Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Anothermountainman (又一山人) – On Tightrope of Self-serving Pursuit

What’s Next 30x30 Creative Exhibition
三十乘三十 創意展

Venue/Time: Artistree, Takoo Place, Hong Kong from 7 July-9 August, 2011.

While pondering on this exhibition of salmagundi and with no clear grip of where to begin, Guardian’s Jonathan Jones provides a good incision point in his article entitled "The Royal Academy's shameless self-promotion".  To quote and be straight to the argument:

In other fields, such as politics, we are constantly seeking out and punishing the tiniest hint of self-serving behaviour. But when it comes to art, the public seem to want its managers and purveyors to be as over the top as possible in their displays of power. Art doesn't really matter, does it, so who really cares how blatantly the art world behaves?

Jones’s discourse, though with a blemish on RA’s presidency, is a worthwhile and relevant read on the overlooked subject of self-aggrandizement in art and design.

Curator calls for the Spotlight

The curator: Stanley Wong 黃炳培 (aka Anothermountainman) – advertising consultant turned graphic designer, photographer and artist.

Back to this exhibition and with all fairness, the idea of exchanging views on design and creativity among different artists/designers under a curatorial anchor is a bright idea.  However, when the curator himself sucks up much of the attention on the exhibition floor and in the dedicated website, it might as well be delivered as a solo exhibition.  The difference is subtle – many of the exhibits here are sweet talks on the curator, rendering the occasion like a tribute show to a great helmsman of art and design.  This is what an individual show cannot achieve.

Bumper Show of 33 Participants

Exhibition view 1.

Sculptor, musician, painter, food writer, art educator, floral arranger (Ikebana designer), film director and designers in the fields of graphics, fashion and advertising media, these are the multitude of personalities that contribute to the show.  Whilst some works are especially made for the show, others are not. This bumper magazine approach to demonstrate creativity overwhelms most visitors, probably leaving them either at awe or simply dumbfounded.  In truth, variety does not necessarily add up to richness and quantities do not always make up depth.


Society, Ideology, Time:Life…, secrets of the Universe revealed?

Exhibition view 2.

The zoning of more than a hundred exhibits, huge in quantity, under the topics of Society, Ideology and Time:Life is at first glance ambitious, but pretentious on second thought.  Admittedly, these topics are almost insurmountable issues to tackle especially only visual materials are present.  To set score on these issues together under one roof is almost doomed to fail from start.  Not only does each one of the works require weight on relevant question or answer, the result of such classification would likely to fall flat with superficiality and haziness.  Once again, the discerning audience might be left with bemusement, but the vast majority might be conquered with awe.  It is hoping against hope that this is not an underpinning intent of the exhibition.

Spot the "talents"

This is not the occasion to bash all the exhibits and participants therein; with due respect, some of them are good works in their own rights – dedicated, consistent and exemplary of creative efforts such as those by Simon Birch, Tsai Ming-liang 蔡明亮 etc.  But upon closer inspection, it is not difficult to find the expedient and the opportunistic types that raise the alarm.

1.  “Eat Like Heaven” by Craig Au Yeung 歐陽應齊 (introduced as designer/lifestyle artist – what a dubious nomenclature)

Surely this title and the subject matter is a very alternative Ideology (displayed within this zone).  Any viewer who cares for thought would sneeze at this correlation even though consideration has been taken for Chinese concerns on food culture.  The exhibit takes the form of a collage of scrap papers, set in random display with methods of cooking written.  It was a pathetic rush job lacking in creativity, conviction and artistry but with plenty of expediency.

Incredible nerve to show this crap by Craig Au Yeung 歐陽應齊.

Matching tacky piece of work by Wong in response to the above.  Had these bent toothpicks been used in a “Heaven of Food”?

2. “Poster design series on Rulers” by Kan Tai-keung 靳埭強 (graphic designer/artist)

What more can one say on these works with the quality of Hallmark compliments cards.  They are aptly named as posters, serving the purposes of advertising and publicity, for the curator - Anothermountainman.

