economic inquisition: Gum Cheng with Loretti Joyce Pinto & Yogesh Barve
10 August – 30 September 2014
Curated by Zasha Colah and Sumesh Sharma
A ‘free port’ can allow seemingly immense freedoms, but within the confines of a limited area and a population that can be managed. These freedoms are often economic but also extend to the political and the social. Hong Kong stands on such a confluence of freedoms that are restricted and monitored in China. Foreign journalists reporting on China situate themselves on the island enjoying laws that uphold the sanctity of the third estate. Hong Kong’s freedoms are a gift of a colonial legacy, that were not maintained in the concessions of Shanghai after the fall of the Kuomintang. Nevertheless, they are endangered, especially when one encounters the complexities that are involved in choosing a Chief Executive of the city. In such a situation we could enumerate on the role of the media, especially news networks, where of late we have witnessed their efficient abilities at influencing voting patterns in democracies.
Gum Cheng thus refuses to let newspapers and television networks archive him. If all questions are framed only around the art market, he slows down the televised film-byte - through the act of drawing - and re-distributes the information and what was spoken, so that the emphasis gives space to alternatives to the market. Slowing down film is his technique of appropriation and politics.
Cheng is a Hong Kong based artist, who runs a radical art space called C&G Apartment with his partner Clara Cheung. He returns to Bombay after a public art project - about learning classical Indian dance by slowing it down - on Juhu Beach made with with the curatorial collaborative Art Oxygen last year. Outside the booth of Asia Art Archive during Art Basel Hong Kong, Gum and Clara are interviewed about their perspectives on the art market. Having run an alternate space that funds itself from tuitions it earns from painting classes each day, Clara and Gum draw one’s attention to the lack of participation of local artists. Free Capital flows and the absence of customs and duties have allowed Hong Kong to turn into a burgeoning global market for art. Recording the televised program, called ‘The Works’, he breaks up the video into 10 important sentences, rendering them with Chinese ink on Vietnamese handmade paper.
Loretti Joyce Pinto began etching the digging up of the hillsides that surrounded her village by rogue mine owners who were shipping illegally the hills of Goa to feed the unending appetite for iron and manganese ore in China. Land acquisition for mining and real estate of the the Comunidade land that was collectively owned by the residents of the village destroyed a system of community ownership and responsibility across villages in Goa. Her village Sirdao is a valley between many plateaus and inhabited by a community of fish farmers. Using ancient aqua ducts, dykes and small dams that are consecrated by the indigenous Catholic saints of Goa, these villagers grew paddy near the mangroves by regulating the movement of sea water. The rest of the year they reared fish. As the forested plateaus began to be sold to mining consortiums and real estate developers these vocations began to disappear due to the destruction of a fragile ecology. The realtors and the miners flattened or quarried the plateaus and the springs began to disappear as tourists began to trickle into South Goa. This led to an escalation of land prices and soon it became difficult for villagers to afford homes.
Pinto began a community campaign against these large acquisitions of land, studying tenure-ship records and Goan civil laws formulated by the Portuguese, she faced stiff opposition from the Politico-Builder-and-Miner lobby that tried in vane to buy her out and then threatening her. As a printmaker and artist she was rebelling against the patrons of art in Goa and was making her family very concerned for her safety. She began recording her own rebellion against the economic inquisition in her etchings by studying the murals in the disappearing and neglected old 16th century churches that surrounded Sirdao. Pinto made a set of drawings that comment on the exodus of Goans to the United Kingdom in recent years which they do so by surrendering their Indian passports and opting for Portuguese citizenship benefitting from their Lusitane colonial legacy. Thus her drawings while documenting the destruction of her village also imagine the construction of big cities in China relating them to the destruction and rise of Vijaynagara.
Yogesh Barve uses a glazed brown martavan or tea urn, used by opium merchants to bring back Tea from Hong Kong to comment on the 'lack of perspective’, the title of his sculpture. The urn was found in Bombay’s chor bazaar or flea market, cracked but with an intact dragon. Barve affixes on it a ceramic electric conductor found near a railway track on which he casts multiple cones made out of white cement that refute the idea of perspective and dimensions essential for an object like a ceramic urn. India had a trade in ceramics and porcelain that came primarily through the route taken to export opium to China. In the early 20th century a Parsi man began a ceramic production facility in Morvi, Gujarat that would copy the techniques from China to make figurines and chinware, failing to create ceramics of similar quality in the 1950s they moved on to make electronic conductors that lead to the establishment of a large ceramic industry in the region.
Gum (Yee Man) Cheng is an artist and social worker from Hong Kong. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Drawing, at RMIT University in 2002. In 2007, Gum received an MA in Comparative and Public History from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He was previously artist in residence with Clara Cheung at the Asia Art Archive. He has participated in many shows including [en]counters-powerPLAY, curated and produced by Mumbai-based art organizationsArtOxygen and Asia Art Projects in Bombay 2013.
Loretti Joyce Pinto is an artist and social activist from Sirdao Goa. She graduated form the Goa College of Arts in 2003 and MS University Baroda in 2005 with an MFA in Printmaking. In recent years she has led many important agitations against acquisition of Comunidade or Village communal land by Real Estate and Mining interests in Goa.
Yogesh Barve lives and works in Bombay. He assembles shapes and images to create narratives on inequality and equality, using a mode of production that is intuitive to a visual sense that computes in a spontaneous manner – broken clocks, old lcds of mobile phones and sheets of paper.
Sumesh Sharma and the Mumbai Art Room would like to thank the participating artists, Clara Cheung and C&G Apartment Hong Kong, Vivan Sundaram, Asia Art Archive, Cosmin Costinas & Qinyi Lim and Para Site Hong Kong, Kala Academy Goa, Nau Ngoc and San Arts Saigon, Sattik Bhattacharya and Poonam Jain in the making of this exhibition.