Bicycle Thieves: An Artistic Look at Social Structures
Why We Recommend it
Paying tribute to the eponymous Italian neorealist film the group exhibition extends the film’s concern to a contemporary context and highlights individuals’ precarious status within increasingly tricky relations to various institutions and systems.
Hong Kong Artist Luke Ching shares Italo Calvino’s fable about a city in which every citizen is a thief: they maintain everyday life by breaking into neighbours’ homes and stealing from one another until the arrival one day of an “honest man” who does not steal, throwing the town’s ecology into disequilibrium. Some continue stealing while others close their doors and hire workers to steal for them. Eventually, wealth gaps and class divisions start to emerge, and a security system is established.
Curated by Shanghai artist Hanlu Zhang, Bicycle Thieves is interested in the fine line between sharing and stealing. Whether in post-World War II Italy or post-internet China, bicycles epitomise the relationships between humans and the technical object as means of production. Labour is at stake here because it is an everyday form of public participation for each one of us. As both a platform for sharing and a den for bandits, Bicycle Thieves seeks to discuss the relations between labour and technology not only in digital economies, but also within the service sector, domestic work and contemporary art. More than one of the participating artists experiment with the unusual concept of “artist as service provider”, exploring subversive potentials within both the private domain and the realm of the imaginary.
Looking from the perspective of Hong Kong, there is a sense of uncertainty and crisis from the crossroads at which the city finds itself. Confronted simultaneously by global capitalism and the dubious Hong Kong-mainland relationship, the citizens are intertwined with leviathan infrastructures and conflicting systems. Now that the intimacies between technology and power centralisation are widely acknowledged, how do we re-evaluate the labour of organising, the network and collective processes? Is it possible to borrow, appropriate and even re-invent technologies? With these questions in mind, Bicycle Thieves invites practitioners from various backgrounds to envision possibilities for alternative systems and diverse technological futures.