People usually paint on white walls but rarely on the black ones. White colour seems to be more trusted in exposing range of other paints. But the black one lives its own life with inherent rules. Mystery, silence, frowning, whisper, heart beat, eternity are things we associate black colour with mostly. It can calm us down and make us explode in desperation or fear. Seriously, when we close our eyes crying or sleeping all we see is black. First, there was always darkness (in the universe or in the womb). The key to our mind is darkness which surrounds us while we are sleeping being more susceptible than ever. Darkness is a tool. And there is someone in Hong Kong who has managed to use it properly.

Light and dark

There is a dark place on the south side of Hong Kong Island, where it is hard to orient yourself, stay calm and keep your mind from meditating. Welcome to Empty Gallery, a new space for media art, experimental film, and music presented in darkness mixed with several illuminants. Founded by Stephen Cheng, it became his “dream comes true”: to create an “ephemeral, time-based, and non-object-oriented practices” and for it to run as a commercial gallery instead of a nonprofit institution, in order to experiment as much with art-world economics as with art itself. Everything became real in industrial district of Tin Wan, at the edge of Aberdeen Harbor.

Hong Kong's Empty Gallery

Cheng grew up between New York and Hong Kong, and studied film and photography at Harvard, so it’s not hard to guess why he is certainly fond of “visualization”.

Cheng is not the only one to run this gallery. Alexander Lau, also grown up between New York and Hong Kong, is gallery director. Here is how Alexander describes the whole spot: “You could call it a lab. We want to find ways to convince people that there’s meaning to acquiring a piece by an artist, and seeing the value in it, even when it’s not a physical object.” Getting through the mind walls straight to the subconscious. Art is in your perception and emotions but not in what you can touch. That’s the point.


Creating a night dream

Cheng wanted the gallery architecture itself to reflect this risk-taking ethos—hence its design as a “black cube” space, entirely dark inside. It’s like a photo-negative reversal of the typical white cube: Singapore’s Brewin Design Office painstakingly planned two floors of gallery space to create an illusion of infinite darkness interrupted only by the artworks within.

The very first exhibition is dedicated to the work of Japanese experimental filmmaker Takashi Makino and emerging Berlin artist Hans-Henning Korb—each with an entire floor all their own. They create a night dream by mixing their works all together. Remember what you see when you close your eyes at night: darkness, mild flashes, images, strange waves… Well, most of us do not attach much importance to that. But if you read this, you are not that indifferent. Makino’s multilayered film Cinéma Concret is somehow shattered in the darkness: film stills printed on steel are literally levitating along the black walls. Visitors can just sit in front of the images and stay alone with themselves. Time apparently slows down. You’re in your own head.

Hong Kong's Empty Gallery

Off to?…

Besides, a staircase goes down into a level below where Korb’s Kaya cavelike installation is. The wet smell of earth, dirt on the walls, weird oil-slick video projections, live performers serving boiled-artichoke tea in handmade ceramic cups… Where are we? Somewhere too far from the planet Earth. Well, that can be confusing, strange but certainly unusual. Though Makino is an abstract filmmaker in the subtle tradition of Stan Brakhage, and Korb riffs on post-internet occultism, both shows feel like rituals in dialogue with one another, facilitated by the darkness.

Hong Kong's Empty Gallery

Hong Kong's Empty Gallery



Empty not empty

Exhibitions and live programs won’t be the only events to carry out. The gallery will make publications and produce new work. The first upcoming release on the Empty Editions label is a vinyl LP by New York-based drummer Eli Keszler. The gallery’s “digital atelier” with color correction, render farm, and sound booth facilities will continue to support their artists in producing new multimedia projects.

On February 18, there was be a world-premiere of The Endless Cinema, a performance by Takashi Makino. More event details are on Empty Gallery’s Facebook.

Hong Kong's Empty Gallery

Bringing diverse artists, generations, genres, regions together is why the whole gallery exists. There are no borders in the darkness, and even if there are – you cannot see them, so there is no need to be afraid of being incapable of doing something. This is, apparently, the major point.

First, there was emptiness.

Hong Kong's Empty Gallery

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