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Another Garden of Remembrance 另一個紀念花園

By John Batten /

So, you have entered the Garden of Hong Kong

(Something like) ‘How to…’ instructions (with extra comments) to listen to a DVD, or appreciate a broken washing machine or refrigerator, in Lee Kit’s Hong Kong Garden:

      Be comfortable and confident as you walk in the garden. 
      Walk around to get a good overview of what’s inside.

      Don’t touch, just look.

      Listen, to the music. There’s not much, but it’s everywhere.
      And there is thumping. Thumping.  

          Thump thump thump.

      Can’t hear it? Listen again.
      It’s quiet, and only heard intermittently, near the two swans’ video. 

          Thump thump thump 
      (I remember the banging of hands or sticks or anything hard against the      
city’s street-signs and steel barriers, just like this, a strong tinny-steel

      Don’t walk in bare feet.
      There are smashed-up bits of washing machine and refrigerator on the
Have a look, get down at eye-level, if you wish; look. Want to touch?
Don’t! But, no-one will know if you do.  
      (I remembered not to touch anything on the streets when I was on the
We could have been accused of possessing a bottle, a rock; holding, then
accused of throwing).

      The streets were littered like this, on so many nights in late-2019, with
trashed piles of rubbish bins, street fencing, lumps of wood, pallets, pot-
plants, pavement bricks, plastic wrapped around light-poles,
construction safety barriers, anything lying idle and easily at hand.  

      I didn’t check if the exhibition has a security camera. Did you?

      If you did touch – but I instructed you not to! – then you could’ve been
caught on camera. (In the MTR stations or on the street, the cameras
were smashed or spray-painted over). 
The exhibition cameras, if here, are harmless; I am sure of it.
      Three videos are playing.
      Watch them. If you wish. 

      Have you made a circuit around the room? Stood under the arches? 
Walked under the arches? Brushed past the pillars? Stood under the

      Now, find the furthest corner of the garden, stand in it; for the…for the (I
am hesitating to suggest!)
…for the (great, perfect selfie-spot) wide-angled view of Hong Kong

You might be thinking: Is this all? or Is this it? Is this the whole exhibition?
OK – go outside.
No, there is no (formal) Part II, no other room to visit. That’s it. For the
Return again for a second look, after a little rest in the outdoor garden; 
or take a short walk down Oil Street towards the sea; come back in the
moment it takes to have a cigarette….

If you are looking for absolute meaning and explanation in Lee Kit”s artwork, you might be disappointed. There is not too much. Hong Kong Garden is minimal and abstract and there is not much activity. Well, not right now, not while you are here. But something did happen: the ruins that is Hong Kong Garden is a landscaped metaphor for Hong Kong’s recent past, the protests and its aftermath, families and friends split by political disagreements, daily police briefings and government announcements, culminating in the November 2019 sieges between police and protesters at Hong Kong universities. Then, the promulgation of the National Security Law in mid-2020 and the immediate early morning knocks on doors and police arrests of prominent protesters. More recently, the stresses in the city have been compounded by Covid-19 infections and restrictions on gatherings, lockdowns, restaurant closures, and economic recession. 

The exhibition also recalls memories of those difficult past times – including, the Japanese occupation; post-war recession and recovery; the 1967 leftist riots and Cultural Revolution fervour crossing into Hong Kong from the mainland; and, anxiety about the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration – when the city has been governed in the interests of what decision-makers-of-the moment want, rather than the obvious needs of the people (referred to, in a widely embracing category, as ‘the grass-roots’, or, by ordinary people themselves, as “small potatoes”).

“Meaning” in Lee Kit’s work is only an aspect of his visual creativity. Let me use the example of Ogawa Yoko’s extraordinary novel The Memory Police (1994). The inhabitants of a small island experience the disappearance of objects. Once disappeared, everyone on the island is forbidden to recall these objects in their memory, this is enforced by the thuggish, robot-like efficiency of the Memory Police, who surveil the populace to ensure those memories are completely forgotten. Initially, only small objects disappear, such as candy, jewellery, musical instruments; then it is plants, birds, and the island’s ferries. Finally, and ominously, people’s body parts disappear and all memory of their use. A disappeared leg is initially a hindrance, until its use is forgotten, and the body adapts with difficulty; this becomes accepted, but only because memory of its existence is erased. Finally, the head/the brain disappear. 

Ogawa’s book has been described as depicting Mao’s China during the Cultural Revolution, or the repressive purges of Stalin’s Soviet Union in the 1930s. It could, however, be a novel about life and slow bodily changes and losses encountered towards death. Or, Alzheimer’s disease and the traumatic loss of memory, and the complete inability to do the simplest of tasks. On the whole island, one person, known as ‘R’, hidden from society and the Memory Police in the home of the novel’s narrator, has retained his memory. His advice to the narrator, who struggles to recall words, memories and the use of forgotten objects to complete her own novel, is: “The meaning isn’t important. What matters is the story hidden deep in the words. You are at the point now where you’re trying to extract that story. Your soul is trying to bring back the things it lost in the disappearances.” 

Lee Kit’s Hong Kong Garden does similar. Set in this heritage building, he visually recalls the recent past.(1) By laying simple markers, he prompts us to remember our hidden stories, our memories. Lee’s work always possesses great feeling. And imaginings. And always good music. There will be a video or two, or three. Paintings, but, unusually in this exhibition, there are no paintings. Lee’s work is like a sensual finger working down your spine, the sensations range from initial surprise, pleasant calm to dreamy contentment. His strength is the ability to touch the emotions, often of melancholia, sentimentality, and nostalgia, of his audience. His exhibitions allow space to recall love, friendship, companionship, and good times. In his Hong Kong Garden, these are here, but also conjured are darker, more recent, memories. Painful memories are remembered; forgetting them is another, bigger challenge.

      Part II

      There is always a Part II if you want it, when you return, as you should.
      So, enter Hong Kong Garden again.
      Sit down, be comfortable, but (I know, I know) there is no seating. So,
use an old newspaper, or, 
flattened cardboard, or anything! 
      Get comfortable.

      Like meditation, focus.

      Hong Kong Garden allows you to imagine, to recall, the recent past. 

      But, where are we? We should first know some history. 
      Now, and the future, will be clearer.

There are shadows and light and air. There is space. There are pillars and a concrete floor and a ceiling. We are inside the former clubhouse (between 1908 to 1938) of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, when the sea was just a few metres away, just past the entrance doors you have entered. After the yacht club moved to its present, bigger location in Causeway Bay, this site was enlarged by reclamation, extending the land into Victoria Harbour. As government services are often sited on the waterfront, a supplies depot was established on this land.

When Hong Kong’s post-war influx of refugees from the mainland put immense pressure on the city’s public services, the colonial government undertook an ambitious building programme of schools, hospitals, clinics, and mass residential public housing. The Government Supplies Department Depot at Oil Street expanded throughout the 1950s and 1960s to become a busy place of large warehouses and offices, including these former yacht club premises (some rooms used by security guards for overnight accommodation). The goods stored here were almost any material imaginable: rolls of wire, lightbulbs, bags of cement, tarpaulin and writing pads, teacups, pens and all the varied supplies required by the city’s growing brigade of government workers in offices and on building projects around Hong Kong.

In 1998, not long after Hong Kong’s return to the mainland, the whole site was vacated, the buildings and its prime waterfront location awaited its sale to a property developer. Only the former yacht club buildings were to be preserved.

In between the vacancy and sale of the site, for a magical eighteen months, the warehouses were rented-out at low cost to become, momentarily, a fabled place of art and culture, known at the time simply as ‘Oil Street.’(2) Scattered inside and around these former warehouses, in different buildings, were the studios of artists, designers, architects, and arts organisations Videotage, Zuni Icosahedran, Artists’ Commune and 1aspace. Regular businesses were also attracted by the low rent, particularly transportation and logistics companies, utilizing the established storage, loading and unloading facilities of the former supplies’ depot. 

