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Archive for the ‘Space’ Category

ArtSway Associate Dinu Li’s new solo exhibition on China’s past and present – two Art Radar interviews

Posted by artradar on September 11, 2010


BRITISH-CHINESE ARITST PHOTOGRAPHY NEW MEDIA MULTIMEDIA RESIDENCY INTERVIEW

QUAD Gallery at Derby, UK presents UK and China-based artist Dinu Li’s past, recent and newly commissioned works in a solo showYesterday is History, Tomorrow is Mystery. This show is partly supported by the ArtSway Associates scheme that Dinu Li is a member of. In this interview, Li discusses the creative inspiration behind his works and ArtSway introduces its unique programme, too.

Dinu Li’s work draws together China’s past and present in a range of medium, including photography, film, video and recently performance. Informed by his personal experiences and thanks to his astute observations, he is fascinated by the spaces in between the personal and political, the public and private. Across all his projects, Li has explored these themes: time, space, change, where things come from, where things go to next, the essence of culture and the interrogation of a vernacular.

Family Village, 2009 Installation view at ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion, the 53rd Venice Biennale. Courtesy of artist

'Family Village' (2009). Installation view at ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale. Image courtesy of the artist.

In 2009, Dinu Li was selected to take up a residency at ArtSway, the contemporary visual arts venue in the New Forest, Hampshire, UK. ArtSway provides full curatorial support, mentoring and advisory support for all of their selected artists. After his residency, Dinu Li was invited to become an ArtSway Associate, a scheme providing legacy support for ongoing development and mentoring with Mark Segal, ArtSway’s director, and other industry professionals.

Art Radar Asia interviewed Dinu Li and ArtSway curator Peter Bonnell to discuss Li’s works and ArtSway’s initiatives.

Dinu Li on his works and inspirations

Your work deals a lot with the passing of time by drawing together China’s past and present. Which elements of China’s past and present do you highlight and put in contrast to each other? And why?

Since 2001 I have spent more and more time in China. Over this period, I have seen and experienced a tremendous amount of change taking place throughout the country, at an epic, breathless and almost seismic scale of transformation. This is most noticeable when walking in a neighbourhood I should be familiar with, only to find it almost unrecognisable a year later due to the way it has developed and evolved. People have also changed considerably in this period. There is a sense of ceaseless appetite to consume ideas, experiences and lifestyles.

As a reaction to all these changes, I decided to collaborate with my mother several years ago, in an exercise to identify and retrace the exact sites of her memories. One of the concepts I am trying to grapple with at the moment is to interrogate the relationship between obedience and power in connections to Confucius and Mao.

How did you first become fascinated by this subject and formulate your creative process? Also, did being away from your motherland play a role in the process?

My initial fascination with China came about as a young child growing up in Hong Kong, when my mother used to tell me stories about our motherland. I remember walking around in Guangzhou wearing my favourite trousers with the letters ‘ABC’ stitched on one leg. This became a point of contempt, as people of all ages called me an ‘imperialist pig’ for daring to wear such trousers in public.

Today, I look back at that moment as both significant and pivotal. Even for a seven year old, I could sense the difference when crossing the border from the British-governed Hong Kong of the 70’s to a China still very much gripped by the ideology of Mao. That demarcation seemed to define how we would live out our lives, depending on which side of the demarcation one is situated. I learnt ones dreams and aspirations are intrinsically connected to the times we live in. And so the approach to my work involves an element of interrogation, and to discover one’s position within a space, and how that space alters in time.

The physical distance from having grown up in the West plays an important role. Whilst the distance gives me a certain vantage point to view things, my perception is nevertheless affected by the media around me, and how China is viewed by Western journalists, politicians, businesses, the art world…

Ancestral Nation, 2007 Installation view at ArtSway, UK, Courtesy of artist

'Ancestral Nation' (2007). Installation view at ArtSway, UK. Image courtesy of the artist.

As an artist closely observing life, do you feel in today’s China that the demarcation is still so binary? Today, many native Chinese move from one culture to another and they may come to discover that China, despite it being their homeland, has layers they knew existed…

Defining China in contemporary times is complex, as the nation is transforming at such a rapid pace. On the one hand, there is a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism, as demonstrated during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. As China expands, the complexity of its national borders becomes increasingly contentious, as its neighbours watch in awe but ultimately in apprehension.

On the other hand, China fully embraces today’s global ideologies, albeit controlled and mediated by central government. Unlike any other time in its history, the China of today is very much integrated with a much wider perspective, which ultimately reduces the feeling of stepping into a different zone when crossing into its borders. Today’s China is equally adept at both Chinese and Western medicine. Walking down a high street, one can find a Starbuck’s as easily as a teahouse. And so the concept of space changing in time is very much in evidence in China.

Dinu Li on his choice of medium

Your works encompass a range of medium. Which medium did you first come into contact with?

Photography was something I came to by accident in my mid-twenties. Up until that point, I had not thought of wanting to become an artist. But as someone who had been dealing with time and space throughout my life, coming into contact with photography seemed like a very powerful intervention, something I could not ignore or resist. It was the perfect medium for me to enter a different juncture in my life, and enabled me to grapple with so many ideas that had been swirling round in my head for so long.

Following that, when did you incorporate other medium and how have you come to that decision?

Once I understood what I could do with a still image, I then wanted to explore different ways of perceiving the world. From that point, I also wanted to integrate and embrace a sense of immediacy within my practice. The immediacy I am talking about can often be found in children, who carry a fearless spontaneity in the way they approach art making. Once I adopt that as a position, it alters the way I work, and so from that point, my practice became more experimental, and I was able to really explore my work by using sound, moving imagery, animation and recently performance.

In particular, how to you decide between using camera and performance?

There is a sense of mediation whether I am in front of or behind the camera, but I guess the difference is in the idea of being inside or outside of something. For instance, there are times when I simply want to be an observer, or play the role of a voyeur. But at other times it may be absolutely necessary to be inside the artwork itself, in which case, performance comes into the fore.

Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is Mystery, 2010 Installation view at QUAD, Derby, UK. Courtesy of artist

'Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is Mystery' (2010). Installation view at QUAD, Derby, UK. Image courtesy of the artist.

Dinu Li on ArtSway and similar programmes in Asia

How has ArtSway helped you in your career, both during the residency and after?

Working with ArtSway exceeded all my expectations of a publicly-funded arts organisation. One of ArtSway’s key strengths is their notion of nurturing a long-term relationship with the artists they work with. It’s an investment they place upon a relationship built on trust. My three-month residency was extremely productive, as not only did I develop new ideas, but was invited by several institutions to exhibit my work, one of which resulted in a newly commissioned catalogue. In 2009, I was represented at ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion for the 53rd Venice Biennale.

Do you know of any similar programmes in Hong Kong, China or the Asia region?

In 2009, I was selected to participate in a three-month international residency with OCAT in Shenzhen, China. As far as I know, this is one of the few, if not the only, state-funded residency schemes in China. The programme and staff at OCAT were very supportive of my research and went out of their way to help me as far as they could. They also gave me maximum flexibility and freedom to develop my work as I wished, without pressure to arrive at an end point. In that respect, they operated in a similar manner to ArtSway.

Peter Bonnell on ArtSway and their residency programme

We noticed that ArtSway has a range of initiatives and a packed calendar. Broadly, how do you describe ArtSway as an institution?

