Museum of Half Truths / 1a space / Hong Kong / Aug 8 – 30, 2020/ Brady Ng /
The International Council of Museums cannot agree on what a museum does – or should be. The dispute dates back to 2016, when the organisation began to examine whether its definition of a museum, which has remained relatively unchanged for more than four decades, was outmoded.
Each of us, though, in our gut, carries notions about what these institutions are. That was the starting point for Museum of Half Truths, an exhibition curated by Rachael Burns and Polly Palmerini for the nonprofit 1a space in Hong Kong. Originally intended to have both in-person and online components, the show was moved to entirely virtual form with clickable navigation that includes Soundcloud and Vimeo links because – well, you know why.
Andrew Luk’s spray foam sculptural form containing a video monitor, Traversing Hollow Ground (2020), shows footage shot in a tunnel that was carved by slave labour during Hong Kong’s occupation by Japanese military forces during the Second World War. Stacey Chan’s dictionary with all “positive” words rubbed out with an eraser, Negative Space (2018), is complemented by An Absolute Positivity (2018), a black ball of eraser shavings formed through her labour.
In the two-channel video I am invincible… on the screen/False motion tracking (2019-20), Lau Wai used a smartphone app to superimpose new dialogue on scenes from Hollywood movies and TV shows that featured characters of Chinese heritage, including cases where Caucasian actors were cast in their place. Lau then re-enacted these scenes while wearing a motion capture suit, misdirecting the viewer about her production process.
Ip Wai Lung’s Karma Cycle (2019) shows the artist wearing 3M gloves, a staple of Hong Kong protesters, and costumed as a female Chinese opera lead, invoking a remnant of the ban on women sharing a stage with men that was in place until the early 1930s. In this make-up and garb, Ip uses exercise equipment to work out, play-acting the process of toning muscles.
And Moses Tan’s collection of works unpack the paved-over queer history of Singapore’s Bugis Street in graphite drawings, an eight-channel audio installation and the video Slow Steps (2018), which features two presumably queer people who sway slowly to a remix of Leonard Cohen’s Boogie Street, a song from 2001 that was inspired by Bugis.
Burns and Palmerini’s intended playfulness came through in Lau Wai’s video, but didn’t quite land elsewhere in the show. Perhaps it was because we could only visit their “museum” through a screen. But these were the first steps in a much larger project that challenges a class of institution whose core characteristics have remained relatively unchanged for centuries – a type of establishment with a loaded meaning in Hong Kong and China, from the museum glut north of the border to controversies surrounding buildings in the West Kowloon Cultural District. Despite the curators’ best intentions, there was a disconnection between the show and what’s happening here, now.
Image: Exhibition view. Courtesy the artists and 1a space.
不過,我們每個人心中對博物館都有著自己的解讀，這便是展覽「Museum of Half Truths」的念頭緣起。是次由Rachael Burns 和Polly Palmerini擔任策展，在香港非牟利畫廊1a空間展出。展覽原計劃包含實體及和網上兩個部份，最後改為全部於網上虛擬，觀者可通過.Soundcloud.和.Vimeo.兩大平臺線上導賞，原因不言而喻。
Moses Tan的鉛筆畫作、8頻道音訊裝置及錄影《緩慢腳步》（2018年）揭開了新加坡武起士街隱秘的性小眾群體的歷史。錄影中兩個像是性小眾群體的人隨著Leonard Cohen.的音樂《Boogie Street》慢慢擺動，而這首歌正是在2001年以此街道為靈感而創作的。