Reviews & Articles
撫慰那過後的疲累 —— 鄺鎮禧《踏空》 Comfort after Cruelty - Kong Chun Hei’s “Off Beat” (scroll down for English)
at 8:39pm on 4th May 2022
A review by Grace Gut of Hong Kong artist Kong Chun Hei's "Off Beat" exhibition
(Please scroll down for English)
圖說 / Photo captions:
Image 1: 《踏空》展場佈置簡潔，氣氛乾淨得冷峻。 / The setup is static and minimal
Image 2: 彩色錄像《Subdivision》再次展出，置在唐樓單位的環境。 / The video Subdivision relocated into a residential unit environment
Image 3: 理髮店的三色旋轉燈換成雪白，但仍然繼續空轉。 / A barber’s pole keeps turning, despite the colour strips being erased
撫慰那過後的疲累 —— 鄺鎮禧《踏空》
大角咀唐一樓，穿過維修竹棚，拾級而上。Feyerabend 是隱身於商住單位的藝術家自營空間（artist-run space），沒有公開完整地址，僅限預約參觀。門口的招牌亦只有一張名片大小，低調而神秘。繼創辦空間的藝術家 Daniel Stempfer 舉辦展覽之後，場地近日再次開放，帶來香港藝術家鄺鎮禧個展《踏空》。
2009 年中大藝術系畢業的鄺鎮禧，在香港曝光不多，反而更活躍於台灣。去年，他參與巴塞爾藝術展（香港展會），所代表的畫廊也是台灣機構。撇除藝博會的話，他上次香港個展已是 2017 年的事。鄺鎮禧作品一貫冷靜而尖銳，今次個展亦不例外，流露對空間和物料的敏銳觸覺之餘，作品自述更添詩意，糅合出溫柔而體諒的撫慰。
《踏空》展場佈置簡潔，作品不多。門口放置一件作品之外，長方空間四面牆各有一件作品。每件作品之間空間充足，讓觀眾得以專注而仔細地閱讀。鄺鎮禧說過自己關注觀眾現場經驗，思考作品如何「為空間的氛圍加分」。像 2018 年高雄弔詭畫廊個展《低調處理》的點題作，他受畫廊自家起重機吊勾啟發，加入橡筋、滑輪等現成物，組成場域特定（site-specificity）的軌道裝置。
「眼下亳不作為已是最積極的抵抗，這麼便宜的機會實在絕無僅有。」鄺鎮禧在作品自述如此寫著。沿襲 2020 年台北 TKG+ Projects 個展《黯淡上揚》的做法，他繼續「文字遊戲」，每一件作品都附帶一句短語：
展期：即日起至 5 月 14 日（周三至六下午）
Comfort after Cruelty - Kong Chun Hei’s “Off Beat”
Text/ Grace Gut
After walking-up a Tai Kok Tsui bamboo-scaffolded staircase, a unit with a simple name-card-sized sign on its door announces Feyerbend, a new artist-run space. Its address is not publicly disclosed, but shared to visitors after making an appointment. This mystery makes the space sounds more appealing. Feyerbend’s latest exhibition features Hong Kong artist Kong Chun Hei’s “Off Beat’, following the art space’s inaugural exhibition by Daniel Stempfer, Feyerbend’s founder, earlier this year.
Kong graduated from The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Fine Arts department in 2009, and although he lives in Hong Kong it seems he has had more opportunities in Taiwan. He is represented by TKG+, a Taipei gallery that presented his solo display at Art Basel Hong Kong 2021. His most recent solo exhibitions were held in Taipei and Kaohsiung, whereas his last solo exhibition in Hong Kong was at Gallery Exit in 2017.
In the five years between his last solo exhibition in Hong Kong and this current show, Kong’s distinctive ‘sharpness and coolness’ remain. “Off Beat” not only presents his sensitivity to space and materials, but the artist’s statement accompanying the exhibition adds poetic touches mingling a sense of sympathy and understanding.
