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Time-lapse of Liang Shuo’s ‘In the Peak’
Time-lapse of Liang Shuo’s ‘In the Peak’
1:00

Sigg Prize 2019 Exhibition is the newest exhibition in the M+ Pavilion, on view from 7 December 2019 to 13 April 2020. Here’s a round-up of what you need to know.

What is the Sigg Prize?

The Sigg Prize is a biennial award that recognises outstanding practices of artists born or working in the Greater China region. The prize is a platform to highlight and promote on a global scale the important artistic practices and discussions taking place here.

Hu Xiaoyuan: Is Seeing Believing?
Hu Xiaoyuan: Is Seeing Believing?
2:35
Video Transcript

(Original language: Mandarin)

HU XIAOYUAN: Everything is in the process of fading away, but due to the brevity of our life there are some things that we don't notice. I'm currently thinking a lot about the issue of authenticity. It's an important aspect of how I perceive and think about this world and existence.

As an artist or as an individual, it's a fundamental part of my existence. In this exhibition, I depicted a pomegranate through my usual method. I found a very plump pomegranate in great shape at the supermarket and then I brought it back to the studio and applied xiao, which I often use in my creations.

Xiao is a pure and natural raw silk woven in a traditional way. I used it to tightly wrap the pomegranate and sew it up so it fit closely to its surface. I'm using xiao and I find the material itself intensely… biological.

It is a type of purely animal-derived material. It is woven with the simplest plain weave method and it's very, very clean, meaning only silk is used. Probably because of the interconnectedness of different organisms I am able to perceive certain qualities in this fabric.

For example, I can feel the breath of life in the material. After wrapping it, and as I often do, I use ink to paint all of the visible details on the pomegranate. We all know that the fruit will dry out and shrink as time passes. As it gets drier and drier, the xiao layer covering the surface also changes over time. That's when it becomes interesting.

We all have the initial assumption that seeing is believing and that what we see is real. In this case, the initial layer I painted was what is believed to be the most authentic state of the pomegranate, but after a few months, it changed to this. So, which one of these two pomegranates is real?

For this inaugural edition, an international jury has nominated six artists to participate in the Sigg Prize 2019 exhibition before the winner is announced in March 2020.

Lin Yilin: Art, My Way
Lin Yilin: Art, My Way
3:07

Artist Lin Yilin discusses his performance piece Typhoon, in which he walks slowly on stilts through the colonial arcades of Guangzhou.

Video Transcript

(Original language: Cantonese)

LIN YILIN: When I create art, I always want to do something that no one else has done before or something that's challenging to me. The concept I envisioned [for my early works] wasn't about any city but about Guangzhou specifically.

I have spent so many years there. I've seen the city constantly changing and evolving since I was young. This kind of transformation has gone hand in hand with China's development.

That energy… you just naturally harness that energy [to create art].

One time around Chinese New Year, [I] visited my secondary school teacher with a group of secondary school friends. It was somewhere near Daxin Road. There are some arcade buildings there and the arcades were pretty run-down. Since it was around Chinese New Year, there weren't a lot of people. The migrants had all gone home.

That morning, when I saw the arcades, they felt a bit alien, but at the same time they evoked my nostalgia for my childhood or maybe it was a kind of homesickness. So I thought, ‘what can I do with these arcades?’

Later on, I was at the Havana Biennial in Cuba and I saw people walking on stilts. I thought that I could maybe include them in my work.

I actually don't really live within a Western context. Although I've spent a relatively long time in the West, my mindset doesn’t align with its culture. I live there, but I exist outside of Western society, so there's a sense of displacement.

It's a challenge that artists are faced with in a globalised world. We'll slowly get used to this globalised way of creating, which will likely belong to the artists themselves. The value for the audience will be best understood through experiencing a series of works by an artist instead of just a single work.

I like doing things that I’m not sure I can pull off whether it's because of my body or my ability. I'll always do everything possible to realise my ideas and I'll slowly figure out the right way forward over the course of that process.

This is my particular style of realising [my ideas].

There's a high chance people will find this method clumsy. But it is very likely one of my personal ways to create art.

The Sigg Prize was formerly the Chinese Contemporary Art Award (CCAA), founded by Uli Sigg in 1998 to recognise contemporary art in mainland China. It was the first award of its kind and a leading force in helping to frame the international conversation about Chinese contemporary art. The CCAA became the Sigg Prize, established by M+, in 2018.

Who are the nominated artists?

Six people stand in a row in a room in front of a white wall. To their left is a wall-mounted screen displaying the words ‘Sigg Prize 2019 presented by M+’ on a blue background.

The six nominated artists. From left to right: Samson Young, Tao Hui, Lin Yilin, Hu Xiaoyuan, Liang Shuo, Shen Xin. Courtesy of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority

Hu Xiaoyuan: In a subtle, sophisticated practice, Hu Xiaoyuan prompts viewers to re-examine the nature of materials and their metamorphosis over time to access the reality that exists behind their appearances. She works with xiao, a type of raw silk with a long history in Chinese culture, and has extended her approach further into installations in recent years.

