Showing at Arrow Factory until March 25
Wander down Jianchang Hutong and you might pass this tiny exhibition – and the ’80s pop emanating from its display window – without ever knowing it was there. But it’s worth knowing about. Behind dusty, sliding French doors stands Lee Kit’s installation, a cheap grey chair and beaten-up cabinet table with a cassette player on top, the speakers spilling onto the floor. Behind is a dark black-blue curtain, shutting off what could be a living space. A smiling picture of Cai Qin, the Taiwanese singer whose ’80s success lived longest in both Hong Kong and mainland China, is stuck inconspicuously on the wall. It is her music that wafts out into the street and the lyrics to her song, ‘Just Like Your Tenderness’, which give the exhibition its title.
Kit is no stranger to incorporating second-hand objects, having used his studio in Hong Kong as an installation space for years. But he is better known for the pattern-painted, and often colourful, swathes of material used for household objects such as table cloths; ‘Not an Easy Thing’, by contrast, is sparse, recalling the artist’s first visit to Beijing – a cold environment characterised by a simple lifestyle.
The song goes, ‘I cannot stop remembering; remembering you and remembering the past’. A few bandages are eerily scattered on the cabinet and chair, a single red bottle on the floor; suggestions of a darker history here. It might be the front of a shop, although it speaks to us more of an ordinary living situation. In the ’80s, private spaces were often curtained off from view within communal rooms. Both shop owners and the average family might have shared miniscule front-room space where they could socialise and greet others in the community. Yet you cannot enter this space from the street. It remains strangely unreachable and empty of people, as if such memories have been pushed into the background. We cannot go in and open the drawers or touch the unused bandages, emblems of a wounded society. A poignant exhibition – if you can find it.