By Laurene Cen

One of the first things you notice about Wolfgang Tillmans’ show isn’t his photographs at all. Rather, it’s the sound of Hong Kong traffic signals that echo through the David Zwirner gallery, five floors above the street.

Tillmans recorded the signals on a previous visit to Hong Kong in his capacity as a DJ. “I recorded this in January, cut and modulated it in the studio,” he said.

The four chambers of the self-titled exhibition, Tillmans’ first in the city, are roughly organized so that the upper floor of the two-story gallery contains mostly landscape and colourful photocopy works, while portraiture and Hong Kong features are downstairs.

Installation view, Wolfgang Tillmans , David Zwirner, Hong Kong, 2018 © Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York, London, Hong Kong (6)
Installation view, Wolfgang Tillmans, David Zwirner, Hong Kong, 2018 © Wolfgang Tillmans. Image courtesy of David Zwirner, New York, London, Hong Kong. 

“Each room could be an installation itself,” the artist said. “But they are also connected, through different aspects that exist within my world.”

The German-born Tillmans is known for his diverse documentary snapshots and portraits. He was the first photographer and first non-Brit to win the Turner Prize.

The exhibition features a series of new works on Hong Kong, interspersed with those from 25 years ago when he first visited the city. He captures Hong Kong’s liveliness: maids playing cards on a street in 2018, a reporter at a butcher’s stall in 1993.

One theme of this show is Tillmans’ study of Hong Kong’s borders. In a pair of photos, he frames the dense towers of Shenzhen across the river with the bushes and reeds on the less-developed Hong Kong side.

Installation view, Wolfgang Tillmans , David Zwirner, Hong Kong, 2018 © Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York, London, Hong Kong (5)
Installation view, Wolfgang Tillmans, David Zwirner, Hong Kong, 2018 © Wolfgang Tillmans. Image courtesy of David Zwirner, New York, London, Hong Kong. 

For Tillmans, the presentation of his photos is as interesting as their subject matter. The artist invites the audience to “think about how was it made, what do I want to see in it, what do I really see in it, and what was the translation of the camera.”

This story is published as part of CJC Fellowship 2018 with the support from Swire Properties’ ArtisTree at Taikoo Place and MG Interactive.

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