Critics’ Picks

Nadim Abbas, Cataract (detail), 2010, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.

Hong Kong

Nadim Abbas

Experimenta | Hong Kong
Shop B, Lower Ground, 89-95 Hollywood Road Central
November 5–December 11

For his first major solo exhibition, Nadim Abbas has transformed a small exhibition space hidden down an alley and behind a building into a singular environment of optical effect based on the collapsed figure of the shower-as-waterfall. Prevented from moving closer by a horizontal steel bar positioned just inside the entrance, the viewer sees a freestanding wall of white tile and, mounted on the wall, a shower fixture spewing water that collects in a pool on the floor below. White shower curtains hang on either side, dulling the glare of spotlights that illuminate the environment from the rear, while a similarly muffled speaker system blares the lower registers of the recorded sounds of a waterfall. On one wall a pair of flimsy aluminum window frames (a common decorative element in Hong Kong residential structures, featured in Abbas’s previous projects) has had its glass panes replaced with a set of white tiles. This design is repeated again in an adjacent gallery space, Gallery Exit, this time framing kitschy scrolling animations of a waterfall.

As in his previous work with mirrors and windows, the project that spans both of these spaces, titled Cataract, 2010, emerges from a fascination with the technologies of perception. Constructing a careful but never immersive environment, Abbas is interested in what he sees as the inherent failures of purely retinal art, choosing always to explore the symbolic economies of the optical. All three components of the installation pass through the territory of opacity, and a particular excitement is reserved for the moment at which water, transparent until a certain speed of impact, becomes solid white; the artist explores the psychological effects of such phenomenological symbols, looking for the point at which the architecture of sensation determines cultural meaning.

This exhibition is also on view at Gallery Exit, 1 Shin Hing Street, until December 11.