‘Informal Solutions’ – a hidden urban sanctuary
by Michael Wolf
24 March – 11 June 2016
artist’s open studio day, book launch & signing: Sunday 27 March (3-9 pm)
Open to public on Sunday 27th of March,
otherwise the studio can be visited on appointment.
Address: Michael Wolf’s studio, A504 Kailey Industrial Building,
12 Fung Yip Street, Chai Wan, Hong Kong
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION:
Since his arrival in 1995, Hong Kong never stopped to fascinate photographer Michael Wolf.
For over twenty years Michael Wolf has captured the hyper-density of the city of Hong Kong through his large-scale photographs of its high-rise architecture (‘architecture of density’).
With his latest body of work, Wolf zooms into the beehive like structures and explores it’s less glamorous counter part; the back alleys. The back alleys, originally referred to as ‘scavenger lanes’, are not what would appeal to most urban dwellers. At best, one might rush through it, merely as a shortcut, trying to avoid the pungent smell of waste, while turning a blind eye to rats scurrying away. However these dark narrow lanes host a vast variety objects and activities as we learn through Wolf’s photography.
Within the cramped confines of the alleys, the flotsam of the city is accumulated and re-purposed. All available space and material is exploited, as discarded items take on new improvised functions. Walls are lined with clusters of gloves hung to dry from wire clothes hangers; pipes are festooned with vividly coloured plastic bags and coils of ribbon and string. In Wolf’s photographs, these arrangements are captured as a form of urban still life. Informal assemblages of mops, brooms, chairs and shoes provide a visceral record of human activity within the alleys, often summoning imagined portraits of their creators through their anthropomorphic forms. Echoing the formal abstraction of Wolf’s large scale facades, the objects are stacked, balanced, hung and wedged in response to the underlying grid of the city, intersecting with networks of pipes, cubist looking exhaust fans, doorways and railings.
Wolf has returned to particular sites a multitude of times to capture shifting arrangements, evoking the practice of an urban anthropologist. Distilled from an archive of thousands of photographs, which form a larger ongoing encyclopedic project, Wolf has organised groups of intimate scaled images into typologies, according toformal principles such as colour, rhythm, structure or shape.
Through this intimate and systematic portrayal, the banal and mundane becomes attractive and curious. As heritage academic’s pair Lynne Di Stefano and Lee Ho Yin point out in of Michael Wolf’s latest publication ‘Informal Solutions’: "Hong Kong's back alleys are about more than daylight and fresh air, more than shortcuts and access points, more than garbage and seeming accumulations of junk. Indeed, over time, Hong Kong's back alleys have assumed a unique character, a distinctive identity."
As per the artist “Hong Kong’s back alleys are often unnoticed against their more glamorous counterparts of dazzling architecture. However, they present an authentic slice of Hong Kong’s grass roots culture. In my opinion they should be nominated as a heritage site.”
A selection of found objects will be displayed throughout the exhibition alongside a deconstructed sculptural assemblage appropriated from a Hong Kong back alley, and arranged in the manner of an archaeological display. Re-assigning the objects as cultural artefacts, Wolf enacts the process of conservation and classification, inviting reflection on a disappearing cultural landscape, and the city-dwellers’ individual attempts to adapt to the steady erosion of public space.
Marc Feustel has said: “We can only hope that Michael Wolf’s photographs of the ingenuity and artistry that is evident in these spaces remain a celebration rather than a memorial.
‘HONG KONG RUBBER BOOTS AND SHOES’ by Michael Wolf
88 Pages, 15 x 20,5 cm
59 colour images
Hardcover, Clothbound with tipped in image
‘Observations in Hong Kong Back Alleys'
by Michael Wolf
WE PRESS, Hong Kong 2015
Bilingual (Chinese + English)
ISBN : 978-988-14230-3-0
264 pages, 1637 color images,
185mm(w) x 250mm(h)
Soft Cover, Perfect Binding