All images from Making (Perfect) World: Harbour, Hong Kong, Alienated Cities and Dreams Hong Kong at the 53rd Venice Biennale, 2009
Making (Perfect) World: Harbour, Hong Kong, Alienated Cities and Dreams Hong Kong artist Pak Sheung Chuen at the 53rd International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia
Curated by Tobias Berger in association with Para/Site Art Space
Making (Perfect) World: Harbour, Hong Kong, Alienated Cities and Dreams, is a solo presentation of Hong Kong artist Pak Sheung Chuen at the 53rd Venice Biennale. The exhibition will feature a series of newly commissioned works that are specifically conceived and produced for the site and context of Venice. In addition to this a selection of Pak’s past works will also be shown. The exhibition is curated by Tobias Berger in association with Para/Site Art Space, and is the first time a single artist has been chosen to represent Hong Kong in Venice.
Pak’s interest lies in the possibilities of discovering extraordinarily profound and insightful messages encoded within the most unlikely and ordinary places and objects. He draws elements from everyday life and its surroundings in order to rediscover ‘meanings’ that are often missed or even ignored by most of us. In realising his witty and poetic ideas and thoughts through self-reflective and philosophical gestures, Pak goes beyond meditating on the legitimisation of his seemingly random acts as contemporary art, to successfully blur the boundaries between the personal and the political. Defying the aspects of physicality and spirituality, Pak creates and enables new ways of looking with poignant resonance into unwritten codes and complexities that exist within contemporary societies.
Influenced by the politics and identity of post-1997 Hong Kong as well as the tradition of Performance Art, Pak’s distinctive method of comprehending the concept of ‘adaptation’ consists in inserting himself as the subject into the equation. Pak adopts this position to question and explore the notion of individual identities against the new globalised societies and realities that are of extreme relevance to the modernity of Asia’s mega cities.
Making (Perfect) World will be conceptually divided into four segments - Harbour, Hong Kong, Alienated Cities and Dreams. The exhibition will include a mixture of sculpture, photography, documentation of performances and texts rooted in the artist’s intriguing and challenging yet humorous body of work.
In The Horizon Placed at Home (2004), Pak attempted to literally transport the sea level of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour into the home by bottling seawater from the Harbour at five points of the coast intersected by a straight line. The subsequent action of elevating it by re-aligning the water line contained within the five bottles is a small gesture conceived to achieve the impossible: the belief that no one has ever truly seen the Harbour sea level at eye-level. The transformation of such ‘irrelevant’ concerns forms the basic narrative for Harbour and, reflecting his sensitive artistic practice, functions as a metaphor for his methodology of ‘expansive imagination’: a fluid, outward and boundary-less approach to contextualising the meanings behind everyday objects and the banalities of life.
This gesture also serves as a natural extension to Hong Kong, where mere existence is filled with ironies and contradictions. Through a set of supposedly irrelevant actions and logic, Pak reshuffles and re-exams all purposes, relationships and meanings of the city and its inhabitants, uncovering and showcasing evidence on how extraordinary ordinary everyday life can be. His dedication to understand the lives of others and the world he inhabits is evidently demonstrated by Waiting for Everyone to Fall Asleep (2006). His act of waiting for all the lights in the apartment complex to go off indicates his desire to connect with distant yet everyday phenomena and individuals constituting one of the driving forces in his artistic practice.
Two divergent yet mirrored concepts, loneliness and happiness, will be discussed and investigated in Alienated Cities and Dreams. Encountering the world from the perspective of an outsider whilst simultaneously developing and documenting a unique and personal experience through unfamiliar streetscapes, languages and cultures, Pak isolates himself from territory familiar to him in an attempt to grasp ‘otherness.’ Deliberately presenting and playing with iconology, different states of cognition and the challenges of translation, Pak demonstrates how altered perceptions and viewpoints can have a tremendous impact on our relationship to the world and to each other. In A Travel Without Visual Experience (2009), Pak embarked on a journey by closing or covering his eyes during a trip to Malaysia. In this way he could only sense, rather than see, his surroundings. He later constructs a flawed and delayed visual memory through photographs and videos taken by other members of the tour group.
In the segment Dreams, an exercise in realising his day-dreams, Pak will bring together past memories and future imaginations to envision dreams for the unforeseen future that construct a humane, sensitive and thoughtful alternative for the viewers that share this not-so-perfect world we all inhabit and call home. Pak engages the viewers spiritually and emotionally in an open-ended dialogue in Making (Perfect) World, endeavouring to encapsulate both hopes and regrets in his ongoing quest for a better understanding of our, at times, confusing society.
A fully illustrated catalogue and the publication Odd One In Two, with a detailed conversation between Pak Sheung Chuen and Tobias Berger, will be published to accompany the exhibition.
June 7th - November 22nd, 2009 (Preview: June 4th - 6th) Arsenale, Campo della Tana, Castello 2126 - 30122 Venezia (Opposite the main entrance of Arsenale)