Up on the fifth floor of an industrial building in Tai Kok Tsui, smoke and mirrors fill a room. Circular cuts of glass are arranged on the bare concrete floor, where fast-paced geometric projections in red colour everybody’s legs pink. The scene is Noisebath “목욕방”, which pairs a pulsing live sound performance by Heejin Jang with a frenetic audiovisual installation work by Angela Jang, one of two founders of the space: Bedroom. Michael Yu, her co-founder, is behind the sound decks, his dark wavy hair poking out beneath plumes of smoke.
Noisebath’s immersive mixture of both audio streams and visual cues speaks to the multidisciplinary nature of Bedroom, which is experimental and playful in its ethos and atmosphere. The set-up defies easy categorisation, instead leaving visitors to engage with the room—which is furnished with plastic bath stools and body-length mirrors, as found in Korean bathhouses—however they please.
Standing amidst throngs of various Noisebath attendees clad in all-black, it is hard to believe that Bedroom started out as an artists’ studio.
Michael and Angela first met when they shared a fateful taxi home from a karaoke party. Lamenting the lack of both space and time to pursue their creative endeavours, they bonded over a vision for a platform that eschewed the blue-chip commercial gallery scene. In the summer of 2018, they inaugurated Bedroom with their first exhibition, announcing their openness for collaborations of any kind, not just art we are used to.
Bedroom has none of the usual signifiers of an “elite” art gallery: the icy receptionist, rows of white plinths, and floors so clean you could eat off them. Rather than another quiet white cube, the duo imagined a room that functioned as an artist’s studio, a gallery space, a sound and concert venue, and most importantly, a place to let loose.
“Now that we have a space,” Angela says, “we can support people whose work we respect and help realise their projects. Sometimes we approach them and sometimes they approach us. Nothing is set in stone.”
After hours of dialogue with collaborators, their vision is rapidly taking shape. In the remainder of 2018, an art exhibition, a knitwear pop-up, a tattooing studio and several performances are all on the agenda. Currently on view is Fan Death in Bedroom, a group exhibition curated by Hera Chan, which eerily situates Bedroom as the site of a murder mystery, with works ranging from video projections to sculpture and installation. As Angela puts it, “we have these ideas and people around us that want to make something.”
Each endeavour stems organically from conversations between friends, as exemplified by the space’s opening exhibition, titled Maslow, after the mid-century American psychologist’s famed hierarchy of human needs.
Angela and Michael were approached by their mutual friend, Jerry Haha, to host a group exhibition of emerging artists from Hong Kong, some still in their late teens. Rather than traditional fine artists, the cohort works at the intersections of photography, graphic design, textile arts, and music. Bedroom had one stipulation: the artists would utilise the gallery as their studio, and source their materials from the industrial businesses of Tai Kok Tsui. A few weeks and multiple all-nighters later, Maslow opened with a packed reception featuring five site-specific works created by Chan Po Lam, Chan Hon Lam, Sherwin Wong, Fei, and Jerry himself, with assistance from Bedroom’s crew and friends.
The works on view were striking in their combination of vulnerability and boldness, including Fei’s Heaven (2018), which consists of stuffed cloth hands hanging from a circular frame. Angela fondly remembers how Bedroom’s team all assisted Fei in sewing her mass of soft, elongated hands as the opening date drew near. Entering the sculptural installation, one is naturally stroked by these strange yet endearing assemblages, conjuring safety and warmth. It is rare for an artwork to retain traces of its production: in this case, the feeling of making something with friends at the eleventh hour, a hazy mixture of exhaustion and anticipation.
For Bedroom’s founders, spontaneity is key. The visual identity of each project changes dramatically: take the industrial red and blue aesthetic of Noisebath versus the graphical, geometric monotone of Maslow.
“Things evolve into other things,” Michael explains, “like Jerry hosting a screen-printing workshop here after being part of the exhibition.” There are no set roles at Bedroom. Many people collaborate on every aspect of the project, from lighting to fabrication materials.
Alongside their evolving brand and aesthetic, Bedroom also works with their collaborators to produce different souvenirs for each show, such as the bathhouse numbered keychains Heejin envisioned for Noisebath. Each token becomes a lasting emblem to a space that radically re-invents itself every few weeks, because why not?
Amidst the excitement of their packed fall season, Angela and Michael are also confronting the challenges of managing a multi-disciplinary art space in Hong Kong. They both work full-time jobs to support Bedroom, and time and money can be tight. The pair join forces with collaborators to fund projects, as being self-financed allows them to program independently, without a sponsored agenda.
“There are always cheap ways to make art,” Michael points out, adding, “works made under a financial or time constraint yield the best results.”
“You need some kind of limit to be creative,” Angela agrees.
She is especially excited about how she and Michael can work directly with artists and help shape their ideas. “We’re very hands-on,” she smiles, referring to how all Bedroom endeavours start from nothing and are built through exchange. The two of them share an unwavering belief in what is yet to exist, but still possible. Like looking at an empty floor of an industrial building and seeing much, much more.
Bedroom’s current exhibition, Fan Death in Bedroom is on view until November 25, 2018. Editing by Still / Loud’s Holmes Chan.