Critics’ Picks

Akira Takayama, McDonald’s Radio University (Hong Kong edition), 2020, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Akira Takayama, McDonald’s Radio University (Hong Kong edition), 2020, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Hong Kong

“They Do Not Understand Each Other”

Tai Kwun Contemporary
10 Hollywood Road, Central
May 25–September 13, 2020

Emptiness performs unto itself. For One-Minute Events (Humming), 2020, artist Kohei Sekigawa was supposed to hum for a full minute between 3:00 PM and 3:01 PM every day for the duration of this group exhibition. Unable to travel to the gallery, Sekigawa instead fulfills this daily activity alone in his Tokyo apartment, sans Zoom or any other livestreaming device—thus boosting the themes of spontaneity and futility in his performance.

“They Do Not Understand Each Other,” originally conceptualized around geopolitical exchange, features work by nineteen primarily Southeast Asian artists drawn from the collections of the Singapore Art Museum and the National Museum of Art, Osaka. Yet, under the current travel restrictions and social distancing measures, the emphasis falls instead on the radical mutability of artistic practice and performance from the general region, from Kazuo Shiraga’s ox-blood splashes painted by foot, to the subtle adaptations in Ming Wong’s drag retelling of Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, to Ho Tzu Nyen’s film, a tableau vivant of bodies of color re-creating paintings from Western art history, such as Delacroix’s The Massacre at Chios and Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.

Much of what is on display concerns interdependency and the ways that we lean on one another—the show’s title is taken from a video work by Tsubasa Kato in which two men, one Korean and one Japanese, attempt to install a flag on an island by working through their linguistic differences. In Akira Takayama’s McDonald’s Radio University (Hong Kong edition), 2020, visitors can listen to recorded lectures—on topics ranging from philosophy to journalism—given by refugees or migrants in Hong Kong. The installation of yellow school chairs and fast-food countertops evokes the loss of gatherings in such settings, but it also reveals the cogency of mutual aid and knowledge-sharing in public space, reminding us that, despite traumatic circumstances, we can still come together.