BRUISE is an online publication providing visibility for ideas, conversations, experiments, and projects generated outside of traditional exhibition spaces by artists and their associates in dialogue with Triangle - Astérides, centre d’art contemporain in Marseille.



Essays   •   Ivan Cheng

Following his residency at Triangle-Astérides from January to April 2022, Ivan Cheng has been invited by Marie de Gaulejac to imagine a contribution for Bruise magazine. Through this carte blanche, Cheng summons memories of his residency and stages a dialogue between two characters, N and X, punctuated by the movements of the piano piece Vingt Regards, by Olivier Messiaen. To the sound of wheels and failed skateboard figures, N and X, about whom we know almost nothing and on whom it is possible to project almost everything, question themselves on the sounds which make them happy, on what falling means, and on what being present, where we are not expected, produces as relationships. 

                                           VINGT REGARDS

Lights on. It’s daylight-esque; really bright, like an approximation of southern sun once you step out of the library.

The audience, naturally, at a distance, and seated on a raked bank. Dancefloor has been painted to look like public square, perspectival. The illusion of depth is aided by the gentle rake to the stage. It really appears flat. There are obstacles laid out like Steiner blocks or a dressage course. A gauze curtain moves slowly, almost imperceptibly around the stage space. It is on a motorised track. It is not big, just a long strip of fabric like an enlarged, unfolded sports bandage. It moves in a full loop.

Music plays. It is a recording of Olivier Messiaen’s Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus, a work for solo piano which transforms several leitmotifs that reflect aspects of Catholic faith. It is filled with Messiaen’s transcriptions of birdsong, and in full recording, takes around two hours.

It has been quiet but for the piano, and the gently moving curtain. During the fourth movement, a small rumble is heard, which is revealed to come from N, riding on a skateboard. N cruises in a straight line from across the stage and disappears. N skates back, and attempts an ollie, badly. An uncomfortable, high pitched tone rings out. It doesn’t sound like an evaluative noise, more something uncomfortably loud which is coincidental. N gets back up, and tries again directly. Upon failing, N walks toward the back of the stage. A large exercise ball rolls across the stage from wing to wing. They speak as the piano continues to play.

N I winced to realise the bias to the tint of my sunglasses. With them off, I see so clearly the strokes of sunscreen left on skin, crevasses of pigmentation. I begin to understand the category of fake tan as expansive and full of surprises.

X (after a pause, offstage) Sounds healthy.

N (attempts another trick) The sound gets good and auratic when the wheels grind on the rougher pavement. (long pause) People used to stay away cos it’s hoodlum hangout behaviour, but of course we now like what that represents. I can’t put my mouth around words to describe, so I’ll let it just remain open to you, us, what skate represents. Narratives; rougher edges hide a heart of gold and lay that broadly over the category of skateboard riders. Watching a body move through space in a way that’s surprising, a different bind to gravity than the propulsive of parkour. Parkour is the ugly stepsister to Cinderella skater. Vehicular assumptions. The lamborghini or corolla type of fray, aptitude shifts in the (attempts skate trick) use of body extension.

X It’s a way of giving up on the body for you, N? You shift the sack of body over the board. Sounds to be a proof of obvious physics, the exception as the proof of rule.

N No

N allows the gauze curtain to drift across the stage completely, and begins to watch it. X walks onto the stage and sits, facing out. A movement plays in full.

N I will go soon to teach skate in the former squats of Taipei X Why there? N It feels familiar, the times that they’ve changed hands X Military or political shifts isn’t quite “hands”.

N I’m going to go there to teach skating

X Right.

N You know very well that there’s something in the air when these types of local spaces pivot open to the international.

X Yeah, but I was telling you I don’t think that old ideas of provincialism are quite so relevant now. The way to measure the city, the barometer, is pretty unsteady from all the ins and outs. You know what I mean, right? Generally?

N Well there’s something I like in that air in any case. A deliberate openness to other things

X I suspect they already know what skating is. What do you want? Out of this? N I don’t know what I want. Why would I go if I already knew what would happen? X Right. N skates a few stripes up and down the stage, almost mindlessly, without intention. X What do you do, insurance wise? N Haven’t thought about it X You should. X is offered the board, and awkwardly steps on and balances.

X I visited Louise at work. The ovens there smell like burnt ham. She’s started dating a former pot addict who identifies too strongly with Arthur Russell - not just the lyrics but also the groove, maybe the myth of it all. He passed by while we were there then he left. He had long hair, a ginger shot and an army surplus water bottle. I went down the stairs to use the bathroom and slipped and landed not great. I fell on my coccyx. I blame the socks I wore; they just moved the wrong way in my shoes.

