Resilient creativities and the politics of (in)visibility

June 13, 2023 – A talk at the Chinese University of Hong Kong at the Centre for Cultural Studies.


“Visibility is a trap.” These words by Michel Foucault have continuously inspired me to question the oft-proclaimed virtues of openness, transparency, and emancipation. To paraphrase Tan Jia’s recent work, perhaps we should look for ways of hiding, for disguise, for masquerade, rather than ways of showing and displaying. In my talk, I want to question the limits of invisibility, or, better, probe into the politics of (in)visibility. I will engage with two recent exhibitions in Hong Kong, first, Myth Makers – Spectrosynthesis III in Tai Kwun (24 December 2022 – 10 April 2023), showcasing queer art from Asia and its diasporas. Second, Beijing-based artist Wang Tuo’s The Second Interrogation, as shown in the Blindspot Gallery (21 March – 6 May 2023), a video work reflecting the artists “observations and reflections on cultural censorship in the art world in China in recent years” (gallery statement). Both shows play with the notion of visibility and invisibility, at times in an explicit manner. For example, due to regulations regarding nudity, parts of works, or a whole film, had to be blocked in Myth Makers. Wang Tuo toys around with the performative role of both artist and censor, rendering a clear division between both at best blurred. Both shows not only allow a reflection on the politics of (in)visibility; they also attest to a second point I like to make: it is often in the context of limitations and regulations that creative practices can and do unfold.