- A cool space with nostalgic markers
While preparing his exhibitions, Kong also focuses on how his art enhances the atmosphere of the art space. The on-site audience experience is one of his main concerns. For example, in his exhibition “Turn down the pulse” (2018) at Crane Gallery in Taiwan, he included site-specific works in response to the space’s original industrial crane structure by including rubber bands, steel pulleys and a stainless-steel hook to form a track installation.
Although “Off Beat” is set inside a residential unit, Kong doesn’t further develop its domestic character. Instead, he keeps the unit’s room doors shut, has speakers hanging on walls, and the lighting is bathed in pure fluorescent white. Regular emergency-style siren wailing disturbs visitors throughout the visit. The setup is static and minimal, which naturally diverts attention to his colour video, Subdivision, in which a person builds a wall – brick by brick – to slowly fill-up the screen. This repetitive labour induces not only boredom, but also a sense of discipline – a far cry from the feeling of a warm and sweet home.
Subdivision is not a new video, having previously been displayed at Art Basel Hong Kong 2021. Now relocated to Tai Kok Tsui, the audience may relate it to the continuing urban development in the district, where low-rise brick buildings will soon be replaced by high-rise glass. Perhaps, the bricks are not alone, as other nostalgia markers are found in the show. The speakers on the wall and the ceiling fan are classic Hong Kong school classroom features. The disturbing sounds emitted from the wall speakers is like paging call announcements for customers previously heard in large Chinese restaurants. Meanwhile, the inclusion of a typical barber’s pole prominently placed at eye-level at the exhibition entrance, with its usual colour stripes erased, results in a white blur.
All these objects recall my memories of the 1990s, a contrast with the present. As everyone has a cell phone, no-one now would call a restaurant to locate another person. The once pervasive paging announcements for customers in restaurants is now no longer heard. The barber’s pole becomes all white, but keeps turning, which visualizes blankness and uselessness; like dried paint that gives small clues to the indisputable fact that everything changes with time - something that was once useful may become functionless another day.
This also reminds me of the theme of ‘malfunctionality’ that is often found in Kong’s work. To stimulate doubt by presenting conflict and contrast, he aims to question the norm of interpretation. Kong’s hollowing-out of a wooden ladder is most symbolic, as it intentionally makes the ladder’s secure steps become risky and fragile. The carving process reflects the artist’s continuing ‘durational performance-like’ approach which began with his meticulous pencil drawings. He draws slowly and carefully to mimic or reproduce objects, such as small pieces of glass, and he later carved on TV monitor screens and glass window surfaces. From glass to wood, his carved-out ladder demonstrates a continuum and further development in his practice.
- Warm words as a sympathetic balance
Because Kong regards the process of developing artwork as never triggering any emotional frustration (his ‘cool’ approach), his exhibition doesn’t stop at the point of mourning for the past. Change happens as time passes, and trying to stop change is doomed, no matter how hard you try. As he says, “doing nothing is the most active resistance. Such a passive opportunity is really rare.”
Following from his solo exhibition, “Raise the Dimness” (2020) at TKG+ Projects in Taipei, Kong continues his “textual game” experiments. Instead of providing an explanatory statement, he designs a phrase for each work. All phrases make sense on their own, but can also connect together to form a poetic background for the exhibition:
Change is not to satisfy your awareness;
Rigid into a complete blind spot;
Announcing for the sake of announcement;
Carving everything out but leaving the framework, then what?
Practice to eliminate your line of sight.
Not merely descriptive, these phrases are more like a literary work developed from each object. Kong captures the visual essence and expands it through a text presentation. Instead of giving reasons and explanations about his work, he suggests a route for the audience to navigate among the exhibits.
Visualizing the status of malfunctionality, the on-site experience of “Off Beat” is cool and ‘cruel.’ In contrast, however, Kong’s words send out warmth and comfort. Facing inevitable change, it’s OK to do nothing. Don't try too hard. This impression gives a sympathetic balance to wrap-up the exhibition, as well as a relief for visitors before they leave the space and are back into reality.
Kong Chun Hei: “Off Beat”
Dates: 1 April - 14 May 2022 (Wed – Sat, afternoons only)
Venue: Feyerabend in Tai Kok Tsui, Hong Kong
By appointment only, book at: