A digital archive of Asian/Asian American contemporary art history

Chan, Phillip

Other Names: Phil; Chan, Phillip Paang; 陳鵬

Male
Asian American, Chinese American

"Original sin, as portrayed in the Garden of Eden, is the deepest of myths. Its reach extends into the present, because its origin is not temporal. It is the trans-temporal presence which confirms our humanity, making possible civilization and decency. For only when we know what we are can we come to know what we could be, and only when we know what we could be can we know who we are. Because it calls humanity to the presence of moral choice, it opens the way to our potential, thereby confirming our humanity.

For the conscious and sensitive, guilt stems as much from potential as from actions. Since the openness of capabilities makes possible choice, morality must be the confession of what might be in order to give contrast to possibilities. By this opposition, we understand our nature. By this opposition, we find our humanity. Consequently we must have the capacity to feel guilt for what has not even been done to truly understand the potential of goodness. Since the awareness of possibilities is what allows us to be human, the taste of apple cannot be what was. It must be ever present. Its taste is the necessary condition for morality. Art is the confession of that taste. When we partake in art, we partake in the quest to become what we might be by realizing who we are. This is a quest not merely to exist, but to be. Even art which seems amoral partakes in this quest. For every work of art seeks to become. And since becoming always stems from the fundamental quest for Being, the unfolding of becoming from Being paves the way for the presence of morality. The desire to know who we are so we can be is, therefore, the root from which springs forth the tree of morality that bears the fruit we must taste to satisfy the desire to know ourselves.

When I do art, I enter this circle. This is the circle of becoming. It is only when we enter this circle that we are able to find the core of our humanity. The fall from grace is the metaphysical reflection of this circle. Humanity must fall, because humanity must consume. It is because we have the taste that we have the capacity to become. It is because we have the taste that we can contemplate Being. We are destined to confess because we are destined to have tasted. It is in the cycle of taste and confession that we unravel our vulnerability. It is in the cycle of taste and confession that we host the presence of morality."

Phil Chan, Artist Statement, 1995

Gallery of Selected Works