Nick Yu writes in Ocula: At the entrance to Rumor Has It, Taro Masushio’s current exhibition at Hong Kong’s black-box Empty Gallery, a giant, meekly illuminated pumice stone is supported by a steel structure—a sparse signifier of a subterranean cave. The atmosphere is mysterious, mythological, almost transgressive; not so much a Dionysian cruising club or a lascivious sauna than a mise-en-scène constructed with restraint.
Single rows of framed black-and-white silver gelatin photographs line black walls: still-life captures that include a camera stand, flowers, soap, and erotic hand-drawn sketches.
Long in gestation, Taibach’s first recordings were recently released as an LP on Empty Editions, a record label that I run together with my colleagues from Empty Gallery in Hong Kong. Composed of two Asian Americans who wish to remain anonymous, Taibach’s deliberate engagement with the ideological minefield which is US-Taiwan-China relations feels necessary during a moment defined by rising ethno-nationalism and the flattening of complex political narratives. With a nom de guerre that references both the infamous Slovenian proto-industrial group Laibach and their mythologized homeland of Taiwan, Taibach restages the classic thematics and aesthetic strategies of industrial music for a contemporary moment in which shifting balances of power between East and West herald new hegemonies and exhume old grievances. I spoke with the members of Taibach over email, iMessage, and WhatsApp about music, politics, and Asian American identity.
Andrew Russeth on Taro Masushio’s newly opened Rumor Has It: One recent morning in Hong Kong, while in the last hours of his quarantine, the New York–based artist Taro Masushio recounted a visit he made to a vast, little-seen archive of homoerotic photographs by Jun’ichi En’ya, who had worked as a photo-technician in Osaka, Japan. “I had just never seen anything like it,” Masushio said on a video call, as he recalled flipping through hundreds and hundreds of En’ya’s analog prints. “It was this very surreal and visceral experience.”
Xper.Xr is a legendary, if poorly documented figure in Hong Kong’s experimental music scene. He first became active in the late ’80s “after a steep learning curve and gobbling up every piece of musical rebellion [he] could get [his] hands onto,” and put out his debut cassette Murmur in 1989. For the majority of his recording career he lived abroad—mostly in the UK and France—but he returned to Hong Kong in 2013 to open the short-lived underground venue CIA, his “payback to the HK arts and music scene.” CIA put on gigs that would be hard to imagine happening elsewhere in the region, like an Aktion for Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch, and a rare Asia booking for Slovenian industrial band Laibach.
(Dis)Embodying the biomolecular sex: The lapse of identity in Jes Fan’s hormone works (2017-2018) by Sophie X. Guo now on the Courtauld Gender and Sexuality Group blog:
To borrow the terms of the American feminist Donna J. Haraway, the twenty-first-century body is a technoliving system, the result of an irreversible implosion of modern binaries (female/male, animal/ human, nature/culture).
— Paul. B. Preciado, 2013
The contemporary condition of the body as a ‘technoliving system’ is meticulously mapped onto Jes Fan’s precarious sculptures, through which the artist wishes to challenge binary conceptions of gender, race, and identity. In their 2018 sculptural series titled Systems, Fan isolates testosterone, estrogen and melanin from the human body and lets them float freely in their hand-blown glass globules. Rendered in biomorphic shapes recalling human organs and drops of body fluids, the limpid glass objects slothfully hang on a piping system which the artist called ‘lattice’, as if in the process of leaking, or seeping out (Fig. 1). Not dissimilar to lattice normally used as a support for climbing plants, the vine-like pipeline used in Fan’s works is, for them, a ‘living shelf’— or at least, a semi-living one, for the sex hormones and melanin contained in the glass vessels are perpetually in flux.
Online event with SculptureCenter: Sat, Dec 12, 2020, 11am–12:30pm. Tishan Hsu’s work appears prescient and influential for younger artists working today, which we can now understand (at least partially) as a product of his idiosyncratic and forward-reaching relationship to the aesthetics, media, and theory of the 1980s.
Referencing the work of scholar Elaine Scarry, Tishan Hsu has remarked that while the critical theory of the 1980s interrogated the subject and saw its autonomy emptied out, pain remained the nagging anchor that kept it from dissipating into thin air. In other words, it was pain that kept the genie in the bottle of embodiment. In Hsu’s work, the body in pain, administered through the institutions of modern life (the office, the hospital, the prison, the factory), manifests itself as fragmented, sundered, and wounded.
Stephanie Bailey writes in Ocula, “Showing in partnership with Fine Art Asia at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre between 27 and 30 November 2020, Hong Kong Spotlight is Art Basel‘s first physical presentation in 2020. Ocula Magazine highlights six artists on view among the curated booths of 22 participating galleries. Empty Gallery‘s black box was the perfect setting to showcase the impressive hand of Hong Kong-born painter Henry Shum, who graduated with a BA in fine art from Chelsea College of Arts only in 2020.”
OPHELIA LAI writes in ArtAsiaPacific, “The vortex-as-portal is a recurring motif that conjures the irresistible yet terrifying pull of the unknown. For poet and artist William Blake (1757–1827), it takes on a spiritual dimension as a symbol of transfigurative passage. These mysterious connotations suffuse painter Henry Shum’s “Vortices,” a fever dream of perilous journeys and mystical awakenings in Empty Gallery’s darkened sancta.”
James T. Hong’s work The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend is in the 12th Taipei Biennial, on view at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum from now until March 12, 2021. Curated by Bruno Latour and Martin Guinard with Eva Lin, it is titled “You and I don’t live on the same planet” and explores how “people around the world no longer agree on what it means to live ‘on’ Earth.”
Hong’s work is a series of concept art storyboards for a speculative science fiction film set in the near future. The film presents a military conflict in Taiwan which involves forces from China, the USA, Japan, Taiwan, and other nations.
Diaries: Era of Good Feelings is an online exhibition curated by Mark Pieterson with an essay by Rizvana Bradley, featuring Antoine Catala, Julien Creuzet, Tishan Hsu, Heesoo Kwon, Christopher Meerdo and Philipp Timischl. On view now until December 20, 2020, this special online presentation brings together various works by six artists that extend the affective possibilities for empathy, care, and connection through the haptic. Also featured is a newly commissioned essay “The Vicissitudes of Touch: Annotations on the Haptic” by Rizvana Bradley.