Tokyo; Japan. 2007
X (verb) synonyms: erase, annul, black (out), blot out, cancel, delete, efface, expunge, obliterate, wipe (out).
X (noun): 1. error, mistake, 2. An unknown or unnamed factor, thing, or person: anonymous Mr/Ms X.
X (transitive verb) 1849: 1. to mark with an X, 2. to cancel or obliterate.
“Ex-“ (prefix): 1. Outside; out of; away from: exodontia, 2. Not; without: excaudate, 3. Former: ex-president.
X ray : The gesture of exhuming the invisible writing via exposure to the unseen heat radiation from the flame can be seen as a form of “X ray”. (incidentally, X rays were called “X” rays when discovered by Röntgen in 1895 because their nature was at first unknown)
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A roll of toilet paper, apple juice, a writing brush, a flame.
In the way secret letters are written to childhood best friends, I use apple juice to write the name of an ex-lover/friend/colleague on a piece of toilet paper. As I hold the flimsy sheet up to the heat of a flame, the juice darkens and the writing grows visible for some moments before being consumed by the fire.
These names are of people who at one time had been an intimate part of my life, and/or people with whom I interacted on a regular basis for at least one year, and who are no longer a part of my life today as a consequence of natural circumstances or conscious decisions.
Friends and colleagues with whom I have lost touch over time and not had any contact for at least one year fall under the “natural circumstances” category, while relationships brought to an abrupt end by choice fall under the “conscious decisions” category, and qualify immediately as “ex-”.
Beginning with the most recent “ex-”, individuals from my past were brought back to mind via natural association. The recollection of one person always led to that of another, usually because they had a relationship of their own between them, and occasionally because they are connected in my mind for a particular reason. As a result, almost every “ex-” would recognize at least a few names preceding and succeeding their own.
As it happened, the last person I thought about as I came to the end of the roll of toilet paper reminded me of the first person, bringing me back full circle to the present. A hundred and eight individuals scattered across five continents are linked to each other, one to the next, by one or (at most) two degrees of separation.
This work, commissioned by Heman Chong as a component of the Singapore Art Show, was screened continuously in an unoccupied-shop-turned-temporary-cinema in the belly of the spanking new mega shopping complex, Vivocity, in Singapore this August. As many of my "ex-es" were childhood friends from this small city, it is likely that an innocent shopper will surprised by their own name (or the name of someone they know) going up in flames.
photos by: Lynn Lu