“They Do Not Understand Each Other” at Tai Kwun Contemporary

  • by The Cartellino Team

From the collections of the National Museum of Art, Osaka (NMAO) and the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), Tai Kwun Contemporary hosts their online collaborative, They Do Not Understand Each Other. Curated by Yuka Uematsu and June Yap, the exhibition focuses on artworks engaged in cultural and geopolitical exchange.


Agnes Arellano depicts the moon goddess of Bicolano mythology in cold cast marble in “Haliya Bathing.” There are tracings on the crushed marble to present ripples in the water. As in the tale, Haliya is pregnant with child. With Haliya contemplating the future of her little demigod, the artist recalls the binding power of myth in understanding nature, the moon, and sacred femininity. Charles Lim’s “Sea State 9: Proclamation” is the culmination of his decade-long investigation into statehood, particularly, how the sea surrounding Singapore island informs notions of territory and state space. Further into the maritime, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s underwater film, Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam: Towards the Complex—For the Courageous, depicts fishermen pulling cyclos across the seabed, in a striking parallel with the “boat people” who had no choice but to migrate to uncharted lands.

Cartellino Agnes Arellano Haliya Bathing
Agnes Arellano. Haliya Bathing. Coldcast marble sculpture and crushed marble stones. Dimensions variable. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.
Sea State 9 PROCLAMATION drag drop pour
Charles Lim. Sea State 9: Proclamation (drag), (drop), (pour) (video still). 2018. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum and the artist.

The exhibition also takes current events into account. Akira Takayama’s latest edition of “Mcdonald’s Radio University,” a roving lecture program that would outfit Mcdonald’s branches into a meeting place for refugees and migrants, provides a QR code for viewers to scan and stream lectures held by individuals in the diaspora. The sight of the empty restaurant, however, does remark on the present loss of these social gatherings. The exhibition takes its title from the video work by Tsubasa Kato, a narrative composed through an impromptu meeting between a Korean and Japanese. Marooned together on a remote island, the two work through their linguistic differences. On the whole, the artworks of the 19 participating artists speak into the gaps and closures in their approach to mutual understanding and, in the best cases, mutual aid.

They Do Not Understand Each Other is on view online and offline at Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong, until September 13, 2020.

Artists: Saori Akutagawa (Madokoro), Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla, Agnes Arellano, chi too, Heman Chong, Chua Chye Teck, Ho Tzu Nyen, Sojung Jun, Tsubasa Kato, Charles Lim, Kumi Machida, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, Wit Pimkanchanapong, Kohei Sekigawa, Kazuo Shiraga, Akira Takayama, Than Sok, Ming Wong.


Anchor photo: Tsubasa Kato. They Do Not Understand Each Other (video still). 2014. Photographed by Keiichi Sakakura. Image courtesy National Museum of Art, Osaka.