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Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong art’

Art Radar speaks with Para/Site curator, director Fominaya on November auction event

Posted by artradar on October 19, 2010


ART AUCTION FUNDRAISER HONG KONG CURATOR INTERVIEW

Para/Site Art Space, a non-profit organisation located in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, will hold its annual Para/Site Fundraising Auction in early November this year. It will take place in the Kee Club, who also support the event, and is one of the most important fund-generators for the space. Para/Site is devoted to the exhibition of local and international contemporary art. It is also a space where seminars, talks and workshops take place regularly.

We had the opportunity to talk with the Para/Site Director and Curator Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya who has been working for the space for one-and-a-half-years, half of his contracted commitment. We wanted to know more about him, Para/Site Art Space and what special surprises the upcoming auction will have for attendees.

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, director and curator of Hong Kong's non-profit Para/Site Art Space. Image courtesy of Para/Site Art Space.

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, director and curator of Hong Kong's non-profit Para/Site Art Space. Image courtesy of Para/Site Art Space.

Fominaya and Para/Site: small scale projects with international interaction

How long has Para/Site Art Space been running for?

Para/Site was founded in 1996. It was one of the first organisations of its kind to be created in Hong Kong. In 1997, other organisations like 1Artspace were created. Para/Site started as an artists’ collective, providing a space for member artists to exhibit. Very soon it became a space for other artists coming from abroad to show their work. Para/Site started an international programme and this has continued until now. Para/Site, in a way, was a pioneer in inviting curators to work full time. I am the second curator who has joined the space. (Editor’s note: Before Fominaya, Para/Site employed Tobias Berger, a German curator who worked for the space for three years from 2006 to 2008.)

Why did you decide to join Para/Site Art Space?

Several reasons made me want to join this space: I wanted to distance myself somewhat from the European gallery/art space model. I wanted also to be able to curate all major parts of a project. In Europe, the scale of the projects I was working on was very different. I was used to working on big projects within a large team. I wanted to experiment with small scale projects, as they give me a much closer relationship with the artist. But, we also have a minor budget here! It is very challenging (smiles). The logic of culture working in a large scale organisation or in a small one is very different. I have to say that it was very shocking for me at first! I had to adapt to a different scale of project and to a different culture.

What has changed since you first joined Para/Site Art Space?

We have worked harder to develop our facilities for our Hong Kong artists and also to increase our public programme by developing some workshops…. [We are] promoting local art abroad and making dialogue between the art and artists possible in and outside Hong Kong. An example of a workshop has been the participation of the director of education at MoMA, Philip Yenawine, who talked about museums and education. [Past] workshops weren’t that much focused on artists but more on art administrators, curators, etc..

ZHANG-Dali, 'AK-47 (V.7)', 2010, acrylic on canvas, 102 x 82 cm, unique edition. Image courtesy of Para/Site Art Space.

Zhang Dali, 'AK-47 (V.7)', 2010, acrylic on canvas, 102 x 82 cm, unique edition. Image courtesy of Para/Site Art Space.

What have you been doing before you joined Para/Site Art Space?

Before coming to Para/Site I worked in a very different type of environment. I was working as a curator in a contemporary and modern art museum in Spain for six years. It was a different type of organisation; it was much larger and we covered all the twentieth century. At Para/Site Art Space … it’s a totally different type of environment, being a micro non-profit organisation with only four people working on our projects. Most of those projects are commissioned works that the artists develop for us. We have a very active international programme, which is very different from [the programme we had in] my previous job. That’s one of the challenges.

How is it funded?

The money raised in the auction covers almost half of our annual budget. That’s why it’s a very important event for us. We want to fundraise approximately HKD1,000,000 during this event. [We have organised] this kind of event for almost ten years now and we always had a very successful response. The rest of the budget is covered by the government, a French petrol group and smaller sponsors like corporate entities.

Rem Khoolhaas, 'Lagos', 2007, photographic paper, 112 x 84 cm, special edition for Para/Site Art Space. Image courtesy of Para/Site Art Space.

Rem Koolhaas, 'Lagos', 2007, photographic paper, 112 x 84 cm, special edition for Para/Site Art Space. Image courtesy of Para/Site Art Space.

Para/Site Fundraising Auction to sell one-off and special edition works

Can you explain the fundraising event to me in a few words. How do you get the artwork? What happens on the night? How did you select the artists?

The event is basically a fundraising auction. We are very cheeky and we ask the artists to donate their work to Para/Site. Some of the participating artists have worked with us and the others just want to support us in a generous way. During the event, the idea is to sell all the works in a pleasant atmosphere. From the 28 artists that participate in the events, around ten of them will attend the event. Those ten artists are based in Hong Kong. Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to fly all the artist here but we’ll have a very good representation of the selection we made. This night is very special, because it gathers different kinds of personalities together: curators, art gallery owners, artists and art lovers. Make sure to RSVP to attend to the auction as the event, with 100 people expected, will have limited places.

For this fundraising auction, 28 artists will participate. This selection of artists is a good representation of what we do. It is a mix of local Chinese, Asian and international artists. Some are very established and others not so. We’ll have secured the participation of a very established artist, Rem Koolhaas, who is donating a photograph titled Lagos. He has never sold his work before. You know what to do if you want to get it: Come to the Kee Club and it’s yours! We also have Ai Weiwei, a very interesting artist who we already exhibited last April and May. [We have] Zhang Dali, one of the pioneers of the Chinese avant-guarde and a very established artist. We have also a good representation of artists from Hong Kong. This event is a great opportunity to get artworks of a very good quality. I want to highlight also the big support from some galleries and foundations that have donated works to Para/Site, such as Cat Street Gallery. All the works that will be part of the auction will be shown here in Para/Site space.

It’s a big challenge as we curate a large number of art works and deal with artists from all over the world,… almost thirty artists, most of whom do not live in Hong Kong. The process is really like curating a show, the only difference is that the artists donate their work instead of selling it. Surprisingly, most of the artists we approached, even those who didn’t have any past relationship with Para/Site, had heard about this space and wanted to help and support us. It is a big responsibility; it has to go well for us, but it is at the same time a celebration.

Ai Wei Wei, 'Swatter', 2007, brass gilded, 0.5 x 50 x 7cm.

Ai Weiwei, 'Swatter', 2007, brass gilded, 0.5 x 50 x 7cm.

Fominaya on running a non-profit art organisation

How do you choose which artists to represent Para/Site Art Space’s regular exhibition?

