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Contemporary art trends and news from Asia and beyond

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Posts Tagged ‘Para/Site’

Ai Weiwei and Vito Acconci wrap up major collaboration at Hong Kong’s Para/Site art space

Posted by artradar on July 6, 2010


AI WEIWEI CHINESE ART HONG KONG ART SPACES ARTIST COLLABORATIONS

With a new project, Chinese art all-rounder Ai Weiwei, in cooperation with American artist Vito Acconci, has brought fresh dialogues between the East and West to Hong Kong, a monumental event in Ai Weiwei’s career and for the Hong Kong and the Asian art scenes.

installation view at para:site art space

A view of "Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project", an installation work recently shown at Para/Site art space in Hong Kong.

Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project“, held at Hong Kong’s Para/Site art space, has provided the opportunity for Ai Weiwei to meet and work for the first time with Vito Acconci, an American artist whom he admires.

Vito Acconci

Like Ai Weiwei, Acconci shifts between performance art and architecture, and has gained a global reputation for his bold art stunts.

In his 1971 performance entitled Seedbed, Acconci engaged his visitors in restrained sexual intimacy by masturbating continuously under a wooden platform in a gallery.

recent article published on Time Out Hong Kong describes the artist as someone who “works not as a singular artist but as an architect and ‘collaborator’ for Acconci Studios. The controversial questioning of his earlier career has been replaced with an intellegent whimsy in design. Structures roam, twist and fold within their sites. Each edifice constantly contemplating the function of space and the understanding of linear time and form.”

Ai Weiwei

Having been involved in design, architecture, curating, writing and publishing, Ai Weiwei is one of the most controversial contemporary artists of his generation. Asked to describe his art by the Financial Times, Ai Weiwei gave the following reply:

“That question makes me almost speechless, because I wonder how much do I know about it, even though it was me that did it? What part is conscious and is that consciousness important? And what part has come out only because of the public’s sentiment? And is that important?”

An article recently published in the Guardian noted that Ai Weiwei’s work “has become overtly political, blurring the boundary between art and activism”, referring to the artist’s Remembering installation. This artwork was comprised of 9,000 children’s backpacks, in reminiscence of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake casualties.

In recollection of Ai Weiwei’s past performances, an article published in the Financial Times discussed both Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), “a triptych of photographs in which he is seen casually dropping a 2,000-year-old vase to shatter on the ground”, and an exhibition of 46 avant-garde artists including himself called Fuck Off (2000), which was closed down by authorities. The artwork’s Chinese title was the milder Uncooperative Approach. Despite his strong defiance against the Beijing government, Ai Weiwei was the designer of the Bird’s Nest at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

vito acconci and ai weiwei discussing their collaboration

Vito Acconci and Ai Weiwei in discussion regarding "Acconti Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project", an installation work recently shown at Para/Site art space in Hong Kong.

Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project

For “Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project”, Para/Site was transformed into a three-dimensional grid where Ai and Acconci developed their work “in constant mutation and accumulation during the two months that it [was] open to the public.” The end product was an unorthodox, multilayered installation with an accumulated collection of new works, models, drawings and various materials that were accumulated as a result of ongoing discussions between Ai Weiwei, Vito Acconci and their studios.

“The collaboration with Vito Acconci at Para/Site art space is an effort in figuring out ways to collaborate, ways [of] defining the actual process of working together. Through the development of a gallery project we are to think [of] the formation of a city.” Ai Weiwei (as quoted on the Para/Site website)

“I would never have imagined that today I could become active in art and have a chance to meet Vito…I was a young man just come from China. I was trying to be part of art history, but then it was impossible…Neither of us have any nostalgia towards the past, but we are both ready to think about today. That is our common ground.” Ai Weiwei (as quoted by the Financial Times)

The project is not just an interesting addition to Ai’s collection of stunning works. As Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, the Executive Director and Curator of Para/Site, told Art Radar Asia, it has also created a platform for dialogues about the arts in Hong Kong and, on a larger scale, throughout Asia.

“This project reflects the complex production system that surrounds the creation of new works of art/projects in the 21st century. Dialogue is an important element of this project, which is as much about exchange of ideas as it is about production. Until now most exhibitions in this part of Asia focused on exhibiting a relevant Western artist or showcasing a leading artist from Asia. But the dialogue between what is happening in different parts of the world is lacking. This conversation is conducive to new ideas and it opens new paths of research. Then, there is also the challenge to put together practitioners from different generations, that also operate within different studio cultures. It proves Hong Kong can be a platform for leading international projects, and positions this city as a destination for art lovers, and not just a stopover. It is also a picture of what Hong Kong could be in the international scene if we had some rigorous planning and more opportunities to engage with current discourses around the world. This project is about taking curatorial risks, to start a journey without knowing the final destination.”

According to the art space’s website, Para/Site was chosen as the base for the project because of its autonomy from large organisations, enabling it to accommodate the innovativeness of the project.

CBKM/KN

Related topics: Ai Weiwei, collaborative art, venues – Hong Kong, Chinese artists

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Posted in Activist, Ai Weiwei, American, Art spaces, Artist Nationality, China, Chinese, Collaborative, Crossover art, Events, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Installation, Interactive art, Medium, Photography, Sound, Sound art, Styles, Themes and subjects, Trends, Venues, Z Artists | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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 »

The Problem of Asia: Para/Site art exhibition explores Asian identity in Sydney

Posted by artradar on May 5, 2010


PARA/SITE ASIAN IDENTITY ART

Ai Weiwei Beijing: The Second Ring, 2005. Video. January 14 – February 11, 2005. 1 h 6 m

The Problem of Asia, an exhibition presented 30 April – 22 May, 2010 at Chalk Horse Sydney in partnership with Hong Kong’s Para/Site Art Space, deals with an array of issues, not all of which are politically correct.

