Critics’ Picks

Chen Wei, Mushroom, 2016, archival inkjet print, 59 x 74".

Chen Wei, Mushroom, 2016, archival inkjet print, 59 x 74".

Hong Kong

“Anonymous Society for Magick”

Blindspot Gallery
28 Wong Chuk Hang Road 15/F, Po Chai Industrial Building
April 14–May 30, 2020

The “natures miracles” of Cinquecento humanist Giambattista della Porta’s 1558 book Magia Naturalis (Natural Magick) suffuse curator Ying Kwok’s exhibition, where multimedia works by five Chinese artists test the trope of the artist as magician. Several participants harness light and shadow to create hyperreal environments. Taking the form of a carousel lantern, Lam Tung Pang’s The Great Escape (all works 2020 unless otherwise noted) combines painting, sculpture, and video to cast a mountainous dreamscape along connected false walls. Nearby, Chen Wei’s color-soaked visions of Hong Kong surface through its debris in photographic, neon, and textile works. 

Hao Jingban’s Opus One considers cultural tensions between appropriation and homage through the American swing era, interspersing archival footage of black dancers with clips of contemporary Chinese performers. Elsewhere, imperial Chinese iconography infuses Wang Tuo’s suite of ink drawings, while revolutionary and contemporary timelines overlap in his video Symptomatic Silence of Complicit Forgetting, an oneiric ghost story about a Red Guard soldier who uncovers a scholar’s act of suicide, intended to free his wife’s and dead mother’s souls, and a postrevolutionary Chinese couple whose repressed trauma festers in their nightmares.

By comparison, the biotic scenarios of Trevor Yeung’s multimedia displays—plinthed, spotlit potted fronds in Mr. Butterflies at a waiting corridor, people calmly watching nature burn in a couple of prints—feel almost idyllic, despite their unease. In Night Mushroom Colon, 2019, fungal bulbs and plugs sprout from various gallery sockets, suggesting a microcivilization reclaimed by novel forms of irradiated life. In Lam’s Untitled wall pieces, two figures gaze at the sun and moon in a hinged diptych that can be opened and closed. Similarly, Kwok’s “Anonymous Society of Magick” channels Della Porta’s magical volume only insofar as any vision for superseding reality is simultaneously deconstructed.