Commissioned by Tarabya Cultural Academy and Zilberman

Exhibition: 6 January – 1 February 2021
Performance:  6, 12, 13 and 19 January 2021
Podiums: 19, 20, 26 and 27 January 2021 

Isaac Chong Wai’s solo exhibition, “Leaderless,” commissioned by Tarabya Cultural Academy and Zilberman will be presented at Bilsart in Istanbul from 6 January to 1 February, 2021. Isaac Chong Wai is a Berlin-based artist from Hong Kong. Influenced by the personal and the global events, he engages themes of collectivism and individualism, geopolitics, migration, historical trauma, identity politics and public sphere. He was awarded the Fellowship at Tarabya Cultural Academy by the German Embassy and Goethe-Institut in Istanbul in 2020 and 2021. His upcoming solo exhibition showcases a series of new works, including performance, video, print works, neon lights and installations, and a series of conversations named “Podiums.”

“Leaderless” is an artistic political campaign that attempts to decentralize the representation of power on one individual and resists the violence of totalitarianism. By compiling and “rectifying” the gestures and postures that politicians perform to acquire power, Chong’s latest performance, “Rehearsal of the Futures: Leaderless,”(2020) envisions a future without a totalitarian leader and how it might impact spheres of collectivism, decentralization and altruism. By remodelling the mechanism of political campaigns and questioning the perception of the leaders’ bodies, the work rewrites the body by means of obscurity, reciprocity, and transnationality: Faces portraying power are blurred; speeches of leaders are uttered collectively; and the nation one identifies with is forgotten. Performing a leaderless world, the exhibition reconciles us with powerlessness—the unanswered demands, the ignorance from authority and the denial of individual freedom. In this context, individualism is re-discussed in a collective form: How does the homogenization of identity (a collective body) become a new shelter—a collective “leader”?

Accompanying the performance, Chong has developed a body of work including several podiums segmented into parts; a neon sign that continuously transliterates the words “LEADERLESS” AND “LESSLEADER”; a set of screens playing “advertisements” of the artistic political campaign; and a flag made of semi-transparent fabric with the word “LEADERLESS” cut out in the middle. Chong disassembles the podiums into separate pieces offering no surfaces to hide the trembling of the speaker and switching our understanding of the word “leader” from a person to a concept. By promoting “Leaderless” in a campaign and inviting viewership through a flag full of holes, this exhibition rehearses the collapse of power structures in our current world, criticizes the freedom of being leaderless that we actively avoid and obscures the singular form of a leader that we seek to discern.

In the first part of the exhibition, a newspaper publication with contributions by Evrim Altuğ,  Ceren Ergenç and Gündüz Vassaf will be published. The live performance, “Rehearsal of the Futures: Leaderless,” will take place at Bilsart on 6, 11, 13 and 19 January 2021 with performers Meltem Gürlevik, Su Güzey, İsmet Köroğlu, Can Özmen and Verda Zincirkıran. For the second part, “Podiums,” a series of conversations, will be hosted live or digitally on 19, 20, 26 and 27 January 2021 including speakers Evrim Altuğ, Pia Entenmann, Ceren Ergenç, Banu Karaca,  the Consul General of Germany Johannes Regenbrecht, Gündüz Vassaf, and more speakers to be announced.

The solo exhibition “Leaderless” of Isaac Chong Wai is made possible with the generous support of Tarabya Cultural Academy, Zilberman and Bilsart. We would like to express our gratitude to Moiz Zilberman, Selman Bilal, Pia Entenmann, Evrim Altuğ, Çiğdem İkiisik, Gizem Demirçelik, Sarah Y. Wu and all the contributors in this project.


Isaac Chong Wai is an artist from Hong Kong. He transforms the social conventions, normative ignorance, and our expected roles into resistance, rebellion, and criticism of the social systems. His works across a range of media, including performance, installation, video, photography, painting and multimedia. He had solo exhibitions at Zilberman Projects Space, Istanbul (2019), Zilberman, Berlin (2019), Blindspot Gallery (2019), Kunstraum München, München (2018) and Goethe-Institut Hongkong (2018). His works have be shown at Innsbruck Biennial (2020), IFFR, Rotterdam (2020), National Museum for Modern and Contemporary Art (2019), Museum of Contemporary Art MOCA, Taipei (2019), Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou (2019), M+ Museum, Hong Kong (2018), Haus der Kulturen der Welt HKW, Berlin (2017), Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin (2015) and Moscow Biennial for Young Art at Museum of Moscow (2014). He was awarded Fellowship from Tarabya Cultural Academy by German Embassy and Goethe-Institut in 2020 and 2021, Talent Award at Jutta Cuny-Franz Memorial Award by Kunstpalast Museum in 2020 and Blooom Award by Warsteiner in 2019. Chong is represented by Zilberman and Blindspot Gallery. He graduated from Bauhaus-Universität in Weimar, Germany, with a MFA in Public Art and New Artistic Strategies and Hong Kong Baptist University with a BA (Hons) in Visual Arts. He lives and works in Berlin and Hong Kong.