ALM Bodies That Matter
By HG Masters
If in the first year of the pandemic, we collectively learned the compromised adequacy of remote communication, in a strange inversion, the openings in the second year afforded opportunities to re-learn, and enjoy, personal interaction again. Returning to the world has meant navigating its new, relative scale. As an editor at a magazine that reports on a vast physical geography, now situated in a region of limited travel, I have felt the territorial constraints of Hong Kong. Yet the most visceral experiences of the past year took place in even more confined, interior contexts. I won’t forget the uncanny feeling of walking into a talk in a large gallery at Tai Kwun Contemporary in April with curators Xue Tan and Raimundas Malaauskas, and choreographer-artists Scarlet Yu and Xavier Le Roy. I looked around at the socially distanced seats, and in an instant realized I had not been in a room with so many people in a long time. Later that evening, on a dark outdoor terrace, I heard from both Le Roy and Malaauskas about their experiences of three weeks in hotel quarantine: on his first day out, Le Roy was overwhelmed to the point of tears by the noise of the city, while Malaauskas recalled the overpowering scent of the lobby, so profoundly different from the recycled air of his window-locked room.
Along with the novelty of moving among the crowds in May at Art Basel Hong Kong—vast-feeling, even if half of its normal size—I became fascinated with the ubiquitous presence of rocks, or rock-like forms. There were a pair of boulders in two Relatum artworks by Lee Ufan; the rough-hewn sculptures of Huma Bhabha; Isamu Noguchi’s limb-like granite forms paired with steel and wood; Sf Teshigahara’s bronze sculpture recalling a scholars rock; Andrew Luk’s barren landscape of cast concrete towers and spray-foam pebbles; the petrified, Rodin-esque bodies in Firenze Lai’s paintings; and Luis Chan’s psychedelic Chinese landscape paintings with faces emerging from the craggy landscapes of coastal Hong Kong. The mountainous islands, beaches, peaks, and peninsulas are where many of us in Hong Kong have escaped, to bathe and repose, building rock cairns in the sun.