Wallace Chan -'Totem'
Fondaco Marcello, Grand Canal, Venice
curated by James Putnam
April 20 - October 22, 2022
Totem, which refers to an esteemed ancestral spirit, interconnects the philosophical aspects of Wallace Chan’s Buddhist faith, including his reverence for the natural world and the innate qualities of the materials he uses in his sculptural work. This also relates to the fundamental principle of the totemism that there’s a shared spiritual relationship between humans and mother nature who must work together in order to sustain life. The calm, enigmatic face depicted in Chan’s sculpture is a mystical spirit, a form of totem that expresses the transcendental state of absolute oneness.
The spectacle of Chan’s installation does not belong to a singular form but rather is produced by the relationship between its multiple parts. Once disassembled, the integrity of the sculpture as a unified form is removed, suggesting the fragility and imminent collapse of a previous order. It symbolises the social fragmentation and uncertainty experienced around the world today in global issues such as polarised politics and climate change. By displacing the sculpture's fragmented pieces of iron beam and carefully-modelled titanium heads across the floor, viewers are invited to approach the sculptural elements up close and from differing viewpoints, encouraging new perspectives. The experience of walking amongst the deconstructed sculpture heightens awareness of the work’s relationship to the space around it. A diagram instructing how to install the sculpture as a whole is displayed within the exhibition, intimating a hope for reassembly, union and rebalance.
The exhibition features an installation composed of multiple unassembled parts of Chan’s 10 metre titanium sculpture Titans XIV positioned across the floorspace of Fondaco Marcello. It is accompanied by an immersive soundscape by Alistair Smith and and specially commissioned film by Javier Ideami