One Belt, One Road

Ronnie van Hout reports from Art Basel, Hong Kong

The parthenogenetic beast that is Art Basel seems to prove that all is well in the world of capital as it continues its quest to separate objects from subjects. For me, there are no highlights, just as there are no lowlights (at the fair). There is an ‘atonal’ note to the proceedings. The one sparkling gem that generated a smile (as one that loves a bad pun) was that the official champagne for Basel (and other art institutions) is called Ruinart.

There are the familiar repetitions of partition, lighting, desk, Dealer, assistant, but these ‘booths’ are allocated discriminatory differences of value, and then given hopeful and user-friendly names. The cheapest of these, which have subtle penalties applied to make them more ‘fair’, are called ‘discoveries’.

There are also the familiar repetitions of travel, airports (gates, X-rays and shops) shopping (Amcal, Boost, Café Vue, Country Road, Krispy Kreme, DFC, Nandos, Muffin Break, Tech2Go, Travellex, WH Smith, etc) and hotel room (bed, TV, bathroom, toilet, mirror, jug, tea, coffee, soap, conditioning shampoo, body lotion).

I drag my bag through a familiar landscape, which seems to be without gravity, and without time (escalator, elevator, and moving sidewalk). It is so familiar that I face my inadequacies as anxieties. The familiar anxieties of food, of invitation (to parties and events), of selling (or not), of conversation (or not).

Samsung Galaxy X7, Apple iPhone 7, Huawei P9, OnePlus 3T, HTC 10, Google Pixel XL, LG G5, Nokia Lumia 930, etc… held between the eye and object seemed to be the main form of consuming the world by the visitor to Art Basel Hong Kong. Everything from artist, artwork, signage, wall label, desk, and price list is framed, composed and captured by the pressing of a flat screen button.

It is a spectral experience.

Travel to and from the art fair becomes a series of interiors; overlapping and interchangeable: taxi, airport, plane, airport, taxi, lobby, hotel, lift, art fair.
It offers choice but gives you none, what we have are negotiations of space and value. And for some reason David Bowie’s ‘Rock n’ Roll Suicide’ runs through my head:

‘You walk past a cafe but you don't eat when you've lived too long’.

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Rob McHaffie and Ronnie van Hout, Installation view, Art Basel Hong Kong 2017. Photo courtesy Darren Knight Gallery.
 

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Detail from Shen Shaomin's Summit, 2009, Art Basel Hong Kong.

Ronnie van Hout

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Random Hong Kong scene. Ronnie van Hout is not a photographer.

Ronnie van Hout

Ronnie van Hout was born in Christchurch, New Zealand on February 22, 1962. At around the age of 15/16 he decided to pursue the life of the artist. He attended Ilam School of Art in Christchurch. His checkered academic record is reflected in his equally checkered employment record. This continual up and down, in and out, embracing and rejecting relationship is echoed in his liaison with art. His three decade affair with art, and its many worlds, has at times been an unsatisfying and unfulfilling connection, and equally in many other moments has imparted a feeling of joyous madness akin to love.

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