Shirley Tse: Stakes and Holders

Stakes and Holders brings Hong Kong’s successful participation in the 58th Venice Biennale to local audiences

The exhibition of work by Los Angeles–based Hong Kong artist Shirley Tse follows the Hong Kong participation in the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. 

M+, at the West Kowloon Cultural District, and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC) are pleased to co-present Shirley Tse: Stakes and Holders, an exhibition that renews and responds to Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice, Hong Kong’s presence at the 58th Venice Biennale, in 2019. The Venice exhibition drew more than 102,000 visitors during its six-month run, and was widely acclaimed by the public and the international media. The exhibition in Hong Kong, held at the M+ Pavilion, includes new configurations of Shirley Tse’s site-responsive installations.

Over the past two decades, the Los Angeles–based Hong Kong artist Shirley Tse has addressed the various meanings and possible interpretations of materials and things. Her sculptural practice has evolved from considering plastics as the prime signifier of globalisation through circulation, standardisation, and industrialisation to examining plastic as an adjective, and the resonance of plasticity, movement, and multiplicity in contemporary society. Shirley Tse: Stakes and Holders comprises two installations: Negotiated Differences and Playcourt. In each work, Tse mediates contrasting materials with processes to reflect on interconnections in a pluralistic world. Using sculpture as a mode of multidimensional thinking, she emphasises negotiation as a fundamental component of living in contemporary societies. The ever-changing social and material landscape of Hong Kong is an enduring source of inspiration for Tse, and the exhibition at the M+ Pavilion, curated by guest curator Christina Li, foregrounds the city’s dynamic relationships and unique conditions of negotiation.

Negotiated Differences is a sprawling, rhizome-like installation of 3D-printed joints and hand-turned wooden forms that stretches across the pavilion’s spaces, drawing attention to aspects of the architectural design. Balusters, handrails, bowling pins, and abstract objects are connected by wooden, metal, and plastic elements, bringing together craft, mechanical, and digital technologies into an integrated whole. For the Hong Kong installation, new wooden components are included that refer to the city’s contemporary material culture. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the artist and the guest curator from participating in the installation of the work in person. It is installed through extensive conversation between the artist in Los Angeles, the guest curator in Amsterdam, and the M+ curatorial and installation team in Hong Kong. The exercise in improvisation draws out the responsiveness that is at the core of Tse’s approach and amplifies the urgency of negotiation and change in the way we work and live. If the new working and travel conditions permit, the artist and the guest curator will consider the possibility of travelling to Hong Kong at a later point during the exhibition period to carry out a reconfiguration of Negotiated Differences. This potential second reconfiguration embraces the uncertainty of the present moment.

Playcourt comprises sculptural amalgams of equipment and anthropomorphic forms, as well as radio antennas that pick up local non-commercial frequencies. The work emphasises the negotiation between people and space that is a fundamental component of play. This negotiation is at the heart of Stakes and Holders; the exhibition encourages us to connect across differences while exercising our agency as individuals, to recognise with empathy and sensitivity what is at stake and the extent to which we are all stakeholders.

Suhanya Raffel, Museum Director, M+, commented on the significance of Shirley Tse: Stakes and Holders for M+: ‘This exhibition marks the fourth collaboration between M+ and HKADC for Hong Kong’s participation at the Venice Biennale. As with the previous collaborations, we present an exhibition in Hong Kong to allow local audiences to encounter important Hong Kong contemporary artistic practices. I extend my thanks to Shirley Tse and Christina Li for their flexible, responsive collaboration, as we navigate the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has posed for our ways of working. This unprecedented situation has become an opportunity for us to define new modes of conversation and connection across distances. For M+, this exhibition of work by Shirley Tse is particularly significant, as it is the last exhibition to be held at the M+ Pavilion, before the opening of the M+ building, our permanent home.’

Wilfred Wong, Chairman of HKADC, welcomed another successful collaboration between M+ and HKADC: ‘M+ and HKADC have been collaborating together in participating in the past four editions of the Venice Biennale to showcase the vitality and diversity of our Hong Kong artists to international audiences. We are proud to witness Shirley Tse’s success at the Venice Biennale, and hope that the return exhibition will facilitate Hong Kong audiences to appreciate her work and generate a new source of inspiration.’

Doryun Chong, Deputy Director, Curatorial, and Chief Curator, M+, Consulting Curator of the exhibition, commented on the resonance of Shirley Tse’s work: ‘We are pleased to continue to work with Shirley Tse and Christina Li on this project. Shirley Tse: Stakes and Holders allows audiences in Hong Kong to explore and reflect on individual agency and how collective endeavour can help us understand the world and connect across differences. Now more than ever before, in Hong Kong and around the world, thinking of this kind is crucial.’

Christina Li, Guest Curator of the exhibition, articulated the importance of the Hong Kong presentation in terms of Shirley Tse’s body of work: ‘Shirley Tse has explored the concept of plasticity throughout her career, in a range of contexts. With its presentation in Hong Kong, this exhibition both affirms her place in the landscape of Hong Kong contemporary art and expresses the resonance of her work across contexts, beyond the traditional categories of global and local.’

Shirley Tse added: ‘I am very grateful for the opportunity to present this work in Hong Kong. Situating the installations in a new context allows for new connections and new conversations between the site and the audience. I hope viewers will be inspired to see negotiation, play, and agency in a new light, and curious about various possibilities in our contemporary moment, both in Hong Kong and far beyond.’

To accompany the exhibition, M+ will present a series of events, including an online conversation with the artist, workshops, and a series of thematic and curator-led online tours.