Disappearance of Victoria Harbour Skyline (partial), Ng Ka Chun at I Think It Rains
I was lost in May.
Centered on Art Basel Hong Kong, I hopped in a few satellite events from talks to exhibitions at galleries, hotels, convention centre and cattle depot. It’s quite a hectic week.
Here is disappearing.
A seminar at Hong Kong Baptist University unveiled my art week. “HERE vs THERE” by guest speaker Ms. Kao Chien-hui brought city identity to my attention. What is Hong Kong, particularly in term of contemporary art? “Between the dialect of ‘globalisation’ and ‘locality’”, where is Hong Kong’s cultural stand?
The questions echo awkwardly well with the discussions about M+, West Kowloon Cultural District and Art Basel Hong Kong all over town. After the seminar, I read a bit on Ackbar Abbas who wrote in 1994, “Hong Kong was built on contingency, on geographic and historical accidents; shaped by times and circumstances beyond its control and by pragmatic accommodation to events.”^ It was true back then, and it holds good now.
At Art Basel, the hall swarmed with international galleries, works of renowned artists, numerous overseas collectors and Hong Kong expatriates. The organiser admits eyeing on Hong Kong’s economic, political and geographic advantages over the region. Galleries based in the city managed to squeeze in but many were challenged by the absence of locality. With some untold reasons, a participating local artist helplessly pronounced on Facebook “I hate to perfect the situation for my art, I want my art work deal with the situation.” The aura of the work was lost, I guess.
From import/export to arts, Hong Kong seems to be recognized by just being an “inter-national” port “in the literal sense of the word: a door … a kind of nodal-point, an in-between state” (Abbas, 1994). To perform its function, the port should best be ‘invisible’ as if it doesn’t exist (that’s why dock workers strike was neglected by the boss behind the contractors). Where is the disappearing Hong Kong? I’m lost.
Rain-wash the material.
Taking the ferry from North Point to Kowloon City one day after work, I headed for Cattle Depot Artist Village. The ferry ride and To Kwa Wan’s neighborhood gave me a moment of tranquility and a sense of locality. The exhibition entitled “I Think It Rains” featured some 20 artists’ works from Hong Kong and elsewhere.
The highlight, to me, was the “source material” of each work or artist’s practice. Apart from the exhibits, “source material” was also exhibited intentionally NOT near the work itself. Curator Daniel Kurjaković remarked “the main aim is, frankly, to please the artists themselves first, who have been invited to present here some of the material elements that motivate their ways of thinking and doing.” Under this “rain” in Cattle Depot, the source material was surfaced in front of the audience. For some materials, they were coherent to the outcome as if visitors could crack the artist’s head to follow his/her creative process. Meanwhile, others were untraceable to the work. No matter which, I agree that substance is what makes art valuable and intriguing. This explains why my 2-hour’s ambush for 200+ galleries in Art Basel couldn’t give me any substance. After all, the game of Art Basel is about fame and sales.
But now I’m found.
This notion of “source material” rang the bell a week later when I attended Nick Vujicic’s luncheon on social media. To a brand marketer or an individual, Nick posed a question, “What do you stand for?” Nick advised 1, rediscover one’s value and purpose; 2, deliver the message by acting and treating people that way; 3, people would then follow – this is how social influence embarks.^^
So what is my “source material” as a human being? I thought the rain pouring over June 4 vigils did uncover them – art and freedom.
^ Abbas, Ackbar,1994. Building on Disappearance: Hong Kong Architecture and the City. Public Culture 1994, 6: 441-459.
^^ Relevant video for extended watching:
Visited Art Basel on May 22, 2013 at HKCEC; I Think It Rains on May 24, 2013 at 1a space; Unstoppable Creativity by Nick Vujicii on Jun 2, 2013 at W Hotel Hong Kong; June 4 Vigils on Jun 4, 2013 at Victoria Park.
The article was also posted at The House News.