Jan 20 2020

Top Books 2019

by Chloe Chu, Ophelia Lai, Lauren Long, HG Masters, and Pamela Wong

All photos by Esther Chan for ArtAsiaPacific.

HAEGUE YANG: ANTHOLOGY 2006–2018: TIGHTROPE WALKING AND ITS WORDLESS SHADOW. Edited by Bruna Roccasalva. Published by Skira, 2019.

Haegue Yang: Anthology 2006–2018


Edited by Bruna Roccasalva

Anthology 2006–2018 is Haegue Yang’s textual midcareer survey. Editor Bruna Roccasalva gathered 11 essays and four conversations from the last 12 years about Yang’s practice, including those by early champions of her work, such as curators Binna Choi, Lars Bang Larsen, Doryun Chong, and Eungie Joo. From Chong’s “A Small Dictionary for Haegue Yang” (2008) and a 2013 interview with TJ Demos, we learn about the historical figures, from artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp to novelist Marguerite Duras, and wide-ranging inspirations, encompassing origami, Bauhaus, East Asian history, and Edward Said, behind the artist’s multi-sensorial, spatial compositions. Throughout shines Yang’s insistence on creating communities of ideas, objects, and forms that mediate the “harsh confrontation between individuals and society.” HGM

Combing for Ice and Jade

Jiazazhi Press/Library

Kurt Tong 

Occasionally, a privileged individual recognizes their own ignorance of how others live. Sometimes, they do something about it, out of curiosity as much as guilt. Hong Kong photographer Kurt Tong’s Combing for Ice and Jade is meant as a corrective “love note” to Mak Ngan Yuk, who worked for his family as a domestic helper for more than 40 years, with little acknowledgment. The book was evidently put together with affection. Found photographs drawn from Tong’s family albums, showing Mak on the fringes, are interspersed with images taken by Tong in Mak’s hometown in Southern China, where he traveled in order to understand her life story. Dynamically arrayed, with foldout pages, cutouts, and attached booklets, Tong’s homageis as exquisite as it is heartfelt. CC

COMBING FOR ICE AND JADE. Edited by Kurt Tong. Published by Jiazazhi Press/Library, Ningbo, 2019.

A LIFE IN A SEA OF RED. Photographs by Liu Heung Shing. Texts by Pi Li, Geoff Raby, Christopher Phillips and Liu Heung Shing. Published by Steidl, Göttingen, 2019. 

A Life in a Sea of Red


Liu Heung Shing

Photographer Liu Heung Shing’s image of a couple hiding beneath a bridge as army tanks roll above them remains one of the most memorable scenes from the Tiananmen Massacre. Published 30 years after the event, his hefty monograph A Life in a Sea of Red documents the dizzying transformations of the People’s Republic of China between 1976 and 2017, and the collapse of the USSR between 1990 and ’93. While capturing historic events, Liu focuses on the “subtle nuances in the body language and facial expressions” of his subjects. His connection with the people is reflected in the title—a play on the phrase “alive in the bitter sea,” meaning to survive in a difficult time—and in his images, which relay narratives beyond national ideologies. PW

Infinite Narratives


Tomato Grey

Is it possible to arrive at a consensus about Hong Kong’s identity? A product of the collective Tomato Grey’s 2017 group exhibition at Gallery 456, New York, Infinite Narratives comes in a slate-gray box and comprises six bundles of visuals and texts. Each stack was developed by a Tomato Grey member, who asked an international artist to imitate or respond to the perceived identity in their initial works through deliberate, creative misreading. Objects in the collection include Kaho Yu’s and Yoko Naito’s photos of domestic interiors and cityscapes; Kwong Pui See’s and Erika Kobayashi’s recollection of their own family histories; as well as Wong Kit Yi’s and FreddieCruz Nowell’s close studies on lyrics and sounds—pairings that reveal and expand the idea of a single Hong Kong identity. PW

INFINITE NARRATIVES, by Tomato Grey collective artists and Erika Kobayashi, Ik-Joong Kang, Patrick Fabian Panetta, Freddie Cruz Nowell, Yoko Naito and Seth Cluett. Published by Mosses, Hong Kong, 2019, boxed mixed media, pagination variable.

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS: K IS FOR KAYASHIMA, by Cindy Mochizuki. Edited by Gina Badger. Published by Artspeak, 2019.

Rock Paper Scissors: K is for Kayashima


Edited by Gina Badger

Drawn from stories of Japanese immigrants in Canada during the early 20th century, Cindy Mochizuki’s three-part project Rock, Paper, Scissors (2017) includes animations and radio dramas told through the fictional character K. The work’s segments are anchored to places where coal, timber, and steel industries boomed. Published two years later and enclosed within a tan, cloth-bound box, K is for Kayashima comprises texts reflecting on Rock, Paper, Scissors. For example, Mochizuki and curator Makiko Hara chronicle the transformative journey they undertook together for the project’s research, and Kirsten Emiko McAllister explores the relationship between natural-resource industries and Canadian migration policies. Converging fact and fiction, K is for Kayashima preserves the memories of Japanese-Canadian immigrants that are at risk of vanishing. LL

14 Years Old & The World & Borders

Michi Laboratory and Tai Kwun Contemporary 

Motoyuki Shitamichi

At what age do experiences that once felt fascinating lose their hold over us? Just after age 14, according to artist Motoyuki Shitamichi, whose multilingual book 14 Years Old & The World & Borders compiles the unedited writings of students at that adolescent watershed. During a series of school workshops in Japan and neighboring countries, Shitamichi asked teenagers to ponder a border that affected their everyday lives, with surprisingly poignant results. A world map at the front traces the book’s journey, as readers are asked to pass along the book, free of charge, to another person. The cardinal rule is emblematic not only of the artist’s aspirations for this traveling project but also of its young subjects, for whom boundaries remain invitations to explore and transgress. OL

14 YEARS OLD & THE WORLD & BORDERS. Edited by Motoyuki Shitamichi. Published by Michi Laboratory and Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong, 2019

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