Open since 1997, the gallery exists to present accomplished and challenging contemporary art works in a supportive and relaxed environment. ArtSway supports artists [through the Residency and Associates programmes] to take risks, and also for the general public to engage with the gallery and work on display – and these visitors come from near and far to participate in workshops, talks and events.

Can you introduce the ArtSway Residency programme’s offerings?

Once an artist is selected for a residency, they can expect our full curatorial, mentoring and advisory support. We very often host artists in residence here in Sway in England’s New Forest, and can offer the use of a free studio space. In addition, artists are given an attractive fee, and funds towards researching and producing new work, as well as travel and accommodation funds. We also provide marketing expertise for their subsequent exhibition in ArtSway’s galleries.

In 2005, 2007 and 2009 ArtSway has presented an exhibition of the work of many previous artists in residence as part of ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. This particular exhibition provides a significant international stage for many of the artists we have worked with in the past – with curators, writers and galleries from around the world coming to see their work.

Do artists with a residency all naturally become ArtSway Associates afterwards?

Since the year 2000 ArtSway has supported approximately thirty artists in making new work, but not all of them have become ArtSway Associates. There are currently ten artists who are part of the programme – all of whom were invited to become an Associate.

Many of those who are selected, once approached, felt that the continuing support of ArtSway would be beneficial to their practice. However, many artists who have completed a residency or commission with ArtSway are associated with other galleries, usually ones that represent them and offer an existing high level of support.

View of ArtSway. Courtesy of ArtSway

View of ArtSway. Image courtesy of ArtSway.

How have artists benefited from the Associate programme?

The Associates programme has been a huge success to date – offering all artists involved a great deal of support and funding in regard to such things as website training and development, publications, marketing, critical input, and support and advice from ArtSway Director, Mark Segal on funding applications and proposals. Other industry professionals providing mentoring sessions include Matt’s Gallery director Robin Klassnik.

How do artists with Chinese decent benefit from ArtSway support? Is it necessary that he or she has lived or worked in the UK?

ArtSway does not target artists from any particular ethnic group or country, but we do try to ensure that our various opportunities are available to as many people as possible.

However, we have in the past targeted a specific organisation to work with – such as the Chinese Arts Centre (CAC) in Manchester. The intention was to work specifically with a Chinese artist, and we collaborated with CAC to both develop a strong partnership with a high-level organisation, and also to tap into their expertise and knowledge of the Chinese arts scene.

The artist who was selected for the residency partnership with CAC was Beijing-based photographer and filmmaker Ma Yongfeng – an artist who had not worked extensively in the UK prior to our working with him.

SXB/KN/HH

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Curator Valerie Doran on ‘Hope and Glory’ and challenges for Hong Kong art world – interview

Posted by artradar on May 28, 2010


HONG KONG CURATOR INTERVIEW

Valerie Doran, Hong Kong-based independent curator, writer, and translator

For a place that has been repeatedly touted as a cultural desert, Hong Kong has managed to attract arts practitioners from many walks of life who are dedicated to working with the challenging realities present within the Chinese city-state. These creative professionals are forging an atmosphere in Asia where the contemporary arts are accessible and alive. Valerie Doran, an independent curator originally from Rhode Island in the United States, embodies the spirit of these determined arts professionals who are striving to transform the parched art landscape of the former British colony.

Her most recent project, Simon Birch’s Hope & Glory: A Conceptual Circus, has been lauded by Art Forum Online as a ‘critic pick’ and praised by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times. However, Doran asserts, the exhibition represents more than a critically acclaimed artistic endeavor, and serves as an ‘intervention’ into the Hong Kong art world, “finding a way to do something in a place where it’s impossible to do it.”

A creative spirit seeking revolution

Valerie Doran is a dichotomy: a gentle creative spirit who harbors an intense attraction to revolutionary ideas. As a Wellesley educated translator and arts scholar who majored in both Chinese and English Literature, she effortlessly exists in both eastern and western cultural worlds. As a Chinese translator and expert in traditional Chinese literature, she can read and speak fluent Mandarin.

Valerie arrived in Hong Kong in the early 1980’s as a Wellesley-Yenching fellowship recipient at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where she studied Chinese intensively and taught classes in the English department and core curriculum programme. She later studied at the National University of Taiwan while the territory was still under martial law, and became involved in the burgeoning local avant-garde arts scene, which was riddled with political activists. Of the mid-80’s Taiwanese art scene, she says:

“Artists and the dissidents were very linked, and were all kind of loosely affiliated during this interesting time. There was a lot of patronage of artists by corporate people who themselves were quite liberal… Many of these people were early supporters for what became the Democratic Progressive Party.”

Her Path to Curating

Doran’s journey to becoming an independent curator included working for the distinguished Johnson Chang at Hanart TZ Gallery, which has been an instrumental gallery in pioneering contemporary Chinese art. During her 3-year stint at Hanart, Doran first began dabbling in curating contemporary art exhibitions. It was then her interest in curatorial practice was thoroughly peaked, and she enrolled in the Hong Kong Art School’s curatorial studies program, run jointly at the time with New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

In 2008, Doran was one of the first independent curators selected to curate a show for the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Her exhibition, Looking for Antonio Mak, earned wide attention, and was named as the best Hong Kong exhibition of 2008 by Time Out Magazine, as well as being cited as one of the 10 best exhibitions internationally of that year by the China edition of Artforum Online.

Most Recent Project: Hope & Glory with Simon Birch

Her most recent project is Hope & Glory: A Conceptual Circus, inspired by Hong Kong’s British expatriate artist Simon Birch. The show encompasses 20,000 square feet in ArtisTree, a non-profit art space that exists within a sprawling office complex, and is one of the largest multimedia art exhibitions ever created in Hong Kong. The show’s installations utilize video, sculpture, costume and sound design, live performers and 2-dimensional paintings to create a fantastic, interactive environment. Running themes include the journey through life and transformation, the ‘hero’ mythologies of various cultures, and science fiction. The show also maintains a definitive preoccupation with craftsmanship and the process of producing art.

Art Radar’s writer and researcher Erin Wooters met with Valerie Doran to discuss her experience and the challenges of curating Hope & Glory, a mammoth and unprecedented project, with no comparable exhibition ever attempted in Hong Kong. Valerie’s revelations are surprising, and include details of the conceptual performance that didn’t come to fruition in Hope & Glory due to the grave injury of the human ‘artwork’, how exactly the Birch Foundation managed to secure government funding for the show within Hong Kong’s hyper-competitive and chronically under-funded art scene, and what this exhibition means for the future of contemporary art in Hong Kong.

'Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Paul Kember. Curated by Valerie Doran.

How did you meet Simon and become involved with this project?

Simon was one of the artists in my ‘Looking for Antonio Mak’ show, so that’s how I met him. What I was looking for [in artists for Antonio Mak] was not a style—I was looking for a level of sensitivity and a voice. There were artists that I liked and I wanted to work with, and I wanted a figurative painter.  I had seen a painting of Simon’s, and I didn’t know who he was, but when I saw one of his paintings I was very struck by the texture of the brushwork. So I met him. He had never heard of Antonio, and I showed him Antonio’s catalogue and he was almost in shock because he responded so strongly to the work and the imagery. So he wanted to do it … After that show completed, he asked me if I’d work with him on ‘Hope and Glory’.

Can you describe the process of curating the Hope & Glory show?

