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Samson Young at Kiang Malingue Hong Kong

Samson Young
Music for selective hearing, or assisted living
Sep 24 – Nov 5, 2022

Kiang Malingue
13/F Blue Box Factory Building
25 Hing Wo Street
Aberdeen, Hong Kong
+852 2810 0317
By appointment

kiangmalingue.com
WeChat

Kiang Malingue is pleased to present Samson Young’s first solo exhibition at the gallery’s Hong Kong space. Titled Music for selective hearing, or assisted living, this exhibition will feature five sets of artworks created by the artist in the last two years. Known for exploring the fabric of the socio-political by examining the history and contemporary conditions of sound and music, Young considers in the exhibition the complicated nature of ‘sound conditioning’ – the active control of ambient sounds, as exemplified by such devices as white-noise sleep aids – as self-care and recuperation, but also as self-imposed isolation, control, and wilful disengagement.

Included in the exhibition is Samson Young’s collaboration with his long-time friend, violist William Lane. The installation Often easy, sometimes impossible (2021 – 2022) consists of a two-channel video, in which Lane performs Young’s original composition that was scored for a triangle, a viola, and a synthesised glass harmonica — three high-pitched musical instruments that were once considered harmful to mental health in late 18th century Europe, due to their “over-stimulating” sonic properties. By revisiting histories in which panic was transformed into panicked-policing and censorship, and by reflecting on the nascent, overwhelming “freedom” to disengage through acoustic, orphic means, Young problematises the psychiatric rhetoric of “dangerous tunes.”

Pertaining to the history and personal experience of white noise are Columns of air (2022), and Too-cruel-for-live-performance music: 80000-word-long white noise, in 16 chapters of 5000 words each (2022). The former is a group of sound sculptures inspired by the original white-noise sleep-aid invented in 1961. The latter is a collection of text-score, consisting of 16 books of noise-as-onomatopoeia. When whispered at a low volume and at a moderate speed, the machine-generated words contained within will take on the quality of “white noise speech.” The exhibition also features the artist’s recent series of drawings Unclear terms of engagement (a line, a gesture, an alphabet or number) (2021 – 2022), which is a continuation of Young’s long-term exploration of the relationship between the visual and the musical. The messengers (2022) highlights the artist’s interest in the avian and the language of chirping – a recurring theme in many of the artist’s previous works. First exhibited on the grounds of the Takano Shrine, Kyoto in 2022, these video sculptures combine iconic forms of mythical birds and ancient legal texts of Chinese, Japanese and Egyptian origins, injecting humour and absurdity into legal parlance.

The booklet produced on the occasion of the exhibition will include a short introduction by the artist himself, expounding in an intimate way the significance of sound and music to well-being, and to a problematised idea of control-as-freedom.


Haim Steinbach at White Cube Hong Kong

Haim Steinbach
tin drum

Sep 14 – Nov 12, 2022

White Cube Hong Kong
50 Connaught Road, Central 
Hong Kong
+852 2592 2000
Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 7pm

whitecube.com

White Cube is pleased to present ‘tin drum’, an exhibition of new and recent work by Haim Steinbach. Featuring works made in the past two decades, the selection reflects the artist’s engagement with the everyday object and the aesthetic and cultural implications of methods of selection and display.

Since the mid 1970s, Steinbach has made structures and devices for presenting various found objects, in particular employing a wedge-shaped shelf based on 40, 50 and 90 degree angles, constructed in several parts and finished with a coloured, plastic laminate. Working within the methodologies of presentation rather than representation, his art sets in train a nexus of associations, enabling multiple potential themes to emerge from the arrangement of these common objects. ‘I [see] my works as an engagement with the here and now, with the archaeology of what exists and what we all participate in,’ Steinbach states.

In the ground floor gallery, a group of sculptures in red and black directly reference the palette of the Russian Constructivists. Formally coherent yet thematically expansive, they draw on both the history of art and mass culture, on the unique and the ubiquitous through their precise object-oriented language. solar light (2016), for example, consists of a black and red wedge-shaped shelf on which a black rubber Kong dog chew, a plastic solar-powered bear and a metal Star Wars lunch box are arranged in a row. Objects circulating in everyday life, they hold strong mnemonic value, and here are destabilised through their re-arrangement and re-contextualisation. 

Steinbach first introduced the Kong dog chew toy to his shelf works in around 2005, and here it acts as a kind of punctuation mark and a connecting thread linking the works in the ground floor gallery. When stood upright on one of Steinbach’s shelves, the object takes on a quasi-architectural presence, its repeated curves also reminiscent of modernist sculpture by Constantin Brâncuși and Hans Arp. This play of shifting associations, where an object’s meaning relies on the ‘contingency of their placement’, is central to Steinbach’s practice. He explains: ‘By placing […] dog chews next to a lunch box […] What does that say about lunch?’

Steinbach’s use of objects in his shelf works is akin to words in a poem, notes in music or the forms in a painting, where rhythms and repetition, similarities and differences, vividly animate the whole. As the artist has said: ‘We communicate through objects just as we communicate through language’. If we understand the objects in Steinbach’s works as words, the shelves provide a sort of grammar or structure and Steinbach likens their role to that of the five-line musical staff or the grid of a chess board. In the work El Lissitzky II-4 (2008–12), whose title references the Russian artist and co-founder of the Suprematism movement, two minimal red and black toy cars sit alongside a large dog chew, on top of a red and black shelf. The whole is tonally and formally balanced: the geometric black section of the shelf on which the cars are placed, for example, is echoed in the black dog chew, while the dog chew’s spherical undulating form are rhythmically echoed in the car’s bright red wheels.

The exhibition borrows its title from his 2011 work tin drum, consisting of a crimson shelf on which Steinbach has arranged four objects: a toy Vinyls Attack figure, two small dog chews placed on a raised section, a Star Wars figurine and a short section of aluminium ducting. As Steinbach says, the title alludes to the 1959 novelThe Tin Drum by Gunter Grass as well as being a specific type of object and the sound of metal. In pointing to an object that is not physically present in the work, the name also calls attention to itself as another found object, an ‘extra’ in the work. While several surprising visual links between the objects occur – the aluminium colour of the duct matching the silver tones of the toy and the gaping black mouth of the Vinyls Attack toy repeating in the pure black of the dog chews – a history of materiality, of manufacturing, labour and industry, of progression and detours, necessity and waste are also brought into play. These themes are explored again in nocturne (2022), which, as its name suggests, is dark in hue: a dark grey shelf accommodating four dark objects. Two identical lunchboxes (Star Wars-themed, in the shape of the Millennium Falcon), another dog chew and an electronic Robosapien toy figure humorously point to narratives of good and bad, and the propensity for strict moral divisions in children’s stories.

Two works in the upstairs gallery feature the Danish designer Dansk salt and pepper mills. The mills are emblematic of the popularisation of Scandinavian design and, like Star Wars lunchboxes, are sought after as collectibles as well as being functional, everyday objects. In placing them next to sections of metal ducting in one work or an owl-shaped piggy bank in another, Steinbach invites the viewer to consider the ways in which we ascribe value to objects and how this both reflects and shapes our identities. In Untitled (hard hat) (2013), Steinbach employs a different mode of display, this time using a framed wooden box with a glass shelf to present an olive-green hard hat, adorned with a grinning shark face. Vitrine-like, as if showcasing a prized artwork or an object of considerable value, Steinbach encourages us to re-consider the curious ephemera of everyday life, here suspended in a temporal pictorial space of display.

