So Wing-Po

<i>The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species</i>, 2023, chewed plant parts, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.-圖片

The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species, 2023, chewed plant parts, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.

Hong Kong artist So Wing Po draws heavily on her upbringing and knowledge of traditional Chinese herbal medicine to create conceptually driven artworks. Though international contemporary art and traditional Chinese medicine emerged from different historical circumstances, So’s work synthesizes these disparate fields of knowledge and practice, locating a shared concern for the natural environment. 

In the Taipei Biennial 2023, So presents a constellation of various types of materials used in traditional Chinese medicine, including pomelo skin, abalone shell, and fleeceflower root, among others. These medicinal materials also serve as food for insects and a habitat for their life cycles. Insects gnaw into the medicinal plants and lay eggs in the cavities. The subsequent larvae stay inside the organic material and ultimately consume it, hollowing it out and leaving behind a powder as a trace of their endless reproductive activity. 

So keeps a medicine cabinet in her studio, where this activity occurs, and every drawer effectively houses self-contained universes where materials and insects live in symbiosis. The artist’s installation features a selection of organic matter marked by the traces left by the parasites, as if they were writing their own histories in a meticulous script. So posits traditional Chinese medicine as an alternative medium for communication between humans and a natural world that is continuously depleted and renewed. Her work also prompts viewers to contemplate the different scales at which this process occurs, foregrounding the cosmological systems inhabited by microorganisms.