To Prepare for Her Pavilion in Venice, Hong Kong Artist Angela Su Is Re-Watching a Documentary About the Ukrainian Revolution

Each week leading up to the 59th Venice Biennale in April, Artnet News brings you into the studio of an artist as they prepare for acclaimed exhibitions in and around the Giardini.

Hong Kong artist Angela Su is representing her hometown in Venice Biennale 2022. Courtesy of the artist and West Kowloon Cultural District.
Hong Kong artist Angela Su is representing her hometown in Venice Biennale 2022. Courtesy of the artist and West Kowloon Cultural District.

Each week leading up to the 59th Venice Biennale in April, Artnet News brings you into the studio of an artist as they prepare for acclaimed exhibitions in and around the Giardini.

This week’s announcement of the relaxation of some coronavirus travel restrictions in Hong Kong may have lifted the spirit of the city as a whole, including that of artist Angela Su, who has been laying low while the city is hit by the hardest wave of the pandemic yet, preparing for her upcoming solo exhibition, “Arise, Hong Kong in Venice,” a collateral event at the Venice Biennale.

Born in Hong Kong in 1958, the acclaimed artist studied biochemistry in Canada before venturing into the art world, so it is perhaps no surprise that her practice revolves around research-based investigations that comment and question the biomedical discourse and impact of technology, but also metamorphosis and transformation of the body. Her works, which have been exhibited globally, span a range of media, from hair embroidery to video, performances, and installations.

Her upcoming show in Venice, co-presented by the publicly funded M+ museum and Hong Kong Arts Development Council, is no exception. Curated by independent curator Freya Chou, in collaboration with consulting curator Ying Kwok, who is currently a senior curator at Tai Kwun in Hong Kong, the exhibition will feature a pseudo-documentary titled The Magnificent Levitation Act of Lauren O as its centerpiece. It invites the audience into an imaginative world that reflects on the precarious times that we are collectively living in.

Artnet News caught up with Su while she was in Venice preparing for her major exhibition, to speak about art-making during the times of chaos and uncertainties.

Photo of performance for the video The Magnificent Levitation Act of Lauren O by Angela Su. Courtesy of the artist and West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.

Photo of performance for the video The Magnificent Levitation Act of Lauren O by Angela Su. Courtesy of the artist and West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.

What is the most indispensable item in your studio and why can’t you live without it?

Snacks. Lots of snacks to de-stress. I’ve never snacked so much in my entire life.

Angela Su says she has been snacking a lot during the preparation of her exhibition in Venice. Courtesy of the artist.

Angela Su says she has been snacking a lot during the preparation of her exhibition in Venice. Courtesy of the artist.

When it comes to planning for your city’s exhibition in Venice, what is the studio task on your agenda this week that you are most looking forward to?

The most exciting thing is to observe how ideas come alive on-site. The heroes are the architect and contractors who work relentlessly day and night in such a short period of time despite all the unexpected hiccups. Hats off to all of them.

What has been the biggest challenge so far, as you prepare for the Venice Biennale?

What to bring in my suitcase. How do I wear the same clothes everyday without looking the same?

Is there a picture you can send us of your work in progress?

Angela Su working on her exhibition opening this spring in Venice. Courtesy of the artist.

Angela Su working on her exhibition opening this spring in Venice. Courtesy of the artist.

When you feel stuck while preparing for a show, what do you do to get unstuck?

I get drunk, watch a crappy movie, and fall asleep.

What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?

I admire works that take risks. These are works that give me goosebumps. Sometimes I lose interest in a work once I begin to understand it, but there are intriguing works that I go back to again and again. I am not interested in works that are opportunistic, derivative, too perfect, or too calculated.

What are you looking at while you work?

A white wall.

Angela Su, work in progress.

The architect and contractors assisting Angela Su in Venice. Courtesy of the artist.

What is one film, piece of writing, or other artwork that inspired you most in preparation for Venice?

Winter on Fire (A Netflix documentary about Ukraine’s 2014 revolution). The first time I watched it was in 2019 and I watched it again in March this year before coming to Venice. It makes me question whether or not what I am doing is relevant when the world is on the brink of collapse. If I were to relive my life again, I would learn to shoot a gun, learn to farm, and acquire all the survival skills needed to live in this crazy world.

What’s your favorite hideaway to eat, drink, or to take a break in Venice?

It would be any place where I can get an Aperol spritz. Strolling along the Grand Canal in the sunset when there are no tourists is the most relaxing thing to do.


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