Ho Tzu Nyen
The Cloud of Unknowing

The Cloud of Unknowing (2011) is titled after a 14th-century medieval treatise on faith, in which “the cloud of unknowing” that stands between the aspirant and God can only be evoked by the senses, rather than the rational mind. In the video, eight protagonists act out their daily lives. The setting is a soon-to-be-demolished public housing facility in Singapore, a country in transition from a mindset of Eastern collectivism to global neoliberalism. These individuals have lived hermetically and absurdly in their apartment space until this moment, when a magical and mysterious cloud appears, connecting their seemingly disjointed lives. It is a story about the tension between solitude and togetherness, privacy and communal experiences. The symbolic cloud embodies both divine illumination and hallucination.

Drawing from historical events, documentary footage, art history, music videos, and mythical stories, Ho Tzu Nyen’s films investigate the construction of history, the narrative of myth, and the plurality of identities. Nyen often collaborates with theater professionals, and the lighting in his films is meticulously orchestrated, the compositions highly aesthetic. Ho also practices painting, performance, and writing, exploring the many possible relationships between stills, painted images, and moving images. His first feature film, HERE, premiered at the 41st Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009. He has exhibited widely, including at the Bienal de São Paulo (2004), the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (2005), the Singapore Biennale (2006), the Dojima River Biennale (2009), and the Singapore Pavilion of the Venice Biennale (2011).