For the most part I invite the artists I want to work with. I do review the portfolios that we receive but the process I follow is mostly by invitation. I generally focus in the region, working with Hong Kong artists on international projects as a mission. I’m really focussing on Chinese, Asian and South Asian artists. We use the fact that Hong Kong is a door between the West, China and the south of Asia to get our inspiration for creating our programme. We want to show what Hong Kong means in a political, geographical and economic sense. At the same time, I try to  stay away from what you can find in a commercial gallery. Actually, that’s one of the reasons why we don’t work that much with painters. Most of the work [we show] is installation and moving image. Personally, I’m very interested in moving image art.

Has the mission of Para/Site Art Space changed over time?

We continue with the same philosophy as before my arrival. In these two years, we have been developing more international projects with Hong Kong artists. We have also done a few projects with artists from outside Hong Kong, creating a dialogue between all of them. An example is the exhibition we curated with Joseph Kosuth and Tsang Kin Wah in 2009.

Has Para/Site Art Space always been in Po Yan Street? Or has the gallery been in another location before?

In April 1997, Para/Site Art Space was located in Kennedy Town before moving to its present location in Sheung Wan District, but it looks like we will have to emigrate. Sheung Wan is an area of Hong Kong that is getting very expensive. Next door, a luxurious apartment building is being built. The prices in the area are getting as expensive as the Peak. I think we need to move to a larger space to develop different types of projects with different scales. For the moment, the space that Para/Site has suits the type of exhibitions shown, but also the human resources and the budget we have available.

Sometimes you can find very famous artists in Para/Site. They don’t do the same kind of work they usually do in big museums as they have to adapt their work to the space. They also don’t have so much pressure and they tend to use this space to experiment, trying out different types of work.

How would you like to see Para/Site Art Space grow?

The artist community in Hong Kong is very active and developed. There are many commercial galleries but most of them are small and Hong Kong needs powerful galleries that can support its artists. What we would need in Hong Kong would be a larger number of non-commercial art spaces. A bit like Para/Site but on an even larger scale in order to allow the local art community to develop their projects.

The desire we have for Para/Site is to have a larger budget and a bigger venue that will help us achieve our larger goals. We want to make possible more dialogue with other art spaces around the world in order to develop projects. But this is not a short-term idea. This needs to be done over time to assure its sustainability.

SB/KN/HH

Related Topics: non-profit, art spaces, events, curators, Hong Kong venues

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Posted in Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, Art spaces, Curators, Events, From Art Radar, Funding, Hong Kong, Interviews, Nonprofit, Professionals, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Anti “commercial” art, Luk Tsing Yuen comments on corporate greed: video

Posted by artradar on August 4, 2010


INTERNET TV 3D ART VIDEO

Art Radar Asia brings you yet another insightful video from Internet channel ChooChooTV’s show [art]attack. This four minute production allows Hong Kong-based social artist Luk Tsing Yuen to explain his art output and offers viewers a chance to share space in his studio.

Luk Tsing Yuen

Luk Tsing Yuen

A fairly young artist, Luk Tsing Yuen received his BA in 2005  and is currently a student of Art and Design in Education at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Tsing Yuen takes the viewer on a tour of some of his recent works explaining each with a background of his inspirations and concerns. Working with 3D objects, Tsing Yuen uses a certain plastic type known as polyurethane. Fashioning plastic into detailed objects in response to social issues like the preservation of the environment and the commercialised culture crisis, Tsing Yuen’s works combine a passionate feeling for social needs and aesthetic imagination.

In a work called Art becoming merchandise, Tsing Yuen shows us what looks like a display box within which rows of decorative objects are stuck to the wall. Referring to the theme of assembly line production of culture and art, he places each “art” object as a product like any other – mass produced. He  goes on to say,

I want to express the fact that businessmen are destroying our history and artwork.

Another artwork features multiple slabs of transparent plastic within which one sees fossilized butterflies that have retained their colorfulness. Tsing Yuen says that the inspiration for this work was derived from a recent construction site at the Fung Yuen butterfly reserve where in the name of a better environment, the dust and grime from the construction was killing a great number of protected butterflies.

Luk Tsing Yuen has participated in several local solo and group exhibitions including “Fotanian” (2003), “A Person A [ ]” (2004), “Local East-Kowloon Art In Progress” (2006), “Industry and Silence” (2007), and “Passionate Objects” (2008) and is currently based in Hong Kong.

Watch the video on the ChooChooTV show [art]attack (length of video, 4:03 minutes).

AM/KN

Related Topics: Hong Kong artists , biological art, consumerism

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Posted in 3D Max, Activist, Art and internet, Artists as celebrities, Bio (biological) art, Consumerism, Design, Emerging artists, Environment, Fragile art, Hong Kong Artists, Installation, Large art, Luk Tsing Yuen, Sculpture, Videos | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Your interpretation or mine? Hong Kong artist Chow Chun Fai reflects in video interview

Posted by artradar on July 14, 2010


HONG KONG FOTANIAN ARTIST VIDEO INTERVIEW

In the four-minute video, Chow Chun Fai [art]attack 6, Hong Kong-born artist Chow Chun Fai shares his views on the ever-evolving interpretation of art and his own role as an artist.

A graduate of the Chinese University of Hong Kong‘s Department of Fine Arts, Chow is currently an active member of the Fotan art community, working primarily in Hong Kong and Beijing.

His works have been exhibited in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Manchester, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Palermo, and Verona.

In his “Painting on Movie” series, Chow appropriates stills from popular cinema. Through the remaking process, the artist explores the differences between his own understanding and the audience’s interpretation.

…everyone has his or her own interpretation of things. Sometimes even the artist’s interpretation of his or her own artwork can change over time.

Chow Chun Fai, 'Infernal Affairs, “I want my identity back”', 2007, Enamel paint on canvas

Chow Chun Fai, 'Infernal Affairs, “I want my identity back”', 2007, enamel paint on canvas.

While everyone’s interpretations may not be exactly the same, Chow believes the messages of culture and identity can easily transcend borders. On his first movie painting depicting a scene from the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, he remarks:

There are many scenes in this movie that cannot be translated, but you would still understand the movie regardless of your cultural background.

Despite being a well-established artist and winning multiple awards such as the Hong Kong Arts Centre 30th Anniversary Award Grand Prize and the Sovereign Asian Art Prize, Chow says being a Hong Kong artist remains a considerable challenge:

…your work needs to involve more than just creativity. You might also need to be your own agent and writer, etc.

The road of creativity can make for a bumpy ride, but Chow maintains a firm belief in himself:

Sometimes you can love what you do. Sometimes you get confused… I believe in everything I do.

Watch the video on the ChooChooTV show [art]attack (length of video, 4:09 mins).

