Exit Strategies: Working with Limitations

MAP Office, Concrete Jungle, 2007. Photography, 150 x 120 cm. C-print on Metalic Kodac paper, mounted on dibond, wooden frame, Edition of 5, 1 AP. Courtesy of MAP Office.
Tamás Waliczky Reflections, 2014. Courtesy of H Queen’s.
Silas Fong, Working in Hollywood, 2010. Courtesy of H Queen’s.
Linda Lai and Floating Projects Collective, Image of Lost Texture, 2019. Original positive drawing by Winnie Yan. Courtesy of Linda Lai and Floating Projects Collective.
MAP Office, Concrete Jungle, 2007. Photography, 150 x 120 cm. C-print on Metalic Kodac paper, mounted on dibond, wooden frame, Edition of 5, 1 AP. Courtesy of MAP Office.
Lee Kit, Hope Less, 2019. Courtesy of H Queen’s.
Chloë Cheuk, Long Gone, 2019. Courtesy of H Queen’s.
TOP
2195
51
1
 
20
Mar
20
Mar
CoBo Social Market News

A not-so-public, public-art experience, Exit Strategies uses spatial constraints to reinforce its thematic principles, resulting in a thoughtful journey that is as uncomfortable as it is provocative 

Text: Christina Ko
Images: Courtesy of Artists, Galleries, and H Queens

 

Check your expectations at the door – or the top of the stairwell, as it were – if you’re headed to Exit Strategies, the public art “experience” that opened at H Queen’s on March 1 and will run through Art Basel week until early April.

Public-space exhibitions are nothing new, and often nothing very interesting, but the team behind H Queen’s is seeking to redefine the boundaries of what this is, while reinforcing the concept of the “vertical art walk” it has been marketing since the building opened almost a year ago, by leading viewers down the back staircase of the gallery-filled building, starting from the 17th floor.

But it’s not at all what you’d expect from an art exhibition back by a corporate entity. It’s grungy, and lonely, and constricted. The acoustics are strange, you can’t travel through the space easily as a group and really, there’s an awful lot of cardio involved, meaning that the journey is best made alone, unless you wish to add to your daily footstep count by meandering up and down in search of your companions. The space sings transience, and the exhibition – sorry, “experience – demands it.

This linear journey through video, sculpture, photography and sound installation includes a combination of new and existing works from artists MAP Office, Lee Kit, Chloe Cheuk, Silas Fong and Linda Lai & the Floating Projects Collective. In the building’s two lobbies – the more conventional public spaces – are pieces by Tsang Kin-wah and Tamás Waliczky.

 

Tamás Waliczky Reflections, 2014. Courtesy of H Queen’s.

 

Conceived by David Chan, a curator who has worked with Pearl Lam Galleries and K11 and is the previous director of Osage Gallery and the Shanghai Gallery of Art at Three on the Bund, Exit Strategies delves into issues of escapism – both literal and psychological – that arise in a fast-paced city such as Hong Kong, calling on each artist to interpret this theme in creating site-specific new work, or to reinterpret and reevaluate existing pieces in the context of this topic.

But is it a case of the art making the space interesting, or the other way around?

“Spatial limitations are a good thing sometimes with presenting art. It poses a challenge for the artist to respond. This situation is interesting because the site makes the artwork interesting and also vice versa. They may rely on each other in order to survive,” admits Chan. “We tend to have a fixated idea of how art should be presented all the time. We go into a white space, and architecturally it’s very nice, we present some nice objects, blah blah blah. This site in itself has its own history, and whether the artists want to respond or not respond to it is up to them. But it’s interesting to have that provocation.”

All of the unfriendlier aspects of the staircase have certainly been taken into consideration, in a way that’s certainly much more cerebral and even esoteric than your average public-art showing. Quite a few of the works utilize sound as a stoplight. “The stairwell is predicated on movement. How do I create a situation where people will slow down? From Linda Lai’s [TV] dramas to MAP Office’s insects down to Lee Kit’s piano score, the use of sound is to slow people down, and it’s very important. I wouldn’t say [this is just about the] Hong Kong psyche, but it’s the psyche of a city. It’s quite rushed here, you can’t sit down. Because of the site, I realised I really have to use transience as a subject, something to respond to.”

