Portals, Stories, and Other Journeys stems from Asia Art Archive's research since 2014 into the personal archive of the late Hong Kong–based artist Ha Bik Chuen (1925–2009). A self-taught sculptor and printmaker, Ha left behind a vast personal archive—his "thinking studio." He documented exhibitions that he attended from the 1960s till the 2000s, and kept records in the form of ephemera, negatives, contact sheets, and photo albums. He also collected printed matter like illustrated magazines, and created book collages from these publications. As an autodidact, Ha's library contained books on art and visual culture from far beyond the port city of Hong Kong. Ha's idiosyncratic ways of collecting, organising, and regrouping materials blur the boundaries between document and artwork.
This exhibition comprises ten "sets" that share what this archive can do—how it fuels practices of artists, and how it shapes and shifts our understanding of Hong Kong's history and art. Five of these sets present new commissions by artists Banu Cennetoğlu (Istanbul), Kwan Sheung Chi (Hong Kong), Lam Wing Sze (Hong Kong), Raqs Media Collective (New Delhi), and Walid Raad (Beirut/New York). Some of these artists began their engagement with Ha's archive in the past year in preparation for this exhibition, while others have had years of continuous conversation with AAA. Each artist brings their own stories relating to Ha's archive—they respond to various facets of his archival and art practice, as well as AAA's ongoing efforts to make the archive accessible. The remaining sets restage documents and historical objects in new contexts made possible by research into Ha's archive. These articulations construct more complex narratives about Hong Kong's art ecology of the last five decades, and reveal parts of Hong Kong's cultural worlds that are not always visible.
Each set is a carefully composed ensemble of images, objects, and stories, guiding us to explore our sense of scale, self, and history. These sets become portals leading visitors from one place to another, perhaps even more than one place at a time, defying rules of spatiality and temporality. They make way for (un)timely encounters across geographies, affects, and times. They juxtapose different kinds of knowledge created through artistic, scholarly, and curatorial ways of engaging the archive. Together, these sets catalyse a condition where artistic speculation and research inquiries of disparate contexts and sources collide.
Portals, Stories, and Other Journeys is part of AAA's 20th anniversary programmes, and is curated by Michelle Wong, with support from Vivian Poon, Garfield Chow, the Tai Kwun Contemporary Team, and the AAA Team.
Press release courtesy Asia Art Archive.