Jes Fan and Xavier Cha at Empty Gallery, Hong Kong
Jes Fan “Mother Is A Woman”
Empty Gallery is pleased to present Mother Is A Woman, Jes Fan’s first solo exhibition in Asia. Following recent appearances at Spring Workshop and Para Site, the NYC-based, Hong Kong native has created a new body of work specifically for Empty Gallery. Speculating on the intersection of biology and identity, Fan’s trans-disciplinary practice emerges from a sustained inquiry into the concept of otherness as it relates to the materiality of the gendered body. Working primarily in expanded sculpture, Fan often incorporates organic materials – such as soybeans and depotestosterone into larger assemblages fashioned of poured resin and silicone. Previous projects such as Hard Body / Soft System (2017) and Testo-Soap (2016) have focused on the bio-politics of transgender identity and the slippery nature of embodiment in an era where HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and less extreme body-modification tactics such as bodybuilding are easily accessible, allowing the subject to mold their external body to match their internal state.
The creative genesis of this new exhibition stems from Fan’s long-standing interest in queering conventional notions of gender, kinship, and maternity. In early 2018, the artist obtained urine samples from their mother in Hong Kong, and transported them to the United States for processing in a university laboratory. Utilizing solid phase extraction, Fan was able to isolate and extract their mother’s estrogen. This estrogen was then used to create a topical beauty cream, the titular “Mother Is A Woman”. During the exhibition opening, attendants will offer visitors a chance to feminize their biology with Fan’s estro-mom cream.
Extending this desire to destabilize existing systems into the gallery space, Fan has completely transformed Empty’s characteristic black interior with flesh-toned walls and synthetic fur carpets. Inside this animistic space, Fan has staged several different series of new sculptural works exploring notions of biological materiality. Real soybeans and resin casts of yams – the two primary sources of industrially produced sex hormones – feature as some of the many androgynous forms appearing within Fan’s assemblages. These forms are echoed by the biomorphic curves of the Diagram works, a group of sculptural shelves and tables inspired by clinical diagrams of the epidermis. With their mottled surfaces recalling insect carapaces and their organ-like folds, they seem to express both the beauty and essential otherness of organic matter. Visible Woman appropriates the 1960s anatomical model of the same name – the female counterpart to the infamous Visible Man model which was widely used in American science classes – and transforms it into a surreal structure in which crystalline organs are suspended within a geometric frame reminiscent of both the original model-kit and classical Chinese design motifs. As technology offers us seemingly boundless options to modify and extend our bodies – altering our concept of nature in the process – Fan’s exhibition offers a research-driven investigation into the inherent strangeness of the gendered body.
Xavier Cha “Ruthless Logic”
Empty Gallery is pleased to present Ruthless Logic, Xavier Cha’s first solo exhibition in Asia. Ruthless Logic consists of a single monumental moving image work, produced by the artist in Hong Kong at the legendary Shaw Studios. Cha’s practice deploys performance, video, and happenings in the service of expressing what she has termed “the schizophrenic state of psychotic simultaneity” which characterizes an interior subjectivity under the conditions of technologically enabled capitalism. In her concerted exploration of the conditioned affects and habituated (often compulsive) behavioral patterns associated with the near-ubiquity of social media networks, apps, and personal devices, Cha articulates the paradox of a social reality in which one’s innermost desires and emotions are relentlessly colonized by foreign interests, yet manage to preserve a shred of their own sovereignty; somehow other and yet ultimately still one’s own.
Employing what might be called an aesthetics of dissociation, Cha’s previous works Body Drama and abduct created bare and disorienting affective spaces by abstracting moments of intense emotional and/or bodily performance from their regulating frameworks. Ruthless Logic extends this approach into the territory of martial arts cinema – perhaps Hong Kong’s most influential cultural export. Realized through collaboration with local film industry veterans, including luminaries such as Jack Wai-Leung Wong (action choreographer for such films as Killzone 2) and Kwan Pun Leung (a frequent collaborator of Wong Kar-Wai), and French-Iranian-Egyptian musician Yasmine Dubois (Lawfandah), Ruthless Logic represents Empty’s most ambitious moving image production yet.
A depiction of an endless confrontation between martial artists German Cheung and Rafael Reynoso, the film is a series of crystalline, hallucinogenic, and emotionally-charged fragments of action occurring in a dream-like space. This space is traversed by Cha’s constantly tracking camera, its clinical yet sensual gaze circulates over the bodies in the frame, emphasizing the inherently rhythmic nature of martial movement to hypnotic effect. Applying her ongoing inquiry into the affective economies of performance and spectatorship to kung fu cinema, Cha deliberately frustrates the narrative expectations associated with the genre by making perverse usage of its signature stylistic tropes. Familiar effects from the grammar of global action cinema such as bullet-time, wire-work, and extreme slow motion are deployed not to heighten onscreen action, but rather to slow it down – forcing a very different kind of spectatorial engagement. In stripping away all extraneous content and reducing the fight sequence to its bare essence, Ruthless Logic reveals a hypnotic and balletic cascade of mediated bodies in which the rhythms of choreographed gesture begin to suggest the tidelike circulation of physical, cultural, and emotional capital between East and West.
at Empty Gallery, Hong Kong
until 2 June 2018