Cities act as an integral facet of cultural development. With the growth of modern globalization, they serve as a site for ideological cross-pollination and cultural exchange, while also functioning as symbols of modernization and progress.
A part of the overall purpose of HATCH Series, is to explore the unique conditions that inform the work and process of artists living in urban contexts. Inspired by the ideas explored by several artists from HATCH Series No. 1 | Selfhood: Beyond ____ Archetype, we found a trend in terms of artists’ interests in the construction of space - both metaphorically and formally as well as in a realistic sense of their physical environment.
As there was a natural inclination towards making sense of and constructing meaning within the complex terrain the creatives are situated, we wanted to leverage HATCH Series No. 2 as an opportunity to highlight this relationship between people and their environment in an urban landscape. This includes an examination of the communities they belong to as well as the physical space they occupy in order to provide an open ended discourse around what exists under the surface of the metropolis as an idealized/romanticized mirage.
For HATCH Series No. 2 | Between the Concrete, each of the featured artists has created work that concerns itself with the concept of urbanism. Based on their own subjectivity as well their personalized approach and experience, interpretations of the the theme of Urbanism results in unique and sometimes unexpected creative output.
Urbanism as Flux
We have invited 12 artists to critically engage with the idea of urbanism with the intention of bringing to light possible tensions that can either formally or informally be found in their practice - brought on by in the temporality and transience intrinsic to an urban lifestyle, as well as its impact on urban community and space. These ideas range from the fabrication and consumption of urban life, construction of space, anxiety, alienation, displacement, violence, breakdown v.s. reconstruction of communities, gender conflict, to the breach of privacy.
The works of these 12 artists not only complement the group context with subjective and intimate perspectives but also provoke broader social and philosophical concerns to present a multitude of creative practice and disciplines that the HATCH Series, as a project, aims to bring together.
Subsequently, HATCH Series No. 2 | Between the Concrete aims to:
provide a snapshot of how creative individuals live, consume, and produce the city - and ultimately become an integral process of composing the urban fabric,
explore how new ideas are inspired by such close exchange within the urban creative cluster,
consider the way in which social issues are intensified by the same originative proximity.
From closely communicating with our featured artists, we have found a symbiotic relation in existence, which can be understood in how ‘urban space’ is both a given set of circumstances and at the same time a social construct.
That is to say, the livelihood and daily artistic production of the creative individuals occupies a central stage in engineering the ‘image’ of the city, as much as the socio-cultural fabric of the cityscape molds the individuals that come to inhabit it.
From this, we try to unravel ‘urbanism’ as a convoluted idea clusters with fluid layers of meaning and a paradigm in flux.
Which Came First: Cities v.s. Artists
Historically, cities and urban hubs have served as a site for a variety of exchanges. Capitalizing on intensity of population and ideas coupled with the proximity of personal living spaces, the city promotes and thrives on ecological diversity brought on by its symbiotic relationship with its inhabitants. The metropolis has morphed into an axis where cultural and artistic development flourishes: as new ideas are brought into the social fabric, with the constant revolving influx of fresh faced city dwellers.
From the emergence of a global rhetoric since the 90s, the phenomenon of the global city has further made urban locale an indispensable aspect of a borderless/internationalized icon - interwoven into a universal aspiration of liberty, diversity, ideological migration, and boundless possibilities. Under this pressure for a ‘one-size-fit-all’ global citizenry, metropolis as a contemporary construct has both celebrated a dionysiac spirit, while striving to engage with cultural authenticity rooted in heritage and tradition.
To gain competitive edge in an ever-more homogenous global economy, artists and culture are strategically devised by local governmental agencies to endow the city they dwell with an individualistic localness and a progressive aspiration toward the new globalism. (Fernández, 2015)
The heightened expectation of ‘glo-cality’ (Hou, 2005) build up a paradoxical duality of localness and internationalism expected and produced by global cities across the world. The mixed responsibilities entrusted to the arts call for a critical reflection of the constantly-changing power play, by exploring the role of art and culture in local ecology, under the premise of a ‘global-looking’ metropolis.
The steel-based installation piece by Michelle Caroline Levie reflects the constantly changing construction of the city/cityscape and its manipulation by human touch. A few garment pieces are included (by Louis Dorantes and Colin LoCascio) to play with the concept of ‘urban fabric’ and socialized understanding of identity in urban environments.
“Illusion born from disillusion”
Let us pause for a minute and look at another development of equal importance - since the beginning of 20th century as a reaction toward the illusion of technological progress, cities have also been the backdrop where dystopic narratives take root in popular culture.
Coupled with an increased prevalence of man-made and simulated spaces that further distances its inhabitants from that which is "natural" This collective apprehension contributes to a growing sense of alienation and suspicion towards that which is in our immediate proximity. Laurel Atwell, attempts to present “an honest work of art” through breaking through barriers of language and consequential social circumscription in her performances. Several experimental multimedia pieces (respectively by Jacqueline Jing Lin, Ryota Sato, and Hello Velocity & Amelia Zhang) emphasize the need to better render the surreal perception created by billboards and cameras, challenging us to think about the issue of privacy and identity-loss as the double bind of such surrealism.
While Brooke Herr explores her identity in a changing urban environment with her collage pieces, Tao Xian tries to negotiate and reconcile her sense of alienation.
Towards an Equilibrium: Authenticity and the Influx of the New
From domestic mass migration to immigration of varying communities from overseas, New York has hosted generations of people from a cacophony of backgrounds and socio-cultural contexts.
The influx of people and the constant exchange between the new and the old not only stimulate new ideas but also fosters discourse around them. The documentary photo series Lower East Sider: The Gritty and the Kewl of Kuo-Chiao Lin critically engages with the tension within New York as a creative hub and an oxymoronic co-existence of different waves of immigrants.
As a city, New York has historically always been an epicenter of creative diversity to which individuals have constantly gravitated and flocked in droves. While this may not be completely unique to New York, it certainly characterizes a unique circumstance that serves as a catalyst for the emergence of urban spaces.
This can be seen in the works of Raluca Ancuta, a San Francisco-based analog photographer, who documents and examines how ‘space’ is created and manipulated by human intervention, or Wenjie Han, who examines the relationship between communities and the process of rapid urbanization in China.
Fernández, Lourdes. Maina Ramirez, trans. “Global and Local: Fairs and Biennials, Temporary Urbanism and Pop-up Museums.” Cities, Museums and Soft Power. Gail Dexter Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg, eds. Washington, DC: The AAM. 2015: 175-84.
Hou, Han Rou. “Towards a New Locality: Biennials and ‘Global Arts’.” The Manifesta Decade: Debates on Contemporary Art Exhibition and Biennials in Post-Wall Europe. B. Vanderlinden and E. Fillpovic, eds. London: Roomade and Cambridge. 2005: 57-62.