N Did you bruise?

X Yes, it felt like it, but I couldn’t see it. Still can’t see it. I feel like a dog chasing its tail when I look for it. Oh, and that guy, Louise’s boyfriend, he makes himself smell like a marshmallow.

As N speaks, X steps off the board and walks up one of the blocks.

N Does he work at Nour as a waiter? I mean, I just say that cos I could smell marshmallow on a guy when I went for brunch. I don’t remember his appearance. He was the right age to not be surprising as Louise’s boyfriend. The guy at Nour. Why do people eat there? Or, what’s the sweet spot for being able to finish the food they bring you? The rounds of food seem to encourage intense waste, getting loaded on flat bread before the little platter of savouries arrives, then sweets that are almost unfinishable. Last time, there was a group of women who were joyfully meeting, smelling of hibiscus and lilies, and their tweenage progeny were tucked between them. No, I am thinking of their bosoms; the seating arrangement was more weighted, the tweens slunk towards one end of the banquette, the modified kids corner, fiddling with phones. Then the marshmallow came, as vague as the shimmer of cellophane on a cigarette box.

X I never paid to eat there, so I never took note of what was wasted. I guess I need to be involved, invested in some transaction to care. What did you think about, with the women?

N Nothing. They were just memorable because it was a few tables joined together. A brunch event. I couldn’t tell how or where they were friends from.

X I like to see big family groups at sporting events. That’s a place where you see better dynamics, people bored out of their brains. (X raises their arms, and the piano recording becomes louder) Eating, watching, cheering, jumping out of their seats. The type of cheering that people do in the stadium is different to what they do on the street. Maybe because there’s no focal space that everyone is projecting their intention towards.

N The scale of my life has become very small, so I am happy — I am happy when I hear people cheering on the street because it’s sounds like a nationhood, I mean, it sounds like a community, I mean something coming together, which is helpful, it’s helpful to have faith, the cheering could mean there’s been an exchange, a surprising switch, a working circuit, an exchange of power, or thinking, honk if you’re horny, honk if you’ve won, irresistible honking and screaming and crying in groups, with joy, into sonic space, the shouts can’t be contained by walls, all space can function like a kind of tunnel, it’s taking you -somewhere-.

X What do you mean by small then? N I mean it’s a reason to really want to move. I spend so long with...

X With skating? N Yeah. X Right N steps onto the same block as X. N And also of course I love it and it means something interesting X It’s valuable because it’s sexy

N Sexy. And so it doesn’t get me in the same way as crowds, people. I’ve spent so much time learning tricks and centering myself as moving against the hard surfaces of the city - on the board - and now it can change / I’ve spent enough time to have something to hand on

X What? Because you’re getting old you want to teach?

N I don’t think you’re understanding me

X I think that you’re trying to turn your pleasure hobby habit into a reason to evangelise to ascribe meaning to a vanity project. It’s not really about spaces of resonance if it’s always you making the noise.

N Would you say that to me if your body didn’t hurt from your fall? X Yes. It’s not a new thought X gingerly steps off the block, perhaps from the bruised coccyx twinging.

N I don't believe you. You need to fall more, I fall all the time. I fall more often than not when I push into harder tricks and surfaces. Falling shows me that accomplishment is earned in a way, and then it also disappears quickly.

X So people make videos of their accomplishments

N It’s a proof of life

X And what a life. I don’t need to fall more. I fall enough.

A long pause, they listen to the music, which continues. After a movement plays, N continues.

N Do you think it’s important for people to maintain social lives even as they get older? X The key word is maintain

N No, it’s social X It’s not my place to suggest what works best for people N What about you then?

X I know what you’re meaning. I think the way things are now, a lot of the people I know I have known for a while. I just don’t get to meet new people so often. Or, I do, but they don’t stick, the vacancies are already filled to an extent, or maybe it’s that there’s fixed circles which felt so good when we started and they still feel good enough

N So maybe you can understand why I go, even just for a while, to be with people who are already desiring to be part of this skate brigade that passes through the world.

X It was never about not understanding. And it’s great. I want to hear your account of how the squats have changed and how contemporary commerce has changed the city, and who holds it now

N Travelling and meeting people is not all bad. I’ll never really get a sense of the city in that way that you ask, not reportage style

X Not even with the territorialisation of your four wheels?

