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Six giant inflatable sculptures installed next to M+, Hong Kong's future museum for visual culture
A journalist (bottom R) walks past a sculpture by Chinese artist Cao Fei titled "House of Treasures" during a press preview of the Mobile M+: Inflation! exhibition in Hong Kong on April 24, 2013.. Mobile M+: Inflation! presented six giant inflatable sculptures installed next to M+, Hong Kong’s future museum for visual culture, and will open to the public from 25 April – 9 June. AFP PHOTO / LAURENT FIEVET.

HONG KONG.- Six giant inflatable sculptures were unveiled on the Promenade at West Kowloon.

Cao Fei (China), House of Treasures
Fascinated by places and moments in which people can bring their private imaginings to life and intersect with the public sphere, Cao has created House of Treasures (2013) — an outsize inflatable suckling pig that celebrates themes of prosperity and abundance. Part playful interactive attraction, part nod to Hong Kong’s food-obsessed culture, House of Treasures injects a space of leisure and pleasure into the West Kowloon site, while prompting visitors to ponder the meaning behind such enjoyment. Viewers accustomed to seeing this food item at a banquet table can now witness it transformed into a larger-than-life space of fantasy and adventure. As in many of Cao’s works, such transfiguration offers a way for audiences to retreat, momentarily, to a space of total imagination.

Choi Jeong Hwa (South Korea), Emptiness is Form. Form is Emptiness
Choi’s recurring use of the lotus flower elicits multiple, overlapping readings. It may simultaneously speak to the flower’s rich spiritual connotations to Buddhist iconography and the quick disappearance of such beliefs in the face of rapid urban development. Blown up to larger-than-life proportions, rendered in synthetic colours and materials, and pulsating in a slow rhythm, Choi’s lotus flowers downgrade this sanctified symbol from a religious icon to an ornament of lighthearted visual pleasure. Departing from his usual cheery hues, Emptiness is Form. Form is Emptiness. (2013) re-casts this iconic symbol of purity as something seemingly dark, or solemn. By placing the work on the future site of the park of West Kowloon Cultural District — a plot of land which cannot be said to be either wholly natural or man-made — Choi also points to hazy relationships between nature and artifice, urban and non-urban space, and to the presence, or absence, of nature within Hong Kong’s increasingly urban, often consumer-frenzied environment.

Jeremy Deller (UK), Sacrilege
Sacrilege (2012) — a life-size bouncy castle in the shape of Stonehenge — encapsulates Deller’s interest in the generative spirit of public participation. By recasting one of the world’s most famous existing prehistoric monuments (closed to the public since 1977) as an interactive public sculpture, he allows audiences to reacquaint themselves with history in a high-spirited and entertaining manner. By titling it Sacrilege, Deller cleverly counteracts the work’s amusement-park qualities by alluding to the monument’s sacred origins head-on. Among the most well-recognised and oft-reproduced icons of the modern era, Stonehenge’s characteristic forms have been copied and replicated in a variety of materials, scales and styles across the globe from Europe to China. It is therefore fitting that this “monument of the world” should find a temporary home in Hong Kong — a “world city” with a complicated colonial past — and upon the endlessly evolving site of West Kowloon.

Jiakun Architects (China), With the Wind
Another of Liu’s public artworks is With the Wind, a project first created in 2002 on the occasion of a private gathering in Chengdu, and later reprised for the 2009 Shenzhen Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale for Architecture and Urbanism. In this work, the powerful vocabulary of modern forms employed in Liu’s built structures is replaced by a more fleeting and lighthearted approach. In Chengdu, the work featured a mesh canopy suspended by floating Chinese lantern-shaped balloons, with bamboo fans dangling from the edges of the screen for visitors to use while reclining in the shade. The version of With the Wind created for “Mobile M+: Inflation!” adheres closer to its Shenzhen counterpart — several round floating spheres hovering above an open-air space holding up a swath of black netting to create a shaded area for relaxation and respite from the outdoor elements. Repurposing readily found, inexpensive materials, and simultaneously inhabiting diaphanous and robust qualities, With the Wind merges Liu’s bucolic sensibility with the urban landscape of West Kowloon.

Paul McCarthy (USA), Complex Pile
Complex Pile is a 51-foot-high, 110-foot-long, inflatable sculpture of a twisted pile of excrement. Embodying his rare ability to leverage bad taste to infiltrate the well-mannered confines of the art world, Complex Pile mocks its picturesque surroundings and pokes fun at the prudent qualities of public sculpture. Following a long line of other large-scale inflatable sculptures by the artist — among them, Daddies Tomato Ketchup (2007) p. 96 and Santa Butt Plug (2007) — Complex Pile also uses its massive size to disrupt perceptions of space, instilling a sense of uncertainty in the viewer and destabilising the pastoral setting of a public park. Despite its airy weightlessness, McCarthy’s work provokes a hefty scrutiny of fundamental beliefs, in particular assumptions of beauty and attractiveness in art.

Tomás Saraceno (Argentina), Poetic Cosmos of the Breath
Inspired by the work of Dominic Michaelis, an English architect and inventor who pioneered the technology for a solar-powered hot air balloon, Poetic Cosmos of the Breath is a time-based experimental solar dome that takes flight only under certain climatic conditions. It uses deceptively simple materials — a paper-thin foil membrane accompanied by a few sandbags and a handful of participants — to produce a startlingly ethereal, shimmering effect. Staged at dawn, as temperature conditions naturally shift, air inside the balloon is heated by a greenhouse effect and the lightweight material slowly lifts off the ground unaided by machines or electrical power. At the same time, sunlight cast through the material creates a vibrant rainbow-tinged iridescent glow. Conceived for “Mobile M+: Inflation!” as a temporary event occurring periodically during the show rather than as fixed structure, Poetic Cosmos of the Breath highlights not only the impermanence of public sculpture. It poses new possibilities for imagining humanity’s relationship with the natural world.

Tam Wai Ping (Hong Kong), Falling into the Mundane World
Falling into the Mundane World (2013), a new commission for “Mobile M+: Inflation!”, reflects Tam’s ongoing interest in working in the public realm and exploring myriad responses to specific sites and contexts. The oversized female legs and cockroach sculptures point to ubiquitous aspects of life in Hong Kong as well as underlying ills that plague contemporary society at large. Despite the gargantuan proportions and upturned positioning of the work, Tam does not intend to provoke feelings of desire and violence, but rather to critique our conditioned responses to these stimuli over time, and address increasing levels of desensitisation towards our everyday surroundings. Purposely containing an element of spectacle, Falling into the Mundane World is also an acknowledgement of how artworks today are made to function as mild forms of cultural entertainment.

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