Within the depot, amongst the businesses and the energy of art exhibitions, artist gatherings, performances, and spontaneous cultural activities, were many unoccupied spaces. Running off the long corridors of the various warehouses were rooms – some incredibly large – mostly unlocked and open for anyone to enter. These rooms were rarely completely empty. Some had desks, whose desktops had a scattered assortment of ink blotter holders, chops, trays, paperclips, piles of discarded elastic-bands and envelopes embossed with the colonial ‘OHMS’. There were also lovely wooden chairs with rattan webbing, long wooden benches, stationery cabinets. Some rooms eerily felt as if the inhabitants had simply left for the afternoon, desks awaiting their return. Other rooms had heaped office furniture, dumped and unwanted, stacked as rubbish, calendars frozen at ‘1997’and prosaic posters about safety, hygiene, and departmental instructions. Ancient green fridges were abandoned, some pushed over and damaged, the floor covered with dust and bits of flotsam; as you walked around this ‘rubbish’, rising motes of dust were caught in the sun through dirty steel-reinforced windows. 

Lee Kit’s refrigerator and washing machine would be appropriate in either domestic or commercial settings. They are not particularly out of place in any apartment, or a supply depot, an art gallery, or a former yacht club. Lee has an uncanny ability to choose just the right objects in his installations to focus and draw an audience into his artistic ‘aura.’ His intended ambience is skillfully created by these physical objects. This is further reinforced by the balance created between his installations and a venue’s architecture. This room’s architecture is intentional. The pillars and arches in yacht club days mitigated against any unexpected high tidal sea-surges. Any destruction was contained when waves mounted the adjacent seawall, swirled through the room, around pillars, under the arches, and returned to the sea. The room’s dungeon-like mood retains a suppressed violence. It is this exact vibe that Lee Kit wishes for. (3) 

The addition of music, noise, video and (sub-titled) text allows an atmosphere for his audience to run with memories and recall subliminal associations. 

      Illusions are allowed.
      In fact, illusions are preferred.
      It is a trigger to remember the recent past, and…
      Helpful to forget, despite the rallying call of protesters, to “never forgive,
never forget.”

A final illusion of ruination and destruction are the pillars supporting the room’s beautiful arches that allude to the Biblical pillars that Samson grasped and pulled down in the Temple of Dagon, destroying the temple and all its inhabitants, including his captors, the Philistines. Think about that. In common parlance, the dictionary meaning of ‘philistine’ is “a person who refuses to see the beauty or the value of art or culture.”

      We could play with such a free association of ideas. 
      Is the experience of Hong Kong Garden something like after Samson has
pulled down the pillars?
      BTW, who are Hong Kong’s philistines?

Lee Kit’s Hong Kong Garden could depict the ruination of everything. It is embodied in that cry you sometimes hear or read on T-shirts: “Everything’s gone to Hell.” But, then watch his three projected videos. They offer a humane perspective to balance the nihilistic destruction on the floor.

      For example:
      Nature (in the pot-plant video): “all things wise and wonderful / all
creatures great and small.”

Lee, however, does not allow us to hear the clincher next line: “…the Lord God made them all.” In Lee’s world, humanity is the architect of the world, and of its destruction.

The haunting lines:
“Are you gonna stay with the one who loves you
Or, are you going back to the one you love

What you gonna say when he comes over
There’s no easy way to see this through.

But, still you’ve gotta make up your mind.”

That sounds like a messy love-triangle. It is a mess, yes, but there are still choices. At least, there is the option, always in failing relationships – or, of any serious moment of regret or disagreement, or of a grand realization – to “make up your mind” and to answer the question, ‘should I stay, or should I go.’ In Hong Kong, now, these are questions literally being weighed-up by younger residents, many who consider the city’s recent changes as unpalatable.

      Here then: you can also sit and (re)consider any of your own messy love
affairs, failed friendships, work-place arguments, political
disagreements, lifestyle choices, the fights and bullying you received –
and gave.
Are you embarrassed for what you did, in the past?
      Are you seeking understanding and reconciliation? Do you just want
some time and space to think?

      Hong Kong Garden could be, 
if there was an advertisement: ‘a safe-space, a refuge for reflection,
reconciliation, change.’ 
      However, the garden may also reinforce the strength and convictions
you had.
      Does it explain past actions and motivations?
      Can you be better? 
      Can you be a better person?
      Can everything be better?

Despite the ruins, Lee Kit’s garden has the assured hope that winters turn to spring, that gardens renew, reflower, regrow. The Biblical words of Isaiah (43:18-19) – thump thump thump – are embedded in the garden: “Forget the former things; do not dwell in the past…I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Lee Kit’s options? Be the dog in the video, enjoy the sun! Leave the ‘xx’ in your pocket.

For now.

*I have abbreviated Lee Kit’s exhibition title Garden of Hong Kong as ‘Hong Kong Garden’ in this essay.

(1) Two other significant exhibitions that Lee Kit presented in heritage buildings include: ‘You’ (2014) at the Cattle Depot, To Kwa Wan, Hong Kong; and ‘We used to be more sensitive’ (2018), Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan. See my review of Lee’s use of the Hara Museum’s domestic architecture in ‘Lee Kit’, Artomity, December 2018.  

(2) Known as just ‘Oil Street’ at the time, the term ‘Oil Street Artist Village’ was coined later after the site’s closure. See my articles: ‘Oil Street 1998 and Non-profit Art Spaces Now’, The Peak magazine, February 2015, and ‘The Origins of Hong Kong’s Independent Art Spaces’, Ming Pao Weekly, 16 April 2018.

(3) Also, Tsang Kin-wah’s video installation at Oil Street, Prelude to the Seven Bowls (2013) literally swirled through this room by using horrifying video footage of the destruction from the tsunami and sea-surge immediately after the 2011 Fukushima earthquake in Japan.

All images courtesy and by John Batten.




      請不要觸摸 ——看就可以了。

      現在,聽聽花園裏的音樂 ——聲量很微弱,但卻從不同的地方傳出。
      你聽不到嗎? 請再仔細聽一次。

      看 ——你也可以靠近點看——仔細地看。想要碰一碰?不行!但即使你真的碰






      要是你真的碰了展品 ——我已經警告過你不可以這樣做!——就會被鏡頭拍下





如果你希望在李傑的作品中尋找絕對的意義和解釋,你大概會失望了。他的作品並沒有什麽高深的大道理。《香港花園》非常簡約和抽象,也沒有什麽刺激的事情在發生 ——至少不是現在,不是你進入參觀的這一刻。有些事情確實發生了:《香港花園》這個廢墟場景暗喻著近年的香港:示威活動以及其後續影響、因政見不同而決裂的家庭和朋友、每天例行的警察記者會和政府公告、最後到2019年11月在大學校園裡警察和示威者的對峙。然後2020年中頒佈了「國家安全法」及隨之而來警察逮捕主要示威者時的清晨敲門聲。近來的疫情和一系列的限聚令、封區措施、餐廳倒閉潮以及經濟衰退,更加劇了這個城市的壓力。

展覽亦令人聯想起舊時的艱苦日子 ——像是日佔時期、戰後大蕭條和復蘇、1967年的左派暴動和從大陸傳入香港的文化大革命熱潮,還有1984年對中英聯合聲明的焦慮 ——這個城市的管治一直以時任決策者的利益為依歸,漠視市民明顯的訴求 (泛指「草根階層」,或是普通人所説的「小市民」。)



李傑的《香港花園》似乎也有類似的意圖。在這所歷史建築裡,他以視覺的方式回想近年發生的事。(1) 透過設置簡單的記號,他引發我們記起藏於心底的故事以及種種回憶。李傑的作品總是擁有一份強烈的情感。還有無窮的想像。也常伴隨著很動聽的歌曲。他的作品會有一兩段影片,或幾段影片。會有他的畫作,雖然很不尋常地,這個展覽裡沒有。李傑的作品就像輕輕掃過你脊柱的手指:最初你很意外,慢慢這份不安轉爲愉悅的平靜,最後化作夢幻般的滿足感。他擅長觸動觀衆的情緒,很多時候是一種淡淡的憂鬱、多愁善感,或是緬懷過去的情感。他的展覽是一個讓你憶起愛、友誼、伙伴和快樂回憶的空間。他的《香港花園》也創造了這樣的一個空間,即使它同時也喚起了最近一些比較灰暗的回憶。記起了痛苦的回憶;要忘記它們又是另一個更大的挑戰。


是壓平的紙箱 ——任何東西都可以!