We met for over a year, working on this concept, the floor plans, the narrative, and the sub-narrative. There was a lot of discussion. Then, 3 months before the show opened, Robert Peckham from Hong Kong University, who is a history professor who had seen both the ‘Antonio’ show and a smaller show that Simon did during his illness, which was a really powerful show called ‘Out of the Darkness’, got to know Simon and was very interested in this project, so we had discussions with him. There was a lot of in-depth conceptual thought and discussion, which lasted for about a year, that went into this show. The show was very formed in Simon’s mind and he already knew certain things that he wanted to do. However, the show as it is now also has elements that were changed, or gotten rid of.

This is a very unique show. How was curating this exhibition different from your previous experiences?

It was a very different experience from curating a show that I generated the idea. This is a situation in which an artist came to me with a concept for a complex multimedia installation, and asks to have it curated, so what does that really mean? It is a very different role. The closest analogy that I can come up with to describe our relationship is an editor and a novelist. Editors come across novelists with all different levels of formed work. Some may be very sketchy, or have just a few chapters. It depends on what stage you get into the relationship with the writer. So, you must challenge the language, challenge the structure, and challenge the concept.

'Crawling From the Wreckage', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot, including an interactive viewer. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Douglas Young. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Were there any surprises or unexpected difficulties in the making of ‘Hope & Glory’?

One of the key installations, the living room installation, originally wasn’t like that. It was originally all stage, and a key concept that ended up not being able to happen, was that he hired a guy he knows to transform himself into a super being. To transform himself, an everyday guy, into an iron man athlete over the course of a year. So, the guy started training for about 6 or 7 months, and filmed himself everyday, and that was to be edited into a film about his transformation. And then over the course of the exhibition, over 2 months, the man was to always be sitting in the living room. What happened was that 6 or 7 months into his training, the guy almost broke his neck during training. It was just before Christmas, and he severely injured his neck, almost severed his spine. So obviously that didn’t happen. Simon has him on video on one of the TVs on the floor, but the overall concept had to go. It didn’t happen. We decided then it would be fun to change the living environment into the computer vector cage, and create a cage for humans in the living room space.

When it came time to build the show, it was also so complicated to build that he hired a production company that usually sets up rock concerts. Because, no one knows how to do an art show here, except people who work at the museum. No one knew how to build it. We had to start from scratch with everything. It was hideously difficult.

I also knew I was taking a big risk, as was Simon, who was taking the biggest risk of all, because he’s put everything he has into the show, and he busted his butt for over and year and had to find a way to do something in a place where it’s impossible to do it.

'Spinal Mount Starcracker', 2010. Hope and Glory installation shot, by Simon Birch. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Are you satisfied with the show? Does it achieve your intentions?

I think it fulfills Simon’s vision, and I believe it’s achieved something. I believe we’ve constructed a pretty interesting world for people to enter and take something away. I think it has communicated a lot of personal vision of the artist, and I think it is conceptually multilayered and very interesting in that way. I think in terms of the physical realization of the physical works, that partly due to time limitations and all the other limitations when trying to do this, such as money and space, that certain things weren’t pushed to the limit and there are things we weren’t able to realize.

I think my collaborative experience with Simon was more problematic than expected, but that’s ok. On many levels I feel very amazed by his achievement, and I’ve learned a lot… The fact that we were able to pull together so many interesting people in the forums, and to see the students coming in, it’s awesome.

The show has gotten a lot of attention and a lot of press, and there is a really great article in the International Herald Tribune, and that’s all great, but that’s not the key issue for me.

Were pieces transported into the space or built in ArtisTree?

The large-scale sculpture pieces like the star and the steel ball, and the letters were made in a factory in Guangzhou, according to the technical drawings. The production supervisor would go out there and send photographs back.

The steel frame for the trophy ball was created in Guangzhou, and the trophies were put on by hand, one by one. And engraved one by one. The cage living room (‘Crawling from the Wreckage’) was put up string by string.

What is inscribed on the trophies?

On the ‘Spinal Mount Starcracker’… The name of every artwork Simon’s ever made and every person he’s ever loved or has been a friend to him is on those trophies, so that’s why he calls it ‘my life in a thousand cheap trophies.’

Can you tell the story about how this was funded?

Simon is an outsider in the art scene. He’s a Westerner. This is a very personal show for him, and he’s taking risks and exposing himself to a very unsympathetic, hermetic contemporary art scene.  The show has done a lot of amazing things in a lot of ways, but people are suspicious, asking, why is there government funding? Why did the tourism board give money for the show? We find this criticism quite hilarious, because Simon was working on the show for two years, with me for one year, and was maxing out all his credit cards and scrounging for sponsorship.

We heard about a mega-event fund, through somebody over at the NGO art organizer. They said, there’s this crazy fund you should try for, because they’re supposed to fund entertainment, sports, and cultural events, and they’ve got a ton of money. The main criterion is that you have to guarantee that at least 10,000 people will come to your event. The second thing is that you have to show that it will attract tourism, and that it will help benefit the image of Hong Kong. So Simon was like, let’s go for this. I’m thinking, are you crazy, they’re never going to give this to a visual artist. But why not try it, what have we got to lose, right? So, I asked a friend of mine who worked with me on the ‘Antonio’ show, who used to be a government accountant and is now an emerging curator, to come look at these forms and help us understand them. Simon also did a lot of research online about how to fill out these forms.

We filled out the forms, submitted them, and Simon was really surprised when he got short listed and called back for an interview. Then, we made the second cut, which meant that we were one of nine proposals asked to submit a seven minute PowerPoint presentation to their selection committee. That amazed us. This was all in February—we didn’t even know we had any government funding until March. All these artists are accusing- oh, they could only do this because they got government funding—which is wrong.

We had KC Wong with us for the presentation, who is a friend of Simon’s and a really great artist. He was originally going to do a piece in the show but it didn’t work out. The 3 of us went to meet 20 people in business suits at the Tourism Bureau and Leisure and Cultural Services Department, and there was a question and answer session and it wasn’t hostile. I was so surprised they were actually interested in knowing more. I never expected they’d give us money.

We were really shocked when around February we were told they were going to give us a matching grant for up to 2 million [HK] dollars for production costs. That means that we have to spend 4 million [HKD] on production and they’ll give us 2 million. However, the overall value of the show is over 15 million Hong Kong dollars [approximately 2 million USD] . That includes the sponsorship, venue (which we didn’t have to pay for), the graphic design, and the banners. This is all sponsored. For our education program, we got $50,000 HKD from Louis Vuitton to do our forums, which we are also using to pay for buses to bus in students from less advantaged areas.We were able to invite the Symbiotic Dance Troupe, a community-based group incorporating physically handicapped dancers, to perform at our first forum, and they did an interactive work inside the installation, which was absolutely beautiful. So we’re using the money very wisely and producing an educational pamphlet for students.

All the actors in the films, the designers, the film directors, and the musicians—they’ve all done this for nothing or for very little. So the main cost is the production but the value of the show is on the scale of the Tate Modern.

So does this mark a first for artists trying for this government fund?

Well, it is a relatively new fund and most artists would never even consider it. They all go running to the arts development council, where artists usually get money… Yet, here is something interesting, because it’s supposed to raise Hong Kong’s international image. Hong Kong is trying to strengthen its creative industries and make itself the creative capital of Asia, but still does not include the fine arts or visual arts within their definition of a creative industry. So, the fact that we are able to get this money actually for a visual arts project from this unlikely source, and they are willing to take a risk and fund us, is a very good thing.

