Opening: 15 Nov 2008, 4pm
Talk with artists: 15 Nov 2008, 4:45 - 6:30pm
"Handover" is a very important day for Hong Kong and Macau, there is a lot of different celebrations on the day of "handover". 2008 is the year between the decennial of Hong Kong and Macau. This 9th year, is the last year for us to greet the decennial. This year, what attitude we should have for meeting the 10th year? During a ten years' change, in this city, for those who was born here or those who experienced or even those who had not, has a different meaning.......
In the Name of the 10th Year
Art exhibition “Prelude to the 10th Anniversary of the 1999 Macau Handover” at Ox Warehouse, Macau.
Approaching the end of an eventful 2008, in which many of us experienced the turbulence of celebrations as well as disasters, the need for reflection seems more and more obvious. One of the events in the coming year that Macau people are feeling most concerned with is certainly the 10th anniversary of the 1999 Macau Handover. With this in mind, Exhibition Curator Gigi Lee of Macau’s Ox Warehouse Art Space invited a group of artists to showcase their thoughts on the subject.
Among the ten invited artists, several have created inspiring new works that point directly to their personal feelings about Macau’s present situation. Bianca Lei, currently a lecturer at the School of Arts of the Macau Polytechnic Institute, presented a work that explores the notion of mutability. “Pre-Decade, Post-Decade” is an installation composed of wax. Above a heating device, wax sculptures depicting the number 10 were piled up as if on a birthday cake. As the heat melted down the “candles”, the wax was converted to liquid form, and after the liquid leaked down through the pre-set hole in the heating device, it solidified into wax again on the floor. Visitors entering the exhibition space certainly noticed the very strong smell and the heat released during the mutating process of this multi-dimensional work. According to Bianca Lei, Macau has gone through a lot of changes in the past ten years due to the expansion of the gaming industry, and the situation is comparable to the melting process of heated wax. “Most people might perceive the phenomenon as inauspicious. However, we should understand that despite Macau’s alteration, like melting wax, the changes will transform us into another solid substance again.” In addition to the direct comparison, the artist, who is also an experienced teacher, would like the metaphor to carry a more pedagogic meaning as to how we should deal with the seemingly unpleasant situation. “It is a fact that we are now undergoing a decade of modification, and what we can do is keep an eye on the change that our society is facing and be sensitive to everything happening around us.” She adds, “Indeed, we should be prepared for any form of alteration.”
Another sculptural piece, created by the Macanese architect and artist João Ó Bruno Soares, explores the subject of the Macau Handover from a different standpoint. Titled “Post-Colonial Warrior: Dialogue of Resistance”, the work takes the form of a quarter of a window frame from a gothic monastery. Enlarged to human size, the section of the window frame can be seen as a monument – only, this monument is seemingly under attack, pierced all over with arrows. According to the artist’s statement, “This religious architecture is the manifestation of a common spirit of Christianity that retrieves a sense of belonging, which in turn emerges as a symbol of a defensive system.” Born in Lisbon but brought up in Macau, João Ó comes from a mixed cultural background situated between Portuguese and Cantonese. During these ten years of historical and political changes João returned to Lisbon and studied architecture and then in 2004 decided to return to Macau to continue his career as an architect. Very precise in its representation, João’s current work is a condensation of how the artist sees his position within the Portuguese minority, facing the Chinese majority in Macau. Set against the backdrop of the upcoming tenth anniversary of the Portuguese handover of Macau to the Chinese, this work speaks to us about the paradox of the Portuguese community, balancing itself between dialogue of exchange and resistance against the extinction of its own identity.
As viewed by another local artist, Wong Ka Long, however, the resistance is considered from an angle based more in the day to day. In his work “One Man’s War of Resistance”, Wong Ka Long followed and filmed an old man who pushes a cart filled with his belongings all around the city. For years and years, this old man and his cart have been seen
on the streets of Macau, forming part of the urban circulation. Through this old man’s insistence on living out his daily life, despite what has happened in his surroundings over the past ten years, Wong Ka Long wants to show the dignity of a person. By transcending all speculations from the social and political context, the artist has portrayed this man’s life as an example of true greatness in our frantic world.
While Wong Ka Long’s work takes a rather serious tone, another local artist, Joey Ho, presented work of a more light-hearted nature. Her series “On the Road – Tianzhu” is in fact based on anecdotes from the classic of Chinese traditional literature Journey to the West. In one of the paintings, for example, heavenly creatures such as the “Rabbit Soldier”, a character in Journey to the West, are depicted as government functionaries who need to clock their hours at work with punch cards. The artist even decided to name the painting “The Control of Diligence” to mock the system. According to Ho, even though the work does not have a very direct connection to the theme of the Macau Handover, it is nevertheless an accumulation over the years of her personal understanding of the absurdity of society. Full of humour, Joey Ho’s work is indeed a very subtle response, positioned between traditional values on one side and contemporary re-interpretation on the other.
In addition to local artists, the exhibition’s curator, Gigi Lee, also invited foreign artists to participate, in an attempt to open up more space for possible interpretations. American musician Ray Granlund, who has been living in Macau since 2006, presented a sound art piece in the exhibition. As a recently arrived foreigner, Ray Granlund knew pre-Handover Macau only through stories and films. He soon learnt that ten years ago in Macau there was an outbreak of violent incidents related to local and Hong Kong triads. In his work “Gentle into That Good Night”, the artist therefore decided to use soundtracks from Hong Kong triad movies as his material.
Diffused through speakers in the exhibition space, the piece adds a more dramatic dimension that reminds us of a time when life appeared unreal. Looking back now after ten years have passed, the legends sound as trivial and hollow as the forced laughter featured in the piece. From the triad days to the current casino empire, we will continue to create our so-called “legends of the era”. When Shakespeare finally understood the truth behind “All the World’s a stage”, he actually decided the story should begin right there.