戰後,大批來自大陸的難民湧至香港,對這個小城市的公共服務造成巨大壓力。當時的殖民政府雄心壯志地推行了多項興建學校、醫院、診所以及大型公共屋邨的計劃。1950至1960年代期間,當時位於油街的政府物料供應處倉庫不斷擴充,成爲大型倉庫和辦公室的集中地,部份地方則繼續由前遊艇會所持有 (譬如為保安員提供過夜住宿的房間)。這裏存放的貨品包羅萬有,像是一卷卷的電線、電燈泡、一袋袋的水泥、防水布、寫字板、茶杯、筆,以及各式各樣的物料,以應付當時不斷增長的政府辦公室員工和不同建築計劃的需求。




李傑的雪櫃和洗衣機可作家居或商業用途。因此,不論把它們放置在公寓、倉庫、畫廊,或是前皇家遊艇會,都不會太格格不入。李傑似乎有一種不可思議的能力,可以挑選出恰到好處的物件去完成他的裝置作品,讓觀衆自自然然地被他的藝術「氛圍」所吸引並專注其中。他以熟練的技巧,用這些物件建構出他心目中的氣氛。他的裝置作品和展場的建築形成了某種平衡,更加強了所表現的情感。這個空間的結構充滿巧思。當這裏還是遊艇會的時候,柱子和拱門可以抵禦突如其來的潮漲。當海浪跨越相鄰的海堤,在這個空間裏圍著柱子和在拱門下打轉,然後順著原來的路綫返回大海,其破壞力會被大大減弱。這個像是地牢的房間,潛在著一股被壓抑的暴力 ——這個氛圍正正就是李傑想要的。(3)


      也有助我們忘記 ——雖然示威者的口號是「毋忘」。




      大自然 (盆栽植物的影片):「all things wise and wonderful / all creatures
great and small. 

     (「一切聰明可愛物 / 一切活潑生靈」)




聽起來是一個複雜的三角關係。沒錯,情況實在是一團糟,但你還可以選擇。至少,你還有選擇權 ——不論是一場失敗的戀愛關係、非常後悔或發生紛爭的時候,或是突如其來的覺醒 ——你還可以「下決定」,想清楚到底是要「留下還是離開」。這一刻的香港,年輕一代每天都在思考這個問題,因爲這個城市最近的變化實在令人厭惡。


      曾遭遇的爭執和欺淩 ——或是你曾與人爭執或欺淩別人。



雖然李傑的花園看起來是一個廢墟,卻蘊含著大地回春、花園會重生的希望。聖經中《以賽亞書》的第43章18至19節 ——砰﹗砰﹗砰﹗——亦體現在這個花園:「你們不要記掛從前的事;也不要糾纏在已發生的事…… 我必在曠野開闢道路,在沙漠挖掘江河。」

李傑又選擇了什麽? ——或許是像影片中的小狗一樣,悠然自得地享受日光浴!將煩惱事先抛開吧。



(1) 李傑亦曾在歷史建築物内舉辦過兩場重要的展覽,包括「你。」,香港,土瓜灣,牛棚藝術村(2014);以及「We used to be more sensitive」,日本,東京,原美術館(2018)。有關李傑如何發揮由住宅改建而成的原美術館的建築空間,可參閲我的藝評「李傑」,《藝源》,2018年12月。

(2) 最初被稱作「油街」,在場地關閉之後才被稱作「油街藝術村」。請參閲我的文章:「1998年油街和現今非牟利藝術空間」,《The Peak雜誌》,2015年2月號;以及「香港獨立藝術空間的緣起」,《明報週刊》,2018年4月16日。

(3) 曾建華也曾在油街展出其錄像裝置作品《Prelude to The Seven Bowls》(2013),影片為日本311大地震引發的海嘯所造成的破壞的駭人畫面,好像海浪真的在展廳内盤旋。

Distances in Three at Anita Chan Lai-ling Gallery, The Fringe Club

Distances in Three  距離‧有仨
Jason Lam Chung Yin, John Chan Chun Yue, Dave Ho Lok Chung
Aug 2 – 9, 2021
Opening: Monday, Aug 2, 6 – 9pm

Anita Chan Lai-ling Gallery, The Fringe Club
2 Lower Albert Road
Central, Hong Kong

Far, near, unrealistic and intimate are adjectives that express the physical and emotional closeness between each other.  We can quickly judge the distance between certain things based on our intuition.  But what is the basis for judging distance?  Do various judgments imply certain values?

The “Distances in Three” exhibition shows the “distances” between the three artists and their respective concerns and issues.  Jason Lam explores the unclear line between digital technology and traditional art,  John Chan’s photos reveal his feelings about the living environment of the grassroots community, and Dave Ho uses sculpted materials to ponder how he constantly gets through in this small land of Hong Kong, and the question of  “Where is home?”.

The artists discussed their philosophies and feelings in different “distances” based on their own agendas.  Through each stroke, each quick move, each construct and link, the clues connecting each distance, and the value of metaphors, the distance is no longer a issue of simple closeness.  These adjectives are just representations. Trying to judge the distance in the work might not have much meaning, because the existence of the work is already a distance, representing the relationship and value between the artist (even the audience) and the content of the work.

You can choose to be an onlooker, watching the relationship between the work and the artist, just like standing on an observation deck and looking at the Tsing Ma Bridge that connects Ma Wan and Tsing Yi.  Or you can stand on the side of the bridge and try to look at the other side of the artist from your own point of view, even though you and the artist might each have a different background.

The world is a show for my chosen eye’s delight 臆想錄

Gallery Exit / Hong Kong / Mar 13 – Apr 30, 2021 / Tiffany Leung /

In times of crisis like these, taking time to look at art can seem something of a luxury. In some ways it is – the pandemic, along with the pressure to uphold productivity, has relentlessly consumed our mental capacity in the past year. But time and again we are reminded that the more our real life distracts us from looking at art, the more closely we should be looking at it.

The group exhibition The world is a show for my chosen eye’s delight at Gallery Exit reiterates this idea – a need for stopped time to examine and reflect on our experience from new perspectives. The show takes its name from the title of a manga novel by Japanese artist Suehiro Maruo, who is known for employing dark humour and gory aesthetics as a metaphor for absurdity in society. “It not so much a direct response or tribute to Maruo’s work,” says Hilda Chan, gallery manager of Exit. “The reference is loose and alludes to his spirit in creating art that connects closely with real life, summoning ideas inspired by our urban landscapes and popular culture.”

Hong Kong-based tattoo artist and printmaker Li Ning sees printmaking as an extension of his tattoo work and often fuses the two practices, like carving out finer details in his etchings with his tattoo gun. His new work Multiple Choice (2021) comprises 16 intaglio prints inspired by symbolism found in divination cards. They read like a stream of spiritual consciousness, guided by figurative and abstract forms of bodies plotted in meticulously depicted surrealist landscapes. Whether Li is working on skin or on copper, the effect is morphing and evocative, creating intriguing worlds in which to immerse yourself.

