Youthful identity

Art & Culture | Cara Chen 6 Aug 2021

To differentiate themselves, galleries in Hong Kong often focus on specific movements or styles. At Mine Project gallery in Wan Chai, the keyword is youth.

"Contemporary art has allowed for the emergence of more mediums, and the artistic language has become diverse," said Emerald Mou. Often, as media and artistic language change, genre and style gradually become secondary to the subject matter, she said.

"We don't want to limit ourselves to a certain genre or movement. Rather, we want to promote young artists and showcase the young generation's thoughts and reactions to society," said the cofounder and director of the two-year-old gallery.

Even so, one can still observe the consistency in the themes of the gallery's past exhibitions. For example, Tahnee Lonsdale's paintings at Now You See Me capture an individual's delicate emotions precisely and reveal a strong sense of sadness. While her works seem personal and intimate, her ultimate aim is to inspire the audience with self-healing.

In She/Position, Petra Collins and Ma Hailun build dialogue and interaction with their works to explore the relationship between fashion and art in different cultural and educational backgrounds.

The perception and construction of identity appears to be a common theme for the artists represented by this gallery.

When you bear this in mind, the gallery's first video show featuring Lau Wai, which seems different from the rest at first, makes more sense.

The show, named ----------////---, is a continuation of Lau's 2019 two-channel video piece, I'm Invincible...On the Screen/False Motion Tracking, which explores Hollywood's treatment of Asians on screen.

In one video, she collected a series of still images of Asians in Hollywood films from the mid-20th century and turned them into deepfakes with new lines and performances.

In another, Lau wears a fake motion capture suit to give a doctored Hollywood "Asian" performance in front of a green screen. As motion capture technology later fits a "skin" to create a new character, Lau shows how the portrayal of Asian characters by white or Asian actors is also a kind of "skin" wearing and challenged the formation of racial and ethnic stereotypes in mass media.

For the exhibition, the gallery space houses a three-part-installation consisting of single and multichannel videos, photographic prints and setups in which Lau uses data to form three-dimensional virtual representations of the self.

T318k V399k 0.1 and T318k V399k 0.2 are enlarged computer-generated digital representations of the artist dressed in a fake motion capture suit, performing a character named The Pre-CGI body (CGI being Computer-Generated Imagery).

The gallery's wall is pasted with large-scale prints that are filled with digital pixels generated from 360-degree scans of Lau's body in different postures to present a distorted virtual space.

Lau brings the body to reality in the three-channel video installation Feed 3.0. In the video, the body is a character which cannot tell the difference between the real and the virtual world. It has memory disorders as well as difficulty establishing its identity.

As it paces an apartment, staring into space, playing with its phone on the train and avoiding looks, it drifts back and forth in its memories, confused as to whether the images in its mind are input or its own.

The narrative continues in the LED lightbox series called Moment, which features photos extracted from Lau's iCloud album from 2019 to 2021. In an echo of the figure in Feed 3.0, the images, regularly compiled and arranged into different "memory slides" by digital albums or social media, also further inputs the character's memories.

Lau focused on photography in her early career and her Here & Album series, which tracks the lives of three generations of her family who moved to Hong Kong from the mainland, was picked up by M+ Museum.

This echoes Mou's statement that the exploration and reaction to society are not limited to the medium. "Technology and the digital world have become an inseparable part of human life," Mou said. "The exhibition invites guests to consider how we can survive in a digitized future and how we can locate our past in the future to construct our identity."

Reopening on August 10 after a short summer break, the exhibition will run until August 14.

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