top of page

Suture / Yang Yeung

20 Jan 2024

honoring suture – a companion

to wounds

Suture / Yang Yeung

20 Jan 2024

honoring suture

a companion

to wounds



From the outside, an apology too weak, too late.

From within, conciliation too contrived, too soon.

How many times has a wound sought remedies? 

How many times have they failed to heal?


I had a wound I can only tell you so much about. It was a wound I wanted to disappear into. 

So that it was managed, I had it stitched up by the hands of others. 

So that it would take leave, I swallowed the stiches in stages of disembodiment, substitution, transposition…in no particular order. I thought the wound would see to its end. Instead, the stitches diverted my attention from the wound, or the wound’s attention from me. 


One dusk, I put words to the wound for a dear friend. 

There and then, a pain I had never known arrested me: a sheaf of biting sour wrenching the tissues of my heart. 

There and then, the wound conveyed itself as a wound. 


What is the measure of a wound? 

The weight of teardrops it induces? What if they run dry? Does the quality of aridity take over that of fluidity as measure? 

What about causes of the wound? Do they measure it?

An injury in the anterior exposes. 

An injury at the back betrays.

Are exposure and betrayal measured in the same way? 

As much as the wounded works to measure the wound, the wound is already measuring the wounded. It is the wound that sizes up the wounded. 


Not all wounds are visible. Some wounds slash more deeply than can be fathomed. Others make imprints darker than can be imagined. All wounds are irreducibly singular. Each wound needs personal attention: attention that is meticulous but not clinging, defamiliarizing but open for belonging. 



The word suture is new to me; it elicits my wound. But I do not mean to match wound to wound. “To acknowledge the radical subjectivity of pain is to acknowledge the simple and absolute incompatibility of pain and the world.” (Scarry 1985, 50) No wound is comparable to another. Each wound needs personal attention. 


What of Suture in the gallery touches you, I know not yet. But I can imagine your eyes running through these lines, hearing my voice. I am writing not by what you are seeing, but by memories of what the curator, artists and scholars of Suture shared with me across nameless tides and mountains. We met, we stayed, we lingered, we parted. We returned. 


The word wound did not come up, but its shadow came through figures of exile, home, diaspora, loss, trauma, and death. I learnt for the first time how nomadic ancestors regarded all these (and many more states of being) trajectories of a formal visual language – their ways of being. 


What an inelegant abbreviation to describe our coming together as “online”.


In Cantonese, the language I was born into, “wound” is a composite term combining two characters: harm (傷) and mouth (口). Harm here could be a verb or a noun – harming and the harmed. Mouth is the organ and means also a point of entry (入口) and exit (出口). When closed, the wound might stay as a “harm-trace” (傷痕), that is, a scar.


“What do you think of colonialism?” A friend from the former colonizer-nation suddenly asked. It was a question too big for the occasion, too small for the topic. I do not think one needs to belong to any nation-state to be critical of a colonizing and colonized mind. As a system of oppression and domination, colonization has at once no face and many faces. All these, I left unsaid. Instead, to my friend, I said, “I do not know, but I make an effort not to pass its troubles to the next generation.” 


In Being Alive, anthropologist Tim Ingold, who presents life as meshworks rather than connected points of networks, says colonialism “is not the imposition of linearity upon a non-linear world, but the imposition of one kind of line on another. It proceeds first by converting the paths along which life is lived into boundaries in which it is contained, and then by joining up these now enclosed communities, each confined to one spot, into vertically integrated assemblies. Living along is one thing; joining up is quite another.” (Ingold 2016, 3) How could the along sustain when subjected to punctures on the one hand, and imperatives to join up on the other? 


Sources. I am interested in the art you are encountering as sources that inspire answers to this question. By sources I do not mean components serving the functions of a design. Rather, I mean all that which comes through the hands of the makers, all that which incur responsibilities upon makers – compelling them as much as freeing them. Hannah Arendt calls art “thought-things” (1978, 62). The original meaning of “thing” is a “gathering of people, and a place they would meet to resolve their affairs,” says Ingold. “[E]very thing is a parliament of lines.” (2016, 5) In Cantonese, “thing” is a composite term bringing the characters of “east” (東) and “west” (西) together. It suggests directionality. I also imagine gestures that stretch outward into the world.


