Editor’s Letter: A Practice of Return
By HG Masters
I saw circles everywhere at Hong Kong Spotlight, a mini fair of 22 galleries organized by Art Basel in late November. There was Laurent Martin’s Dark Genesis (2020), a suspended sculpture of a dark sphere orbited by a spiraling bamboo form reminiscent of an incense coil; Gutai artist Yuko Nasaka’s deeply hermetic, circular bas-reliefs made over a half-century; Su-Mei Tse’s video of a pair of hands forming and deforming a clay pot, Shaping (2019); and Kimsooja’s large wheels wrapped in fabrics collected from all over the world. While circles might suggest a meditative practice or a sense of wholeness, the multicolored orb depicted in Wang Yuyang’s paintings of the Moon—once the most sought-after prize in the race for technological advancement—reminded me of how dramatically our expectations for the future have changed over time. A generational cynicism was starkly distilled in Andrew Luk’s angular sculpted fossils, which invited us to imagine retrospectively viewing our era as defined by cheap electronic waste and petrochemical-derived trash.
The year 2020 upended our conceptions of time and distance. In Hong Kong, December looked very much like February, as the fourth wave of Covid-19 cases led to another round of closures and restrictions on gathering. Though it felt like we were trapped in this cycle, in Hajra Waheed’s filmic-poem The Spiral (2019), I found a more optimistic and metaphorically apt description for changes over time: “[a spiral’s] motion can be centrifugal and centripetal/it can denote both growth and decay/ascent and descent/evolution and involution.” Her words, spoken while the seven-minute video depicts a night sky seen through a thick forest canopy, offered the spiral as a “way of seeing” (with echoes of the late John Berger) and charting the chaotic, disconcerting movements of 2020 and the 21st century thus far.