The exhibition considers how Asia is perceived and constructed, both from within and outside, and the contemporary challenges being presented to societies in general.

The exhibition is proposed as a catalytic, discursive device, activated through the artists that are part of the first installment of this improvised project. The show’s narratives address themes of growth, corruption, memory, history, language, colonialism and freedom.

This project is conceived as a work-in-progress, and is open to other additions and network plug-ins.

Australia is a unique location to launch this exhibition, as its multilayered relationship with the idea of Asia provides a provocative cultural framework.

Curated by Para/Site’s Executive Director and Curator Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, contributing artists include:

Ai Weiwei –      Luke Ching Chin-wai     Huang Xiaopeng     Michael Lee      Leung Chi Wo     Dinu Li      Tintin Wulia

Ai Weiwei’s videos document Beijing ring roads, focusing on the ‘process of pure observation and the nature of time…and the urban reality that defines Beijing’.

Urban reality versus urban utopia is explained through Michael Lee’s Spiral Supermart, a new project from the series Second-Hand City, where rubbles of collapsed buildings arrive at a futuristic factory in China to be analyzed, resurrected and displayed for resale.

Luke Ching Chin-wai and Huang Xiaopeng focus on language, although their research leads them through different concerns from translation software to impromptu Cantonese lessons for Japanese residents.

Dinu Li addresses the problem of Asia with a more direct strategy, through a video performance denouncing corruption, put in context with the inclusion of archival images from Chinese propaganda films.

Leung Chi Wo enacts a new performance based on his My Name is Victoria series, which encompasses references to the colonial past of Hong Kong.

Tintin Wulia’s installation is a research on the notions of nationality/nation/border through the relationship between citizenship, mobility, and political power, and between territory, mapping and cartography.

EW/KCE

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Posted in Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, Art spaces, Asian, Australia, Chinese, Gallery shows, Hong Kong Artists, Identity art, Installation, Nonprofit | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

‘Guerilla’ gallerist on introducing Banksy to Asia, art atmosphere in Hong Kong- interview

Posted by artradar on April 14, 2010


HONG KONG ART MARKET

Two year old gallery Fabrik, known for its unique guerilla exhibitions and for bringing Western iconic artists to Asia, sets up permanent home in Hong Kong.

The Fabrik Contemporary Art Gallery is young in Hong Kong, having exploded onto the art scene about 2 years ago with its first show LOVE ART, which caused a sensation introducing works by the notorious street artist Banksy, who had never before been exhibited in Asia. Although the Fabrik Gallery is young, it stands out in Hong Kong’s Chinese-saturated art market for its rare support of Western and contemporary pop artworks and its unique practice of holding ‘guerilla exhibitions’ in temporary or borrowed spaces. In fact, 2 years into its business of promoting art, Fabrik Contemporary has just recently found itself a fixed home in the heart of Central in Hong Kong.

The gallery is a joint venture, owned and operated by Sean Coxall, Jurgen Abergas, and Mark Saunderson, and was originally intended as a platform for the art enthusiasts to share and market their ever-expanding private collections of Warhol and other iconic pop artworks.

The business partners recognized the void of popular Western artworks within the Hong Kong art market, which generally does not expose art lovers to Western phenomena.

The gallery’s flagship Banksy show in April 2008 shocked the art community with its overwhelming success, drawing unprecedented crowds and attention. This Spring, Fabrik fittingly celebrated the opening of their permanent space with another show featuring Banksy, accompanied by the likes of Damien Hirst, Francis Bacon, and Gilbert & George in ‘The Great British Show,’ which ran February 25-March 25.

Art Radar catches up with the Fabrik Gallery’s lively co-owner and curator Jurgen Abergas, a London-educated cosmopolitan whose background includes growing up in the Philippines and living in Los Angeles and China. He shares his perspective on the Hong Kong art scene, Hong Kong’s reaction to Western pop art, and tells all about the series of serendipitous events that culminated in bringing Banksy to Hong Kong.

Was it logistically easy to have the Banksy LOVE ART show in Hong Kong?

Yes, it was actually, because there is no tax on importing art here. We were not yet even registered as a company at that time. We were just working as a private dealership. We collaborated with the Schoeni Gallery, because [the Gallery Director] Nicole Schoeni loves Banksy and wanted to bring him here too. This was also a jump starting point for Nicole’s Adapta Gallery project in Hong Kong.

The show was comprised of 3 days in the Hong Kong Art Centre, and then another 2 weeks with additional pieces for the Schoeni show.

What is the mission of the gallery?

The mission of the gallery is to encourage first time collectors. We try to provide known iconic pieces that accurately represent the style of an artist. For instance, if you want a piece by Hirst, you wouldn’t want a piece that is only a squiggle or a dot, because that is not a known Hirst. We show work that is more iconic and familiar.

Japanese Apricot 2, 2005, by Chiho Aoshima. 55 x 77.8 cm Lithograph. Contact Fabrik Gallery.

What type of art did you intend to share with Hong Kong?

