HOMELAND IN TRANSIT:
THROUGH THE CLOUDS
17 SEPTEMBER - 2 OCTOBER
Thursday, 16 September, 17 - 21h
Exhibition by appointment only:
17 September to 2 October
email@example.com and +41 7678 1 7678.
Pfeffergässlein 25 (via Nadelberg 33)
4051 Basel, Switzerland
Covid-19 safety: masks required inside the gallery
Curatorial essay 'Through the Clouds' by Angelika Li
Homeland in Transit
2019 – 2020 – Now
In the short time since the inaugural exhibition of ‘Homeland in Transit’ in 2019, our world has changed dramatically and each word in this title has developed a wider scope of meaning and expanded relevance. From the extraordinary situations of 2020, we set sail along the forces of water – an intrinsic and characteristic element of Hong Kong – through the notions of migration, self-searching and our human resilience to further our expedition.
The new expansion of 'Through the Clouds' opens in Basel in September 2021. Following exhibitions in Murrhardt and Berlin during June and July that featured works by Hong Kong artists Luke Ching, Lo Lai Lai Natalie and Yim Sui Fong, curator Angelika Li has invited German/Swiss duo Copa & Sordes, Swiss sculptor Dorothee Sauter as well as Hong Kong painters Hung Fai and Wai Pong Yu to join in this latest chapter. With diverse mediums including paintings, ink on paper, sculptures, videos and installations, this transit further explores the boundless idea of the cloud as part of the hydrological cycle along with the wind and rain.
How does this cycle impact on and reflect our current climate and situations? From different perspectives in Hong Kong and Europe, how do the artists perceive the transformations, if not turbulences? Are we going through a test of our resilience in unpredictable environments? Are we bound within the new realities or breaking through? Are we like clouds, going where the wind blows, by chance?
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installation in Wolkenhof
installation in Berlin
Wolkenhof - Berlin - Basel
June – July - September
In this chapter ‘Through the Clouds’, we first arrived at Ein Fenster inmitten der Welt, a window amidst the world, situated in a natural reserve forest area near Stuttgart, with two interfaces: one to the real world, one to the virtual. The exhibition was physically located in Wolkenhof, in the home of the painter Heinrich von Zügel (1850-1941), a founding member of the Munich Secession and pioneer of German Impressionism. In the 19th century, Wolkenhof was a meeting place for artists and the name literally means 'Clouds Court' in German.
The environment of Wolkenhof and its name serve as points of departure for this transit through the dynamics of the hydrological cycle: clouds, wind and rain. The boundless nature of clouds has inspired many in the arts across different cultures.
Clouds appear in many poets’ work including ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ (1798) by English poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850) who personifies himself as a melancholic cloud that aimlessly drifts ‘high o’er vales and hills’. His poem illustrates that we do not realise the significance of the simplest things until they are gone forever. By using daffodils as a metaphor for the voice of Nature, the poet reminds humankind of its restorative power and value. Are the clouds floating in hopes that they will discover fulfillment in life?
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (1798)
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o'er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:—
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the shew to me had brought:
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.
In a very different context and in his tempestuous style, Chinese poet Xu Zhimo (1897-1831) opens his poem ‘By Chance’ (1926) with ‘I am a cloud in the sky…’, expressing the inevitable nature and qualities of change, unpredictability and impermanence between the cloud and water, I and you, ‘the sea in the darkness’ and ‘the glow that sparked between us as we crossed our paths’. The clouds lightly float in the sky, yet their movements, direction or destination cannot be decided according to its own will, without other forces, such as the wind.
By Chance (1926)
XU Zhimo (1897—1931)
I am a cloud in the sky,
A chance shadow on the wave of your heart.
Don't be surprised,
Or too elated;In an instant I shall vanish without trace.
We meet on the sea of dark night,
You on your way, I on mine.
Remember if you will,
Or, better still, forget
The light exchanged in this encounter.
The sense of floatingness and helplessness echoes Hong Kong novelist Xi Xi’s (1937-) ‘The Floating City’ (1986), with René Magritte’s ‘The Castle of the Pyrenees’ (1959) on a big rock suspending in the air above a rough sea as the visual imagery accompanying the opening chapter. The imagery accentuates the feeling of loneliness, isolation, rootlessness and escape: ‘The floating city appeared suddenly before everyone’s eye in the middle of sky like a hydrogen-filled balloon on a clear, bright day many years ago. Rolling clouds swirled by above; waves crashed on the swelling sea below…There had been a violent collision of clouds lighting up the sky with flashes and roars of thunder… Suddenly the floating city had dropped from the clouds and hung in midair.’ The floating city and its people have no control over their destiny, they can only fluctuate as external factors change.
