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11 Nov 2011

One Suitcase Per Person at 1a space, Hong Kong

One Suitcase Per Person
1a space


Opening Reception:
23 Nov, 7pm - 8.30pm
Officiating Guest: Dr. Lars Nittve, Executive Director of M+
Exhibition Period:
24 Nov 2011 – 31 Jan 2012
Opening Hour:
11am - 7pm, daily except Monday

Claire Lee

1a space
Unit 14, Cattle Depot Artist Village, 63 Ma Tau Kok Rd.,
To Kwa Wan, Kowloon, Hong Kong,
Hong Kong, China

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One Suitcase Per Person presents three 'generations' of Chinese artists, David Diao, Ken Lum and Hiram To, who began making art between 1960s and 1980s, and whose practices span Abstract Modernism, Conceptual and Post-conceptualism.

Taking the title of a painting by David Diao as a starting point, One Suitcase Per Person is an interpretation of a public notice seen by Diao before boarding the plane as a child as he fled the turmoil of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. The exhibition questions whether the nature of identity is fluid and interchangeable, shaped by cultural circumstance and upbringing, or whether identity is static and non-negotiable.

One Suitcase Per Person brings together three artists whose histories are disparate but ultimately sharing a common sensibility, particularly in their choice of aesthetic and conceptual goals. With cultural trajectories spanning China, Hong Kong, United States, Canada and Australia, Diao and Lum, in particular, are groundbreaking pioneers in their practices, essentially they are 'Chinese contemporary artists' before such a term was coined, or accruing particularly cultural meanings and significance as we know of today.

Referencing physical migration, the many permutations of cultural migration and acculturation, One Suitcase Per Person presents Diao's series of paintings Da Hen Li House, Lum's photographic series Schnitzel Company and To's new photo-based pieces Fortune Landscapes.

The works by these artists are untypically 'Chinese' in what the public today may assume 'Chinese art' to be. Exposing Hong Kong audiences to this wider debate, One Suitcase Per Person will also offer the Hong Kong public unprecedented access to the works of these internationally renowned artists and to the artists themselves by bringing them to Hong Kong to participate in the exhibition and a talk that is being planned.

Artist talk will be held on Saturday afternoon 26 November at 1a space.

About the Artists and Works

David Diao

In a career that spanned over 40 years, New York-based David Diao has been described as a 'legendary abstract modernist'. Diao began his art practice as an Abstractionist in the Greenberg tradition, exhibiting with Paula Copper and Leo Castelli in 1969, followed by participation in several Whitney Biennials in the 1970s. With an evolving career questioning the roles and histories of Abstraction and Modernism, since the 1980s, his work has been marked with both a sense of dry wit and humour. More recently, he turned to his family heritage, producing works that are both biographical and about the social conditions he experienced.

Diao's recent works dealt with the emotional loss ensuing from his family's hurried departure from the family's home in Chengdu in 1949 on the founding of the People's Republic of China, resulting in works that combine references to architecture, memory and Chinese language.

Ken Lum
One of Canada's foremost conceptual artists, Ken Lum's complex body of works relate to the construction of identity within the politics of assimilation. Lum's highly charged, emotive works make use of advertising-like imagery and language, exposing the politics of nationality and internationality. Recently, his blend of photographic 'portraits' and installations increasingly moved into the realm of public art, where large-scale billboards become his communication tool.

Lum's Schnitzel Company first appeared as a series of billboards in Vienna in 2004, in collaboration with the Vienna Chamber of Labour. His tongue-in-cheek fictive Schnitzel Company tackles the feel good factor of the Employee of the Month as satire, questioning the dynamics of ethnic groupings, social interaction and corporate expectations.

Hiram To
Born in Hong Kong, Hiram To left the city in his teens, spending extended periods between Scotland and Australia before returning as a resident. During his time in Australia, To's unique and often unexpected installation works gained recognition, which led to invitations to exhibit at the Camden Arts Centre and The Winnipeg Art Gallery, making him one of the first Chinese-origin contemporary artists to be mounting solo shows at a British contemporary art museum and a Canadian state gallery. To's work tackles the nature of changing identity and its coded relationships with the mass media and personal/public interface. Taking references from a wide variety of sources such as literature, film, music, popular culture and art, he creates multi-layered works that embrace and challenge the way that identity is constructed or fragmented.

Using imagery from the 1955 film Soldier of Fortune— the first Hollywood film released in the United States which was shot in Hong Kong— To creates new landscapes teeming with the lost romance of the Orient. Merging with views of the Peak Tram overlooking Hong Kong harbour and Aberdeen floating with sampans are images of flower arrangements, To's Fortune Landscapes not only depict a bygone era, but also references faded aspirations and the artists' own familial recollections.

About the Curator

Davina Lee is an independent curator, writer and founder of Diorama Projects, an organization based in Hong Kong which develops and realizes a variety of cultural and art-related events, including Diorama Projections, a series of screenings and discussions and exhibitions including Distance Decay (2009), The Mother of All Journeys (2009), Proxemics (2009), Chroniques Hongkongaises (2010), Simulated Alternate Realities (2010) and 30 Lux (2011).

About 1a space
1a space, founded in 1998, is an independent, non-profit making contemporary visual art organization and art venue founded by a collective of Hong Kong artworkers. It aims to promote the critical dissemination of contemporary visual arts practices and affiliated artforms through 1a space programme drawn from Hong Kong and international arena.

1a space is operated by the Program Committee, governed by a Board of Directors. Operation funding of 1a space has been assisted by grants and donations. 1a space's administration is partially supported by Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Throughout the years, 1a space has developed a reputation as one of the Hong Kong's leading contemporary visual art organizations.

1a space has produced and organized more than 100 exhibitions and activities, and has been active in international exchanges, cultural activities and festivals, as well as interactive community art, arts education, art criticism and publications. 1a space has played a vital role in developing new frontiers for the visual art scene in Hong Kong and abroad. One of its major achievements has been to establish contemporary visual art within a wide viewing public, making it more popular and accessible.

The artists are available for interview by email and in person from 23 Nov to 26 Nov.

For further information on One Suitcase Per Person, please contact Claire Lee at 1a space on 2529 0087 or

Unit 14, Cattle Depot Artist Village,
63 Ma Tau Kok Road, To Kwa Wan,
Kowloon, Hong Kong