Akil Ahamat, Olyvia Hong and Yumoi Zheng

Distance is a blade

04 Apr — 19 May

Image: Distance is a blade (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou. 
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Image: Distance is a blade (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou. 

Image: Yumoi Zheng, Intangible (飘飘渺渺) and plz, bless me ur most hopeless faggot (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.
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Image: Yumoi Zheng, Intangible (飘飘渺渺) and plz, bless me ur most hopeless faggot (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Image: Yumoi Zheng, plz, bless me ur most hopeless faggot (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.
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Image: Yumoi Zheng, plz, bless me ur most hopeless faggot (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Image: Yumoi Zheng, plz, bless me ur most hopeless faggot (detail), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.
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Image: Yumoi Zheng, plz, bless me ur most hopeless faggot (detail), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Image: Yumoi Zheng, Intangible (飘飘渺渺) (video still), 2024. Single-channel video and sound, 5’08”.
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Image: Yumoi Zheng, Intangible (飘飘渺渺) (video still), 2024. Single-channel video and sound, 5’08”.

Image: Yumoi Zheng, Intangible (飘飘渺渺) (video still), 2024. Single-channel video and sound, 5’08”.
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Image: Yumoi Zheng, Intangible (飘飘渺渺) (video still), 2024. Single-channel video and sound, 5’08”.

Image: Yumoi Zheng, Intangible (飘飘渺渺) (video still), 2024. Single-channel video and sound, 5’08”.
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Image: Yumoi Zheng, Intangible (飘飘渺渺) (video still), 2024. Single-channel video and sound, 5’08”.

Image: Yumoi Zheng, Intangible (飘飘渺渺) (video still), 2024. Single-channel video and sound, 5’08”.
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Image: Yumoi Zheng, Intangible (飘飘渺渺) (video still), 2024. Single-channel video and sound, 5’08”.

Image: Distance is a blade (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.
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Image: Distance is a blade (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Image: Akil Ahamat, Be tormented by me, babe, 2019, and Dawn of a day too dark to call tomorrow (installation view), 2021. Photo by Nancy Zhou.
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Image: Akil Ahamat, Be tormented by me, babe, 2019, and Dawn of a day too dark to call tomorrow (installation view), 2021. Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Image: Akil Ahamat, Be tormented by me, babe (installation view), 2019. Photo by Nancy Zhou.
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Image: Akil Ahamat, Be tormented by me, babe (installation view), 2019. Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Image: Akil Ahamat, Dawn of a day too dark to call tomorrow (installation view), 2021. Photo by Nancy Zhou.
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Image: Akil Ahamat, Dawn of a day too dark to call tomorrow (installation view), 2021. Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Image: Akil Ahamat, Dawn of a day too dark to call tomorrow, 2021. QSXGA+ video with Stereo Sound.
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Image: Akil Ahamat, Dawn of a day too dark to call tomorrow, 2021. QSXGA+ video with Stereo Sound.

Image: Akil Ahamat, Dawn of a day too dark to call tomorrow, 2021. QSXGA+ video with Stereo Sound.
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Image: Akil Ahamat, Dawn of a day too dark to call tomorrow, 2021. QSXGA+ video with Stereo Sound.

Image: Distance is a blade (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.
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Image: Distance is a blade (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Image: Olyvia Hong, Kumiho, 2020, and Descendants (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.
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Image: Olyvia Hong, Kumiho, 2020, and Descendants (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Image: Olyvia Hong, Kumiho (installation view), 2020. Photo by Nancy Zhou.
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Image: Olyvia Hong, Kumiho (installation view), 2020. Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Image: Olyvia Hong, Descendants (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.
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Image: Olyvia Hong, Descendants (installation view), 2024. Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Distance is a blade
Akil Ahamat, Olyvia Hong and Yumoi Zheng

Curated by Amy Weng

Exhibition runs: 4 April – 19 May 2024
Whakatau and exhibition preview: Thursday 4 April, 6pm


Distance is a blade
is a group exhibition featuring works by Akil Ahamat, Olyvia Hong and Yumoi Zheng. Comprising videos, sculpture and wall-based works, the exhibition contends with intimacy and alienation, love and rupture, and the private and affective forms of myth-making that carry us into the future. Drawing on autobiography, pop culture, customary storytelling and forms of online encounter, the works invite us into dream-like sequences where animals and atmospheric effects collide with intensely human dramas. In each of the artists’ works, the sharpness of separation and longing becomes something to hold fast to, an edge upon which to endlessly remake ourselves anew.

