East Contemporary

Mill6 Centre for Heritage Arts & Textile: (In)Tangible Reminiscence (Iwasaki Takahiro, Jung Yeondoo, Sarah Lai)

Hong Kong, 24 March – 22 April 2018, http://www.mill6chat.org/

Since my last visit two years ago Mill6 added the “Centre for Heritage Arts & Textile” subtitle to its official name, and also the works on show seemed to be more heavily pushed in this direction. The institution invited three artists, one from Japan (Iwasaki Takahiro), one from Korea (Jung Yeondoo) and one from Hong Kong (Sarah Lai), to develop site-specific works relating to the topic of fabrics and fashion in Hong Kong. Takahashi Mizuki was the curator.

Iwasaki Takahiro created a “cottonscape” – a landscape from cotton balls (past textile industry), above which miniature skyscrapers suspended from a fishing net on the ceiling (sea/fishing industry) were floating topped by miniature building cranes made from starch-strengthened thread (present real estate industry). On the wall was an aerial view of Hong Kong at night, which looked like a milky way in the sky, with little logos of Hong Kong corporations inserted. A wonderful all-encompassing and self-explanatory work that every Hong Kong tycoon would like.

Sarah Lai’s work built on the graduation show which I was lucky to see two years ago. But it felt different. The topic of the 80’s/90’s Hong Kong consumer culture nostalgia and the pastel color fabrics were still there. But now the theme has been transposed into a simulation of a 1990’s Japanese shopping mall in Hong Kong placed in a real 2010’s Hong Kong shopping mall where the exhibition space was located. The installation of a shop within a shop seemed to explore the boundaries of how far Lai can go. How much can the art endure before it breaks down? On one hand, I felt the Lee Kit and Au Hoi Lam like sensibility and interest in the intimacy built up between consumer products and one’s own life story. Lee and Au also had a preference for similar hues. On the other hand, I saw the possibility of twisting the work using a Takashi Murakami-like approach (selling custom TMxLV-bags in a shop set up in the middle of a gallery), by selling 90’s retro fashion in the artistic simulation of a shopping mall based on memories of a shopping mall located in a real shopping mall.

Jung Yeondoo’s work had a bit of an ethnographic nature, which of course also goes with his own artist-brand photography work. The two-channel video work featured an old lady that used to work as a seamstress in a factory in Hong Kong. She was using a machine to embroider quotes from her own interview documenting her life onto canvas. The finished canvases, with added graphical illustrations, were placed on the walls of the room. To lighten the historical narrative up, Jung included a second channel which features interviews with young Hong Kong girls/ladies, whose only connection with the old lady was that they were all very short. They young ladies told stories from their lives and answered the question what is the advantage of being short. This worked well as a counterpart to the nostalgic past atmosphere evoked by the old lady video. Nevertheless the work has a bit of a Hong Kong tourist feel.

Overall, this was a perfectly installed show, and each of the artists proved s/he knew exactly what s/he was doing. The theme and influence exercised by the sponsor was also very clear.  This was fine for once, but I hope Mill6 will loosen up a bit again instead of presenting a continuing row of textile and fashion-themed shows.

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