Hope & Glory

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 May, 2010, 12:00am

Hope & Glory
The Birch Foundation
Until May 30

On entering Hope & Glory, the latest multimedia event conceived by Simon Birch and curated by Valerie Doran, wistful strains of an accordion waltz can be heard. Murmurs and screams from far-flung corners of the 20,000 square foot space hint at the nature of 20 interlinked 'multi-sensory' installations within. As eyes and body adjust to the darkness, a maze of sci-fi-inspired pods, giant projections within circus tents, holograms, humanoid mannequins and digital constructs unfolds into an experience that incites wonder, horror, pity, whimsy and, finally, (two hours later for this reviewer) hope - for more home-grown shows of this calibre in Hong Kong.

The technically impressive exhibition brings together the work of 16 art-makers, musicians and designers, and 50 other contributors (in acting, production, technical support and logistics), but Birch's autobiographical branding is everywhere; most indulgently in Spinal Mountstarcracker, a 'wrecking ball' made of trophies representing his professional (and personal?) conquests; and humorously in the two videos housed in the highly photogenic Crawling From The Wreckage grid structure, co-produced with designer Douglas Young.

The Heaven 17, a video parody of the American Idol judging process, puts Birch in Simon Cowell's seat; only here it is art icons that are being vetted for a place among the stars, among them a Marcel Duchamp stand-in holding a picture of his famous urinal.

Mock-documentary I thought I was the Blade Runner, now I know I'm the replicant chronicles the life, illness and death of an unnamed artist through testimonials of people he has touched in some way.

Elsewhere in the exhibition, Mystery Plane is an amusing yet disturbing piece of social narrative set in the virtual reality of video game Halo 3 (seen in large projection), featuring the strange journey of two Spartan soldiers, voiced by Birch and actor Daniel Wu. Without enemies to shoot, the two wander with little aim other than to 'blow s**t up', including a to-scale virtual representation of Antony Gormley's Angel of the North (death to industry?) and the word 'China' spelled out in the snow/sand with automatic weapons.

Through intelligent sound and visual design, and by borrowing heavily from Gen-X sci-fi culture, Hope & Glory achieves an immersive exploration of the 'hero myth', as referenced in the show's printed guide, and its archetypal odyssey. It is tempting to use the cocoon and butterfly metaphor here to describe Birch's own journey as an artist. Either way, Hope & Glory is a provoking sensory treat.

1/F Cornwall House, Island East, Taikoo Place. Free admission. Inquiries: 6280 2309