PHANTOM PLANE, CYBERPUNK IN THE YEAR OF THE FUTURE | Hong Kong, Tai Kwun

At the start of Blade Runner (1982) we are told, “Los Angeles, November 2019”; Akira (1988) is the same. To what extent does our 2019 match up to the cyberpunk of the future? The opening message of this free, three-storey exhibition tells us: “[…] our bodies have merged with our devices; our society is beholden to unchecked corporate greed; our sprawling cities are starkly divided between haves and have-nots.”

Video installations provide the most arresting elements. Zheng Mahler’s video installation Nostalgia Machines (2019) lures us in with garish neon and ponderous voice-over narration. Yuri Pattison’s commissioned video installation False Memory (2019) is unbelievably gripping: the footage juxtaposes various ghost towns with a replica of the Kowloon Walled City, demolished in 1994. The desolate images and sounds are mesmerisingly evocative. Sondra Perry’s video installation Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstation (2016) humorously combines Hi-Fi and Lo-Fi graphics to poke serious fun at how “white norms graft onto black culture”.

But the other stuff is great too. Shinro Ohtake’s gigantic MON CHERI: A Self-Portrait as a Scrapped Shed (2012) takes over most of the third floor and merits detailed study. Chan Wai Kwong’s inkjet prints on archival paper (2013-2019) take over an entire staircase, swathed in pink light: all real photos of Hong Kong, yet somehow still cyberpunk.

Not everything in the exhibition is a winner, and not everything in the exhibition really pertains to either cyberpunk or the “phantom plane” in which we find ourselves. But Tai Kwun is always fab, and this exhibition is well worth a visit.

Free entry. Visit the Phantom Plane 5 Oct 2019 – 4 Jan 2020.

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