To draw Para Site’s first 25 years to a close as we look ahead to the next, Para Site presents ‘Noble Rot’, a two-part exhibition of all new commissions by the 18 artists participating in the inaugural edition of 2046 Fermentation + Fellowships. The artists are invited to revisit Para Site’s founding ethos of deep play and experimentation—taking a big leap of faith, together.
At its core, ‘Noble Rot’ is a pipe dream: an impractical unfolding of what it means to make space for a felix culpa. Rapid-fire series of unfortunate events spell disaster and disenchantment as a matter of course, but there may still be ways for us to make room for happy accidents and secret pleasures. In viniculture, exceptional if not unsettling flavours of decay may reveal themselves at select moments in ‘noble rot’, a paradoxical and meticulous yielding of unusually concentrated and refined sweet wines from ripened grapes that have been compromised by a destructive fungal infestation. Noble rot, put differently, undermines the routine effects of infection and invasion by way of metabolic transformation. A happenstance in the mythologies of vinification, noble rot gives us a taste of fundamental contradiction. Ruined clusters belie an uncorrupted sweetness, but who will harvest the fruits of fermentation at the right moment?
Deep-diving into these byproducts of fermentation as an explicitly public practice, the artists of the exhibition expose the seams of cultural production in the midst of crisis. The shifting minutiae of fermentation emerge as a material study, an improvisational process, and a critical lens into times of fracture and emergency. Each fissure in the depths of the oldest metabolic pathway known to the anthropocentric age fizzles and morphs from one moment to the next; any given door may well lead to worlds as far-flung in form, shape, and time even as they remain sutured together by collective memory and historical rupture. Other portals open up to newly solidified ideas and extensions of those that were abandoned as they find curious overlaps and uncomfortable intimacies with each other.
The new commissions in ‘Noble Rot’ unearth ostensibly concrete relations of ruling, labour, and capital as lines drawn in the sand, soon to be swallowed up and spat back out as foam and froth with vigorous action. Just as nebulous are boundaries and borders only felt, heard, sensed, and intuited: what scars and bruises does a learned alienation leave behind? In an increasingly airless terroir, feral cultures surreptitiously locate other futures on unruly lands. Under airlock, accumulated affects creep and advance like invasive species, but a second glance tells us that they were never as injurious as they appeared.
What fermentation manages to offer at this current moment of vulnerability, then, is as much a checking of the pulse as a steadying of the hand, in anticipation of revelations both welcome and dreaded, and of gestures and marks we have never made before.
Divided into two exhibition arcs, the exhibiting artists of Part One (4 Dec 2021–16 Jan 2022) are: Herman Chan Ho Wang, Natasha Cheung, Chu Hoi Ding, Koel Chu Ka Kiu, Rannie Ip Ka Man, Florence Lam, Man Ting Vanessa Lam, Hou Lam Tsui, and Wong Winsome Dumalagan; the exhibiting artists of Part Two (9 Feb–24 Apr 2022, TBC) are: Chung Wing Shan, Hong Wah, Wing Sze Ng, Tam Man Ching Michelle, Tam Rafael Vun Kwan, Ice Wong Kei Suet, Wong Pak Hang, Jennifer Yue Yuen Yu, and Yuen Nga Chi.
‘Noble Rot’ is organised by Cusson Cheng, Celia Ho, Kobe Ko, and Ellie Tse.