Screwball Spaces presents Identity/Anonymity by Henry Chung.
Chung continues his exploration of obsolete technologies as metaphor for the changes and complexities of contemporary life in a series of portraits of computer enhanced images culled from flea markets and garage sales, rendered in computer punch tape.
Before the advent of disc drives, DVDs, ethernet and Wi-Fi networks, paper punch tape was used as a means for computers to store and communicate information. Rolls of 1” thin paper tape would be punched by a machine attached to a computer that translated information into a pattern of holes in the tape. This tape could then fed into a punch tape reader connected to other computer equipment and translated back into usable information. The limitations of this laborious and circuitous process are obvious.
Chung is translating these found images in the same way. By “drawing” these images of unknown people in holes in paper he is emphasizing the loss of memory and identity he experienced when he found these vintage images. This body of work cleverly juxtaposes this loss in two ways, physical and conceptual. Physically the image is made though cutting holes in the paper, creating loss and conceptually by the use of a technology that is no longer used and therefore unreadable.
In a time when cultural memory is sketchy and personal identity more fluid than ever Chung is pointing out to us the importance of permanence and consistency. Perhaps a Chinese cultural heritage of honoring one’s ancestors is the root of Chung’s sadness at discovering the discarded evidence of lives experienced?
Whatever the source we are asked to contemplate the lives of these individuals, however, we are blocked by an inaccessible technology, compelling us to ponder the meaning of identity, time and memory.