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Siah Armajani & Rasheed Araeen

Two Manifestos /
Rossi & Rossi /
Hong Kong /
Apr 2 – May 14, 2022 /

Displacement finds solid ground at Rossi & Rossi’s new Wong Chuk Hang gallery, with artists Rasheed Araeen and Siah Armajani’s works serving as anchors.

The exhibition title Two Manifestos refers to two seminal texts penned by Araeen and Armajani respectively: Art Beyond Art: Ecoaesthetics – A Manifesto for the 21st Century (2008) and Public Sculpture in the Context of American Democracy (1979). While they were written in different times and contexts, both posit that public sculpture and art should be created with an intention to be useful beyond the artist’s vision, in service of humanity. The exhibition broaches, explores and challenges the ideas of belonging and place.

Exhibition view of Two Manifestos at Rossi & Rossi. Courtesy Rossi & Rossi.

Its most memorable and thought-provoking work, Armajani’s conceptual piece Land Deeds (1970) comprises 50 folders containing 50 deeds, each certifying the artist as the owner of one square of inch of land in every American state. As marketed to immigrants, the possibility of owning land is a hallmark of the American dream. Armajani ironically channels his own disillusioned experiences as an immigrant into owning an uninhabitable amount of land, albeit in all 50 states. Here Armajani questions whether the act of physically owning and occupying land equates with belonging to that place, and what it means to occupy cultural and social spaces as an immigrant. For local audiences, this work perhaps resonates even more strongly as astronomical real estate prices, a monopolised market and lack of space prompts them to question the value of land.

Exhibition view of Two Manifestos at Rossi & Rossi. Courtesy Rossi & Rossi.

While Armajani questions identity ownership through land, Araeen questions western ownership and construction of historical narratives. Similar to Armajani, the premise of Araeen’s practice, which encompasses art, curating and writing, is heavily informed by his experience of emigrating to London in 1964 from Pakistan. A number of Araeen’s signature geometric sculptures are on view, often incorporating lattice patterning and repetitive motifs, as well as his paintings.

The artist was known for abstract minimalism, which to a London and largely western audience was often considered derived from western minimalism. But he was really inspired by Pakistani landscapes and architecture he encountered during his time there. The unacknowledged and unknown inspiration behind the work runs parallel to Araeen’s – and countless immigrants’ – unrecognised place in the UK and its history. However, in using basic, recognisable geometric forms, Araeen emphasises making art that is universally resonant.

Exhibition view of Two Manifestos at Rossi & Rossi. Courtesy Rossi & Rossi.

The artist takes a far more critical and blatant approach in his sculptural installation Jouissance (1987), exposing the intrinsic failings and hypocrisy of the postcolonial condition, and questioning the validity of western cultural dominance and exploitation. Alluding to western soft power, the artist used an advert featuring a white woman offering a burqa-clad Muslim woman a cigarette from a brand called West. The image, fixed in the centre of a crucifix formation, is surrounded by images of cities going up in smoke and being bombarded during the Gulf War.

Exhibition view of Two Manifestos at Rossi & Rossi. Courtesy Rossi & Rossi.

A range of works spanning both artists’ lengthy careers are on view, with those from the 1970s dominating the display. Other highlights include Armajani’s Four Bridges (1974-75), consisting of small homes placed on the side, underneath or on top of the model bridges. Seemingly delicate and symbolic of connection, the bridges at once reflect a strength and sense of fragility inherent in both their physical and conceptual structures. Specifically referencing Heidegger’s essay Building Dwelling Thinking, which proposes bridges as a link between earth, sky, divinities and mortals, Armajani’s bridges are visual reminders that architecture and art – specifically public art – are universally meant to link communities.

Staged in a climate where displacement is rife and disillusionment is the result of festering political turmoil, Two Manifestos champions art’s potential as a functional tool to rethink and strengthen ideas of community, identity and belonging.

Rossi & Rossi遷址,在黃竹坑開設新畫廊, 以Rasheed Araeen與Siah Armajani的作品作重點。

展覽「Two Manifestos」(兩個宣言)引用Araeen和Armajani分別發表的兩篇開創性文本——《Art Beyond Art: Ecoaesthetics – A Manifesto for the Twenty-First Century》(超越藝術:生態美學—一個二十一世紀的宣言)(2008年)和《Public Sculpture in the Context of American Democracy》(美國民主背景下的公共雕塑)(1979年)。雖然兩位藝術家在不同的時間和背景下完成作品,但兩者都認為公共雕塑和藝術的創作應以超越藝術家願景為意圖,為服務人群為依歸。展覽引發、探索和挑戰歸屬感和地方的概念。

Armajani的概念性作品《Land Deeds》(1970年)是其最令人難忘和發人深省的作品,藝術家收集五十張他在美國五十個州各購買了一平方英寸土地的契約。移民都相信,擁有土地的可能性是美國夢的標誌。Armajani將自己作為移民的幻滅經歷轉化成在五十個州擁有無法居住的土地,具諷刺意味。Armajani質疑實際擁有和佔有土地的行為是否等同於屬於那個地方,以及作為移民佔領文化和社會空間有何意味。對於本地觀眾來說,這件作品可能更能引起強烈的共鳴,因為高企的樓價,壟斷的市場和缺乏空間促使他們質疑土地的價值。






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