From the origins, there is not yet classification, categorization, and discrimination by such established boundaries of plastic arts, object-based art, fine arts, conceptual arts… Can the ancient and the contemporary live the same time, in a pre-text – a language before language, that claims its due? Can we be thrown into the open? Could I share this ancestry at its sources, so that in case the first body is wounded, my body becomes the next, just as others do, the next, and the next? Can we move together even when in divergence? I imagine nomadic ancestors in winds as modes of air, exposed to risks from predators and indeterminate weather. I imagine them walking in the vastness of the night sky. The question of time, for Julia Kristeva, is not chronology, but how a generation takes up the responsibility of “putting this fluidity into play.” (Kristeva 1986, 210) It is female subjectivity that provides a “specific measure that essentially retains repetition and eternity from among them multiple modalities of time known through the history of civilisation.” (1986, 191) Bodies impregnate things not by hoarding but by moving around them and into them, and coming through them. 


Repetition is cyclical time; eternity is monumental time. I imagine artists in Suture sculpting air as their bodies move, warming and dampening it. A hand turns, a finger twists, lifting, sinking, pinning, perforating, binding, brushing, punctuating, brushing, spinning… Luce Irigaray critiques a metaphysics that is based on the ground (1999, 2). Dwelling instead is an aerial matter. (1999, 12) Air is the first relation we ever have with nature. “Do not I need one, well before starting to speak?” (1999, 29) Air allows for a “fluid truth”. (1999, 12) 


I am writing in a here-now that has inherited fluidity as politically inspiring. While questions of success or failure linger, I would rather give the necessary, though not sufficient personal attention each wound needs.



The year 2022 marks the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s sovereignty change, henceforth also a media event. As some accounts speak of a Hong Kong “gone” and a Hong Kong “mourned”, efforts of those who are staying while holding the dignity of their moral agency are sidelined. That Hong Kong itself is a wound is a narrative open enough for different, even competing rescue missions to appropriate.  


On March 30, 2022, I wrote a Facebook post as more friends left Hong Kong:

“By now the swirl has dispersed to become different formations of the night sky. Wherever you go, let the page be turned, our energy be shared, the same broadness above touch us, the same oceans around nurture us, and let us sustain such conditions that preserve the noble and dignified in the most ordinary - the air we breathe that stretches infinite miles yet never apart.”


With the post, I shared Ursula Le Guin’s poem “Hymn to Time”. “Let there be”, the poem goes – “let time hold radiance as much as the dark, beginning and ending, coming and going.”


Two of my elder sisters left the Hong Kong of the 1980s and 1990s. When they asked me about the Hong Kong I am living now, I was not sure if I should emphasize uncertainties or verities. I am not sure if I should discuss with them how some values do not die. (Pang 2020, 136) Emotional and intellectual ambivalence still strikes me once in a while. Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh says when confused, we need to return to ourselves first to find serenity. It is challenging because “[a] kind of loneliness, a real exile, settles in.” (2009, 50) And yet, “any meaningful activity that is going on is a kind of exile at home.” (2009, 43) Not that art heals as a potion does, but it sometimes hosts a wound to keep it cared for, or it is a guest that keeps the wound company. 


My wound, I keep attending to without gripping. My wound, I see without staring. May there be air for it to breathe. May there be loving-kindness and beauty between wound and wound. May there be time for such conditions to arise as rendering the wound empty, even if it were a time unimaginable by the times. 


Yang Yeung

Plover Cove, Hong Kong 

December 4, 2022


*This is a revision and excerpt of the essay under the same title 

published in the collective volume Suture: Reimagining Ornament (Almaty, Hong Kong: CHAT, 2023). Republished with permission.


Arendt, Hannah. 1978. The Life of the Mind. New York: Harcourt.


Ingold, Tim. 2016. Lines: A Brief History. London, New York: Routledge.

--Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. London, New York: Routledge, 2011.


Nhat Hanh, Thich & Berrigan, Daniel. 2009 [1975]. The Raft Is Not the Shore: Conversations toward a Buddhist-Christian Awareness. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.


Irigaray, Luce. 1999. The Forgetting Of Air in Martin Heidegger. Translated by Mary Beth Mader. London: Athlone Press.


Kristeva, Julia. 1986. “Women’s Time.” In The Kristeva Reader, edited by Toril Moi, 187-213. New York: Columbia University Press.


Pang, Laikwan. 2020. The Appearing Demos: Hong Kong During and After the Umbrella Movement. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Scarry, Elaine. 1985. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

bottom of page