Mobile M+: Inflation!

Large-scale inflatable sculptures by Cao Fei, Choi Jeong Hwa, Tam Wai Ping, Jeremy Deller, Jiakun Architects, Paul McCarthy and Tomás Saraceno take over the West Kowloon Promenade, becoming surreal protagonists in a space that will become a sculpture park in 2014.

 

Art / Francesca Esposito

A comical, giant suckling pig, a lotus flower painted black, long female legs stretching into the sky, a Stonehenge for the sacrilegious, red lantern-like balls dancing in the wind and a huge pile of – excuse my French – shit. Six large, inflatable and extremely surreal sculptures feature in the Mobile M+ series' "Inflation!" exhibition, which recently opened on the West Kowloon Promenade in Hong Kong. 



 

The exhibition features the work of 6 + 1 artists: Chinese artist Cao Fei, a photographer, creator of video installations and new-media works; South Korean designer and artist Choi Jeong Hwa, who seeks to celebrate everyday life on video using plastic, metal wires and lights; Hong Kong artist Tam Wai Ping who explores the relationship between ground, environment and community; London-based Jeremy Deller, champion and forerunner of a collective sense of art; Chinese studio Jiakun Architects, whose design experiments touch on essence and the ephemeral; and provocative, sarcastic American visual artist Paul McCarthy. The + 1 is Tomás Saraceno, famous for his bubbles, spiders’ webs and clouds, who will accompany the works on display with three performances in May and June.  


Top and above: Tomás Saraceno, Poetic Cosmo of the Breath, 2013. Courtesy M+, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority

This is the fourth itinerant exhibition organised by the Western Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKDA), and it brings some of the key public sculptures of recent years to the fragrant harbour, paving the way for the future park (14 hectares) that will open here in 2014.
 

 


There are not many tourists, just Hong Kong locals – teenagers, children, adults and the elderly – playing around, wandering and observing the sculptures, and reflecting on the role played by culture and public spaces.

Cao Fei, House of Treasure, 2013. Courtesy M+, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority

"It is not only fun and joy, Disneyland is close enough for that," explains "Inflation!" curator Tobias Berger, speaking about art’s role and potential in public spaces. "Art has a job to do, and its purpose is to make people think; contemplation is the challenge. Certainly, the inflatable sculpture reproducing Stonehenge – Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege – is good fun and everyone loves it, but it is also speaking of a space that has become iconic. We, too, have accepted the challenge of building our own iconic place, one that speaks of spaces, of the artistic heritage and of the imitation culture – a strong presence in Hong Kong. Art is challenging, it asks questions, sometimes it causes problems, other times it is great fun. It is far more than just one thing."


Paul McCarthy, Complex Pile, 2013. Courtesy M+, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority

The reflection on public space belonging to the community is dear to the hearts of the inhabitants of this former British colony, which not only has one of the world’s highest population densities, but has also witnessed a dramatic rise in the price of homes. Hong Kong requires shared urban development, one with spaces where spectators and their environment are somehow complementary, where the local population can participate and communicate, bringing their area to life. The city needs "Art Commons", to borrow a term from Economics Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom, those common assets that are shared tangible and intangible resources, enjoyed by the whole community and recognised by society.

Jiakun Architects / Liu Jiakun, With the Wind, 2013. Courtesy M+, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority

The West Kowloon Cultural District is one example of this clawing back of public spaces, in a dialogue that is no longer top down but quite the reverse. It will be one of the largest cultural districts ever designed in the world. Interaction, development and collaboration will produce exhibitions, performances and cultural events in a district with 17 art centres and more than thirty thousand square metres of space devoted to art education. Verdant and with a two-kilometre promenade facing the port, the Xiqu Centre (in Chinese, Xiqu stands for traditional Chinese theatre), an opera house, a contemporary performance centre, a music centre with concert hall and recital hall, art pavilions and the M+.

Tam Wai Ping, Falling into the Mundane World, 2003. Courtesy M+, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority

The M+ is a new museum of the visual culture that, in 2017, will house 20th and 21st century art, design and architecture from Hong Kong, China, Asia and beyond, organising and engaging the public in itinerant exhibitions, discussions and events on the concept of art as a common good. Six international teams – Herzog & De Meuron and TFP Farrells; Kazuyo Seijima + Ryue Nishizawa /SANAA; Renzo Piano Building Workshop; Shigeru Ban Architects + Thomas Chow Architects; Snohetta; and Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects + Benoy Limited – have been chosen to produce designs for the sixty-two thousand square metres of the future M+. The winner will be announced this summer.

Choi Jeong Hwa, Emptiness is Form. Form is Emptiness, 2013. Courtesy M+, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority

Curator Tobias Berger points out how "this is a very difficult site as everything is still being built but people come here, be it hot, wet or cold. People go to the exhibitions and they attend the art fairs. People want art, they want to talk about it, discuss it and find out about the programmes. There is widespread curiosity. Moreover, the first thing that emerged from the public consultation was that people want creative and contemplative spaces; they don’t want a dense environment. These architects were selected because they have this approach. We want to be sure of total integration; there must be dialogue and a challenge between art and architecture." Francesca Esposito

Through 9 June 2013

Inflate!

Mobile M+

Hong Kong