Sonja-Maria Borstner is a writer, editor and curator with an emphasize on contemporary art. Currently she is working as publishing trainee at FRIEZE and as editor at the online art magazine PASSE–AVANT. ➻ CV • CONTACT
07.10.2019 — Frieze Magazine
WangShui and the politics of shapeshifting
Transformations, both bodily and spatially, are at the core of WangShui‘s current exhibition at Berlin’s Julia Stoschek Collection. Consisting of several small chrome bath fixtures, Gardens of Perfect Exposure (2017–2018) acts like a spa habitat for the dozens of pupating silkworms which live here during the course of the exhibition. Over the next weeks, the insects will undergo a significant shapeshift by first skinning themselves and then spinning silk cocoons in which they eventually will turn into butterflies. Illuminated by selfie lights and cameras, a live-stream of the caterpillars is projected onto the surrounding walls and allows the visitor to witness every stadium of their transformation. As silk was first developed in ancient China, WangShui’s installation is a dystopian version of imperial Chinese horticultures and draws a connection to the country’s vast political, economic and social impact on Asian minorities which often need to change or resist in order to survive.
Another work which allows a similar reading is From Its Mouth Came a River of High-End Residential Appliances (2017–2018). The video shows a drone flight towards Hong Kong’s so-called ‘dragon gates’, the large holes in the skyscrapers at Repulse Bay. The buildings are designed following feng shui principles, according to which the openings allow dragons to fly from the mountains to the sea. Since dragons are believed to bear fortune, blocking their paths could have terrible consequences. But holes can also mediate the energy flow between the natural and built environment, as the video’s narrator explains, and therefore become a metaphor for resistance – to Western rationality and China’s influence of power. Today’s Hong Kong is more than ever characterised by its acts of resistance as the city is currently shattered by persistent protests against Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s proposals to allow extradition to mainland China.