Definitely Western contemporary art. The Japanese art was not a fluke; I’ve been into manga since I was a kid, and it was something that my two partners only got eventually.

We were at a gallery showing of Murakami and other artists, and I told them we should definitely show Murakami. I mean, we go to London, New York, Los Angeles, and we see all these [Murakami] retrospectives, but we don’t see it here. I thought it would make a difference in the Hong Kong arts scene if someone showed works of Murakami here. And also, we wanted to prove that what Murakami does is beyond just Louis Vuitton.

When we opened this gallery, it was supposed to only be a stockroom. But, I said, let’s just do it properly. We were just kind of sick and tired of showing art out of our homes. It’s not ideal, but there are many dealers in New York and London that show art out of their home. However, in Hong Kong it is so crazy outside that you really need your home to be sacred space.

So, we launched the Murakami show, and we pre-sold most of the art before hand! It was one of those shows where we were struggling because clients wanted their art immediately and not wait until the end of the show! So, we were re-hanging stuff that wasn’t even Murakami anymore, because we ran out of the pieces that were actually in demand. We didn’t see that coming at all. Nobody was specializing in Murakami in Hong Kong. However, I have to credit Nicole [Schoeni], because she had works by Chiho Aoshima, who is another artist by Murakami. Aoshima is a lady who just paints women. Nicole had an amazing Japanese apricot lithograph. It is a piece that is really stuck in my head. After seeing that, I was like, ok, let’s include other artists with Murakami.

How is the Fabrik Gallery unique among galleries in Hong Kong?

I think we’re unique because we deal with art that is not generally represented in Hong Kong, and we do not deal with Chinese art.  I love Chinese art, but in a sea of contemporary Chinese art, there is only so much you want to see. We are looking to offer something different.

We also think it’s important to educate the viewer of the message behind the piece. You can go to galleries and think a work is beautiful, but not understand the inspiration for a work. We support more people, especially students, coming into the gallery and reading about an artwork so they do not have unprocessed thoughts about art. When you have a guide to read or someone who will explain the art to you, it really makes a difference and makes a lasting impression on someone who visits the gallery.

Can you describe the Fabrik Gallery’s ‘guerilla’ approach to art sales?

Basically, we went to different venues, like the W Hotel, rented out space, painted it, put up lights, and showed our works there.

Which galleries and arts organizations do you work closely with?

We work closely with White Cube in London, Aragon Press (the publisher of Damien Hirst), Other Criteria (again, Damien Hirst.) Hirst is our specialty. Also KaiKai Kiki, which is Murakami, the Helium Foundation, and other galleries in New York for our private collections.

Do you attend art fairs? Are you participating in Art HK?

This May we will be. We’re going to Art HK. One of the reasons we did the Banksy show is because we were rejected from Art HK in 2008. We were accepted this year, but we’re still deciding whether we should go. They prioritize the international galleries and we notice that most of the galleries here in Hong Kong are not participating.  I’m not exactly sure why, but it’s a very weird process.

Although we were rejected the first time, it’s the best thing that ever happened to us. If we had done Art HK, the Banksy show never would have happened.

What was your impression of Art HK?

I love Art HK. It’s a great way to see art! I think it’s one of those events that can give a platform and democratize the buying of art and make international artworks accessible to a wider audience. However, I don’t approve of hard sales tactics, and showing artworks without providing the context of the artist. In art fairs in general, it is hard to create the intimacy of an actual gallery.

What was Hong Kong’s reaction to your flagship show featuring Banksy?

It was phenomenal, they loved it. No other exhibition has ever graced the front page of the City section of the South China Morning Post. The turnout was around 1,000 people, and people from Christie’s and Sotheby’s were lining up. We had to hire security because it was just too packed. It was a very well publicized event that just happened in about 3 weeks. People usually plan this sort of thing 6 to 8 months in advance, and we did it in only 3 weeks. We worked around the clock, and were so tired afterward. Before we opened the Art Centre the next day, people were already lining up to see the show.

Was the turnout local?

It was a combination of both local and expatriate people, which is good. I think people in London and Europe are more passionate about these things, though. It’s weird, because when we opened the Banksy show, Banksy-style art of monkeys appeared on the bridges, and the next day it was already erased. A lot of people thought the graffiti was actually authentic Banksy. If this was in London, they would have preserved that. If it was in New York, they would have preserved it. But here in Hong Kong, it was wiped the next day.

The government needs to promote more sensibility toward the arts, especially here in Hong Kong Island. We’re on the cusp; we’re still not there yet.  The Hong Kong crowd still has a lot to see compared to London. However, we’re never going to be London and we need to make our own niche in Hong Kong, and make a city where art and commerce blend in. It’s still a financial city; that is what we are all about. We are not exactly an art city. That is one of the disadvantages of being here in Hong Kong. We are not exposed to a lot, and important art can get erased the next day by the cleaners. Because it’s not important to them.

Has Banksy been featured in Asia prior to your first show?

We definitely wanted Banksy to be our first show. It is the first and largest show of Banksy in Asia; Tokyo rejected it, so we were glad to take it. Ironically, now Tokyo is hungry for his works.

Does the Fabrik Gallery intend to feature other street or urban artists?

Paul Insect, Icon 8, 2008. Wooden panel, gold leaf, natural powder paint, shellac, acrylic paint.

