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[17 Oct 2018] Reviewed by Angelo Zinna (GUP Magazine)
A black paper box, a small printed index of its contents and a partially readable title, Dark Cities. This is the name of Shyue Woon (b. 1975, Singapore) latest project, a collection of three books that try to re-imagine fringe spaces in the metropoles of Singapore, Tokyo and Seoul. A biblical sentence introduces us to the trilogy: “I don’t know what to make of my investigation, maybe this is how I interpret the carpark to be, a purgatory, a space that is neither heaven nor hell.”
In Carpark, the first book of the series, Woon captures the details of a Singaporean multi-story carpark during his nocturnal wanderings. Following a counselling session where he was advised to keep a diary of his thoughts, the photographer set out on the streets of his city to create a catalogue of his reflections through visual imagery. Escaping the constraints of language, Woon explored the darker corners of his city as a form of self-investigation, creating an ambiguous first-person narrative where the subject hides outside of the frame.
To shoot the second chapter of Dark Cities, Capsule, Woon travelled to Tokyo to collect images from the thirteen story Nagakin Tower, designed in 1972 by Kisko Kurokawa. Trained as an architect himself, the photographer was attracted by the alienating brutalist structure which seems to have been built for a dystopic science fiction movie. By depicting the decay of the building Woon tells the story of a failed vision, of an artist trying to anticipate the future and then being overpowered by it.
Euljiro is the last of the three books, set in Seoul’s last remaining urban fabric dated from the Chosun Dynasty, once a symbol of modernity and industrial power. Today its inhabitants, portrayed by Woon mainly through the object representing their everyday life, appear like being stuck in an era finished a long time ago, locked in a forgotten corner of the fast moving megalopolis.
© Angelo Zinna (GUP Magazine)
Excerpts from http://www.gupmagazine.com/books/dark-cities
[31 Aug 2018] Reviewed by Tay Kay Chin
"I like books(film too) that screw me up and those that keep bugging me. These obviously do.
Unreliable narrators are certainly more interesting. No?
Is Shyue mad? Deranged? Troubled? Has he been besieged by evils?
I guess it will sound a little more interesting if the answers to these rhetorical questions are mostly ‘yes’.
I’m not sure I understand what he is getting at with these three books, but I am certainly not relying on the accompanying texts to enlighten me.
In many ways, I don’t want to know the ‘truths’.
And I am not the least bothered.
Darkness and deserted spaces fascinate me, they draw me in. That’s enough.
I have wondered though if they are better off loose so that we can construct our own narratives.
What I know is I that I will be returning to these lovely dark monsters again, and again, soon."
© Tay Kay Chin
[3 Aug 2018] Reviewed by Christer Ek
The subtitle of the book could have been, « A tale of a forgotten future » as Shyue Woon takes us to a long journey exploring some emblematic areas in three huge cities : Singapore, Tokyo and Seoul.
Each of these cities is the object of an autonomous work, the three being collected in a superb box that gives its name to the trilogy. Shyue Woon is a trained architect and an architectural approach is evident in the way he looks at the places he passes through. He takes us with him in his wanderings, as if to make us visit the recesses of his unconscious. Of the three megacities chosen, he shows us almost nothing, or very little. In each city, he chose to isolate himself, at night in places that were, at other times, symbols of a prosperous future, utopias of the twentieth century.
The first book is entitled « Carpark » and Shyue Woon takes us for a night walk in a multi-storey carpark. I have always had a particular affection for the nooks and « non-places », well… all those places in front of which one passes without ever stopping or even taking a look at it. A succession of details slowly builds an abstract vision of this world of the night. Our imagination creates a parallel universe in which memories reappears. A silhouette draws itself in distance, or is it a ghost? We meet people whom we can’t reach, separated from a window or a blur that prevents us to get in touch.
Shyue Woon evokes the idea of a purgatory in which one evolves, trying to solve a crime story, reference to the black films or an insoluble enigma coming straigh from mythology, which proves impossible to solve. We meet our demons but we also get rid of our fears in a cathartic ordeal.
The second book entitled « Capsule » takes us, as its title indicates in the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Ginza – Tokyo, futuristic project of the early 1970s which today, is on the brink of abandonment since the maintenance there is no more assured. Shyue Woon guides us through this labyrinth of doors and corridors. The light is more present, as if, out of purgatory we found our way to the surface, to the inhabited world. We get lost in this maze of colors to always end up in front of a wall, but with the hope of a light that will deliver the outcome.
