Sunday, 11 May 2014

Meditation on Change

Looking towards Central with the Asia Society in front
Before the Watermark screening at the Asian Society, we were given the opportunity to check out the latest exhibition, "It Begins With Metamorphosis: Xu Bing".

It is his first solo show and I didn't know much about this mainland-born artist who is known for his prints.

Looking out at Admiralty and Tsim Sha Tsui in the background
There weren't many pieces shown, but most interesting was a animation sequence he created using Chinese calligraphy and ink drawings to illustrate the meanings. For example he had the Chinese words for army and then showed soldiers and weapons within the characters.

He should consider using this format to create videos to teach people Chinese characters! It was fun and memorable. At the end credits, big thanks was given to the Robert H.N. Ho Family foundation, a Hong Kong link to this show.

Apparently the exhibition was inspired by smell, when Xu was in the United States and smelled a tobacco leaf. He then started researching about how it was grown, its links with the US and slavery, and his father's cancer.

There is an over-sized book with the pages made from tobacco leaves and printed words on it.

Silkworms crawling around on a book!
Off to the side is another book, but smaller, and on top of the pages are live silkworms hanging out and slowly covering the pages with their silk strands. At first I didn't know what to think -- it seemed so strange and disconcerting, but there they were, making no effort to escape and didn't chew on the pages either. Maybe they had been fed mulberry leaves earlier...

He also does copies of certain pages from The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, but this doesn't seem particularly interesting.

Finally there's an installation that perhaps recreates Xu's office with computer screens and lots of graphics taped on the wall, exploring all kinds of symbols to see which ones are the most easily understandable or graphically pleasing, it's hard to tell.

Overall the show didn't seem to have a main point, or perhaps the explanations didn't help tie everything together into the meaning of metamorphosis. Some of the individual pieces were interesting, but seemed disparate from the others.

After watching Watermark I wandered outside around the center a bit and took some pictures of the moody skyline from this vantage point.

Buddha head by Zhang Huan on the rooftop garden
It Begins With Metamorphosis: Xu Bing
Until August 31
Asia Society Hong Kong Center
9 Justice Drive

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