We are planning to bring Lazarides U.K. artists Antony Micallef and Paul Insect before the end of the year. We love their works and they relate well to Warhol, especially Paul Insect. He creates appropriated images that reference historical art.

How does Banksy promote his art if his identity is kept secret? Does he directly work with galleries for his shows?

He’s not with his manager Steve Lazarides anymore, since they had a falling out. They had different intentions; it’s hard when you’re turning art into a commodity. Banksy doesn’t work directly with galleries either, and doesn’t show up in exhibitions. He just wants his identity to be secret and to keep a low profile, and to continue creating smart work and churning out really good stuff.

Why do you think Banksy created the sensation in Hong Kong?

His works confront a lot of issues and are very tongue in cheek, yet also is close to the heart. Banksy’s art talks to each individual and is easy to relate to. It makes you think, but it makes you smile as well.

Do you see any major differences between the art of Banksy and the art of the other artists in the ‘Great British Show’?

His work, whether it is rendered in canvas or in print, is from the street. There is a roughness that you can see and feel, although it is a screen print. It is still raw, and there is something sinister about it. You know the artist made this on the street in the middle of the night and ran away from the police, knowing he could get caught at any time while he was painting.

Are you familiar with the street art scene and artists in Hong Kong?  If so, who would you consider important artists?

I am familiar with Hong Kong street artists, like the ST/ART Collective… However, in general the street scene in Hong Kong is not very prolific. Funnily enough, I saw a tagging by the U.K. artist Word to Mother on a wooden board in the market. I am sure that it’s his authentic tag, since no one else can really do that. Someone just used the board to cover the fruits they were selling.

Do you view Hong Kong as an international art hub?

With Art HK, the success of ArtWalk, and the international galleries— The Gagosian Gallery is coming, Ben Brown is here, and the Malborough Gallery is opening here. Obviously people are looking at the potential of Hong Kong, and there is a big market here.

Tsang Kin-Wah, 2006. Untitled wallpaper detail for Shu Uemura in California.

What is great about the local art scene?

There are particularly 2 artists that I really like. One is Tsang Kin-wah. He was commissioned to create the wallpaper of The Pawn restaurant in Wan Chai. He made repetitions of words to create a flock wallpaper pattern. He has had exhibitions in New York, Paris and Norway. He’s really a major artist, but he’s very humble.

Nadim Abbas is another Hong Kong artist who used to work for Plum Blossoms, and is now showing his art at Para/Site. He’s a very conceptual artist, and was featured in the [Hong Kong Museum of Art] Louis Vuitton show representing Hong Kong artists. I love artists who work from their stream of consciousness, and he obviously does this.

I also like the illustration style of Carrie Chau, [featured at the Wun Yin Collection Gallery] at the Homeless boutique on Gough Street.

What news sources do you read to stay informed about the art world?

Art Observed.com is my number one resource. The Art Newspaper is good too, although I’ve noticed that not all their stories are up to date. Sometimes their news seems to be relevant to say, 1o months ago.  I also read Frieze MagazineThe Art ReviewThe Guardian, blogs, anything!

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a dealer gallery in Hong Kong?

Show only the artists that you love and the artists that you’re passionate about. Art is a very personal thing, and the general public may come in and hate it. Be prepared to be judged.

Is there any particular information, news, or advice you would like to share with our readers?

Start collecting now.  If you like something, save your money and make it your goal. In the next few years you will probably regret not getting it.

What is your next show at Fabrik Contemporary Art?

In the Name of Pop, featuring Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring will run May 6-June 10, 2010.

Visit Fabrik Contemporary Art’s new and permanent home at 412, 4F, Yip Fung Building, 2 – 18 D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong.

EW/KCE

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Posted in Art spaces, Business of art, Curators, Galleries, Gallerists/dealers, Gallery shows, Graffiti, Hong Kong, International, Interviews, Pop Art, Profiles, Street art | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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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Shahzia Sikander questions authority with new video art medium at Para/Site in Hong Kong

Posted by artradar on September 23, 2009


PAKISTANI CONTEMPORARY VIDEO ART

SpiNN (2003) by Shahzia Sikander, still image of video

SpiNN (2003) by Shahzia Sikander, still image of video

Art Radar talks to Pakistani miniaturist and video-maker Shahzia Sikander on the occasion of her debut show in China.
The internationally acclaimed Shahzia Sikander spent 2003-2008 performing an in-depth study of the moving image and the fruits of her analysis are on display at “Authority as Approximation,” her first solo exhibition in China at the Para/Site Art Space in Hong Kong.
Curated by Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, the 5 works on display are video art pieces that challenge authority and question existing stereotypes of Pakistani culture.

The exhibition is unique as it stands as her first show comprising only moving images, and continues her practice of critically deconstructing traditional imagery of India and Pakistan.

For this event the venue is transformed into a black-box screening gallery, allowing viewers to appreciate Shahzia Sikander’s treatment of the video medium, which represents a departure from her seminal miniature drawings, and highlights her approach to new media.

The show displays her past video work ‘SpiNN’ (2003), which was shown in the Venice Biennial Arsenale exhibition, and emphasizes her latest film, the video-essay ‘Bending the Barrels’ (2008), which debuted in New York early in 2009. The subject of Sikander’s ‘Bending the Barrels’ is a Pakistani Army military brass band performing in formation, which is examined as a politcal device. On the meaning of this film, cultural critic Aditya Dev Sood explains:

“In her choice of Pakistani Army Bands as a subject for visual capture and representation, Sikander triggers deep resonances from within the tradition of Indo-Islamic miniature painting. The corporeal language, rhythm, space-making and compositional effects that she discovers and creates in film appear rooted in courtly spectacles as well as in their painterly representation, in various Mughal and later Company and British Imperial styles.”