Akil Ahamat’s video and 3D printed relief are part of an ongoing series of works that revolves around a romantic relationship between the artist and a snail. As Ahamat and the snail attempt to converse across an interspecies divide, or as two bodies obscured by darkness and separated by ever decreasing rainfall, the work replicates the narrative dissonances that arise in any experience of intimacy. Featuring ASMR sound design and a looping, shifting dialogue, the work interrogates thwarted desire and ambiguity, asking how do we move forward in a time of suspended agency?

Working with found imagery and materials, Olyvia Hong explores memories and sensory associations with the figure of the kumiho. First appearing in Hong’s work in a painting created in the wake of personal loss, the kumiho is an adversarial spirit in Korean folklore who takes the form of a shapeshifting nine-tailed fox. In Hong’s works, the image of the fox is adorned with tender and mysterious relics, bringing the past into otherworldly relation with the present. In Hong’s reimagining, communal storytelling becomes a means for personal excavation, suggesting its transformational potential.

Having returned to her hometown of Zhanjiang in late 2023, Yumoi Zheng explores the typhoon as a metaphor for the turbulent relationship between mother and daughter. Wrestling with her mother’s denial of Zheng’s transition to female, Zheng searches for alternative expressions of love from her surrounding environment. A new video, filmed partially from an aerial vantage, and a large resin oyster, suffused with private symbolism and connecting the two coasts of Zhanjiang and Pōneke, asks what is left in the aftermath of fierce yet distant love?

The title of the exhibition pays tribute to a short poem by American poet Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello. In the Animal Garden of My Body compares yearning and remorse with the cyclical inhalation and exhalation of animal bodies. “Ask me again how the story should go,” Cancio-Bello exhorts, suggesting the discrepancies in the act of narrative recollection or perhaps the potential to write into a space of loss. In Distance is a blade, the artists attend to this breach by deploying mythic and playful modes of storytelling, and how these might allow for a rewriting of the self. In doing so, they speculate on a future where experiences of grief, conflict and isolation can be transfigurative.


Akil Ahamat is a Sri Lankan Malay artist and filmmaker currently based on Gadigal land. Ahamat’s work across video, sound, installation and games considers the physical and social isolation of online experience, its affects, and the various intimacies and alienations it produces. Ahamat has most recently produced online works for 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Parramatta Artists’ Studios, Sydney Review of Books and Bleed: Biennial Live Event in the Everyday Digital, and exhibited physically at The Living Museum of the West, The Lock Up, Palais De Tokyo, Monash University Museum of Art, Institute of Modern Art and Artspace.

Olyvia Hong was born and raised in Tāmaki Makarau. Currently based in Ōtautahi, Hong manipulates found and hand-crafted materials to explore ways in which she can subvert narratives that revolve around loss, grief, self, and familial identities. She was one of the coordinators behind Samoa House Library from 2018-22. Recent group exhibitions include The River Remains; ake tonu atu, 2018, Artspace Aotearoa; I Understand If You’re Busy, 2018, RM; Dog Pit, 2018, Satchi&Satchi&Satchi; and Rabbit on the Moon, 2017, Hapori Vol. 6, all Tāmaki Makaurau.

Yumoi Zheng 郑有妹 is a transfeminine artist working across poetry, performance, installation, fashion and video. Currently based in Zhanjiang, China, Zheng explores the intricacies of her own identities through her creative practice, in which she talks about being apart from her family, growth, loneliness, blessings and the secretive nature of memories. Recent exhibitions include always love xxx, with Isadora Lao, 2024, Toi Pōneke Arts Centre; and talk soon xxx, 2022, Playstation Artist-Run Space, all Pōneke.