'Twilight Shadows of the Bright Face', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Prodip and LucyAndBart. Curated by Valerie Doran.

How do you feel about the critics who call Hong Kong a cultural desert?

The way I look at it is this: Hong Kong is not a cultural desert, and there are a lot of talented people that are doing excellent work whether in the performing arts, music, visual arts, or theatre. The ‘desert’ is the lack of platform for them. The desert is in the cultural policy of the Hong Kong government. It’s a conceptual desert, not a real desert.

So, what is the definition of a desert? It is a place where things don’t get watered. There are plants, water them! If not, they have to move elsewhere to survive. Except for the performing arts, which has more of a platform and is better known, everything else has to move to the periphery to find ‘water’. They have to water themselves. That’s the desert.

Of course art can never be government generated, but, in the West you have a mixture. You have the Guggenheim, a private museum created by a collector, you have PS1, and there are artist-generated spaces. But here, space is at a premium—it’s valuable, it’s money. The government also doesn’t know what to do, because they don’t trust the artists. Even the ADC [Hong Kong Arts Development Council] —if you apply for $120,000 [HKD], they give you $50,000 [HKD] because they assume you are exaggerating funding needs. Everybody is always under funded.

What do you think the show means for Hong Kong?

I don’t know. I just think it’s this weird entity that happened. One thing it means for sure is that more people have been exposed to a serious multimedia installation by an artist, and been exposed to an artist’s vision. That’s amazing. That’s what you want.

What is the biggest challenge for advancing the arts in Hong Kong?

Space is a huge issue in Hong Kong—space for the visual art, where  is it? The museum? No.

1A Space is great but it’s way out there. Artists have to invent their own spaces here in Hong Kong. They are amazing in that way.  But the problem is that they’re not accessible to most people so there tends to be this kind of interiority or privacy, a self-contained, almost clubbish atmosphere here in the contemporary art scene. If you’re not a member of the club, it’s a problem. When it’s like that in art, it’s not a good thing.

There are a lot of new laws, like the ‘80% law’, which I find to be criminal. For instance, if developers are able to convince 80% of tenants to sell their properties to them, then you would be forced to sell your flat. People talk about post-colonialism, but I don’t believe there’s any such thing. There is just always a new colonizer, and right now the colonizer is the developers, and the government allows it. Together, they are colonizing Hong Kong space. That has to stop, and needs to be more rational.

Which Hong Kong arts organisations do you appreciate?

In terms of an organisation that has made a new contribution in the past five to ten years, definitely Asia Art Archive. I think Asia Art Archive is a very important organisation.

1A Space is good, and has been struggling to stay open. They are artists in a government owned space; that’s really tough.

There are some important grass roots initiative projects run by artists. The Kai Tak River Project is run by artists and architects who are trying to preserve the Kai Tak River Area as a cultural space, and this involves a whole lot of other issues.

The musicians and theatre performers in the San Po Kong district who moved into factory areas to have rehearsal and performance space have also formed an organization. The government has a new initiative to develop the San Po Kong area, so they are trying to throw everyone out. But, where are they supposed to go? They have formed their own group to try to change things. [The San Po Kong Creative and Cultural Industry Concern Group]

'Tannhauser', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Gary Gunn. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Are there any particular galleries you value in Hong Kong?

When it comes to commercial galleries I prefer not to answer that question, but in terms of non-commercial galleries, I can say that it’s really great there are some new locally run galleries showing more conceptual works with a less commercial and more experimental style. Like the YY9 Gallery, and the Exit Gallery. These put on small and interestingly conceived shows that are less commercial, which I think is really great.

Do you attend biennales?

Not really. Frankly I don’t have a lot of time to travel because I’m very busy. I have a child and I teach. I get to some things here and there, but biennales are not a compelling interest of mine.

How do you stay informed about the art world? What do you read?

I think I read very much at random. I’ll read some of the Western art news, like Art Forum, Art News, and The Art Newspaper. I actually find a lot of interesting stuff in the Financial Times; they have a great Arts and Culture section. Occasionally the Wall Street Journal. I’ll also look at Yishu, which is a contemporary Chinese arts journal published out of Canada. And Orientations Magazine, because I am also interested in traditional art, and I have a background in traditional Chinese painting.

However, I do research a lot of particular topics that I’m teaching. For instance, I may read about Indian art or the contemporary scene in miniatures from Pakistan. I’m not the kind of person who regularly reads a whole range of things; I’m very much driven by my personal interests.

What literature and writers have influenced your thinking?

There is a very intriguing text by the 17th century ‘eccentric’ painter Shi Tao, called in English ‘Enlightening Remarks on Painting. It is quite a radical and conceptual text in its way, and I have re-read it and drawn from it many times since I first read it more than twenty years ago.

Another book is ‘Ways of Seeing’ by the British humanist and critic John Berger. In fact, the text of Hope & Glory’s educational pamphlet, which we designed for students, (conceived by myself and Robert Peckham of HKU, with text by Robert) was inspired by Berger’s approach.

What projects are you looking forward to next?

[Laughs] Sleeping! Actually, I am involved in another project but we have not gotten to realize it yet, partly because of Hong Kong’s weird ‘creative industries’ definition. The project is ‘In Dragon Garden, which is a beautiful private garden in Tsuen Wan, and the granddaughter of the founder has managed to preserve it from developers. With her aunt and uncle, who now own it, they want to create a public cultural and artistic environment and garden. However, getting the support to do that is very difficult. So I’ve been working on a prototype art project with that, and so far we have not been able to realize it because of funding issues.

I would like to do another show that breaks the mold of how things are usually done here. I would like to work with a single Hong Kong artist and just do a major show in a major space, because no one does that. Like in New York. I just want to do that to change the paradigm. It’s great to have art in these private intimate spaces, and that’s why Hong Kong art has developed the way it has, in a very interesting way. But we need to break out of that and think about projection.

The other thing I’d like to do is create a different kind of space. And I’d love to be a curator and get paid for it. That would be exciting. [laughs]

EW/KN

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Posted in Art Funds, Art spaces, Artist-run, Curators, Democratisation of art, From Art Radar, Funding, Gallery shows, Groups and Movements, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Installation, Interviews, Museum shows, Museums, Mythical figures, Nonprofit, Performance, Profiles, Research, Sculpture, Simon Birch, Sound, Space, Valerie Doran, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

V+A museum-commissioned photography show The Mother of All Journeys lands in Hong Kong – interview Dinu Li

Posted by artradar on October 7, 2009


BRITISH-CHINESE PHOTOGRAPHY

Dinu Li, an award-winning British-Chinese visual artist, showcases his exhibition The Mother of All Journeys at Amelia Johnson Contemporary (17 Sep – 31 Oct 2009) in Hong Kong. Initially commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the exhibition is a collection of the artist’s family snapshots which traces the journey taken by the family when they emigrated from Guangdong to Hong Kong and finally to England. Dinu Li speaks to Wendy Ma about the reasons and emotions behind this collaboration with his mother as well as his fascination with time and space.

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

Q: You have had an interesting life.  Which photographs capture your most memorable experiences?

This project is about memories. The one that really captures my experiences is the picture of the first house we lived in when we emigrated from Hong Kong to UK in 1973 when I was 7 years old. As I took this photograph in 2004, there was a distance of 30 years between living there and taking the photograph. We lived there for only 1 year. We don’t know who has been sitting there since. Strange that after 33 years, they have kept the same carpet, wallpaper, and cabinet in the bedroom. Now it’s rented to students.

