Installation view of “Days Push Off Into Nights” at Spring Workshop, Hong Kong, 2015. Photo by Kitmin Lee. Courtesy Spring Workshop. 

Days push off into Nights

Hong Kong

Visitors to Spring Workshop’s latest exhibition “Days Push Off Into Nights” become voyagers to a space of otherworldly temporality. Tucked away in Hong Kong’s Wong Chuk Hang industrial district, the exhibition presents a “series of situations that compose a common space of stillness,” extracting inspiration from the stationary recesses of slowness often buried in urban, hurried lives. A diverse group of international artists, including Olga Chernysheva, Moyra Davey, Elmgreen & Dragset, Cevdet Erek, Lee Kit, Job Koelewijn, Jewyo Rhii and Magdalen Wong, collectively interrogate the intersection where writing, solitude, stillness and self-reflection collide.

The steady thrum of a rotating fan, courtesy of South Korean artist Jewyo Rhii’s puzzling installation Cooling System (2010–13), grounds the first section of the exhibition. Housed in the center of the space, the fan billows air onto a block of melting ice, which is resting on a haphazardly constructed wooden worktable. Viewers attune themselves to recollections of the blistering heat educed by summer days and the solitary reprieve that the steady thrum acts as a symbol for.  

JEWYO RHII, Cooling System, 2010–13, mixed-media installation, dimensions variable. Photo by Kitmin Lee. Courtesy Spring Workshop, Hong Kong. 

Emulating the source of such heat, Magdalen Wong’s installation of golden metallic tapes, which hang in a line across the top of a series of windows, offers a profound contemplation on notions of time and duration. Entitled Sunrise, Sunset (2011), the Hong Kong-born, New York-based artist challenges the conventional viewer-exhibition relationship, allowing the tapes to slowly unravel and unwind over the window panels, over the course of the show. As the tapes gradually conceal the outside world, they metaphorically reference the layer of darkness that the sun’s absence permits in times of sunset and sunrise. In keeping with the multi-layered temporality of the exhibition, Sunrise, Sunset draws reference to the times we stop our lives in order to sit back and reflect on them.

MAGDALEN WONG, Sunrise, Sunset, 2011, metallic tapes, dimensions variable. Photo by Kitmin Lee. Courtesy Spring Workshop, Hong Kong. 

Injecting the exhibition with subtle humor are the installation videos that comprise Russian artist Olga Chernysheva’s Screens (2014). Originally conceived as part of a 12-channel work, the five videos on display at Spring Workshop are poetic portraits of random moments extracted from Chernysheva’s daily life in Russia. Voyeuristic in nature, these videos are complemented with an insightful narrative presented in both English and her native Russian language. In one video, centered on the theme of the “platform,” two Russian women bundled in layers of clothing stand in seemingly freezing temperatures on a train platform, slowly eating and enjoying the simple pleasures of ice cream. The irony in taking time to enjoy this frozen treat regardless of severe weather conditions is portrayed in a scintillating manner. The video concludes with the camera slowly panning across to the still train tracks, which recede into a distant, snowy landscape.

A similar transformation of everyday encounters occurs in Canadian artist Moyra Davey’s set of photographs entitled Subway Writers (2011). Presented in a grid formation, 25 photographs capture everyday commuters writing in notebooks as they ride the New York subway. With these prints, which resemble used letter envelopes that have been splayed open, creased, scuffed and addressed to the Camden Arts Centre in London, Davey draws reference to the overlooked detritus of daily life.

In presenting a series of situations that share a common sense of stillness, “Days Push Off Into Nights,” offers a respite from Hong Kong’s hyper-accelerated pace and is well worth the visit as a way to step into a moment of tranquility.

MOYRA DAVEY, Subway Writers (detail), 2011, C-print, tape and postage ink, 30.5 × 44.5 cm. Courtesy Murray Guy, New York. 

“Days Push Off Into Nights” is on view at Spring Workshop, Hong Kong, until April 26, 2015.