Ka-Man Tse Explores A Sense of Place for Asian Pacific Islander LGBTQ Communities
In Ka-Man Tse’s solo exhibition narrow distances at Aperture, the 2018 Portfolio Prize Winner explores the “narrows distances” in the lives of Asian Pacific Islander LGBTQ communities. For Tse, the phrase pulled from Ken Chen’s poem Long-Distance Love, Can It Work?, can be the spaces between people, places, or people and places. It is the in-between of two points, and oftentimes the yearning for seemingly parallel axes to intersect.
In Hong Kong, where a majority of Tse’s images are shot, physical space is scarce. The significant land shortage affects housing and public spaces and as a result people often live in compact intergenerational homes. For the most part land is owned by the government or corporations and highly surveilled, seldom allowing people (especially marginalized groups) the space to be ‘at home’ with themselves.
Tse’s works are deeply subjective and collaboration is paramount to the artist’s practice. The shoots themselves are the result of interviews, meals shared together and conversations had about their lives, their communities, their places and how they would like to be seen. As a result, Tse’s images oscillate between the public and private, the social and the solitary. We see the varying narratives and experiences such as a group of girls hanging out on the sidewalk, or a lone person dressing in a stairwell. For Tse, it is important that the subject finds “a sense of place, and being in it” as she asks “what is here, and what is home?”
Under the direction of her subjects, Tse evokes landscape as longing and as belonging. In certain images, particularly those shot outside, the subjects appear against the landscape. For example, one photograph shows two men standing in a tight embrace overlooking the Hong Kong skyline. A pair of skyscrapers beyond them mirrors their closeness, yet the city and the subjects remain separated, highlighting how the couple could not occupy and move through the city together with the same intimacy.