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cucurrucucu (咕咕), Starry Kong, Liao Jiaming 廖家明

Reality Overdose / RNH Space / Hong Kong / Sep 25 – Dec 12, 2021 /

Wearing a silicone body suit with a muscular physique featuring six pack abs, and a mask with a bright red lipstick stain, artist Liao Jiaming caused quite a stir with his performance Repetition Maximum (2021), walking down a street in Sham Shui Po surrounded by an entourage. Connecting his two recent exhibitions, Liao guided viewers from Too Good to be True at public space the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre to the intimate setting of RNH space and the opening of his exhibition Till Love Do Us Apart, as well as the third and final part of RNH Space’s exhibition series Reality Overdose, a collaboration with the Hong Kong International Photo Festival curated by the space’s founder Yang Jiang.

All three exhibitions were concerned with photography as a medium, and in particular the way it impacts contemporary culture. From collage to digital manipulation to the value society places on images, all the shows – including the first two iterations of Reality Overdose, cucurrucucu’s Waste Not and Starry Kong’s You Can’t Walk This Earth Forever. Someday You Will Have To Fly – reveal the accelerated pace at which photography affects our understanding of our own identity.

The inspiration for Liao’s show and performance came from his generally negative experiences on dating apps. Using images found on gay dating profiles and photographs taken at cruising spots, depicting idealised shots of the male body, the artist creates prints and photo installations, such as in the phone directory Bright Nights, Wet Dreams (2021). He pushes the idea further by using AI to analyse profile pictures on the apps, and then generate images based on those algorithms, the process serving as a metaphor for how humans perceive the idealised aesthetic standard and the sometimes unnatural lengths they go to in order to achieve it. The resulting images are often bizarre and blurred, conveying the glitchy nature of these unrealistic standards and the apps that perpetuate them.

“Repetition maximum” refers to a concept in weight training and evokes the image of a typical gym mirror selfie, taken by a particularly buff, flexing man. A video of the performance plays in the exhibition. The artist tears off the bodysuit in angst to reach a state of liberation, which he feels is on view when he is completely himself. Replete with the lipstick marks, the torn, contorted suit becomes symbolic of the fantasies projected onto this kind of idealised male image, often met with a disappointing reality.

Cucurrucucu’s seemingly unmanipulated photographic collages visually deceive our perception of reality. Collaging serves as a format through which the artist can contend with her own confusion and conflicting understanding of reality. Humour and whimsy become mechanisms through which she does so.

Exhibition view of cucurrucucu’s Waste Not at RNH Space, Hong Kong, 2021. 
Courtesy the artist and RNH Space.

Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam gets a digital twist, with a flip phone obscuring the connecting fingers. Two pigs in a field look up at two large (presumably) ham sandwiches that take up the span of the sky. A baby is raised towards the sun from earthquake ruins, reminiscent of the iconic image of Simba being introduced to the world by Rafiki in Disney’s The Lion King. The collages are encased in frames found and thrifted in Hong Kong, while the images were found in vintage magazines from thrift shops in San Francisco.

Starry Kong’s You can’t walk this earth forever. Someday you will have to fly takes a personal, emotional turn while pushing photography’s technical boundaries. The title was a saying the artist’s mother repeated to her before she passed away, after which the artist experienced a profound sense of grief and uncertainty, which she translated into her photographs. Kong reads photography like visual poetry, seeking to reveal the intangible and evoke an ephemeral, surreal aesthetic. While her subjects are living organisms, all are susceptible to death. This mortality is often presented with an unusual tinge of neon. An image of a human seems incomplete as the figure is white and almost omitted from the picture. An orange-lit butterfly or vividly captured flowers are portrayed as floating in space. She achieves the unique glow of her photographs, which represent stars in the universe, by experimenting with torch flashes and applying glitter in the background during the photoshoot. As this exhibition was entirely online, it was further enhanced by a digital glow, simultaneously reinforcing the concept of the intangible.

You Can’t Walk This Earth Forever. Someday You Will Have To Fly. by Starry Kong, Digital photography, 2020. Courtesy the artist.

With Reality Overdose, RNH has programmed a presentation that adheres to its premise of providing a safe space for artists to explore all things related to emotions, relationships, romance, sexuality and the personal, this time through a photographic lens.

在深水埗的街頭,藝術家廖家明身穿矽膠製的腹肌道具服裝,戴著塗上豔紅唇膏的面具,在隨行人員的陪同下進行他的行為藝術表演《最大重複次數》(2021年),引起轟動。廖家明透過這個作品連接了他最近的兩個展覽,帶領觀眾從展覽「盡善盡美」的場地賽馬會創意藝術中心的戶外空間出發,一路表演至RNH Space的室內空間,為展覽「直至愛使我們分離」展開序幕,開啟了RNH Space的影像系列「我有說話未曾講」三連展的壓軸篇章。系列展覽由RNH Space創辦人江小陽策展,並為2021年香港國際攝影節衛星展覽計劃的參與項目。

三個展覽均關注攝影這個媒介如何對當代文化帶來影響。不論是拼貼作品、數碼影像處理,還是社會賦予影像的價值,所有的作品——包括「我有說話未曾講」的首兩個展覽,即cucurrucucu的《咕記夜冷》和 Starry Kong 的《你無法永遠行走在這地球上,總有一天你需要飛翔》,都揭示了攝影加快了我們加快自身身份的理解。

廖家明的創作靈感來自於他在交友應用程式上的不快經歷。他利用男同性戀交友應用程式上的影像和「魚塘」的城市影像,描繪了理想化狀態下的男性身體,創作出圖像裝置和攝影作品,如寫真集《Bright Nights, Wet Dreams》(2021年)。為了這個想法推得更遠,他利用人工智能分析應用程式上的個人頭像,然後根據演算法生成圖像,並透過這一過程隱喻了人類如何看待理想化的審美標準,以及他們有時為了達到這一標準而不惜一切代價。最終生成的圖像往往是怪異和模糊的,反映了這些不切實際的標準及延續這些標準的應用程序的畸形本質。




Starry Kong 的《你無法永遠行走在這地球上,總有一天你需要飛翔》在推動攝影技術界限的同時,將個人的情感轉化成藝術。作品的標題為她的母親在臨終前對她重複的一句話。此後,她體驗到深沉的悲痛和自身的渺茫,並以影像的方式表達。

Starry Kong將攝影視為視覺之詩,試圖揭示無形的事物,喚起一種轉瞬即逝、超現實的美學。雖然她的實驗對象都是有生命的活體,但都是容易逝去的,而這種死亡通常帶有不尋常的霓虹色彩。在她的作品中,一個人的影像似乎是不完整的,因為這個人是全白色的,幾乎從畫面中被省略掉。相片中橙色的蝴蝶或生動的花朵都漂浮在太空中。她通過在拍攝過程中嘗試用手電筒的閃光和在背景中使用閃粉,使照片呈現出獨特的光芒,代表了宇宙中的繁星點點。由於是次展覽以網上形式舉行,更進一步渲染出一層數位化的輝光,同時亦加強了無形的概念。


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