All phenomenon are illusions

Well I suppose I can be anyone I like or rather,

with eyes closed, nobody at all.

A dream dreamt in a dreaming world is not really a dream,

says classical Chinese wisdom,

but a dream not dreamt is.

—Anne Carson, Plainwater


Since the first draft of installation drawings, Roni Horn and I have painstakingly built these irregular and unpredictable spaces while keeping the original concrete columns, winding arcs, and curved walls of the architecture visible and intact. Breaking the narrative rules of common practice, the spaces come as random but connected events. The narrow aisles between the rooms mirror the alleys in old Canton villages, which are populated with houses, shops, and the occasional well. Light intersects and overlaps, creating a distinctive pattern of shadow throughout. You cannot be sure whether it is time to turn back or to venture into another experience.


It is through the idea of the encounter that one may access Horn's manifold practice. This is seen in particular with the artist's interest in doubling. By placing each of a pair of solid copper sculptures in different spaces; laying out duos of cast-glass sculptures, fire polished on the top; or by taking pairs of portraits that reveal subtle differences, Horn's art echoes a number of theories to ancient Eastern philosophical traditions: as written in the Chan Buddhist scripture, The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, "moved is not the wind, the flag, but the heart of the benevolent." Indeed, as the audience encounters an artwork by gazing, surveying, or simply passing by, he or she gets to witness a long-lost past and an irrefutable future.


The title of the exhibition comes from Horn's appropriation of Canadian poet Anne Carson's book Plainwater, which itself quotes from Chinese philosophy, as seen in the epigraph that opens this foreword. We cannot say for certain whether this phrase is derived from Zhuangzi's story of The Butterfly Dream or Liji Regrets Weeping, lamenting an unpredictable fate, or pays homage to Dahui Zonggao's Six Amusements in dreams, before awakening seeing no myriads, invoking feelings of relief and enlightenment. However, the journey of encounters and reunions between the audience and artworks is infused with a discreet but pervasive aura, invisible and inseparable like gravity, hinting at the unlimited possibilities of the audience's hearts.


Immersion, intimacy, and strangeness construct a cycling triangle of experience in Horn's artworks. When information technology prevails, romantic and poetic landscapes are no longer mysterious but extremely easy to reach. If we become used to appreciating nature with pride and silence, we may no longer be able to access Horn's art. Take a deep breath, relax, and participate by following the artist's delicate, calm, tranquil yet strong emotions. To be with the flow of the process, we must join it, we must flow with it. Through dreamlike embodiment and disintegration, we connect our feelings with the infinite, we stand alone, and we breathe together.

Shaw Shu