Bending the Barrels (2008), by Shahzia Sikander, still image of video.

Bending the Barrels (2008), by Shahzia Sikander, still image of video.

It’s all about the drawings

Sikander specializes in drawing, and all of her art is conceived in this way and then evolves into various mediums.

As an artist she wears many hats: she also programs animation and operates the camera when shooting film. She creates animations from scanned drawings using the applications Photoshop and Fireworks.

For her film work, she was permitted to operate the camera at the Pakistani military facility herself. However, regarding what medium she chooses, she remarks “the idea dictates the medium.” Unconcerned with medium, she has no preference whether an image is moving or not, and instead chooses what best facilitates communication. However, despite the medium of a work, it will eventually be reflected in Shahzia’s 2D drawings. She comments “Even during filming, it was all research or fodder for drawing.”

Unprecedented Access

Perhaps most surprising about this exhibit is that Sikander, who lives in New York City and is married to an American, was able to gain access into a Pakistani military facility to film original footage of the army’s brass band. Sikander explains that she was allowed inside and permitted to film because she won a military medal in 2003 as an honored Pakistani artist, and was thus granted entry. However, she added that “I find when a project is approached with intent and clarity, I have always been granted access and goodwill has been reciprocated.” Her American husband was also allowed inside the facility to film with her.

Video art: “It’s always been there”

Sikander’s exploration into the moving image reinforces the rising trend of video art. However, Shahzia sees video art as far more than a trend, saying “It’s always been there at the forefront of contemporary expression.” She suggests video art will only become more pervasive, commenting “It’s easier to send a disc, and its immediacy allows for a larger audience… [With Youtube] Everyone now has the freedom to become a videographer.”

The exhibition runs from Sept 2-Sept 30, 2009, at the Para/Site Art Space in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.

-contributed by Erin Wooters

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Posted in Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, Art and internet, Asia expands, Biennials, Connecting Asia to itself, Hong Kong, Islamic art, Miniatures, New Media, Pakistani, Shahzia Sikander, Sound, Sound art, Video, War, Women power | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hugs in Hong Kong by mainland artists formerly branded national criminals – interview Gao Brothers

Posted by artradar on September 3, 2009


CHINESE PERFORMANCE ART

Take a walk down a public Hong Kong street these days and you might find yourself bumping into some portable – and surprisingly intimate – art.

While Hong Kong artist Tim Li’s private bed has been erected all over Hong Kong from Pedestrian Street in Mong Kok to the center of Times Square, last month the Gao Brothers from the mainland brought their special brand of peace-promoting intimate performance art into the hustle and bustle of the city. Bring on the hugging! 

Gao Zhen and Gao Qiang, a pair of prominent artists born in Jinan and based in the Beijing 798 Art Zone were invited by Para/Site Art Space to spread an hour of love and hugs outside the Hong Kong Arts Centre on July 29 2009. The Gao Brothers share with Wendy Ma how their ideals are reflected in their installation, performance, sculpture, photography works and writing, and how these beliefs were shaped by their unusual experiences.

Q: What inspired you to create artwork such as Miss Mao, etc.? Did it create any controversy in China at the time?

Miss Mao by Gao Brothers. Painted fiberglass. 85 x 55 x 59 in.

Miss Mao by Gao Brothers. Painted fiberglass. 85 x 55 x 59 in.

Miss Mao is mainly inspired by Chinese people’s “mao” bing (毛病*), ignorance, and immaturity. The artwork is only permitted to be displayed in overseas galleries and museums, it still forbidden in mainland China.  We can only find information regarding the exhibition of this artwork on the internet. The reactions from the audience are a mix of praises and criticism.

*Note: Mao bing means “problem” or “syndrome”. In Chinese it is the same “mao” in “Mao Zedong”. 

Q: What inspired you to initiate the World Hug Day*?

Utopia of Embrace. Performance by Gao Brothers.

Utopia of Hugging for 20 minutes. Performance by Gao Brothers in 2000..

There are too many conflicts in this world. The hatred and blood-shedding tensions among humans, among ethnicities, among nations have never ceased. In 2000 we believed that the human civilization should enter a millennium of compromises. So we began to promote the act of hugging among strangers.

At that time we were forbidden to leave China, which left us unable to promote hugging overseas. By proposing the “World Hugging Day” on the internet, we earned corresponding support from various parts of the world. Among the advocates there were non-artists, artists, as well as the organizer of the Venice Biennale, Harald Szeemann.

*Note: “Gao Brothers carried out their first group hug performance, “The Utopia Of Hugging For Twenty Minutes” on September 10, 2000 by inviting one hundred and fifty volunteers, who were previously strangers to each other, to take part in the event. They asked all participants to choose a person at random for a hug of fifteen minutes duration. Afterwards, all participants huddled together for an additional five minutes.

Since 2000, Gao Brothers have hugged hundreds of strangers and organised group hugging performances with strangers at many public locations in different ways and have taken a lot of interesting photographs.

The Gao Brothers are proposing an ongoing series of World Hug Day events around the globe via the internet, and so far have got enormous feedback and support.”

