From afar, the world seems peacefully inert. A planet. A complex system presenting itself as one neat, round, equilibrial form. Static macroscopic properties, dynamic microscopic properties.

From up close, the world is monstrously erratic and dangerously complex. Political realities jeopardise environmental futures. People’s fears are exploited with disappointing ease. Forms are imperfect and a safe equilibrium seems very remote.

To help us understand the impacts we have on the world, Bruce Quek has designed an elegant space of such understated complexity that it’s easy to walk through and admire the rounded forms with their neatly sweeping red line, without reading the work as anything other than minimalist. In fact, Hall of Mirrors: Asia Pacific Report is both structured distraction and data visualisation.

Twenty-four clock faces, each with a single red hand sweeping across at different speeds, are flanked by two machines: a barcode printer and a barcode reader.

Only when you approach the face of each clock can you make out what each device is measuring. The clue to each is a white-on-white text – DEATH, CANCER (LUNG). DEATH, CORONARY HEART DISEASE. DEATH, DIABETES. EMISSION, CO2, EMISSION, METHANE – and each time the hand sweeps across the face, there’s been another death, another kiloton, another irreversible event.

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By printing a barcode and then scanning it when you’re happy to leave, the work obliges you with a full list of what’s happened in the Asia-Pacific during those moments of unreflective complicity.

In: Sun 26 Jun 2016 14:11:39
Out: Sun 26 Jun 14:17:58

While you were here:
RAPE 1.82

and so on for another 19 indicators.

While I stood idly by.

A hall of mirrors is a fairground attraction designed to distort your shape, your orientation and your balance. It offers warped reflections of your body – some of which are confusing, some absurd, some grotesque. Quek’s Hall of Mirrors offers a series of clock faces with highly reflective surfaces set at head height, without markings, without a point of reference other than what we are invited to interpret. What choices have I made up to this point? In what am I currently complicit? And what am I going to do now?


Bruce Quek’s Hall of Mirrors: Asia Pacific Report (2011) is part of A Time of Others until 18 September at QAGOMA.