The Floating City (1986)
Xi Xi (1937 - )
‘…People who want to have a look in the clouds can climb the ladders or go up by balloon, while visitors to the sea can use parachutes or go by helicopter. However, over half of the people in the floating city want to grow wings themselves. All in all, these people find it scary to live in a city that floats in midair. The people who are really terrified agonise night and day, finally deciding to pack up their belongings and they behave like migratory birds, moving elsewhere to build an ideal new nest.
A novelist has recorded the following story: A man went to apply for a passport. The official asked where he wanted to go. He said it didn’t matter. The official gave him a globe of the world and asked him to make his choice. The man studied it, turned it around slowly, and finally said: Don’t you have another one?...
It is a difficult decision to know where to go once you’ve left the floating city. Where can you find a city where you could live in peace forever? All those leaving the city have to have very strong wings, and they have to be very careful when in flight. If they go too near the sun, the wax that keeps the wings together melts and, like Icarus, they plummet to earth.’
Soon after she received the Cikada Prize in 2019, Xi Xi spoke in an interview with Hong Kong Economic Journal about her recent observation on Hong Kong: ‘the reality now is way more surreal than any fiction.’
From different perspectives, how do Hong Kong artists perceive the transformations, if not turbulences? What are the exchanges of experiences with Europe? Wordsworth’s allegory might invoke contemplation on the disappearance of things dear to us. Are we going through a test of our resilience in unpredictable environments? Are we staying within the new realities or breaking through? Are we like clouds, going where the wind blows, by chance?
Luke CHING 程展緯
Pixel 像素, 2014
Video, 43 secs
The exhibition opens with ‘Pixel’ (2014), a video by Luke Ching about the annual Tiananmen candlelight vigil which was took place annually on June 4th between 1990 and 2019 at Victoria Park in Hong Kong. To the artist, a droplet of wax represents a candle, which becomes a cluster of pixels. Every year on June 4th, the media focus much attention on the resolution of the Victoria Park image: behind each candlelight was a holder of flesh and blood. In this video, the pixel of a candle extinguishes with a trace of smoke. According to the report of South China Morning Post on June 4th, 2020, the organisers estimated the vigil was attended by millions since 1990. For the first time, the vigil was banned in 2020.
YIM Sui Fong 嚴瑞芳
Black Bird Island 黑鳥島, 2017
Video, 6 mins 32 secs
From 1989, we fast-forward to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong. Yim Sui Fong’s ‘Black Bird Island’ (2017) stems from her interview with a former Hong Kong pigeon seller Mr. Leung Kam Hung and the history of the official handover celebration that the Regional Council of Hong Kong organised where thousands of pigeons transported from the Chinese border were released at the Sha Tin Sports Ground. Due to severe rainstorms, most birds could not return to their homeland and were stranded.
The artist creates a fiction with friction comprising multiple layers of social commentary based on two observations: a field study of the sky-coastline shaped by pigeon colonies since the handover in 1997 where the birds were being observed; and an encounter with a young girl being bullied where the bird becomes an observer. The jump-cuts bridge the story of the pigeons in Hong Kong, and through their lens into the psychological state of the society at the time.
LO Lai Lai Natalie 勞麗麗
Weather Girl , Halo Daisy 天氣女郎, 2016
Video, 6 mins 32 secs
What is a halo cloud? In the format of weather reporting narrated by a cheerful female voice, Lo Lai Lai Natalie shares her records of emotions in ‘Weather Girl, Halo Daisy’ (2016). It is her repertoire to deploy a lighthearted approach with superficially soothing trivial imagery to engage the viewer on heavy content, often of social and personal issues in the real world. The volume and temperature of sweat, tears and emotions can be detected in this video. Farming is a therapeutic process for the artist and she often sets a camera randomly in the field while she is at work. By chance the natural phenomenon of the halo cloud was captured. The clouds look calm on the surface, yet with the fierce undercurrents, the phenomenon is formed with a ring of rainbow in the everchanging conditions. This video is part of Lo’s ‘Slow-So TV’ series. The music chosen is ‘Siko Horepse Sirtaki’, a Greek folksong selected as the weather forecast music on TV in Taiwan in the 1990s.