Defenders by Au Wing Chau, Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 80cm, 2021.
Courtesy the artist and Gallery Exit.

Supernatural beings, such as ghosts and demons, are also embodied in the work of Oscar Chan Yik Long. Stemming fromhis interest in horror films, Rendez-vous avec la peur (2019) (meaning “An appointment with fear”) is a series of ink drawings inspired by French director Jacques Tourneur’s 1957 horror film of the same name. When confronted with fear, Chan purposefully drives his thoughts to the dark extremes by “exploring the worst case scenarios in my own imaginations and nightmares”. Like Maruo, Chan’s haunting, grotesque depictions bring to light disturbing mediations of our dark desires.

Across the room are works by two emerging Hong Kong-based artists, Olga Au Wing Chau and Hilarie Hon. The works complement each other, with their similarly vibrant, humourous and deliberately amateurish styles. Using a combination of spray paint and acrylic, Au renders her paintings with whimsical characters and brightly coloured sets. For instance, We Are Happy Together (2021) comprises an assortment of shapes with emoji-like faces in hues of acid green and fluorescent pink. These faces are frequently portrayed in Au’s paintings; she describes them as “a smiley face that looks like a smile but is not a smile”.

Gathered in flocks throughout the gallery are flamingo-like, neon, pink and orange sculptures by Hilarie Hon. Titled Legless Flamingos (2017), these legless porcelain creatures with uncanny cartoon faces appear as comical interludes between artworks in the space, retaining the playful, peculiar undertone of the exhibition.

Some of the subtler works in the exhibition belong to artists and publishers: Son Ni from Taiwan, and Hong Kong-born Chihoi. Ni’s pencil-on-paper The Sun’s Shadow (2016) is an example of her signature style – graphite lines and abstract corporeal forms contained in panels, which fall somewhere into the space between drawings and comics, half nonsensical and half allegorical. Our vision progresses across the eight panels rhythmically, moving between architectural contours and soft figures in motion. By carefullyorchestrating tensions between lines, forms and spaces, Ni’s work invites us to reassemble narratives and contemplate new meanings each time we look.

The King of Ghosts by Oscar Chan Yik Long, Figurine in ABS plastic, alloy metal, resin,
Edition of 100, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Gallery Exit.

Chihoi’s new work Paper on Paper (2021) is a “series of 12 sequential paintings about the various stages of producing, reproducing and publishing books from start to finish”. Frame by frame, Chihoi takes us through the cycle as paper turns into books that are finally sold in exchange for money. This astute observation of the process is perhaps a metaphor for the world around us as it changes and cycles back repeatedly.

At the far end of the gallery are two artists who work, in different ways, with materials found on the streets of Hong Kong. Ocean Leung’s Unknown Pleasures (2013) and They Don’t Like Eggs (2016) derive from cut, spliced and reconstructed vinyl banners that were once used as promotional signage by the government and political parties during elections. In contrast, animation and comic artist Kongkee showcases a variety of dazzling, sci-fi-inflected works: silkscreens, lenticular and digital prints, converted found objects, a digital print laminated on a door, and hand-painted taxi doors. For both artists, the appropriation and manipulation of urban materials deconstructs official narratives, in the hope of reclaiming what was lost.

Although our future might seem bleak, these artists continue to reflect on our times and propose imaginative alternatives to our reality. Perhaps for just a moment, we can find new ways to orientate ourselves again and renew our view of the world, in all its splendour and grief.

安全口畫廊 / 香港 / 2021年3月13日至4月30日




諸如⿁魅和惡魔之類的超自然生物在陳翊朗的作品中也有所體現。出於對恐怖電影的興趣,他創作了一系列水墨繪畫《Rendez-vous avec la peur》(意為「與恐懼的約會」),靈感來自法國導演雅克·特納 (Jacques Tourneur)1957年的同名經典驚悚電影。每當恐懼時,陳氏會特意去想那些極端的黑暗面,從而「在自己的想像和噩夢中探尋最惡劣的場景」。如丸尾末広一樣,陳氏對⿁魂妖怪駭人並醜惡的描繪也反映出人類的黑暗欲望。

穿過房間擺放的是兩位新進香港藝術家區詠秋和韓幸霖的作品。這些作品風格相近、相得益彰,同樣的生機勃勃、詼諧幽默並刻意營造業餘畫家的筆觸。其中區詠秋的畫作利用噴漆和塑膠彩,繪畫出異想天開的角色和色彩繽紛的場景。例如,作品《We Are Happy Together》(2021年)是由各種形狀、以酸綠和螢光粉紅為色調的表情圖標組成。這些表情圖標經常出現在區氏的畫作中,它們被描繪成一張張「似笑卻非笑的笑顏」。 而另一位藝術家韓幸霖,她所創作的霓虹粉紅及橙色的雕塑像紅鸛般成群結隊的聚集著整個畫廊空間中。作品名為《Legless Flamingos 》(2017年),這些沒有腿而展現出一張張怪誕的漫畫面孔的陶瓷雕塑,是穿插在展廳裡各個藝術作品間的滑稽小品,體現出展覽所蘊含的戲謔而不尋常的基調。





Maurice Benayoun 莫奔

By Caroline Ha Thuc /

A pioneer of new media art, French artist and theorist Maurice Benayoun began experimenting with 3D animations in 1987 and interactive VR installations in the early 1990s. Since then, he has developed a complex multimedia practice that combines digital technologies with a conceptual approach. Benayoun, also known as MoBen (莫奔), arrived in Hong Kong nine years ago to teach at City University of Hong Kong’s School of Creative Media. There he established the Neuro Design Lab, a studio where he and his team develop and produce his art projects.

Group photo: Maurice Benayoun with his team, the Neuro Design Lab Team, in The Lab at SCM, Maurice Benayoun, Tobias Klein, Sam Chan, Charlie Yip, Tony Tang, Ann Mak, Tim Leung Kin Lok. Courtesy Moben (Maurice Benayoun).

CHT: Since 2018, you have been working on a very ambitious project, Value of Values, which aims to evaluate the relative value of human values such as freedom, love and power. What triggered this idea? MB: This project arose from a series of questions. We have seen recently how much various governments based their pandemic-related decisions on values: protect the elderly or the economy? Compassion or money? But what does that mean today for individuals? With the Mechanics of Emotions series, I created large urban screen artworks where viewers could watch in real time the World Emotion Forecast, based on internet search data. With Value of Values, together with Nicolas Mendoza and Tobias Klein, we propose a stock market where human values could be exchanged and monetised, but also an apparatus that allows these values to take tangible artforms.

The project has been conceived on at least three levels. The first part happened in different shows and was interactive: you invited people to give shape to these values, in what you call the Brain Factory. I worked with researchers to develop algorithms helping to translate people’s thoughts into a tangible form. Viewers are asked to concentrate on one particular value, and electroencephalogram sensors are placed around their head. We can then listen to their brainwaves, giving them the possibility to assess the evolution of a dynamic 3D shape according to their conception of the value. It is a collective endeavour because the shape from which you start has been continuously redesigned by all the predecessors working on the same value. During the eight-minute process, each viewer produces 10 items or VoVs, all named and numbered according to their value and series: for example, FREEDOM 0160, FREEDOM 0161 etc. Better than a tangible item, these models are registered on the blockchain, a specific type of database in which information is stored in a decentralised way. Participants, brain workers, are given the first token that includes a visualisation and the 3D model, which is a geometric abstraction in digital form of the freshly designed value. They will be able, later, to exchange or trade this token on the market of values.

