For his first solo exhibition at White Cube in Hong Kong, Danh Vō presented politically charged works in which language and object are always in play. His gestures here are rooted in the leitmotifs of his prior productions, in particular identity and authorship.
For Vō, a work’s materiality transforms it into something universal. Installed on the ground floor of the gallery, Lick me, Lick me (2016), a Roman marble sculpture on top of a contemporary glass refrigerator containing a wooden head of Jesus, suggested a meditation on the preservation of time. Inside the fridge, imprints of bottles are evident, hinting at a consumerism more openly stated in Untitled (2016), a gold-painted Budweiser box made in Thailand. The interior of the box reveals fragments of the original American flag featuring thirteen stars. These works join a commentary on the allegorical power of objects — indeed, objects as relics — and on the marketplace.
Much of the first floor is dedicated to an installation previously exhibited at the Crystal Palace of the Museo Nacional Centro de Reina Sofia in Madrid. With an expansive title too long to reproduce here, based upon lines spoken by the demon in the film The Exorcist (1973), the work consists of over 450 fossilized mammoth fragments suspended from the ceiling. Repeating the monologue to oneself, claustrophobia reigns as fossilized fragments gently encroach upon one’s vision, defining a moment between the birth and extinction of flesh. An ivory figure of Christ dangles among these relics, apparently passing judgment on our illegal trade of resources. The artist here toys with viewers, who are forced into the role of worshippers, examining the installation from below.
Vō is not attempting to intimidate the viewer with his titles, but rather is acknowledging that objects are able to form a relationship with the viewer, and to act on their own behalf.