In direct response to Tomato Grey’s New York exhibitions in 2010 and 2012, scholar Alexandra Chang of New York University published an essay entitled “Approaching the Infinite Narrative: Asian Art Now & The Tomato Grey Collective” in 2014. In this article, Chang discusses cultural narratives and their unfolding in the “Now” vis-à-vis the complex trans-national tendencies of a “Hong Kong identity:”
“How does one approach a narrative that veers towards infinite possible simultaneous trajectories in a real-world setting? This is the ultimate difficulty in thinking through a longue dure´e Asian contemporary art history within a global and transcultural framework while taking into account transnational artists’ mobility and the international flows of their artistic production […] When using the term ‘Now’, I am not indicating the contemporary as a moment of vanguardism, but as the visualization of artistic production within a specific contextualization relative to a given narrative of the near-infinite possibilities of the ‘Now’ of art history.”
Alexandra Chang, the Third Text Vol. 28
Numerous animated – even heated – discussions among the group’s artists followed Chang’s publication. We questioned exhibition making as a way to generate meanings. We questioned the legitimacy, operative logics, and boundaries of a so-called “collective voice.” We questioned our authenticity. Ultimately our questions rest with one fundamental issue: why do we cling to a (collective) Hong Kong voice? Why must we speak as one? Could one speak for/as many? If a united front is merely a “necessary evil” in the name of political resistance, then how do we permit, enable, and even nurture infinite narratives within a singular authentic voice? In Tomato Grey’s 2017 project, each Tomato Grey member – all of whom are self-identified Hong Kong artist but some of whom reside in New York – will each choose an artist partner (whom they got acquaintance in New York) from outside of her/his city of resident to perform actions of identity re-enactment. Individual artist’s contributions are unified by two common understandings, namely that:
(a) The result shall constitute a “collective action,” and (b) Hong Kong artists are to respond to Alexandra Chang’s closing remarks in her 2014 essay, which stated that: “…There is no final conclusion [when it comes to a Hong Kong identity]… only the hope of gaining a grasp on what is yet to be done or strived for, even if that horizon will never quite be reached.”
While the self-proclaimed Hong Kong artists from the Tomato Grey collective will produce works that explicitly reference Hong Kong, the partnering non-Hong Kong artist will be asked to “copy” and “respond to” the perceived identity as projected in the work, in acts of deliberate and creative misreading. The “now-ness” is brought into sharp focus through a chain of representation, re-presentation, and re-appropriation.
This collaboration will eventually take the form of an artist book, to be published in 2018. This exhibition at Gallery 456 will feature individual pages as works-on-paper from the 6 artistic duos. Participating TG members and their collaborations include Samson Young and Seth Cluett, Bing Lee and Ik Joong Kang, Kwong Pui See and Erika Kobayashi, Kaho Albert Yu and Yoko Naito, Annysa Ng and Patrick Fabian Panetta, Wong Kit Yi and Emily Cruz Nowell.
• Panel Discussion: December 16th, 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speakers: Alexandra Chang, Curator of Special Projects and Director of Global Arts Programs at A/P/A Institute at NYU and Tomato Grey Collective Artists, moderated by Ingrid Pui Yee Chu, Curator and Writer / Co-Director & Curator, Forever & Today, Inc.
Infinite Narratives is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement / Creative Learning, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. LMCC.net “Hong Kong Arts Development Council fully supports freedom of artistic expression. The views and opinions expressed in this project do not represent the stand of the Council.”
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