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Posts Tagged ‘public art Hong Kong’

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

Property companies splurge on art in Hong Kong, recent trend

Posted by artradar on June 4, 2009


ART SPONSORSHIP HONG KONG

At the end of last year Time Out noticed a new trend in Hong Kong,

one with its own strange momentum. Property companies appeared to be competing with one another to sponsor the arts.

Zhang Yu, A One and a Two

Zhang Yu, A One and a Two

When the Olympics surged into town in August 2008, the Sun Hung Kai Charitable Fund revealed their City Art Square in Sha Tin, a 190,000 square foot area developed in association with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), featuring 19 public art works by international and local artists (from Zaha Hadid to Freeman Lau). The project won a prestigious Cityscape Architectural Award, and brought a welcome dose of innovation to the New Territories.

There were also exhibitions in Causeway Bay as Wharf, owners of Times Square, launched a series of high profile exhibitions in the development’s public space.

Meanwhile, the Sino Group continued with their award-winning Art in Hong Kong campaign, sponsoring art projects and holding exhibitions in their properties.

Joaquin Gasgonia Palencia, Red Horse

Joaquin Gasgonia Palencia, Red Horse

Even The Link launched the Artsmart fair in Stanley.

But in December, Swire Properties dropped their arts bombshell.

Following their consistent support of the arts since the 1970s, they opened ArtisTree, an astonishing 20,000 square foot space in Taikoo Place dedicated to visual and performing arts.

The opening exhibition (showing until the end of January) was Dame Vivienne Westwood’s retrospective exhibition ‘A Life in Fashion’, organised in conjunction with London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. Just to rub it in the face of the LCSD, the Museum of Art had turned down the chance to hold the same exhibition several years ago.

Essentially, here was a property company doing the work of an art museum.

And looking forward in 2009

one of the most unusual property-art events of the year will occur in autumn when an ‘Art Mall’ will open in the new K11 development in Tsim Sha Tsui. The project is a partnership between New World Development and the the Urban Renewal Authority.

“K11 is probably the first art mall in the world, combining an art gallery with a shopping mall,” explains Adrian Cheng, Executive Director of New World Development. The art loving 28 year old and driving force behind the project promises to showcase artworks by local and international artists throughout the mall.

“TST has the Cultural Centre and Museum of Art, and K11 is the main force to integrate the art and cultural elements of TST, so that the district becomes the ultimate cultural district in Hong Kong, like Tribeca or Soho [in New York],” adds the young developer. “Giving local artists the resources and platform to display their masterpieces is the main vision for K11 to promote local art.”

There is a tradition of arts sponsorship by Hong Kong property companies pioneered by Hong Kong Land,  but now there is a new ‘splurge’ which brings with it some risks. Read more at Time Out

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Posted in Art spaces, Funding, Hong Kong, Public art | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »