Brilliant City

David Zwirner gallery explores the "archetypal dystopian metropolis" of Hong Kong


From July 6, 2018 until August 4, 2018
Brilliant City, taking place at David Zwirner's Hong Kong location, is a group exhibition featuring work by Francis Alÿs, Chen Wei, Stan Douglas, Li Qing, Michael Lin, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Ming Wong.
The exhibition borrows its title from the lyrics of the 1987 Cantopop classic song “Starry Night,” in which the Hong Kong–based electro duo Tat Ming Pair illustrate the perplexing brilliance of the city’s landscape at night, and the feeling of loss and doubt that it harbours amongst its youth.
Drawing inspiration from Hong Kong, an archetypal dystopian metropolis characterised by its unparalleled density and lofty high rises, this exhibition explores how artists across generations and locations have engaged with the complexity of urban space.
Pieces on show include window paintings from artist Li Qing’s (b. 1981, Huzhou, China) Neighbour’s Window series. Each piece combines timeworn household window frames sourced from demolished neighbourhoods with painted imagery informed by the artist’s research on the rapid succession of gentrification in the post-colonial era of major cities including Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Michael Lin (b. 1964) spent the last ten years in Shanghai investigating the city’s new forms of commerce and urban mobility that have arisen due to new technological devices and programs. Forever Shanghai (2018), a wall painting commissioned specifically for the show, appropriates the Forever (Yongjiu) bicycle logo whose letters—rendered in a midcentury Shanghai typeface—are repeated in a grid across one of the gallery’s walls.
In his 2017 Blackout series, Stan Douglas (b. 1960), born and based in Vancouver, has scripted and staged scenes from a hypothetical present-day emergency scenario of the total loss of power in New York City. Set in contemporary times, and Douglas’s second work to be shot in New York, these imagined vignettes are meticulously planned, seamlessly interweaving fact and fiction in their evocation of past events that affected the city, such as the 1977 blackout or, more recently, Hurricane Sandy.
Crafted in a similar filmic fashion, Beijing-based artist Chen Wei’s (b. 1980, Wenzhou, China) photographs contain dramatically lit scenes that the artist constructs in miniature in his studio. Reimagined from aspects of his life in Beijing and evoking cyberpunk literature, Chen’s images depict urban absurdities, including vacated interiors and streetscapes devoid of people. The resulting photographs are uncanny and surreal portraits of urban life that point to Beijing’s complex relationship to its rapid urbanization.
The black-and-white short film Next Year/L’Année Prochaine/明年 (2016) by Berlin-based Singaporean artist Ming Wong (b. 1971) reinterprets Alain Resnais’s 1961 film, Last Year at Marienbad.
The exhibition also features Zócalo, May 22, 1999 (1999) by the Belgian-born, Mexico City–based artist Francis Alÿs (b. 1959, Antwerp). Set on the eastern side of the Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo) in Mexico City, the film begins at dawn with the flag-raising ceremony and ends at dusk with the flag’s descent.
Also on view is American artist Gordon Matta-Clark’s (1943–1978) Conical Intersect (1975), an anti-monument, or “nonument,” created for the Paris Biennale in 1975. This film documents the artist’s ambitious action of cutting through two adjacent seventeenth-century properties awaiting demolition next to the site for the Centre Georges Pompidou, a new cultural center that was then under construction.
Brilliant City is on show until 4 August 2018.