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Hit the reset button

By Chitralekha Basu | HK EDITION | Updated: 2024-05-13 11:10
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Isaac Chong Wai (third from left) performs in Falling Reversely, a combination of live performances and video installations. Chong's piece is part of Strangers Everywhere, the main exhibition of Venice Biennale of Art 2024. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Unsurprisingly, Hong Kong artists showing their works at the ongoing 60th Venice Biennale of Art seem to have embraced the themes of healing and rejuvenation. Now that the specter of the COVID-19 pandemic has receded in the background, participants at this prestigious large-scale international art exhibition can take an objective view of the world they find themselves in as well as ponder on the ways of dealing with the detritus left behind by those difficult years.

Man Fung-yi is presenting her work Microscopic Landscape at the Personal Structures - Beyond Boundaries exhibition, hosted by the European Cultural Centre in Italy. The piece comprises a looping video of 586 circles drawn by the artist; a 105-minute video showing the circles being burned, and the ashes from the burnt artworks framed and on display.

During the height of pandemic-related travel restrictions in Hong Kong, Man adapted a meditative Taoist ritual as part of her practice. For a whole year, she drew circles every day. "Drawing circles often signifies a process of self-realization, and the circle itself has symbolic meaning of completion and perfection," Man says.

Her next step was to incinerate the drawings and with them the "accumulation of memories and emotions" from the past year and "return to zero". "The idea was to let go of my past self and enter into a state of meditation during the cleansing of memory," Man says. For her, the burning ritual signifies a journey "from being to nothingness".

Daphne King, director of Alisan Fine Arts - the Hong Kong art gallery representing Man and also the sponsor of her participation in the Venice Biennale - says she found the video mesmerizing. "I was captivated not only by the flickering of the flames but also by the continuous burning of each drawing as they disappeared into ashes. The repetitive nature of the movement made watching the piece a meditative experience."

She recommends that the audience pay special attention to the piece's music - a requiem song borrowed from an indigenous tradition originating in the Ise district of Japan and played on a Japanese flute. The tune aids the piece's therapeutic effect, which ties in with its theme of starting afresh.

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