2019 Art Basel Hong Kong
March 29 – 31, 2019
Chi-Wen Gallery is delighted to present a curated presentation: ENKA! Platform for Change for Art Basel HK this year. The exhibition features 8 artists who keep keen observation on subjects as diverse as political turbulence, vibrancy of contemporary LGBTQ+ movements and their relation to aesthetic expression.
Before Social Media enabled political dissent and contributed to the rise of such political figures as Donald Trump, early Enka, a popular Japanese music genre, was a force for social change. Enka was first introduced as a form of oral communication to make political ideas accessible to the public as well as to avert police interference. More recently the audience for Enka songs has been older people, a musical vestige of a colonial Japanese past. Japanese-American artist Bruce Yonemoto has restored the original political intent of Enka songs by enlisting artists in Japan and Taiwan to write and sing contemporary lyrics to popular Enka melodies.
Yu Cheng-Ta is one of our gallery artists who was also a participant in the Enka project. His own work, “A Practice of Singing: Japanese Songs” examines the fidelity of exported culture. Yu selected five popular Japanese songs to highlight cultural migration from Japan to Taiwan. The songs’ lyrics were translated based on phonetic similarities from Japanese into English and again from English into Mandarin. He then sang those oldies in mangled pidgin Japanese while reading the translated texts written on giant cue cards. Awkward pronunciation and lack of fluency were notable even to non-native speakers, which calls the act of translating cultures into question.
Magnum member Chien-Chi Chang’s camera has been hovering around human diaspora for decades. From one hemisphere to another, Chang created myriad narrations under different series to articulate depression and hope within humanity. Selected from his ongoing project China Town, Chang’s colour photograph “Chen X. Family, Fuzhou” (2007) unveils a scene of daily life of a Chinese family: a young lady lying comfortably on a deckchair at the side of her two relatives, while their seniors are breaking sweat, working as illegal immigrant laborers in New York.
James T. Hong’s video work “Apologies” is a compilation of modern political apologies and a timeline of political progress as unrepentant recidivism and contrite repetition. The passage of time does not heal all wounds: it cannot settle all accounts or resolve all disputes. However, the identities of the perceived perpetrators can change, and a national apology’s task is to document and record a symbolic act as a prelude to possible reconciliation and forgiveness. To achieve these ends, one’s sincerity is paramount, especially while reading from a script.
In 1962, Brazilian film director Glauber Rocha released “Barravento”, which he wrote and directed to “suggest that only violence will help those who are sorely oppressed.” The political message of basic income inequality and faith as developed in “Barravento” still finds resonance throughout the world today. Brazilian multimedia pioneer Eder Santos created “Barravento NOVO”, a 2-channel mapping video installation in which original images of Glauber’s film juxtapose with new clips produced by the artist. As such a dialogue is established between two historical moments that in the eyes of the spectator connect both by similarities and differences.
Yuan Goang-Ming’s “Everyday Maneuver” is a video that documents the annual Wanan Air Raid Drill, when the hustle and bustle of Taipei comes to a halt the moment the air raid sirens sound over the city. From its inception in 1978, the drill is mandatory for all Taiwanese to join. Despite the lifting of martial law in 1987, the drill continues to take place nationwide every spring. Today this ritual serves as a reminder that the threat of annexation still lurks across the strait. At the same time, this everydayness of warfare conjures a ghost city in modern-day Taiwan that becomes the perfect selfie spot for Taiwanese young people.
Taiwanese photographer Su Misu is known for exploring gender, BDSM and LGBTQ topics. Coming from a medical background, she’s interested in the “Synthetic”, the “Unnatural”, and other embodiments, using photography to discuss the struggle between the real and the illusory. Her work draws from Lacan’s psychoanalytic concept of the mirror stage, which is where a subject becomes alienated from itself and is introduced into an imaginary order. Despite her young age, Su’s photographic work is one of the highlights of our presentation due to her unique approach and skill in style and composition. With signature pieces of her recent series “ihategoodbye” and “I am a fake, but my heart is true” on show, one can get a clear understanding of the trajectory of Su’s practice.
Renowned drag queen Victoria Sin combined their drag with multimedia art forms since 2013. Alternative narration is the aesthetic prominence of their video works. In “Illocutionary Utterances”, a high definition close-up of Sin’s lip-sync in audacious makeup displayed over a sound piece, exploring how speech acts influences one’s ascription of gender. Speech acts which ascribe gender outside of a subject’s control are compared to speech acts of self-identity. Sounds were erased from Sin’s exaggerated mime attempts, whereas the lips still tried to sync with an altogether different voice.
“Azma” by Chien-Chi Chang is part of this year’s Art Basel HK Film Sector. For the past few years, Chien-Chi Chang has observed and documented alongside refugees migrating from Western Asia to Central Europe. The Syrians dubbed this chaotic displacement of people as “Azma”, and this term later became the title of Chang’s video work on the subject. Chang captured a specific human condition, a seemingly endless one, as he mingled amongst Syrian refugees on their journey to Greece, travelling across Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia. Finally Chang arrived in Graz, Austria where he lives. Chang tries to make a comprehensive video project as a survey of policy-making and its effect through the years to come.
Press & Review