HONG KONG - TALES OF THE CITY

March 13 - May 2, 2020

 

In the book Global Hong Kong, scholars Cindy Wong and Gary McDonogh argue that “Hong Kong has been intrinsically ‘global’ since it took shape.” They believe Hong Kong was “at the edges of two world empires — China and Great Britain.” Hong Kong has since been a “laboratory for globalization in the last two centuries,” even before the term globalization became a buzzword. Indeed, Hong Kong was a unique city long before the advent of increased international investment and dynamicity fostered by cultural exchange in the 1990s. Back in the Qing Dynasty, Hong Kong served as Britain’s entrepôt for South China, intertwining with wider social and political forces between Hong Kong, China and Britain. As of today, the city has been re-imagined and undergone profound transformation, becoming the outpost of capitalism within China. The free flow of capital and adaptive economic model creates a unique kind of capitalism, underpinning today’s local and global affairs — politics entangled with the apparent contradictions reflecting Hong Kong’s local identity, China’s domestic politics, and the bilateral relationship between the world’s two leading powers, China and the United States. The legacy of the city’s colonial past, the apparent accomplishments connected to the flourishing age of China, alongside the sweeping changes that are happening in the world — trade war, global epidemics and a new world order that vividly questions globalization due to the increasing dynamic between free markets and state capitalism – are constantly opening up new political spaces, while Hong Kong’s people are tactically reinventing themselves, resiliently striving to shape what we know as Hong Kong today.

Hong Kong’s complex history and its unique identity have inspired artists to explore the conflicting notions of localism, nationalism and globalization. The works of Hong Kong’s artists reflect diverse experiences, often confronting mainstream narratives, portraying ways of life as a form of subversion and resistance. Hong Kong – Tales of the City, a debut collaboration between Videotage and Denny Dimin Gallery, aims to explore how moving images of Hong Kong empower us to rethink the larger context of changes that are occurring globally. By presenting various works, this exhibition addresses and negotiates a different geographical context — Hong Kong art in the United States — an experience that is shared and situated, and yet opens up room for wider reflection on what is happening “here and there.” The exhibition contains three distinct parts: Publicness, Everydayness, and Queerness.

 

PANEL DISCUSSION

(Turned Webinar)
Saturday, March 14, 2020

 

Moderator: Barbara Pollack

Panelists: Daniel Chen, Valerie Doran, LAU Wai, João Vasco Paiva, Chloë CHEUK, Dr. Linda Chiu-han LAI

The panel accompanied the exhibition, Hong Kong: Tales of the City, and discussed the art scene in Hong Kong and the history of media art there.

‘Publicness’ presents works that address civic participation and imagination. These works demonstrate how video art serves as a medium for individuals to rethink a sense of self in collective settings.

— Isaac Leung, Curator
 

ELLEN PAU

b. 1961, Hong Kong

Diversion, 1990
Single-channel

 

Produced one year after the Tiananmen Square protests, Diversion focuses on the emigration flush out of Hong Kong. Footage produced by the Hong Kong Government of Victoria Harbor swimming contest scenes in the 1960s are appropriated by the artist as absurd metaphors and black humor. The artist used no special editing equipment. The overlaying of images is not done electronically, but instead by recapturing the reflected image from the television screen. By combining footage from various sources – government newsreels of the swimming contests, educational videos on swimming, performance video of the sequence of a burning newspaper goat-head floating down a stairwell – the video creates a personal reflection of a collective memory.

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CHLOË CHEUK

b. 1989, Hong Kong

Waiting For Another Round, 2015
4-channel video 6’ and still

 

Waiting for Another Round is an exploration of the wheel as a symbol of the ruthless encroachment of urbanization. After the clearance of sites that were occupied by protestors in Causeway Bay, Admiralty and Mongkok, Cheuk patrolled the streets and documented the process of wheels devouring every inch of the remaining trace of the Umbrella Movement protest in 2014 over 20 days. As the wheels roll on, different protest sites join together and fall apart endlessly.

