Critics’ Picks

View of Siu Wai Hang’s Hot Shots, 2021.

View of Siu Wai Hang’s Hot Shots, 2021.

Hong Kong

“Can’t touch this!”

Wing Wo St, 23-29號, Chun Wo Commercial Centre 8/F
March 9–May 23, 2021

At the entrance to “Can’t touch this!” is a book illustrating stories of “faces under masks.” Ostensibly a chronicle of the pandemic year, another unspoken memory lingered between its pages: that of Hong Kong’s recent political history, which includes mass protests, arrests, and a globally contended national security law. Against this amnestic backdrop, the exhibition, curated by Hong Kong–based artist Angela Su, covered a range of fractured responses. Siu Wai Hang’s Hot Shots, all works 2021, situated near the book—made by journalist Chloe Lai and photographer Tse Pak Chai—stokes paranoia through a clinical display of thermal imagery portraits, conflating climates of safety with surveillance, and homogeneity with individualism.

In the video Avatar, Yim Sui Fong plays on the popular practice of guided meditation, scripting instructions for how to retrieve ruptured memories as two masked dancers slowly entangle their forms on the floor of a barebones room. Collective ludic acts—singing, dancing—are described as pathways to resilience, whereas falling, slipping, crawling, and regression are associated with isolation, discomfort, and Sisyphean “mountaineering”: an oblique reference to an anti-extradition bill protest slogan. Body memory similarly dominates in Kenji Wong Wai Kin’s When I Look at You Right Now…, in which visitors are invited to sit at a small desk and listen to a set of audio recordings narrating letters written from a mother and father to their infant daughter, lovingly nicknamed “French Toast.” Divergent paths surface here: In one letter, the mother describes how she had planned a babymoon in Japan, but instead the couple went to Victoria Park on June 4, 2019, in what would be the last lawful vigil for the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Although our bodies remember, for some of us, the timelines we live in and the ones we long for—that which is now untouchable—cannot be reconciled.