VL/KN

Related Topics: Hong Kong artists, Fotanian artists, videos

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Posted in Chow Chun Fai, Fotanian, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Painting, Videos | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Kwan Sheung Chi reveals how to survive as an artist in Hong Kong in telling video

Posted by artradar on July 7, 2010


HONG KONG FOTANIAN ARTIST VIDEO INTERVIEW

Kwan Sheung Chi [art]attack 29” (length of video, 5:12 mins), features the Hong Kong artist Kwan Sheung Chi (b. 1980). In the video, Kwan describes the issues he explored in two of his exhibitions, as well as providing insight into his lifestyle. He emphasizes that creating art forms only a part of his activities. The video shows Kwan as he is interviewed in his studio in Fotan, Hong Kong, alongside examples of his work.

in situ, "No Matter, Try Again, Fail Again", gallery EXIT, Hong Kong, 2009

Kwan Sheung Chi's 'in situ', part of the exhibition "No Matter, Try Again, Fail Again" held at gallery EXIT (Hong Kong) in 2009.

Kwan Sheung Chi graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2003, with a Third Honor Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. He has been recognized in Hong Kong from as early as 2000 when he was named the King of Hong Kong New Artist while still a student. His 2002 exhibition “Kwan Sheung Chi Touring Series Exhibitions, Hong Kong” toured ten major exhibition venues in Hong Kong.

He set up a studio in Fotan, Hong Kong where he creates art when he is not working at his part time job.

My studio looks more like a home. I spend most of my time in the kitchen. Since I’ve moved into this studio, I’ve cooked more than actually creating.

Kwan comments on the importance of trying different mediums for his work. He comes up with an appropriate medium for his work after he has explored many ways of expressing a certain concept or idea.

The medium of creating a piece of art is not my priority; rather it’s what I want to express and what I feel about a certain subject matter, then I will choose a suitable medium for the artwork.

He comments that his first solo exhibition, “A Retrospective of Kwan Sheung Chi”, was meant to be a “reverse” logic, an exploration of what a new artist needs to do to prepare himself for his own “retrospective”.  He says that it is due to this exhibition, held at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, that he is now so well-known in Hong Kong.

My intention of the retrospective is to ’reverse’ the logic of a new artist preparing for a retrospective. The artwork in the exhibition mainly reflects my ideas on how to survive as an artist in Hong Kong.

Kwan also discusses his 2009 exhibition “No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again.”, which consisted of about ten videos, small sculptures, and installations, and in which he explored the idea of failure. He explains that we encounter failure in many aspects of life, and it is impossible to avoid the negative feelings it causes.

One of the videos is about suicide, it’s called ‘Plan A To Z To End My Life’. I tried to think of 26 ways from A-Z to commit suicide.

Watch the video on the ChooChooTV show [art]attack (length of video, 5:12 mins).

MM/KN

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Is Hong Kong a cultural desert? How can you become a better collector? Answers revealed at Asia Art Forum

Posted by artradar on June 30, 2010


ART PROFESSIONALS HONG KONG ART INDONESIAN ART ART COLLECTING

Guest writer Bonnie E. Engel, a Hong Kong freelance journalist, presents Art Radar Asia readers with her perspective on the talks of two speakers at the this year’s Asia Art Forum, held in Hong Kong in May. Hong Kong art critic and curator Valerie Doran discusses the question, “Is Hong Kong a cultural desert?” and Indonesian private art collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien divulges his collecting secrets.

Engel attended the third edition of Asia Art Forum’s three day gathering of talks and artist studio visits, designed for emerging and established collectors and presented by influential curators, collectors and experts. This year’s forum focussed on Chinese art. Read more about why organiser Pippa Dennis set up the Forum here.

Valerie Doran: Hong Kong curator and art critic

Curator and art critic Valerie Doran spoke on Sunday morning at Hong Kong’s Ben Brown Fine Arts. She covered the history of fine art in Hong Kong, trying to answer the question, “Is Hong Kong a Cultural Desert?”

 

Art curator and critic Valerie Doran.

Art curator and critic Valerie Doran.

 

This perception is fed by the lack of facilities in the city in which to show Hong Kong contemporary art and relatively few full-time artists who are more or less invisible unless collectors hunt them out. These artists are nourished on the peripheries of the territory, out in the new territories like Kowloon and the industrial sections of Hong Kong Island, rather than in Central or Causeway Bay.

The audience was grateful to see works by the older generation of artists in Hong Kong, who seemed driven to create art without a market or venue, artists such as Luis Chan and Lui Shou-kwan, who were born at the beginning of the 20th century, and Wucius Wong, Gaylord Chang, Ha Bik Chuen and Chu Hing Wah, all born before World War II. Most of their works are small, possibly reflecting the lack of space in Hong Kong.

Doran explained that Hong Kong’s art industry developed outside the concept of the art market. A lot of the art made in Hong Kong is installation (temporary) or conceptual, mainly due to a lack of space and resources, and the need for a supportive community rather than one so focused on making money.

Post-war artists also failed to rise to any great heights, but after the 1989 incident artists rose to the occasion and responded by creating conceptual and performance art pieces, perhaps a pivotal moment in the development of Hong Kong art.

As Doran relayed, part of the problem is the lack of governmental policy regarding artists, or rather that the official policy seems to be to ignore the arts. Recently, with the newly created West Kowloon Cultural District, built on reclaimed land, artists and curators are beginning to worry that the government will begin to establish arts policy, much to the detriment of arts development in the territory. To date, the government has sponsored performing art shows and events more substantially than the visual arts, perhaps a legacy of the culture-starved colonials from the UK before 1997.

She highlighted one successful governmental project, the art space Para/Site, which receives some funding from the rather new Arts Development Council, an organisation not noted for promoting local arts or artists without a lot of red tape and many meetings. The city’s major museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, is closed to outside curators (unless you are Louis Vuitton or other big money sponsors), so it was unique that Doran was allowed to create the Antonio Mak show there. Although many people agree that Hong Kong needs a contemporary art museum, Doran sees more hope in the integration and cooperation of the Pearl River Delta cities, an action that could sweep Hong Kong up into the larger regional arts scene.

Doran concluded by noting that Hong Kong’s artists are beginning to participate in the Venice Biennale and other internationals shows, and collectors are gathering in the territory twice a year for major auctions of Chinese and Southeast Asian art. Artists such as Kacey Wong, Lee Kit, Stanley Wong (anothermountainman), Tozer Pak, Sarah Tse, Luke Ching Chin-waiAnthony Leung Po Shan, Chow Chun Fai, Lam Tung Pang and Warren Leung are starting to shine at local and international galleries.

