All posts filed under: City

Kung Chi Shing

By Aaina Bhargava / The first part of Kung Chi Shing’s haunting video City Inside a Broken Sky, Deep Night alternates black-and-white imagery of a construction site amid debris and scaffolding, the colonial-era building of the Oil Street Art Space, and a young boy. Familiar construction noises are interspersed with occasional wailing, an eerie, melancholic sound conveying despair. “Dark in every sense,” in the artist’s own words, the video is the first of four in a series called Soundscape, a meditation on the implications of construction, the use of public space and the city itself. “Construction involves destruction,” he says. “When you destroy something, you’re erasing something that came before it, and Hong Kong is famous for erasing. Every few months an old building is gone, an old space is destroyed to build a new one.” Soundscape was created to mark Oil Street Art Space’s expansion. With two galleries housed in a complex of historical significance, its expansion will include an indoor gallery, and an outdoor venue that will be open to the public. The …

「阿輝」A’fair

By Aaina Bhargava / In the midst of Wan Chai, a neon pink roller shutter poses a seemingly innocent question: “What did you dream of last night?” Reading like an ad, a phone number and website, halfdream.org, are listed above and beneath the question. Surrounded by an eclectic mix of shops plastered with flyers and notices, bustling Hennessy Road might be the last place you’d expect to see Chicago-based Hong Kong artist Doreen Chan’s ongoing project Half Dream (Promotion 1, Hong Kong) (2020). She invites people to recall their dreams and subsequently transforms them into an art work. Surreal in spirit and content, the work marks the beginning of an equally unexpected occurrence. What once was a Japanese restaurant became, for a fleeting moment, a pop-up exhibition, A’fair. Outfitted with jagged edges, dirt, partly pulled-out floor tiles and exposed brick walls, the space’s former function was only hinted at by remnants of white, ceramic-like, fan-patterned tiles. The gritty impact of the unfinished, rough-hewn interiors was intensified by a series of sculptural installations. Raw, visceral and fleeting – it lasted just four …

Household Gods 「駐家寧神」

By Aaina Bhargava / Protests and pandemics have relegated us to the domestic sphere, where we’ve been forced to confront the anxiety and fear induced by the past year’s events. In addition to political, economic and social disruptions of unprecedented proportions, we’re experiencing emotional and psychological upheavals specifically reactive to this point in time. Articulating and reflecting on this complex state of being, Hong Kong artists Shane Aspegren, Nadim Abbas, Tap Chan and Wu Jiaru have come together to stage Household Gods, an exhibition curated by Ying Kwok, on view at Hart Hall in H Queens. Lifted from writer and occultist Aleister Crowley’s early 20th-century play Household Gods, the title of the show explicitly outlines its objective: to question our relationship with the supernatural through our “most intimate setting”, the home.  The four artists conceived of the exhibition while working alongside each other at Hart Haus’ sprawling 10,000 sq ft Hart Social Studio in November 2019, before the advent of Covid-19. Despite their seemingly disparate practices, the artists find common ground in using domestic objects, exploring how they serve as channels to activate the unknown or …

Pathway into Film

14th Fresh Wave International Short Film Festival / By Karen Chu / Despite the desire to return to normality, the world has changed, perhaps irreversibly, since the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic. In Hong Kong, effects of the outbreak as well as 12 months of social turmoil are evident in every aspect of society, and the city is bracing itself for the political unknown looming on the horizon that threatens to alter its character forever. The Hong Kong film industry, for one, has been decimated by the social, political and economic turbulence and the public health situation over the past year. The shutdown of multiplexes in April and May as one of the measures to contain the outbreak dealt a blow to theatrical exhibition businesses, and local film production has become extremely rare. In addition to the postponement of the Entertainment Expo Hong Kong, which includes Hong Kong Filmart and the Hong Kong International Film Festival, the once vibrant local film festival scene has also come to a standstill in the first half of …

Community arts: Supporting or Subverting the Establishment?

By Samson Wong / “Is [sic] the community arts becoming too close to the establishment?” my fellow contributor Queenie Liu asked me during the writers’ panel at the launch of Art Readers on Art – Hong Kong (I), a new bilingual volume by seven local artists and scholars. All seven were in attendance, including art historian Linda Lai Chiu Han and artist Ho Siu Kee. Liu’s chapter is on political art, while mine looks at the experiential side of participation in community art, defined here as a practice in which the art-making process aims to help people with their wellbeing – two very different artistic approaches to social intervention. The question presupposes a suspicion of the state that current applies in Hong Kong but is certainly not limited to it. Liu’s observation, though pointed, is commonly put to community artists. The argument has been most strongly formulated by art historian Claire Bishop, one of community art’s harshest critics. She described the UK’s community art movement between 1970s to 1980s as simply “an agitational force campaigning …