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LEE KAI CHUNG

b. 1985, Hong Kong

The History of Riots (The DJ), 2013
Single-channel video, B&W, 6’43”, 16:9, stereo

 

The 1967 Leftist Riots were among the most controversial social movements in the history of Hong Kong, not only because the British Hong Kong colonial government reformed its organizational system, social welfare policy, political and diplomatic strategy towards Mainland China after 1967, but also, because it was a watershed when local politicians and the general public were forced to take sides on consequential political issues. This period created a need for the Hong Kong community to recognize and be aware of various ideologies, and to develop their own cultural identity over the next 40 years.

Lam Bun a radio commentator at Commercial Radio Station Hong Kong was killed due to his criticism of the local communists on his radio programme “Can’t Stop Striking” Lam and his cousin were set on fire in his car when they were driving home on 24 August 1967.

This piece is a tribute to and re-enactment of Lam, who dared to speak out under social and political pressure.

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‘Everydayness’ presents works that narrate ordinary life and settings that make up the lives of Hong Kong’s people.

— Isaac Leung, Curator
 

CHILAI HOWARD

b. 1986, Hong Kong

The Doors, 2008
Single-channel video 5’59”

 

The Doors brings public housing in Hong Kong to the screen by capturing the daily habits of people in the Nam Shan Estate with a surveillance camera. A public housing policy in Hong Kong did not exist before 1954. A fire on Christmas night 1953 destroyed 50,000 people’s homes in the shanty area at Shek Kip Mei and, thus, the colonial government needed to provide homes with affordable rent to the working class, which made up the majority of the population at that time. Currently, public housing is still home to a third of Hong Kong’s seven million residents. The artist is one of many of his generation who grew up in such neighborhoods. The rhythm of door opening and closing reveals not only the common, everyday life experiences there, but also demonstrates a unique sense of time and space.

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LINDA CHIU-HAN LAI

b. 1957, Hong Kong

Door Games Window Frames: Near Drama, 2012
Video 11’30”

 

Door Games Window Frames is a single-channel, 3-window combinatorial drama. The work deploys a database of about 500 movie clips extracted from eleven Cantonese thrillers and melodramas from the early 1960s in Hong Kong. Exploring the mannerism and formulaic structures of such films, Lai discovered a key feature – the frequent use of the opening and closing of doors to introduce a scene, and the use of windows to highlight emotively charged moments in melodrama. The artist extracted the 500 clips with the following interest: (1) door and window shots from the films, (2) the performance of the male protagonists — mainly 2 actors — in scenes with doors and windows, (3) the close-up shots of the facial expressions of female protagonists in the films, (4) close-up shots of everyday objects, and (5) outdoor scenes that contain views of urban Hong Kong. Whereas the first three criteria set up the artist’s analytical-visual studies of the genre characteristics of these films, the latter two criteria form the anthropological-ethnographic objectives of this project, acknowledging photography and cinema’s intrinsic power to preserve the looks and appearances of material existence from the past.

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JOÃO VASCO PAIVA

b. 1979, Coimbra, Portugal

Action Through Non Action, 2009
Single-channel video 7’01”

 

Action Through Non Action is a video performance where the artist uses his body as an interfering sensor to capture the rhythms caused by his presence in a crowd. He does so by measuring the frequency of pedestrians colliding with himself. The performer stands still in the middle of a crowd in the most densely populated district of Hong Kong. The artist performs no actions, even so, interactions cannot be avoided. His presence creates interference in the normal flow of the crowd, setting off multiple chain reactions. Contact with elements in the crowd by the performer’s arms are recorded using several contact microphones connected to a recorder and headphones. The headphones isolate the performer’s hearing, so that he can only listen to the sounds of people touching him. The recorded data generates an algorithm that interferes with the video playback. The video as presented is the documentation of the performer’s interference.

