An exhibition originally curated by Feng Boyi for the He Xiangning Art Museum in Shenzhen and traveling next to Taipei, “1+1” would appear to be a gratuitous and inane round of official backslapping for the encouragement of a cosmopolitan ideal of greater China. Fortunately its realization, at least at this particular juncture in its Hong Kong leg, has provided enough instances of cultural tension to make the outing a productive experiment in cross-border collaboration, if nothing else; curator of the Hong Kong component Jeff Leung comments that the mainland artists involved seem unaccustomed to and uninterested in the very prospect of artistic cooperation, hanging their Taiwanese and Cantonese compatriots out to dry in many respects. Indeed, a series of odd textual documents within the exhibition space seem to prove his point, as the noted Beijing artist Zhao Zhao finds nothing to say to his assigned partner, a younger Hong Kong artist he ultimately takes on a tour of the Forbidden City instead.
Nevertheless, several pieces do stand out. The pinnacle of collaborative achievement, at least for this exhibition, presents itself in the form of a multimedia installation by Yao Chung-han of Taipei and Rita Hui of Hong Kong: the work of both artists feels strong within the space, but it is ultimately a single assemblage. Yao’s trademark fluorescent light tubes meet a wall projection, showing work that appears to belong to Hui but actually also incorporates moments of dissonance, at an acute angle low to the ground, creating an oppositional structure that manages to come together in an impressive way. Other strong work comes from Liang Yuanwei, who, paired with the Shenzhen architectural photographer Bai Xiaoci, modifies the simple folding tables she has been painting for the past year by making a series of aggressive and constructive cuts into their forms. Another high point comes from Macau architect João Ó Bruno Soares, who has fashioned a semi-circular room of glass terrariums containing dead branches and naked speaker cones, all of which complements a series of nostalgic videos shot primarily by Ming-kuei Ho. If there is a lesson here, it is that collaboration does not come easily to this generation, even as the powers that be--including those of the national-level museums--push for heightened cross-border cultural production, at least on paper. For many of these artists, it is perhaps the border mechanisms themselves that inspire more than anything else.
-- Robin Peckham
(Image courtesy of Hong Kong Arts Center and the artist.)