Here again the author stops on small things, trivial details that say long about the state of the premises. We find ourselves locked in the past, as in the brain of a brilliant architect who would find himself trapped in his project too futuristic, and here the term capsule takes all its meaning, recalling the films of anticipation in which the deplacements were supposed to be done in some so-called capsules.
« Euljiro », third opus of this trilogy leads us finally in a district of Seoul. It is always dark and our wanderings continue in this dehumanized world. Lights seem to illuminate a vanished world, or at least of which the inhabitants would have leaved places in a sort of hurry. Cables guide us through the streets, like a ball from which we pull the wire to guide us to the exit, ponctuating our way of many traces of life, proof that we are on the right path. The light returns slowly, passing from the structuring spheres of the city to its surface state. If the first book was purgatory, we wonder now in what universe we will emerge.
The three books highlight Shyue Woon’s vision of the city, which is reminiscent of Marc Augé’s definition of « non-place » (one of the texts accompanying « Carpark » refers to it) and the architect he is can only wonder about the spatial organization of the city and the spaces that compose it. How do we go from one place to another, spatially first, but also temporally and here is appearing in the background of the three books, the influence of time on the « project ». Would the futurism of an era become now only old fashionned and, finally, what is this articulation of the present that tilts one towards the other? It is thus as an architect that Shyu Woon uses the night to deconstruct what was built, in order to understand the inner structure of buildings and cities, and to reorganize the spaces around a fiction stemming from our imagination, a little bit as Alice’s world by Lewis Caroll.
Three hardcover books 14,5 x 21 cm, open spine with silkscreen cover, in a box set.
© Christer Ek
[20 Aug 2018] Reviewed by Fabien Ribery
Dark Cities, du photographe et architecte singapourien Shyue Woon, est un objet de haute beauté, sophistiqué, noir et lumineux telle une nuit interminable trouée d’apparitions.
Cet objet astral se présente sous la forme de trois volumes, ou modules, ou capsules, réunis sous boitier cartonné.
Il s’agit donc d’une trilogie, initiée en 2014, prenant pour sujets les villes de Singapour, Tokyo et Seoul, soient l’espace d’un parking automobile vécu comme un lieu de transition entre l’enfer et le paradis, une sorte de Purgatoire (Singapour), une tour futuriste et angoissante édifiée dans les années 1970 (Tokyo), un quartier peu à peu oublié, pourtant symbole de la modernisation entière d’un pays (Seoul).
Shyue Woon utilise la photographie pour explorer ce qui se joue dans le secret des bâtiments, cette réalité construite devenue autonome, comme un monstre merveilleux et froid.
La fiction s’invite, qui donne des poumons aux ombres, des yeux aux mondes souterrains, des ailes aux murs délabrés.
Dark Cities est en quelque sorte le journal d’une introspection au contact de quelques lieux très inspirants, ordinaires ou remarquables, de trois mégapoles asiatiques, si intimidantes et tentaculaires qu’elles pourraient devenir invisibles.
Chez Shyue Woon tout procède du noir et d’une forme d’indistinction originelle.
Des microfictions s’inventent dans une vision de la ville très cinématographique.
Construction de plans qui sont des scènes pour la pluie, des silhouettes, des matières éclairées par des néons.
Une vitre cassée, des talons aiguilles, des inscriptions sibyllines.
En sous-sol, le parking truffé de caméras de surveillance est une chambre d’échos, un monde propice à la naissance de puissances chtoniennes.
En surface, se dresse une tour, passablement délabrée. Nous sommes à Ginza, quartier chic de Tokyo.
Il y a ici de la rouille, des fils électriques apparents, une bassine, une structure effrayante peuplée d’androïdes étranges, produits de haute technologie et de taches de moisissure.
Que reste-t-il du rêve de l’architecte ?
Voici un bâtiment qui coule, qui fuit de toutes parts, et dont les organes sont malades.
Que reste-t-il des premiers empires ?
A Seoul, un quartier qui fut à la pointe du progrès s’écroule, vieillit mal, se teinte de pauvreté.
Ce lieu de peintures écaillées et de ferrailles est un aquarium sale, un théâtre où la petite race humaine gesticule sous l’œil impavide des poissons qui les contemplent.
Dark Cities explore, en des images construites comme des indices, des espaces intermédiaires, où les humains semblent contraints de se métamorphoser en carpes ou mulets s’ils veulent avoir une chance de survivre à l’instant dernier du déluge.
© Fabien Ribery