KENNY WONG, dist.solo, 2016, metal, stepper motor, microcomputer, custom software, LCD panel, microcontrollers and custom electronics, 370 × 160 × 50 cm. Courtesy the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong. 

The Interstitial

Alan Kwan and Kenny Wong

Pearl Lam Galleries Hong Kong SOHO
Hong Kong

The connection between an exhibition and its installation space can define a show. Even the most carefully curated shows may, in the wrong environment, result in an unpleasant experience. But such is not the case for “The Interstitial” at Pearl Lam Galleries Hong Kong SOHO, whose space compliments the works of two young Hong Kong artists, Alan Kwan and Kenny Wong. The show utilizes technology and virtual media—through video screens, mechanical installations and even a video game—to create a dialogue exploring memory and emotion. The stark, techno-dystopian ambiance of the exhibition is amplified by the spacious, stark white, two-story gallery space that dwarfs the small, complex mechanisms and robotically moving parts of the two artists’ works.

Wong’s suspended sculpture, dist.solo (2016), boasts a small digital screen hanging off a thin rod, counterbalanced on the opposite end by a triangle that methodically sways back and forth like a pendulum. On the screen, viewers see different close-ups of a woman’s face as the camera glides across her features, as if relaying the video feed in sync with the pendulum swings. The fleeting details provide momentary connections between the viewer and the subject, reflecting the rapid and impermanent connections made in the everyday. At the same time, such glimpses of the woman render this engagement feel voyeuristic.

While Wong’s pendulum makes for a disjointed image, Kwan’s interactive single-player videogame The Hallway (2016) was also disorienting. Building upon feelings of isolation and hopelessness, the player of the game assumes the role of a five-year-old child locked out of his apartment by his father and left to roam the hallways. The game begins with a door being shut in the player’s face and the wail of a small child in the background. The player is then left to wander the halls and navigate through various generic doors, all of which eventually lead back to the first hallway. The powerful rejection evoked in this virtual world stirs feelings of insecurity that are common during formative years of one’s childhood.

ALAN KWAN, The Hallway—Virtual Photograph Series – a, 2016, inkjet print on paper, 67 × 100 cm. Courtesy the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong. 

Kwan’s works that are displayed throughout this show draw inspiration from intense personal experiences, which create powerful pieces that lure in viewers with their honesty and openness. Kwan exposes himself and his deepest emotions in his video The List (2008), which was initially created in lieu of a suicide note, as the artist was unsure of what to write down. In his video, all the names of women that Kwan had ever loved appear on the screen to the lively tune of the William Tell Overture, which viewers can hear through headphones that are provided as part of the work. Heightening the emotional intensity of this piece, visitors have to stand on display, near the gallery’s floor-to-ceiling ribbon window, to view the screen. The vulnerability of standing close to the window, where one is overtly presented to passersby on the outside street, is enhanced by the headphones and serves to emphasize the loneliness that the artist was experiencing during the time of the video’s creation.

ALAN KWAN, The Hallway—Virtual Photograph Series – d, 2016, inkjet print on paper, 67 × 100 cm. Courtesy the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong.
ALAN KWAN, The Hallway—Virtual Photograph Series – d, 2016, inkjet print on paper, 67 × 100 cm. Courtesy the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong.

Exploring the minutiae of human relationships through a more technical means, Wong, in dist.duo (2016), provides a visual metaphor that encapsulates the attraction and repulsion that form interpersonal connections. On a small, deconstructed LCD panel connected to a jumble of uncovered circuitry and wiring, two small rectangular pendulums move back and forth. Each charged with north and south poles, the pendulums will either be drawn toward each other or forcefully repelled, depending on the relative timing of the swings. This, in turn, highlights the subjectivity and kind of luck involved in forming human relationships.

After leaving the gallery and re-entering the bustling, high-paced metropolis of Hong Kong, the viewer is left to wander the streets toward the next destination. Whether walking around someone on the sidewalk or making brief eye contact on the train, the viewer is expected to make infinite momentary contacts with countless people—continuing what Kwan and Wong both consider as quick and lasting connections.

KENNY WONG, dist.duo, 2016, aluminium, microcomputer, custom software, disassembled LCD Panel, custom electronics and LED light bulb, 24 × 34 × 10 cm. Courtesy the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong. 

Alan Kwan and Kenny Wong’s “The Interstitial” is on view at Pearl Lam Galleries Hong Kong SOHO until September 15, 2016.