The cracks of a dysfunctional system within society in the lens of Mark Chung

A video portrays the “A Symphony of Lights,” the city’s widely known laser show attraction through the glass exterior of International Finance Centre (ICC), the tallest skyscraper in the city. Image courtesy of the artist and de Sarthe.
Installation view of Mark Chung’s multi-part immersive artwork, utilising the gallery as his studio and exhibition space. Image courtesy of the artist and de Sarthe.
Installation view showing Mark Chung’s video projection of ICC as seen through panels of fractured tempered glass. Image courtesy of the artist and de Sarthe.
deSAR x Mark Chung, image taken during Mark Chung’s residency utilising the gallery as his studio space . Image courtesy of the artist and de Sarthe.
Mark Chung casting the negative space of PVC pipes connected like miniature intertwining infrastructures with liquid polyurethane. Image courtesy of the artist and de Sarthe.
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Hong Kong-based artist Mark Chung’s latest experimental project created through his artist residency at de Sarthe seeks to reveal the multiple perspectives of a city and its dysfunctional system.

 

TEXT: Denise Tsui
IMAGES: Courtesy of the artist and de Sarthe

Installation view of Mark Chung’s multi-part immersive artwork, utilising the gallery as his studio and exhibition space. Image courtesy of the artist and de Sarthe.

 

In a city with an impending future that has arguably become one of the most hotly contested international geopolitical topics over the past 14 months—and which will likely continue—the encouragement to nurture and be tolerant of multiple perspectives among its citizens is of vital importance. This call for widening our perspectives while remaining true to our own voices when discussing the various dysfunctional forces in Hong Kong is explored in Hong Kong-based artist Mark Chung’s latest experimental project created through his artist residency at de Sarthe.

Since mid-July, Chung has been using the expansive 10,000 square foot Wong Chuk Hang gallery space as his studio, transforming de Sarthe into his multi-part immersive installation. Wrapping up the open-studio residency on 4 September, the project will be showcased as a short exhibition titled “Wheezing” from 5 through 19 September.

“It’s more about different perspectives. Part of it is about a different perspective of one image, a different way to look at it, and this really imposes on it because there’s already different ways to look at it. The other part is this imposition of these violent cracks on the image itself,” Chung explains as we stand immersed in a small enclosed space constructed by the artist as the first room in a two-part environment with opposing temperatures. Four panels of fractured tempered glass separate the two rooms, through which a video projection shines through onto the wall next to us, bathing us in a myriad of sparkling rainbow colour spectrum. “The glass imposes a lot of meaning to the image itself, and [in] the reflection, you can never see a perfect image even on the glass. Here nothing is perfect, you don’t see a whole of the image; even with all the images combined together you never get that image you see in the computer.”

 

Installation view showing Mark Chung’s video projection of ICC as seen through panels of fractured tempered glass. Image courtesy of the artist and de Sarthe.

 

Using flexible aluminium air ducts, Chung has redirected the air from the gallery’s ceiling mounted air-conditioning units in the larger room to where we stand, such that two microclimates are generated. There is a fridge-like crisp temperature in this room with the projection and refracted light, and an uncomfortably warm and humid climate in the larger room where the projector stands. The air ducts snake into and through the architecture like alien tentacles intervening in the space. One must walk through the colder room in order to reach the warmer room. The visual sensory experience is as much alluring as it is disturbing, hinting at cracks in the forces percolating in the city, a point further enhanced by the disorientating drastic change in climate from room to room, neither of which bring comfort.

 

deSAR x Mark Chung, image taken during Mark Chung’s residency utilising the gallery as his studio space . Image courtesy of the artist and de Sarthe.

 

The video, shot by a drone, portrays the glass exterior of the 108-story tall International Finance Centre (ICC), the tallest skyscraper in the city. Through the glass reflection of ICC, we can see “A Symphony of Lights,” the city’s widely known laser show attraction. The repeated moving image, refracted lights of the fractured glass, and our own shadows entering the space create simultaneous distortions splintering the image, never allowing us to see it as a whole, while hinting at how the same image can be perceived in different ways.

Although tolerance for transiency and fast adaptation to rapid change is embedded in Hong Kong’s modern history, most of us living here will agree that the rate of current social, economic and geopolitical shifts is at an unprecedented pace. While still grasping to fully wrap our heads around such change, the city and its people are also finding ways to be resilient through the coronavirus pandemic that has all but ravaged the world on every level.

“Things are changing too fast. Actually, I think some of the works won’t be relevant by the end of the show,” Chung tells me when I met up with him during the residency. “The context has changed.” Standing in the front space of the gallery, he explains how tube lights bearing low colour rendering index will be installed to restrict the spectrum of colours we can perceive upon walking in; the first of his immersive environments which points to how our perception can be shrouded by factors both external and internal. Nearby, on an otherwise empty wall, is a small photograph of the Hong Kong skyline. Taken during a ferry ride between To Kwa Wan and North Point, Chung describes his memory of that day as seeing Hong Kong Island particularly misty and thick with fog which motivated him to capture the moment with his camera.

Born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1990, Chung grew up in Hong Kong and is heavily interested in observing the intricate dysfunctional systems of his city. Chatting away as we stand in the larger gallery space—which luckily for me was not at the ideal warm temperature Chung has planned for it—his sharp-eyed, vigilant and curious nature becomes apparent. From Hong Kong’s flailing movie industry to the problematic anomaly of a vacant billboard, Hong Kong’s one-time UFO-craze of the early 2000s and the use of dry wall as a cheap, impermanent construction material in the city, Chung is a trove of knowledge and observations.

Referring to his series of liquid polyurethane sculptures casting the negative space of PVC pipes connected like miniature intertwining infrastructures, he explains how the forms are referencing the sewage pipes widely found on the exterior buildings of sub-divided flats in Hong Kong. “It gets very, very complicated because the unit in there is getting more subdivided, and un-subdivided,” says Chung. A phenomenon born as an impermanent solution to the city’s problem with rent inflation and high population density, these pipes are often overstressed, generating nauseating smells.

 

Mark Chung casting the negative space of PVC pipes connected like miniature intertwining infrastructures with liquid polyurethane. Image courtesy of the artist and de Sarthe.

 

With a few more works in the pipeline at the time of my visit, including silkscreen prints which will be produced on galvanized sheets of steel, we talk about what it’s like to, not only have a studio space, but for it to be openly in a gallery setting. “I mean it’s interesting because you have a lot more dialogue with the space. A lot more dialogue, it’s good and bad at the same time,” he says, adding, “Too much dialogue, sometimes you make strange decisions. But, definitely some decisions that won’t be able to make without this duration of time in the gallery.”

Looking ahead, he hints at a possible project in the making, an opportunity he has waited a long time for with great excitement. In the meantime, we look around us in the gallery space at what Chung will soon finish turning into a spectacle of sensorial experiences underpinned by his experiences of the city and its failing systems, hoping that it remains relevant long enough for us to reflect on it through the widened lens offered in his work.

 

 

 
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