'Present Tense 2023: Perilous Playground' Art Exhibition

Presented by: Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco
Guest Curator: C & G Artpartment

Exhibition DETAIL:

Artists: Weston Teruya, Wang Chau Tin Yuen, Walking Grass Agriculture, Kuang-Yu Tsui, South Ho, Post-Museum, Lucky Rabbit Pictures, Felix Quintana, Bijun Liang, Anson Mak

Date: August 25th, 2023 - August 10th, 2024
Venue: Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, 750 Kearny Street, 3rd Floor, San Francisco
Gallery Hours: Tue - Sat, 10AM - 4PM

Project Background:
The urban spaces of San Francisco’s Chinatown anchor the history of the American West: In 1846, soldiers from the USS Portsmouth seized land here to form the settlement that became San Francisco. The park at the heart of Chinatown, Portsmouth Square, is named after that battleship, and is now known as the “living room” for our low-income community– one of the few public spaces in the densely populated neighborhood. Moreover in the near future, Chinatown infrastructure will change drastically: the Square faces major reconstruction and years of closure, the city will remove the vital pedestrian bridge that connects the Square, and a new Subway station has opened– projecting hope and threats.

In response, Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco (CCCSF) initiates a multidisciplinary group exhibition, titled “Present Tense: Per- ilous Playground,” to explore different artistic approaches that reflect on systemic power, exclusionary development and policies, and people’s unruly interventions. C & G Artpartment, whose artistic and curatorial practises in Hong Kong over the last decade have been focusing at community and public art, is invited by CCCSF to be the curatorial unit for this exhibition from August, 2023 to August 2024. As urban (re)development is a common topic addressed by contemporary artists in different regions, C & G takes the opportu- nity to invite artists from the West Coast, as well as from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, in order to facilitate artistic dialogues and knowledge sharing on the topic in the exhibition. Each artist unit is be invited to revisit the specific sites in their art projects and make one more response with their preferable art media in 2023 for the exhibition in “present tense.”

Curatorial Statement
C & G Artpartment: Urban (re)development never stops in modern societies and metropolis. Living in big cities, we are undoubtedly the “beneficiaries” of urbanisation which, at the outlook, provides the convenience for everyday lives and improves our living standards. When the living standard becomes satisfactory, it seems natural for one to try to achieve even more. In other words, to progress. However, before any progress is made, is it possible to keep up the current standard? The planning for urban development and redevelopment in many places has long been a top-down process, where the people in power insert their grand directions and inject their political influences. Despite numerous social movements against this kind of top-down planning and more attempts by different governments to incorpo- rate citizens’ voices in the planning in recent years, many communities are still being dispersed amid development and gentrification projects, especially the more vulnerable ones. Dispersion of a community often means the erasure of the community and its history as well. It seems that urbanisation in our times has reached a point where, before any more progress is made, regress appears. We benefit from urbanisation and urban (re)development, but also suffers from it.

Urban (re)development, as a social issue, affects certain social groups directly and personally, yet seem non-relevant to some others. The current exhibition invites artists to exhibit the “blind spots” in the on-going urban (re)development process. When the hidden problems can be visualised, different residents in a society can better understand how these problems are related to them and be- come more willing to brainstorm and prepare for possible solutions.

Upholding criticality and creativity, contemporary artists are often very sensitive to social injustice. It is not difficult to see the presence of artists at different social events and movements to protect the endangered communities. Some of the artists help out at protests, some help with documentation, some make artworks in response etc. More importantly, many of these art practises emphasise the relationships and collaborations amongst the community members, and, therefore, help sustain the community spirit and resilience in the aftermaths of outraging protests and the displacement of communities.

Problems caused by urban (re)development may not be easily seen. Sometimes, it is because the problems are hidden purposefully. Sometimes, it is because the people involved pretend not to see at all. “Perilous Playground” invites the audience to contemplate and confront the problems behind the urban system they live in. Although it may in turn endanger their own status quo, the “benefi- ciaries” of urbanisation who enjoy urban lives like children in playgrounds, indeed, should be responsible to take the risk to question the system itself.


