A Formation is a series of windsocks, made in the shape of men’s business suits, installed along Krabi’s Nopparat Thara Pier for the 2018 Thailand Biennale.
Evolved from military uniforms, the western business suit is a standard form of modern day dress found everywhere on the planet. Throughout its 400-year history, suits have evolved to signify conformity, capitalism, status and power, carrying with it complex codes of social compliance and hierarchy. A Formation addresses gender dynamics, globalization, and geo-political history with bemused irreverence. Made of waterproof nylon, these handmade 1960s style business suits fluctuate with the wind, moving from limp sag up through inflated aggrandizement and variants in between. A Formation is a headless, footless, occasionally formless, horde that puffs and swells, blown to and fro in harmony, impelled by nature’s whims.
A Formation is inspired by family history. In 1960 my uncle, Yu-Hsi Ho, traveled from his home in Hong Kong to Hamburg, Germany with an acceptance letter and a scholarship to a prestigious medical school. Upon arrival, he discovered that not only was there no scholarship, but the school did not exist. With no resources, no personal network and no experience, he took a job as a salesman in tailor shop to sustain himself. Many of the customers were US military stationed in Germany and Uncle’s job was to take the soldiers’ measurements and send the information to tailors based in Hong Kong. The finished suit would be shipped to Hamburg a few weeks later. He performed this job until German customs officers discovered watches and other “duty-free” items sewn into the shoulder pads of some freight from Hong Kong. As a result, every suit coming through the customs office was ripped open and inspected for contraband. Unable to cope with the resulting shipment of ravaged menswear, the tailor shop went out of business and Uncle went on to start his studies, becoming a respected anesthesiologist and living the rest of his life in Germany. Uncle often joked about his stint as a “Hong Kong Tailor,” a multi-layered oral history that sees geo-politics, history and global economics intertwined with a personal story of migration, resilience and survival.