Q: What inspired you to collaborate with your 80-year-old mother on this artwork? Is your mother an artist, too?

When I was a young boy, she was always telling me her story, and I used to create imaginary images in my head. I always wanted to see the real landscape and not rely on my imagination, so that I could understand where the memories come from and make a comparison between fantasy and reality.

No, my mother’s not an artist. Her job was to identify the place. I also have 6 brothers and sisters in the fields of engineering and catering.

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

Q: Was there a gap between the reality and your imagination?

She had a memory about hiding behind a tree during Japanese invasion of China. I imagined a tree in a dense forest, where she would hide. But it was just a tree on the hill, which meant that she was desperate to find anywhere to hide. In that sense it was very powerful.

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

Q: What are your images trying to narrate other than the past?

Duality. When you step into a place, there is a duality between what is personal and universal. The photograph is not just about our own experiences, but others’ as well. In the process of unearthing our personal history, there are other histories in that very space. You’re sitting here on the sofa now, so you have a history here. If I come back here tomorrow to take a photograph, I have to understand that someone else sat there and has his own history. The project is multi-layered.

Past is all around us, even in the modern city of Hong Kong. Past is only one second ago, not far away. I’m deeply interested in the concept of time and space, and photography is the perfect medium that deals with this. With photography, you play with time by speeding it up, slowing it down, or freezing it still. You’re empowered with the control to manipulate time.

Roland Bathes, a philosopher, called this a subconscious fear of death. Not that we think about it all the time, but the notion that there’s limited time prompt those to use films, photographs, and videos in the endeavor to understand what time and space are.

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

Q: What feelings or revelations surfaced while exploring the sites of your mother’s past?

Sometimes you go somewhere, you rediscover something you’ve not been thinking about for a long time, and all the memories reappear. When you visit a place, certain aspects trigger your memory. It can be the shape of light, the way it falls, the circular pattern it makes. Now in front of us there’s a shadow cast on the wall, if you revisit that place in 20 years, the pattern will reappear as long as the light is still standing there.

Q: How is the joint creation of art different from solo efforts in your other creations?

A lot of my work has some sort of links – people’s identities, their history and memories. I look at other people’s archive and their personal histories. Even though it’s personal, it’s also public. There’s a different type of duality between personal and public. Their existences are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes my mother’s history is not unique, but shared. For instance, many people have been in love or have been sick.

Dinu Li standing next to his artwork

Dinu Li standing next to his artwork

Q: In what ways has Mother of All Journeys affected other projects of yours?

Family Village and all my new projects – come from Mother of All Journeys. In 2005, a British architect had sent a Christmas card to his Sichuan friend, also an architect, who decided to build the town illustrated on the card in Chengdu. That inspired me and led me to question the authenticity of that place.  In terms of features, the Chengdu town has similar tile, roofs, and chimney shape.  The differences are the local materials and the fact the population in China is bigger, the houses are also taller and bigger.

Moreover, the new town in Chendu brings the authenticity of culture into question. While I was there working, the security guard tried to stop me, “How do I know you’re not a British architect who came to copy our style” Apparently, he was oblivious to the origin of the building. Often we claim that something belongs to us, such as fish and chips just because they’ve been in the UK for such a long period. In fact, chips are French and fish are Dutch.  So it’s interesting to find out where things come from.

For the Family Village project, I scanned a particular 1950’s cartoon book and retold a narrative about a hero boy who intercepted the Japanese soldiers. My adaptation of the story is about a boy on a journey while collecting bamboo. Every time he returns home he finds his home changing. I turned a static original cartoon into a five-minute animation video.

Q: What cultural shocks did you have to overcome as you emigrated from Hong Kong to Manchester? What historical events took place at that time that affected you?

The idea of space – growing up in Hong Kong, we lived in small space. England offered more space. There was more space among people in the metro. The climate – the fog and snow in England.  The sound – the silence in England, as opposed to the noises in Hong Kong.

Since we moved in1973, compared to my parents, I was too young to be affected by historical events. In the 1960’s, people feared that the Cultural Revolution might invade Hong Kong, so those who left China for Hong Kong continued their journey to the West.  

Q: How do you reconcile the cultural and generational differences?

It’s strange. Since my cousins didn’t leave China, there exists a massive cultural difference between them and me.  Having lived in the West, I perceived things from a more objective angle. But for them in that situation, they were so close that they couldn’t see or to understand the 50’s and 60’s.  You had to be further away. That’s why I became an artist.

Q: I read that your father and your mother once made underwear for a factory in Hong Kong. Tell us more about it.

In the 50’s, Hong Kong was like Shenzhen (a manufacturing region in the south of mainland China) now. The westerners established factories in Hong Kong, which at the time was just some island with fisherman.  The exodus of Chinese people to Hong Kong meant they had to start a new life from scratch. Like others, my parents just wanted to get a job in the factories. Now history is repeating itself.

Q: What artwork are you showing at the 53rd Venice Biennale?

Family Village. When you step inside the gallery, you see screens suspended in the middle of the room like a moon, inside which there is a story of a boy watching his home changing all the time as he is picking bamboos.  Inside the video, children are chanting the Chinese translation of a western song from the 1970’s film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Q: During the 4 years of making Mother of All Journey, has anything changed?

Yes.  You start off taking many photographs, and then you keep editing it to make it smaller until you get the core. The most important bit is the real meat of the project. Similar to making a soup, you have to patient and allow time to condense it to the best bit. I can’t just take a photograph and use it immediately. The period of four years allowed me to develop a distance from my photographs and therefore choose wisely. In the last year, I finally reduced the bunch from 300 to 35-40 based on the content.

Q: What was behind your inspiration?

People take things for granted so much that they feel they don’t need to reflect. My mother’s very old, so I must reflect. Mother of All Journeys has inspired others to start similar projects.  It’s a personal project that touches a large audience.

Q: What’s your current project?

I’m doing an artist residency in Shenzhen. I like that it’s on the border of China and Hong Kong. Sometimes my projects are accidental, and other times, to be inspired, I need to be physically in that particular place.

-Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Posted in Ancestors, Asian, Chinese, Family, Hong Kong, Migration, Photography, Slow art, Slow/fast art, Space, Time | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chance to learn where Singaporean art is heading plus two firsts for emerging artist competition Presidents Young Talents at Singapore Art Museum

Posted by artradar on September 9, 2009


SINGAPORE MUSEUM ART COMPETITION

Singapore had a predicament. The city-state needed to find the young artistic voices to represent Singapore at international level art fairs and events. The problem has been solved and future Singaporean art stars are being identified with the inception of the Presidents Young Talents (PYT) exhibition, a contemporary art exhibition series featuring the 4 most promising young Singaporean artists who compete for votes from a discerning public. The President’s Young Talents exhibition first debuted in 2001, organized by the Singapore Art Museum and Istana, butPresidents Young Talents this is the first year with the online voting function that includes an interactive public.

It works like this

Four young artists are chosen by a curatorial committee, and a special work is created by each artist and exhibited at the Singapore Art Museum in the PYT exhibition.

The public can also view artworks and artist biographies online, and is encouraged to vote for their favorite artist via the PYT website from Aug 15th through Oct 31st, 2009.  One of the 4 artists will be declared the winner, and receive a cash prize and art residency abroad, sponsored by Credit Suisse. The winner of the PYT 2009 will be announced on November 6th, 2009 at the PYT Gala dinner.

