As art week approaches, Hong Kong prepares itself to be overhauled by a series of high profile events. From art fairs to auctions, to a string of new gallery openings, every art institution in the city eagerly participates in this week of cultural revelry. While the most noted ventures are more commercial in nature, there seems to be a lack of large-scale, stimulating and challenging exhibitions questioning current events and contemporary art practices.
A God, a Beast, and a Line, showing at Para Site, one of the few non-profit art spaces in the city, offers an impactful vision of Asia’s future, with current global relevance, adding a different artistic and thematic perspective to Hong Kong art week. Curated by Cosmin Costinas, this show was originally shown at the DHAKA Art Summit and is co-produced with the Samdani Art Foundation. Now in Hong Kong, it will later be exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, who are also co-organizers. Featuring works by numerous artists from a range of South and South East Asian countries, the show in Hong Kong includes more local voices. Simultaneously displaying the diversity of Asian continent, and the similarities of shared historical experiences, the show presents a unique juxtaposition of artworks, forming a compelling narrative.
Manish Nai, Untitled, 2017, synthetic indigo-dyed burlap, Image Courtesy of the artist, Nature Morte Gallery, and Para Site.
Undeniably, for Cosmin Costinas, “ultimately the narrative is the most important”, in regards to curation, “there are certain things only an exhibition can do, addressing issues in showing the way things relate to each other.” In addition to selecting works with content that alluded to politics and identity, the aesthetic portrayal of the matter was also a significant factor in connecting the works, specifically through medium and material. In particular, the incorporation of textile is visible in many works, notably Manish Nai’s spools of burlap dyed with indigo, both color and material symbolic of Indian national identity. Raja Umbu’s woven Skirt with Kadu motif portrays a Indonesian mythical tale of migration to Sumba, where the story to this day is ever evolving. Malala Andrialavidrazana employs a cotton rag to form the foundation of a map depicting a history of Islam, in her Figures 1817, Eslam or the Countries which have professed the Faith of Mohamet, speaking to a rise in Islamophobia and a resurgence of politicised religion.
Raja Umbu, Skirt with Kadu motif , 2010, textile, Image courtesy of Para Site
Malala Andrialavidrazana, Figures 1817, Eslam or the Countries which have professed the Faith of Mohamet, 2016, pigment print on Hanhemühle cotton rag, Image courtesy of the artist and Para Site
Commenting on the usage of textile, Costinas denotes their significance by “the way in which they carry so many historical marks, it’s a medium of expression outside the canonical ideas of art.” Laden with references to colonial economic exploitation, fabrics still symbolise the unfinished process of decoloization many Asian nations are still undergoing to this day. A result of decolonisation and in reaction to globalization, growing tendencies towards aggressive nationalism currently experienced in many Asian nations are also confronted by many artists. Bangladeshi artist Dilara Begum Jolly’s haunting pierced photographs investigate the effects of extremist military dictatorship and loss of secularism, once Islam became the state religion. Thai artist Ampanee Satoh contemplates the identity of modern Muslim women in the context of today’s world in Lost Motherland. Perhaps it is Jakrawal Nilthamrong’s distressing video Zero Gravity, which most acutely captures the trauma of history, in which he reinterprets a tragic incident in recent Thai memory.
Dilara Begum Jolly, The War That Never Went Away series, 2016-2017, pierced photographs, Image Courtesy of the artist and Para Site
Jakrawal Nilthamrong, Zero Gravity, 2013, single-channel video [still], Image courtesy of the artist and Para Site
By positioning these pieces side by side, Costinas, “brings things together in order to show similarities, by comparing histories. These are problematic times and there is solidarity in facing the same monsters.” Unintentionally, an overarching sense of regional unification encapsulates the exhibition. Adapting to Hong Kong, a city grappling with drastic changes to it’s own national identity, the show could potentially enable the public to re-examine local political developments through the lens of these artworks, reinforcing it’s relevance. Amidst a culturally significant week in Hong Kong, A God, a Beast and a Line provides a distinctive artistic experience in documenting histories and reconstructing identities. Acclaimed in it’s presentation from Dhaka to Hong Kong, two vastly different Asian regions, one can only imagine it’s global appeal will carry through onto it’s final destination in Warsaw.
The exhibition is on view until May 20th 2018, for more information please visit the official Para-Site page.
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
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