N Not even from talking with the people I meet

X Because they’re disconnected from the context

N Maybe. Not necessarily. It’s just that, that’s not quite the point. I’m not going there to evaluate and report back

X You’re just there to coach and teach?

N I’m there to be there.

The lights suddenly shift to become much dimmer, and it appears to be dusk. It is now the fifteenth movement of the piece. X carries N’s skateboard and goes upstage, so they are very hazy, barely visible though centre stage.

X There isn’t much to say when you literally aren’t invited to the party. There’s a wish to pretend there’s an alternative space you’d rather be in, rather be there than the so-called party, or maybe it’s that there's a shamefulness in the relationship to the space. Maybe it’s an easy withdrawal that they manage to do to stop caring. But what I want more than anything else is to fit in immediately and to find the people who want to pay me attention. At this hypothetical party, and also not. I think that at the moment I’m just so desperate for positive attention and for the sense that someone - anyone kind of cares and wishes to spend time with me. Maybe this is why I decided today that it would be nice to think about having more dogs in my life and maybe this

is the reason that I feel like I’m having some kind of crisis. That I can divert my dependency to an animal.

N is walking the same path as was skated earlier. Footsteps are inaudible beneath the piano. N seems to be speaking to the wings of the stage.

N You finally learned to love acid when you took it with my friends in the city park, you based yourselves out of a house that you thought of as aspirational, a house of people who worked together at a nearby cinema who you found painfully cool and impressive. You took acid before at a party by the water, the type where you toss the empty wine sack and vodka cruisers into the bushes for a boar to bristle against. You reach out your hand to touch the piglet boarlet and your hand gets tangled in the short hairs. One of the housemates took acid for the first time with good friends in the daytime. It was just half a tab. You dress to try and embody everything marginally positive in life. I want to be associated with joy. The dopamine comes when I ask it to.

It is now movement nineteen.

X We are in a park that the city maintains. The playset is like a model of the city, with towers and bridges that shake in the wind. To be such a giant in this simplified skeleton of a castle. Coloured ribs. There’s no one playing, or maybe it’s closed to the public. It’s night. What do we play for?

The playset is like a parliament. It’s a series of areas, like boxes, like hotel rooms, and it is capable of holding different groups who play on their own axis. You’re not sure if their delusion and fantasy allows them to listen to each other even though they’re right beside each other. It’s just an apartment block - they’re never so vastly different, not for the most part. If you try, you can hear sounds through the walls and vents, it’s like the movies. You hear enough and you make inferences. You The decorations on the playset aren’t ornate, there’s nothing foreign in the decor, not even the squalor.

N Sovereign reign

Music plays for a while. N and X move around the blocks.

X An opposition member is a gel-soled Nike correspondent on a diveboard, air bubbles propelling with the mutiny-free power of child labourer stitches, just seething and waiting until they are on the side of power and can be told to unionise, or cross a picket line. It’s my talent to remember where everything comes from, its origin. It began with my mother’s delight in retaining her right to have a theory of why I kept wetting the bed. She holds it like a conspiracy theorist, so fucking certain that she beams down in waves, smiles over delighted bowels. She’s so sure, and behaves like we’re not getting older at the same rate.

N The other person was looking terrible in this flannel shirt. You’d guess it was from Liberty based on the pattern but you’re no expert. It looks so bad on him but I guess maybe everything looks bad on me as well and it’s no real competition that we’re

holding. I have to confess, I don’t know why I feel any need to be condescending to someone who is perfectly sweet to me. Do I actually think that I’m somehow better than these people?

X Last night the dinner at what was it called was also a situation where I thought everyone was just being polite to me and I wasn’t able to deliver any type of charisma or charming stance that would prove my worth to these people who are differently established. And this is not to indulge an inferiority complex, because that’s certainly not particularly interesting but I’m, yeah, the state of watching and low-level attraction is. I don’t know, miserable and dull and sinister and I wonder if the next meeting will be any more or less punishing.

The music finishes playing.

N Scuttling bugs with shells underfoot, like crunchy gumnuts under the bridge without the chance of natural propagation, just fated to be some kind of bird food. Easy city waterfront. Give her power banks foggy mind distinction at any price. Oh the bridge is actually beside where I thought I was walking and I’m nowhere near to. To find the bridge might be a fool‘s errand. I guess I was supposed to walk around in a circle. Maybe I’ve completely lost my orientation. It's loud here but that’s just the train that I could be on.



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