Valerie Doran is a critic and curator who, after spending seven years in Taiwan, is now based in Hong Kong. She specialises in contemporary Asian art with a special interest in cross-cultural currents and comparative art theory. She is a contributing editor of Orientations Magazine. Her Hong Kong curatorial projects include Simon Birch’s multi-media extravaganza, “Hope and Glory” and the controversial exhibition “Looking for Antonio Mak” which showed at the Hong Kong Museum of Art in 2008 and 2009.

Art Radar Asia has published a number of articles on Valerie Doran, including this exclusive interview.

Dr. Oei Hong Djien: Indonesian art specialist and collector

 

Indonesian art specialist and collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien.

Indonesian art specialist and collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien.

 

Dr. Oei Hong Djien, the final speaker on Sunday, was born and is based in Indonesia. He has been collecting art for nearly thirty years, focusing on modern and contemporary Indonesian art. The collection comprises about 1500 works, a fraction of which is on public display in his private museum, known as the OHD museum, where he is the curator. A book about his collection by Dr. Helena Spanjaard was published in 2004: Exploring Modern Indonesian Art: The collection of Dr Oei Hong Djien.

More open than most collectors, perhaps because he already has a large collection and has built a building to house it, Dr. Oei’s presentation was refreshing and candid. His “essence of collecting” vocabulary should become the bible of collectors: money, knowledge, passion, patience, courage, relation, quality, timing, luck and experience. He expanded upon these words, giving sage advice, and combined this with a showing of some of the best examples of modern Indonesian art.

His insistence on courage was very telling, as he advised new collectors with limited funds to go after young artists, buy unpopular works that go against the mainstream, look up forgotten old masters and get masterpieces that include unsuitable subject matter. This advice is predicated on hard work, self-education and endless observing, reobserving and observing again, to learn what quality art is and how to buy it. Most importantly, he said not to be afraid to make mistakes because that is how a serious collector becomes better.

Bonnie E. Engel has been a freelance journalist in Hong Kong for about 25 years. She is an Asian art specialist, covering all forms of visual arts. She travels around the region to visit artists, galleries, auctions and art fairs, and meets international artists when they come to Hong Kong. She has written for Hong Kong Prestige, Hong Kong Tatler, Gafenku, Muse Magazine, Asian Art Newspaper and other publications.

Editorial disclaimer – The opinions and views expressed by guest writers  do not necessarily reflect those of Art Radar Asia, staff, sponsors and partners.

Related Topics: art collectors, events – conferences, art curators, Hong Kong artists, Indonesian artists, venues – Hong Kong

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Posted in Art districts, Art spaces, Artist Nationality, Bonnie E. Engel, Business of art, Collectors, Conference, Curators, Dr. Oei Hong Djien, Events, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Indonesian, Professionals, Promoting art, Valerie Doran, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

This is Hong Kong: video art exhibition highlights differences between Hong Kong and the mainland

Posted by artradar on March 10, 2010


HONG KONG VIDEO ART MOVING IMAGE

Hong Kong’s identity revealed through moving image

Hong Kong: a Chinese city, a territory, a post-colonial state. Since China regained sovereignty of the area from Britain in 1997, Hong Kong has been struggling to define its identity. In the internationally touring video programme, This is Hong Kong, participating artists have used moving image to provide a visual portrait of today’s political, social and architectural Hong Kong.

Kingsley Ng, Record Light, 2008

Hong Kong’s recent history has been very different to that of mainland China; from the mid-1800s to 1997 it was under British rule. Now returned to Chinese control, the territory is struggling with issues of identity common to many postcolonial states. It is in a unique position, as China has continued to allow the “special administrative region” cultural and economic freedoms that are not available on the mainland.

Chilai Howard Cheng, Doors, 2008

This is Hong Kong aims to show just how different the area is from the mainland and sees moving image as the medium with which to do it. It showcases 16 video works by 15 contemporary Hong Kong artists; these renowned artists are Chow Chun Fai, S.T. Choi Sai Ho, Silas Fong, Ip Yuk-Yiu, Linda Lai, Leung Mee Ping, MAP Office, Adrian Wong, Kacey Wong, Woo Ling ling, Ban Zhang, Kingsley Ng, Hung Keung, Leung Chi Wo and Chilai Howard Cheng. The four sections of the exhibition, (Transitional) Architecture, Diaries, Fictions and Tactile Positions, each deal with a different side of the city, and represent the different strategies developed by the artists.

Images of traditional neighbourhoods, unique architecture, underground communities, postcolonial identity and “life in the big city” all combine in videos with strong, compelling soundtracks. This is Hong Kong helps the viewer to build an overall picture of what it’s like to live in one of the most important economic and cultural metropolises in the world.

Silas Fong, When The Door Opens, 2008

This is Hong Kong is supported by Hong Kong-based Para/Site Art Space, a non-profit art organization headed by Executive Director and Curator, Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya. Fominaya is also the curator of the exhibition and believes it “is a great opportunity to show at an international level the vibrant art scene of Hong Kong”.

After being successfully shown at LOOP Festival in Barcelona, Spain, the programme made its way to LOOP Alternative Space in Seoul, Korea, Hamburg’s Subvision Festival, EastSide Projects, Birmingham, and IFA Gallery, Berlin.

This is Hong Kong is currently showing at the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts in Taipei, Taiwan, and will conclude at Kunsthalle Wien, Austria, in March this year.

Visit the exhibition page on the Para/Site Art Space website for more details on individual videos. Curator Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya can be contacted directly through this site. Fominaya also writes his own informative blog – visit it here.

KN/KCE

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Posted in Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, Art spaces, Chilai Howard Cheng, Curators, Hong Kong Artists, Identity art, Leung Chi Wo, New Media, Political, Social, Urban, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Is Singapore threatening Hong Kong as next Asian art mecca? Wall Street Journal

Posted by artradar on November 17, 2009


SINGAPORE AND HONG KONG’S COMPETING ART MARKET

Singapore’s art scene has grown rapidly since its 1989 government mandate to recognize the “importance of culture and the art.” Thriving to a point that, according to The Wall Street Journal, Hong Kong–Asia’s epicenter of art–is beginning to take its competitor seriously.

Hong Kong’s challenging art scene

Today’s numbers would suggest that Hong Kong has nothing to worry about for competition.  Hong Kong is currently the third-largest auction market in the world with both Christie’s and Sotheby’s in its territory, and has set aside close to US$3 billion in order to create a much needed world class arts and culture development known as West Kowloon Cultural District. The project, however, has been slow to start and left many frustrated.

“The Hong Kong government first hit upon the idea in 1998 of building an integrated arts and culture neighborhood on 40 hectares of reclaimed land in the West Kowloon district. After many fits and starts, planning for the project recently picked up some momentum…Nevertheless, even if it all goes as planned, the first phase won’t be open until 2016.”

