Hong Kong Artist Isaac Chong Wai Asks “Is the World Your Friend?”
Why We Recommend it
Inspired by the personal experience of being attacked by a stranger, this exhibition by Berlin-based Hong Kong artist Isaac Chong (b. 1990), address themes of incarceration, victimisation, border, migration, oppression and politics of space.
In November 2015, Isaac Chong Wai was attacked on the street of Berlin, his adoptive home. A stranger started a conversation with him, then started hurling racial insults and bludgeoned Chong Wai’s head with a glass bottle. The artist took a self-portrait as evidence of his injuries. One of his friend later cautioned him that “the world is not your friend”.
Bringing together projects made between 2013 and 2019, Chong Wait turns his friend’s negation into an inquisitive question: Is the world your friend?
One of the works on show is “I Dated a Guy in Buchenwald (2013)”, which is also based on personal experience. For this piece, the artist asked a guy to write about their date at the remains of Buchenwald, one of the first and largest Nazi German concentration camps. The resulting text is an affirmation of the goodness and warmth of humanity, a redemptive contrast from the horror of the camp and the hate crime the artist suffered later.
Another exhibition highlight is “Haribo Wall – Gold (Under Construction) (2017-2019)”, which is a wall built with solid blocks made of a few hundred kilograms of the quintessentially German gummy bear candy. In this work, Chong Wai plays with the concept of “soft power”: the candy is durable, sticky, resistant to change and hard to dismantle. Since this particular candy is available and loved all around the world, these gummy bear-bricks paradoxically embody a powerful penetrability and accessibility that even the hardest borders cannot stop.