HOU Chun-Ming solo show- Be Water: Hong Kong queer, Hong Kong body

Hiro Hiro Art Space is honored to present Hou Chun-Ming’s solo exhibition《Be Water: Hong Kong queer、Hong Kong body》at the beginning of the year 2020. Hou Chun-Ming is a contemporary Taiwanese artist who has been invited twice to the Venice Biennale, as a representation of Taiwan. Using impactful and distinct images, and vivid colors and texts, Hou Chun-Ming depicts the environment Hong Kong people have been living in for the past twenty years. He portrays Hong Kong people’s attitude of how to “be water” towards lust and political oppression.

The exhibition date runs from Saturday, January 4th, 2020 to Saturday, February 29th. This exhibition will be showcasing the three significant artworks of Hou Chun-Ming: “The Asian father interview project: Father of male homosexuals in Hong Kong”, “Hong Kong: Sin and Punishment” and “Lu-Ting”.

【The Asian father interview project:Father of male homosexuals in Hong Kong】

“The Asian Father interview project: Father of male homosexuals in Hong Kong” was created in 2016 and Hong Kong is the sixth city Hou Chun-Ming conducted his interviews on “The Asian father interview project.” It is also the first time that the interviewees are focused on gay men. For this project, he interviewed six gay men from Hong Kong. The interviewees talked about the backgrounds of their fathers, the father and son interactions, as well as their father’s attitude towards their sexual orientation. Furthermore, they sketched out their fathers with symbolic drawing using simple line drawing. Lastly, Hou Chun-Ming uses his artistic skills to interpret everything he has heard, saw and perceived.

Homosexuals are unfairly restrained in the traditional society, gay men, on the other hand, are furthermore, under the pressure to inherit the patriarchal structure. Male homosexuals in Hong Kong choose to live their lives like water, fully embracing their lust and sexuality, facing life with both courage and gentleness. Despite the negativity and rigidness of traditional thinking, they will prevail through. But when it comes to facing their father’s authority and expectations, they often feel their desire of “being themselves” ebbing; the feeling of both respect and fear. As a result, some choose to hide in silence for the sake of their family’s relationship. However, there are also cases where fathers choose not to speak anything of it, not because men are seen to be more rigid and uptight, but because these fathers choose to be gentle, stepping back to give their son their own space. Hou Chun-Ming portrays the delicate tensions and emotions of the son and father interaction through six sets of detailed images and texts.

As many of the ancestors from Hong Kong emigrated from afar, Hou Chun-Ming used the red, white, and blue nylon bags as his canvas base, which were bags used to pack luggage back then. These long-lasting and sturdy bags are considered a representation of the spirit of simplicity and determination of Hong Kong people. Grandfathers and fathers lived like water, set roots in Hong Kong and thrived. Inheriting such memories of survival, the younger generation now lives with it, hoping to settle down freely and safely in Hong Kong.

【Hong Kong: Sin and Punishment】

In 1996, Hong Kong Arts Centre planned an event named “Out of Gallery” and invited Hou Chun-Ming to Hong Kong to create. This happened right before Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997. Hou Chun-Ming created three prints that unambiguously depicts the anxiety and fear that Hong Kong people may feel when they return to an environment of being controlled. The artwork presents the expression of the people, whose bodies are in hell, shackled and chained by the devils in the animal forms. Hou Chun-Ming used fables from Ancient China and represented the belief of sin and karma by painting bloody-red characters of “Judgement is Omnipresent”.

At first, it was expressed as a fable-like work of art, but as twenty years passed by, this piece of art had somehow transformed into a “prophecy”, in which fully reflects the protests of Hong Kong people against the Chinese Communist Party’s suppression on them in 2019. The actual treatments and violence imposed on Hong Kong people by the regime are beyond terrifying the symbolic images drawn by artists can portray. In such repression, “Be Water” has become a continuously spreading philosophy of protesting. People wish to be able to flow like water, soft and yielding but will overcome whatever is hard and rigid if prevailing.  This determination and unification of Hong Kong people and the protests have astonished the world greatly.

Rather than putting “Hong Kong: Sin and Punishment” as Hou Chun-Ming’s brilliant calculation and prediction of the future, we could instead say that this is his most in-depth observation on the survival tensions of Hong Kong, as well as his most profound criticism of people’s lack of autonomous authority.

“Lu-Ting” is Hou Chun-Ming’s print works from the year 1997. He uses a myth to metaphor the fear of Hong Kong people over the transfer of sovereignty. This huge graphics creation and the symbolic elements used are so consistent with the occurrences of the 2019 Hong Kong Protests that it brings quite the shock and sorrow.

The text from the artwork says: “In 1997, people were distressed. Hong Kong people were worried that once the Handover of Hong Kong in 1997 comes, they would not be able to practice their freedom of speech in the future. In response, people covered their mouths with tape, tied their hands and feet, and marched a parade on the streets. At that time, others were worried that doing so would offend the government after their return and cause even greater afflictions, so they dumped these masked Hong Kong people into the waters. These masked Hong Kong people did not die, and as their bodies decomposed, they turned into the spirits of Lu-Ting, wandering around the island, echoing cries of a baby.”

From “Hong Kong: Sin and Punishment”, “Lu-Ting”, to “The Asian father Interview Project: Father of Male Homosexuals in Hong Kong”, more than twenty years of Hong Kong’s occurrences have been portrayed. From national issues to family dilemmas, from queer to protests on the street, Hou Chun-Ming continues to express his empathy and support of Hong Kong’s desire to “be yourself” through his creation of art. The curator of this exhibition, Lee Ming-Tsung, concludes with the following comments:

“Radical protests or gentle appeals do not only happen on the streets, but also in households. As an avant-garde activist, Hou Chun-Ming deeply depicts the complicated feelings and behaviors that occur on every bridgehead of Hong Kong’s people in fighting. Whether they are standing upright or bowing their heads in silence, they are all in the brave struggles for beautiful freedom.”

— Curator Lee Ming-Tsung