West Kowloon

One of the proposed models for the West Kowoon Cultural Centre

The West Kowloon project has been “frustrating and painful,” says Asia Art Archive’s Ms. Hsu, who is also on the advisory panel for the museum at the new West Kowloon development. “For the public it has looked like the government is stalling, but it gives me a lot of hope. The government is very concerned about getting it right.’”

Singapore makes its move

The time spent behind making Hong Kong’s “necessary cultural move” may eventually result in Singapore gaining ground in the market by the country’s pushing ahead with so many art-hub projects of their own.

“It [Singapore] invested more than US$1 billion in infrastructure, including several museums and a 4,000-seat complex of theaters, studios and concert halls called the Esplanade, which opened in 2002, and spiced up its arts programming with diversity and a regional flavor.”

singapore esplanade

The Esplanade, Singapore

The benefits of Singapore’s art initiatives are already apparent. According to Singapore’s National Arts Council “between 1997 and 2007, the ‘vibrancy’ of the local art scene, measured by the number of performances and exhibition days, quadruped to more than 26,000.”

However, Singapore is still missing a key ingredient to perhaps prosper further: a big art-auction market like Hong Kong’s.

“Some smaller art-auction houses hold sales in Singapore, but the big ones — Christie’s and Sotheby’s — have pulled out and moved their Southeast Asian art auctions to Hong Kong, the former British colony that is home to seven million people and became a Chinese territory in 1997.”

For a city, having the ingredients for a thriving art market creates a virtuous circle. The powerful marketing machines of the big auction houses, including public previews of coming sales, raises awareness and appreciation of art in the community. All this encourages local artists to create more art. And that momentum, in turn, contributes to the development of a city’s broader cultural scene, including music, theater and design.”

Singapore looks ahead

The relationship between big art-auction markets and a thriving art scene can be so entangled that it would appear difficult to navigate a new course in order to adequately compete. Singapore, it seems, is trying anyways.

“Undaunted, Singapore is diligently pushing ahead and has opened several museums and other arts venues while Hong Kong has dithered on the construction of West Kowloon. Christie’s also recently picked Singapore to be the site of a global fine-arts storage facility to open in a duty-free zone in January.”

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Posted in Advisors, Auctions, Biennials, Business of art, China, Chinese, Collectors, Fairs, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Market watch, Shanghai, Singapore, Singaporean, Southeast Asian, Uncategorised | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Sound art, trickery and time – interview Hong Kong new media artist Chilai Howard Cheng

Posted by artradar on November 12, 2009


HONG KONG ART

A portrait of the young artist Chilai Howard.

A portrait of the young artist Chilai Howard.

Chilai Howard Cheng, an ambitious young artist in his early twenties, draws attention to his video exhibition Stiffen Water at Para/Site Central, Hanart TZ Gallery in Hong Kong (5 Sep – 30 Oct). A fresh graduate of School of Creative Media and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, also formerly educated in UK, Chilai is finding the limelight in international art shows – Barcelona, Seoul, Hamburg, and more – using innovative new media.

Just arriving from his part-time job in graphic design, Chilai loosens up in an interview with Art Radar. He talks about his deliberate manipulation of human perceptions with the sound of water dripping from five different sources, and more importantly, his mission to turn more people in Hong Kong from blind buyers into educated art admirers.

Q: Where were you born and educated and how did that influence your art?

I was born in HK. I went to high school in the UK and studied art there for 6 years. For university, I went to HKUST  (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) – creative communications design, and later CityU School of Creative Media. A tutor named Adrian Cooper, whom I met in high school, was very encouraging and recommended some artists such as Alberto Giacometti, a painter and sculptor. This influenced me to start doing some paintings and installations in his style. It’s hard to do installations in Hong Kong though – you need storage and a big studio. Video is easier to manage, so I chose that to begin with.

Q: When did you know you were an artist?

I don’t think I’m an artist. To me, artists no longer exist. R Picasso, Dali were artists because they invented and revolutionized styles and trends. Nowadays, most videos are imitations of the early cinema. At the moment, I call myself an art worker, hopefully an artist after 30 years. I believe that true artists are inventors, such as  Jeffrey Shaw , a media artist as well as the Dean of Creative Media who shaped media art. 

Q: Where did you get your inspirations for Stiffen Water?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stiffen Water by Chilai Howard, video, 2009.

Stiffen Water by Chilai Howard, video, 2009.

 

It’s actually a continuous work of final year project. I calculated the water drops from the beginning to the end of the five-day exhibition. In video-making, we take a micro-narrative approach. Since I want the audience to take a closer look at the water they drink, I decided to play with audience’s conscious and unconscious minds. Even though the video appears to freeze at times,  there is actually still motion in it.  Playing with the same concept, I once made an 18-minute video with scenes from Hong Kong in the sixties, yet in the end the characters revealed that it was in fact the year 2007, so I tricked the audience into identifying the time frame as the sixties.

Q: Why “stiffen”? Not “stiff”?

DSC_0035

Part of the installation work by Chilai Howard

I don’t have an answer because neither do I care much about the title of an artwork, nor do I find it an indispensable element. As a matter of fact, I believe a title ruins all the hidden surprises. I prefer to have my audience guess the subject of my artwork in the way they perceive it. If I were to give my artwork a random title, I would be inviting criticism. It should be the audience, not me, who should name it.

Q: What difficulties lie in the manipulation of the kinetics and sound of water (and to make sure that effects are suitable for the image)?

I had to make sure that the sound and image are synchronized. Basically, I mixed five different sources of water – toilet, shower, pipe, pissing, and water dripping into a tank, with one bass sound. The frequency and the pitches of all five sources are very different, and I had to decide where to place the high-pitch sound.

Q: What aspects of life are you trying to question through Stiffen Water?

Instead of appreciating water, we take it for granted since it’s always been with us. I have a preference for natural elements, such as wood, leaf, plant, trees, for my installations. In the UK, I once shot a bunch of leaves for many days to observe the changes in motion and light. 

Q: How does it differ from other video works of yours, such as Doors? Any particular favorite?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Doors by Chilai Howard, video, 2009

The Doors by Chilai Howard, video, 2009

 

While Stiffen Water is about the natural life, Doors focuses on a social issue. With a plethora of historical buildings under destruction, it’s important to know that ancient is not synonymous with obsolete. As I spent three days taking photos of the same image, I found the patterns of door’s opening and closing fascinating. China attempted to cut off everything from the UK when it took over Hong Kong, so I wanted to shed light on the significance of Star Ferry Pier to our country.

