Past Sponsored Artist Opera Cabal returns to High Concept Labs this April to present a work in progress and public discussion of Hong Kong Graft (HKGraft) on April 25 at 5 PM. HKGraft is the next stage in an ongoing collaboration between composer/performer Ken Ueno and architect Thomas Tsang (DEHOWPROJECTS) with vocalist and performer, Majel Connery.
HKGraft is both an installation and an opera—expanding Ueno and Tsang’s work rethinking the relationship between space and sound, and embracing architecture as a fundamentally sonic and theatrical experience.
The 20-minute preview on Saturday, April 25 premieres two scenes from the forthcoming opera, and represents the first phase in the project’s development. Following the preview, Seth Brodsky (Associate Professor of Music at the University of Chicago), will lead a discussion and audience talkback with Ueno, Tsang and Connery.
DEHOWPROJECTS and Opera Cabal are thrilled to partner with Sponsor High Concept Labs and host Mana Contemporary Chicago to present this world premiere.
HKGraft reflects on the current plight of Hong Kong, a uniquely unsettled city. Physically, Hong Kong is many places: an international safe harbor, an island and a contested geopolitical oddity. Aurally, it is also many sounds, with mainland Chinese Putonghua mingling with colonial British English and native Cantonese. Last fall, images of umbrella-wielding Occupy protesters went viral, forcing Hong Kong back into the international spotlight. But the Hong Kong question—what to do?—remains far from clear.
Audibly and visually, HKGraft is a meditation on the jarring discord present in Hong Kong today, seeking to find inspiration in cacophony and chaos.
Part landscape, part architecture, Tsang’s massive and restless stage set is informed by the shifting dynamics of clouds. Reams of umbrella fabric suspended from the ceiling ripple and buck, propelled by both man- and wind-power. A vast system of pulleys together with a series of electrical fans evoke a landscape that is never still. Both the enormity of the installation and its pattern of continuous change echo Hong Kong’s uncertain geography.
The soundscape of HKGraft is similarly divided. Interpreting Hong Kong as a modern-day Babel, Ueno’s score adheres to the principle of juxtaposition rather than resolution. Ueno’s trademark vocal style blends 21st-century extended techniques with throat singing. Connery’s singing, by contrast, presents a smoother, pop-synth style reminiscent of Portishead or Sigur Ros. A series of dueling arias between two very different singers mirror the semantic deadlock of Hong Kong’s own fraught air space.
Majel Connery is Executive and Artistic Director of Opera Cabal, and Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Ongoing projects include stage direction for Kurt Rohde’s Death With Interruptions; composition and vocals for Hecuba and Passionate Pilgrim, song cycles co-produced by Opera Cabal with Oracle Hysterical, and New Vintage Baroque; and vocals and stage direction for HKGraft with Thomas Tsang and Ken Ueno. Past collaborators include Caroline Shaw, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Nadia Sirota, Hai-Ting Chinn, Phyllis Chen, Tony Arnold, dal niente, Lewis Nielson, Elliot Cole, Rick Burkhardt and the Nonsense Company, and Habib Azar. Connery holds an A.B. from Princeton University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
Rome Prize and Berlin Prize winner Ken Ueno is a composer/vocalist/sound artist. As a vocalist, he specializes in extended techniques, such as multiphonics, circular breathing, and throat singing. Musicians who have collaborated with Ken include Kim Kashkashian, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Joey Baron, Ikue Mori, Joan Jeanrenaud, eighth blackbird, Alarm Will Sound, BMOP, SFCMP, and Frances-Marie Uitti. The Hilliard Ensemble featured Ken’s Shiroi Ishi in their repertoire for over a decade. Ken’s sound installations have been commissioned by galleries museums in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Taiwan, Mexico, and China. Currently an Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, he holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University www.kenueno.com
Thomas Tsang is an architect, artist and curator based in Hong Kong. He studied at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and stage production at the Juilliard School, and received a professional degree in Architecture at The Cooper Union. He is founder of DEHOWPROJECTS, an art and architecture practice based in Hong Kong dedicated to developing cultural projects. His curatorial projects includes the ‘Grand Opening Projects’ at the Miniature Museum and co-curated with Roan Ching-yueh ‘Cloud of Unknowing: A City with Seven Streets,’ in 2014, first time themed exhibition on the subject of urban spatiality for the Taipei Fine Art Museum. His solo exhibition includes ‘MonoMiniDome: Cornice’ (2014) at the Garden City Art Space in Taipei and ‘Lost and Found: Rome in 50 Pieces’ (2007) at the American Academy in Rome. In 2015, Tsang will be in residency at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation as Visual Artist fellow. Taught at Cooper Union and China Academy of Arts, currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong. www.dehow.com