This is the second stage of the work, when it becomes digitised. In your online platform, people can trade their tokens, which means that values become monetised and commodified. This seems rather cynical? I like this ambiguity. Of course, saying that values can become objects of transaction is debatable, yet this platform is open. So far, SEX is ranked at the top position, and surprisingly MONEY is not [usually] the most demanded value, depending on the location. This is exactly the challenge and the interest of the work. Viewers can follow the fluctuations of the market, the real-time ranking of the values according to different places in the world. Is LOVE more valorised in South Korea than in Taiwan? Again, I am only asking questions and watching how things evolve. People might manipulate the market and speculate on some values, for instance for political reasons, but in the end there might be a balance between speculative and emotional motivations.

Value of Values, installation and phone app, M. Benayoun, N. Mendoza, T. Klein, Lux Alterna Exhibition, Art Center Nabi, ISEA2019, June-July 2019. Courtesy Moben (Maurice Benayoun).

In order to obtain a real collective hierarchy of values, you would need a large population of people involved. Is this possible? I hope so. We keep developing the project in order to reach different sets of audiences. Many exhibitions planned around the world have been postponed or cancelled. In early 2022, VoV should have a solo exhibition in a large space in Hong Kong as an Osage Gallery initiative. There will be a trading room for the visitors to engage right away in the trading of values.

In the art world, people have just started talking about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) because one digital artist, Beeple, sold a piece for more than US$69 million at Christie’s in March. What do you think about this new economic model for digital art? So far, NFTs represent only one new mode of distributing artworks. I think this new model does not go far enough: instead of the expected revolution in the art world, digital artists are now paying online platforms to display and sell their artworks, and these platforms merely replace what art galleries and auctions used to do. What is positive is that this crazy sale gave visibility to digital artworks and helped legitimise their value. Covid-19 and the popular rise of the blockchain contributed to this shift. For VoV, I try to push further the model: blockchain is not only a platform for direct trading of art, but can also be a medium that artists appropriate in order to address financial, ethical and political issues. The owners of VoV tokens are not only collectors, they are also artists and traders.

This is the third part: these owners can exchange or sell their tokens, but they can also reify the value they bought, for example by printing their shapes or even by modifying their original model. In parallel, you are producing your own models derived from the tokens. We come back to creative and tangible artforms. Being immaterial, made of pure data, VoV tokens can be considered as “seeds of art”. They are grown out of an EEG-based DNA code: once you own BEAUTY 0678, for instance, you can create whatever artwork you wish from its genetic code. I recommend not to alter its original shape, created collectively in the Brain Factory, but to play with its display or its staging. After playing the curator in assessing the evolution of the shaped value, the brain worker or collector becomes also a creator. How to make sense out of a shape that may look abstract to the public? This sense is not only illustrating the value, but also expressing statements related to the value. The owner has total freedom of expression, interpretation and reification. Personally, I created a series of “twodees”, unique 2D autonomous works originating in my collection of VoV tokens. I wished to show the power of the forms that can be generated.

The shapes are very abstract. How do you differentiate FAME from COMPASSION, if not by their title? This is a form of post-symbolism. We used to search for forms that would embody meaning. Here, I reverse the process: we search for meaning in given forms. I also play a lot with texture, colour and light. With today’s software, you can even produce meat-like textures, so there is an unlimited field of possibility when it comes to reifying a value. In fact, it is a very rewarding exercise. FRIENDSHIP 522 might seem at first glance surprising: an agglutination of falling forms. However, the shape is soft, like friendship, and its honey-like colour evokes a sweet taste. 

It is also sticky, just as, sometimes, friends can be. As for STRENGTH 473, it is a golden, dynamic form, whose shadow is bigger than its model. You can interpret this as an ironic representation of STRENGTH: apparently, it is not who you are that matters, but how people perceive who you are.

Collectors become artists, curators and traders, while economic and financial models invade the art world: you are indeed blurring all the usual benchmarks by which art is judged. Is this a way to push back the boundaries of art, or a kind of provocation? This is a reality that people need to acknowledge. Art as an object has already become an autonomous subject, able to perceive, adapt, react and express. Today, with the digital world, art is everywhere, deeply pervasive: it reaches all fields of human activity, all levels of human society. I wish to contribute to this mutation by conceiving artforms that are ubiquitous, catalytic and revealing. I also think that the categories that define today’s actors in the art world are not relevant any more. Curators have become artists; artists have become art critics and curators; critics are now art market designers; and spectators, through social networks, are now trendsetters. In the exhibition that we are preparing with Osage Art Foundation, I will add more virtual agents, often what we call artificial intelligence, who will also engage with the works: after the Virtual Poet converting effective trading into transactional poetry, The Reader will try to associate the shapes of the values with Chinese characters, an Interpreter will use these words to write philosophical or ethical statements, and, finally, a Scientist will generate in real time a Periodic Table of Values, reflecting the relative distribution of the values in private collections. In a next step, I would like collectors of VoVs to display their Face Values, a selection of their favourite values, as a new way to represent themselves. It might add some complexity to the market’s activities: buying and exchanging values anonymously is different from doing it openly, as if, beyond focusing on what you invest in, you wished to show what you stand for.

Paysage Votif after Marcel Duchamp’s Paysage Fautif, sperm on satin, signed R. Mutt.  
Courtesy Moben (Maurice Benayoun).

You are mimicking the stock exchange and models of today’s cryptocurrency market. Does this mean you acknowledge the way they lead the world? For me, the process that I call sublimation, which consists of converting the world into discrete units like shells, numbers, coins, words, letters, atoms and bits, contributes to a better understanding of the world. At the same time, it allows transactions and dialogue, analysis and measurement, abstraction and representation. The sublimation process converts everything into data, from the universe to its living beings, including their actions and their thoughts. This is one side of the coin. The other is the reification, where thoughts and data can be converted into objects constituting our physical reality. The Brain Factory was focusing on this aspect of human activity. Developed by Karl Marx, and interpreted by György Lukács and Guy Debord, the concept of reification is very powerful. We could translate it as the commodification or even thingification of thought. If LOVE and SEX become something you can buy and sell, if COMPASSION and PEACE become commodities, you are not only addressing the power of money over any kind of other value, but you are also creatingthe possibility of observing finance making sense. 

Transactions between POWER and PEACE, SEX and MONEY are measured in the same way as other stocks. When in June 2019 we launched Value of Values in Seoul, at Art Center Nabi, as an IVO, or Initial Value Offering, VoV tokens were produced and converted on the blockchain and traded right away. We never presented VoVs as cryptocurrency: they were born as NFTs. It is not a coin, as they are all different, and owning it means concretely owning a 3D model that you can use to duplicate, interpret, enlarge or print to make physical artworks. 

Banknotes are not officially convertible into gold any more; only the symbolic value remains. VoV are not the NFTs you’ve heard about recently. Demonstrating that you can use the blockchain as a certification of ownership detached from the good, allowing pure speculation, is not satisfying if this happens without considering the process as part of the sense of the work. Value of Values integrates the blockchain as a medium, and not only as a virtual white cube, a virtual art shop. The whole process interrogates the subjective stakes that lay between values, and the public-artist-curator-dealer production chain, in their relation to many other human activities coming straight from a human’s brain, like poetry, ethics, science, philosophy or fashion.

Marcel Duchamp is an important source of inspiration for you. Is that because he escaped all preconceived frameworks? Duchamp exemplifies the transitions that happened in the art field in the 20th century. He was an art dealer and a curator, but he is well known as an artist. As a kind of joke, I recently created a post on my website entitled This baroness [Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven] was the avant-garde artist working with recycled material, mostly plumbing, who probably created Duchamp’s famous Fountain – Duchamp mentioned it in a letter to his sister. However, historians seldom remember her. To me, this story shows how the artist Duchamp has become a curator-artist, a shift which is still operational today. In my post, I propose a reinterpretation of all Duchamp’s artworks signed by Richard Mutt, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s masculine pseudonym, a post-mortem appropriation closing the loop of the original appropriation by Duchamp.