The artists nominated for the show, curated by Ms. Tan Siu Li, are: Donna Ong, Felicia Low, Twardzik Ching Chor Leng, and the artist collective Vertical Submarine. This is the first year in which an artist collective has been selected to participate, and Vertical Submarine’s inclusion reflects an acceptance of the current changes in contemporary art practices.

For a quick summary Art Daily gives an overview of each work below. However for a more lively description, we encourage you to click through to the particularly well-planned website (link above) where you can see short videos in which each artist discusses the concepts behind their non-traditional intriguing projects.

All the artists will create a new work for PYT 2009, and this exhibition offers a unique opportunity to take stock of where contemporary art in Singapore could be heading.

Donna Ong’s installation will examine the representation of perspective in Eastern as well as Western artistic traditions through a series of layered landscapes.

Twardzik Ching Chor Leng continues her practice of land-based art by inviting the public to reconsider the significance of the Singapore River in history, as well as in our lives today.

Felicia Low, who actively engages with (often marginalised or disadvantaged) communities in her work, will conduct live sessions in the gallery, leading groups of people in an exploration of family and social relationships.

Last but not least, tongue-in-cheek collective Vertical Submarine will present a work-within-a-work, inviting the public into their immersive installation which continues their earlier investigations into the relationship between text, image and representation.

Land art by Twardzik Ching Chor Leng

Editor’s note: We were particularly interested in Twardzik Ching Chor Leng’s plan to siphon an “‘umbilical cord” pipeline of river water through the streets of Singapore to connect the river and art museum. Land art is rare in Asia which makes the artist’s attempt to promote this genre in the confined space of city-state Singapore all the more inspiring.

Space constraints stimulate Singaporean artists?

It is interesting to note that each of the contestants deals with the topic of space in one form or another: from land art to the creation of domestic interiors to the study of perspective as a representation of space.

What the museum staff say

Regarding the exhbition, Mr. Tan Boon Hui, Director Designate of Singapore Art Museum, says:

“President’s Young Talents is SAM’s key platform to introduce Singaporeans to the work of a new generation of contemporary artists. The ‘can-do’ spirit that marks much of the best contemporary art coming out from Singapore now is clearly visible in these new works from Donna Ong, Twardzik Ching Chor Leng, Felicia Low and Vertical Submarine.

While their work has departed markedly from the traditional conventions of what art should look like, it is nonetheless as thoughtful, enjoyable and beautiful as the paintings and sculptures we are more familiar with.

Through such channels as the new PYT microsite, with its information rich content, SAM is working also to make contemporary art accessible to as large a community as possible. As one of the few platforms that regularly provides support to nurture the creation of original local art, SAM hopes to continue growing PYT along with the local contemporary arts scene.’

The President’s Young Talents is on display at the Singapore Museum from August 15th till December 27th, 2009, at the museum’s 8Q SAM art space and you can vote until the end October 2009. Be warned though that the voting mechanism requires input of addresses and phone numbers. We hope that this will be stream-lined in the future to encourage voter participation.

-contributed by Erin Wooters

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Posted in Conceptual, Domestic, Furniture, Galleries work the web, Landscape, Museum shows, Museums, Singapore, Singaporean, Space, Uncategorised | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thai Chinese artist Nipan Oranniwesna shows installation art made of baby powder in Hong Kong – review

Posted by artradar on August 25, 2009


THAI CONTEMPORARY ART IN HONG KONG

Is national identity still relevant within our globalized world, which is more interdependent than ever before? Where do we get our identity, and what does baby powder have to do with it? Art Radar talks with the renowned Thai contemporary artist Nipan Oranniwesna at the Osage Gallery in Kowloon, Hong Kong before the opening of his latest exhibition Being….. at homE.

Napin

Storytelling through sight, smell, and unexpected mediums

Nipan Oranniwesna had a big job ahead of him when he arrived in Hong Kong for his exhibition at the Osage Gallery, perhaps the most respected experimental art gallery in Hong Kong. In only 4 days, he would create 2 massive installation exhibits that sprawl across the floor of Osage’s Kwun Tong gallery space in Kowloon, which are sculpted out of only baby powder. Not just any baby powder either, mind you. Nipan’s baby powder installations require the signature scent of a product by Johnson & Johnson that is only available in Thailand, and countless packages needed to be flown into Hong Kong for the artist’s materials. The exhibition is essentially a story, and is complete with 3 narrative installation works that consider identity and the idea of home on a global scale, a national scale, and ends considering the idea of home and connectedness to one’s personal space.

Napin_2

Powder cities demonstrate fragility

The result of Nipan’s labor is astounding. The exhibition, titled Being….. At HomE questions the validity of nation-based identity within modern society. The first piece of the show, City of Ghost, is a massive cityscape made of baby powder that depicts 13 major metropolitan cities of the world as interconnected. A similar work of his was also on display at the 2007 Venice Biennale for 6 months, and other sprawling works of sculpted baby powder cities have sold to private collectors, fetching up to $20,000 USD. Nipan explains the meaning of this work:

“Every country is nationalistic, but is it real, or does it just manipulate our thinking? This piece challenges personal and national identity. We think we are Thai, but the interconnectedness of this work demonstrates a question… I used baby powder because global society is both beautiful and fragile. The smell of the specific brand was important, as I wanted this to be a full sensory experience, with a stronger, more serious scent.”

Napin_3

Chinese National Anthem in powder suggests vulnerability

The next piece, titled ...with our flesh and blood, examines the idea of home and identity at the national level, depicting the Chinese national anthem written in baby powder. Accompanying framed works also show the Chinese anthem created from small pierced holes on paper, creating a braille-like version of the lyrics. Through these works, Nipan was subtly suggesting the vulnerability of basing personal identity on one’s nationality or ethnicity.

Nipan_4

Come home, take off your shoes.

The last piece of the show, Narrative Floor, brings the audience to the most intimate interpretation of place and identity, the home. The piece invites viewers to get involved, take off their shoes and walk on the work, which resembles a hard wood floor inlaid with photographic ‘rain drops’. Upon closer inspection, these raindrops are revealed to be small scenes from Hong Kong, China, and Thailand. Nipan admits this piece reflects his heritage; he is ethnically Chinese, but native to Thailand. The work begs the question, when a person is connected to different places, where is home? Nipan suggests everywhere that touches someone becomes a part of him, and all of those places are his home. The piece invites viewers to take off their shoes, sit down, and even lie down, demonstrating home is a feeling that can be felt anywhere one happens to be.

It’s easy to miss the meaning

The last work, Narrative Floor, is decidedly different from the other pieces, most notably because it does not use baby powder. Nipan explains:

“I wanted to use a new language. Baby powder is just one language….. I deal with the perception of the viewer, especially using distance, the space between people and artwork, the space between people and other people. This is what I access in my work. In this piece you come inside…

The exhibition is also full of clues of meaning that could be easily missed. Nipan reveals:

Every piece and work is like a sign. The way to read the exhibition is to look for the signs, issues, even though they are almost hidden, very subtle… The red in this room suggests the color of the Chinese flag. The 5 dots that are present in the exhibition title are a reference to the 5 stars on the Chinese flag. The capital letters in the exhibition title Being….. at homE are a reference to the space between the word ‘be.’ I am concerned with what lies between. Of course my work can be read in other ways, and that is okay. But I want to deal with this triangle of me, Hong Kong, and China.

