|Reproduced items and images from The Umbrella Movement Visual Archive, 2014; installation view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. Courtesy of the Umbrella Movement Visual Archive.|
Partly an archive of ephemera, mementos of a time already vanished into history, and partly an investigation of the role of the artist at historical flash points of social and political crisis, Before the Rain at Sydney’s 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art is also an exploration of present-day shifts in geopolitical currents and tensions in Asia. The exhibition gathers an intergenerational group of artists from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China to explore moments of change and reaction. Why “Before the Rain”? Curator and 4A director Mikala Tai says that in the humid air of Hong Kong, there is a particular moment when you know the skies are about to open and the deluge will arrive. As with barometric pressure, so too with human systems and political tipping points.
|Luke Ching. 150 Lost Items, 2014; mixed media. Courtesy of the Artist and 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian A|
If pink “pussy hats” are the artifacts by which the 2017 Women’s March on Washington will be remembered, what are the objects that signify Hong Kong’s brief moment of revolutionary fervor, the Umbrella Revolution of 2014? The yellow umbrellas used by the protesters to shield themselves from tear gas, and the yellow Post-it notes used in impromptu art installations around the city, come to mind immediately. Not included in Before the Rain, but significant as a comparison, is the work of Hong Kong artist Samson Young. Young’s Stanley (2015) is a large, neon-pink text work that reads, “NOTHING WE DID COULD HAVE SAVED HONG KONG IT WAS ALL WASTED.” This work proclaims the despair felt by many around the globe right now: an unnerving and destabilizing sense that taken-for-granted democratic foundations may be less secure than we assumed. The work of the nine artists in Before the Rain, however, represents a rather different view. They reflect on possibilities of resistance and a sense of exhilaration, albeit at times mixed with sadness.
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