Linking with themes in the ground floor gallery, the power of colour as an ideological and anthropological device is further suggested in the wall drawingstarbucksroast (2017), a large rectangle of coffee-coloured paint. It invites multiple possible triggers for reflection: from the ubiquitous presence of coffee in contemporary life and its function as social ritual, to its lucrative commercial potential as well as, perhaps, the narrative of brands, franchise, expansion and globalisation. Steinbach considers both the colour and its name (taken from a shade of brown produced by the British paint company Dulux), to be found objects and, as in his shelf works, draws out from them multiple associations. Most viewers encountering this work will think of the coffee conglomerate Starbucks but others might connect it to the character of Starbuck in Herman Melville’s classic 1851 novel Moby Dick. Steinbach’s masterful interplay of word and form, name and work, evident throughout his practice, here links colour to semiotics, art, literature and politics in one singular gesture.


apexart New York City is accepting proposals for idea based group exhibitions to be held at apexart

Open call
apexart New York City
Accepting proposals: Oct 1-31, 2022, 11:59pm EST

apexart
291 Church St. New York
NY 10013, United States

opencalls@apexart.org
apexart.org/opencalls.php

apex art is accepting 500-word proposals for group exhibitions with a US$10.000 curator budget, complete staff support and an apexart brochure to be presented in apexart’s New York City space and online 2023-2024. Curators, artists, academics, arts professionals and anyone with a compelling idea that needs to be realized are encouraged to apply.


Zheng Mahler

Daisy Bisenieks and Royce Ng settled down on Lantau Island in 2013 and established themselves as the Zheng Mahler collective in 2015. Their multimedia, cross-disciplinary, research-based practice mainly investigates the history of Asian commercial relations, trade routes and systems of power from economic, geopolitical, social and cultural perspectives. Recently, with their research about virtual reality and computational theories of mind, they focus on the possibility of human beings embracing non-human experiences and expanding their cognitive abilities. 

Zheng Mahler, Portrait. Courtesy the artists.

Caroline Ha Thuc: Neither of you are from Hong Kong but the city, as a trading hub but also a unique ecosystem, is at the core of your practice. Royce Ng: I was born in Australia but my parents come from Hong Kong. Daisy is Australian with an Eastern European background and we met in Melbourne in 2005. We decided to move to Hong Kong as a starting point to working on a commissioned project for the Johann Jacobs Museum in Zurich about the economic relationships between Asia and Africa. We were asked to explore this topic given our background interests and experience: Daisy’s graduating thesis led her to do fieldwork in Kenya among artisans, entrepreneurs and inventors, and my mother’s family were Chinese immigrants who settled in Mozambique in the 19th century and were there until the 1970s and the decolonisation and independence of the country, so we were very excited about this comparative approach.

For this long-term project, we felt that Hong Kong could be a good location, as an important trading hub between the two continents. For the first part, A Season in Shell (2013-16),we chose to focus on one important nexus point of cross-cultural trade, Chungking Mansions. Through our research process, we discovered the trade in pink abalone taking place between Somalia and Hong Kong, where dried abalone are sold to local restaurants. At the same time, we investigated the trade in surplus empty abalone shells, which made their way to Chinese factories, where they are polished and sent to Switzerland, where they are used on the dials of luxury watches.

A Season in Shell by Zheng Mahler, Two-tonnes of abalone shells, porcelain dinner set, table, chairs, 2-channel video installation, dimensions variable, 2013-2016. Courtesy the artists.

You work under the collective name Zheng Mahler: what does it mean? Daisy Bisenieks: The name arose out of needing to create a nom de plume for a sensitive meeting we needed to conduct during our research. As we worked closely with Somali traders who were engaged in the shadow economies of low-end globalisation, we wanted to add a layer of protection, a shell of sorts, as a smokescreen between ourselves, our informants and the work they were engaged in. “Zheng” refers to one part of Royce’s Chinese name, which transliterated into English is “Hong Sheng”, as well as a reference to a Chinese Muslim eunuch admiral during the Ming Dynasty, Zheng He, a notable figure in historical trade expeditions between China and parts of East Africa, what is now Somalia and Kenya. “Mahler” has an interesting history as well, as it refers to my Latvian great-grandmother’s suspected Jewish maiden name, which she changed to protect herself during World War Two; by using it, we felt we could re-empower it to provide me with a protective coating. We like the idea of encountering people who think Zheng Mahler is one person, some Chinese-German guy: it expresses a degree of ambiguity between fiction and fact, which is very much what our work is about.

CHT: The research component of your practice is paramount. What is your work methodology? RN: Daisy is trained as an anthropologist, and she applies rigorous ethnographic methodology to her research process. This is sometimes frustrating because she sometimes must leave aside some more emotional, personal or sensorially important aspects of her fieldwork. Working as an artist is a way for her to experiment with and materialise these parts of her research in a more expansive way, as well as having the research reach wider audiences with less didactic approaches. As for me, I studied art history and anthropology at an undergraduate level before studying fine arts, and I guess it still informs my approach to research and the articulation of my thoughts. I need to build arguments for the artworks I am producing, and I feel satisfied only when they are well structured. Yet I am not as systematic as Daisy, so I feel we complement each other. 

CHT: Through this combination of academic and artistic research, do you aim to produce a form of knowledge? RN: Yes, absolutely. Brian Eno said that he saw art as a system of knowledge and I agree, although we might produce another form of knowledge which is not academic. We are used to separating makers from thinkers, but we’re interested in that bridge. I am currently a PhD student in Dr Alvaro Cassinelli’s Augmented Materiality Lab at the School of Creative Media [at City University of Hong Kong] as well. My academic research is different from my artistic practice, yet I am sure it will inform it at some point.

CHT: I guess that the challenge for artists engaged in research is how to transform your research outcome into a work of art that isn’t just an illustration of your findings. DB: Indeed. We approach research like scaffolding or architecture. It’s also a form of design: we build it until we feel we can just leap off and embrace the chaos of creativity. For A Season In Shell, for instance, we did not provide any map but chose to embody our research through the creation of certain relations as well as conjuring the physical presence of two metric tons of abalone shells that we collaboratively imported through the route we had investigated, and that were temporarily displayed like a mountain in the gallery space. This gesture offered a strong contrast between these smelly raw products, living sea creatures living quietly in the Red Sea that passed through the working hands of fishermen, traders and transporters; museum visitors [stealing] them; and the sophisticated field of jewellers and Swiss watchmakers. For the museum as an institution and for visitors, it was a very visceral and unsettling reminder of how we are implicated in global supply chains – of life, death, toil, hardship and labour that we are all removed from in one way or another.

CHT: Yet you kept some elements of this scaffolding: there is always a large part of documentation in your work or a verbal dimension that expresses your research findings. RN: Documentation presents an interesting chance to experiment with design and communication. The challenge becomes: how do we convey all this fascinating research in an interesting way that ignites an audience’s curiosity rather than communicating some dry data? Actually, this is where we find we can play with the data and include more fictive elements as a framework. So for example, besides the short video in A Season in Shell, Daisy also produced a 10-part poem that wove together multiple narratives playing out during the research process – the life cycle and the trade biography of the abalone, the migration story of our collaborator, the working relationship we had together – which we found mirrored each other in their dramas at certain times, and which ultimately we found resonated closely with the French surrealist Arthur Rimbaud’s infamous poem A Season in Hell. This framework, we felt, presented to us the best way to convey and document this research.