STRENGTH #473, VoV Twodee by Moben, 2D printable high-res image, 
8000 x 10000 pixels, March 2020. Courtesy Moben (Maurice Benayoun).






Emotion Winds, still image, Internet, emotion data + real winds, Mechanics of Emotions by M. Benayoun, 2014. Courtesy Moben (Maurice Benayoun).


杜象是你重要的靈感來源,是否因為他脫離了所有先入為主的框架?杜象代表了20世紀藝術領域的變化。他曾是個藝術品商人和策展人,但最為人所知是他的藝術家身份。話說回來我想起一件趣事,我最近在個人網站上張貼了一篇名為www.elsavonfreytagloringhoven.com的貼文。這位男爵夫人[Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven]是名前衛藝術家,主要使用水管等可回收物料創作。參考杜象寫給姐姐的信中內容,他的名作《泉》或許是由男爵夫人所創作,但歷史學家很少提起她。對我而言這個故事顯示了藝術家杜象成為策展人/藝術家的過程,這轉變至今仍然常見。在我的貼文中,我重新詮釋了杜象所有署名為Richard Mutt(Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven的男性筆名)的作品,以擅自進行的事後調查終結因杜象而起的擅用循環。

Hong Kong Baptist University Academy of Visual Arts BA (VA) Graduation Exhibition 2021

Jun 12 – 27, 2021
128 graduates from AVA

Academy of Visual Arts, HKBU
Kai Tak Campus, AVA, HKBU
51 Kwun Tong Road, Kowloon
Choi Hung MTR, Exit A2

Due to current restrictions the exhibition is open to the public under limitations. For on-site visits please fill in the registration form two days in advance. Public tours are available every Sunday from 12 to 2 pm. 
A confirmation email will be send after successful registration.

Register here:

The Moon is Leaving Us 月逝無聲

By Aaina Bhargava / 

Roughly 300 years ago, after studying ancient records of eclipses, British astronomer Edmond Halley conceived of a theory that the moon was in fact physically moving away from the Earth. The moon’s recession was later confirmed in the 1970s by laser beams bouncing off mirrors placed on the moon by American and Soviet astronauts. Caused by drags in ocean tides, which slow the Earth’s spin rate, the accelerated rate compensates for the loss of angular momentum, and the moon gradually pulls away at a rate of 3.78 cm a year – about the rate at which our fingernails grow.  Upon learning this, Hong Kong artist Phoebe Hui’s existing fascination with the celestial body gained newfound urgency.

Installation view of The Moon is Leaving Us by Phoebe Hui.  
Commissioned by Audemars Piguet Contemporary. Courtesy the artist and Audemars Piguet.

“For some reason, this matters to me, despite the fact it doesn’t affect us during our lifetime,” she says. Initial inspiration struck when the artist’s visited Le Brassus in Switzerland, home to Audemars Piguet’s headquarters, just after she was selected to fulfil the Fifth Audemars Piguet Art Commission, the first to be exhibited in Asia. During a nighttime stroll, an encounter with the full moon in the quiet, snowy mountains mesmerised Hui, prompting her to consider her relationship with moon and others, and nature’s interconnectedness. Seeking to recreate the impact of the experience, she returned to Hong Kong to begin her research. 

This culminated in Audemars Piguet Art Commission The Moon is Leaving Us, on view from April 25 to May 23 at the Duplex Studio in Tai Kwun, Center for the Heritage and Arts, co-curated by Ying Kwok and Audrey Teichmann, Audemars Piguet Contemporary art curator. A fusion of art and technology, the installation reflects a romantic mysticism associated with the moon, while poetically translating the science behind it.

Detail of selenites by Phoebe Hui. Courtesy the artist and Audemars Piguet.

Kwok refers to the artist as a “nerdy poet”, with regard to her scientific approach, fuelled by sentimentality. A poem by eighth-century poet Li Bai, imprinted on top of a stairwell within the exhibition space, reads, “Today’s man cannot behold the moon of yore. But today’s moon did shine on men of yore.”

From literary and artistic to scientific, references to the moon’s representation in various cultural media are well documented in this exhibition. It explores how those representations have changed over time, and how we interpret and perceive them, ultimately challenging our comprehension of the universe at large.

Composed of multiple elements, the commission’s most striking feature is the staggering structure Selenite (2020-21), a kinetic robot configured in a large, moon-like shape located on the lowest level of the Duplex Studio. Emitting a literal moonlit effect across the vast, high-ceilinged space, on its face Selenite projects various images of the moon on 48 mechanical arms, including some from NASA’s database. Depicting partial views of the moon, the screens together show a more complete narrative, one we rarely get to witness. In doing so, Hui highlights our limited visual perspective on nature.

She explains her decision to use multiple images with reference to conversations she and Kwok had with a former astronaut. “As the spaceship keeps orbiting, the moon can change from being a circle to an ellipse and back again. When we observe something, it’s always relative: my position in relationship to that object, and if my position changes, so does the relationship. I think this is one of the reasons I decided that Selenite should be a thread of images, not just one image.” 

Detail of a moon drawing by Phoebe Hui. Courtesy the artist and Audemars Piguet.

In considering relativity and perspective, Hui reveals an underlying intention to bring to the fore both nature and the universe’s vastness, and our own lack of awareness of what it contains. She also makes us aware that our perception of both is informed by human-made systems and instruments, stemming from particular contexts that change throughout history.

“It’s very precise and accurate, but there is human involvement,” says Kwok of the data we acquire from space. “The scientists and astronauts who derive this information have already applied certain angles to it. There is no absolute scientific objective or subjective storytelling or imagination. It’s like a gradation traveling in between that: depending on your entry point, you might be closer to one side, but once you explore and dive in, you realise there are many different angles.”  

A desire to unveil the bigger picture propels Hui’s distinctive approach and her interest in kinetics. As a child, the artist would cut up Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns, initially to see how they were made, and then create something with the deconstructed pieces. While studying for her MFA, she became interested in media archaeology, a field studying new technologies through the historical lens of older media. This extends into her preoccupation with scientific philosophy: the ideas and assumptions behind scientific concepts prevail over the process themselves.

This interest is most evident in the research room created as a part of the commission, which features Selena (2021), a robotic machine built by Hui from art tools such as a canvas frame and easels. Selena produces intricate ink drawings of the moon based on updated NASA images, but with an aesthetic similar to that of 17th-century astronomer Johannes Hevelius, who meticulously documented images of the instruments he made and used to observe the moon, as well as producing a detailed atlas of the moon over four years.

Selena by Phoebe Hui. Courtesy the artist and Audemars Piguet.

A blend of old and new lunar representations are present in this series of drawings, Selenographia – WAC central longitude ink (2021), the intricacies of which can be attributed to the painstaking procedure of feeding Selena data. Thereafter, Hui proclaims, “the program needs to run through all the algorithms; the computer has to process more than 138 million parameters in order to generate images”. Selena needs to convert the algorithms into a language she understands, and then convert that into images. “If everything goes well and Selena is in a good mood, maybe it’ll take 14 hours,” says Hui of the process.

In imbuing Selena with human characteristics like this, Hui picks up on the increasing contemporary reliance on AI and robotics. Displayed in the research rooms, alongside historical depictions of the moon and documents, Selena Has a Temper is a drawing produced by the bot while it was essentially working overtime, without breaks. The aggravated sentiment is strongly evoked by its linear intensity and repetition. Drawing also speaks to the artist’s history; she used to draw and illustrate comics before she went to university. As well as with considering her practice research-based, Hui says drawing forms the basis of all her works. 

