Polluta, Floating Artist Colony in the Sky
Pro Arts Gallery and Commons, Oakland, CA, USA
This exhibition addresses the collective memory of Chinese modern history and envisions China's ecological future from Hong Kong’s unique vantage point, in a way that is newly salient to the American experience. The exhibition features Chinese Pop propaganda banner paintings and posters promoting Polluta, a futuristic dystopian community in Mainland China.
The artist was making sense of modern Chinese history and project the future of Greater China as a Hong Konger, much like many Californians are making sense of the recent American events and projecting their country's future.
At the opening reception, the artist interviewed selected visitors for admission to Polluta. Interview questions ranged from the practical to the ridiculous. Such absurdity highlighted the duality of the Polluta project: is it dystopia or ecotopia? There is no doubt that our ecological and socio-political landscapes are rapidly shifting in the advent of Anthropocene. More important than ever, a conscientious citizen must be careful with reading between the lines and with choosing one's communities.
Based on the interviewees' answers, the artist determined (arbitrarily) whether they were accepted into Polluta. The lucky ones received a temporary resident card on the spot, then proceeded to the photo booth area for an official headshot. An official package from the Ministry of Polluta was followed via mail.
The closing event kicked off with the artist's translated English reading of an excerpt from her new book Tin Hong Gaau Jyu (Joint Publishing, 2017), then proceeded to an outdoor screening of the short film "Plastic, plastic, every where!" and followed by Q&A. The illustrated book was an extended version of the same narrative and will be on view at the exhibition.
The exhibition was generously supported by Hong Kong Arts Development Council.
"Polluta, Floating Artist Colony in the Sky" is a satirically Orwellian landscape...memorable for its whimsical anthropomorphic dialogue and fantastical imagination."
Dena Al-adeeb, artist, writer and scholar-activist
University of California, Davis
"I met Michelle through a mutual artist friend Dena Al-deeab in 2016. A week after, I visited her studio in San Francisco and officially invited her to a solo exhibition “Polluta, Floating Artist Colony in the Sky” at Pro Arts Gallery in 2018.
Her works are timely, emotionally kind, conceptually complex and visually powerful. She sculpts a dystopian world of 2084 with different medium such as books, performance, large propaganda banner paintings, woodblock prints, and a moving-drawing video. Each medium is carefully chosen for its inherent historical or experiential implications.
Michelle's work ethics is impeccable. She either finishes her work on time or early. She is able to work independently and in a team. She is able to solve problems on her own, yet asks for appropriate advice. She is pleasant, hardworking, respectful and responsible.
I understand that Polluta is one of the five futuristic micro-narratives of Michelle's oeuvre.
I am excited to learn about the other micro-narratives when they are completed."
Natalia Ivanova (Mount), Executive Director, Pro Arts Gallery & Commons