Liang Shuo: Liang Shuo’s installations and sculptures demonstrate his skill in transforming space and articulating an experimental reading of Chinese tradition. He analyses visual elements in daily life and seamlessly toggles between different levels of cultural awareness.

Lin Yilin: In recent years, performance artist Lin Yilin has expanded the scope of his practice to encompass virtual reality technology. His acts of confrontation—restrained, eloquent, and often humorous—interrogate contemporary political and cultural systems.

Shen Xin: Shen Xin tackles urgent topics and sensitive questions relating to identity, gender, religion, and social ethics through fictional documentary. Their critical, nuanced works reveal the uncertainty of interpersonal relations and the complexity of political narratives within dominant power structures.

Tao Hui: Tao Hui works primarily in moving image. He addresses subjects of popular culture, mass media, and performative expressions of ordinary people as a means of exploring sensitive emotions and complex relationships in a rapidly urbanising China. He accentuates the narrative structures of his films by rigorously developing scripts and following them through production.

Samson Young: Samson Young draws from his formal training in music composition in his multidisciplinary art practice. His installations and sound works—which also have a strong visual component—dissect layers of cultural significance, proposing alternative ways to understand and communicate social, philosophical, and political questions in cross-cultural contexts.

How will the winner be decided?

Shen Xin: Navigating Belief Systems
Shen Xin: Navigating Belief Systems
3:27

Artist Shen Xin discusses their work Provocation of the Nightingale, a multi-channel video installation that investigates different belief systems.

Video Transcript

SHEN XIN: When I moved to London, and I was increasingly aware of the surface of my presence as in the surface of my otherness, then I started making sort of short documentaries that is very much complicit of my own position in London.

The first few was as a customer in a sushi store having this sort of intimate friendship with the manager or as the daughter of someone who paints Tibetan ethnic minorities with Chinese ink painting. As my life goes on in London, I changed my direction and I wanted to understand the power of fiction in terms of, an empowerment of otherness that comes with fabrication of positions, fabrication of identity.

I was researching into how religious systems are not immune to social political structures, especially the ones that are transplanted onto a different social context and Provocation of the Nightingale is a further fictional approach towards this body of research.

It's a multi-channel video installation that investigates different belief systems. So it's not just the religious practice, but it's put against scientific practice, commercialized practice of DNA testing. It's put against different religious practice, Muslim practice in China or Thai Buddhism.

This install is constructed of three different spaces, where the audience are invited to navigate throughout different durations and each space has its own durational requirement. It's very much a guided experience. And the audience are invited to navigate the space with the mindset where performativity is the guiding principle.

Usually I’ll write in English, and then it's translated into the language, whichever language that the actors speak. And I will tell them when they receive the translation, “please...make it as you wish, simplify it break it down, fragment it.” Like, I don't care because I need them to feel that it's natural.

And then I re-translate after they perform. I have the footage and then I hire a translator to translate whatever they have said onto the script. They added emotions to the breaks, the intervals of my script and I'm very thankful for that because it's about the autonomy that you give your actors, and they give back and they contribute to the context of your work.

For each edition of the prize, a jury comprising leading international art professionals selects six artists based on their past two years of work. The shortlisted artists are invited to participate in the Sigg Prize exhibition before the winner is determined. The artists choose which works they want to display in this exhibition. The jury then decides on a winner based on the selected works.

The Sigg Prize 2019 jury consists of: Maria Balshaw, director, Tate; Bernard Blistène, director, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou; Gong Yan, director, Power Station of Art; Lai Hsiangling, curator; Uli Sigg, prize namesake, collector, and M+ board member; Xu Bing, artist; and Suhanya Raffel, Museum Director, M+.

The winner is awarded HKD 500,000, and each of the other shortlisted artists receives HKD 100,000.

Are there any talks, tours, or other events accompanying the exhibition?

Samson Young: Unheard Sounds
Samson Young: Unheard Sounds
3:40

Artist Samson Young explains the origins of his Muted Sounds series, in which musicians are instructed to perform without any music.

Video Transcript

SAMSON YOUNG: Sound and music was my original training. So although these days I'm making videos and drawings and objects, music is still one of the lenses through which I process the world.

As a student, I played the double bass. As a double bassist, you don't really play a lot. You spend a lot of time mentally prepping yourself for the passage to come and the way you would do it is to sort of silently finger through the passage. And I remember thinking what it might sound like if the entire orchestra started doing that as a way to practice a piece.

The Muted Situation [series], the whole series started with a pretty simple prompt. I was asked to make a series of works for a library. There's some interesting energy in that paradox: in that a library, you think of it as a quiet place, but it's not a place without sound. Certainly if somebody like a librarian sort of walking around with a cart and pushing books around, those sounds are heard and not judged against.

I started sort of thinking about the different situations where you could actually very selectively choose to mute one layer of sound I basically sat down and wrote twenty of these situations.

When I needed to make another one for the Sydney Biennale, I knew that I wanted to make that one the last one. So I thought about this idea again and I know the orchestra is just going to work, like, sonically. You need something that is almost too ridiculously romantic with big sweeping orchestral gestures, like one layer of sound colliding over another the entire string section speaking against the wind section.

