|Opening||2019.08.22, 18:00, Thursday|
Para Site Art Space
(22/F, Wing Wah Industrial Building 677 King’s Road, Hongkong)
Throughout recorded history, a definitive privilege of being in power has been the right to decide life and death. Modernity endowed the state with this ability to control through a new biopolitical account of power, in which an individual’s life and the living body were subjugated to secular and precarious conditions of the market. These allow only questionable consideration of the ethical implications of emotional justice, which nevertheless still functions within a claimed moral paradigm.
The 1960s saw instances of environmental pollution in Japan, spreading fatal diseases such as the Itai-itai disease and Yokkaichi asthma among vulnerable citizens in rural regions. While lengthy scientific investigations were undertaken to determine the causes, the factory's mishandling of industrial waste continued, and this malaise was simultaneously obfuscated by colluding local politicians, bureaucrats and business owners, sacrificing people's health for corporate profits. Amid the victims' suffering and unheard voices, a small collective of Buddhist monks and followers assembled a protest group that traveled across the country to disputed industrial complexes. They formed a procession, drumming and chanting sutra, and performed Abhichara rites—in order to curse factory owners to death.
Traversing art, politics, and religion—an execution through tantric practices of esoteric Buddhism informed by avant-garde activism, Jusatsu Kito Sodan (1970-unknown) fought for spiritual and physical retaliation on behalf of the dead, and exposed the conditions of moral and emotional injustice in their newly constituted society. The group challenged industrialists with counter-murder attempts, legally considered as an “impossible crime” that could not be prosecuted in their judiciary system. These activities emerged from a critical position about the historical trajectories of their religious sects and the use of Tantric Buddhism for “spiritual protection” of the state since the 9th century, with the aim of returning power to the hands of those in need.
Curse Mantra: How to Kill Factory Owners gathers scarce materials of literature produced by member priests and documentary photographs by Mitsutoshi Hanaga (1933-99), who later became a monk after a transformative experience with the group. Accompanied by two essays, A Brief History of Curse Mantra and Democracy as a Farce (Figuring the CIA), the exhibition looks back in time to early examples of anti-corporate and anti-government activism, and questions the very belief—while expressing mistrust—in the effectiveness of modern progressive politics.
Para Site is Hong Kong’s leading contemporary art centre and one of the oldest and most active independent art institutions in Asia. It produces exhibitions, publications, discursive and educational projects aimed at forging a critical understanding of local and international phenomena in art and society.