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Joao Vasco Paiva
Shop B, Lower Ground Floor, 89-95 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, China
May 20, 2011 - June 8, 2011

The Charmed Logic of Space
by Robin Peckham

Some spaces, corners of Hong Kong, seem destined for art, adding so much to the viewing experience in their own right even prior to the display apparatus of the white cube that the process of reaching and entering the space becomes a planning element with which the artist or curator cannot avoid negotiation. Experimenta, tucked into an alley off of an alley just a block away from the main gallery drag of Hollywood Road, positioned aptly next to a barbershop that doubles as a jazz bar, is one such exhibition space.  Indeed, given the success of its past several projects, one might be forgiven for believing that it is the charmed logic of the space itself that adds so much to the work on view.

 As in the case of the groundbreaking Nadim Abbas solo exhibition “Cataract,” which proved a significant development not only for the artist’s practice but also for the ways in which gallery spaces can be transformed in Hong Kong, this latest solo outing by João Vasco Paiva demonstrates the possibilities of what can happen when strong work transforms a space to align with its own vision. The long back wall of the space, facing the entrance, is saturated with a single-channel video depicting a navigation marker floating in Victoria Harbour, anchored precisely in the center of the projection. Rather than bouncing wildly in place, however, the rectilinear frame follows the motion of the object at the center, the geometric projection thus pivoting across the wall--the result of algorithmic editing techniques. Meanwhile, in the glass window of the storefront, a scale wooden model of the buoy constructed by the artist seems to float up and down in time with the projection, jerkily retranslating the mathematical approximation of the movement without instantiating its organic grace.

As I have written previously, there is a process of architectonic abstraction at work here, as the entire system of representational object-functions is reduced to a setting blithely following the forceful object at the center of the frame. A valorous commitment to an evaluation of the limits and potentials of visual strategy through the mechanisms of environmental instrumentation is key to this project; what is new here is an implicit critique of the status of the monument, ideologically delimited by a reversal of the conventions of framing. It is the ideal of modernism that almost humorously becomes subject to a certain process of liquefaction through the rigidity of the framed screen. A sense of conceptual ambiguity on the part of the viewer places the artificially stabilized monument of the modern firmly within the compositionally static but parametrically evolving frame of contemporary vision: a concentrated assault on the very origins of this mediated practice.

-- Robin Peckham

(All images courtesy of Experimenta and the artist.)

Posted by Robin Peckham on 6/6/11

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