Tina Pang, Curator, Hong Kong Visual Culture, M+

Ambiguously Yours: Gender in Hong Kong Popular Culture offers a fresh perspective on Hong Kong popular culture of the 1980s and 1990s by examining it as a platform for avant-garde experimentation in representations of gender identities. Focusing on androgyny, camp and gender fluidity, this exhibition presents the works of pioneers in costume design, music, film, and print media, further proposing the dynamic interplay between popular culture and the fields of art, design and moving image through the M+ collection.

The first three sections of the exhibition revisit the 1980s and 1990s, when Hong Kong’s leading Cantopop stars dominated regionally, and Hong Kong’s film industry was the third largest in the world. As the most prolific period in music, film and related industries, it gave rise to an exciting level of experimentation and risk-taking in gender representation on stage, on screen and in print.

Through excerpts from films such as Stanley Kwan‘s Rouge (1988), and Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express (1994), Ambiguously Yours draws attention to the ways in which film has reflected changes in social and cultural attitudes to gender, and to the complexity of contemporary relationships.

The regional and international success of Cantopop and Hong Kong film encouraged record and film companies, publishers and advertising agencies to harness the appeal of performers. Through the work of art directors, photographers, graphic designers and stylists, such as Alan Chan and Wing Shya, visually distinctive album and magazine covers are among the most succinct expressions of how photography and graphic design can shape and communicate ideas.

The final section of the exhibition connects with the M+ collection to draw out the global nature of popular culture today. Through the collages of Japanese pop artist Tanaami Keiichi, to Ming Wong’s interpretation of Malay cinema, and the delicate gongbi paintings of Wilson Shieh, the exhibition highlights the profound influence of popular culture on art-making, and how it breaks down the boundaries between art, design, and moving image.  

In exploring the various media through which popular and mass culture have been disseminated and received, Chow Yiu Fai’s newly-commissioned sound work Twists and Turns, takes listeners on a journey from the age of radio to the present. Comprised of four interconnected sound pieces installed in the ground floor of the M+ Pavilion, radio drama, Cantonese opera, recording out-takes and a remix of Chow’s own lyrics for Juno Mak investigate the intimate and ambiguous nature of the voice.