First Asia exhibition by visual artist and choreographer Maria Hassabi: I’ll Be Your Mirror at Tai Kwun Contemporary

New live installations in her signature choreographic style — of stillness and deceleration — explore the relations between the human figure, still images and sculptural objects by disrupting our sense of time.

Tai Kwun Contemporary is delighted to announce a new exhibition by the visual artist and choreographer Maria Hassabi (b. Cyprus), I’ll Be Your Mirror, the artist’s first solo presentation in Asia. As the latest exhibition in Tai Kwun Contemporary’s live art programme, I’ll Be Your Mirror will premiere two new works by Maria Hassabi, who has for the past two decades pioneered a distinctive artistic practice based on the relationship between the live body, the still image, and the sculptural object. Curated by Xue Tan with Louiza Ho, I’ll Be Your Mirror will be live from 13 October to 26 November 2023; over the course of the exhibition, dancers perform the artist’s choreography throughout the opening hours of Tai Kwun Contemporary.

One of the leading figures of live art, Maria Hassabi moves freely between the contexts of museums, theatres, and public spaces. With a signature choreographic style defined by sculptural physicality, stillness, and quietness, her works challenge our expectations as viewers within the museum space. By exploring the relationship that the human figure has with the still image and the sculptural object, the two connected live installations in I’ll Be Your Mirror seek to leave lasting impact on the way we perceive ourselves and those around us.

This new exhibition is elaborated in the architectural space of the top floor galleries of JC Contemporary. Bringing together her choreographic practice, sound, sculpture, photography, and painting, the exhibition confronts the notion of one’s own image through a gold scheme of reflections. The works invite the spectators to question the fluidity of an image, one that is similar to the fleeting nature of a dance—ungraspable unless documented, which in turn subtracts from its liveness and thus realness. The tension between the live body and the still image, the spectacular and the everyday, the subject and object all come in play.

Hassabi’s iconic language of stillness and deceleration references representations of human figures based on mannerisms throughout history; her works generate resistance to the accelerated anticipation of our contemporary life. The exhibition thus uncovers and recovers a sensitivity redacted by our hybrid ways of receiving and processing visual information today— where we listen but not see, or watch but not hear. With the artist’s high-tension choreographic work evolving throughout the duration one spends in the space, the work shifts the dynamics between the dancer and the spectator, spurring on questions: What are we looking at? Who is performing? Who is more vulnerable?

More generally, Hassabi’s distinctive works have contributed to a broader shift—where museums today are often animated with live situations rather than being a “mausoleum” of the past and still objects. Such dance and performative experimentations have led efforts in rethinking the museum’s role in the 21st century, and such works are no longer seen as an event but as a lasting exhibition format, timed with the institution’s opening hours and coexisting with the exhibits of paintings and sculptures. Hassabi has referred to these performative works she creates and presents within museums and exhibition spaces as “live installations”—a genre-defining term.

Trained in visual art and dance, Hassabi studied at CalArts in Los Angeles before moving to New York City in the mid-1990s, where she was amongst contemporaries from visual arts, performance, and music. With an interdisciplinary practice, Hassabi employs choreography as a vessel of image-making in real time and space. Her works are often distilled to the most crucial relationship: the relationship between the performer and the spectator in a shared space and time.

“We are honoured to present Maria Hassabi’s new works in Hong Kong. Her ground-breaking works make us reconsider the concepts of time, the nature of the object and subject in museums, and our relations with others. She has been a key artist at the centre of the paradigmatic shift in museums worldwide where choreography, performance, and social situations have been installed as works of art in exhibition spaces. With this exhibition, we show our deep devotion in supporting bold formats of artistic expression and interdisciplinary collaborations. We are proud to have established an institution that enables artistic experimentation, with a live art programme that is distinctive in Asia and that will continue to commission and present artists at the forefront of visual arts and performance. ” Xue Tan, Senior Curator of Tai Kwun.

Dr Pi Li, Head of Art at Tai Kwun, remarked: “We are thrilled to be presenting Maria Hassabi’s first solo exhibition in Asia. Tai Kwun Contemporary’s engagement with unconventional exhibition formats, as in I’ll Be Your Mirror, is testament to our continual support of breakthroughs by artists. This is very much a part of our mission to transform the experience of contemporary art and deepen our understanding of the world we live in, as part of Tai Kwun’s vibrant and distinctive programming.”

The exhibition is equally complemented by a range of public programmes that guides participants on a journey of life-long learning and to a deeper understanding of art. These include a Tai Kwun Conversations on 18 Oct; Teacher’s Morning and Teacher’s Workshop; curator’s tours and other guided public tours. In the After Hours series, the audience will get the chance to listen to a fascinating spectrum of speakers working in art, photography, literature, as well as academia who chat and discuss on a broad range of matters. Finally, the Hi! & Seek corner at the 2/F is a space of dialogue and exploration. The space is open for visitors of all ages and provided different ways of interacting and conversing.

Maria Hassabi: I’ll Be Your Mirror
Date: 13 October to 26 November 2023
Tuesday – Sunday: 11:00am to 7:00pm, Monday: CLOSED
Curated by Xue Tan with Louiza Ho

I’ll Be Your Mirror is constructed with performances which run daily from 11am to 7pm Tuesdays to Sundays, performed by dancers from Hong Kong and around the world. The artist will also be present in the exhibition for the first half of the exhibition period.

About Maria Hassabi
Since the early 2000s, Maria Hassabi (b. Cyprus) has carved a unique artistic practice based on the relationship between the live body, the still image, and the sculptural object. Her works reflect on concepts of time and the human figure, while employing a variety of media to emphasise the complexity of formal organisation. In most of Hassabi’s works the performing body is the main subject, often embedded within imposing installations. Through meticulously crafting her material—every action, even the gaze, is subject to counts and cues—a constant negotiation between the body’s relation to gravity, time and space, reveals the physical side effects of labour, anchoring both dancers’ and viewers’ awareness to the present moment. Her works are always in dialogue with a site’s unique architecture, while conventions and hierarchies common to theatres, museums, and public spaces are taken into consideration.

Maria Hassabi has had numerous solo exhibitions and presentations around the world, including LUMA Arles; OGR, Turin; Secession, Vienna; Centre Pompidou, Paris; K20, Düsseldorf; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva; Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne; The Kitchen, New York; documeta14, Kassel; Performa, New York; 55th Venice Biennale, amongst others.

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Courtesy of Tai Kwun