CHT: In your presentation, you highlighted alienated labour: how do you reflect on that aspect of the trade, artistically? DB: What we initially found so interesting about this trade was that after our collaborator recognised the cultural value of abalone in the Asian region as being opposite to the low value ascribed to abalone as “cockroaches of the sea” in the Horn of Africa, he sought to set up a sustainable abalone farming business in some coastal communities in Somalia, helping to train divers using multi-translated Japanese ama diving manuals. It was key to bring attention to the many hands or spaces a trade product moves through as it travels along in this value-adding chain or process. And this is why we decided to implicate the museum in the very process – it very much joins the process by asking this exhibition to be staged. And for a museum audience to get a sense of this, they must also be implicated in the process, by being confronted with the smell of decaying flesh, a reminder of living creatures central to the trade, connected through this desire to touch the shell that’s passed through many working hands; and overwhelmed by their suffocating presence, which conjures feelings of a ships belly overladen with goods, or engorged bank vaults; and with shells strewn across an enormous banquet table, like the excessive detritus of some gluttonous feast, which together suddenly make trade look absurd, or at least our sensory connections with it. After the exhibition, we ended up grinding some shells into a powder and using it at a temporary studio we had in Jingdezhen, China, where it became the base of a porcelain glaze for numerous deconstructed, porcelain watch pieces for Mutual Aid (2016), as well as an extensive banquet tableware set for an iteration of A Season in Shell in Suzhou and Hong Kong.

Mutual Aid by Zheng Mahler, Red Sea abalone shell calcium carbonate glazed porcelain, six-channel video, dimensions variable, 2016. Courtesy the artists.

CHT: For your most recent exhibitions, you displayed a series of Jingdezhen vases with enlarged, almost ghostly representations of minerals. DB: We were curious to follow the trade route, which led us to exploring the history of trade and production of Swiss watches and clocks, and inevitably [the west’s] trade relations with China, notably its link with porcelain. In short, during the 18th and 19th century, China was not interested in buying any European products and not willing to adopt new European technologies of that time. As a result, and because Europeans were so keen on porcelain, trade was unbalanced. This is how the Opium Wars began. However, there was one exception, which were Swiss clocks that the Kangxi Emperor during the Qing dynasty was collecting. For our second chapter, Mutual Aid, we delved into the parallel labour organisation between the traditional Swiss watch-producing villages in the Jura Mountains and early porcelain production in Jingdezhen, and looked at mutual influences between the two industries, including political legacies like mutual aid. Today, the region around Jingdezhen is also known for its extraction of rare earth elements, which in recent years have figured in developing trade wars. So for the third chapter, Mountains of Gold and Silver are not as Good as Mountains of Blue and Green (2020), we address this new dimension of the current trade war and the politics of power between China and the west, in which objects of trade of the past and present are engaged in a ghostly opera centred around a conversation among them, conspiring to break out of current modes of extraction and production, and speculating on creating new types of economies of care.

Mountains of Gold and Silver Are Not as Good as Mountains of Blue and Green by Zheng Mahler, 3D animation, 9 holographic ventilators, bluetooth audio, 2020. Courtesy the artists and Asia Society Hong Kong.

CHT: Last year, you exhibited a multimedia sculpture at Para Site that portrayed a local buffalo and was also an entry point for people to discover what it living like a buffalo could be like. Why this interest in this specific species? DB: When we arrived in Hong Kong almost 10 years ago, we were instantly drawn to living on Lantau Island because, among many other reasons, of the unique coexistence people had with free roaming cattle and water buffalo. I found these particular human-bovid relations an incredibly interesting case study for my master thesis in anthrozoology. Besides water buffaloes’ physical relationship with the land, through their wallowing and terraforming of abandoned farmland into viable wetlands, and how their constant movements favour the transportation of seeds and the growth of specific plants that help with water filtration, the marshy ground also become an important medium to aid with their communication and navigation. Buffaloes’ hooves can pick up a multitude of frequencies, while their hearing range, between 16 to 40,000Hz, enables them to locate or communicate with other herd members through their calls, which the valleys and plains of Lantau also assist with as they freely roam across vast spaces. For Bubalus bubalis 16 – 40,000Hz (2021), we recorded and turned visible the ultrasonic sounds they produce using two cymatic water speakers to visualise the frequencies humans cannot hear and to grasp a sensory perspective on the buffalo, functioning as a reminder of humans’ own often visual-centric perspectives. Visitors could also experience hearing as a buffalo might, with a binaural “buffalo ear” set up, made of two particularly positioned microphones. Overall, the aim was to decentralise a certain anthropocentricity of experiencing the world and our material relations by acknowledging our sensory limitations.

Bubalus, Bubalis by Zheng Mahler, 16hz -40,000hz, 2021. Photo: Samson Cheung Choi Sang.

CHT: However, it seems that we will never be able to understand or feel what it’s like to be a buffalo or a bat. DB: Yes, but the empathetic imagination makes it fun and worthwhile, and even more so these days an important exercise to try while realising the futility and accepting the impossibility of never fully knowing. It’s an enterprise of kinship or kin-making with other creatures we share our spaces and world with.

RN: For decades now, scholars have been influenced by the work of Thomas Nagel, who wrote in 1974 a seminal article entitled “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” He shows that, indeed, we might be unable to know what it is like to be a bat, and in particular what it is like to use echolocation and sound waves as a cognitive tool. However, with the recent development of embodied theories of the mind, we are thinking anew about consciousness: that consciousness, rather than emanating from the brain, might be an emergent phenomenon of our bodies’ complex and interdependent interaction with its environment. Now, thanks to virtual reality, your body is able to feel what is virtual and, perhaps, it could also learn different skills. In turn, that would expand our brain and cognitive possibilities, including feeling what it is like to be more than human. At this stage, we are interested in finding the threshold that limits our ability to experience life just like bats. This is the long-term project we are working on. Just like for the buffaloes, we are observing bats over a long period of time living in our neighborhood. The project will unfold over four phases that began with a short text and a field survey, and will end with a multisensory exhibition including a VR or AR experience. 

What is it like to be a (virtual) bat by Zheng Mahler, Mixed media, text, thermal video, ultrasonic recordings, drone video, photogrammetry, virtual reality system,2022. (Still 2) Courtesy the artists.

CHT: This idea of using virtual reality to explore the possibilities of expanding our physical cognitive experiences and multiplying our presence is also at the core of your recent work. RN: I am exploring the possibilities of a teleportation of our physical presence, something I have just experimented with in my performance Presence (2021): while I was still in Hong Kong, I tried to give people in Europe the collective impression that I was on stage with them. It became a question of: how can I stimulate the very specific relationships that connect the audience and a performer? What is the minimal threshold of presence that I can conjure by simulating my face and my voice using various technologies? How much can I feel present before a crowded theatre in Europe while I sit in a hotel room in Hong Kong surrounded by laptop screens, controlling my avatar via a keyboard?

