Street art meets human sculptures

Education | Bonnie Chen 20 May 2019

Tired of the route you take to the office every day? Two artists used their own means to stimulate us to take another view at urban space, which we have overlooked in our hectic lives.

French artist L'Atlas and Austrian choreographer Willi Dorner have taken the cityscape as their canvas and stage where they left "signatures." However, don't expect them to choose well-known landmarks but less noticeable places.

The two artists were earlier brought together by Swire Properties. Their photographs of 17 cities were placed side by side in the exhibition "Urban Playgrounds" at ArtisTree in Taikoo Place.

L'Atlas, who started as a graffiti writer, has explored different calligraphic traditions for more than two decades. He is known for his squared autograph, reminding one of the traditional Chinese stamp and Kufic calligraphy used in Arabic script. At the same time, it also looks like a labyrinth. The signature also reminds one of Albrecht Durer, the German Renaissance artist signing his works with monogram "AD", that showed his awareness of branding even in those days.

His autograph/work can be at anywhere, be it a newspaper stand, a dilapidated building, or a man sitting next to a dog in a park.

Known for having his colorfully dressed performers squeeze into any building corner, Dorner has been invited to various arts festivals. His works are highly regarded across art, design, fashion, and architecture.

The photographs of both artists' works were showcased on a dark color, maze-like structure. It was where the colorfully-dressed performers put themselves through. They together formed a nice piece of sculpture.

Among the 17 cities was Hong Kong, for instance, L'Atlas left his signature at some old street shops.

"I want to confront the canvas-object with reality and the world. I don't protect these paintings, they deteriorate... but this is also what makes them more and more beautiful. Like a human being who ages slowly. It is a way of viewing the painting as a living thing. These canvases are loaded with all the energies of the cities they have been through," says L'Atlas.

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On the other hand, Dorner squeezed young dancers with different postures in even inconspicuous spaces be they a corner under an escalator, small space against a glass window facade, or even an open area in Taikoo Place.

Viewers followed the performers, dressed in colorful hoodies, running around to see the performance and to explore the spaces together.

As such, Dorner has turned places and people from invisible to visible. A relationship between the people and the space was established.

The Vienna-based artist believed the constraints from the shapes and contours of a city's architecture were where the dancers performed.

Instead of overwhelming viewers with beautiful movements and postures, the live human sculptures they formed together and their skills caught the eyes. The performance defied gravity and stamina.

They sometimes stacked up together with a female dancer as the base but the dancers explained that it was even more difficult for the one who was on top with a certain static posture. Dorner also believed that stacking performers reflected Hong Kong's living condition.

Among the various positions, the dancers said one of the most difficult was suspending themselves on the maze-like structure in ArtisTree.

Some have received contemporary and Chinese dance training before. The dancers including Mao Wei, Lo King-san, Li Tuokun, and Terry Tsang King-fai said they were eager to take part in the performance, which is well-known in Europe. It is different from conventional dance performances that take place on stage and they learned the use of space.

Through meditation and stretching exercises, they delivered the static positions and held them for longer each time they performed. It was about endurance and some of them jokingly said they were thinking about when they could complete the task and come down.

The performers and Swire Properties, the exhibition's sponsor and property manager of Taikoo Place, decided the route together.

Beyond Hong Kong, both artists have left traces at government offices such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Copenhagen and the Bibliotheque Mitterrand in Paris. Instead of challenging the authorities, the aesthetic value was the key consideration, yet there were still limitations.

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