North Indies - Pilot is the first iteration in Chang’s long-term project to adapt the format of the soap opera into art making. This exhibition will be followed by several future exhibitions, each of which stands as an episode in a series with a continuous open-ended narrative. Every exhibition ends with a promise that the storyline will be continued in the following episode.
The series title draws reference from English writer Joseph Hall's satirical novel, The Discovery of a New World or A Description of the South Indies by an English Mercury (1605). In the first ‘imaginary voyage’ written in English, Hall constructed a fictional 'South Indies,' as a mockery of London in the 17th century, which he saw as a degenerate society with up-side down morals. From Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver's Travels to Thomas Moore’s Utopia to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, imaginary voyages create a satirical narrative by describing a journey to an ideal commonwealth or utopia. Therefore, they provide an appropriate setting in which to air ideas without fear of retribution.
The exhibition series is set in the imaginary landscape of the ‘North Indies’. Toying with the modern cliché of the global village, this fictional setting incorporates elements from both London and Machu Picchu, to create a world where modern Western civilization and ancient Mesoamerican and Incan culture collide. This fictional setting is full of diverse aboriginal cultures, nomads, isolated villages and lost civilizations. There is human sacrifice, the mythology of creation, spiritual celebrities, and the myth of ‘brown gods’ arriving on refugee boats. However, there are also modern elements such as hooligan jaguar warriors, chav tribal wars, council huts, the Western Union and NHS shaman.
It is a story with various characters and personalities disclosing their private fates and universal fears. The themes include authority, loneliness, conflict, angst, insecurity, humiliation, and sexuality. The timeframe starts from the end of the profane and ends with the triumph of the sacred.
North Indies—Pilot follows the characters, ‘Peopeo’ and ‘Pachu’ as they travel through the ‘North Indies’. The journey starts with a strenuous climb up the great Leviathan Mountain, which results in both men falling ill from a variety of arctic diseases. Beyond the mountain, the men enter a post-brexit forest inhabited by xenophobic indigenous people. Trapped in the heart of the forest, the explorers fight off attacks from hostile natives and radio-active council-estate giants. After enduring great hardship Peopeo and Pachu finally reach the Secret Shrine of Elephant and Castle. Here they learn about the natives peculiar belief systems and participate in the strange rituals of getting cash back and collecting loyalty points from supermarkets. The episode ends with their accidental encounter with ‘Mr. Square’, whose dramatic adventure will be continued in the next episode…
To coincide with the exhibition the artist’s monograph (edited by Eiko Honda) will be launched at the Private View.