On the other hand, Body Gender is more of a balanced statement inspired by some of my female Hong Kong friends who believe that they’re not treated fairly in Hong Kong – although I think there is equal treatment for all.  By showing only body parts instead of its entirety,  I wished to create the illusion that “he” might be a “she”, or vice versa. 

Q: Next stop for the exhibition? How do reactions to Doors differ between Hong Kong, Barcelona, Seoul and Hamburg ?

The video will travel to Berlin and Taiwan. Right now Doors is in Hamburg. I wanted to go, but I stayed for this exhibition. I also carry a part-time graphic design job, but only for the money. The design industry is far too commercial and practical in Hong Kong, thus not conceptual enough as it is in UK. It’s hard unless you’re a famous designer. 

Q: Obstacles in your art career?

One advantage that Hong Kong has is its small size, which means a smaller art society than that in other countries. So it makes easier to expose your art in Hong Kong. The problem is that people here are not interested in art or art exhibitions. Instead of appreciating art and the history behind it, some buyers use it as pure decoration. Another obstacle is that it’s hard to expose Hong Kong art to the world. There are very few internationally renowned artists from Hong Kong compared with, say, Canada, so we don’t attract as many people to our overseas exhibitions. Due to political reasons, Chinese artists are not that exposed to the world either until recently the government relaxed its policies on art. The West loves traditional Chinese art and calligraphy, but some treat it as no more than decorations, too. 

Q: What key message do you want to convey through your art?

No fixed message, but I pay attention to political or social issues. For instance, the financial markets are Hong Kong’s main asset, but as companies begin to move their headquarters to Shanghai, what else will be left in Hong Kong then? We used to have factories, but they all moved to mainland. Even yuan is more valuable than Hong Kong dollars now. 

Q: Future endeavors?

I might go back to UK to study. But I will return to Hong Kong. This is my dream to expose Hong Kong art to the world. That’s why I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, to educate young kids. The art education here needs a lot of improvement. I have to be famous to acquire the credibility to convince people and change how they perceive art. 

Q: What are other graduates of your class doing? 

Not everyone wanted to be an artist. Some preferred to work nine-to-five shifts. Some became art administrators for organizing shows, while others entered the field of business, marketing, or advertising.  Everyone’s dream is different.

Q: Did you imagine yourself to be successful at a young age? Future exhibitions?

IMG_8900

Timeless by Chilai Howard Cheng, 2009.

I don’t consider myself successful, but I’m honored to be included in the exhibition. Success is when I can influence more people to appreciate art. That’s my dream. 

My new video Timeless will be exhibiting in October Contemporary. This time I will shoot a curtain to illustrate the patterns of light’s coming in and out, which reflects how time flies, and how both light and time are untouchable, abstract systems. In fact, I almost had the opportunity to exhibit my first installation there, but I missed the invitation email sent by Input Output. 

Q: You were accepted at Goldsmith College, University of London, Central St. Martins College of Art and Design. Why did you return to Hong Kong?

My art was rather renowned where I went to school in UK.  However, it’s common for westerners to like Chinese art because they find the integration of the west and east exotic. So I was dubious of my talent. I was confused about whether I were really good at art, or did they simply like my work due to the incorporation of oriental elements. To prove to myself that my artwork is worthy, I came back to Hong Kong and began everything from zero. I don’t regret the decision, especially now that I’ve started to hold exhibitions, an opportunity that would be hard to obtain in a much larger art society in UK.

WM/KCE

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Posted in Asian, Chilai Howard Cheng, Chinese, Doors, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Installation, Interviews, Light, New Media, Photography, Political, Slow/fast art, Social, Sound, Sound art, Time, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Liquidity propels prices, Chinese Political Pop is back – Sothebys Contemporary Asian Art Auction 2009 Hong Kong

Posted by artradar on October 16, 2009


SOTHEBY’S AUCTIONS HONG KONG CONTEMPORARY ASIAN ART

Although called a Contemporary Asian Art auction, this sale was dominated by Chinese artists which was a canny move by Sotheby’s given that mainland liquidity is driving prices of property in Hong Kong to record high prices of US$1,000 per square foot and sending Chinese stock markets soaring. According to Bloomberg, Chinese money supply has grown by 55% since the beginning of 2007 compared with 20% in the UK and US.

Some of this liquidity has found its way into the art market at this auction. Mainland buyers were active and revealed some surprising preferences.

Hong Kong artists back in a second showcase

Sotheby’s followed up its inaugural and successful showcase of 8 Hong Kong artists in the ‘Spring auction earlier this year with an expanded selection of works by 10 artists. Affordable prices meant that all but two of the works found buyers with successful bids mostly coming in around estimates.

Simon Go, Hong Kong Old Shops, Inkjet on Bamboo Paper

Simon Go, Hong Kong Old Shops, Inkjet on Bamboo Paper

Works by two artists, sculptor Danny Lee and photographer Simon Go who were both new to the auction this year, did better than estimates. Danny Lee produces stainless steel sculptures which are reminiscent  – though in a more organic liquid form –  of the stainless steel scholar rocks made by the world-renowned sculptor Zhan Wang  whose works have been collected by institutions such as the British Museum . Danny Lee’s Mountain and Stream IV sold for HK$170,000 against a top estimate of HK$160,000 (before premium). (US$1 = HK$7.7)

Danny Lee, Mountain and Stream IV, Steel wood

Danny Lee, Mountain and Stream IV, Steel wood

Simon Go’s set of 2 photographic works called Hong Kong Old Shops: Wing Wo Grocery and Keng Ming Mirror Shop achieved a price of HK$80,000 against an estimate of HK$30-50,000 (before premium). This lot points to several collector trends. According to Larry Warsh, a New York-based dealer, there is a growing interest in Chinese photography and Wing Wo Grocery ( an image of a family clan in an old-style grocery shop from the colonial era recently shut down in preparation for urban renewal) embodies trends identified at an ArtInsight seminar last month called ‘Trends and Opportunities in Photography” . The panelists identified documentary photography and ‘slice of lif’e’ photography as hot areas for collectors now.

Zhan WangThe biggest story of the Hong Kong part of the sale was Tsang Tsou Choi’s calligraphy which saw excited bidding between several bidders in the room and on the phone resulting in a price (before premium) of HK$400,000 which was 8 times the lower estimate of HK$50,000. Work by this artist now deceased was also a surprising success in the Spring 2009 auction perhaps because of local media and public interest in the eccentric behaviour he displayed in his long art career.

