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Seeking Stillness by George Fok

Seeking Stillness by George Fok: An Installation to Sanctify the Present Moment

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By  Rafael Bernardi

“In reality, stillness doesn’t exist. It can only be achieved within oneself, momentarily.”

In his work Seeking Stillness, Hong Kong-born Montreal artist George Fok gives us access to this stillness. A poem in three movements bringing together immersive, sensorial, and sustainable themes—its colours and sounds co-existed at the PHI Centre’s B Space for the summer 2020 exhibition, Emergence & Convergence.

During the collective confinement that took place in the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic, Fok spent his time studying theoreticians interested in the question of Time. He found inspiration in the writings of Stephen Hawking (A Brief History of Time), the ideas of Saint Augustin (“What then is time?”) and Carlo Rovelli’s theory of thermal time. According to the latter, the flow of time would be an illusion, due to our finite knowledge. With Seeking Stillness, Fok wants to create a space where one is freed from time, in a world where it’s constantly evoked, and where evolution is practically an imposition.

In an age of frenetic interaction, exponential technological growth, and ubiquitous hyperconnectivity, and while nature and time are passing, we’re overlooking a desperately needed calm according to George Fok. "[W]e are desensitized to the beauty that is intended to benefit us, intended as a source of healing." For the artist, it’s imperative that we become aware of our relationship with technology and learn from it, rather than suffer its negative effects. "Eventually, we must think about how we coexist with this technology, how it becomes an extension of our being."

Interview with George Fok | Emergence & Convergence

Forget the notion of time

Our digital way of life has introduced a new form of anxiety. To counter the negativity created by the endless cycles of information and in an economy of attention, Seeking Stillness provides a space for contemplative meditation and introspection, either communally or as a solitary practice. Fok wants guests invited into his space to slow down, to forget the notion of time, and to find inspiration in the work. 

In keeping with the idea that art galleries have become the new cathedrals, Seeking Stillness was greatly inspired by the Rothko Chapel, a giant non-denominational chapel in Houston that houses fourteen extremely sombre murals. Without question, the work by Fok invites us into a sacred space that emanates with grandiose force, where our own presence seems as though it were only a passing phenomenon. 

Seeking Stillness, by George Fok at the 2020 summer exhibit, Emergence & Convergence, by the PHI Centre.

Seeking Stillness George Fok Emergence Convergence PHI Centre 2

Just as we would step into a cathedral, we carefully prepare to enter B Space at PHI Centre, as if not to disturb the framework. Then, we are greeted with an immensity of sounds and lights, and we become witness to our vulnerability. With his organically fluctuating projections, George Fok takes us to those familiar places where, paradoxically, it’s movement that seems to stop time. As though we might find ourselves in front of the oscillations of a tree shaken by the wind, or confronted by the infinitude of the oceans’ ebb and flow. Creating a space where we discover instinctively that we are meditating. 

One of the scenes conjures up images of dynamic individuals, who have conflicting interactions with each other, while nature continues its course. Confronted with this bird’s-eye representation of a crowd, where people clash without any precise goal, we think of the modest space that we occupy in time, and of our finitude. Then, the sound of a bell brings us back to the present moment, a moment when there is nothing else to do but be, and to contemplate.

Seeking Stillness engages our capacity of observation. Since, like nature and time, the artwork remains unchanging, its movements flow, regardless of the attention we pay to them. "I want people to be in a passive state, a state of observation, as opposed to being in an active state of touching everything to see what will happen. We already spend too much time running around and being busy." Simply, to "pursue time" we need to stop and let it unfold.

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