Anonymous Society for Magick/ 煉法社
Ivy Leung in Hong Kong
‘Anonymous Society’, a special name, feels mysterious. ‘Magick’ refers to magic. Magic is the reflection of the individual’s spirit and a psychological activity that transcends the real world. Aleister Crowley was an occultist and ceremonial magician in the early 19th-century. He believed that ‘Magick’ is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will, so magic can change the material world by an individual will without any physical movement. The belief attaches great importance to the individual’s ‘true will’.
The curator Ying Kwok borrowed Crowley’s concept of ‘Magick’ and focused on the idea that ‘Magick’ “is the Science of understanding oneself and one’s conditions.” Exhibits created by five artists are on display and compare how they interpreted their ‘understanding’ of this concept in their creations.
Hao Jingban’s newest video, Opus One (2020), which won the Han Nefkens Foundation – ARCOmadrid video art award (2019), was first exhibited at the Matadero Madrid earlier this year. Hao used video and follow-up interviews to show how a young Chinese couple, who love Swing, obsessively pursued this jazz dance which was popular with Afro-Americans from the 1930s to the 1950s in Harlem, New York. In the dance clips every single detail of the dance is studied, along with the characters, scenes and related chronological cultural background. The couple practiced strenuously and even took a field trip to Harlem to experience the place where jazz began. They finally achieved a top performance, but also realized that the insurmountable distance between different races and cultures is not easy to breach.
Lam Tung Pang was born and raised in Hong Kong. Living in a crowded and noisy city, many people long for a quiet and leisurely life. Lam is no exception. His large-scale kinetic video installation The Great Escape (2020) was specially commissioned for this exhibition. After referencing from an essay in Shuji Terayama’s Fantasy Library, the author was mesmerized by the street magician, Harry Houdini, whose skilful daring escape acts threatened our belief and concept of reality. Lam recalled the feeling of “escape” in his childhood, like sitting in the cinema anxiously trying to flee from the moving images. He created a carousel lantern to display moving illusions that show his urge to flee into his ruminating images. At the same time, he projects his own desire to escape from the social turmoil and viral feverishness of his birthplace.
In Wang Tuo’s latest work, Symptomatic Silence of Complicit Forgetting (2020), he used video to show the complex relationship between the present and the historical past, natural and supernatural beings, and states of existence. In the video, time and space interweave non-linearly. During the Cultural Revolution, unhealable events happened. The un-relievable pressure created by the events are still experienced to date. Wang’s video suggested an illusionary alternative reality for relieving this pressure. The moving image is like a magic show, providing a psychological escape for the audience. When researching and producing the video, Wang drew a series of sketches based on the pertinent themes. These drawings are sourced from archival images and classical mythological illustrations from the Cultural Revolution era.
Trevor Yeung is an artist who often uses living plants as a medium. Mr. Butterflies at a waiting corridor is an immersive site-specific kinetic installation, in which butterfly palms slowly rotate and iridescent shadows are cast onto the wall by LED light in selected colors. The space is like the entrance hall to a concert, the audience has to accommodate the proximity of others and navigate the corridor accordingly. They should always be on the lookout, waiting for someone who might not appear. In these anthropomorphic plants Yeung sees his personal anxiety in a place where he needs to see and to be seen. Another work, Night Mushroom Colon (2020) expresses that even though humans have transformed the ecology with their hegemony; other species could always find a way to survive. The stealthy bioluminescence is a metaphor for a secretive realm. These mushrooms can thrive in this unexpected setting, they reproduce through polyamorous converters and tempting colors.Their fertility and resilience provide a viable alternative for many species and show how to survive in our insecure generation.
Historically, magic has been conceived as an invisible power that can change the visible reality. This exhibition shows the intricate relationship between past and present, individual obsession and national culture, real world and otherworldly realm. Is there magic in the world where reality is visible? I can’t answer this question, but what I can say for sure is that the artists have showcased their dreams and desires, revealing the immanent truth within our surroundings. Maybe all these works of art could inspire the audience to think about their own dreams and desires with their invisible, mysterious power, like magic.
Hong Kong Blindspot Gallery, through to 30th May 2020, Featured Artists: Chen Wei, Hao Jingban, Lam Tung Pang, Wang Tuo, Trevor Yeung.
