Christopher K. Ho: Aloha to the World at the Don Ho Terrace

The Bronx Museum of the Arts
October 3, 2018 - January 6, 2019

The Bronx Museum is pleased to present Christopher K. Ho’s first museum solo exhibition. Aloha to the World at the Don Ho Terrace is a multi-component installation that transforms the museum’s Terrace into the entrance of the now-demolished Hotel Miramar in Waikiki. Hawaii looms in Ho’s memory as the refueling stop between the US and Hong Kong on frequent childhood trips to visit family. It also serves as a launch point for an anticipated return to Hong Kong, from where the artist emigrated at age four. Here as in Ho’s previous work, ethics and selfhood intersect. What happens when an artist disengages physically and ideologically from the margins? What motivates reverse diaspora, and what is the lived complexity of shifting away from being an ethnic minor in the United States, towards rejoining the Han majority?

A 38-foot-tall banner recreates, askew, the chinoiserie roof of the hotel, co-owned by Ho’s grandfather, along with a mosaic mural of the Bodhisattva Guanyin that once dominated the façade. The mural, a 1960s Italian craftsman’s interpretation of a Dunhuang cave painting, is printed in low resolution (the image is from Google Street View). The banner drapes over the museum’s awning to create optical illusions from different vantages, heightened by real laser-cut 1-inch thick metallic letters attached over the unfocused image.
For Ho, to return to Hong Kong is also to bid farewell to the United States, his adult home. Two rock speakers pipe an erhu playing “Goodbye and Thanks for All the Fish.” In the movie The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it is sung by dolphins before they abscond to outer space, having given up on humans’ capability to care for Earth. The speakers, one a small coral and the other a large granite chunk, play four sets, each more complex than the previous, in a 22’12” loop. The fourth and eighth sets feature a full orchestral rendition at full speed, filtered through an ‘80s cassette player.

Acknowledging the privilege that undergirds globally mobile subjects is a re-christening of the museum’s terrace. “DON HO TERRACE,” announce letters miming the museum’s existing signage above the doorway leading to the banner. In a vitrine in the stairwell, vinyl records identify Don Ho as a Hawaiian lounge singer. (In his youth, Ho was often asked by Americans if he was related.) The vitrine’s smoked Plexiglas cover is angled to match that of the boxwood in the banner. Contents include 3D printed objects inspired by the hotel’s roof and vintage promotional paraphernalia: room service menus, matchbooks, an ashtray, an ersatz bamboo mug, and a golf-club shaped swizzle stick.

Aloha to the World at the Don Ho Terrace is curated by Antonia Sergio Bessa, Director of Curatorial Programs. The exhibition is made possible by the Director’s Circle, the Bronx Museum’s premier support group.