The case of ringing bell 2020

https://www.yokohamatriennale.jp/2020/

Episōdo 09 

 

In the 1000 days between this Triennale and the next, in that rest and in that wait, grow newer possibilities and sensibilities. Residing within such a temporal pause, acting as both joint and reminder, a time passed and its recurrence, a work travels. It is light, yet obstinate. Performing disruption and memory, this work gives the Triennale a long tail.

 

 

A man—frowning, hurrying, parting a sea of pedestrians—rings a bicycle bell attached to a stick. 

 

When you ring a bell, it’s to get people to move away from you, but the irony is that you have to first draw them—their attention—towards you. 

 

In this time of social distancing, the irony of a bell—of drawing-close-to-keep-apart—might strike you. 

 

Ringing a bicycle bell is unusual in Japan; no one does it, the norm is to wait till one can slip past. 

 

This homeless man with dreadlocks didn’t care; he was ok with disrupting the norm.

 

Bells aren’t unusual—they’re everywhere. In poetry and at shrines.

 

There was something poetic about this capacity to disturb the peace of an unspoken norm with a ring.

 

A bicycle bell is different from a bell at a shrine. Metal discs rotate, they rattle and they strike.

 

When one doesn’t ring a bell, it speaks directly to how perturbed they must feel when one is rung. 

 

A bell once rung cannot be un-rung.

 

Look at this tree; it has a will of its own, its own path to the sun. 

 

A tree has a presence; you cannot overlook it. 

 

Bicycle bells are attached to it with strings, and there is more string knotted to the bells to pull and ring them—from a distance, and its certainty.

 

One perturbed by a bell may now have an upper hand, some kind of control, ringing a bell in exasperation, expectation, or in synchronicity.

 

Almost as if at a shrine, offering prayers. 

 

Almost as if to part a crowd—perhaps of leaves. 

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Dennis Tan

B. 1975 Singapore

Lives and work in Tokyo and Singapore

Selected Works