Critics’ Picks

View of “Café do Brasil,” 2019.

View of “Café do Brasil,” 2019.

Hong Kong

“Café do Brasil”

Para Site
22/F, 677 King's Road, Quarry Bay Wing Wah Industrial Building
September 13–November 24, 2019

The original Café do Brasil—an intellectual hangout on the second floor of the Ocean Terminal shopping center—exists only in memory, its greatest legacy a thirty-second cameo in Mok Chiu Yu’s 1978 experimental short Letter to the Young Intellectuals of Hong Kong. In homage to the space, curator Qu Chang has organized “Café do Brasil,” a temporary two-venue platform for gathering and subsequent dispersal in seeming solidarity with the “be water” methodology of the Hong Kong protests. “Chapter 1: Coffee Shops” restages two Para Site exhibitions mounted during the gallery’s time as an artist-run center that took the form of a coffee shop. This first chapter emphasizes the criticality of independent spaces from the 1990s whose participants sought autonomy from government-backed cultural initiatives.

“Chapter 2: All Tomorrow’s Parties” features thirteen artists who share a collaborative ethos distinct to the Pearl River Delta region. Many works aren’t stand-alone, but they find their fullest expression in the polyphony of voices, many of which focus on art labor, indie publishing projects, and quotidian life. Sunday Lai Long Sang’s video Load Miracle, 2015, takes place in a Hong Kong mall, where the artist casts a spell to open a set of automatic doors. Another video, Tang Kwok Hin’s After the Gatherings, 2019, shows beloved local art critic Yang Yeung at Hin’s home, holding forth to a circle of friends—though all you hear is the sound of dishes being washed. This work is paired with a sculpture made of slippers that had been collected for future houseguests. As for Brazil, its allusions are limited to Michelle Lee Ho Wing’s video, which integrates a video game with satellite tracking of the ongoing Amazon rainforest fire.

Subtle in its formation, “Café do Brasil”—whose third chapter boasts an extended roster of public programming—serves as an inspiriting companion to the ongoing protest and the struggle for increased autonomy and artistic freedom. A rehearsal space for being together at an urgent time, this exhibition does not mark the end of an era but proposes the beginning of the next.