LO Lai Lai Natalie 勞麗麗
Cold Fire 冷火, 2019-2020
Video, 10 mins 18 secs
Unlike ‘Weather Girl’, the level of expression and emotion on the surface has heightened in Lo’s ‘Cold Fire’ (2019-2020). One might be fascinated by the mysterious beings rippling through the sensual body of smoke, clouds or water. In the next scene, the viewer is on a plane with safety cards and a window view of clouds, eavesdropping on conversations about a mixture of fear of plane crashes, life and death:
‘Cut off her relationship with the iron bird.’
‘Floating on the ocean with her unknown companies,
towards an unknown future.’
‘Do you know where we are heading?’
‘No, I don’t. I never do.’
‘It seemed calm looking from thousands of feet from above.’
‘Only because we could not see the thriving, indomitable bacteria.’
The music selected for this work cultivates another layer of narrative. The melancholic theme in ‘Vallée d’Obermann’ by Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was composed during his journey across the Swiss Alps in 1835 along literary sources including Étienne Pivert de Senancour’s novel ‘Obermann’ with notions of solitary despair, overcoming hopelessness, human existence, and immensity of suffering in this world. Could it be a coincidence or the artist’s déjà vu or the reflection on her many memories accumulated during the creation of this work?
Through the fermentation process to the revelation of the mysterious being – i.e. the fire used for fermentation – the cold fire at the same time represents the energy and solidarity of people, yet by no surprise, people do get hurt from it.
Transit Expansion in Basel
In the Basel edition of this chapter, Hong Kong artists Hung Fai and Wai Pong Yu, Swiss sculptor Dorothee Sauter and German/Swiss artist duo Copa & Sordes (Birgit Krüger and Eric Schmutz) also join the journey through the clouds amidst the hydrological cycle.
WAI Pong Yu 韋邦雨
A Rhythm of Landscape 9, 2019
Ballpoint pen on paper
57.5 x 68.4 cm
In ‘A Rhythm of Landscape 9’ (2019), with its horizontal lines drawn on a manually erased newspaper, Wai Pong Yu inflicts damages and holes in the process of eradicating all the printed details on a July 4th 2019 copy of the Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily (which ceased operation on June 23rd, 2021), physically expressing feelings of suppression, anxiety and desperation arising from the recent turbulent sociopolitical climate in Hong Kong. Amidst the clouds of uncertainty, the colourful lines drawn in repetition act as a therapeutic process for the artist to retain a sense of hope and relief: the truth always comes to the light.
HUNG Fai 熊輝
Wild Grass 17, 2019
Ink on Chinese Paper
150 x 108 cm
With a similar sentiment, ink artist Hung Fai’s ‘Wild Grass 17’ (2019) builds an emotional outlet to release the feeling of powerlessness. By using basic tools and material including a metal ruler, ink pen, xuan paper and the quintessential element of water, he creates lines and dots in mechanic and laborious repetition. Forms and lines spontaneously and allegorically come to life by forces on the ruler against the xuan paper like a knife on skin. As the water and ink flows, his thoughts and emotions are injected into the work. At first glance, a mountainscape with clouds above appears. When one goes into the details, images of individuals emerge and come to life. The impression almost suggests that a battle scene is about to begin. What Hung creates here is not merely a landscape but more of a collection of mindscapes at pivotal moments.
Hung Fai 熊輝
Vessel IV, 2019
Ink on Chinese Paper
69 x 136 cm
Vessel IV (2019) is a collaborative work in which Hung invited his mother to fold an object using a piece of paper which he then integrates with his ink and paper. During the process, his mother showed him a folded paper boat which led the artist to discover details about his mother’s childhood as a Chinese migrant in Indonesia and her homeward migration journey by ship from Indonesia to Fujian, China during the so-called ‘return of the tidal flow’ in the 1960s. The work led him to reflect on the notion of origin, safe zones and self-searching. This intimate space for his own reflection in ‘Vessel IV’ seems like a sacred mothership encapsulated by the veil of fog he has woven with his paper and lines.
Emerging from the water element, the tentacular movements of Dorothee Sauter’s enigmatic sculptures created in 2021 ‘Instability – 2’, ‘Inflammation – 1 & 2’ and ‘Dry palate – 2 & 3’, suggest a terrestrial or underwater world that is charged with potent life force. Each appears to have a mind of its own. Can the swirling movement also indicate where the strong wind blows or turbulences are? This creates an almost-palpable fluctuation in atmosphere with immense resilience and willpower, resonating with the vibrancy and monochromatic drama in Hung’s ‘Wild Grass 17’.
Xi Xi’s depiction of ‘the floating city’ can somewhat be imagined with inhabitants populating in Sauter’s ‘Mumps’ (2020), ‘Looking for a reason’ (2021) and ‘New guest’ (2021) as rhizomic geological dwellings in cloud formation.
