My interest in subterranean spaces is not recent. I had previously made two pieces several years ago about forgotten tunnels dating back to the Second World War. In one, titled Autosave: Redoubt (2017) I worked with two other artists, Peter Nelson and Alexis Mailles, to rebuild the Shing Mun Redoubt in the popular game Counterstrike. Below the video is a link with a lot more information.
The second project consisted of a small monitor placed into a sculpted capsule. On the monitor was a POV video of someone crawling through a tunnel. The sculpted capsule was a framing device that separated the image from the environment, and in doing so, also extended the walls of the tunnel into physical space. Its placement on the floor required viewers to get on their hands and knees to peer into the capsule similar to how one would enter the tunnels. Information surrounding these tunnels is scant (even their existence is only known by a handful of history enthusiasts) but it’s been suggested that they were excavated by local slave labor during the time of Japanese occupation – meaning that although these tunnels are not associated with any actual fighting, they nevertheless are heavy with the suffering and deaths caused by wartime imperialism, racial dehumanization, and subjugation of forced labor (estimates show the population of Hong Kong dropped from 1,649,000 in 1941 to 600,000 in 1945).
In the tunnels, none of this is immediately apparent. The stone surfaces in the dark appear utterly austere aside from the cave centipedes shuffling across the ceiling. As the eyes adjust, surfaces becomes textures, and the textures becomes mark making. Then it hits you – the entirety of the tunnel interior is carpeted in neat little rows of parallel lines cut by hand chisels. Crouched in the dark, it dawned on me what must have been the scale and process of such an excavation. I found myself enveloped within a systematic repetition of little slashes, each one a uniformly incised unit of hurt etched into stone. Overwhelmed and devastated.