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Yin Xiuzhen 尹秀珍

Sky Patch / CHAT / Hong Kong / Oct 31– Feb 28 / Ysabelle Cheung /

There were multiple entryways into Yin Xiuzhen’s solo show Sky Patch at the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile, but the timeliest introduction was situated at the main atrium of the building. Here, diaphanous suitcases, stitched together by the artist and her volunteers using recycled clothing, hung like gliders above a facsimile airport check-in, complete with a conveyer belt, luggage carts and attendants. In an era of empty airports and isolation, the work felt especially haunted, the sheer cloth pieced together by collective memory, the futility of the eerie simulacrum evident in the absence of a destination.

As a sensitive observer to the socioeconomic developments that shaped post-1989 China and the ensuing struggles for personal identity, Yin Xiuzhen oscillates between homogeneity and individuality in her works, identifying cohesive patterns of loss and intimacy through her use of vintage textiles. However, the assembly of old and new works in Sky Patch often lacked connection, instead confusing subtlety with grand gesture.

The traditional entrance to the exhibition featured two diametrically opposed works, Prajnaparamita (2019) and Fashion Terrorism (2020). The former is a sculpture comprising dozens of plush ivory cotton tubes shaped to resemble the soundwave of a Buddhist sutra read aloud. The wall text described how each piece should be given to a different visitor via a lucky draw – to disseminate the sutra’s teachings around the “perfection of transcendent wisdom” – but there were no further instructions how to participate. A docent informed us the draw was not yet organised, and to follow updates on social media. 

Fashion Terrorism 6 (Detail) by Yin Xiuzhen, 2020.
Courtesy the artist and CHAT Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile.

This incomplete work was awkwardly paired with Fashion Terrorism, a sculpture and photo series showcasing ill-fitting clothing resembling weapons, specifically AK-47 rifles, correlating fashion with violence. Separately, these works mine the artist’s interests in the personal and the global, hinting at collective practices that wield power. Unfortunately, together they promoted a discombobulating message, the binary themes of material terror and spiritual purity more distracting than generative.

The rooms that followed then abruptly pivoted to Yin’s reflections on personal memory and cultural identity, presenting the strongest curation in the exhibition. In particular, a recreation of an old industrial fabric workshop, plucked from her mother’s memories, merged seamlessly with a reproduction of her own current studio space via 16 vintage sewing machines used by the two women.

This theme of intergenerational dependence and heritage through textiles flowed into an older series, Dress Box Photo (1995), in the next room. The work features photographs of second-hand clothing that Yin had folded, sewn together and then fossilised in concrete. Printed anecdotes written by the artist reveal each object’s significance, such as a school dress sewn by her mother from rationed scraps, and a pair of denim jeans worn religiously in her youth (an unorthodox item of clothing in China in the 1980s), tracing the histories of China’s poverty and garment industry, and the artist’s own era of rebellion and individualism through fashion.

After these two exhibits, however, the show’s thematic strength seemed to dissipate. A large hall showed Portable City (2001-), miniature cityscapes assembled from fabrics collected on the artist’s travels; large industrial wall sculptures that hint at the infinite cosmos; and a photo series featuring Yin’s daughter, Song Errui. A nod back to the hanging skylit suitcases in the atrium, the soft landscapes in Portable City connote place as a malleable, tactile experience comprising personal narratives, yet the work was reduced to a conversation about earthly currencies when paired with the cosmos sculptures. Additionally, Song Errui’s soft, inquisitive face, partially obscured by a round fan, seemed anachronistic – not the artist’s intent, I imagined – in juxtaposition with the suitcases and jet-black surfaces of the metallic sculptures. The combination of so many themes diluted the complexities of each work and instead forced one-dimensional readings – for how else are we supposed to interpret these works, if not for their sweeping statements about the Earth and cosmos, the collective and the individual?

The show’s final chapter hosted a collection of newly commissioned videos. In one room, dedicated to the artist’s daughter, we see videos of Song typing, playing and relaxing, the occasional peal of laughter underscored by a moving orchestral track. Although a highly cinematic installation, the works lack context – it is unclear whether they were created in collaboration or not, and as such, Song appears more as a passive object rather than active subject. In an online walkthrough by curator Wang Weiwei, she reveals that the visitor is meant to interpret these videos to form their own narratives of adolescence and growth, but the instruction was discomfiting. Shouldn’t Song possess agency over her own body and story, even in these ambiguous, cinematic flashes?

A second, longer video was more conceptually sound, presenting a portrait of Yin’s family in their day-to-day lives, but presented major technical and accessibility issues. Played without subtitles or a translation, the Mandarin-language video automatically excludes visitors who only understand Cantonese (still the principal language of Hong Kong) or English. Additionally, for those with hearing impairments (myself included), the video’s audio was almost completely obfuscated by overlapping ambient noise, a problem usually resolved with closed captions. 

Prainaparamita by Yin Xiuzhen, 2019.
Courtesy the artist and CHAT Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile.

Sky Patch fell short on several curatorial levels, even for a long-time admirer of Yin’s work like me. The show’s material connection to CHAT was often overemphasised – for example, the artist’s addition of red pennants to a permanent exhibition on Hong Kong’s textile history seemed forced, almost aggressively so. More context could have been provided for other nuanced, complex relationships, such as between Yin and her daughter, and between transnational, globalising processes and singular cultural identities. While it can be tempting to present disparate samples of an artist’s practice, especially one as illustrious and wide-ranging as Yin, it would have been wise to pick one theme and expand on it.

Featured image: Installation view of Sky Patch at CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile), Hong Kong, 2020. Courtesy the artist and CHAT Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile.

