Jiang Zhi:Strait is the Gate

Strait is the Gate By Véronic-Ting Chen

Strait is the Gate

 By  Véronic-Ting Chen

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate…”
                                     – Luke 13:24

About Desire

Desire is not as complex and beyond understanding as it might seem. It does not entail neither Lack nor Castration. André Gide, from the same era as Sigmund Freud, had attempted at telling us that, the completion of desire is not the satisfaction after orgasm, and at the same time it does not cling to anything, but in the contrary, the pleasure of reaching orgasm has in essence, the same characteristics as death – they terminate the process of desire. As Alissa prays, “Oh, Lord! Preserve me from a happiness to which I might too easily attain! Teach me to put off my happiness, to place it as far away from me as Thou art.”

In Strait is the Gate, whenever Jerome attempts to get close to Alissa, she would do anything to push him away, reject him, time and time again. She loves him, and yet she pursues virtue without ends, at times her adherence is shaken, though nothing could become the hindrance to her desires, even if it is a mere moment of pleasure.

The problem here being that the gate of virtue is too narrow for two people, too narrow for love, and too narrow for two people in love. Alissa so deliriously desires that even though she loves Jarome, this love between them has become, in her mind, his impediment to virtue. She rejects him, time and time again, and yet this is the way in which she expresses love, because this is the only way he would enter the strait gate. What Alissa longs for, is not the strait gate itself, but the process of getting through the gate - it is the striving in “strive to enter in at the strait gate”.

If either the strait gate of virtue or Jarome’s love were no more, Alissa’s desire would still stand. This is because it is not that we desire “something”, but that our desires and what we desire are ultimately a situation, a process, in which overall, something becomes the object of desire.

About Repetition

We repeat, because they led us to believe that repetition is the only way of expressing desire, making us believe that desire itself is repetition – as we repeat the first  orgasm, the first completion, the first sense of existence… or it is the lingering love for something… Endlessly longing for some “thing”, whereby gaining a sense of satisfaction from it – we stare at the television, waiting for the repeating faces, image, words and intersecting emotions… How could our desire be merely so? Or rather, in the contemporary life, full of “interceptors”, the flowing desires of ours, endlessly divided, seized, intercepted, reversed, absorbed, dissipated… like our firsts, time and time again intercepting our second, third and x–th… we might even attach to our “selves”, like the self in the society, intercepting its other possibilities repeatedly.

Similarly, work repeats itself, as the artist repeats himself, and the exhibition repeats itself as the spectators repeats themselves. This exhibition cannot be separated from repetition – a choir of the looping happy birthday song, (where the birthday song is in itself, a repetition, as birthdays are); a “signal” played repeatedly, like the ray of light that scans across the wall over and over again; like the fireworks that repeat themselves, like the repeating LOVE, as though it were mourning endlessly, as though repeating in the same language…

Familiarity, similarity.

“Why repeat?” is not the question raised here, but rather, “what kind of process is it that we are trying to construct? What is it as a whole? Is it that in this state, repetition has become a necessity?”

About Difference

The following image is of the Von Koch curve and the Sierpinsky cube: the Von Koch curve is “higher than a one-dimensional line, but lower than a two-dimensional surface”, in which the center of each straight line, an equilateral triangle rises, where AB=BC=CD=DE, after endless repetition, lines expand into a plane, where we would reach the border between the one-dimensional line and the two-dimensional surface. Similarly the Sierpinsky cube depicts “higher than a two-dimensional surface but lower than a three-dimensional volume”, in which each sides of a cube is repeatedly divided into three’s with the center of each section hollowed, the volume detracts towards a plane, where we would reach the border between surface area and volume.


Three assumptions are presented here. Firstly, that repetition is a way in acquiring difference; secondly, repetition is always, a repetition in the becoming; and lastly, the infinitely closing gap between the two states that is in itself, repeating and differentiating (lines repeats surfaces, volume repeats surface).

Why is it that at that moment and place, where we strive to separate desire from repetition, that desires races? And yet at the same place and time, while intersecting repetition with difference, making “one” the bordering line, making it “more”? Or perhaps, while returning to the subjectivity of consciousness, regaining the subjectivity of the self has become another functionality of contemporary art?