Rolex Presents: William Forsythe’s Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time No. 2

Jul 4 – 19, 2021 (Multiple sessions per day)
Early bird tickets: $120 – discount available till Jun 21

No handling fee. Concessions at 50% off and family packages available.

Freespace, Art Park
West Kowloon Cultural District
(MTR Kowloon Station Exit E)

This summer, The Box at Freespace transforms into an interactive gallery space.

Come dodge and weave through a shifting obstacle course of hundreds of pendulums suspended from automated grids that swing and sweep according to set patterns. As you navigate this labyrinth, ensuring not to bump any of the swinging orbs along the way, you realise you are creating your own unique dance.

For the first time in Asia, experience the undulating world of one of the 20th century’s most iconic artists. William Forsythe has been creating works for stage, screen and galleries over nearly half a century, transforming ballet from its classical repertoire to a dynamic contemporary art form.

Originally created in an abandoned building on New York’s historic High Line, the installation has been developed in contexts as diverse as the monumental industrial architecture of the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern, and the historical setting provided by the Arsenale of the Venice Biennale.

It is accompanied by three Forsythe’s films: Alignigung (2016), Solo (1997) and Lectures from Improvisation Technologies (2011).

About Freespace
Freespace – Hong Kong’s new centre for contemporary performance in the heart of the West Kowloon Art Park – presents multi-genre performances and events, produces boundary-pushing collaborations, and promotes new ways of seeing and experiencing performance. Partnering with emerging and established artists from Hong Kong and around the world, Freespace nurtures diverse creative voices and bring works that challenge and redefine the role of performing arts for our age.
Getting to Freespace:

Rodel Tapaya 羅德爾·塔帕亞

By Caroline Ha Thuc /

Random Numbers, the new exhibition by Filipino artist Rodel Tapaya, depicts a chaotic, dense reality where a multitude of fragmented objects and living creatures entwine and decompose. Inspired by Filipino and Mexican mural painters, but also by surrealist artists, Tapaya draws a carnivalesque portrait of the Philippines and, beyond, of our contemporary societies driven by excesses and never-ending consumption.

Born in 1980 in Montalban, in the Philippines’s Rizal province, Tapaya is known for his neo-traditional paintings inspired by Philippine mythology, folk tales and beliefs, which he converts into allegories for our times. Scrap Paintings, the artist’s new series of works, is a departure from this, instead focusing on the concept of disaggregation. The nine paintings presented at Tang Contemporary Art are based on relatively small collages from magazine cut-outs, mostly from the National Geographic, that the artist enlarges and turns into acrylic works on canvas. He uses different coloured whiteboard markers to erase some pigments from the original images, playing with their glossy surfaces and printing ink to obtain various textural effects. This primary material is thus transformed into abstract forms that have partially lost their identity, a process that the artist defines as “subtractive”.

Exhibition view. Courtesy the artist Tang Contemporary Art Hong Kong.

Tapaya had the idea of pushing the technique of collage further in 2018 while he was preparing an exhibition in Manila. Originally, he was planning to create figurative collages, but as he was working with pieces of paper, he realised that their forms were similar to the heterogeneous material people use in the surrounding slums to build homes and shelters. “The concept is about slums and poor people living in crowded spaces,” he says. “I am like a scrapper, collecting images from magazines and making sense of this available material to create an environment that looks cluttered, chaotic and complex, as if it reflected a fear of empty space.”

Tapaya remembers growing up in such an environment. His parents sold smoked fish and he had to buy newspapers in a junk shop to wrap them. He would cut out images he liked before bringing the magazines to his mother, pasting them in what became his first art book. With the Scrap series, the artist experiences again the gesture of collage from whatever he can find, although he deconstructs the images and recomposes absurd scenes, in which their original topics and figures are hardly recognisable. Layer after layer, he accumulates forms, colours and textures, as if this process of accumulation will hide the fact that these shapes, objects and figures are half-broken, disintegrated or decayed. The large format of the paintings strengthens the feeling of a useless, anarchic excess.

In most of the paintings, unidentified objects and ghostly human faces are shown melting, like Salvador Dali’s watches in The Persistence of Memory. The idea of decay is at the core of this new body of works. With the current ecological crisis, Tapaya sees not only our environment but also ourselves slowly collapsing in a symbiotic movement. In the painting The Couple (2021), two workers seem to operate an industrial machine against a cold, metallic background. One, at the back, is represented through vivid brushstrokes that give the impression that he is disappearing. The face, hands and feet of the second worker are on fire, while his legs liquefy. Their respective bodies intertwine with their environment and the machine to the point that they all become one. Similarly, in Even the longest day has its end… (2021), a dismembered, yellowish human body with a sleeping child nestled in his arms is recessed in a fragmented car carcass, the whole of it encased in an abstract nighttime seascape. Although some familiar forms are recognisable, their outlines are either open or embedded within each another. For the artist, human beings belong to and participate in the gigantic scrap heap that the world has become.

The Couple by Rodel Tapaya, Acrylic on canvas, 193 x 152.4 cm, 2021.
Courtesy the artist Tang Contemporary Art Hong Kong.

Among this jumble of fragmented forms, there is no hierarchy, no order. The painting Random Numbers (2021), which gives its title to the exhibition, exemplifies the chaos that links people and objects. The work refers to a popular illegal Philippine money game, jueteng, introduced by the Spanish during colonial times. In the work, a man, whose face seems to have been ripped off, is about to bet on a combination of numbers, hidden behind a wall of red bricks. Today, many poor people continue to play the game in the hope of getting rich quick. According to the artist, the practice is backed by the police and by the government as it involves a massive amount of money. As such, it embodies corruption and the absence of the rule of law that would be necessary to engage in political or any other kind of change, including ecological.

Despite these dark topics, the paintings are paradoxically rather joyful. Some mutant individuals turn into comic animals or flower-like creatures, and the general palette is bright and colourful. The series could be read as a gigantic, grotesque carnival or as a way to keep going amid this general crisis.

Perhaps a more solid component of Philippine culture, and a figure of hope, is portrayed in Grandmother’s Tale (2021). An old, seated woman is represented on the left part of the painting, her eyes closed as if she were sleeping. Her name is Lola Basyang and she is a well known figure in the Philippines for telling children stories in the 1980s and 90s through a series of books and television programmes. On the right of the painting, a young girl has climbed on a ladder and, although her face is not depicted, the viewer can sense that it is inclined toward the grandmother. She was probably hoping to listen to a story, but there is a great deal physically separating them, including a shadowy, mysterious black silhouette striped with red lines. The viewer is tempted to ponder if the older woman is dying, as her face has already turned yellow. In the Philippines, many traditions, and the art of storytelling in particular, are on the verge of extinction, with the threat that ancestral knowledge will disappear.

Grandmother’s Tale by Rodel Tapaya, Acrylic on canvas, 152.4 x 121.9 cm, 2021.
Courtesy the artist Tang Contemporary Art Hong Kong.

Tapaya has been collecting ancient tales for many years, especially from his native province. His earlier works were based on folk tales compiled by ethnologist Damiana Eugenio and on precolonial narratives by historian William Henry Scott, but he continues to be inspired by anthropologists, in particular by the work of Felipe Landa Jocano, a Filipino researcher who spent three years living in a slum to observe the social and cultural behaviour of his neighbours. For Tapaya, transmitting these stories and showing the beauty and complexity of Philippine culture is also the role of the artist, who can thus contribute to the local production of knowledge. This exhibition is a great opportunity to do so.