Video, Sofa, Bauhinia – Retrospective and Reconstruction of Ellen Pau

By Leung Po Shan / “They said There’s nothing special about an onion It deserves all criticisms Despite an earthy costume Its name doesn’t inspire trust Its nature is not agreeable. Peel off layer after layer, there is nothing inside that can be called sophistication! How formalistic!” (Yasi: Extract from “Onion”) What About Home Affairs?, the title of Para Site’s retrospective of Ellen Pau, pioneering Hong Kong artist and co-founder in 1986 of the city’s first video and media art collective, Videotage, can been construed as a bilingual pun, taking in both Hong Kong politics and the shackles imposed on women in the home and society. “Home Affairs” brings to mind the Home Affairs Department, which is responsible for Hong Kong’s internal affairs. The ambiguity of the words creates a discrepancy between the title in Chinese and English. In her essay in the exhibition catalogue, video artist Lo Yin-shan, who emerged a generation later than Pau, references academic David Wang Der Wei’s post-loyalist theory to point out that Pau’s Emergence (A work in progress) (2016) was …

Free to Express – Fresh Wave International Short Film Festival

By Karen Chu / The impact of dementia on a family; a straight-A student’s struggle with a speech impediment; kintsugi, the ancient Japanese art of repairing ceramics; premature ejaculation; prostitutes, rappers and farmer-robbers – the 2019 edition of the Fresh Wave International Short Film Festival is a kaleidoscope of youthful creativity. Alongside an international selection, a Japanese and Taiwanese talent showcase and the opening gala premiere of feature film The Pluto Moment by Chinese sixth-generation director Zhang Ming, the festival’s heart is its local competition, where 20 short films by aspiring Hong Kong filmmakers compete for four awards. Now in its 13rd edition, Fresh Wave was launched by renowned Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To. Its aim is to discover and nurture new talents in Hong Kong, where the film industry has struggled to sustain its rich legacy since it suffered a downturn in the 2000s while mainland China-Hong Kong co-productions bloomed, siphoning off established directors and creative talent northward. During the heyday of Hong Kong cinema in the 80s and 90s, Hong Kong actors and directors were …

Power and Perspective: Charles Esche

By Remo Notarianni / If every picture tells a story, then like the picture, that story has a perspective. According to art writer, curator and museum director Charles Esche, the story of art in Asia has been told, over time, from countless perspectives by writers from around the world, in what he sees as a journey towards greater understanding. “It was still not that long ago, in 1982, that the director of Documenta wrote in the foreword to the catalogue that he covered the whole of the art world in this publication, and he described a world which exists between New York and Vienna,” says Esche. “That’s a white, largely male world. He might have been a rather conservative director at that time. Nevertheless, it was a position that was held quite generally in the era.” Europe’s art world flourished with the development of movements reflecting its changing ideas – Renaissance, Impressionism, Fauvism – that grew from and at times shook its classical foundations. But as it made contact with art in distant places, according to Esche, rather than tell …

The WMA Commission Recipient Natalie Lo: Ecology is full of self-contradictions

By Summer Kwok / The WYNG Media Award (WMA) is a series of non-profit making programmes developed to inspire public participation and promote awareness and discussion of social issues in Hong Kong through photography and visual arts. The theme this year is Opportunity, and the WMA Commission selected Natalie Lo Lai Lai as a recipient, commissioning her project The Days Before Silent Spring. On a superficial level, the project documented nature, and Lo’s self-styled “Half-Farming, Half-X” lifestyle, in which she uses farming as a means to personal and artistic autonomy. But visitors to her exhibition at the end of last year at the Bonacon Gallery in Guangzhou discovered more complex narratives. Lo mainly works in video. “I think essay films acknowledge my own more complicated and defensive way of thinking, with its strong synchronicity,” she says. “I use editing techniques, selective images and suggestive texts, which combine to become a vibrant response to it.” In her Guangzhou exhibition, apart from her video works, Lo cleverly adapted to the limitations of the gallery space to create an interesting installation, turning the tile pattern of …

Atlas 4013

By Gerhard Bruyns / Cities are constructions. They consist of streets, lanes and alleys. Walls, windows, ceilings and a succession of doorways. Buildings, loose structures, canopies and streets. Trees, shrubs, bushes and garden pockets. In a variety of combinations and orders, the binding together of any of these elements crystallise other formations: spatial complexes and neighbourhoods, articulating cultural burrows and areas of affluence. In its totality it represents a body of material that formulates an urban environment, living and non-living, operating through natural and human processes.  However, for most of us who live in the city, we form an association through our ways of existence, in how we engage with the material world, with the buildings, structures and gardens. We build memories, link important moments to places we have seen, and savour the places we knew while becoming adults. From anthropologist Gregory Bateson’s (1904-80) perspective, this in itself represents specific Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972), a way of thinking about the world we know and experience. Irrespective of what the actual artefact is or how that object is woven into our existence, our …