HONG KONG.- Hong Kong-based artist Simon Birch has created Hope and Glory, one of the most ambitious multi-media art projects ever undertaken in Hong Kong.
The unprecedented scale of the show, filling the 20,000sq ft ArtisTree exhibition space in TaiKoo Place, Island East through May 30th, challenges established paradigms in art presentation and construction while bringing the audience on a fascinating and immersive adventure through a metaphorical world - a conceptual circus - created by the artist.
A series of interlinked multi-media installations transform the vast space into a mythological labyrinth, where cultural and personal histories merge, and generating questions of ones own relationship with the past, the present and the future.
Just as the archetypal circus brought together spectacular sideshows from all over the world to create a multi-sensory allegory of foreign adventure, Birch has brought together artists, designers, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, actors, gaming wizards, and architects, from Hong Kong and abroad.
Each has contributed their own particular vision to Hope and Glorys conceptual world of spectacle and wonder. Among Birchs collaborators are artist Stanley Wong, photographer Wing Shya, British rock band UNKLE, filmmaker Eric Hu, designer Douglas Young, architect Paul Kember, actor Daniel Wu, and Beijing-based artist Cang Xin.
Birchs monumental show explores a number of major themes that recur in the artists work: the idea of art as a spectacle; the fascination with circuses and fairgrounds, science fiction and mythologies; as well as a preoccupation with the traditions of craftsmanship and labour in art production.
Hope and Glory is deeply informed by the structure of the hero myth that appears in different guises throughout history and across cultures, ranging from the Odyssey of ancient Greece to modern science fiction films like Star Wars and Blade Runner. The narrative that unfolds is a retelling - through film, sculpture, music, video, painting, gaming, and live performance - of archetypal themes, such as the duality of human existence, the relationship between suffering and redemption, the journey from darkness into light, and the leap from adversity into transcendence. By entering into its all-immersive environment, the audience becomes part of this unfolding experience.
The title of the project, Hope and Glory, is an appropriation of the title of a British patriotic song from the close of the Victorian era, Land of Hope and Glory, an anthem that hopes for a mightier and more powerful empire. The use of the title is both ironic and meaningful, referring to the hope and glory that is relative to individual human experience, as well as to the negatives which burden imperial dreams.
One of Birchs intentions in conceiving this monumental installation is the creation of an all-enveloping artistic space that echoes the function of the circus in traditional culture: offering within the frenetic urban environment a temporary place of other-worldly respite and the experience of a communal sense of wonder.
The challenges of realizing a visual arts exhibition of this scale and complexity in Hong Kong have been enormous, but facing them has generated the creation of new mechanisms for building bridges between private and public institutions, and for bringing artists, entrepreneurs, academics and government together.