On July 14, the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC) and M+ announced that Samson Young will represent Hong Kong at the 57th Venice Biennale, which opens May 13, 2017. The two organizations collaborate on the presentation in Venice, and named Ying Kwok, previously the curator at the Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester, UK, from 2006–12, as the pavilion’s guest curator. Doryun Chong, deputy (and acting) director and chief curator of M+, is a consulting curator on the project. This is the third edition of the Venice Biennale pavilion on which HKADC and M+ have collaborated, and the fifth edition, since 2009, for which a single artist has been selected.
An artist and a composer, Samson Young (b. 1979) studied music, philosophy and gender studies at the University of Sydney and then earned a PhD from Princeton University, in musical composition. His conceptual projects and installations deal extensively with the power and politics of sound. At Art Basel in Basel, in June 2016, for instance, his work in the Art Unlimited section, Canon (as you set out for Ithaka, hope the voyage is a long one) featured the artist dressed in military uniform standing atop a platform and beaming the sounds of distressed birds more than 150 meters across the convention center using a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) sound cannon. In 2015, he was awarded the inaugural BMW Art Journey Award at the Art Basel Hong Kong 2015, and his Pastoral Music (But It Is Entirely Hollow) (2014–) project at AM Space gallery’s booth was an attempt to sonically recreate the British defensive system, known as the “Gin Drinker’s Line,” in the New Territories of Hong Kong. He also performed live editions of Nocturne, in which he recreates the sound of night-bombing explosions, sourced from YouTube videos, by using “live-Foley” techniques, which were then re-broadcast via a localized FM radio frequency.
About the announcement, Young said, “I am naturally thrilled, and feel very honoured to have been given the opportunity to represent my native Hong Kong within such an important international context.” This year, Young has exhibited at Para Site, Hong Kong, and has upcoming exhibitions at Experimenter gallery in Kolkata, in August, and the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in December. Since switching to a single-artist format in 2009, all five of the artists selected by Hong Kong have been men (previously: Pak Sheung-Chuen, Frog King, Lee Kit, and most recently, in 2015, Tsang Kin-wah). Guest curator Ying Kwok said: “I look forward to developing an in-depth dialogue and collaboration with Samson to create something really special. I would also like to thank HKADC and M+ for their forward-thinking approach in engaging an independent curator.” Details about the pavilion and artworks will be released in months leading up to the Biennale.
HG Masters is editor at large of ArtAsiaPacific.