“In even the most perfect reproduction, one thing is lacking: the here and now of the work of art–its unique existence in a particular place. It is this unique existence, and nothing else, that bears the mark of the history to which the work has been subject.” (Walter Benjamin)
I stroll down South Mao Ming Road, pass the old Jing Jiang Hotel, and turn on Ju Lu Street as the buttonwood trees shade the ground with crushing patterns. I enter the maze of the Shi Ku Men and turn down the second alley on the left. Passing through the tattered black door, it closes behind me with a creaky thud.
The daylight flows softly through the translucent roof of the patio. The worn, cracked floor tiles have maintained their delicate pattern despite their eighty years. A spider diligently weaves its web in the corner. The sounds of men and women chatting outside seep through the walls like waves of words and phrases from another world.
I switch on the lamp, and light pours down. My silk canvas shimmers like the skin of a living being; my thoughts, mind, body, the smell of air, the faintest sound, the past forgotten or remembered, and the lingering future–all are captured in the lumen of light in the here and now. Slight and transparent, countless random factors float and fleet like dust, disconnected and seemingly negligible, yet intoxicating. As light needs time to transfer, it is the silhouette that, when the dust settles, the viewer sees on a completed work hanging on the wall. That “here and now,” once bathing in the lumen, is long gone — nowhere to be found.