ARTS REVIEW

Islands off the Shores of Asia

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 October, 2014, 5:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 October, 2014, 5:30pm

Islands off the Shores of Asia

Spring Workshop Organised by Para Site and Spring Workshop, this exhibition opens as Hong Kong explores the boundaries of its own (island-like) autonomy.

Curators Cosmin Costinas and Inti Guerrero explain that the show "focuses on the ideological, historical, mystical, and fictional interpretations of the small, remote, largely uninhabited and unvisited islands claimed" by some East Asian countries.

Notions of nationalism are explored, but the selected art is mostly muted in its commentary, and a much stronger political or historical analysis is needed to explain the complexities of the disputed ownership of some islands in the South China Sea.

But a liberal exploration of the topic does allow artists from around the world, using different locations and ideas, to explore the psychology of attachment that residents and nations have for islands.

Italian-German artist Rosa Barba's fictional Swedish island of Gotska Sandön is depicted in her spoof documentary, Outwardly from the Earth's Centre, as drifting towards the North Pole. An "archaeologist" explains that earlier occupants had tried to halt the island's drift using primitive artefacts, and an official "archivist" pulls out documents showing that islanders believed a folk tale that says the island's tethered ropes to the seabed were sabotaged by "evil pirates".

There is a similar commentary by Spring Workshop resident-artist Ming Wong, who cleverly films himself floating as an astronaut in a spaceship cabin. Once his helmet is removed, a Cantonese opera diva is revealed replete with hair-bun, lipstick and mascara.

The exhibition is encircled by Charles Lim's paired photographs of buoys marking the ocean border between Malaysia and Singapore.

In a set of eight drawings, MAP Office imagines the islands of Hong Kong in different guises: their Island of the Self is an "intricate, maze-like network of alleys". It is an appropriate metaphor for Hong Kong at this very moment.

The exhibition runs until December 7