Time Practices: Burning Incense

12 x 18 cm each
Inkjet printer pigment, acrylic medium and silicone rubber

This series of photographs was taken at the family house on my mother’s side. The house is located in the countryside where the tradition of having a hall for worshiping still commonly exists. The hall for worshiping is usually located on the highest level of the entire building, which is the closest to the sky and the gods. The ancestors and the gods are both worshiped in the hall to express respect to the deceased and seek the blessing to protect the household.

My grandma keeps to an everyday ritual of going upstairs in the morning to light up a stick incense and say the prayers. The incense will then be placed in a censer and naturally burns out. The burning time of stick incense was used as a time-keeping tool in Chinese society before the clock was introduced. It was a measuring term for time, and which converted into a modern unit of time, is approximately one hour. I timed the burning time of one stick incense in that house on the day of documentation. It is 1 hour and 3 minutes, slightly different from the alleged one hour, perhaps due to the humidity and weather. I then pointed the camera lens toward the censer and with the window as background, which is only open during the daytime to let air in and keep the hall 'alive'. Besides the censer, there are lanterns that are alight 24 hours to maintain the hall function as the spirits are present.

The photographs are taken through a full course of the ritual. It starts from lighting up one incense and ends with the same routine the next day. This series of photographs is a process to convert a routine that is determined through verbal terms into visualization.
*Installation image with Time Practices: Security Camera