CHT: In parallel, you are also addressing the development of artificial intelligence from a more satirical perspective with The Master of Algorithm (2019), a holographic projection of a newsreader synthesised from a human being. RN: This installation belongs to our investigation of the relationships between Europe and Asia that I already mentioned.  With this work, we show that China is not eager to follow these historical experiences and be left behind during the fourth industrial revolution. As a result, the country embraces new technologies in order to take the lead in that emerging field. During his new year’s eve speech [in 2018], which was scrupulously staged, President Xi had several books in his bookshelf, including The Master of AlgorithmbyPedro Domingos, a 2015 treatise on machine learning. We combined different stories about this fourth revolution that are narrated through computer-generated voices. The piece was produced at the beginning of the US trade war with China, so the premise of it is: what if technology in the east and west evolves divergently and exponentially as a result? What sociopolitical scenarios would emerge from this? At the same time, we are using a low-tech holographic design as a reference for the cyberpunk aesthetic that we found in Shenzhen, so the commentary is somewhat ironic. 

CHT: There seems to be always irony in your choice of title: Mutual Aid for a form of capitalist trade involving inequalities, A Season In Shell in reference to Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell, The Master Algorithm for a critique of AI fantasy. Should viewers also take humour from your work? DB: We really like to play with the language involved with each work. Often it’s a way to temper the more weighty content, which can be intense at times. Comedy functions as a great pressure valve.

RN: Sometimes whether we are being serious or funny in what we’re doing becomes indistinguishable. At the same time, to present or perform something which is clearly ridiculous in a dry, deadly serious manner makes the work even funnier for us. For example, the buffalo work involved us hiking around the wetlands of Lantau carrying huge 3D printed buffalo ears on a binaural microphone, often connected to a camera and mimicking the physicality or gait of a buffalo – and we would have looked mad to anyone passing by.

The Master Algorithm by Zheng Mahler, 3D Animation, 9 holographic ventilators, blue tooth sound, 15min 24sec, 2019. Courtesy the artists and Tai Kwun Contemporary.

Kong Chun Hei 鄺鎮禧

Off Beat 「踏空」 /
Feyerabend /
Hong Kong /
Apr 1 – May 14, 2022 /

As you enter art space Feyerabend, located in an old Tai Kok Tsui tong lau – a type of residential building built before the 1960s – a barber’s pole catches your attention. Its spinning action draws your eye yet lacks focus. As you continue to approach the centre of the space, the audio effects that usually come before announcements at old-style Cantonese teahouses or railway platforms blast from four mini speakers, filling the rectangular space, as if an announcement is imminent but not forthcoming. An abandoned wooden ladder and a dried up can of latex paint give the space a sense of being stuck in the past. If not for the video Sudivision playing, one might suspect that the objects were left behind from a previous occupant, instead of being part of an exhibition.

I was told by the person in charge of the art space that many viewers had expected to see Kong Chun Hei’s technical pen drawings in the exhibition Off Beat, and were disappointed to find that they were not displayed. Those who have followed the artist’s works in recent years know that Kong has often used modern industrial products such as stainless steel and machinery. His presentations have been simple, restrained and succinct. For example, in the recent Double Vision exhibition at Tai Kwun, he showed a lightness of touch with the way he submerged a water level gauge horizontally in a centimetre of water to create a sense of crisis.

Exhibition view. Courtesy the artist and Feyerabend.

Despite the difference in approach to this exhibition from his previous ones in galleries, which might not meet some viewers’ expectations, Kong’s usual creative approach and way of thinking were still in evidence. They were based on observations of certain paradoxes, with all emotions and symbols filtered out during the creative process. He handled materials with minimal interference, but by changing their presentation or materiality, turned them into contradictory forms that questioned the nature of art.

The quiet space was a psuedo disaster scene: the barber’s pole was spinning like a fire alarm (was it an advertisement or a warning?); the wooden ladder leaning on the wall was hollow, left with its bare bones, which collapse when stepped on (was it a method of escape or a trap?); the speakers seemed to be calling for someone in an intermittent, repetitive manner (were they calls, alarms or brainwashing?). Kong’s deliberate designs persistently attracted viewers’ attention, visually, aurally and conceptually, disrupting their subconscious and habits through interruption and negation to confuse their cognitive abilities and recognition of their environment. Finally, he slowly builds a wall in the video Sudivision that blocks the audience’s view, ultimately separating himself from the quiet disaster scene.

Exhibition view. Courtesy the artist and Feyerabend.

Living in a fast-paced, densely populated place, individuals are bundled into groups, emotionally blackmailed with a sense of urgency by social media, forced to give an immediate response, so that they can feel relieved from anxiety and moral obligation. The world exerts an invisible pressure that drives people to go further. Kong’s exhibition counteracts this pressure, simultaneously blocking visitors’ view and inviting them to participate in an exercise that subverts their preconceived ideas. Kong might not have provided any symbols to evoke emotional responses, and nor could his repeated negations and disrupted narrative provide any grand solution. But in the context of art, can the blank space between the interruptions and confusion be interpreted as a kind of creation?

The piece Dried Paint on Wall acted as the conclusion of the exhibition, but could also be seen as the beginning of the next one. A block of dried latex paint that could be mistaken for a sculpture or a piece of pottery, it turned out to be only a found object the artist came across in a can when he was cleaning up. It was both an artwork and not an artwork, both handled – taken from the can – and not handled. It was a rebuttal as well as a welcome – he was willing to come with the viewer to this emptiness to rediscover the nature of seeing and thinking. In retrospect, one might come to understand that the block of dried paint was the beginning of all meanings.

Exhibition view. Courtesy the artist and Feyerabend.


你來到大角咀一幢舊唐樓中的一個空間「Feyerabend」,甫進門,一盞舊式理髮店的旋轉燈佔據你的注意,它逕自轉動,但引人目光後又彷彿無法著落;你繼續走向單位中央,空間呈長方形,裝有四個小型喇叭,每隔十秒就播放茶樓/月台進行廣播前的提示音效,彷彿不斷準備宣佈什麼,然後欲言又止;被遺下的裝修木梯、一個已經乾涸的乳膠漆,整個空間有一種滯留在過去的氣氛。如果不是錄像作品《分界》正在放映,你甚至會懷疑這統統是上一手遺漏的陳設,而非展覽。

空間負責人告訴我,有不少觀眾預期會見到藝術家的針筆素描作品,但來到現場卻發現沒有展出,有落空之感。有留意藝術家近年的創作,會發現他有不少作品都以不鏽鋼和機械等現代工業品作為物料,雖然作品呈現手法簡單克制,但總是菱角分明,例如最近在大館展覽「雙同」展出的水位尺,將水位尺橫放然後在表面鋪上一公分的水製造「危機」,舉重若輕。

而今次展覽的質地,則和畫廊展出時雖然頗有不同,大概會令觀眾的預期落空,但我們依然可以看見鄺鎮禧一貫的創作手法和思路,一開始總是建基於某種矛盾現象的觀察,在創作過程中總是過濾所有情緒和符號,盡量透過最少的介入處理物料,可能改變其呈現方式、或是轉變其物質狀態,將物料形成矛盾狀態,最後引申至關於藝術的想像和思考。

在這種認知下,錯過的細節就一一顯現,這個安靜的空間,竟同時是一個(偽)災難逃生現場:理髮店旋轉燈如火警燈般轉動(是宣傳還是警告?);擱淺在牆壁上的木梯是鏤空的,剩下徒然的結構,一踏就會落空(是逃生工具還是陷阱?);喇叭作勢呼喚某人,戛然而止又不斷重複(是呼喚、警告還是洗腦?)。在藝術家的設計下,我們不斷被勾引,勾引你的注視、勾引你聽、勾引你思考,然後藝術家透過中斷、抹除等手法令種種潛意識和習慣落空,混淆你對眼前環境的認知一一最終,他在錄像《分界》中一步一步築起圍牆,拒絕你的視線,亦拒絕世界對自己的異化,亦和這場冷靜的(偽)災難區隔開來。

在一個生活急速、密集的地方,個體的靈魂被綑綁成群體,社交媒體以緊急的口吻勒索情緒,促使你馬上反應,解除自己的焦慮和道德責任。世界正在以一種看不見的壓力,驅使你作出下一步。鄺鎮禧的展覽,有如對這種壓力的抗衡。所以「踏空」的關鍵不在「空」,而是「踏」,它一邊拒絕你的視線,一邊邀請你一同進行一個混淆習慣的演習。鄺鎮禧也許沒有提供任何符號,可以引起你共鳴和感性上的反應。他的重重否定和中斷的敘事,也不可能提供什麼解救問題的宏大方案。但在藝術的語境中,這種中斷和混淆留下的空白,何不可以理解成一種創造?