塔帕雅1980 年生於菲律賓里薩爾省蒙塔爾班鎮,以菲律賓神話、民間傳說和信仰為靈感構建當代新傳統形式的寓言創作而享有盛名。但此次新系列作品《剪貼繪畫》卻另闢蹊徑,轉而關注分崩離析的主題。於當代唐人藝術中心展出的九幅作品均來自雜誌剪切而成的拼貼繪畫,其中大多取材於《國家地理》雜誌。藝術家將這些雜誌素材放大並轉化為布面丙烯。他用不同的彩色白板馬克筆從原始圖像上擦去某些色彩,留下光澤的表面和印刷油墨從而呈現出各種各樣的紋理效果。如此這般,原始素材被抹去了一部份特質後成了抽象狀,塔帕雅把這個過程稱之為「消減」。



在多數繪畫中都出現了呈融化狀的無名物體和可怕人臉,像是薩爾瓦多·達利《記憶的永恆》中的手錶。衰敗是這些新作品系列的核心。面對當前的生態危機,塔帕雅認為不僅是環境就連我們自己也會在這場共生運動中慢慢崩潰。畫作《配偶》(2021年) 中,在冷淡的金屬風背景下,兩個工人像是在操作一台工業機器。位置靠後的那位以鮮明的筆觸呈現,讓人感覺他正在消失。第二位工人的臉和手足在著火,而雙腿卻在液化溶解。兩者的身體與周遭環境及機器相互交融成為一體。與之類似,作品《即使最漫長的一天也有終結》(2021年)描繪了一個被肢解的淡黃色人體和依偎在他臂彎裡睡覺的孩子,兩人歇息在汽車殘骸中。整個畫面被包裹在抽象派的夜色海景下。其中可以識別出一些熟悉的形狀,它們的輪廓線不是開放,就是嵌入其他形狀中。這表明了塔帕雅的觀點:人類屬於也參與貢獻了地球正在變成的那個巨大的廢物堆。



或許在作品《祖母的傳說》(2021年)中可以找到某些更為純正的菲律賓文化元素和一絲希望。繪畫左半部分有一位坐著的老婦人,她閉著雙眼像是在睡覺。她叫Lola Basyang,是菲律賓一位家喻戶曉的人物,在1980至90年代通過一系列書本和電視節目為孩子們講故事。繪畫的右半部分有一個小姑娘爬上梯子。雖然看不到她的臉,觀者依然能感受到她想靠近祖母。也許她是想聽故事,但卻有很多東西隔開了她們,包括一個朦朧神秘的帶著紅色條紋的黑色剪影。觀者猜想或許老婦人已經奄奄一息,因為她的臉已泛黃。在菲律賓,很多傳統尤其是講故事的藝術都已瀕臨絕跡,祖先的知識面臨消亡。

塔帕雅多年來一直在收集古代傳說,特別是來自他故鄉省份的。他的早期作品取材於民族學家戴米安娜·尤金妮歐所編撰的民間傳說以及歷史學家威廉·亨利·斯科特撰寫的殖民時期之前的故事。同時他持續受人類學家的啟發,尤其是菲律賓研究者Felipe Landa Jocano的作品,後者曾在貧民窟住了三年以觀察鄰里的社會和文化行為。對塔帕雅來說,傳播這些故事,呈現菲律賓文化的瑰麗和複雜多元是其作為藝術家的職責,為本土知識生產做出貢獻。而今次的個展就是一個好機會。

trust & confusion at Tai Kwun Contemporary

trust & confusion /
May 5 to Dec 5, 2021 /

3/F JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun
10 Hollywood Road 
Central, Hong Kong
Tue – Sun: 11am – 7pm (Closed on Mondays)

trust & confusion is about the conversation of certainty and chance; the transformative power of bodies, intangibles, and ephemeral encounters; music and magic; and the luck of being alive, with all the concerns that come with it. Evolving, accumulating, the exhibition unfolds over several episodes, on site and online, from now to the end of the year.

trust & confusion transforms the white cube space into a fluctuating environment that hosts activities and sensations; it transforms this space in favour of movements, interactions, and deep listening for ears and bodies. There are several visible performances taking place as you enter, and several invisible ones, mostly new commissions from an intergenerational, international, and cosmopolitan group of artists.

The exhibition is an invitation to observe how things emerge in relation to each other—sounds, gestures, smells—and to be a part of it, being surprised and giving attention to your inner landscape while a spectacle is taking place around you. 

Observing nature’s cycles and the importance of rituals, which anchor our beings and ancestries, the exhibition space is devised in the alignment of day and night, with a brief sunset room in between. Whereas artworks would grow and evolve in the day room, a solo or duo presentation would debut in the night room for each episode. Changes would take place after each full moon, when the tides are the deepest and the forest the nosiest. Some artists’ contributions will remain for months but in fresh configurations; others will appear in changing roles with the unfolding of time. As tribute to the bare human voice as a most vibrant and direct form of communication, a weekly release of voices by artists, writers, poets, and choreographers is made available on, where you also find the calendar of the moon to guide you through the coming episodes.

Tarek Atoui, Celeste Burlina, Alice Chauchat, Mette Edvardsen, Claudia Fernández, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Serene Hui, Ricky Jay, Kazuo Kitai, Nile Koetting, Lina Lapelytė, Nicholas Mangan, Yuko Mohri, Pan Daijing, Liliana Porter, Sean Raspet, Algirdas Šeškus, Sriwhana Spong, Trevor Yeung, Scarlet Yu and Xavier Le Roy, Joining from July: Maria Hassabi, Jamila Johnson-Small, Tamiko Nishimura, Moe Satt, Tino Sehgal

Curators: Xue Tan and Raimundas Malašauskas

About Tai Kwun Contemporary
Tai Kwun Contemporary is the contemporary art programming arm of Tai Kwun, dedicated to showcasing contemporary art exhibitions and programmes as platforms for a continually expanding cultural discourse in Hong Kong. Operated by the contemporary art team, Tai Kwun Contemporary is an integral part of Tai Kwun at the Central Police Station compound, Hong Kong.

Donald Moffett at Whitestone Gallery

May 18 – Jun 26, 2021 /
Opening: Saturday, May 15, 2 – 6pm

Whitestone Gallery
8/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central
Central, Hong Kong

Whitestone Gallery Hong Kong is pleased to present NATURE CULT, the first solo exhibition of American artist Donald Moffett in Asia. Coinciding with Art Central Hong Kong, Moffett’s exhibition highlights his recent works characterised by a provocative minimalism, glossy surfaces and uncanny forms exploring subjects on nature, the body and desire. The show at the gallery in H Queen’s will also feature works from across Moffett’s oeuvre, including He Kills Me, 1987; an iconic work by the artist made in New York at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

In the past two decades Moffett has developed a unique application of paint in which orifices and bristled surfaces invite implications of the human body, botanical and molecular forms, as well as bullet holes. The emergence of this extruded series marked a major shift in Moffett’s work and challenged traditional notions of painting. In Moffett’s recent NATURE CULT series, from which the show borrows its title, the experimentation of paint continues further and addresses the artist’s ongoing investigation into nature and organic forms. His profound preoccupation with nature is rooted in his training in biology and his time spent on a ranch during his childhood. These large, abstract, resin paintings begin as digital renderings of biological shapes which are subsequently milled from wood. The surface of each painting is then coated in multiple layers of resin and paint to achieve its final glossy or matte finish. The resin surfaces interact with the light and environment to reveal shifting colours and an alluring depth of colours. The simultaneously organic and mysterious emblems as imagined in the NATURE CULT series continue to communicate Moffett’s concern towards natural and destructive forces.

Born in San Antonio, Texas in 1955, Donald Moffett currently lives and works in New York, NY and Barksdale, Texas. He has been the subject of important exhibitions at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York City and Aspen, Anthony Meier Fine Arts in San Francisco, Texas Gallery, Texas, among many others. Moffett’s work is included in major museum collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the Museum of Modern art, New York.