Akeroyd Collection


Isaac Chong Wai, Neue Wache, 2015

In Neue Wache (2015) we see Isaac Chong Wai from the back, standing inside the Neue Wache (Guardhouse in English) in front of a sash window with views onto the street. In time, we realise the artist is blowing his breath onto the window glass, allowing the condensation to spread across its surface. The artist occasionally leaves only to return and continue. As the film progresses, we realise the trace of the artist's breath is behaving unusually. Over the ten-minute duration, nothing evaporates or dissipates. The artist is seemingly able to paint the surface of the glass in a permanent frosting.

At the end of the video, text reveals that the Neue Wache was commissioned by Hohenzollern King Frederick William III in 1815 to guard the residence in Berlin across the street. The mobilization and demobilization orders were given there for WW1 in 1914 and 1918 respectively. Since 1931 the site has been a memorial to the fallen World War dead (the war to end all wars). The building was then seriously damaged in World War II. Rebuilt in 1957, the building later served, under the GDR, as a memorial to the victims of Fascism and Militarism. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1993, the GDR memorial was replaced with Käthe Kollwitz’s statue. The work asks who are the victims and perpetrators to remember at the Neue Wache and how does history and its telling impact such sites of remembrance. The breath which covers the window is made by artificial, digital aftereffects. It is a fiction. Chong suggests memory and the traces of history are unstable and fleeting. Any attempt to suggest otherwise is a fiction in itself and something that we should be cautious of.

Mediumsingle-channel HD video
Duration10 minutes 52 seconds
Edition5 + 2 APs