Q: In your view what is the most meaningful artwork you’ve created? Why?

 

 

Point of View Chair by Gao Brothers (2007). Mixed Media.

Point of View Chair by Gao Brothers (2007). Mixed Media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In our eyes, our artworks are all different and irreplaceable. It’s difficult to decide which one carries the most meaning.

Q: How long have you been involved in art and how has your art evolved over time?

We have been working for 20 years. Regarding the transformation of our artwork, there’s a lot of articles written by art critics, but it’s hard for us to say.

Q: Were your parents supportive of your decision to pursue art as a career? Would you encourage your children (if you have any) to pursue art? Did you think you would become this successful?

My father passed away a long time ago during the Cultural Revolution. My mother was skillful at paper-cutting but she became ill and died in 1999. She gave us plenty of support for creating art. Our children are interested in art, too, so we definitely support their decision to pursue their interests. Initially we became involved in art purely from the heart and never considered whether or not we would succeed. Even now we don’t consider ourselves too successful.

Q: Any obstacles in your art career?

IMG_9799Too many unforgettable obstacles. The most memorable took place in 1989 during which we participated in the Contemporary Chinese Art Exposition in Beijing. By coincidence we took part in the “Pub Petition Incident” in which the intellectual circle demanded that the government release the political criminal Wei Jing Sheng*.

After Wei Jing Sheng was released from the prison and before his second imprisonment, we paid him a visit. As matter of a fact, we weren’t acquainted with Wei Jing Sheng. He simply wanted to invite us to participate in the China-Japan-Korea Contemporary Art Show organized by him and Huang Rui. However, due to the petition and the correspondence with Wei, we were placed on the government’s infamous black list as “national criminals”. For ten years we couldn’t obtain our visa, which had a profound impact on our participation in international art activities.

In 2001,  the organizer of the 49th Venice Biennale, Harald Szeemann invited us to the  Opening Ceremony to demonstrate our “hugging”. Unfortunately we failed to obtain a visa. We were even prepared to smuggle ourselves out but eventually we decided not to go. It wasn’t until 2003 when we were invited to attend the Second Rome International Photography Festival that we were taken off the black list and given the visa.

*Note: Wei Jing Sheng was “an activist in the Chinese democracy movement, most prominent for authoring the document Fifth Modernization on the “Democracy Wall” in Beijing in 1978.”

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

Liberty, peace and compromises, human love, and many more related yet ineffable messages.

Q: What are the characteristics of your artwork?

This is rather difficult for us to discuss too…

 Q: You’ve done so many “world hugging” events in various cities (which ones?). Which have made the biggest impression on you and why? What did you think of the one in Hong Kong?

 

Final round of embrace on a hot July day in Hong Kong.

Final round of embrace on a hot July day in Hong Kong.

Gao (in black) giving a participant an enthusiastic hug.

Gao (in black) giving a participant an enthusiastic hug.

Ever since 2000, we have been “hugging” in Jinan, Beijing, London, Nottingham, Marseilles, Arles, Berlin, Tokyo, and many more cities. Each “hugging” left a deep impression on us. Despite the fact that the fewest number of people showed up for “hugging” in Hong Kong, it was still memorable. The number of attendees at the hugging event carries more or less some sort of implications. Actually, we don’t really think it’s that Hong Kong doesn’t embrace hugging. It was so scorching hot that having some hugging enthusiasts was enough to move us deeply.

Q: You just went to Macau today. Was it for the “world hugging” event again? What are the differences between their attitudes and Hong Kong people’s?

Gao Brothers' demonstration of hugging outside the Hong Kong Arts Center, late-July 2009.

Gao Brothers' demonstration of hugging outside the Hong Kong Arts Center, late-July 2009.

We were invited by Para/Site to do the hugging in Hong Kong. Macau didn’t invite us. We only went as tourists and didn’t make any hugging plan.

Q: Your next stop is Israel. What do you expect?

Last year we already received the “hugging” invitation from Israel. It would be nice to have an Israeli and a Palestinian hug each other.

Q: Have there been any changes in mainland contemporary art? How is the freedom of expression? Have you encountered any difficulties or objections?

Every artist is different. We’ve always been busy with our own work, so we haven’t paid sufficient attention to other artists. With a lack of comprehensive understanding, it’s difficult to say about the changes in mainland Chinese contemporary art. To us, it’s not bad, even though the art examination regulations in China do not permit public exhibition of certain pieces of our artwork.

Q: Can you perceive any differences between Hong Kong and mainland contemporary art?

We don’t have an adequate understanding of contemporary Hong Kong art to discuss it. 

Q: Which other artists inspire you?

Are there not enough ridiculous, not enough stimulating events happening in the world every day? Why would we need to excavate inspiration from the salt of other artists?

Q: Among photography, sculptures, and performance art, which one do you prefer?

About the same. A bit bored with all of them.

Q: What would you like to do next artistically?

Film. We’re in the process of revising a script to make a film.

Spice up with Perspectives

                                     – on the Hugging Scene in Hong Kong

 

Gao (in white) hugging a participant outside the Hong Kong Arts Center in late July, 2009.

Gao (in white) hugging a participant outside the Hong Kong Arts Center in late July, 2009.

