Critics’ Picks

Isabella Isabella Death is the calling of a seashell witch, October 2021.

Isabella Isabella Death is the calling of a seashell witch, October 2021.

Hong Kong

Katie Ho and Isabella Isabella

Hidden Space
Wah Tat Industrial Centre 8-10 Wah Sing Street Kwai Hing Unit 6, 16/F, Block A
October 9–November 14, 2021

Katie Ho’s “Domestic Landscape” and Isabella Isabella’s “Death is the calling of a seashell witch” may be billed as dual solo exhibitions, but together these two shows offer a cohesive meditation on the disjointed and lonely search for intimacy in conditions of confinement.

Clustered in a single custom-built room, Ho’s installation Domestic Landscape, 2021, echoes the artist’s experience “tackling endless tedious things, day and night,” after becoming a full-time mother. Rendered in acrylic on watercolor paper mounted on wood, the brightly colored compositions of tightly wound abstract forms—I imagined laundry heaps and human intestines—evoke the claustrophobia of Ho’s external and internal worlds. In the near flattening of perspective, there’s virtually no room to breathe, yet these depictions also turn the frustrations of cleaning and feeding into objects of beauty.

Isabella Isabella’s performance was conceived specifically in response to Ho’s work. At set intervals over the course of the show’s run, seven characters activate the compact space with simultaneous vignettes: a costumed man repeats lines from a cooking show while gluing identical images to the wall; another in teddy-bear-themed pajamas teeters on a striped beam, occasionally pausing to take a bite of cake; a trio of identically dressed women execute repetitive actions like drinking blue liquid and covering one another’s eyes while sitting in linear formation. The other two protagonists integrate the public into surrealistic scenarios like slow-dancing with an audience member in a corner while whispering snippets of love stories to them.

In this artistic dialogue, Ho and Isabella Isabella create a universe of fragmented perspectives, unfinished narratives, and frustrated attempts at physical and mental connection. It could be the ennui of motherhood, the pandemic, or everyday life in a megacity like Hong Kong: Space is tight, bodies are close, and the limits of the private and the public are constantly confounded.