Problem: Fragile art gets harmed

The delicate nature of the work is part of the art’s significance, and also leads to inevitable mishaps. Staff at the Osage Gallery mentioned they considered turning down the air conditioning to prevent air flow from disturbing the powdery surface, and Nipan cheerfully recalled the footprint he discovered in the Venice Biennale’s installation.

Solution: That’s OK.

He explains that damaging the artwork is not encouraged, but minor accidents are natural and ultimately contribute to the participatory quality of the work, relating it to viewers. Such an attitude is wise, considering the tours of school children that parade through the gallery. Furthermore, upsetting the fragile medium reinforces the essence of the work. Nipan proves although something is not meant to be broken, it may still be far too easy to destroy.

Nipan’s exhibition is among 2 others on display at the Osage Gallery in Hong Kong. Other exhibited artists include Cheo Chai-Hiang from Singapore, and Sun Yuan & Peng Yu (China). The exhibition runs from August 21-October 4, 2009.

-contributed by Erin Wooters

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Bangkok museum opens with seminal survey, a who’s who of Thai modern contemporary art- Nov 08

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Posted in Biennials, Chinese, Hong Kong, Installation, Large art, Nationalism, New Media, Nipan Oranniwesna, Participatory, Political, Reviews, Shows, Space, Thai, Uncategorised, Venice | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Embedding the Bed in Public Space – interview Hong Kong artist and ParaSite director Tim Li

Posted by artradar on August 19, 2009


HONG KONG ART

Is there anything more private than your bed at home? So why has artist Tim Li been taking his folding bed out in public onto the streets of Hong Kong? Art Radar learns more:

Tim Li, once an architect and now the Chairman of Para/Site Art Space, held a “Dialogue with the Bed” – a solo exhibition and book launch – at the Fringe Club in Hong Kong (Aug 5 – 14 2009).

In a series of panoramic photography of his nylon bed installation in various corners of Hong Kong, Tim demonstrates his endeavor to bring personal space into public space.

Wendy Ma chitchats with Tim Li about his adventure with the “folding bed” and his views on the relationship between the urban environment and public art.

Pigment Ink on canvas

The West Kowloon Promenade by Tim Li. Pigment Ink on canvas. 2000X700mm. HK$28,000

Q: How long and where have you been traveling with your bed? 

3 years, since 2006. I chose the cities by chance. I first used the folding bed idea in Venice, at the Venice Architecture Biennale, and after that several public art projects in Sham Shui Po. In Paris, too. The whole concept was to get people involved in civic change, try to empower people to talk about their living environment and area – a community building exercise in the form of art creation.

At the time, I was working for the Housing Department. Public housing in Hong Kong had spanned 50 years. Now half of people in Hong Kong live in public housing. We regard it as one of the major urbanization tools for Hong Kong.

Nathan by Tim Li. Mixed Media. 2000X700mm. HK$33,000.

Nathan by Tim Li. Mixed Media. 2000X700mm. HK$33,000.

Q: What memorable or striking experiences have you encountered while lounging in the streets of cosmopolitans?

First of all, I was so amazed when I did my work in Mong Kok, on the Pedestrian Street. It used to be a street for traffic until few years ago it became a Pedestrian Street, where people can walk around and enjoy drama and outdoor performance. It’s a good example to illustrate that a public space can be transformed with a bit of management.  You change people’s mentality. I was kicked out at other places, but here at this spot people encouraged you to do things. People even gave me suggestions to play with the structure.

Another interesting and educational encounter was in Times Square (Radar note: an enormous retail and office development by Wharf which incorporates a piazza about which there has been controversy over what belongs to the public and what belongs to the developer). In the past, people deemed it as belonging to the developer owner. After the court case, people realized that these spaces should be used by public. While I was displaying work there, the security came to me and warned, “You’re blocking the circulation.” Unless there were other complaints, I didn’t think it was a problem.

Our Square by Tim Li. Mixed Media. 2000X700mm. HK$33,000.

Our Square by Tim Li. Mixed Media. 2000X700mm. HK$33,000.

Q: What management do you think is best for that?

For public space, negotiation is necessary. You don’t want to be used by several people who dominate the whole space. There’s no right or wrong answer. Flexible management allows possibility.

So even though a government sanctioned the space, it’s not run by the government.

HSBC 2 by Tim Li. Pigment Ink on canvas. 2000X700mm. HK$18,000.

HSBC 2 by Tim Li. Pigment Ink on canvas. 2000X700mm. HK$18,000.

Q: How did people from different parts of the world react to the folding bed idea?

People in Venice have never seen the folding bed. So interestingly, people asked me, “Where did you buy that?” Even in Paris, people posed similar questions, “Where was it made? Did you make it yourself?” They looked at the utilization side of it.

I didn’t encounter friction at all in Europe. People simply thought that I was a student. They were not surprised. But people in Hong Kong were more curious; they wondered if I was shooting a film.

Q: Do you have a favorite city or place? 

Hong Kong. I displayed the folding bed in West Kowloon, Mong Kok, Times Square, Sham Shui Po, and the Anderson Quarry in Sai Kung.

My favorite piece was the tunnel. It was so unique in that it was a space only for circulation. Like the tunnel in other parts of the world, there are neither restaurants nor shops. In a way it’s universal and presents infinite possibilities.

Q: What does the bed symbolize?

I was looking at the history of urbanization in Hong Kong since half of the people live in public housing. When it started 50 years ago, it was built according to a module of a bed. The bed is related to the urbanization process of Hong Kong. Moreover, “bed” is the most private space in our city. Bringing a private space into a public space is the ultimate intervention.

Our City 2 by Tim Li. Pigment ink on acid free paper. 280X700mm. HK$3,000.

Our City 2 by Tim Li. Pigment ink on acid free paper. 280X700mm. HK$3,000.

Q: Does the consistent usage of the color red for your folding bed have any significance?

Red is more prominent. The red, blue and white stripes on the canvas can enhance the power.

Q: And what about the horizontal, strip-lined frame?

I’m an architect, so I could go to different construction sites. I did a set of photographs with my phone, which had the panoramic format. It’s quite intriguing. To capture more of the panorama, I manipulated the images and did a series of ten for another project called My Family.

The 70’s were a redevelopment phase in the urban area in Hong Kong. 20 years later, the buildings were turned into another site. People only remembered about the developers and architects, but not the workers who built it. However, these workers could be some friends of yours, so they were actually part of you. It’s about people’s connection to time and space.

Q: How does your folding bed idea relate to public space?

The folding bed is just a concept to highlight the disappearing aspects of our culture. The main ideas are how to divide public space, how we found our public space, how we use it – these are the foundations of public art. There are many ways to use our public space and to debate about our city. Public art can serve as the medium to communicate with the people: to lead them to think about their living environment as well as to engage them in the discussion of what they want for their living environment.

It’s an attempt to get people to realize that they have ownership – not just responsibilities, but also possibilities that should come in the smallest scale, for communication purpose in revolutions. You can engage people to give their views about something. In Taiwan or other developed cities, public art is an apparatus for civilization, for the development of democratic societies. By pushing cultures, I hope it can be a tool for community building.

More about the Artist behind the Folding Bed

IMG_2637

Tim Li before his artwork. Photography by Erin Wooters.

Q: Is it difficult to combine your role as the chairman of Para/Site with being an artist?