As the Gao Brothers observed, the number of  participants who turned up for the hugging event organised by Para/Site in Hong Kong  was scanty and many of those who did participate were not even from Hong Kong. So what did the organizers and the spectators think about their World Hug Performance in Hong Kong? Art Radar explores behind the scene:

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, Curator of Para/Site Art Space:

Q: Why did you invite the Gao Brothers to do this performance (hugging)? 

I wanted to test the use of public space in Hong Kong. The Gao Brothers performance is very much connected to the Chinese physique, but also the public dimension of it is quite fundamental to this work of art. In practice, the project has proved how many burdens and restrictions exist in preparing this type of event that engages the public sphere in Hong Kong.

Q: What did you think of the performance?  

The performance has a degree of improvisation that I love. As it adapts to each new situation, it is quite fluid and dynamic, and it blends and connects with the social, cultural and political framework of the location in which it takes place. This time it was specifically connected to Hong Kong. With the greater involvement of the artists in the performance, this probably highlighted some relational issues, as it took a turn more towards the sculptural and the theatrical.

Q: How is it similar or different from other artists’ performance or exhibitions? 

Every time they stage this performance it has a different meaning and a different result. I find this work meaningful in relation to the other works, but on a superficial level it might seem unrelated to their work, specifically their sculpture, painting and photography. However the notion of the outer boundaries of the body and its political inferences are  themes that run through their art practice.

Beth Smits, an art collector and a professional in the banking sector:

I only wish more people in Hong Kong had participated in the hug day. I was watching from the side at the start, and people came up to me to ask “what is going on?” They were genuinely curious and when I explained it to them, they were very interested and supportive. Later, I did actually get involved and hugged the two artists and others there. While I admittedly felt awkward at first, I appreciate the powerful symbolism of this act amongst strangers. I am now a huge fan of their work – beyond the world hug days, too, and look forward to seeing what they do next.

Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Posted in Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, Art districts, Art spaces, Asian, Beijing, China, Chinese, From Art Radar, Galleries work the web, Hong Kong, Human Body, Installation, Interviews, Open air, Participatory, Performance, Portable art, Public art, War | 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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Male manicurists and armpits: emerging Australian art at Para/Site Hong Kong

Posted by artradar on June 25, 2009


 

 

Christian Bumbarra Thompson, The Sixth Mile, video

Christian Bumbarra Thompson, The Sixth Mile, video

AUSTRALIAN ART HONG KONG

 

 

Rare display of Australian contemporary art in Hong Kong 

From 20 June to 2 August 2009, renowned nonprofit Para/Site Art Space in Hong Kong makes its space available to the Chalk Horse Art Center, an artist run initiative from Australia for a rare display of Australian contemporary art. 

 

There are less than a handful of commercial galleries (Gaffer and Cat Street being two of the principal ones) which show Australian art in Hong Kong and in the non-commercial arena Australian art is even  more rare. So why Hong Kong? …and why now?

Oliver Watts outside Chalk Horse Art Center's show at Para/Site

Oliver Watts outside Chalk Horse Art Center's show at Para/Site

Artist Oliver Watts explains: “In Australia there is a lot of interest in Asia right now, a lot of government interest in funding these kind of cultural exchanges. After all our prime minister speaks Mandarin. We approached Para/Site about this project earlier in the year because it has an outstanding reputation in Australia”.

Their initiative was well-timed because Para/Site has become a fertile ground for such a project.  At the beginning of this year Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya took the helm as Executive Director and Curator at Para/Site and he has made it his mission to encourage collaboration and exchange between artists within the Asia Pacific region.  

So far this year Fominaya has curated shows by Japanese performance artist Tatsumi Orimoto and Thai installation artist Surasi Kusolwong. This time he is stepping back as curator to allow Australian curator Dougal Phillips to present his exhibtion called  The Horn of Plenty: Excess and Reversibility, a showcase of video, performance, installation and painting by young Australian artists.

The double themes of  ‘excess’ and ‘reversibility’ refer to the recent juddering reversal of the economy from excess which is represented by the magical horn of plenty. In mythology this horn, which Zeus provided for the goat Amalthea,  endlessly overflowed with fruit, flowers and grain.

The title of the show is topical but not an adroit fit with the artworks; no matter though because there is some powerful art on display.

Look out for Christian Bumbarra Thompson’s two compelling video artworks. Thompson is the most senior artist in the show and his The Sixth Mile (2007) was shown at the inaugural National Indigenous Arts Triennale: Culture Warriors which “explores cultural hybridity and recalls nostalgically the importance his father placed on personal grooming”.

In the 34 minute Desert Slippers made in 2007 we see Thompson and his father engaging in repetitive ritualistic movements of armpit touching. Sweat-swapping becomes a disconcertingly intimate greeting ceremony.

A graduate of RMIT in 2004, Bumbarra Thompson (b.1978) is gaining recognition for his multiple talents as photographer, installation artist, curator and writer. His works have been exhibited extensively across Asia Europe and the South Pacific.

 

Kate Mitchell (b. 1980) too is interested in the the human body as a medium and creates powerful performance art from  by turning herself into a human sundial. In the video which records  her arresting 8 hour endurance performance in its entirety, Mitchell stands in the blistering sun from 9 am to 5 pm so that her shadow can mark the time of a perfect working day.

Kate Mitchell, 9-5, performance

Kate Mitchell, 9-5, performance

Mitchell could probably have done with some serious pampering after her toil and if you feel that you could too, then  come to Para/Site space between 24 and 28 June 2009.