補天 / CHAT六廠 / 香港 / 10月31日至2月28日 / Ysabelle Cheung /

在CHAT六廠,尹秀珍個展「補天」有多個入口,但最合時的介紹位於展廳的中庭。在這裡,藝術家和她的志願者使用回收的衣服將透明的行李箱縫合在一起,像滑翔機一樣懸掛在一個模仿的登機處上方,並配有輸送帶、行李車和服務員。在一個機場空無一人和隔離的時代,作品尤其令人恐懼,集體記憶由布拼湊著,在沒有目的地的情況下,令人毛骨悚然的模擬是徒勞的。

作為對熟悉塑造1989年後中國及隨之而來的個人身份鬥爭的社會經濟發展的觀察者,尹秀珍在作品在同質性和個人化之間徘徊,通過使用懷舊紡織品來識別錯失和親密感的凝聚力模式。但是,「補天」中的新舊作品之間經常缺乏聯繫,將微妙之處與宏大的手法混淆了。

展覽的傳統入口處有兩對截然對立的作品,《Prajnaparamita》(2019年)和《 Fashion Terrorism》(2020年)。前者是一個雕塑,其中包括數十根毛絨的象牙棉質管,其形狀類似於大聲朗讀的佛經的聲波。牆上的文字描述如何通過幸運抽獎將每件作品贈送給不同的訪客,以傳播有關「超越智慧的完美」的佛經教義,但沒有進一步說明如何參加。一位導賞員說抽獎尚未安排好,告訴我們要關注社交媒體的最新動態。 

這項殘缺不全的作品與《Fashion Terrorism》格格不入地聯繫一起。該雕塑和照片系列展示了類似武器的不合身服裝,特別是AK-47步槍,將時尚與暴力聯繫在一起。這些作品分別挖掘了藝術家對個人和全球的興趣,暗示了集體實踐的力量。不幸的是,他們共同推動了令人混亂的信息,物質恐怖和精神純潔的二元主題比生成更令人分心。

隨後的房間突然轉向了藝術家對個人記憶和文化身份的反思,在展覽中表現出最強烈的策展力。尤其是,從其母親的記憶中汲取靈感而創作出的一個舊工業用工廠,通過兩名婦女使用的16台老式縫紉機與她當前工作室的空間無縫地融合在一起。

這個關於世代相傳和通過紡織品傳承的主題在隔壁展廳結合了更舊的系列《我的衣服》(1995年)。作品展示是藝術家將二手衣服折疊起來,縫在一起然後在混凝土中化石化的的照片。由藝術家寫的印刷軼事揭示了每個物品的重要性,例如母親用由配給得來的布碎縫製的校服,以及她年輕時經常穿著的牛仔褲(1980年代在中國是非常規的服裝),追溯中國貧困和製衣業的歷史,以及藝術家自己透過時尚表達的反叛和個人主義時代。

然而,看過這兩個展品之後,該展覽的主題力量似乎消失了。一個大廳展示了《可攜帶城市》(2001年-)。該微型城市景觀是用藝術家旅行中收集的布料製成的;大型工業牆壁雕塑,暗示著無限的宇宙;以及藝術家的女兒宋爾瑞的攝影作品。向中庭懸掛的天窗手提箱致敬,《可攜帶城市》中的柔和景觀暗示著地方是一種可塑的、觸覺上的體驗,包括個人敘述。但與大型雕塑配對後,作品被簡化為談論庸俗的貨幣話題。此外,宋爾瑞柔軟、好奇的臉,被圓形風扇遮住了一部分,似乎與手提箱和金屬雕塑的黑色表面並置,顯得不合時宜。如此眾多的主題相結合,淡化了每件作品的複雜性,反而迫使人們進行流於表面的閱讀。如果不是因為它們對地球和宇宙、集體和個人的詳盡表述,我們還應該如何解釋這些作品?

該展覽的最後一部分展出了一系列新錄製的錄像。在一個專為藝術家女兒而設的房間裡,我們看到了她打字、嬉戲和放鬆的錄像,偶爾的笑聲在令人感動的交響曲中變得淡出。儘管這些作品具有很高的電影性,它們缺乏上下文,不清楚它們是否是通過協作創作的。因此,藝術家女兒似乎更是一種被動的物件,而不是主動的對象。在策展人王慰慰的網上演練中,她透露來訪者是要解釋這些錄像片段以形成自己的青春期和成長敘事,但該指導並不合適。即使在這些模棱兩可的片段中,藝術家女兒倒不是應該對自己的身體和故事具有主導權嗎?

第二個更長的錄像片段概念較為實在。它展示了藝術家的家庭日常生活,但顯示了主要的技術和可及性問題。播放沒有字幕或翻譯的普通話錄像會自動排除僅會廣東話(仍是香港主要語言)或英語的觀眾。此外,對於有聽力障礙的人(包括我自己),錄像的音頻幾乎被重疊的環境噪聲完全掩蓋了,通常可用字幕解決這個問題。

即使對於像我一樣一直欣賞尹秀珍的作品的人,「補天」在幾個策展層面上都有所不足。該節目與CHAT六廠的物質聯繫常常被過分強調;例如,藝術家將紅色三角旗添加到有關香港紡織歷史的永久性展覽中似乎是被強迫的。展覽可以為其他細微而復雜的關係提供更多的背景信息,例如藝術家和她的女兒之間的感情,以及跨國、全球化進程與單一文化身份之間的關係。儘管把藝術家各種多樣化的作品放在一起比較容易,選擇一個主題並對其進行擴展是更明智的處理方法。

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