Tsang Tsou Choi, Calligraphy, Acrylic on Canvas

Tsang Tsou Choi, Calligraphy, Acrylic on Canvas

In our Sotheby’s Spring 2009 auction post we wrote:

Tsang, Tsou Chin aka The Kowloon Emperor is a Hong Kong legend, famous for his calligraphy graffiti which he painted on public furniture. Undeterred by numerous warnings he roamed the streets for 50 years laying down his family genealogy and his personal history as an emperor in exile in blatant defiance of the Queen and English colonial rule. Deemed a lunatic by some, he was nevertheless recognised when in 2003 he became the very first Hong Kong artist to exhibit at the Venice Biennale.

Cynical Realist artists are back

In the next section of the sale a series of Chinese sixties-born artists, many from the Cynical Realist and Political Pop movements (Yue Minjun Feng Zhenghjie Zeng Fanzhi, Fang Lijun, Zhang Xiaogang) came under the hammer with hefty estimates of several hundred thousand and up to around $5 million per lot.

Yue Minjun, Hats Series - The Lovers, Oil on Canvas

Yue Minjun, Hats Series - The Lovers, Oil on Canvas

On a visit to London last month Art Radar heard several Western commentators describing Chinese art as ‘old’, ‘tired’ and ‘done’. This auction showed clearly that there are keen buyers for Chinese artists of this era who are willing to pay robust prices. Room bidders were mainly middle-aged Chinese men, who are perhaps collectors or more likely dealers for a growing middle class market in the mainland. Most lots in this section sold at estimate and some well above. Yue Minjun’s ‘Hats Series – The Lovers’ attracted several room bidders and a phone bidder eventually selling for HK$5.3m against a top estimate of HK$3.5m.

Institution-endorsed Chinese artists of the  fifties and sixties meet price resistance

Wang Keping, Untitled, Wood

Wang Keping, Untitled, Wood

It is no secret that Western critics regard some of the Cynical Realist artists as lightweight and lacking in intellectual rigour.  Instead major institutions such as the Royal Academy and British Museum in London have favoured and endorsed other mid-century born artists such as gunpowder artist Cai Guo-Qiang and Xu Bing, famous for his invented calligraphy . These artists sold well at lower price levels but lots with high estimates met resistance and failed. Cai Guo-Qiang’s Money Net No 2, part of Royal Academy of Art Project (estimate HK$4.7m – 5.5m) and Xu Bing’s Silkwom Series – The Foolish Old Man Who Tried to Remove the Mountain (estimate HK$5m – 5.5m) were bought in.

Frowns for part-increment bids

What we did see at this auction was a much stronger resistance by the two auctioneers in this marathon four-and-a-half  hour sale to partial bids. In recent auctions we have seen bidders make counter-offer bids at increments lower than standard. In the recent past these were accepted with alacrity by genial auctioneers. At this auction bidders were left waiting, frowned at and as often as not turned down.

Zhang Huan upset

Zhang Huan, My New York, Chromogenic Print

Zhang Huan, My New York, Chromogenic Print

Zhang Huan

, formerly a performance artist and more recently a sculptor and installation artist known for his works in ash and animal skins had 5 lots in the sale. Despite  backing by big-boy galleries in London and New York (Zhang Huan currently has an installation at White Cube in Picadilly London) four of his works including two sculptures and two chromogenic prints were bought in. The only work which was successful was a chromogenic print (numbered 3/8) recording his early endurance performance art which sees him running barefoot along the streets covered in raw meat. This work exemplifies another trend identified at the Artinsight photography seminar: growing interest in photographic documentation of performance art.

Sculpture mixed

Sculpture had a mixed performance. Apart from Zhang Huan’s two failed lots and one by Hong Kong artist Kum Chi Keung, there was a surprise pass on Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s pink polyester mannequin Self-Obliteration (estimate $550-650,000). Most of the rest of the ten or so sculptures including Wang Keping’s wooden female forms, Zhang Wan’s scholar rocks, kitsch sculptures by the Luo Brothers and Huang Yan and a run of five works featuring sculpted heads  and figures (by various artists) sold at or above estimate.

Li Hui, Amber Dragon, Neon and steel

Li Hui, Amber Dragon, Neon and steel

Two lots by neon and steel sculptor Li Hui (1977) were highly sought after and attracted across-the-room bidding. Both pieces were purchased by an Asian family who were active bidders in the preceding sale of South East Asian art. The family also acquired an acrylic on canvas by Japanese artist Hiroyuki Matsuura and another by Ryuki Yamamoto. Traditionally collectors’ interests cluster geographically and more often than not collectors prefer to buy their national artists though there have been signs of changes. Despite the recession there is still momentum  behind this trend of pan-Asia buying.

Chinese photography fluid bidding

A handful of photographs were scattered through the sale but the bulk was found in an eleven lot run in the middle.  This run featured sixties-born Chinese photographers such as Hai Bo, Hong Hao, Wang Qingsong, Huang Yan, Cang Xin and Sheng Qi who were active in the nineties and many of whom came to international prominence in 2004 with Christopher Phillips’ seminal exhibition Between Past and Future at the International Center of Photography in New York. Since then major US institutions have been collecting the work of this group as we reported in April 2009:

Hai Bo, Red Guard, Chromogenic Print and Gelatin Silver Print

Hai Bo, Red Guard, Chromogenic Print and Gelatin Silver Print

The J. Paul Getty Museum is the latest institution to add works by Chinese contemporary artists to its holdings. Others include New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which recently acquired 28 works for its photography collection, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the Brooklyn Museum, as well as global institutions such as the Tate and the Pompidou Center.

“The acquisition of these works (Wang Qingsong, Hai Bo) affirms an important new direction for the Getty,” says noted photography dealer and collector Daniel Wolf, who helped establish the museum’s collection in the 1980s. “It reflects an interest in expanding the collection in this category.”

Prices were affordable and bidding was fluid. While editions were limited to the 8-20 range and many of the lots were made up of multiple images, sales were made at estimates which were surprisingly affordable. Most lots sold for between HK$40-75,000. Wang Qingsong’s triptych photograph Past Present, Future which sold at estimate for HK$260,000 was the exception.  One buyer snapped up several lots.

One upset was lot 765 by Cao Fei which was passed in. Her works are inspired by the internet, video games, role-playing and the virtual world and she has received wide coverage in London and beyond after a recent show at Battersea Power Station organised in conjunction with the Serpentine Gallery.

Japanese and Korean art

The sale was dominated by Chinese artists but there was a run of cartoon-style art, many by young Japanese artists, a third of the way through the sale which sold at prices HK$50-150,000. Heavyweight Japanese artists were priced much higher but did not always sell or meet the estimate.  Yoshimoto Nara’s It’s Everything sold at HK$3.3m compared with an estimate of HK$3.8-HK$5m. Work by Yoshitaka Amano (described by Time Out as ”the Japanese anime legend behind the Final Fantasy video game” and who attracted spirited phone bidding in the spring sale 2009) was passed in. Takashi Murakami was the exception achieving HK$520,000 for an untitled 1/50 edition screenprint carrying an estimate of just HK$50-70,000. Korean works also achieved mixed results.