Thirty Fruitful Years 三十丰年 (caption by Kan)

Thirty Years of Finding 三生拾得 (caption by Kan)

Blossoming Creativity 生花妙想 (caption by Kan)

3.“Bridge” by Alan Chan 陳幼堅 (graphic designer turned businessman)

Bamboo bridge set-up on the exhibition floor, a bit stereotyped but eye-catching anyhow.

Corresponding prosaic writing by Wong, emotive enough to release goose bumps.

4.“I Love Stanley’s Vision” by David Tartakover (graphic designer)

Tartakover’s work makes use of Wong’s facial feature i.e. the round rimmed turquoise spectacles on the motto-like statement reveals itself like a hard-selling propaganda material.

Soapbox design by Tartakover.  The colour combination of red, white and blue, obsessively referred to as the local spirit of perseverance due to the ever-present polyethylene bags, risks being hijacked as Wong's achievement.

God is in the details


Delve deeper into the details of the works, exhibition setting, printed materials and media coverage, one can spot the self-serving intents of those designer/artists and curator who were better off improving on their works.

The curator as an unashamed prophet wearing the sweater with the word “Future” against the Hong Kong city backdrop.

HKEJ, longing to be equated as the Financial Times in Asia, publishes this biweekly magazine – Lifestyle Journal.  The title of reportage pompously raises Wong as “the Righteous Man of Genesis 創世正行者”, whatever it actually means. His connection with the editor Peter Wong 黃源順, as long time pals and workmates, explains some of the incestuous media coverage.

High profiled display of media reports on a lounge table and sofa setting at the exhibition.

As if we found ourselves in a flashy restaurant with all the publicities the owner could amass for his visitors, but it is outlandish, vulgar and shocking to find them in an exhibition.

Why this squeamishness

One might ask: What is the problem?  Artists and designers are supposed to promote themselves.

Art and design as pervasive advertising for visitors.

Sure there are no written rules on what creative people can and cannot do to publicize themselves.  Self-promotion, of course they can.  But first and foremost from a practitioner’s viewpoint they must do their works to the best of their ability before indulging on self-advertisement.

Ways of cooking haphazardly posted – but trappings of 
self-service are written on the wall.

It also deserves unrelenting criticisms when they are engaged in mutual sycophancy – read the literature of this exhibition and be ready to find huge amount of flattery, extravagant titling, overblown compliments on achievements.  Many of these back patting make good jokes while some are poignant omens.

But at the end of the day, what can one expect from an advertising man dressed up as a curator. 

Visit  and see for yourself.

走鋼索的危程.三十乘三十創意展       〈中文摘要〉


平面設計師、裝置藝人、導演、音樂人、食文化者、攝影師等群星熠熠般作品聚展,不一定令觀者洞悉、體會「設計」及「創意」。作品質素才是檢視真理的標準。場內作品有高水平、唯心的,但亦不乏馬虎之作,包括歐陽應齊的《為食》文字貼和又一山人黃炳培的牙簽陣回應。另外靳埭強與David Tartakover的賀卡式作品,慶祝黃君創作三十年,諛意露骨,令人顫抖。




不妨到官方網址 自己審評。

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Cinematique – A Gift of Inheritance

Digital pattern dotted on shrieking hue of magenta.

This is a detour from the mainstream review of the show, namely a state-of-the-art scenographic realization of digital art, optical illusions and dance sets.  In the cultural-archeological perspective, Cinematique can be read as one subscribing contributor among many in the evolution of nouveau cirque.  The work, created by Adrien Mondot in the traditional genre of circus, is exemplary of the collective undertakings of artistic developments in Europe.

