Mapping Identity

Three Macau artists present their works in Florence

Macau Visual Art Student Zone is taking three local artists to Italy. Wong Ka Long, Eric Fok and Cai Guo Jie, will showcase their 48 works at a collective exhibition entitled "The Impossible Black Tulip".

The works are inspired by the first Chinese world map drawn by the missionary and cartographer Matteo Ricci and will be exhibited at Le Murate from 3 May to 3 June.

Livia Dubon Bohlig is the Italian curator behind the exhibition, whose title "The Impossible Black Tulip" is in reference to the oldest Chinese world map, designed in European style, according to a statement from the promoters of the event.

"Maps and identities have a deep connection. As a crucial visualization of national boundaries, mapping has been linked to national identity since the beginnings of modern nationalism. However, "this map, created from a combination of East and West, incorporates current concepts of identity," according to the statement.

The maps printed in China, at the request of Emperor Wanli around 1602, were designed by the Italian missionary Matteo Ricci along with Zhong Wentao and the translator Li Zhizao. It was called "Impossible Black Tulip" for its "rarity, importance and exoticism".

Inspired by the relativity of the cartography accentuated in this map, this exhibition aims to explore "the gray zone between what is Chinese and what is European, recognizing the continuities and ruptures between the two cultures in order to challenge ideas of exoticism and the 'other' "

In this respect, the project of Wong Ka Long "is emblematic". The artist, who was born in the territory, "was created within the cultural environment that wants to see Macau as an emblem of hybridism." After the surrender of the territory by Portugal to China, "the identity of Macau represents a re-appropriation of the colonial image disseminated by the Portuguese administration since the 1980s."

Wong was inspired by Macau’s move as well as the 12-3 incident to create "The Love from the West." The date refers to the riots of "1, 2, 3", as it became known, one of the most tense episodes in Macau's history in the twentieth century, referring to the date of 3 December (12/3) of 1966. The work is composed of 25 original helmets, with illustrated carnations, the symbol of the revolution of April 1974, in Portugal.

Eric Fok's work analyzes the ancient territory of Macau. "The East and the West are intertwined; the city is linked to its modern lifestyle and horizon, but has centuries of heritage in layers." Fok seems to respond by inserting modern buildings into an old map, as a new space-time dimension. "Fok's melancholy cartography places alternative speculative worlds, making the fictional and real world, East and West, past and present, inseparable," reads a note on the work.

The conceptual and performative work of Guo Jie Cai questions the idea of "belonging" related to the concept of property. The artist is connected to literature, beginning with Deleuze and Guattari (1972), who see in capitalist societies the imposition of abstract market values against more concrete needs.


The exhibition will be open to the public in the cultural space Le Murate, from 3 May to 3 June.