Long long auction

The final run of 11 lots saw 6 passes despite affordable prices. This result is probably not worth analysing in depth as it likely had more to do with the numbing length of the 4-5 hour 2 auctioneer sale which saw a packed room of 200 or so dwindle away to 30 or 40 tired stalwarts at what felt like the dog-end of the sale. Perhaps Sotheby’s who charged for coffee and catalogues again this year is still in cost-slashing mode. Let’s hope that by next year there will be enough new money supply for a return to more coffee breaks and free coffee.

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Posted in Auctions, Business of art, Cai Guoqiang, Cao Fei, Cartoon, China, Chinese, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Japanese, Korean, Li Hui, Market watch, Photography, Sculpture, Takashi Murakami, Xu Bing, Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitaka Amano, Yue Minjun, Zeng Fanzhi, Zhang Huan, Zhang Xiaogang | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Surprising new direction taken by cadaver artists and Saatchi stars: Sun Yuan and Peng Yu – interview

Posted by artradar on September 16, 2009


HONG KONG CHINESE PHOTOGRAPHY ART

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, born in the early 1970s and both alumni of the prominent Beijing Central Academy of Art, have a long-established  reputation in Asia for their controversial collaborative installations featuring animals, human tissue and baby cadaver specimens.

In the west they made a big splash in 2008 at the record crowd-drawing Saatchi exhibition of new Chinese art, The Revolution Continues with a satirical work called Old People’s Home (click for video). Both popular and critically-acclaimed, this life-sized 2007 work featured sculptures of decrepit old people “looking suspiciously like world leaders… now long impotent”‘ rolling slowly in wheelchairs around the gallery and occasionally crashing into one another.

Taking a surprising new direction, their exhibition Hong Kong Intervention (Aug 22 – Oct 10) at Osage Gallery delves into the working environments of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong.

Each of the 100 Filipino participants took a photograph of a toy grenade placed in his or her employer’s home. Sun Yuan and Peng Yu talk with Wendy Ma about whether or not this experiment in spatial intrusion by Filipino maids creates tensions.

Toy grenade placed in the center of a dining room and the back of the Filipino maid. Image courtesy to Erin Wooters.

Toy grenade placed in the center of a dining room and the back of the Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

AR: What inspired you to make photos with Filipino domestic staff?

Two years ago at a square in Central I observed the mass congregation of Filipino girls. I thought it was a very interesting situation since each one is connected to a family in Hong Kong. I started chatting with them and obtained their agreement to volunteer to do the photo shoots. Through them I could intervene in an relationship.

AR: Why do the photographs include the image of a toy grenade?

To intervene, I wanted to use a toy specifically bought in Hong Kong. It was up to them to place it anywhere inside their owner’s house, e.g. inside a garden, on the bed, blending it with the environment. Then they take a photograph of the scene. The toy is a legal product. When your kid plays with a toy grenade, you might find it cute, not dangerous. It was a chance for the participants to exercise their creativity. We wanted to use a very simple object to show how it can open up possibilities.

AR: Is it just a game or does it carry other implications?

It is a game because there are no real consequences. An example of something that is not a game would be the recent incident when a reporter threw a shoe at George Bush. However, it would’ve been a game had he said, “I’m going to throw it at you, first at your head then at your chest.” By not carrying it out, it would have remained just a concept. If something happens in reality, it changes the environment. But right now our work is only a photograph.

The proposition of the game is neutral. It doesn’t carry implications of danger. Last night someone told me that they treat their Filipino maids like guests.

Hidden toy grenade on the book shelve and the male domestic worker. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

Hidden toy grenade on the book shelve and the male domestic worker. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

AR: Why is the photograph of the back of the worker juxtaposed next to the surroundings?

Actually, neither the person nor the environment is significant. They are entities with no individual characteristics. Instead of specifying a particular being, I just want to describe a phenomenon.

AR: What have you found out about their lives and about contemporary Hong Kong society?

One third of the Filipino population live outside their country. They are a special group in Hong Kong. During the week they enter into the homes of different families. On Sundays, they bond and return to their own world. When they work, they disappear into the families of Hong Kong. They play different roles in their working and living environment. They use their culture to communicate. As for us, we work outside the family and we bond when we return to our home. For them, they enter our families to work. It’s the reverse.

Bedroom and Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

Bedroom and Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

AR: Why is the exhibition called Hong Kong Intervention?

Intervention in Chinese can be small (eating a crab) or large-scale (invading a country). It can be magnified in the imagination of readers. You can imagine the explosive possibilities of the toy grenade, despite the fact  that in reality it cannot explode. How the viewer perceives ‘intervention’ is beyond my control.

Intervention can be a strategy to communicate ideas. Ours is the study of a social phenomenon. It does not necessarily mean invasion or changing a situation as it does in the English expression “tossing a grenade”.

Words acquire different meanings in different situations. They cannot be precise. Words cannot express what you actually feel. So art is not expressed through words or titles but through a different means to pull you closer to the underlying meaning.

AR: Are you concerned that the proprietor might feel violated if he saw the photograph of his home on display?

We had no intention to expose individuals. Like I said, the photos of the maids and the homes are not meant to be specifically meaningful; they only a representation and a portrayal of the mass.

Bedroom of a Hong Kong owner and the Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

Bedroom of a Hong Kong owner and the Filipino maid. Photography by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Image Courtesy to Erin Wooters.

AR: What is the role/identity of Filipinos in your work? Creators, participants, or assistants?

I consider all the participants as collaborators: not just Filipinos, but also the audience involved in the discussions. They are common authors of the work. As part of the contract, we don’t have to give credit to them by listing their names as they transferred the copyright to us.

Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Editor’s note: This post is interesting to contrast with a recent exhibition at Para/Site in Hong Kong in which Filipino domestic helpers were invited to receive manicures given by the Australian artist collective Baba International.  Whereas Baba International sought to nurture and engage with their subject physically, the “‘Intervention”‘ exhibition carries intriguing tones of depersonalisation and violence. Baba was keen to explain the intentions behind their work whereas Sun Yuan and Peng Yu step away and allow the viewer to explore and fully shoulder the responsibility for interpretation.

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Posted in China, Chinese, Collaborative, Documentary, Domestic, Family, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Human Body, Interviews, Migration, Participatory, Photography, Social, Toys, War | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »