Next Act at Asia Society Hong Kong prompts us to consider Hong Kong’s past, present and future

Christopher K. Ho, Always Stop Eating While You’re Still a Little Hungry, 2020, brass, magic eyes, 3D print, window decal, steel, wood and audio. 216 x 171.5 x 108.5 cm, 530 x 1317.5 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.
Christopher K. Ho, Always Stop Eating While You’re Still a Little Hungry, 2020, brass, magic eyes, 3D print, window decal, steel, wood and audio. 216 x 171.5 x 108.5 cm, 530 x 1317.5 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.
Zheng Mahler, Mountains of Gold and Silver Are Not as Good as Mountains of Blue and Green, 2020, Jingdezhen bisque porcelain vases, 3D holographic fans, 3D animation, sound, dimensions variable 10’50”. Image courtesy of the artist.
Isaac Chong Wai, Falling Carefully, 2020, silicon, polylactide, wood, resin, fabric, shoes, human hair. Image courtesy of the artist, Blindspot Gallery and Zilberman Gallery.
Leung Chi Wo, My Random Diary, 2020, single-channel video, 4K, 18’. Image courtesy of the artist.
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Founded by John D. Rockefeller III in New York in 1956 with the aim of promoting connections and cultural understanding between Asia and the United States, Asia Society has since expanded to include 14 centres across the globe. “Next Act: Contemporary Art from Hong Kong” celebrates Asia Society Hong Kong’s 30th anniversary while looking back at the city’s development throughout this time, using its history as a framework through which to consider the present and future.

TEXT: Leanne Mirandilla
IMAGES: Courtesy of various

“Next Act: Contemporary Art from Hong Kong” is steeped in history in a myriad of ways. Besides being tied to Asia Society Hong Kong’s 30th anniversary, the exhibition features artworks by 10 local artists that are all products of extensive research into a variety of fields—perhaps drawing inspiration from the centre’s status as an educational organisation. Asia Society Hong Kong’s current location, which opened in 2012, is at the former Explosives Magazine of the old Victoria Barracks in Admiralty. The artworks sprawl across the majority of the venue, which comprises four restored former British military buildings: the first two works are encountered along the newly constructed lower deck, 16 more works are gathered at Chantal Miller Gallery (Former Magazine A), and the last two works are located at Miller Theater (Former Magazine B). Viewing all the works requires walking past many of the centre’s permanently displayed artworks, architectural features, and buildings.

 

Christopher K. Ho, Always Stop Eating While You’re Still a Little Hungry, 2020, brass, magic eyes, 3D print, window decal, steel, wood and audio. 216 x 171.5 x 108.5 cm, 530 x 1317.5 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.
Christopher K. Ho, Always Stop Eating While You’re Still a Little Hungry, 2020, brass, magic eyes, 3D print, window decal, steel, wood and audio. 216 x 171.5 x 108.5 cm, 530 x 1317.5 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

 

Three artworks are site-specific and incorporate their surroundings. Always Stop Eating While You’re Still a Little Hungry (2020) by Christopher K. Ho invites the viewer to look through a miniature model theatre at a large window decal on the Jockey Club Hall opposite. Echo Chorus: sustenance (2020) by Andrew Luk is a reproduction of the boundary stones that originally delineated the barracks. Created with salt lick blocks and steel, the structure sits surrounded by foliage, making it easy to miss. This work is mirrored by three other pieces from the series, Echo Chorus: speculation, Echo Chorus: dissolve, and Echo Chorus: scalability (all 2020), located within the gallery and created using ice, vinyl stickers on copper, and charcoal and resin, respectively. Finally, Sara Wong’s installation Windows For Inspection (2020) leads viewers through the Lighting Passage of Miller Theater. The narrow corridor is dark save for small windows lit up with LED lights, which switch off one by one as the viewer approaches, set off by a motion sensor. Audio of reverberating footsteps, which is also triggered by the sensor, begins to play, following the viewer through the passage.

 

Zheng Mahler, Mountains of Gold and Silver Are Not as Good as Mountains of Blue and Green, 2020, Jingdezhen bisque porcelain vases, 3D holographic fans, 3D animation, sound, dimensions variable 10’50”. Image courtesy of the artist.

 

Zheng Mahler’s Mountains of Gold and Silver Are Not as Good as Mountains of Blue and Green (2020) is comprised of porcelain vases, 3D animations and holographic fans, and sound design, the installation addresses the politics surrounding specific resources in the past and present—in particular, kaolin in the 18th century and various minerals utilised in electronics today. Vivian Qin’s If Sunset Had a Voice (Doomsday Preparation Plan) (2020), on the other hand, looks to the future through the lens of disaster preparation. 

 

Isaac Chong Wai, Falling Carefully, 2020, silicon, polylactide, wood, resin, fabric, shoes, human hair. Image courtesy of the artist, Blindspot Gallery and Zilberman Gallery.

 

Two of the most impactful presentations are those of Isaac Chong Wai and Leung Chi Wo. Chong’s Falling Carefully (2020) comprises a sculpture of the artist’s body as it takes different poses during a fall, metal handlebars, and an LED sign bearing the name of the piece. It’s accompanied by News: Falling (2020), a series of ink drawings of other falling figures on paper along with quotes concerning various protests across the globe, from Hong Kong and Indonesia to Lebanon and Chile. Together, the artworks present a vision of the average individual helplessly subjected to the pressure of outside forces—whether gravity or problematic governments—with only the barest of handholds as support.

 

Leung Chi Wo, My Random Diary, 2020, single-channel video, 4K, 18’. Image courtesy of the artist.

 

Leung, on the other hand, created three works that are all deeply related to each other. My Random Diary (2020) is a video that showcases a slideshow-like progression of photographs with Chinese text running along the bottom. This text is translated into English in the audio piece 50 Years (2020), which the viewer can listen to with a pair of headphones while watching the silent video. The two works recount a variety of happenings that took place in Hong Kong from 1967 to 1970, using the 1967 riots as a jumping-off point. For every mentioned date, the narrative describes a joyful occasion, such as a ceremony, performance, or the opening of an iconic location such as Kowloon Park, followed by a violent altercation that occurred on the same day. These range from bomb threats and gang fights to sexual assaults and suicide attempts. The photos in the video feed, meanwhile, depict the locations of these incidents 50 years after they occurred. These images—which show buildings, streets filled with people going about their day, or even simply shots of the sky—are stark contrasts to the events recounted in the text and audio. Date Series (2017–2020) is a deceptively peaceful series of photos taken at the sites of bombings that occurred during the 1967 riots—also shot 50 years later, also only depicting the sky. The works prompt a variety of observations regarding collective memory and media consumption: it’s easy to forget incidents that occurred in the past when there’s no longer physical evidence of them in the present, just like it’s sometimes easy to choose to pay more attention to positive rather than negative news.

In “Next Act,” research serves both as a method through which to create art as well as a subject of the artworks. Through tracing lines from the past to the present, the exhibition reveals persisting anxieties and behaviours, while also challenging us to consider new ways to think about our histories.

 

Next Act: Contemporary Art From Hong Kong
8 May — 27 September 2020
Asia Society Hong Kong

*due to current pandemic COVID-19, we highly recommend checking Asia Society Hong Kong’s website and social media prior to visiting.

 
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