Elsewhere and nowhere else is a show of fragile moments and disparate parts, but there is a unifying precarity and urban materiality across the exhibition. The show includes work by Kah Bee Chow, Li-Ming Hu, and Yuk King Tan, and is curated by Vera May. Things and ideas are held together almost only by pegs, hooks, tacts, ties. As curator Vera May writes, the artists are themselves both separate and joined, described as “umbilically connected to Aotearoa” yet each now living elsewhere; the works in the show are similarly bound by everything and nothing.
Kah Bee Chow’s installation ‘Portals’ (2022) is like an assemblage of a city’s traces. Decorative and meandering decals on the walls and windows suggest the influence of architectural and design forms. There is fruit hidden in plain sight. There are plastic bags, rubber bands, bamboo ties, and newsprint, clipped and hung together by metal s-hooks. When viewed as a whole, the hanging and perching sculptures are like flimsy washed-up flotsam, both composting and in-compostable, detritus, charming, lasting, and fragile, all at the same time.
Li-Ming Hu’s work is similarly working with an assemblage of aesthetically messy and conceptually rich material. It’s sticky and tacky on multiple levels. In one of the two parody films, the artist reenacts performances and media stories about the 1970s Afro-Caribbean-German music group Boney M, exploring ideas of cultural appropriation, authenticity, and commodity. These themes extend to the installation of the artists’ playfully recreated New York studio, with studio-things made from gaudy sequins and cheap faux-fur fabrics. Parody ephemera stuck to walls, printed on curtain, and in loose stacks on the shelves, speaks to the artist-as-commodity theme; scripts, letters of recommendation from well known artists, text resources from a ‘how to promote yourself as an artist’ workshop. ‘Where is the art?’ (2022), an aptly named installation, has multiplicities in terms of points of entry, personalities, and ideas bumping into each other. It’s hard to walk out without Boney M’s songs on loop in your mind.
Yuk King Tan’s sculptures are a highlight of the exhibition as they present the dualism of permanence and impermanence, solidity and fluidity. A curtain of repeating knots, ‘Eternity Screen’ (2019) is made from cable ties and plastic handcuffs, which draws you in as much as it keeps you out. It neatly and subtly alludes to the 2019-20 Hong Kong Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill protests. Tan employs her identifiable drapes of string, here in white, for ‘Nine Mountains’ (2019). Mey writes that “ the mountain is present in Chinese iconography as a bastion of permanence, territory, awe, restraint, respect, and control,” significant in light of the wider contextual allusions, and yet the sculpture has an overwhelming lightness; the dripping mountains are as if made from melting wax, falling water, or vermicelli.
Elsewhere and nowhere else is on at Te Tuhi Art Gallery until 4 September.