作品《乾涸的漆在牆上》,儼然是這個展覽的終結,也可以是下一個展覽的開始:是一件已經乾涸的乳膠漆,令人誤以為是雕塑/陶瓷,原來只是藝術家在執拾打掃時無意中從鐵罐中拿出的現成物。是作品,也不是作品。有處理(只是從罐中拿出來),同時也沒有處理。在拒絕之後同時是迎接 ── 他願意你和他一起走到這片空白之中,重新看見和思考存在本身,回首時也許會發現,那個乾涸的乳膠漆正是一切意義的開始。

John Batten at Ping Pong Gintonería

John Batten
Recent Hong Kong Photographs
Aug 23 – Nov 20, 2022
Tue – Sun: 6pm – 12pm 


Ping Pong Gintonería
129, L/G Second Street  
Nam Cheong House
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

pingpong129.com
@pingpong129

Free entry
 

“All things are in a process of change. You yourself are subject to constant alteration and gradual decay. So too is the whole universe.”

  • Marcus Aurelius, ‘Meditations’

John Batten initially began photographing seriously to provide images to accompany his own writing as an art critic, writer on architecture, culture, and politics, and as an urban planning activist*. His photographs have been published in many publications, including the South China Morning PostMing Pao WeeklyPerspectiveArtco Monthly (Taiwan), ArtomityAsia Literary ReviewYishu, and The Peak magazine.   

Over the last twenty years he has increasingly photographed Hong Kong’s urban landscape and the always changing human interventions on the city’s streets. His initial motivation to photograph was pure documentation – to capture moments of beauty, ugliness, intrigue, irony, and oddity. However, during Hong Kong’s 2019 protests, his fortnightly column for the Hong Kong magazine Ming Pao Weekly evolved from discussing art, heritage, and urban planning issues to also be a commentary of the events and politics that unfolded daily – and nightly – on Hong Kong’s streets. The print magazine continued to show a single image with his writing, but the online edition published more elaborate sequences of his photographs. 

Recently, Hong Kong’s measures in response to the COVID pandemic allowed Batten more time to photograph. In this exhibition at Ping Pong Ginoteria, Batten shows a small group of recent photographs covering a range of Hong Kong urban imagery, a ‘taster’ of a larger exhibition planned for 2023. 

Increasingly, Batten has photographed in black and white, but this exhibition will only feature colour photography. Batten says, “I find black and white photography more forgiving (of mistakes) and dynamic because monochrome is inherently dramatic and moody, relying on light and shade, but a colour photograph really works (when it works) by highlighting the contrasts of colour itself as a component of the photograph’s main subject.”

Consequently, highlights of this exhibition include Hong Kong familiar views – e.g. Lion Rock, West Kowloon, high-rise residential buildings, an expensive car, pigeons, a teenager taking a selfie – but, as only Hong Kong can, the view is subtly subversive, the moment captured in a photograph.  

Ping Pong Ginoteria is Hong Kong’s icon G+T bar in Sai Ying Pun and has an on going art programme which in the past included shows on Arthur Hacker, 70s Art in Hong Kong and Gerard d’Henderson. 
 

* John Batten is co-founder of the Central & Western Concern Group that has led community efforts over the last 15 years for the preservation of many of Central Hong Kong’s most historic buildings (including PMQ, Central Market, Tai Kwun, Graham Street Market, and the West Wing of the former Central Government Offices). He is President of the International Association of Art Critics Hong Kong; a member of the Arts Programme Committee of Tai Kwun; and, a Director of the artist-run art education initiative, Rooftop Institute. Previously, he ran his own art gallery (1997-2010) and organised the charity art event Hong Kong ArtWalk (2003-2015). He has been writing about art, heritage, culture, and urban planning since the 1990s. 


Kitti Narod at Tang Contemporary Art 

Summer Wind
Aug 11 – Sep 17, 2022
Opening: Aug 11, 6 – 8pm

Tang Contemporary Art
10/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central
Central, Hong Kong
Tu-Sa 11am – 7pm

tangcontemporary.com

Reminiscent of photographic portraits, two couples – four friends – are posing together under a delicate summer breeze that moves lightly through their hair; Another couple is caught into an impromptu tango in the laundry room; Two pally men are leaning onto each other during an afternoon nap on the sofa; And a herd of horses are galloping with vitality, resonating with the summer pool teemed by bodies in full Dionysian sensuality.

Style is a simple way of saying complicated things,” said Jean Cocteau. His words best exemplify Kitti’s world, in which the imagery of life is depicted as it is – in its simplicity.

Born in 1976 in Thailand, after obtaining his Bachelor of Arts degree in Bangkok, Kitti started to develop a unique artistic dimension which gradually evolved towards a language of graphic signs and simplicity. Elaborate and superfluous styles are whittled in order to arrive at the sheer essence of each image. The skillful mastery on the modulation between abstraction and the real world then enables Kitti to infuse his personal journey into his art: as an autobiography which seeks to get beyond the borders of the self and become no longer self-centered, but rather a symbol of everyone’s potential life.

Kitti’s art provokes with extreme delicacy. It is all a calling forth rather than a sting. Spontaneity and immediacy become the triumph of interiority and communicability. It’s in the apparent simplicity of his subjects, bi-dimensional figures of people or animals represented with curved lines, that lies his visual strength. Paradoxically combined, realism and stylization correspond to the maximum of individuality and the maximum of universality. Those who are capable of grasping the contrast in Kitti’s art will find a further meaning: there’s an element always immanent in reality he represents. Endowed with the quintessence of vitality, his figures are literally imbued of this substance, rather than being obfuscated by a superimposed concept. 

Kitti’s figures never sit still – that’s perhaps the reason why we are in love with his art: not for the alleged ease, but for the dizzying accumulative frenzy, a surrounding sensation that brings us “inside” the painting and energizes us while it pushes us out. The movement of bodies is a tangle with an entropic central vortex, it opens up for us the space far beyond the canvas.

Master of representing different points of view, Kitti is also a master of relationships: between subject and object, between past and future, between action and desire. The complication of reality becomes easy on his canvas. In the scenes, he represents all the characters meeting in a unifying embrace, with the hope that the engine of life, “the desire”, will never fail.

The exhibition is curated by Michela Sena.


