M+, Asia’s first global museum of contemporary visual culture in the West Kowlokon Cultural District in Hong Kong, is delighted to announce a brand-new moving image work by pioneering Hong Kong artist Ellen Pau, co-commissioned with Art Basel. The work, titled The Shape of Light, will be shown on the M+ Facade from Friday, 20 May 2022 until Sunday, 19 June 2022 at 7 to 9pm daily. The project marks the first major collaborative commission for the M+ Facade since M+’s opening in November 2021.
Supported by UBS, Lead Partner of Art Basel, The Shape of Light is a site-specific moving image work made specially for the M+ Facade. Using digitally animated special effects, the video explores the possibilities of the immaterial and the material, transforming light into digital objects. Featuring a popular sutra in Mahayana Buddhism, The Heart Sutra, here expressed through sign language, the ritualistic video meditates on the concept ‘form is emptiness, emptiness is form’. Natural phenomena like fire, water, and light are all rendered in awe-inspiring computer-generated animation.
Pau’s moving image work intertwines live-action performance and spectacular sci-fi sequences, delivering a one-of-a-kind experience for the Hong Kong audiences on the M+ Facade. In Pau’s words, the M+ Facade is a futuristic lighthouse ‘standing on the shores of West Kowloon like a guardian that shines a light to all travellers and homecomers’. The site-specific video is offered as a gesture of guidance and hope for audiences in Hong Kong, where ‘illumination from the M+ offices interlaces with an electronic glow from the video wall. Clusters of cells and pixels merge with the building’s architecture, forming a new cultural observatory to the place artists call home.’
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Pau is a leading figure in the city’s media art scene whose works have been exhibited locally and internationally since the 1980s. Pau is known for exploring the intersection of visual-art languages with the latest technologies. She takes inspiration from new media to examine ever-evolving notions of self and the changing times in which we live.
Suhanya Raffel, Museum Director, M+, emphasises the significance of M+’s collaboration with Art Basel on contributing to the thriving Hong Kong art landscape, ‘The co-commission deepens our partnership with Art Basel and underpins M+’s mission to amplify the international resonance of Hong Kong artists and their works. I am truly excited to see this video work by Ellen Pau presented on the M+ Facade, an extended exhibition space that connects us with the wider public in Hong Kong.’
Adeline Ooi, Director Asia, Art Basel, says, ‘It has been an incredible time for Art Basel in Hong Kong, as we work with our local communities and partners to develop meaningful projects to share with the city. We are truly honoured to work with M+ to present Ellen Pau’s The Shape of Light, the first major co-commission project since the museum’s celebrated opening. Inspired by the Heart Sutra and expressed through sign language and dance, we hope that Ellen’s meditative, yet stunning work will inspire audiences in Hong Kong and beyond.’
Doryun Chong, Deputy Director, Curatorial and Chief Curator, M+, highlights Pau’s prominence in Hong Kong’s new media art scene. ‘Ellen Pau is one of the earliest artists in the field of media art who started in the 1980s. Pau’s work and her tireless contribution to the local media art landscape has earned her wide recognition in the region. Her brand-new work, The Shape of Light brilliantly utilises the architectural shape and technological infrastructure of the M+ building, turning this artistic interpretation into an offer of reflection and respite for her beloved home city, which has just undergone a challenging time.’
Ulanda Blair, Curator, Moving Image, M+, further elaborates on the uniqueness and power of Pau’s work. ‘The Shape of Light is ceremonial and mystical. It marries the spiritual hand-dance of The Heart Sutra with striking special effects, creatively and sensitively harnessing the idiosyncrasies of the M+ Facade. Pau herself compares the M+ Facade and building to a lighthouse on the shores of West Kowloon. In this way, The Shape of Light echoes her historic work Great Movement (1993–95), which features a lone lighthouse as a stalwart in troubled times.’
Ellen Pau shares her excitement on the co-commission, ‘I am delighted to have created The Shape of Light for M+ and Art Basel to be displayed on the M+ Facade. I cannot think of a better site to show this video work which is created for Hong Kong and its people. I hope The Shape of Light can convey a healing message to the city.’