Crush @ Para Site Gallery, Hong Kong


Emoji summary: ↖️💔↗️

i watched an insurance or master card advert on the telly last year where a man was in a shop buying like, skis or something because he was newly divorced and finally able to do what he wanted in lyf. i was sat next to my boyfriend on the couch while it played and it hit me that my skis would be travelling to new countries and that if we broke up tomorrow, i’d be getting on a plane. just because i’ve been scared of missing him too much but yeah. my little heart slowed down, n then settled n grew bigger and I decided that next time I had enough savings and there was a break in my calendar, i would go on holiday on my own and see the world even if it meant a bit of missing him.

Last week I went to Hong Kong for 6 days aaaaand no, I was good, big. found travelling alone DEEPLY satisfying. It’s like I’d entered a personalised timezone where I could do things at my own pace, sleep and wake when I was ready. dress differently because no one here expects anything consistent of me, they don’t know me; could choose dinner without compromise. I was free from the structure of my normal life, my two jobs, my anxiety. instead I was floating, eating sui mai on a street corner, cheung fun + char sui all day. I’d come full circle: I was conceived in HK, and my mum has always told me I’d love it. she was v right, and I know this is not a review of hong kong lol but I just need to praise it for a second: that it was ordered chaos, convenient, a maze of things to find but without the fearing of getting lost, like I never fell off the edges, i don’t think they existed. Goldfish markets, toy poodles in backpacks, walkways, hazy sunset skies, rich people, and train stations full of bakeries selling £1 gourmet deserts. better than new york in all imaginable ways. The safest I’ve ever felt elsewhere. Every meal I had was under a fiver (without trying), except one that was from a michelin star chef and that was only EIGHT POUNDS. i have a really pointless love for claw machines - pointless because i’m not even good at them - and there were claw machines 2 be found in ALL the shopping arcades. and because no one was around to get bored, and I had no job to feel guilty about neglecting, u bet I spent my hong kong dollars trying to win a togepi plushie which now hangs proudly on the window in my bedroom ha ha ha. one shopping mall i went into had a rollercoaster running through it. I hadn’t realised HK was more than Sim City as well, that you could get a train n bus 40 mins out of central and be at a fishing village so soon. one afternoon I got a small boat with a cute cat flag to an island. hardly anyone else was there n I got into the sea and teared up because life was so quiet. I listened to a jonathan van ness podcast n my chest was tight with pride and lightness, I was so anxiety-free and grateful to myself for walking out my front door and going to hong kong. I’m 24 and childless, petless, houseless; i am unattached and brave and i’ve been living at home saving for the past two years to no end until this. It was Golden Week in mainland China, a 7-day national holiday, so HK was busy with tourists. but tbh no, golden week is my national holiday now and specifically it was this week away because when else in my life could something happen like this.

towards the end of the holiday I decided I should see some art bc - i know I’m a critic but - i wondered if art might be a good kind of company, sth i could walk away from if it was too chatty or harsh during golden week. I visited the White Cube puuurely so I could pose outside covering the ‘C’ on the sign and instagram it; and when i did venture inside the Mona Hatoum show they had on was just a bit boring and sad, like someone left art in an attic and had only just remembered it was up there. I’d had a lot of recommendations for Para Site gallery too and it’s there i found a show i wanted to write about. the space is COOL, dimly lit, and takes the top floor of a commercial block. the exhibition they have on atm is called ‘Crush’ curated by Qu Chang, and on first walking in it felt like an overwhelming showroom: a little bit degree show, a bit much. Every form was waiting for me: painting, photography, sculpture, video, lights, installation, radio play, books, front AND back projection. I wanted to see the wood 4 the trees, and at first i couldn’t n realised why: because where most exhibitions would have some full opaque 8x4 standalone walls to show more work etc, Para Site had a few half-walls that art could sleepily lean against, that viewers could look at and then look over. This is a weird thing to bring up maybe, but i think I loved the walls? it meant you could see through space, made me feel tall;; sculptural curation, did something physical like air conditioning n ventilation, healthy for the art + me.

And the art itself, well, I was confused. There was a strand of work responding q obviously to the ‘Crush’ title’s lead: heart break, love lost as well as love that never even got off the ground. The more nuanced work fell by the wayside for me, often i didn’t see the point of it in this show, and wished it wasn’t there. it was the little bits of food debris clogging up the kitchen sink plughole. i guess i wanted an easy compilation and this was like trying to figure out why a very uncoordinated group of people are sitting together at a table. this happened at Nando’s once, and myself and friends were looking at them in all their different ages and styles and eventually had to ask how this group knew each other. turns out they were bus drivers having lunch lol. Yeah i felt the same way about this exhibition. for example,, there were two plinths with (at first) very-Frieze looking sculptures on them, but more softlyyyy they were bouquets made of flowers cut out from greeting cards, by artist Magdalen Wong. first bouquet was sourced from sympathy cards, the other from romantiqqq ones. u could sense their different moods from the palette and shape, n that glossy or sometimes glittered finish. Kk I get that, but on the other side of the room and by the same artist there were big framed blue and white watercolour paintings depicting 'the glare from the familiar sparkles surrounding the logos of various cleaning detergents.’ por quoi. the curation constantly had highs and lows like this. There was a great video by Marge Monko playing out loud in the space, of a screen recording of an email written live as the narrator confessed their love to someone. it referenced chris kraus, a beatles song - and then cut to that song on YouTube, n i like tha. The film was so carefully urgent, so poised and messy in its content that I was scared for the reply the sender might receive. perfect circle of a film. And again, we dip: on another wall, you had South Ho’s photographs of plugs. why why why. Up: a silvery oil painting portrait by Huang Jingyuan of a child with emotional face n arms crossed against their chest in typical socialist China patriotic gesture, makes for an interesting inclusion when kids are already in a relationship with the state. And back down: Lua Wai’s work which in itself is researched, feisty n i appreciate that, but it didn’t make sense for this show. the artist had taken the dominant look and sensibilities of a Hong Kong woman from the western visual imaginary and edited that figure into stills from classical hollywood films. ok but why was it here i am confused

the show could have done more with less, bc the way it stands pulled me as a visitor in too many directions n i couldn’t really enjoy a single work, couldn’t get into it or FEEL the whole drama that an exhibition about crushing love could instil cause the curation was distracting. glad to have been introduced to so much good work but i should have worn blinders, it might have been better that way.

Crush is on until Nov 25

a wide gallery space with low ceiling, there’s a table in the centre with objects on it, and a long low gallery wall with paintings propped against it
a hyper realistic black and white painting of a young Chinese girl with her hands on her chest in a cross
a bouquet made entirely of paper
a close up of the paper bouquet, and it looks like the flowers have been taken from greeting cards and cut out
theres an abstract white and blue framed image on the floor propped against a very low gallery wall, and then behind that a projection on the wall of a sun in anime
a projection in one corner that has a lyric video on the wall, and the words we can see say ‘don’t want to leave her now, you know I believe and how’