At the 2017 Venice Biennale’s Hong Kong Pavilion,
and composer Samson Young filled a space outfitted like a ’70s living room with melodies both eerie and familiar. His re-recordings of charity singles, including ’80s earworms like “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World,” explored the songs’ affective power, as well as the neoliberal assumptions embedded in their creation and their use as heartstring-tugging fundraising tools.
“Samson’s practice builds on his interest in sound and music and the implications of the sociopolitical context around it,” says curator Ying Kwok, who organized the Venice exhibition (“Songs for Disaster Relief”), which is now on view in an expanded form at the M+ Pavilion in Hong Kong. Kwok has been impressed by Young’s “vast amounts of research, which draws on seemingly unrelated past and current events,” leading to nuanced works that “people from different backgrounds and cultures can all relate to in their own ways.”
The artist—who holds a doctorate in music composition from Princeton University—thrives when given a space to fully execute his ambitious ideas, as he did at the 2017 Manchester International Festival, where he presented an ambitious five-part live radio drama with musical accompaniment. Titled One of Two Stories, or Both (Field Bagatelles), the work explored Chinese migration; an accompanying exhibition at the city’s Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art further unpacked those themes via an immersive multimedia installation.
For an upcoming Guggenheim
commission as part of the group show “One Hand Clapping,” opening May 4th, he’ll continue to expand the possibilities of the aural—with an immersive installation filled with the sounds of imaginary instruments.