Of course. I started to participate in Para/Site in 1997. Then I joined the Board of Directors in 2000. Since I was supposed to promote art and give opportunities to artists, it was hard to put my own work against others. Due to conflicts of interests, I’ve been low-key about my creations. After we shifted the responsibilities from the director of art space to the creator art space, I have more time for my personal pursuits. On top of studying and research, I started to pick up installation and painting again.

Q: Are you from Hong Kong?

Yes. Educated at the University of New South Wales in Australia with a major in architecture.

Q: How does that affect your art?

The Australian sunshine made me a very positive person [laughs].

Q: What do you think of the art scene in HK?

I think it’s very vibrant, but we need curators to initiate more ideas as well as for marketing and promoting. We have artists, aka the actors, in different areas to create artwork, but curators are the directors who brainstorm a theme for the artwork to appear relevant to a cause. 

For instance, for a theme on Hong Kong traffic, artists may interpret it as bus or taxi, while the curators make sure that the direction will be an interesting one and germane to the context of public space.

Q: Why are you exhibiting in the Fringe and not in Para/site?

Because of the conflict of interest. I want to keep it separate from running a show in Para/Site.

Q: Has Para/Site changed in any way since Alvaro joined?

Yea. We do much more planning. He’ll think of a strategy to make things happen.

Q: Where have you had exhibitions before? Any reviews available?

A few interesting ones are Venice Biennale 2003, Venice Architecture Biennale 2006, Hong Kong-Shenzhen Architecture Biennale 2008. You can also find a list of exhibitions and reviews in my book.

Q: Which artists have inspired you in general and in this exhibition? Have you heard of Tracy Emin?

Architects influenced me more, notably Peter Wilson and I.m. Pei.

Q: When did you know you were an artist?

I don’t even think about it.

Q: How do you see the art scene in Asia evolving?

It seems that the focus is shifting from mainland to other places like Korea and Philippines. It’s a good development and will open up more opportunities and perspectives.

Q: Which art publications do you read/recommend?

Articles and news by the Asia Art Archive, AM Post, Art Map, and Art Asia Pacific.

Q: Tell us about your book?

It incorporates articles about the folding bed idea.

Q: Which is your favourite art museum in Asia?

Miho Museum by I.m. Pei in Kyoto, Japan. I love how the museum is designed as a mountain. The museum and exhibits link with the surroundings.

Q: Do you collect art? Any particular genre or type?

Yes. I like works by designers such as Allan Chan, Freeman Lau, Stanley Wong, Keith Tseng, and artists such as Leung Chi Wo.

Q: Any information would you like about the art world? Is there something that you would like but is missing at the moment?

On the side of public art, there’s missing research on public art. How to value it not just as artwork, but how to appreciate it – not just art for art’s sake, but value it to help the society. How to bring out debates about certain things. Usually these cannot be valued. But people value artwork in money terms. This is the area where we need to incite more debates about art.

Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Posted in Art spaces, Artists as curators, Asian, Books, Chinese, Domestic, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Individual, Installation, Interviews, New Media, Nonprofit, Open air, Photography, Professionals, Public art, Space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Abraaj Capital Art Prize fills a void in the art prize world

Posted by artradar on May 4, 2009


ABRAAJ CAPITAL ART

Unlike other art prizes, the Abraaj Capital Art Prize is awarded for art project proposals rather than work already produced.

By recognising the latent potential of ideas and providing funding for the winners, the Abraaj Art Prize which is open to artists from MENASA (Middle East, North Africa and South Asia) helps to bring into being works that may otherwise never have been made.

Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Walk on the Sky, installation, 2009

Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Walk on the Sky, installation, 2009

In its inaugural year the winning projects were on show for the first time at the Art Dubai art fair in March 2009.

Zoulika Bouabdellah

The winning piece by Algerian video and installation artist Zoulika Bouabdellah (b.1977) and curator Carol Solomon was a stunning three dimensional space called Walk on Sky, Pisces 2009.

The piece recreates the night sky with a system of light-emitting diodes mounted on an aluminium ceiling to form a constellation of of stars. The viewer is invited to walk on the  stainless steel floor which mirrors the pulsing pattern of coloured stars 3 meters above thus creating an experience of walking on the sky.

Multiple sources inform the work including the polygon star (a key geometric configuration in Islamic art), the influential tenth-century treatise, Book of Fixed Stars by the Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi and the story of the legendary glass floor erected in front of King Solomon’s throne which the Queen of Sheba was led to believe was water. (note 1)

Bouabdellah’s work demands the involvement of the spectator, who must physically enter the installation in order to be able to experience it .

“It is not interesting from afar; you have to walk on it. When you walk on it, it becomes art.” explains Bouabdellah to the Gulf News.

When Art Radar viewed the piece out of doors at Art Dubai, the floor was covered in desert sand footprints and fascinated children played games of flying and sliding across the sky floor. As dusk fell the viewers became shadows and the coloured star patterns above and their reflections below grew more dominant, becoming intricate patterns of colour piercing the gloom. 

The work of the 10th century Persian astronomer Abd Al Rahman Al Sufi has provided a key source of inspiration for the piece. “My work is a homage to science, to global intelligence.”

Speaking of the influence of Islamic culture in her work, Bouabdellah points to a period between the 9th and 15th centuries, an era to which she would like to return in terms of the expansiveness and inclusivity of Islamic culture.

 “Islamic culture during that period was like bridges between spaces. We cannot talk about Islamic culture without talking about Africa, India, Southern Spain, China.” The era represents for her a time when the yearning for knowledge transcended boundaries and cultural categories, when the Caliph would invite scholars, regardless of religion or ethnicity, to the Maison du Savoir in Baghdad. (note 2)

It seemed to us in the failing light as the echos of playing children reverberated inside the space, that the piece was more than a bridge linking spaces. Children showed us it was also a bridge across generations and a magic carpet of possibility. Just one warning….best to wear trousers if you want to take a walk across the mirrored floor of magic.

The other winners were:

Nazgal Ansarinia

Nazgol Ansarinia, Rhyme and Reason, carpet 2009

Nazgol Ansarinia, Rhyme and Reason, carpet 2009

Iranian artist Nazgal Ansarinia (b 1979) with curator Leyla Fakhr for her carpet piece Rhyme and Reason 2009 in which she transforms the traditional floral motifs of the Persian carpet into scenes of contemporary life from Iran. The work prompts us to take a closer look at what is being taken for granted.

Nazgol Ansarinia, Rhyme and Reason detail

Nazgol Ansarinia, Rhyme and Reason detail

Kutlug Ataman

Turkish artist Kutlug Ataman (b 1961) with Italian curator Cristiana Perrella for his video Strange Space in which the artist is filmed crossing a sulphorous desert land with bare feet and blinded eyes.  The piece is inspired by a classical folk story in which the hero blinded by the love of the heroine is condemned to wander in the desert trying to find her just to burn in flames when they finally meet. Ataman’s work is a metaphor for the relationship of attraction and trauma created when tradition and modernity meet.

Kutlug Ataman, Strange Space, video, 2009

Kutlug Ataman, Strange Space, video, 2009

Notes:

1.  Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2009 pamphlet distributed at Fort Island, Madinat Jumeirah at Art Dubai 18-21 March 2009

2.  Gulf News

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Posted in Carpet art, Classic/Contemporary, Dubai, Emerging artists, Installation, Iranian, Islamic art, Light, Middle East, Middle Eastern, Participatory, Prizes, Space, Turkish, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »