In the Age of Discoveries, Portugal emerged as one of the dominant countries in Europe after the extensive maritime exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries. In the 1550s, the Portuguese landed in Macao after crossing half the world. To reconstruct the cultural exchange between China and Portuguese-speaking countries, The Arts and Cultural Festival in Macao presents an event called ‘Alter Ego’, curated by Portuguese street artist Alexandre Farto, aka Vhils.
Six individual exhibitions named ‘The Self’, ‘The Other’, ‘From Language to Travel’, ‘Culture Clash’, ‘Globalisation’ and ‘Alter Ego’ are held in Macao. 27 artists unveil their works inspired by the central theme of ‘Alter Ego’. The Value is going to take you on to a 10-minute tour to view works showcased in the exhibitions.
We arrived on the 3rd floor of Macao Museum of Art and saw a scaffold-like installation built with bamboo. Created by João O and Rita Machado (shown in the image below), State of Mind is inspired by bamboo scaffolding that we commonly see in the construction sites in Macao and Hong Kong.
Even though the duo has created numerous bamboo works in public space, it is the first time that they built a site-specific bamboo installation indoor. They wanted to create something that viewers can interact with, something they can touch, smell or even walk through.
State of Mind consists of the bamboo scaffolding and a projected image showing shadows of three males on the wall. The postures were inspired by workers building bamboo scaffolding. From observing how workers assemble bamboo together, the two artists found resemblances between scaffold builders and Taichi masters.
João O and Rita Machado pay close attention even to the small details in our daily lives and establish connections between two seemingly unrelated things. Through their works, viewers are able to perceive the world with a fresh new perspective.
Then, we moved on to the work presented by Mauro Pinto from Mozambique, East Africa. A series of photography tells the story of people living in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Pinto took these photos during his trip to Mafalala, on the outskirts of Maputo.
Excuse Me, the title of this series, was the first thing that Pinto said after he knocked on the doors of strangers’ house in Mafalala. He asked for the permission to take a photo of each house. He was fascinated by the community living in Mafalala, where people are living together in harmony, in spite of their differences in cultural background and religions.
After that, we saw sculptures depicting human heads that we often find in classical marble sculptures. Just when you thought they are merely works of another old cliché, the artist revealed the secret inside – it is, in fact, a paper sculpture.
The creator, Li Hongbo (image above), challenged our understanding of classical sculptures by putting these familiar images in another media. By unfolding the sculptures and changing their shapes, he challenged the boundary of space and time, as well as the entrenched concepts of our surroundings.
We couldn’t help but wonder, ‘How far can these paper sculpture stretches out?’. To answer this question, the artist brought a work titled Little Man and Woman here. He placed two paper sculptures, one in original size and another one fully unfolded.
Curator Pauline Foessel
Another series of photography presented at the exhibition was taken by Hong Kong artist Wing Shya, who is best known for his collaboration with the renowned movie director, Wong Kar-Wai. This series focuses on the younger generation living in the era when technology is an indispensable part of their lives.
The background featured in each photo is full of signature elements from Hong Kong, such as neon lights, concrete jungle, rooftop etc. In contrast to the colourful flashes and lights, people dressed in futuristic outfits look like they don’t belong to the places, looking lost and lonely in the alluring and glamorous world.
Coming from São Tomé and Príncipe, Herberto Smith has also brought some of his photography to the exhibition. Through his lens, we can take a glimpse of the lives of people in São Tomé and Príncipe.
Maybe they are not as affluent as people living in developed countries, yet the stories of African people are no less captivating and interesting. Even though these people seldom take centre stage in the subject matter of art, Smith believes their stories deserve to be told on an international platform. He made friends with some strangers by taking their photos and listening to their stories. By putting the photos of his family and friends together at the exhibition, he extends the meaning of ‘family’ from people sharing bloodline relations to people sharing the same vision and dream.
When the tour reached its final stop, we entered a dark room. The only thing in the room was a panel of human faces consisted of tiny holes where lights went through.
As a Portuguese street artist who has worked in Lisbon and Hong Kong, Vhils feels the strong impact of globalisation. He said our distinctive identity was getting blur because of the assimilation in the process. His work was to simply show this indisputable phenomenon, without any subjective feelings about whether this trend is good or bad.
Of all six exhibitions, we took a highlight tour of the exhibition ‘The Self’. For the remaining five, we are going to share more information about where to go and what to see in our next article. Please stay tuned.
Alter Ego｜Encounter in Macao – Arts and Cultural Festival between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries｜The Self
Date: July 8 - September 9, 2018
Location: 3/F, Macao Museum of Art
Address: Av. Xian Xing Hai, Macao
Enquiries: 853 2836 6866