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Faster, Higher

Faster, Higher

susan pui san lok

Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and BFI. Supported by Arts Council England.

Faster, Higher

Faster, Higher (2008) is a multi-screen installation, commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and BFI to coincide with the Beijing Olympics, which interweaves archive material with original footage shot near the London 2012 Olympic site. Originally staged at BFI Southbank, London, it was re-staged for Hit the Ground at the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle as part of the 2009 Great North Run Cultural Programme, accompanied by the launch of an eponymous publication, and again at the Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre, to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics.

Continuing ongoing interests in notions of nostalgia and aspiration, and the archival, this five-screen work includes montages of Olympic archive material and rarely-seen Chinese documentary footage spanning the last century. In light of China’s voluntary self-exclusion from the Olympics between 1948 and 1980, and the avowed apolitical idealism of the latter as a global brand, Faster, Higher seeks to suggest commonalities in visual and cultural rhetoric, and resonances between notions of nation and sport, patriotism and physical endeavour, opening with the rituals and symbols of national ceremony and international unity: flags jostling along a succession of parades, processions punctuated by the release of doves and balloons. Colour bars and countdowns signal a different ‘universal’ language, implicating the entwined histories of the Olympics and the moving image, as well as archival points of entry. The Olympic rings are echoed through clocks, archers’ targets, lassoes, and gymnasts’ hoops, while the ascent of pole-vaulters, mountaineers, balloons and lanterns invoke the movement’s motto: citius, altius, fortius. The work explores questions of spectacle and its construction, collective identity and solitary endeavour, featuring new footage shot on location in London. Young practitioners filmed at the East London Wushu Academy allude both to individual ambition and Beijing’s campaign to assign martial arts the status of Olympic sport, while the 2012 site is rendered paradoxically visible and invisible via its blue perimeter: a literal and metaphorical screen, barrier and defence, against which dreams may be projected, protests erased, and the labour behind the spectacle concealed.

Citius, Altius

Citius, Altius (2012) is a single-screen version of Faster, Higher, commissioned for Blue Crystal Ball: Samsung IOC Olympics Media Art Collection. Premiered at the De La Warr Pavilion, the collection comprises a series of single-channel videos by 9 international contemporary artists: Kota Ezawa, Kyungwoo Chun, Cao Fei, susan pui san lok, Kimsooja, Torsten Lauschmann, Emily Wardill, Yeundoo Jung, Hiraki Sawa, and Kwungwoo Chun. Blue Crystal Ball was also exhibited at the Holden Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University, as part of AND Festival 2013.



Faster, Higher, solo exhibition, BFI Southbank, London, 29 May – 30 August 2008

Hit the Ground, group exhibition, Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, Great North Run Cultural Programme, 16 September – 15 November 2009

Local Shorts screening programme, BBC Big Screen Waltham Forest, London, 2009

Faster, Higher, solo exhibition, The Gallery at Winchester Discovery Centre, Hampshire, 26 May – 15 July 2012

Blue Crystal Ball: Samsung IOC Olympics Media Art Collection, group exhibition, De La Warr Pavilion, 11-12 August 2012

Blue Crystal Ball: Samsung IOC Olympics Media Art Collection, group exhibition, Holden Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University30 August – 20 September 2012


Nina Ernst & susan pui san lok eds, Faster, Higher (London: Film and Video Umbrella, 2009), 116pp, 243mm x 169mm, full colour, hardback box, ISBN 978-1-904270-29-4. Designed by marcandanna. Printed by Calverts. Images © marcandanna 2009

Elisabetta Fabrizi, ed. The BFI Gallery Book (London: BFI, 2011:75-84) 296pp, full colour, ISBN 978-1-870282-82-6. Documentating eighteen exhibitions presented at the Southbank venue between 2007 and 2010

susan pui san lok, 'Faster, Higher,' 10pp photo-essay in Hilary Powell and Isaac Marrero-Guillamón eds. The Art of Dissent: Adventures in London’s Olympic State (London: Marshgate Press, 2012), 304pp full colour, ISBN 978-0-9572943-0-1. Designed by See Studio. Printed by Calverts


Something Old, Something New Conversation with Vicki Bennett (People Like Us) and book launch for Faster, Higher, Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle, Great North Run Cultural Programme, 16 September 2009

Making the Cut Artist Talk, part of Film and Video Umbrella’s Free to Air programme, Stratford Picturehouse, London, 26 October 2010

Contesting ‘British Chinese’ Culture  Conference, Speaker & Session Chair, University of Reading, UK, 24-25 September 2011

Incursions and Subversions: Art’s Response to London’s Olympic Dreams Panel Discussion, with Julian Walker, Alistair Siddons and John Wynne, Free Word Centre, London, 12 July 2012