Pipilotti Rist at Tai Kwun Contemporary

Behind Your Eyelid—Pipilotti Rist
3 Aug – 27 Nov 2022
Sun – Thu: 10am – 8pm
Fri – Sat: 11am – 9pm

(Closed on Mondays, except 12 Sep)

JC Contemporary
Tai Kwun
10 Hollywood Road 
Central, Hong Kong

taikwun.hk
 

Immersive, sensual, and insightful, the works of Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist embrace viewers with colours, sounds, and moving images. As visitors walk around and lie down in her mesmerising installations of “organised light”, they will take pleasure in how she makes the familiar unfamiliar while pointing out the beautiful in unexpected places. All are invited to share in a collective experience of the imagination.

Behind Your Eyelid—Pipilotti Rist offers entry into the artist’s remarkable vision. Her fascination with the liminal—the screen, the skin, the membrane, the filter—and her method of breaking video out of the frame generate perceptual shifts and intellectual reconsiderations that open doors onto a wondrous world of inner vision full of beauty, whimsy, and possibility.

Throughout the exhibition, it is possible to catch glimpses of how the artist takes video from the screen into physical space. Images from behind our eyelids become visible—“pictures from the moments in our unconscious when we are half-awake, euphoric, nostalgic, or nervous.”

Visitors will encounter immersive experiences and dreamy, lyrical ballads, early experimental videos as well as the latest site-specific works where the artist plays with the architecture of Tai Kwun itself. They might even be infected by the artist’s spirit of joyous rebelliousness. Rist strives to bring out “the hysterical sides of things” and not let “the positive sides be open only to the world of advertisement…Beauty doesn’t have to be corrupt.” 

Prepare to share in the artist’s vision in which beauty playfully thwarts hardships from overwhelming us and brings forth alternative potentials of joy and empathy—here in the galleries and across Tai Kwun.


Annie Wan Lai-kuen 尹麗娟

As embodiments of a fleeting, volatile reality, Annie Wan’s ceramics reflect the artist’s attempts to defy time and capture the ephemeral. Focusing on the everyday and on the intrinsic qualities of her medium, Wan plays with the paradoxical fragility of ceramics and on their ability to give tangible forms to lost moments, collective heritage or vanishing memories. With the idea that reality is subject to successive reinterpretations, she uses the language of ceramics to question the reiterative process of perception, and the reproduction of reproductions, searching for points of resistance against a truth that has slipped out of our grasp.

You told me that you first studied design before jumping into art and ceramics. What triggered the change? I am not a person with a clear plan for my life path; I usually follow my intuition. I studied design after secondary school and then worked as a textile designer for a few years. Although I enjoyed the textile design job, I wanted to have some new experiences. Therefore, in 1989, I studied studio ceramics part time at the [Hong Kong] Polytechnic [University]. It was a course designed with a technical approach. I took this course not for career improvement or any professional expectation. Those two years were enjoyable and relaxing to me and I enjoyed the making process very much. My works at that time were quite expressive; I liked drawing on clay spontaneously. That was all about material, as I found I didn’t like to do narrative images or storytelling. I loved the unfinished quality of drawing: an immediate response to scratches and marks made by hands or tools on clay. I forget if I had artists as models – maybe Peter Voulkos’s expressive way of making ceramics: let clay itself be the most significant.

You have always embraced natural phenomena within your work; you let organic material grow out of Lost Sheep (2009), for instance. Can you explain this process and the idea behind it? The idea of the Lost Sheep started when I wanted to create a work with unfired clay, in which clay would refer to soil, our land. In the making process, 10 enclosed glass boxes, each one featuring a raw clay sheep on muddy ground inside, were made every two days. Organic substances and seeds had also been mixed up with the clay. Moulds and plants gradually grew inside these boxes, creating different scenery for each lost sheep. The process of evolution inside each box followed time, but then the boxes together formed a scenario that reversed the order of time: the seeds in the first box grew first, so it contained the tallest plants, while the last box contained the shortest plants. Therefore, visually, it created a reversed curve. However, the development of the scenario and the eco-evolution of the materials will be everlasting.

Above and featured: Crafting a Reverse Scenario for a Lost Sheep by Annie Wan. Courtesy the artist.

This work demonstrates the conflict system of daily life as well. The interaction between the nature of the clay and the ecological condition of its environment is a metaphor: the apparatus creates beautiful scenery when we look from the outside the boxes, but inside the mould is actually stinky, dirty and rotten. It reminds us that what we see is not always trustworthy.

With Cultivation (2014), you also let some grass grow from your works, which resemble found objects or relics from our civilisation. Is this to suggest that, with time, nature takes back its right? Or are you hinting at the idea of a circular conception of time? I think both. Nature has its own equilibrium of flow, which sometimes is distracted by human beings. This agitation depends on the intensity of the distraction but, over time, a balance is maintained when new nature grows. Time is an important concept in my practice. I sometimes want to do ceramic works that are not static in time and keep changing over time.

You also play with nature in Organic Book (2013); contemplating life arising from these pages makes us feel that books are alive. The content of books exceeds their physical embodiment; they are part of a vivid collective memory. Books are also alive because their interpretation changes all the time. 

In contrast, you could say that ceramics are very stable objects that resist time: we can find antique ceramics that are still intact. Do you also use this material to defy time, for example in Proust in Time Regain (2013)? For me, the process of making Proust in Time Regain is like fossilisation. It is a process of casting: the original remains of the organism dissolve and leave an empty space, which is gradually filled with other minerals. Informed by this thought, I put clay slip in every space between the pages of a book and then fired it; a fossil of a book was formed after burning away the sheets. The outcome is a defiance of time. To me, Proust’s big volume is like a condensation of time. Sometimes he can describe a single instant over many pages: this is why his work inspired me to think about the relationship of time and memory.

Fossil Book by Annie Wan. Courtesy the artist.

You also produced a 2015 series dealing with Hong Kong fossils. Was it a way to imagine, build or crystallise collective roots for Hong Kong? Did you use real models or is this fictional? Instead of using stones and shells as samples of Hong Kong heritage, I used real objects found now in Hong Kong and put them directly into the kiln for firing with clay, transforming them into art objects. Although a transformation occurs, they retain their identity and recognisable forms.

Some of your pieces could be seen as the embodiment in ceramics of something immaterial like projected light from a window, moonlight or the contents of books that you turn into sculptures. What does it feel like when you give a tangible shape to an idea or projection? This filling or casting and recreating both positive and negative space is done to augment and honour a universal sense of place while simultaneously dealing with memory, metaphor, intellect and culture. By the power of fantastical imagination alone, my ceramic works connect the present with the past and future. This achievement stems from the difference between the original and the copy, which leaves an empty space for imagination.  

When you are coating books with clay, with the content of the book burnt during the process, what is left? The weight of the collective memory? Is this a form of resistance?Exactly. A resistance to the physical world, maybe.

Casting a book implies bringing weight to it, adding to its value and meaning. You’ve cast some dictionaries that you and your friends used during your school years. To what extent would you say that this resembles a process of fetishisation? Fetishism is a word that is always in my mind when I am attracted by the details of objects transformed into ceramics through moulding, especially when their colour and content are gone and when only pure forms remain. All the little details are revealed.

In many of your works, it seems that there is the idea that a true reproduction is impossible, since something is always changed during the process. At the same time, you play a lot with reproductions, multiplying objects from everyday life, like consumer products or toys. Is there a friction between these apparent contradictory processes? How do you conceive reproduction? It is true that changes always occur with ceramics. For instance, the reproduced model shrinks. However, moulding preserves the original since it is kept inside during the process. Unlike photographic images, though, ceramic reproductions do not, in my view, carry a sense of nostalgia. Ceramic objects, as solid forms rooted in our present time, somehow fill up the sense of loss. I see reproduced ceramics of found objects very much like 3D materialisation of photography. Yet, as we cannot get back to the real objects either, the reproductions are able to carry quite a lot of different meanings.

