13 Dec 2018
Not Yesterday, Not Tomorrow
Works by three artists working in Guangdong, Southern China
Selected by Christina Li
Running time 1’ 51’’
The film screening, Not Yesterday, Not Tomorrow will bring together works by three artists working in Guangdong, Southern China, presenting their varied ways dealing with history, power and politics, against the backdrop of the changing cityscapes of Guangzhou and Hong Kong. The selected artists in the screening employ tactics of absurdity, fiction and autobiography, making their way through these Chinese cities, establishing a relationship between political history and spatial history. These films deal with the elusive nature of history for both younger and older generations, whereby the works becomes a meditative moment where the artists consider their own relationship with specific historical narratives and the built environment they are living in.
Due to its distance from the political center of Beijing, the Pearl River Delta Region (the Southern part of China) has always been seen as an apolitical detached area from the political center. With capitalism as the reigning ‘political ideology’ in this area, added together with its close proximity to Hong Kong, a previous British Colony and the gateway overseas, created an environment where political history played a lesser role within society, as any turmoil and dissonance may pose threat to its prosperous economy. As a reflection to the depoliticized society, many artists has made use of the laxer censorship rules made possible with the region’s geographical position to make works that summon and ruminate on these ghosts of histories-past.
Looking at the appearances (and disappearances) of history that is marked through the permeation of relics and near-ruins, the treatment of monuments and historical objects play an intriguing role in these works. The significance of such devices from individual films forms a strong juxtaposition against each other. Under the overwhelming forces of erasure and recreation of space and history of contemporary China, these symbols exist in a time-space that happens neither yesterday nor tomorrow, enabling us to witness the processes of understanding of the artists and the city to which these histories and memories are attached to and staged in.
Yuk King Tan
Scavenger (2008), 14’
A life-size replica of one of the sculpture lions who sit in front of the HSBC Hong Kong Building, sits on a street trolley and acts as an imposing and quite recognisable symbol of Hong Kong, its banking economy as well as its colonial past. The work is about the confluence of symbols of power and waste. The lion and the scavenger both bear witness to the conflicts of the past and the present. Many elderly ´scavengers´, also called ‘refuse workers’ or ‘street cart’ people collect sheets of refuse, machinery and cardboard, and make a small amount of money from the weight of the garbage / recyclable materials that they cart through the city of Hong Kong. They are the workhorses of urbanisation, a link between pre- and post modernisation. They are a modern version of ´gleaners´ and they play the role of a vehicle and an arterial physical unit of the body of a city, i.e. they move the waste products in and out of system.
Zheng Zuo Guo
The Landscape of the Age of Empire (2008), 9’
Zheng Guogu’s sprawling complex in Guangdong is still one of the most interesting artist projects in China. In his native Yangjiang, Zheng has commenced a lifetime project of growing an “empire” that started in 2001 when he bought 20000 square meters of land. His ever-changing experiment is inspired by and modeled after the computer game “The Age of Empires”. Although it began years ago, it is mesmerizing to see the silent growth and development of project over the course of a decade. The film is a documentation of the landscape of a hybrid space built by Zheng in his hope of constructing a physical Empire of his own based on the computer game. This ongoing 10-acre project is an exercise in fictionalizing history while challenging the notion of monuments with its lack or rejection of ‘real’ historical material for remembrance.
Father (2005), 88’
Cao Fei’s Father, a sculpture artist belonging to the last generation, is 72 years old currently. Ever since his juvenile time, he has been engaged in producing the sculptures of those who were the exemplars in industry, agriculture and military, together with the political and cultural figures as well as the leaders of Communist Party and even until now, he is still being put in an important position by various local governments. During the Cultural Revolution time, rather than being embroiled by the movement, he was consigned to produce the sculpture of the great figure Chairman Mao in many places and it made his artistic career greatly developed. In the end of the year 2004, in a project called call of developing “A Journey of Red”, the government of a former revolutionary base in Guangxi Province commissioned Father to produce a full-length sculpture up to 5.6 meters of Deng Xiaoping in his youth. It is supposed to serve the purpose as a tourism attraction known “A journey following Deng Xiaoping’s footprints”. Following her father’s sculpture, she began the journey of Red. When the giant sculpture revered by all rose from the ground, a relation between Father’s artistic ideal and present-day reality was unfolded evidently to the furthest.
Christina Li is a curator based in Hong Kong and The Netherlands. She has previously worked as a Curator of Para/Site Art Space during which she focused her interests in researching on artistic practices in the Pearl River Delta and developing a discourse within the delta region that relates to the context of Hong Kong contemporary art and culture. She has graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a degree in Fine Arts (Art History) and Comparative Literature and recently completed de Appel Curatorial Programme in 2009. She is the assistant curator of Making (Perfect) World: Harbour, Hong Kong, Alienated Cities and Dreams, the Hong Kong Participation of the 53rd Venice Biennale.