Copa & Sordes
130 x 100
Acrylic on cotton
Copa & Sordes
On the opposite wall, one finds a puzzle of cloudscapes. Are they reflecting the sky through the windows? Yet they are not imitations of clouds or depictions of reality but the idea of clouds which is central to the practice of Copa & Sordes for more than 30 years.
To the artist duo, the cloud has no borders, each is light and free, unique and indescribable. Their clouds are never neutral and are subject to interpretation. Time passes slowly during the process that leads to a state of meditation. Instead of looking inward, the painting of clouds guides them to look to the outside. With the idea of the cloud and its abstraction in mind, the only physical form present in the process is their bodily movement. Uncertainty plays a big part in their creative process of which the notion and repetition recalls the allegory of gambling and fermentation in Lo’s ‘Cold Fire’. One can relate ‘Cold Fire’s scene and conversation on the plane to Copa & Sordes’ white cloud trails made by jets in ‘181010’ (2018) and the infinity sign or ‘SOS’ signal in the sky in ‘180904’ (2018).
Another quintessential motive of their cloud paintings is the Baroque reference – more than a century of changes in society and politics, in markets, in art and architecture through the Baroque cultural movement which the duo finds similarities to the situations of our times. The question is when will the next age of enlightenment approach with new movements, values and hopes?
Installations at Wolkenhof and Berlin
Two installations were set up in Wolkenhof and Berlin: the community programme ‘A big tree makes good shade and the shade gathers’ (2021) by Ching and ‘Unlocked Space’ (2017) by Yim.
Luke CHING 程展緯
A big tree makes good shade and the shade gathers people
樹大可成蔭 樹蔭好聚人, 2021
Leaves collected and punched by Hongkongers in Europe
The concept of ‘A big tree’ stems from a community project of Ching in a district called Happy Valley in Hong Kong with a local art space C&G Apartment in April and May 2021. Happy Valley is the home of the horse-racing course and is often associated with the phrase 'horses will race, dances will continue' referring to the fifty years of autonomy the city was promised after the handover of 1997.
Observing another phenomenal migration wave in Hong Kong, Ching prepares the mini leaves as souvenirs for the people who are leaving. The leaves in our palms act as pixels of camouflage landscapes, urging us to reflect on the notion of change: climate/temperature, nature/environment, synchronising indoor/private lives. This contemplation is believed to have a therapeutic effect.
Ching was invited by the curator to expand the project and its spirit with the Hong Kong communities in Switzerland and Germany. In this installation, the leaves are collected by Hongkongers in Switzerland and Germany from their everyday living environments and punched to create a new diasporic landscape and memory to reflect on the notion of transition. Camouflage is a combination of a plural colour spectrum and corresponds to different terrains. In the artist’s eyes, with many leaving Hong Kong, the concept of ‘we’ will have to transcend physical space and territory from now on and rebuild many small reasons to come ‘together’.
The Chinese saying 'A big tree makes good shade and the shade gathers people' echoes the pixel nature highlighted in Ching’s video work, and also the solidarity of people. The audience can take some leaves home as souvenirs and Hongkongers are welcome to add some leaves to the gathering of new landscapes and stories.
YIM Sui Fong 嚴瑞芳
The Unlocked Space 大門沒有上鎖, 2017
Yim’s installation ‘The Unlocked Space’ (2017) is on housing, always a major issue in Hong Kong. From illegal settlements improvised with scraps and salvaged materials in the 1950s, to the implementation of cooperative buildings, Hongkongers once hoped that they could build their own homes. However, with ever-surging property prices, housing now brings only staggering pain to the majority of the population.
Yim’s father used to live in the squatter area near ‘Wong Ka Chong’ which was formerly a government-owned factory during the British colonial period. Tracing the old address, the artist found a six-storey civil servants’ cooperative building which has been left abandoned after having been sold in 2016 to a developer from China which has grand redevelopment plans for high-rise luxury apartments on the site.
Walking into the obsolete building, Yim found a large unlocked empty apartment. Her curiosity was provoked by the frozen time encapsulated in the objects of daily life and memory of the former-realities inside: a newspaper from 31 May 1989 and handwritten calendar; documents of the Cooperative Building Society and pieces of personal particulars; five to eight-digit telephone numbers; postcards from overseas and a collection of VHS tapes; statues of deities from different cultures and copies of pornography. Their existences have been forgotten along with their functions. Metaphorically speaking, do they belong to a piece of history in oblivion which can be manipulated, reinterpreted and disappeared? The artist questions if all these represent the nature of transition. Are the objects left only with emotions floating and the temperature remaining amidst the dust cloud at the scene she has captured through her camera lens?