Tchaikovsky's 5th is used in movies a lot. It's used in advertising a lot. So even if people don't know the entire symphony, there would be themes and motifs that people will recognise from here and there. So then you will get this effect of almost ghosting of the melody in your head. If you have a remote control, and you can mute specifically one layer of sound and then have the other layers of sound remain. That's what Muted Situation is.

Underneath that pitch layer, there’s rhythm, there’s bodily movement. You know there are all these things that exist, but they're just not being heard. There's an aggressive energy behind that idea of muting something.

Programmes accompanying the exhibition include an M+ Live Art performance, an M+ Screenings programme, conversations with the artists, teachers’ private viewings, and a series of thematic and curator-led tours. Access services can be arranged in advance.

A selection of products inspired by the work of the six artists is offered at the M+ Shop, as an extension of the concepts presented in the exhibition.

Share your reflections!

Tao Hui: A Window on Popular Culture
Tao Hui: A Window on Popular Culture
3:16

Artist Tao Hui discusses how his upbringing in a small mountain village informed his work, his relationship with popular culture, and stories about ‘the end’.

Video Transcript

(Original language: Mandarin)

TAO HUI: My work is influenced by the experiences and environment of my upbringing. I was born in a small mountain village and my parents were rural teachers. While they were at school during the day, I was home alone watching TV. But that TV only had one channel, so a lot of programmes were re-runs. That experience was like opening a window, letting me see what was going on outside.

For me, pop culture is what people are most familiar with. I've always wanted my work to be closer to the public to allow people without an art background to relate to it. That’s why I choose pop culture as my mode of expression.

I designed these nine objects to resemble tombstones. Each of them has an embedded TV screen. In front of each TV is an armchair so that audiences can sit in front of the tombstones and watch the videos. I think the short films tie in quite well with the tombstone form because to me, they all deal with finality and memory.

When I was working in Japan, I was speaking with a lot of my friends there and found that among a lot of Japanese young people, there's a widespread belief that the future is unreliable, so they focus on the present.

This story is largely about a mother and her son, who likes studying history. He's a gifted writer, so he writes several books. He loses faith in the world, perhaps because his studies go too deep and he decides to kill himself. This scene is of the mother phoning the dad, explaining the death of their son.

The stories are really about death, dissolution, finality, and endings. An audience member might not watch all the videos. They might not watch all the screens one by one. After watching maybe three or four short films, I think that they can already appreciate the work in its entirety because they can make the connection between those stories. I think the story…the entire work would still be complete for them.

There will be a visitor response station at the end of the exhibition, where you will be able to share your answer to the question: ‘What did these works make you think about today?’ All of the answers will then be collected by our team, with some responses shared online. We hope that this will inspire discussion around the art and encourage visitors to creatively reflect on the time and place they live in, just like the artists do.

Liang Shuo: Forming Space
Liang Shuo: Forming Space
3:19

Artist Liang Shuo discusses his installation for the Sigg Prize 2019 Exhibition, using bamboo scaffolding to draw on Hong Kong’s urban environment.

Video Transcript

(Original language: Mandarin)

LIANG SHUO: When I create a site-specific work, I do not have a specific plan in mind. Instead, I look at the space first and observe its conditions. I then write a set of rules. Rules of a game that don’t need to be too explicit and that can be revealed layer by layer.

This is what I hope for my work. Not to have to be clear on every detail.

When I was standing in this space, the first thing I noticed was Central, Hong Kong’s downtown and behind it, the Peak. So the first thing I did on that day was to walk from the museum to the Peak. During my walk, I experienced the urban space and discovered how widely used bamboo scaffolding is in Hong Kong.

This type of construction really is everywhere. It’s a rather bold visual language. It has formed a relationship with Hong Kong's glossy, modern buildings. I think it is an excellent relationship of co-existence.

I’m approaching this work intuitively. One of my considerations is that I need to think about how to create a relationship between the installation and the human body. You are not only seeing the work, but you are also entering it, interacting and building relationships with it. Perhaps you need to step on it.

Since the work is enveloping the viewer, it has to have a very strong structure. It has to be very sturdy. This is one of my considerations when it comes to the choice of material. A material like bamboo, which obviously makes up the scaffolding, has always directly interacted with the human body.

[I was inspired by] the ‘Peach Blossom Spring’ story, because I’m interested in forms of space and their psychological implications. The Peach Blossom Spring comes from a fable written by Tao Yuanming, called ‘Peach Blossom Spring Story’. It embodies the idealised life of seclusion.

Whether such a place truly exists may not really matter. I would summarise the ‘Peach Blossom Spring’ type of space as one that has a very narrow entrance leading to a vast and open space. I hope I have created a disorienting space in which everything is separated. Sometimes, in an unexpected situation, the work might surprise you with something wide and open.

Then, when looking back at the path that you have just walked with a new perspective, you may no longer recognise it. This space does not allow you to see everything at once.

Enjoy the exhibition!

This article was originally published on M+ Stories.

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