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Title: Questions to heaven = 天问.
Authors: Leow, Hou Teng.
Keywords: DRNTU::Visual arts and music::Visual arts
Issue Date: 2013
Abstract: 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 ancestor 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. Ancestor worshiping is a common religious Daoism practice that is based on the belief that deceased family members have a continued existence in an afterlife and watches over the affairs of the family. The ancestor tablet serves more than just a record of the ancestor’s name, birth and death date but also represents the spiritual presence of the deceased, an idol of worship for their descendants. These are normally placed in ancestral halls, bearing only the family surname. Thus it performs a non-religious function, i.e., to cultivate kinship values like filial piety, family loyalty and continuity of the family lineage. This can be observed by the form of the tablet itself, its phallic symbolism as a strong reinforcement of the idea of generations of offspring. From a philosophical point of view, it acts as an axis mundi, the central line of communication from Earth to Heaven, a conversation between men and god, the descendant and the ancestor with words carved or non-carved on the tablet itself. With the traditional carving skill increasingly becoming obsolete in today’s society, will technology eventually replace the ancestor 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?
Rights: Nanyang Technological University
Fulltext Permission: restricted
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:ADM Student Reports (FYP/IA/PA/PI)

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