17 June–11 July, 2021
Piccadilly Circus
Underground Station

Curated by Kate Wong

A dark-haired, pale-skinned cowboy stands beneath a gauzy sky. With his back to the viewer and nestled between slivers of foliage, his eyes are downcast, obscured by the brim of his large, black cowboy hat.

Bruce Wang moved to Texas from China’s Yunnan Province to attend university. Quickly adopting a Southern drawl, learning to ride horses and wrangle cattle, Bruce describes his interest in the cowboy way of life as a means to work against stereotypes of East Asians as meek and studious; as a way to be legible to the Southern American community he found himself in.

Responding to Bruce’s experience, Michael and Chiyan Ho’s paintings in Intra-action: Part 2 butt Eastern and Western iconography against one another as a means to think through the complex questions surrounding otherness, assimilation and belonging. As second generation Chinese immigrants living in the UK, the duo’s collaborative approach to making emerges from the desire to locate a dialectical space in which to think through their individual and shared experiences living within a predominantly white society. Both trained as architects, their practice is research-driven and traverses different mediums as a way to explore aspects of identity and issues of race. Michael and Chiyan Ho’s collaborations shift focus away from the individual, revealing what can emerge from working interdependently.

When approaching a new painting, the duo always begin at the back of the canvas. From this generally hidden and disregarded position, paint is pushed through the fibres of the cloth, allowing it to seep to the front in hazy patches. Though deliberate, this unusual process of underpainting surrenders itself to the materials involved. Unbound from conventional techniques, Michael and Chiyan Ho allow their joint interactions with canvas and paint to lead to new understandings about themselves and their relationship to the world.

Tapping into the language of magical realism, three of the five paintings in Intra-action: Part 2 portray the body of a cowboy, divided. One work portrays his outstretched hand holding a curious transparent liquid, the second, his head and torso, and the third, a pair of legs clad in blue jeans and cowboy boots, in stillness on the forest floor. Considered anachronistically alongside an embroidered silk Qing dynasty boot and a string of glistening green jade beads, Michael and Chiyan Ho’s presentation elicits a distinct feeling of the uncanny: time and place are unsettled as a way to think through temporal and cultural incongruencies. Making reference to Hong Kong’s liminal New Territories, a densely forested area that shares a border with mainland China and that has experienced both British and Chinese rule, the paintings are rooted in spatial and cultural disjuncture. The duo prompt us to ask: what happens to the precarious body when it is placed in a transitional space? And what can be gained by accessing the magical or supernatural within that space?

Placing Chinese diasporic experience at the heart of their practice, Michael and Chiyan Ho’s paintings can be understood as a form of cultural articulation, and re-articulation. Always in the presence of one another’s ideas and criticisms, the essence of their methodology sits within a process of self-reflexive discourse.

Accompanying text by Kate Wong

Intra-action brings together the work of Narumi Nekpenekpen, Michael and Chiyan Ho and Viktor Briestensky. Presented as a series of three individual but interrelated exhibitions, the project confronts individualist metaphysics through the proposal that there is no independent or self-contained existence, but rather, that entanglement is a precondition for being and our ability to act in the world. For the duration of the project, participating artists will be activating a live blog. This digital zone is where research in the form of images, videos, music and text can come together in a constant stream of exchange, influencing one another and working inseparably:

Michael Ho (born 1991, Arnhem, Netherlands) and Chiyan Ho (born 1993, Hertfordshire, UK) live in London and have worked as an artist duo since 2019. They graduated from the Architectural Association (London) in 2019 where they both currently teach. Michael and Chiyan’s work has been presented in group exhibitions including Radius at Wirdnachgereicht, Basel (2019) and Figuratively Speaking, an online exhibition curated by Claire Kidd for Kunstmatrix (2020). Their work has been published in AArchitecture 35, Compromise and Low theory 1 & 2, a bi-annual digital publication by curator and writer Kate Wong. They collaborated with Iranian artist Reza Aramesh on Centrefold, a weekly collective art-making event that resulted in a limited edition publication. Recent commissions include ‘Lucky House’, a short film for the ICA/BBC New Creatives program, and forthcoming exhibitions will take place at Delphian Gallery, London and ICA, London later in 2021

Kate Wong is a Chinese-Canadian writer and curator living in London, UK. Interested in discursive approaches to art and knowledge production she works as the programme curator at V.O Curations, a not-for-profit arts organisation, and is the founder of low theory, a digital journal and curatorial project that focuses on creativity as decolonial praxis. Kate holds a BA from McGill University in Art History and International Development, and an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the Visual Cultures Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her academic, curatorial and creative work is driven by an interest in political philosophy, focusing on the body, labour and virtuality. Kate’s writing on contemporary art and culture has appeared in Yishu Journal, TANK Magazine, Heichi Magazine, Another Gaze Journal and Frieze Magazine, among others.