First Journey 2008:
Beautiful Journey · Beautiful World

Curatorial Statement

First Stage

– By Stella FONG, Curator

Unlike other exhibitions, the title of “Beautiful Journey.Beautiful World” was picked by the working team as early as when the exhibition was just an idea. We had no preconception of what a “beautiful world” or a “beautiful journey” was. At that time, the title did not mean anything to us, but an operational and working tool.

Soon, I found myself asking, what makes a journey beautiful? Where is the “beautiful world”? How far are we from a beautiful world today? More specifically, I also asked myself, how is this unprecedented project in Hong Kong different from other international art container exhibitions? How would this exhibition relate to and distinguish itself from its site in West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD)?

Displaying new works by 38 emerging and established local artists from various media, the exhibition is far more hypothetical than ideological. Perhaps it is no coincidence that this container exhibition is also a metaphor for the export of local art globally, raising similar issues around global artistic and cultural exchange as the WKCD mission itself does. It also brought attention to a further question, where can art go?

“Beautiful Journey.Beautiful World” is presented thematically in five sections:

1. Tales of urban fantasy
Traces of explosive urban experience in modern city life have become a source of inspiration for artists. Eight artists in this section give their own twist in response, playing with ideologies, histories, and spaces in and against which they live.

Luke Ching uses an old store as a metaphor to address issues of globalisation evident in the increasing trans-border traveling of goods. Analogous with the container that allows infinite imagination beyond its own sealed “containment”, Denise Chen’s work depicts the traditional folding metal gates, a typical scenery in Hong Kong disappearing rapidly under the imperative of total urban construction. Ivy Ma re-paints the characters she created with her friend in “facebook” (a social networking website that connects people with friends). The work reveals the mystifying processes of communication that lead us to imagining a place interconnected by an extensive and expansive network in all directions.

2. Journey without maps
Living a nomadic life, the container is destined to be on the move and return to Hong Kong after a journey of three years. The route is invisible yet recognisable – an unpredictable journey that can never be tamed by maps. Kum Chi-keung metaphorises the container to a migratory bird, which flies away and returns without having to rely on a map. Yolanda Yeung splashes colour pigments onto the surface of the container. The painting process resembles an epitome of life – no one knows what will happen next. In Lucille Lo’s work entitled Road Map, the artist indicates the routes of the journey in the form of a maze, and suggests the unknown and mystery of the container journey that begins in Hong Kong.

3. My home is yours
This title was borrowed from the exhibition “My home is yours, your home is mine” (Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, 2001). The container is a perfect embodiment of a mobile and temporary “home”. The works in this section articulate on the one hand, the constantly shifting meanings of “home” to geography, culture and identity, while on the other hand, the aspiration to search for co-existence and harmony despite the instability of “home”.

Ho Siu-kee questions the ever-changing and overlapping identities in the concept of “Self/Others”. By focusing on how meanings and beliefs are created, the boundaries that lie between the Self and Others are revealed. Jaffa Lam uses the root of a banyan tree in Hong Kong to question the transformation of one’s identity in the age of globalisation. In a similar way, Pauline Lam applies the word “civilisation” to the container in Mainland China propaganda style, exploring the different experience the word offers in the context of Hong Kong. Perhaps a different way of posing the question in this section is, “Isn’t the root already connected to its routes?”

4. Sky is not the limit
Artists adopt images of the sky and examine the uncertain future of their works. Leung Mee-ping reveals the fate of the container that is similar to the nature of the cloud: the goods inside the container will be vaporised like the cloud at the end. For the artist, everything is uncertain except the certainty of an unknown future. Wan Lai-kuen paints the container with the colors of the day and night sky of Hong Kong, in the hope that it will eventually merge with and disappear into the different skies under which it sails and flies. Carl Cheng depicts the skyline of Hong Kong and provocatively asks whether it is the people rather than the ocean, the land, or the sky that keeps the cities apart. Lukas Tam believes that we live in a self-constructed system where unknown forces or collective lives bring us into an obscure and unperceivable future beyond our control.

5. The landscape of hope
Environmental protection is a core concern of the seven artists in this section. While it is finally recognised that environmental deterioration goes much faster than first believed, there is hope for a better world, at least. Lau Gukzik’s work A Society Thinking Green brings out the issue of “green” that depends on all of “us”. It is not just a matter of planting more trees, but seeing our core values embarking on a new direction that requires action. What we are witnessing today is the rotten fruits of exploitative economic and social models. In this era of super consumption, Yvette Fung recalls the forgotten landscape manifested in nature’s form, heights and colours, hoping to cherish the most natural beauty of the planet. Grace Tang’s Dreamscape of Prehistoric Time takes up the issue of hope in a more mythical way. Guardian animals protect the Earth by flying around the globe, but are captured by a pre-historic man. They finally disappear on Earth.

Among the works, I see common themes emerge, although I am often skeptical of the idea of theme in general. To quote from the art critic Dave Hickey, “As soon as you have identified the three things a group of works have in common, you have just identified the three least interesting things about those works.” I propose to myself that this time, in addition to and against the themes are individual artworks imbued with elaborate messages that address a variety of personal and social concerns. Together they form the basis of this exhibition. They strengthen my belief that artworks are not static things but are always changing, evolving and growing. The groupings are meant to offer an entrée to the ideas behind the works, and are not intended as discrete and separate territories. Many works that are presented in one category could justifiably appear in another. My hope is to stretch the reading of the works and to allow the works themselves to suggest the multiple themes. It is only then that meanings and dialogues could arise to enrich the whole exhibition.

“Beautiful Journey.Beautiful World” is like a mirage—the exhibition exists for a moment to reveal an unpredictable landscape, and is to disappear without leaving a physical trace. The opening of the exhibition marks the departure of the art containers to what lies beyond. It is therefore apt to add, while the exhibition itself has been a journey for all of us, it is also the fresh beginning of yet another.

Stella FONG is Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. She was one of the creative minds behind the innovative exhibition MEGartSTORE presented in 2006, among other exhibitions she had curated for the museum. FONG joined the Heritage Museum after graduating from the Department of Fine Arts of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and went on to complete a graduate diploma in museum studies at the University of Sydney. In 2004, she was awarded an M.A. degree in curating contemporary art by the Royal College of Art in London. She also took part in the organisation of Liverpool Biennale during her stay in the United Kingdom after graduation. She then resumed her work in the Heritage Museum and taught in the Hong Kong Art School on part-time basis. In 2007, FONG was awarded the Asian Cultural Council Fellowship to conduct research on curatorial practices in the United States.

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