One of your works is dedicated to Walter Benjamin, who saw in the technology of reproduction a way to “actualise” the reproduced object. It is also a way to move away from tradition. Did you create your objects in celadon to play with the idea of tradition?Yes. I also wished to create a contradiction between traditional and mass-produced objects. I regret the passing of the uniqueness of traditional objects. At the Hong Kong Museum of Art, for example, I did an installation entitled Tung Zan Baak Fo (2019), a series of replicas of everyday objects, cast in celadon. It contrasts today’s mass production techniques with Chinese porcelain wares, which were also produced in great numbers at that time. What is the value of an industrial replica? With this installation, I also question the value of art and our current perception of techniques and modes of production. In the series, the identity of the reproduced objects has been removed; all the brands disappear, so that I only keep the form of the objects, freed from their marketing references.

Tung Zan Baak Fo by Annie Wan. Courtesy the artist.

I also feel there is some fragility in your work, obviously because of the material you have chosen, but also because of your last installation work at Tai Kwun. Do you aim to point to such a fragility? Yes. It’s from my experience in life: the vulnerability and weakness of human beings. The ceramic tiles I have cast for the installation, inspired by traditional Hong Kong floors, look solid at first sight. However, they are empty inside, so walking on them – as I do in the video performance – emphasises the fragility of the ground we are currently moving on.

Within these last few years, I have also been feeling a form of insecurity that is not derived from external circumstances. Ageing, sickness and death – all these elements one cannot control. A sense of helplessness and desperation comes out. I used incense ashes to fire my pieces. Like in Buddhist temples, I somehow tried to connect with ancient rituals where ashes were used to guard a place.

Do you see this recent work as a continuity of the installation you did at Cattle Depot in 2012 about broken tiles? You could indeed build a connection. However, the installation at Cattle Depot addressed more specifically the urbanisation and rapid changes that have transformed Hong Kong. At Tai Kwun, the work tackles more inner feelings. In particular, it points to a general sense of anxiety and to a feeling of an irreversibly broken peace or balance.

You increasingly use videos in your installations, as if to record and emphasise your working process. Why? Videos somehow complement my ceramics practice, as a different mode of encapsulating time. I am still using a very simple format, focusing on stills or repeated actions, with the idea to transform the moving images into still forms. It is true that I also use more documentation processes. At Tai Kwun, there is a part of the installation dedicated to my work process, recipe for the ceramics, process of firing etc. Perhaps it is a way to project again the past into the present, but in a different way than with ceramics.

Where is My Peaceful Home by Annie Wan. Courtesy the artist.

Social engagement is also an important part of your practice. Do you conceive art as a way to transform society or to educate and connect people? I was once a believer in art for art’s sake, but now I seem quite happy with its ability to connect people. I don’t like the word “educate”, as I think art is not a tool.


尹麗娟的陶瓷作品是現實短暫多變的象徵,反映出藝術家對挑戰時間和捕捉瞬間的嘗試。尹麗娟專注探討日常生活和媒介的內在特質,研究陶瓷的脆弱性質,以及它們能夠以實體的形式呈現過去時光、集體傳統和流逝回憶的矛盾。她以現實會不斷重新詮釋的想法,透過陶瓷向感知的重複過程以及複製品的再現提出質疑,尋找無法掌握的真相的對抗點。

你提過你是先學設計,然後才開始接觸藝術和陶瓷,是什麼引起了這個改變?我不是一個對自己人生道路有明確規劃的人,我通常都是憑直覺行事。中學畢業後我去了攻讀設計,然後做了幾年紡織品設計師。雖然我很喜歡紡織品設計的工作,但也想有一些新的嘗試,因此1989年起我就開始在[香港]理工[大學]兼讀工作室陶瓷課程。課程很著重技術,而我參加這門課程不是為了發展事業,亦沒有任何要成為專業的期望。那兩年對我來說非常放鬆愉快,我亦很享受製作的過程。當時我很喜歡即興在陶泥上畫畫,作品亦帶有很強烈的表達色彩。我的享受完全是與陶泥有關,因為我發現我其實不喜歡用圖像來敘事或講故事,我喜歡的是繪畫那種未完成的特質,用雙手或工具在陶泥上留下的劃痕和痕跡的即時反應。我忘記了我有否邀請過藝術家做我的模特兒,也許像彼得·伍爾科斯製作陶瓷的方式一樣,要讓陶泥成為它自己最重要的部分。

你的作品一直環繞著自然現象,例如在《為迷失羔羊提出逆向》(2009)中你就讓天然的材料從作品中長出。能否解釋一下這個過程及背後的想法?當時我想用未燒的陶泥創作一件作品,於是便有了《為迷失羔羊提出逆向》的概念,當中陶泥指的是土壤,亦即是我們的土地。在製作過程中,每兩日我會製作10個密封玻璃箱,每個箱裡面都有一片泥地和一隻陶塑的羊。陶泥混合了自然物質和種子,箱子裡逐漸長出霉菌和植物,為每隻迷路的羊創造出不同的風景。每個箱內的進化過程都是隨著時間的推移而發生,但這些箱子放在一起同時又形成了一個顛倒時序的情景。第一個箱裡的種子最先長出,因此裡面的植物最高,而最後一個箱裡的植物則最矮。在視覺上它成為了一個反向的線程,但場景的發展和材料的生態進化則是接連不斷的。

這件作品也展示了日常生活中的衝突系統。陶泥的性質與環境的生態條件之間的相互作用是一個比喻,從箱外看時我們會欣賞到美麗的風景,但箱內其實是骯髒發臭,提醒我們眼見未為真。

在《Cultivation》(2014)中,你亦讓看似現實中可見之物的作品長出草來。作品是否想提出隨著時間的推移,大自然奪回了它的權利?抑或你是在暗示循環的時間概念?我覺得兩者都有。大自然有自身的流動平衡,有時會被人類干擾。這種鼓動取決於干擾的強度,但隨著時間的推移和新自然的生長,兩者會保持一種平衡。在我的實踐中,時間是一個很重要的概念,有時我會想創作一些在時間上不是靜止的、可以隨著時間不斷演變的陶瓷作品。

在《Organic Book》(2013)中你亦有圍繞大自然創作,看著從這些頁面中出生的生命令人覺得書本亦是有生命的。書本的內容遠超它們外在的體現,成為了生動的集體回憶。書本仍然活著,因為它們詮釋日新月異。

相比之下,我們可以說陶瓷是非常穩定、可以抵抗時間的物件,比如完好無缺的古董陶瓷如今亦非罕見。在你的作品,如《Proust in Time Regain》(2013)中,你是否也想透過陶瓷來挑戰時間?對我來說,製作《Proust in Time Regain》的過程就像化石化一樣。那是一個鑄造的過程,生物的遺骸溶解,然後留下一個空間,逐漸由其他礦物填滿。受這個概念所啟發,我在書本的每頁間放了陶片,然後拿去燒製。書本燒掉書頁後形成了一本化石書,成為了一種對時間的反抗。對我來說,普魯斯特書本內容的長度凝結了時間,有時他光是描述一個瞬間就可以花上多頁,他的作品引發了我思考時間和記憶的關係。

2015年你還創作了一個關於香港化石的系列,那件作品是一種想像、建立或凝聚香港集體根源的方式嗎?你使用的模型是真實還是虛構的?我使用的香港文物樣本不是石頭或貝殼,而是在現代香港找到的物件。我將物件直接放入窯中用陶泥燒製,然後將它們轉化為藝術品。儘管物件的形態會發生變化,但它們的身份和形式仍得以保留和識別。

你的一些陶瓷作品將一些無形物以實體的方式呈現出來,比如窗戶的投射光線、月光,又或你變成雕塑的書籍內容。為概念或投影賦予一個實體時有什麼感覺?這種填充或鑄造和重建正負空間的過程是為要增強和尊重普遍的地方感,同時探討記憶、比喻、思維和文化。我的陶瓷作品單憑天馬行空的想像就將現在與過去和未來聯繫起來,這種實現源於原作與復製品的差異所留下的想像空間。

在塗上陶泥的過程中,書的內容會被燒毀,那麼留下的是什麼?集體回憶的重量?這是一種抵抗的形式嗎?沒錯,也許是對物理世界的抵抗。

鑄造書本會為它帶來重量,增加它的價值和意義。你鑄造了一些和朋友在讀書時期所用的字典,你認為這與戀物癖的過程有多相似?當我受到透過倒模轉化為陶瓷的物體細節所吸引時,「戀物癖」一詞經常會在我的腦海中浮現,尤其是當它們的顏色和內容都消失而只剩下單純的形式時,所有的小細節都會原形畢露。

在許多你的作品中好像都充斥著一種真正的複製是不可能的想法,因為在過程中總是少不免會產生一些變化。與此同時,你經常製作複製品,將日常生活中的物件(如消費品或玩具)繁衍。這些明顯的矛盾是否存在分歧?你又如何看待複製這回事?的而且確,陶瓷的製作過程總是會發生變化,例如複製品的模型會縮小。但倒模可以保留物件原來的形狀,因為它在製作過程中會保存在裡面。不過我認為陶瓷複製品與攝影圖像不同,它並不帶有懷舊感。陶瓷物件是起源於我們這個時代的實體形式,填補了我們的失落感。我認為陶瓷複製品好像3D攝影,由於我們無法看到真實的物件,複製品能夠承載很多不同的含義。

你有一件作品是向華特·班雅明致敬的,他認為複製技術是一種「實現」複製品的方式,亦是一種擺脫傳統的方法。你是否故意透過青瓷創造物件探討傳統的概念?是的。我還希望在傳統和大量生產的物品之間製造一種矛盾,傳統物獨特性的消失令人非常惋惜。我在香港藝術館創作了一個名為《童珍百貨》(2019)的裝置,裝置是一系列用日常物品的青瓷複製品。作品將現今的大量生產技術與當時也大量生產的中國瓷器形成對比。工業複製品的價值是什麼?我亦透過這個裝置質疑藝術的價值,以及我們對技術和生產方式目前的看法。作品消除了複製品的身份,所有品牌都消失了,所以我只保留了物件的形式,除去它們的營銷標記。

我亦在你的作品中感受到一種脆弱,當然這感覺是與你選擇的材料有關,但同時也是受到你上次在大館的裝置作品影響。你是刻意指出這種脆弱的嗎?是的,人類的脆弱和弱點的靈感都來自我的生活經驗。我為這個裝置鑄造的瓷磚靈感來自傳統的香港地板,乍看好像很堅固,但它們裡面其實是空心的,所以我在影片中走在它們上面就是強調了我們目前的所站之地很脆弱。

在過去幾年,我也一直有種不安感,這種不安不是來自外物,而是生老病死這些無法控制的因素,令一種無助和絕望的感覺油然而生。我用香爐灰來燒製我的作品,就像佛寺透過香爐灰保護土地的傳統儀式一樣。

你覺得最近的這件作品是你2012年在牛棚所作關於破碎瓷磚裝置的延續嗎?的而且確,你可以在兩者之間找到聯繫,但牛棚的裝置更具體地探討了香港的城市化和急速發展;而大館的作品則討論更多內心感受。它特別指向了一種普遍的焦慮感,以及一種被破壞而不可逆轉的和平或平衡。

你越來越常在裝置中用到影片,好像想紀錄和突顯你的製作過程一樣。為什麼會有這種變化?影片填補了我的陶瓷實踐,是一種不同的時間封裝模式。我仍在使用一種非常簡單的格式,集中於靜止或重複的動作,目的是將移動的圖像轉換為靜止的形式。我最近的確也更常進行紀錄,大館的裝置亦有一部分專門展示我的製作過程、陶瓷配方和燒製過程等。也許這也是一種將過去投射到目前的方式,只是與陶瓷不同。

社會參與也是你實踐的重要部分,你認為藝術是一種改變社會或教育和聯繫人們的方式嗎?我曾經認為藝術就是藝術,但現在我認為它確實有連結人們的能力。我不喜歡「教育」這個詞,因為我認為藝術不是一種工具。

Gretchen So at HKI Gallery

Gretchen So
Evolving Territories – Hong Kong in Transition
Jun 28 – Jul 20, 2022
Opening: Tuesday, Jun 28, 2022, 6pm–8pm

HKI Gallery
Suite 701, 7th Floor, Chinachem Johnston Plaza
178-186 Johnston Rd, Wanchai
Hong Kong
+852 2153-3325
Tue–Sat, 12pm–7pm


hkigallery.com
gretchenso.com


HKI Gallery presents Evolving Territories – Hong Kong in Transition, a photography exhibition featuring images taken by Gretchen So between 1994 and 2000. Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the handover, this exhibition is a candid portrait of Hong Kong at a crucial historic juncture. 

About this project
There are cities that appear to be a stratification of structures and ages; cities that appear to be never completed or always on the verge of radical reconstruction. Hong Kong is one of them: a changing and diachronic megalopolis encapsulating various political and social eras that shaped its history. Its tumultuous and disorienting topography reflects the lives of its inhabitants, whose restless relationship with the territory is distinguished by continuous construction projects and massive land reclamations, uninhabited areas and densely populated neighborhoods.

Hong Kong began as a simple farming and fishing village and has since grown into an important free port and major international financial center. It was a colony for more than 150 years before its sovereignty was transferred from the United Kingdom to China in 1997. Under the principle of One Country, Two Systems the city maintains a high degree of autonomy.

Gretchen So was born and grew up during the city’s colonial period. She absorbed the sense of precariousness and mutability into her artistic practice after witnessing firsthand the major transition at the end of the century. The images she took of Hong Kong since the 1990s visually embody the rupture between two eras and demonstrate the dynamic transformations of a territory in constant reconstruction.

Evolving Territories – Hong Kong in Transition depicts how cityscapes under de-construction become the stage on which residents move, adapt to changes in their living environment, and become true agents of change. As the result of six years of patient reportage, the artwork reflects upon the physical and symbolic fragmentations that characterize the identity of this suspended metropolis. 

The project is not only a contemporary critique of pre-millennium urbanization and modernization, it is also a visual record of Hong Kong’s evolution during a critical historical period.


About the artist
So holds an MFA degree from Yale School of Art and attended an MA program in Arts Administration at Columbia University. She worked in the nonprofit sector in New York and Hong Kong where she also taught at SVA, RMIT and SCAD, among others. Her projects on the fast-growing and ever-changing cityscape of Hong Kong have been awarded numerous publication and exhibition grants from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. To learn more about the artist, please visit gretchenso.com