The exhibition took at its core the theme of hacking space – the idea that place, territory and infrastructure can be radically adapted in unorthodox ways to solve problems. HACK SPACE sits adjacent to the phenomenon of Shan Zhai (山寨), a widespread term in China often associated with nearby “silicon valley of hardware” city Shenzhen. Originally used to refer to a bandit stronghold outside government control, it has today become shorthand for fake or pirated products, from mobile phones to digital cameras, among many other products. From New Year galas to medicine and movies, Chinese consumers encounter Shan Zhai in almost every aspect of their daily lives. The Shan Zhai phenomenon is no longer only restricted to low-cost fake products, it has become associated with how a certain type of Chinese company achieves success without following conventional wisdom and develops competitive advantage through innovative hacks.
Redefining notions of innovation, one of the leading values of today’s world, through an unconventional organisational, social and spatial arrangement, the hacker-like Shanzhai principle is an underlying link between the exhibited works in HACK SPACE. Drawing themes from Simon Denny’s exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries, which compared hacking culture and innovation in different contexts, the exhibition brought together practices that question, cheat, flip, redefine and short-cut notions of space, buildings and creative practices.
Staged in K11 Art Foundation’s pop-up venue, a space previously used to show future building projects that continue to change the urban landscape around Hong Kong, HACK SPACE formed an alternative hacker narrative, weaving moments from the history of western hacker activity with artworks that rethink space through unconventional methodologies of making and thinking. The exhibition presented works by eleven artists entering into dialogue with the work of Simon Denny, who designed the layout of the exhibition as a ‘skyline’ of sculptures, installations and video works. Many of the works sat on pedestals that Denny had refashioned from a real-estate display occupying the room before HACK SPACE. A physical open-sourcing turned sculptural framework, these “distributed” pedestals suggested the alternative networks redefining innovation in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and beyond.
There was a discussion about the exhibition with Simon Denny and Amira Gad, moderated by Hans Ulrich-Obrist, on Wednesday 23 March 2016.
Following its presentation in Hong Kong, Simon Denny’s Serpentine exhibition continued its tour to WIELS Centre for Contemporary Art in Brussels, Belgium which opened on 18 May 2016.
K11 Art Foundation
Founded by Adrian Cheng in 2010, the K11 Art Foundation (KAF) is a registered not-for-profit organisation, which supports the development of Chinese contemporary art from Greater China by providing a creative platform that nurtures artistic talents and brings them to the international stage. Not only does KAF support artists, the Foundation also serves as an incubator for young Chinese curators.