In the Berlin edition, the curator has engaged artists Lo and Yim in the Video Talks series as part of the exhibition at Momentum, Kunstquartier Bethanien. The artists sat together under an old large tree at one of the scenes in Yim’s ‘Black Bird Island’. The duo created a conversation piece responding to the curator’s questions and also shared their views on the notion of homeland. Different emotions are expressed under the same sky.
Curatorial Essay and Biographies
Photos: Maris Merzulis
HOMELAND IN TRANSIT:
THROUGH THE CLOUDS
11 - 25 JULY
Momentum, Kunstquartier Bethanien
4 JUNE - 22 JULY
Ein Fenster inmitten der Welt
a window in the middle of the world
HOMELAND in TRANSIT
Through the Clouds
with Hong Kong artists
Lo Lai Lai Natalie
Yim Sui Song
curated by Angelika Li
a window in the middle of the world
4 June - 22 July 2021
Opening hours: 09-23h
Wolkenhof 14, Murrhardt, Germany
11 – 25 July 2021
Mariannenplatz 2, 10997 Berlin, Germany
The new chapter of Homeland in Transit: 'Through the Clouds' with Hong Kong artists Luke Ching, Lo Lai Lai Natalie and Yim Sui Fong will open on Friday 4 June through 22 July at Ein Fenster inmitten der Welt, a window in the middle of the world, situated in a natural reserve forest area near Stuttgart, with two interfaces: one to the real world, one to the virtual.
Two individual installation pieces by Luke Ching and Yim Sui Fong are planned for the exhibition. Due to the current pandemic situation, the installation date and details at Ein Fenster inmitten der Welt will be available by the end of June. During the exhibition period, the four videos can also be viewed at einfenster.net.
‘Homeland in Transit Through the Clouds’ will be exhibited in parallel at Momentum, Kunstquartier Bethanien in Berlin from 11 to 25 July 2021 with a new edition of the VIDEO TALKS with Lo Lai Lai Natalie, Yim Sui Fong and Angelika Li and also with an online viewing platform at momentumworldwide.org during the exhibition period.
Curatorial Essay by Angelika Li
German Press Release by Ein Fenster inmitten der Welt
Curatorial essay with artists' biographies
Murrhardter Zeitung coverage by Petra Neumann dated 8 June 2021
To Hongkongers in Berlin, if you would like to join our project, please bring your punched leaves to our opening at MOMENTUM, Kunstquartier Bethanien on Sunday 11 July from 13-19h.
More info and images can be found here.
Please help spread the word!
HEIMAT IM WANDEL
further postponed from March 2021 to
5-22 May, 2022
VILLA MEIER SEVERINI
PROGRAMME UPDATES WILL COME IN SPRING 2022.
2019 POSTPONED PROGRAMME:
The inaugural exhibition in 2019 of the curatorial project HOMELAND in TRANSIT channeled narratives of ‘homeland’ from Hong Kong perspectives: borders, boundaries, roots, diaspora, cultural identity, colonial ideologies and beyond. In the new chapter in 2020 with the German title HEIMAT im WANDEL, Martin Brauen and Angelika Li form a curatorial partnership to interweave the different perspectives and experiences of Bern-based Tibetan artist Sonam Dolma Brauen and six Hong Kong artists Hung Fai, Lee Ka Sing, Leung Chi Wo, MAP Office, Lulu Ngie and Wai Pong Yu.
The word ‘homeland’ has complex meanings: a clearly defined place/space, a tradition/culture that you share with others, a common history, belonging to a certain community in which you feel at home - and thus also feelings such as security and trust. It evokes a permanent form on the surface, yet when we dive a little deeper into our memories and emotions, the word urges us to reflect on its shifting nature. The definition of ‘homeland’ fluctuates under socio-political pressures which can lead to alienation and discontent, and potential fragmentations in our societies. Despite many differences, Tibet and Hong Kong share something in common: the sense of homeland of its inhabitants is constantly being questioned and reinterpreted. How do artists perceive these transformations and how do they represent it in their art?
Vernissage: March 19, 6–8pm
Opening performance by Kay Zhang (Saxophone) & Nuriya Khasenova (Flute)
Exhibition: March 20 – April 5, 2020
Asia Society Switzerland Talk & Tour: March 27, 6.30-8.30pm
Finissage: April 5, 6-8pm
Venue: Villa Meier-Severini, Zollikerstrasse 86, 8702 Zollikon, Switzerland
Exhibition organised by Kulturkreis Zollikon