Volume 34 no 5 May / June 2020
魔法。魔法是個人的精神體現，是一種超越現實世界的心理活動。十九世紀初神秘主義者及儀式魔法師阿勞斯特.克萊利 (Aleister Crowley) 認為：「魔法是遵照意志而引起變化的科學和藝術。」意思是：魔法是個人憑藉自己的意志改動外在的物質世界，過程中身體無需活動。信念中很重視個體自己的「真實意志」(True will)。
展覽策展人郭英 (Ying Kwok) 借用了克萊利的「魔法」概念，以「了解自己和自身狀態的科學」(Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one’s conditions.) 為主旨，集合五位藝術家展出創作，並從中比較藝術家們如何演繹他們
陳維 (Chen Wei) 近年專注探討城市面貌變遷以及人在當下的狀況。透過精心擺設的場景，以攝影及混合媒體裝置將情景再現於觀眾眼前。陳擅長運用光和空間的關係，他認為「光」像一種語氣，可以軟，也可以硬；就如攝影時可以把光處理得很尖鋭，也可以很柔軟。作品霓虹燈裝置《浮沉（香港）》(Drifting Along (Hong Kong)) (2020)，主要闡釋中國與香港的社會現況。另一佳作《簾布（漂浮的新樓 / 香港）》(Curtain (Floating New Buildings / Hong Kong))，是今次展覽的委託創作，簾布掛在窗前，奇幻的色彩印在簾布上，在窗前向外望，室外透入的光影照在幻色上，宛如窗外新建築物的投影，營造出美麗的虛幻感。
郝敬班 (Hao Jingban) 的最新錄像作品《Opus One》(2020) ，年初曾在馬德里屠宰場藝術中心首次展出，此作品於2019年獲頒 Han Nefkens Foundation — ARCOMadrid 錄像製作獎。郝透過錄像及追訪的敘述手法，展現一對熱愛搖擺舞(Swing)的年輕中國情侶，如何狂熱地追求這種流行於1930至50年代紐約哈林區的爵士舞。這對男女在蒐集得來的舞蹈短片中，由觀察每一個舞蹈動作細節，到研究當中的人物、場景和相關的年代背景，甚至親身前往哈林區去體驗。他們最後演出了一場成功的搖擺舞蹈，但這種屬於非裔美國人的文化，卻有著二人難以逾越的種族隔閡。
林東鵬 (Lam Tung Pang) 是香港土生土長的藝術家。在人煙稠密的煩囂城市裏生活，不少人會渴望轉過寧靜閒適的日子，林也不例外。他展出的大型動態影像裝置《大逃亡》(The Great Escape) (2020) 是這次展覽的特別委託作品。寺山修司在《幻想圖書館》一書中描寫自己被街頭魔術師哈利.胡迪尼 (Harry Houdini) 的大膽逃脫術表演所迷惑，因而威脅到自己的信念和對現實的概念。林受到這內容啟導，回憶起自己小時候在電影院裏坐立不安，好想逃離的感覺，於是製作了這個流動的走馬燈投影，訴說他想逃往讓人沉思的圖像的衝動，並從中投射自己的願望——逃離這個充滿社會動蘯和病毒性狂熱的出生地。
王拓 (Wang Tuo) 的最新作品《共謀失憶症》(Symptomatic Silence of Complicit Forgetting) (2020)，以錄像及繪畫記錄了現在與歷史過去、人類與超自然生物之間的複雜關係。在錄像影片中，時間與空間以非線性的方式交替敘述，揭示文革期間一系列無法治癒的事件，這些事件所造成的不能紓緩的壓力至今仍然存在。王的流動影像創造了一個虛幻如夢的另類現實，讓人紓解壓力。對於相信有另類現實存在的人們來說，王這作品就像魔術表演一樣，為觀眾提供了一個心理上的逃離出路。在為拍攝而做的研究及資料蒐集過程中，王畫了一系列相關素描，當中的圖像以古代傳奇、近代歷史和當下時空為基本，糅合了古代神話繪本、歷史圖像及文革時期的連環畫等風格作繪製。
楊沛鏗 (Trevor Yeung)，一位經常以有生命的植物作為創作媒介的藝術家。展出的動感裝置《在等待長廊的蝴蝶先生》(Mr. Butterflies at a waiting corridor) 是這次展覽的委託作品。楊在這次展覽中，再次精心為散尾葵設計出特定的場域，特選的彩色LED 燈光投射到牆壁上，散尾葵在緩慢轉動，場景有如前往音樂會的入口大堂，觀眾在此聚集等待入場，期間不時張望，看能否遇上不會出席的朋友。楊在這場域裏感受到自己對於張望看別人及被別人看的焦慮，他邀請觀眾進入其作品中，親身經歷他為觀眾設計的心理導航。另一作品《晚菇群》(Night Mushroom Colon) (2020) 表達了儘管人類霸道地改造自然生態，各類物種總能找到生存方法。作品中隱秘的發光生物暗喻那是另一個超自然的領域，蘑菇能在這個意想不到的領域中茁壯成長，其繁殖力和適應力，成為了如何在不穩定的世代中存活的例子。
3 thoughts on “Anonymous Society for Magick/ 煉法社”
Thank you for your article which I really enjoyed reading; it was so interesting for me to read about the Hong Kong art scene in these very turbulent times. What else is happening there art-wise?
I wish we had a glimpse of the street murals, which really reflect what’s happening and how the artists interpret this. I know it’s a lot to ask, but if you could share with us some of these murals, it would be a great topic for an article, should this be possible for you.
Thank you for your suggestion. It’s really a good idea for introducing the street murals in Hong Kong on this international platform. I have marked on the list and I’ll put it into action when the community outbreak of pandemic COVID-19 in Hong Kong has been controlled. Thanks again. Stay healthy!
What a fascinating concept, magick combined with art! Any idea where this exhibit will go next? Faced with the coronavirus threats over these past 7 months has led many of us to desire to escape, to search for a secretive realm.