflections, as if it were covered with tiny lakes of quicksilver.

The public encountered Lim as they returned from Emilie Monnet’s performance tour of St. Henri. Coming in from the cold, excited and distracted, the crowd found Lim in the midst of his performance. Along the edge of the central performance area, he was tracing the form of an ellipse using the tip of a leafless tree branch. With great focus, he watched the tip pass over the irregularities in the concrete floor. Within the interior of that ellipse, he had set out a stone and a pot of earth.

The leafless branch, the solitary stone and the barren pot of earth evoked a sense of the arid and lifelessness. The sound of the tree branch slowly srapeing its path in the floor added to a feeling of desolation.

With this ambiance installed, Lim finished his tracing and laid the branch upon the concrete floor. He lit a single candle and attached it to one of the twigs of the branch. Later, he carefully hung two feathers with a short length of twine from another twig.

Building upon a sense of growing concentration, Lim took the heavy stone from the floor and after several attempts succeeded in balancing it upon his head. In doing so, in the dim light that illuminated the performance area, he conjured forth a great stillness, which forced away all intrusion. The voices of party-goers walking on the street outside, the passing cars, all the mental distraction within the studio, dissipated leaving only the present moment and the image of Lim standing balancing the weight of world upon the once busy activity of the mind.

It appeared that Lim was using the slow consumption of the burning candle as a marker for the duration of the performance. As each thin candle burned short, he would remove it and replace it with another. Later in the performance, he attached a second candle with wax to the fingernail of his right hand.

In one of the final tableaux, lying prostrate on the tree branch, the stone placed upon his shoulders, the two flames guttering, Lim reattained another climax of quietude, yet in this iteration it resembled the stillness of the lifeless. After several minutes only the micro-movement of a hand communicated the persistence of life.

The work concluded with Lim spilling the wax of the candle attached to his hand upon the stone. Once it was extinguished the work concluded.