Though it is a repurposed work and not a new creation, Silas Fong’s Working in Hollywood does exactly that. The piece is inspired by his time working at Asia Art Archive on Hollywood Road where, on his lunch break, he would watch the way in which people whiled away their leisure time. He captured these moments – a man stopped to sit on a staircase, a kitchen worker crouched outside a restaurant in the back alley talking on the phone, office types grabbing a smoke break – and stitched them into a single narrative that captures the spirit of people’s habits during their brief exits from the daily grind.

 

Silas Fong, Working in Hollywood, 2010. Courtesy of H Queen’s.

 

At the top of the staircase is a wash of difficult-to-read etched metal plates, made even less legible by poor fluorescent lighting. This is Linda Lai & the Floating Project Collective’s ahistorical timeline, Image of Lost Texture, which takes a map of Queen’s Road Central as its starting point, and then embellishes this with objects, text and video accompaniment – think archival footage of films from the ‘50s juxtaposed with kitchen tools and facts presented through text about the city’s history. It’s no Kusama pumpkin, that’s for sure, and demands slow consideration. “Everything is always esoteric [anyway], art is esoteric in itself,” shrugs Chan.

Down a couple floors is MAP Office’s Concrete Jungle (2007), deceptively simple stylized photographs of tangled wilderness that have been mounted at different heights and occasionally behind the exposed pipes that line the stairwell.

 

Linda Lai and Floating Projects Collective, Image of Lost Texture, 2019. Original positive drawing by Winnie Yan. Courtesy of Linda Lai and Floating Projects Collective.
MAP Office, Concrete Jungle, 2007. Photography, 150 x 120 cm. C-print on Metalic Kodac paper, mounted on dibond, wooden frame, Edition of 5, 1 AP. Courtesy of MAP Office.

 

“It’s deliberate that they tuck the photographs behind the pipes, to stage that kind of containment. It’s very conscious,” notes Chan. “There’s this notion of seeking an exit, of moving. To leave, to detach. The artists are proposing different strategies, [from] Linda’s ahistorical treatment of history, to MAP Office’s unnatural, almost dystopian [imagery].”

Lee Kit, too, mounts his video installation so that the integrity of the projection is broken by the curved interruption in the wall of the pipes. A bright light and a solitary face are static on the screen as captions play in an endless loop: “Hello, I love you. Won’t you tell me your name?”

Chloe Cheuk presents two sculptures: the newer one, a site-specific called Long Gone, displays a translucent telephone in a glass box, its receiver dangling by the side. “It talks about solitude and a need for dependence in society. But it’s a kind of detachment that is much more psychological,” says Chan. “Being not able to communicate, but also wanting to communicate.”

 

Lee Kit, Hope Less, 2019. Courtesy of H Queen’s.
Chloë Cheuk, Long Gone, 2019. Courtesy of H Queen’s.

 

While each artist is proposing – or at least creating some sort of commentary on – different formats of escapism employed by those of us ensconced in city life, the experience of wandering down these winding stairs is anything but freeing, only reinforcing feelings of claustrophobia and alarm. And so emerging from its tight embrace, into the polluted air of Central and the cacophony of bus engines and car horns, this exit seems almost cathartic. And maybe that’s the whole point.

“It’s about floating lives. How to deal with it. It’s about how to argue for something personal. How to slow things down. How to have that refuge,” says Chan. “But it’s an open question. I don’t know what will come out of it. You tell me.”

 

 


Christina Ko is a Hong Kong-based writer and editor who has covered the luxury scene for over a decade. She writes on topics ranging from beauty and wellness to arts and culture. Formerly the editorial director of Prestige Hong Kong, she now contributes to various publications including South China Morning Post, Discovery, Design Anthology, Hong Kong Tatler and Silverkris, as well as working with clients such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Estee Lauder and Lane Crawford.
 
1 Comment

Leave a Reply

One thought on “Exit Strategies: Working with Limitations”

  1. Hello, Christina.
    Thanks for writing about Exit Strategies.
    The caption of the 3rd image of your article, which shows my work, is about the Map Office’s piece.
    The wall objects should be by Linda Lai and the "Floating Projects Collective." Our piece is titled "Lost Textures." Thanks for your attention.
    Linda