A blog recording the work and activities of Patrick S. Ford
Sunday, September 25, 2016
'Releasing Sisyphus' Performance Art piece
Luckily the day chosen for the performance (2nd July 2016) was overcast (taking some of the sting out of the sun) although it was still incredibly humid.
On the artificially created beach at Repulse Bay (on the south side of Hong Kong Island) I stood with my back to the hills and faced the sea. In my hands I carried two different materials: water and sand. Slowly I allowed the sand to filter through my fingers down onto the beach after which I slowly poured the water into the sea. Both the sand and water I had dispensed immediately merged with the rest and became imperceptible. Dropping sand back to the beach, pouring water back to the sea, both of these ritualistic actions attempted to restore order and sought some kind of equilibrium.
After a few moments I turned and began my walk towards the hills behind me. South Bay Road runs up towards the hills and then at a junction it curls away to the left, I turned right and made my way up South Bay Close, past the International School on the right until the road ended in a cul-de-sac. Steps on the left led to the trail that winds up through the trees. This trail has not been manicured and destroyed (or 'improved' as the local authorities term it) making the journey a very pleasant one, winding between boulders and roots under a thick canopy of leaves and branches.
Once I reached the catch-water at Tsz Kong Au I crossed Tsz Kong Bridge and began the climb up the first of the twins, the two peaks that rise above Repulse Bay. My goal was to reach the top of the first twin. The initial part of the climb alternates between trail and concrete steps but after a short while the path becomes pure concrete steps leading up as far as one can see. Every so often I stopped to take a sip of water and adjust my back-pack, which contained the stones that I would use to build a cairn on the summit.
As I climbed the steps I thought of Sisyphus and his endless toil, pushing the boulder to the top of the hill only to have it immediately roll back to the bottom. Sisyphus would calmly make his way back down the steps to begin his labour once more. He seemingly had no escape from this god-given punishment and yet he managed to find solace in the regularity of his work. Everything was laid out for him, he had no need to plan, to calculate anything or to wonder at the outcome. Everything was pre-planned and predictable. As he descended the hill he knew what was expected and how he would re-accomplish the feat. In some ways he had found his own way to escape the torture, but I wished to free him from this torment.
At the summit I built a small cairn by the side of the trail, modest so as not to attract attention and I also planted two small shrubs that would hopefully thrive and help to keep the stones firmly fixed in their position. This would keep them in place and prevent them rolling down the hill. The shrubs had grown from seeds left by wild birds in a disused plant pot on my balcony and they therefore seemed to already possess a certain poetry and were regarded as extremely appropriate for this performance. Sisyphus would be free at last. He would be able to apply his physical strength and his strength of character in other pursuits of his own choosing. After thousands of years I may finally have released Sisyphus.