On Display


Directory, 2020
Steel, magnets, acetate 
21” x 60” 


On Display (1), 2020
Steel, magnets, engraved plexiglass
18” x 18” x 72”
Engraved text:
(Top) the Author (Middle left) when he puts a thing on a pedestal and calls it beautiful, he demands the same delight from others. He judges not merely for himself, but for all men, and then he speaks of beauty as if it were the property of things (Middle right) the deceptive are the intelligent and those able to deceive (Bottom) The idea becomes a machine that makes art. This kind of art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless

On Display (2), 2020
Steel, magnets, engraved plexiglass
18” x 18” x 72”
Engraved text:
(Top) It is comforting, however, and a source of profound relief to think that man is only a recent invention, a figure not yet two centuries old, a new wrinkle in our knowledge, and that he will disappear again as soon as that knowledge has discovered a new form
(Bottom front) The birth of
(Bottom back) the death of

On Display (3), 2020
Steel, magnets, engraved plexiglass
18” x 18” x 72”
Engraved text:
(Top) the reader
(Middle) Interpretation is the revenge of the intellectual upon art
(Bottom left) What distinguished man from animals was the human capacity which was inseparable from the development of language in which words were not mere signals, but signifiers of something other than themselves
(Bottom right) when the eyes see something beautiful, the hand wants to draw it. Beauty brings copies of itself into being

In an ideal installation, there will be a grouping of six shelves scattered in an open space. The simplicity of the space will allow the shelves to become the sole physical structure of the installation. The viewers can walk around but also in-between the individual shelves as they navigate themselves in different literary references. They might need to tiptoe or crouch down to read the text on plexiglass. Their reflections on the plexiglass ask the viewers how they posit themselves both in the act of viewing and in the history of literary criticism.

Off Display, 2020
Engraved plexiglass
Size variable In an ideal installation, the installation space will be an open space filled with different inscribed panels. The shelves from On Display will be installed in the center of the space and different panels will be stacked on the floor leaning against the shelves or against the wall. The stacked panels ask the viewers to think about the relationship between different panels, how their ideologies overlap or how they contradict each other. These panels have the same sizes as the ones on the shelves. They could be on the shelves but instead they are left on the floor. By showing them along with the shelves, I ask the viewers to rethink what references are appropriate to apply and what ideologies we want to accept.

When artists use references to explain their practice, the advantage of referring is that it helps build the context of their work and also creates a situation for conversation and discussion. With this approach, referencing intervenes in the maker/viewer relationship and the act of viewing. The viewing process is no longer about the artwork that is actually on display and is not merely about looking anymore. In my work, On Display, I am interested in uncovering the invisible mediations of literary references in the act of viewing. I establish a viewing relationship with display shelves, a common way to show sculpture and objects in exhibitions and museums. The shelves are hand-made with steel, with designs that make them resemble commercial ready-made shelves. The shelves have no objects on them but only panels of transparent plexiglass that are partially attached on different sides.

On the plexiglass, I engraved quotes from different literary references. When the viewers look at the shelves, they don't see the object on display but the plexiglass panes inscribed with literary references and their own reflections. The text engraved on the plexiglass includes quotes excerpted from works of literary criticism regarding relationship between author and viewer and the individual responsibilities of each; for example, The Death of the Author from Roland Barthes; Against Interpretation from Susan Sontag; Critique of Judgement by Immanuel Kant; and Paragraphs on Conceptual Art by Sol LeWitt. The plexiglass is attached to the shelves with small magnets so it can be taken down and changed when they are presented in different contexts just like artists refer to different references when they are in different conversations.

Plexiglass is a common and economic material in art to provide transparency and protection; however, in my sculpture it is used to reveal the mediation of references in the seemingly transparent act of viewing. These references are more than just snippets of literature or criticism, they represent certain ideologies. This mediation is beyond the physical register of the human body: it is an invisible code that is subconsciously guiding our behaviors and thoughts. The plexiglass can protect the objects that are on display but with the inscribed references it reveals the potential compromise on viewership. On Display uncovers the particularities of hidden social and technological infrastructures and reorients our understanding of the visible.

May 2020

Jennifer Chia-Ling Ho 何珈寧 ©2022 Mar