Questions to Heaven is an installation that takes its name from the poem of the same name, attributed to Qu Yuan who lived during the Warring States Period of ancient China.
The poem, consisting of 172 questions in total, revolves around mysteries and contradictory accounts in legends and mythologies and begins with questions concerning the parts and motions of the celestial Heaven, to questions about the wonders of earth and the life it supports and finally to the realm of mortal men, his destinies and fate.
Separated into three tiers, Heaven, Earth and men from the highest to the lowest tier, 76 of the original questions were included together with four questions by the artist. These were carved on ancestral tablets by the artist’s father, the artist himself, and a machine, to mediate a conversation between the three generations and to highlight the lost of a traditional skill and the wisdom attached to it through the generations.
With the traditional carving skill increasingly becoming obsolete in today’s society, will technology eventually replace the ancestral tablet carver with no one, not even the son, willing to succeed his skill? Will the artist be filled with guilt? Can the machine match the finesse and quality of a carver, and will the mass-produced work still be able to convey the same message that it used to uphold. What will become of our coming generations if the skill and its wisdom are lost?
Leow Bock Kiong (Father)
Leow Hou Teng (Artist)
Asst Prof Dr. Nanci Takeyama
Faizah Omah, Lee Fang,
Poh Shu Ning, Tan Lu Ting
Nanyang Technological University
School of Art, Design & Media
May 19, 2013