Parallels of Quintessential Circus Acts

As in most traditional circus shows that are made up of sequence of unrelated acts, this performance unashamedly did not seek to constrict a particular storyline as a whole.  With digital wizardry, illusion acts and choreography, the audience might be easily distracted to think along the line of a contemporary multi-media extravaganza.  But stripping away the flaring appearances, it was a straightforward work in the language and expressions one could identify with as in an evening of European circus show.

Cinematique (left): Dance duet in symbolic refuge watching computer graphics break loose.
Vintage circus (right): Ubiquitous pedestals on which performance are found.

Cinematique (left): Mondot and Noro running into virtual landscape.
Vintage circus (right): Crowns running in acrobatic motion.

Cinematique (left): Substituting real fire with battery powered torch under digital skies.
Vintage circus (right): Typical acrobatic play with fire.

Cinematique (left): Illusory wall comes tumbling down.
Vintage circus (right): Pattern making fun.

Cinematique (left): Ten-minute sensational crystal ball juggling. 
Vintage circus (right): Jugglers in perfunctory action.

The show in Brief
Stage setting: digital projections from foreground and above.

To recount, the first two acts of cautious step play on moving pebbles and evasive footwork against gushing water re-enacted motions of insecurity like animals trotting on raised platforms or jumping through steel loops.  The other acts including rafting on overturned table, running along digital landscapes, interacting with fire (in this case digital shooting stars) and of course, the amazing juggling act in the finale were all recurring themes in the circus genre.

Scenography combining dance set and juggling act.

It is not surprising to learn that Adrien Mondot and Satchie Noro have their core backgrounds in street performances and circus acts.  In fact, Cinematique is the winner of the newcomer prize at the 2004 Jeunes Talents Cirque Europe.  Through the open and pluralistic cultural backdrop of Europe, be it the players, award systems and audience participation, it is evident that the circus, an age-old performance type, is very much alive and only too keen to transform itself in this continent.

The case in Asia

Typical circus in Asia where technical skills  rule.

So how does the ecology of circus art behave in this part of the world?  Is the Asian circus or acrobatic performance able to regenerate itself with digital art or by other contemporary means?  Do we have a motivating platform vaguely comparable to the prestigious circus competition of Europe?  Leaving aside the archetype of circus and observe in general, we should be gratified to find any traditional performance with a will to break mode, no matter if it is reviewed positively or not.  By prescribing this approach, new lease of life may be possible for traditional arts like Kunqu opera, Kabuki theatre and classical Thai dance, to name but a few.


Break the Mode

Dancer Akram Khan in Gnosis, fusing Indian sub-continent dance with contemporary spirits.

Thunderous banging and juggling in the Nanta show from which undertones of Korean national drum performance are obvious.

At this juncture, it is not to say that we shall let go with tradition.  With due respect for the purists, the traditional modes of performances are vital.  But they should not be the end in themselves; and for those who believe in changes, it is paramount that traditional works can revamp themselves to fit in with the change of times

Kungqu opera: The Peach Blossom Fan (1699) 1699桃花扇》, not an artistic breakthrough, but a step in the creative direction.

Passing Gift

In this light, all serious attempts to make room for change or be bold enough to re-invent itself should be given credit.  Any new input from one work is valuable.  When ideas are plentiful and lent themselves where needed, it acts like a “passing gift” from which creativity is handed from one troupe to another.  This is what the cultural critic Lewis Hyde in The Gift (1983) argues regarding true artistic developments being nourished in an open system, and in time shared among individuals or groups through the process of creation.  Artistic evolution and growth, like building blocks, requires accumulation of ideas through small contributions of individual entities.  This is what we believe in – the living arts.

An epilogue after the Performance 

Drifting on virtual waters.   

Raining on my way home.

The poetic images of digital illusions and dances have left Sundial with lasting impressions, particularly on the night after the show.  As the rain was falling heavily on my way home, for once I negotiated along the puddles of water like Mondot and Noro did without any feeling of irritation.

Cinematique was performed at the Hong Kong City Hall 
on 22-23 June, 2011.