Layers of Bled Ink: Time Passing (2004-2010)

In examining my own experimental project Layers of Bled Ink –Time passing (2004), I will seek to demonstrate how digital technology can further deepen art appreciators’ visualization of the passage of time, and how this strongly correlates to the concept of layering of content in traditional slab art and colophon writing. Through continued layering of their perception of spatiotemporal themes, viewers can experience narratives in temporally (and spatially) non-linear as well as linear ways.

The work Layers of Bled Ink – Time Passing (2004-2010), here abbreviated to LBITP, is a performance and digital animation that I completed in 2010 in order to demonstrate how moving images created by digital technology could help viewers visualize and experience the passage of time. A white digital screen simulates the concept of void in the material of rice paper; and the virtual space created by the digital screen represents a compressed temporal experience. Through animated images, I visually depicted layers of passing time in order to influence viewers’ perceptions of time. Before making my animation, I first set up and completed the performance in my studio and then recorded the whole process. Finally I created an animation to simulate the process .

In this section, I attempted to analyse the content of my animation work by using clipped images as a visual sequence. The digital animation presents a sheet of rice paper on which one can practise Chinese calligraphy with an ink brush. My digital animation presents a square sheet of rice paper. Before I can write anything on it, the paper divides into 16 pieces, which then form themselves into a stack. The animation shows these 16 smaller sheets of rice paper stacked one on top of the other. Next, Chinese ink and a brush become available. A Chinese character for ‘ten’ (十, shi) is written on the small square sheet of paper at the top of the stack. Then the animated character or hand simply leaves the paper for 10 minutes.

Finally, these 16 sheets of rice paper are arranged face upward in a square measuring four sheets up by four sheets across: the sheet at the top of the stack went in the upper left-hand corner, and the subsequent sheets followed from left to right to the end of the given row. After reaching the far right side of any of the first three rows, the process continues like a typewriter, dropping to the far left of the next row down and proceeding from left to right until the last sheet of rice paper is positioned in the far right hand corner of the bottom row. All the sheets then appear to be mounted on a wall, and viewers can see the gradations of ink markings: the ink will have bled through the top sheet of rice paper leaving fainter and fainter ink markings on each subsequent sheet of rice paper down the stack all the way to the last sheet, where the ink is barely visible. The completion of these wall postings marks the end of the animation.

In this performance and animation my aim was to demonstrate that we could have the spatiotemporal experience of ‘ten minutes’ in ‘one second’ through real time and digital-representation platforms. This type of experience simulates the experience one has while appreciating slab art, calligraphy [1], and in particular colophon writing with seals from different epochs, all of which are compressed onto a two-dimensional platform but suggest a sense of layering of content.

The results of my investigations in this chapter reflect the concept of non-linear, cyclic narrative embodied in ancient Chinese art. I have also shown how this is commonly over-layered so that different parts of the narrative reveal themselves to the viewer in a manner that correlates with the elements of loop and layering of content developed by digital art today. Through digital-media technology viewers can have real-time experience of time passing, and of the imprint left by the past on the present and by the present on the past.

Text by HUNG Keung


[1] The process of Chinese calligraphy writing can create in the writer a significant experience of time passing as well.

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