Present Tense 2023: Perilous Playground
is supported by:

National Endowment for the Arts
Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation
Zellerbach Family Foundation

Additional Support:
Hong Kong Arts Development Council, San Francisco Grants for the Arts, San Francisco Arts Commission, California Department of Social Services–Stop the Hate, Asian Pacific Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, CCC Contemporaries

>>News report of the exhibition at KTSF Channel 26

>> An article about the exhibition at South China Morning Post

>>Download the exhibition brochure, with the floor plan and artworks' captions

--Chinese text --

三藩市華埠一帶的市區空間發展一直與美國西部歷史緊密相關:1846年,樸茨茅斯戰艦(USS Ports- mouth)登陸併侵佔了這片土地,後將它命名為三藩市。位於華埠中心的公園「花園角」(Portsmouth Square)正因這艘戰艦而得名。「花園角」是華埠這個高密度社區內少數公共空間之一,更被當地的低收 入社區人士稱之為社區「客廳」。在不久的將來,華埠一帶基建空間將面臨巨變:「花園角」即將因大幅重建 而關閉多年,一直連接「花園角」的行人天橋會被清拆,新地鐵站也已經開放。 為此,「舊金山中華文化中心」將應時舉辦一項多媒介、多元文化的藝術聯展,題為:《現在時:冒險極樂園》 ,希望以藝術去回應城市發展中權力制度(、對少數族裔的)排斥性政策、草根創意型反抗等議題。2023年 4月至12月,中華文化中心特地請到近十年在社區和公共藝術領域活躍的資深香港藝術組織——「C & G 藝術單位」——來策展。由於各地的當代藝術家都常在創作中呼應城市發展議題,C&G借此機會請到了來 自美國西岸、香港、臺灣、新加坡的數位藝術家,以促進展覽中的藝術對話和知識分享。每一位參展藝術家 或團隊都被邀重返他們作品提及的地點,然後自選媒介、以“現在時”為軸,再為展覽創作一件作品。

C & G藝術單位: 城市(再)發展於現代社會、大城市無間斷出現,身處大城市、大都會的我們,無疑是城市化發展的得益者, 享受著衣食住行的便利和生活水平的提高。而當生活水準達到人們滿意的程度,人們又會不自覺地想再超 越、再進步。但我們有超越的前提、或者說我們能維持現有水平嗎?城市發展的規劃過程,普遍都是由上而 下,有當權者把控著大方嚮、仗著政權施壓。就算民眾對這種自上而下的權力遊戲做出反抗、就算政府近年 有讓民間參與城市規劃,許多社區還是在城市發展和士紳化的沖擊下被瓦解,尤其弱勢社區。拆散一個社 區就意味著湮沒一段歷史。在這樣前提下,莫說超越,連維持也辦不到,似乎都市化發展到某一個點,就不 免迎來倒退。所以都市化的運行,民眾是得益者,同時也是受害者。 都市化作為一個社會議題,之於一些人是切身大事,之於另一些人卻無關痛癢。是次展覽請藝術家揭露都 市化(再)發展過程中的盲點,將隱形的問題可視化,讓居民大眾認識到問題的迫切併作出準備應對、解決。 作為藝術工作者,創造力超前是必須的,對社會不公提出質疑及批評也是指定動作。在各種與都市化抗衡、 保衛弱勢社區的社運中,都不難找到藝術家的身影。他們有的參與示威遊行、有的進入事件現場記錄、有的 以藝術回應。更重要的是,這些 藝術家都很註重社區內的關繫和合作,因此能幫助在抗議和被迫搬遷後, 維繫社區精神和堅韌力。 城市(再)發展帶來的問題不易窺見,有時是因為故意隱瞞,有時是因為參與者視而不見「。冒險極樂園」邀 請大家來直面併反思他們身處的都市體繫背後的危機。作為都市化的“得益者”,既然能把城市玩自己的樂 園,就應當不畏顛覆現狀,鋌而走險對都市化提出質疑。


Exhibition intro & Curatorial Statement

'Invisible Landscape' by Ting Ying Han

'From the Factories,' by Anson Mak

'Home in Moving Parts' by Weston Teruya

|'Free Pigeon' by Bijun Liang

Left: 'Bridge to Everywhere' by Lucky Rabbit Pictures | Right:Left: 'Free Pigeon' by Bijun Liang

Left: 'Heaviness and Lightness' by South Ho |
Right: 'Invisible City: Liverpool Top 9' &
'The Shortcut to the Systematic Life: City Spirits' by Kuang-Yu Tsui

Left: 'Invisible City: Liverpool Top 9' by Kuang-Yu Tsui |
Right: 'Cruising the Street and Alleyway' by Felix Quintana

'Farmer’s Market Table' by Wang Chau Tin Yuen

'Bukit Brown Index #133: Triptych of the Unseen (Re-dux)' by Post-Museum

'Two Suns' by Walking Grass Agriculture