Through “Moving Images,” the latest in a series of exhibitions that precede the construction of Hong Kong’s M+ museum of visual culture, curator Yung Ma attempts to reconstruct the phenomenon of immigration, providing a systematic survey of the institution’s collection of work in the moving image.
It is especially appropriate to examine immigration in the case of Hong Kong, a city with a complex history of migration—the word “moving” here takes on multiple meanings. As much as it denotes the physical flows of population and labor in the context of globalization, it also signals the accompanying contentious intersections between cultures, geopolitics, and local and foreign experiences. At Midtown POP, in Causeway Bay, painting, photography, video, and installation by 23 artists are displayed on two floors, many directly related to the theme. Entering the exhibition, viewers are first attracted to the unintelligible Cantonese voiceover for the short film Central. For Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Hong Kong is represented by its depressing and gloomy side. Seawater perpetually thundering through Victoria Harbor, ships drifting about, and shadows of passengers along the shore create an ethereal, otherworldly illusion. In the same location upstairs, a collaborative video installation by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Chai Siris, Dilbar, shares much of this sentiment; it depicts the life of a Bengali laborer trapped in the Emirates in a sorrowful pictorial language.
In these works, human beings wander aimlessly like specters, and this uprooted state undermines the value of existence in an unfamiliar environment. However, the grand social narrative of migration does not overshadow the curator’s concern for human feelings, which are presented as emotional ties between artists and their homes. David Diao’s painting reimagines his ancestral home in Chengdu, while Wang Gongxin transplants the memory of his time in New York to his home in Beijing. Other artists combat the unpredictable exhaustion of their worlds with everyday repetition: Zhu Jia’s Door records the mechanical motion of a door opening and closing, while Koki Tanaka’s One is All interacts with ordinary objects, and Kan Xuan runs against the flow of people in a Beijing underpass, shouting her name.
The second exhibition space, located in the Cattle Depot Artist Village, reinforces a sense of compassion. Two well-known large-scale video installations are on view: Zhang Peili’s Broadcast at the Same Time and Isaac Julien’s Ten Thousand Waves. The former consists of 26 television sets broadcasting simultaneous news clips from around the globe, all from the same moment at the turn of the millennium. This marks the first time Zhang has used found footage, directly targeting the noisy reality of global information flow. Julien’s work begins with the tragedy of the Chinese cockle pickers’ deaths at Morecambe Bay in 2004, documenting China’s heritage and transformation in the process of globalization.
“Moving Images” requires an extended period of time for viewing, not least because of its additional screening program. Sounds from different videos permeate the exhibition space, obscuring the boundary between exhibition and theater. This extends the project in another direction, and proves to be an effective method of forging dialogue with the public.
Translated by Yao Wu