Para Site is pleased to present Eros, an inquiry into the circulation of knowledge and the currency of such circulation as seen through historical and contemporary examples, including Chinese ceramics, collaborative practices between artists of Bombay and Hong Kong, and pirate archives such as wikileaks/Julian Assange, Megaupload with Kim Dotcom, and Anonymous with Christopher Doyon.
Initiated by Sumesh Sharma from Clark House Initiative, Bombay during his participation in Para Site’s International Art Residency Programme, Eros started as a negotiation between Sumesh, Para Site, and painters from Dafen village, Shenzhen, to reproduce a painting of the same name by legendary Indian artist Bhupen Khakar (1934–2003). Bhupen's piece was a beautiful, large work using a vocabulary that has strong depictions of homo-eroticism layered harmoniously with traditional imagery. Its title can be interpreted as mocking the sycophancy of the Indian right wing that is seen to suppress the sexual rights of people in India. But its reproduction will ensure further imitation, and the use of Bhupen’s lines for similar compositions by the guild of Dafen, might eventually end up in motel rooms hosting Indian emigres in the United States, perhaps softening their political resolve. Reputedly the artist’s favorite work, the original painting was lost.
This present day endeavor is based on discussions of the shared histories between Hong Kong and Bombay, through historical precedents such as the maritime Silk Route, which enabled the circulation of commodities such as silk, opium, porcelain and tea, to the present day flow of pirated DVDs, diamonds and rip-off second-tier electronic equipment. While this is perhaps running afoul of many contemporary copyright laws, the circulation of goods and knowledge can be seen as inevitable and necessary to furthering the development of these material commodities, and also to the building up of pirate archives. These have enriched areas of contested truths and struggles in the present day. Some of the materials used for the exhibition were collected by Sumesh Sharma from waste pits in Sheung Wan and Central, where shop displays and restaurant interiors were discarded in an ever changing consumer based visual culture, well representing the supposed economic freedom of Hong Kong.
Eros borrows further from historical precedents by intervening within the permanent ceramic display in the Fung Ping Shan Building at the University of Hong Kong Museum. Donated by the eponymous Fung (1860–1931), who was a noted businessman, educator, philanthropist, and a co-founder of Bank of East Asia, the building formerly served as a library and is now host to a chronological display of ceramics ranging from the Han to Qing dynasties, and a small set of export wares that purportedly belonged to the Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton (1912–1979).
Within the space, works of the participating artists interrupt and converse with museological pedagogy. Like in the case of Chinese ceramic export wares, where the order for subjects such as the Judgement of Paris was conveyed by hearsay to their manufacturer, some of the participating artists were presented with the challenge of working together from a distance.
Eros is co-curated by Sumesh Sharma, Clark House Initiative and Qinyi Lim, Para Site.
Exhibition and venue is kindly supported by University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong.
Clark House Initiative, established in 2010 by Zasha Colah and Sumesh Sharma, is a curatorial collaborative focused on ideas of freedom and equality. Through re-examining history and studying its representation and visibility, insights are gleaned into the possibilities of alternative economies and freedom. Clark House Initiative intends to actively recall political and artistic figures into contemporaneity, and to question the recent rise of fascism in India based on exaggerated rumors of economic prosperity and nationalist pride.
Para Site is Hong Kong's leading contemporary art centre and one of the oldest and most active independent art institutions in Asia. It produces exhibitions, publications, and discursive projects aimed at forging a critical understanding of local and international phenomena in art and society.
Para Site fully supports the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong.
Para Site is financially supported by the Springboard Grant under the Arts Capacity Development Funding Scheme of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The content of this program does not reflect the views of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.