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‘Queerness’ presents works that encourages a queer reading of Hong Kong culture, a move beyond accepted boundaries offered by the changing culture in identity politics within and outside of Hong Kong. How could Hong Kong’s public affairs, everyday life and radical imagination about these identities offer us insights into the current social and political landscape of our time? In a time when a relatively minor decision in one place may create ripple effects everywhere, from global finance to movements around the world, this exhibition will review the ways in which Hong Kong artists construct meaning about their spaces, while also exploring the “so far and yet so close” relationship between Hong Kong and the United States.

— Isaac Leung, Curator
 

CHEN PIN TAO 6.O.6.6.Y.C.C.

b. 1994, Sydney, Australia

The Euthanasia Project, 2019
Video 5’05

 

A year before the MoMA exhibition, Superstudio dreamed up the 2000-Ton City. The citizens of this megastructure live in a techno-utopia in which all their desires are fulfilled, unless they formulate thoughts of rebellion against this perfect life twice in row, in which case their ceiling will come down on them with the weight of two thousand tons crushing them to death.

The Euthanasia Project is an ambitious masterplanning project led by renowned architecture firm Heterarchitecture under the direction of architect and artist Chen Pin Tao 6.o.6.6.y.C.C. Geographically located on the remote islands of China, the project is a response to human suffering and aims to build an infrastructure which allows the anxiety inhibitors (mortals known as human beings) to live an alternative reality and die with dignity. The building block of the masterplan is a prefabricated capsule system that provides all the necessary needs for the survival of the human body. The prefabricated capsule can be stacked vertically and horizontally, allowing the architecture to grow in density as the population increases over time.

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IP WAI LUNG

b. Guangdong Province, China

Qingdao Lotus Pond, 2018
Single-channel video 5’03

 

In a performance conducted during his residency at Sa Sa Art Projects, Phnom Penh, the artist dresses himself in a golden spandex suit, as an androgynous non-human fairy spirit, and wades into a lotus pond. Carrying a utility belt of canned Qingdao beer, he opens each of them and douses the lotus flowers and leaves, the pond and himself in it. His intention is to fertilize the vegetation with this beer, but the lotus leaves’ ultra-hydrophobic surface refuses the nutritious offering and duly repels the bad booze from China.

The trans-human entity the artist assumes is not ahistorical.  An animist spirit in gold, the color often found in regional shrines and temples, the artist alludes to the Maoist khmer rouge regime that outlawed religion and traditional systems of knowledge.  As citizens were rounded up and disappeared into killing fields, the only way to survive is to escape into the forest, to subsist on nothing, to make no sound, and to become “nonhuman”.  Autogenocide is to be avoided by devolution into a low-tech DIY cyborg, to commit auto-castration, to transition into a post-gender, post-Marxist, post-colonial, post-death, trans-genocidal and trans-species non-identity.

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JOSEPH CHEN

b. 1992, Hong Kong

Sleeptripping Duology, 2018-2019
Single-channel video 10’00

 

Sleeptripping Duology is a series of two docu-fictional travelogues, Chungking Detour and Siam Rehab. These two pieces are born from tours and dreams in travels to Chongqing, a Chinese municipality which is the largest urban area in the world, and Thailand.  Chen looks to the correlative model taken from Ancient Eastern philosophy where seeing and experiencing the world is a process of intuition, pattern and influence . In the travelogues the artist finds himself in different realities, through the identities of tourist and dreamer. Using correlations between himself, the physical places, the dreamed experiences, the Video 8 camera and the found online materials, he coordinates his perceptions – part documentary, part dreamed imagined space to organize his conscious and subconscious experiences.

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HONG KONG - TALES OF THE CITY

 

DATES: March 13 – May 2, 2020

LOCATION: Denny Dimin Gallery, 39 Lispenard Street, New York, NY USA

CO-PRESENTED BY: Denny Dimin Gallery & Videotage

Learn more about Videotage and Isaac Leung, curator of Hong Kong – Tales of the City and Chairperson of Videotage.

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