“Green Snake: women-centred ecologies” at Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong

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“Green Snake: women-centred ecologies” is a group exhibition that explores the connections between art and ecology in the context of rising temperatures and extreme weather events. Gathering more than 30 artists and collectives from 20 countries, the exhibition presents over 60 works that draw on mythologies and world views with women at their heart in order to explore possibilities for other ecological relationships and imagine other futures.

At its core, “Green Snake: women-centred ecologies” points to extractive economies at the root of our ecological crises—economies that treat nature as reserves of resources for exploitation. Such economics of extraction have a long history that is intertwined with the history of settler-colonialism and imperialism. The consequences have been devastating: the suppression of Indigenous as well as other non-capitalist cultures and knowledge systems as well as the desolation of nature in the pursuit of limitless growth. Today, the destructive effects of a single-pointed focus on profit and growth are more widely recognised, as the impunity with which this has destroyed worlds and spread toxicity and pollution in its wake is now resulting in the collapse of ecosystems, along with accelerating climate change.

Some artists in “Green Snake” explore histories of such devastation and extraction, while other artists look particularly at the knowledge systems that have been marginalised or suppressed. Rather than unfolding a bleak, dystopian view, “Green Snake” asks what alternative narratives are activated through artists’ visions that celebrate nature as an all-encompassing and generative force— many of them grounded in notions of care and interrelationship that are central to ecofeminism. This labour of care is in fact essential to the reproduction of existence, and this has been undervalued in articulated patriarchal and imperial systems across broad geographies. In this way, “Green Snake” seeks to present works by artists drawing on and revitalising diverse cosmological systems in relation to ecology and women-centred knowledge.

The exhibition title refers both to the celebrated ancient Chinese folktale about two demon sisters, White Snake and Green Snake, and to mythological serpentine figures across cultures that are associated with nature’s capacity to shed skins, transform and re-awaken. In the eighth-century folktale Madame White Snake, the sister figure of Green Snake strongly represents women’s agency, sisterhood and gender fluidity—and has been widely reinterpreted in contemporary literature and cinema. At another level, in the exhibition, the snake’s sinuous curves echo the geomorphology of river systems and the vital energy of the water flowing through them. Indeed, a series of artists in the exhibition have longstanding research interests in specific river ecosystems and in their associated mythologies. Dialogues between works rooted in different geographies testify to parallel struggles and to parallel practices of empathy and care for non-human existence. The figure of an all-encompassing circle of planetary and cosmic renewal emerges in a symphonic call for a radical reorientation of the human within the whole.

Tai Kwun Contemporary presents a series of tours in collaboration with the researcher and curator Anqi Li, the writer Coco Shen, the artist and educator Morgan Wong, the architectural designer Human Wu and the environmental educator Yeungs.

at Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong
until April 1, 2024

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