Push your way through a curtained door opening tucked right at the back of the Para/Site space and inside you will find a surprise: a perfectly equipped nail salon where, on the appointed days you can receive a free manicure.  This art piece has been created by Bababa International, a Melbourne-based arts collective consisting of four young men who, according to a list they scribbled down on our media kit at the show’s press conference, are 

  • Stephen Russell (tall, pale)
  • Giles Thackway (tall, handsome)
  • Tom Melick (tall, glasses)
  • IvanRuhle (the other guy)

Life appears to be a playful spree for these four and art is just as much of a lark. But it is their humour and endearing humility which allow them, with a light touch, to confront serious entrenched social issues such as the treatment of migrant workers.  While they stress that the event is open to anyone they have been working closely with organisations like the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants to help promote the event to Filipino domestic workers whom they are especially keen to attract. According to a review on SBS.com:

although a nail salon tended by boys, who admit they are still honing their skills in nail care seems like an entertaining spectacle, the project has intriguing socio-political undertones.

The salon is specifically aimed at providing pampering for Filipino maids on their day off after the collective became aware that domestic workers were congregating in an underpass in the absence of public spaces and leisure areas accessible to their socio-economic means.

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Thai installation artist Surasi Kulsowong promises Good News at Para/Site Hong Kong – review

Posted by artradar on June 11, 2009


Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya shows visitors around at Surasi Kulsowong's Golden Fortune show

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya shows visitors around at Surasi Kulsowong's Golden Fortune show

THAI ARTIST SHOW REVIEW

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, as new curator for the well-regarded Hong Kong non-profit Para/Site art space, explained his mission for the space in January 2009 to Claire Morin for Time Out:

“I want to refocus Para/Site … with more artists from Asia,” he says. “I also want Para/Site to become a social space, a space where things are actually happening, not just exhibited… I want the public to appropriate Para/Site and become a part of Para/Site.”

Since then he has made firm headway. In January 2009, to the amuseument and confusion of locals, the eccentric Japanese performance artist Tatsumi Orimoto, aka Bread Man, was guided around Hong Kong’s Graham Street market with baguettes wrapped around his head. This performance was followed by a rendition of his Finger Dolls piece inspired by his relationship with his supportive but now aged Mother (click here Tatsumi Orimoto review and video clips).

With his latest show, Fominaya has initiated an even more bemusing and irresistible experience for neighbourhood residents. In his first solo show in Hong Kong, Thai artist Surasi Kulsowong presents a site-specific show which seems to lie somewhere at the intersection between an exhibition, an experience and a grand game.

According to the publicity material the gallery is transformed into a playground by being filled

with five tons of thread waste into which a gold necklace with the Chinese word for ‘Fortune’ is hidden each week and made available to lucky members of the audience who find it.

When we visit, the feather-soft cotton waste laid out thicker than a mattress looks so inviting that we do not waste a minute in kicking off our shoes and wading into it. Not only pleasurable as a sensual experience, the show tickles the intellect with its playful turning-upside-down of the usual notions of money, gold, waste and value.

We are invited to consider whether waste products might have more value than first meets the eye. We are teased into questioning the meaning of value which, in this show, extends beyond measurable monetary value to include sensory stimulation, new experiences, social connection and plenty of laughter.

When we visit the show we see a young child who rolls around giggling on her back while her Filipino nanny chuckles and rummages on her hands and knees. The previous week the hidden gold was discovered by an elderly gentleman who is a patient in the neighbouring hospital. He came in his pyjamas with his nurse and told the staff that he planned to give the gold to his daughter. 

106

Good News is Coming

Alluring to a group of people far beyond seasoned gallery-goers, the show is full of wonder, fun and reward.  Yes  “it  can be appreciated on many levels” confirms Fominaya as he shows us some of the wall-hung images made to accompany the show.

In one, a Fortune magazine cover is recreated and a headline “Good News is Coming”, from another financial article, is appropriated and pasted onto it. What does this mean? On one level, the artist is providing us with a message which, like the cotton under our feet, is soothing and playful. But on another we are roused to consider the extent to which we accept the content and power of the media messages we are exposed to.

Kulsowong’s installation is inspired by the gloom of the global recession which he aims to counter with messages of hope and experiences of  happiness. Leaving with soothed soles and a smile, we take away much more than that. The Fortune cover and the heap of textile waste prod us with powerful questions about what we can do to create our own messages of hope.

Surasi Kulsowong

Surasi Kulsowong

The exhibition is accompanied by a specially conceived art edition called Good News is Coming (With Warhol’s Flowers), 2009, the proceeds of which will fund Para/Site’s activities. Contact Para/Site to buy.

Artist details

Surasi Kulsowong was born in 1965 in Ayutthaya. He lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand.

He is best known for his One Dollar Markets in which the artist, inspired by Asian floating markets, creates a market within an art space to reflect on the nature of consumer society and expand the meaning of the art space.

He has exhibited internationally with solo shows in Tate Modern and Palais de Tokyo. He has participated in the Gwangju Biennial, 50th Venice Biennale, 2nd Guangzhou Triennial, amongst others.

Related links:

Frieze review 2004 of  work 10SEK  – the writer notes the disarming way that Kulsowong cuts through social reserve by playing with money as a notion and a physical object.

New York Times review 2001 – looks at how Surasi uses space in his installation in Chelsea at his New York debut

Culturebase article – more details about his market artworks

Para/Site website

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